Biography of S. G. Reed

S. G. Reed, of Portland, one of the city’s most useful and progressive citizens, was born at East Abington, Massachusetts, April 23d, 1830. His early education was received in the public school of his native town, but he afterwards attended a private school and academy. He came to San Francisco, by way of the Isthmus of Panama, in the spring of 1852, and in the following autumn came to Oregon, where he has ever since resided. He was a clerk in the mercantile house of W. S. Ladd & . Co., from the fall of 1855 until the 2d day of April, 1859, when he became a partner in the business, under the firm name of Ladd, Reed & Co.

In 1858, he purchased W. B. Wells’ interest in the steamers Senorita, Belle and Multnomah and for many years from this time was one of the leading spirits in the development of the steamboat interest on the North Pacific coast. The steamers named were subsequently merged in the Oregon Steam Navigation Company’s line. This company was first organized under the laws of Washington Territory, December 27, 1860, at which time its entire assets amounted to only $172,500. It was re-organized with a capital stock of $2,000,000, under the laws of Oregon, on October 18, 1862, with J. C. Ainsworth, D. F. Bradford, R. R. Thompson, and S. G. Reed as incorporators. Mr. Reed was a director in the company from the date of its organization, and on July 27, 1864, was elected vice-president, remaining in that position until the final transfer of the property to the Villard Syndicate for $5,000,000, in July, 1879, at which time it was merged in the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. During the period of its existence the Oregon Steam Navigation Co. had a most important bearing on the commercial development of Oregon. In 1867, it had grown to be such a powerful and wealthy corporation that it paid taxes on a valuation of $357,100, while the total assessed valuation of Multnomah county was only $5,400,800.

From year to year, the company not only added to and perfected its line of elegant steamers, but, in 1862, built the portage railroads at the Cascades and Dalles; in 1868, built a telegraph line from Portland to The Dalles, and in 1878, purchased the Walla Walla and Columbia River railroad, running from Wallula to Walla Walla. So successful was the management of the company that these improvements and additions to its property were made out of the earnings of the company without a single assessment upon the stockholders, and from 1867 to 1879, inclusive, the company paid dividends to the amount of $2,702,500, while the amount paid out for purchase and construction during this period was nearly $2,000,000. These figures give an idea of the immense business done by the company and is a record seldom, if ever, surpassed by any similar corporation, In achieving this remarkable success, Mr. Reed bore a conspicuous part, and it furnishes the best evidence of his business sagacity.

While his time was largely devoted to the direction and control of this company, he, in 1871, in connection with W. S. Ladd, made large investments in farming lands in the Willamette Valley, which have since been brought to a high state of cultivation. He also imported fine grades of horses, cattle and sheep and has done much to improve the breeding of stock in Oregon.

In 1879, Mr. Reed was interested with Mr. A. Onderdonk and D. O. Mills in the contra& for building the first section of the Canadian Pacific railway, from Port Moody to Kamloops, British Columbia.

He has been president of the Oregon Iron and Steel company since its organization, April 22, 1882, at which time it was incorporated with a capital stock of $1,500,000, and at the same time bought out the Oswego Iron Company. The present company erected a modern blast furnace and pipe plant and improved its water power, and is now turning out pig iron and cast iron pipe, being the only concern manufacturing iron pipe on the Pacific Coast, the nearest plant being at Pueblo, Colorado.

Mr. Reed is largely interested in mining and is president of the well known “Connor Creek Mining and Milling Company,” which is operating a valuable gold mine in Baker county, Oregon. This property is rich in ore and has been worked continuously for the past sixteen years. A new vein is now being tapped at a depth of four hundred feet. The ore is free milling and the present capacity of the mine is thirty-five stamps, which are run by water power. Mr. Reed is also owner of the Bunker Hill and Sullivan Mines in the Coeur d’ Alene district, Idaho, which he purchased in 1887. These mines are large producers of silver and lead ore.

In all of his business operations, Mr. Reed has been bold and enterprising. He possesses that rare courage which, when added to good judgment, is so necessary to success in new and novel enterprises of great magnitude. His plans are carefully laid and he is not easily turned aside from any project he undertakes, however serious the obstacles may appear that oppose his way. Temporary disarrangements of his plans by unforeseen mishaps, disturb him but little; he simply commences anew, tries other expedients and is very apt to succeed where a majority of men would have succumbed at the first failure. He is naturally hopeful, is full of resources and is strongly self-reliant; and when his judgment approves a course, is not afraid to stand alone. More than once in his career have these elements in his character been conspicuously shown and almost uniformly have results vindicated the correctness of his judgment.

The city of Portland has been benefited in many ways by his efforts. No one has more confidence in the city’s destiny as a great center of trade, commerce and mechanical industries, nor more freely contributes to all objects which seem likely to advance the city’s prosperity. He has erected several buildings which have added to the city’s architectural appearance, notably the Abington building, the largest and finest office building in the city. He is a republican in politics, and although he has positive views as to the conduct of public affairs and is a strong believer in the principles of his party, he has no taste nor inclination for political life. The management of extensive business interests, for which he is mentally and physically so ably adapted, offers to one of his temperament by far a more congenial and useful field.

Mr. Reed was married in October, 1850 to Amanda Wood, of Quincy, Massachusetts. Their home on First street is one of the finest residences in the city, where he delights to entertain his friends and where his chief comforts and happiness are to be found.


Biography, History,

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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