Haines Commercial Organizer, Banker Had Notable Career
Death on Monday, Dec. 1, at Cedar Manor nursing home after brief illness claimed Lee A. Duncan, businessman whose career paralleled for over a half-century the development of the community of Haines.
Between the early 1900’s and the early 30’s he built a mercantile enterprise in Powder valley and was considered the most unique and successful of its kind in the country.
His Haines Commercial Co. serviced the area with everything from up-to-date ladies ready-to-wear and millinery to plug tobacco, pickles, and lumber. It operated a machinery dealership, a repair service and bought and sold hay and grain, milled feed and on occasion did some marketing.
For over 30 years of this time he was personally active in both managerial and operations phases of every department of the Haines Commercial.
His enterprise spanned several recessions and the major depression of 1928-33, carrying not only the firm itself but playing a major role in helping carry over the agricultural operators of the community as among the most stable of any in the country during periods when mass liquidation was suffered elsewhere.
He entered actively in the affairs of the Bank of Haines in the late 20’s and continued as Baker State Bank when it was moved to Baker in 1936 and became its president in 1943, succeeding the late Frank Loennig, Mr. Duncan continued as head of the bank until it was merged with the First National Bank of Portland in 1959. Bank of Haines was one of the few small-town banks in the United States that weathered the great depression.
Retires in 1955
Much of the active management of the mercantile departments passed to his son Glen Duncan in the 30’s but he continued in charge of the major elevator and grain departments even after the mercantile store was sold to Floyd Conro and renamed Sell-Rite Store in 1945.
He retired from business completely in 1955 when Dick Camp acquired the machinery and repair business in 1955 as Haines Commercial Equipment Co. and Haines Grain and Feed was organized by Athena men and bought Mr. Duncan’s elevator, grain and feed departments.
He was born Sept. 30, 1881 at Pendleton, the son of John and Mary T. Duncan at the Prospect ranch out of that city after the couple had migrated there from Iowa before the railroad.
He became independent at the age of 14 and worked for J.F. O’Bryant store at Haines. Uncle Davis Wilcox, Haines businessman sent him to Portland Business College and he returned in ’05 and as a young man of about 23 he borrowed money at 10 percent interest and organized Haines Commercial Co. from the old Farmers Mercantile Co. and Christensen-Ingram Store.
Among the incorporators were John H. Toney, Lester V. Toney, Wm. A. Payton, John H. Ingram, John Christensen, and Mr. Duncan. Between 1904 and the early 20’s he bought up the stock as the other stockholders retired and became sole owner.
He was married to Flora Irene Taylor of Baker in 1905 and they had one son, Glenn Davis Duncan who was associated in Haines Commercial about 20 years prior to entering business in Portland where he died in 1963.
Services held Wednesday
Funeral services for Mr. Duncan were held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3,1969 at the Beatty Chapel with Father Calvin Schwenk of St. Francis Cathedral officiating. Interment was made today at 11:15 a.m. at Portland Memorial Park in Portland.
Surviving are tow grandchildren, Mary Beth Duncan of Seattle, and James R. Duncan, a United Air Lines Pilot, of Saratoga, Ca., both of whom, with their mother Mrs. Dorothy Riordan Duncan, Portland, were here for the services.
Other survivors are four great-grandsons and one great-granddaughter, all of Saratoga; and two nephews who since they were orphaned early in life were close to him, Robert and Jack Proebstal, both of Haines.
Source: The Record Courier, Baker City, Oregon, December, 1969
Contributed by: Belva Ticknor