Biography of David Lister

DAVID LISTER. – David Lister of Tacoma, Washington, belongs to that class of men who have done so much for the material prosperity of our country by being the first to go into new places and build up new industries.

He was born in England in 1821, and came to New York in 1847. He worked for steamboat companies in that city until 1854, when he went to Philadelphia and connected himself with the Delaware Canal Company, where he remained ten years. He then went to Pestico, Wisconsin, a town located among the pineries on Green Bay. In that place he established a foundry and machine shop, and conducted it successfully until October 8, 1871, when his establishment was burned in the great fire that traversed the whole township, destroying every house, and causing the death of more than eight hundred people. This fire left Mr. Lister penniless; but, with the help of William B. Ogden of Chicago, he started in business again in the same place, and continued there until 1874.

The winter of that year was so cold that he determined to seek a milder climate, and came direct to Tacoma, locating there in 1875. At that time it was a place of about thirty inhabitants, but Mr. Lister was confident, from its superb location and natural advantages, that it was destined to become a great city, and in 1876 built a foundry and commenced business. In 1881 he began to turn large jobs for the Northern Pacific Railroad Company; and from that time his business has increased very rapidly. In 1882, at Wilkinson, seven miles from Tacoma, he successfully inaugurated coke-making in Washington Territory, of which articles he uses in great quantity. He thinks this coke superior to that made in any other country.

Mr. Lister does all the repairing of steamers running to and from Tacoma; and his business has assumed such magnitude that he has been compelled to erect large repair and machine shops on the docks. Although sixty-five years of age, he retains the entire control of his business, and attends to all its details.

The conception of coke-making, and the successful carrying out of that idea, with coal essentially different in character and composition from the coal of Europe and the Eastern states, is enough to entitle Mr. Lister to distinction. Upon the plentiful and inexpensive supply of this article the industrial future of the Pacific coast quite largely depends; and the discovery of the process of making it from tertiary coal is a great invention, and the inventor has become thereby a benefactor of the entire slope.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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