Eugene Semple papers, 1858-1908  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Semple, Eugene, 1840-1908
Title
Eugene Semple papers
Dates
1858-1908 (inclusive)
Quantity
7.2 cubic feet (18 boxes)
Collection Number
0532 (Accession No. 0532-001)
Summary
Papers of a lawyer, Oregon state printer, and governor of Washington Territory
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

The papers are open to all users.

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Eugene Semple came West seeking his fortune in 1863. Semple worked as a lawyer, newspaper editor, amateur engineer and inventor, farmer, and lumberman. Semple also earned appointments to several prominent political offices--Washington Territorial Governor, Washington State Harbor Commissioner and Oregon State Printer. He was also an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Washington State.

Eugene Semple, the son of a United States Senator from Illinois, was born in 1840. He left Chicago and moved to Portland in 1863, ostensibly to practice law. By temperament, however, he was suited for other things. Semple quickly abandoned law and got involved in Democratic Party politics and journalism. Eventually, with considerable difficulty, he and a local newspaperman, Thomas Patterson, purchased the floundering Portland Daily Herald in 1869. Semple became its editor and soon began to wage a spirited editorial campaign that helped return the Democrats to control of the state government in 1870. Following the typical “spoils” policy, Governor Lafayette Grover rewarded the Herald with lucrative state printing contracts and appointed Semple State Printer, considering him “the best editor we’ve got.” In 1870, the same year he became State Printer, Semple married Ruth Lownsdale, the daughter of an early Portland settler.

Using profits from the printing contracts and from sales of his wife’s real estate, Semple plunged into a variety of land and building speculations in Portland. The Panic of 1873 wiped out these speculative investments. The years ahead were the nadir of Semple’s career. Bankrupt, he left Portland with his growing family in 1875. The Semples homesteaded in eastern Oregon until Ruth divorced Eugene in 1883 and married another man, leaving Eugene with custody of their four children.

Semple quickly rebounded from the divorce and decided to re-enter politics. Seeking President Grover Cleveland’s nomination as Washington Territorial Governor in 1885, Semple mobilized the help of his influential family in the East and his own political connections in the West. The contest for the appointment consumed more than two years, as various political factions deluged Cleveland with petitions supporting Semple or his rivals. The President eventually chose Semple in 1887 to replace Republican Governor Watson Squire.

Semple’s two-year term as governor coincided with a period of turbulence and expansive growth in the territory. The population of Washington almost doubled during these two years, reaching more than 250,000 people. Many of the immigrants were miners whose demands for better working conditions and union recognition led to violence in the coal mines of the Cascades. Semple deplored the use of company strikebreakers, but refused to intervene forcefully on the workers’ behalf when called upon. He made a sharp distinction, however, between the interests of white workingmen and those of Chinese laborers. Semple thought of the Chinese as members of “a non-assimilating race.” During his gubernatorial campaign and his administration, he refused to condemn anti-Chinese rioters in Tacoma and Seattle even though he asserted that the Chinese had a right to remain in Washington if they so desired.

In addition to labor unrest, Governor Semple had to deal with a host of other problems caused by Washington’s exploding population. He convinced the United States Congress and Interior Department to fund an expansion of the territory’s elementary school system, as well as the construction of a new penitentiary, insane asylum, and school for delinquent youth. Semple also pressed Congress and the territorial legislature to pass laws regulating Washington’s overfished waters, but to no avail.

Women’s enfranchisement was another major issue during Semple’s administration. In 1887, to the chagrin of conservatives, Semple signed a women’s suffrage bill passed by the territorial legislature. The Washington Supreme Court, however, declared the law unconstitutional. Washington women did not earn the ballot again until 1909.

Republican victories in the national election of 1888 brought an end to most Democratic appointments in the territories. In April 1889, Semple was replaced by Miles Moore, a Walla Walla banker. But Semple was not yet off the political stage. Enabling legislation had been passed by Congress before Semple left office authorizing the admission of Washington to statehood. In September 1889, Semple was chosen as his party’s candidate for governor in the first state election. He lost to Elisha Ferry, another former governor of the territory. This was Semple’s last serious projection into politics. Indeed, his two-year stint as governor was really just an interlude in his larger career as a speculator and promoter.

After leaving the governorship, Semple spent his time managing a company he had bought while in office, the Lucia Mill Company in Vancouver, Washington. Unfortunately, the company’s profits were consumed in Semple’s unsuccessful efforts to interest Eastern investors in buying land in the Skagit Valley in the early 1890s. It was, however, in the economically-depressed Seattle of the mid-1890s that Semple undertook the most ambitious project of his business career--the south Seattle ship canal and harbor improvement scheme. Semple’s project was intended to supercede the uncompleted ship canal from Shilshole Bay into Lake Washington with a shorter, more daring route through the tidelands and hills of south Seattle, linking Seattle’s harbor directly with Lake Washington. Semple established the Seattle & Lake Washington Waterway Company and persuaded hundreds of Seattle residents to underwrite the south canal enterprise with a $500,000 subsidy pledge. Work on the south canal began in July 1895.

Semple knew that his project required a more secure form of financing than citizens’ donations. He proposed that the state allow companies to sell liens on tidelands that the companies would later reclaim. Semple planned to use the earth removed from the canal route to fill the tidelands. The legislature approved Semple’s scheme in 1893, but it did not go into effect until the Washington Supreme Court declared the law constitutional in 1898.. Many companies then entered the tideland business, filling Seattle’s tidelands and selling them as sites for waterfront industry and commerce.

The sale of tidelands did not generate enough revenue to allow Semple’s company to complete the difficult and expensive work of building the south Seattle ship canal. In addition, the wealthier and more influential backers of the northern ship canal route undermined Semple’s efforts to obtain financial backing from the local, state, or federal governments. Semple came to regard his opposition--which was pushing the north canal to completion while financial and legal problems continued to beset the south canal--as a conspiracy of “money kings.” Deeply frustrated and nearly bankrupt, Semple resigned as president of the Seattle & Lake Washington Waterway Company in 1903.

During the remainder of his life, Semple attempted to apply his ideas to similar promotions, convinced that he could still become a rich man. The most notable of these later schemes was a plan for bypassing the treacherous bar at the mouth of the Columbia River by digging a large ship canal from Astoria to Seaside, Oregon. Here too he failed, though not for a lack of vivid imagination. Semple lived out his last years on money borrowed from relatives. He died on August 28, 1908.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Eugene Semple papers are primarily composed of correspondence. The letters describe Semple’s editorship of the Portland Herald, his work as Oregon State Printer, his administration as Washington Territorial Governor, his numerous financial speculations, and his relations with his family. Correspondence from the gubernatorial period contains a great deal of information on anti-Chinese agitation and on the drive for women’s suffrage. Records from various businesses managed by Semple are also found in his papers. The activities of the Lucia Mill Company and the Seattle & Lake Washington Waterway Company are documented in detail.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

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Restrictions on Use

The creator's literary rights have not been transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Personal papersReturn to Top

Arranged by type of record.
Container(s) Description Dates
Outgoing letters
Three volumes of letterpress copybooks and about 2000 unbound letters
Letters reflect his legal practice, editorship of the Oregon Herald, work as Oregon State Printer, Democratic Party work in Oregon and Washington, governorship of Washington Territory and general business and family interests.
1865-1907
Letterpress copybooks
Box
5
Volume 1
299 pages
1893 March 20-1893 October 1
5
Volume 2
299 pages
Some missing pages.
1895 July 10-1896 November 20
5
Volume 3
409 pages
1896 December 1-1899 June 19
Unbound letters
Box
1
1865 February -1889 February
1865 February -1889 February
2
1889 March -1897 October
1889 March -1897 October
3
1897 November -1902 July
1897 November -1902 July
4
1902 August -1906 May
1902 August -1906 May
5
1906 June - 1907 December
1906 June - 1907 December
Incoming letters
Box
6
Abbott, M.H.
4 items
1865
6
Abbott, Twyman O.
13 items
1887-1907
6
Adair, John
18 items
1904
6
American Publishers Association
14 items
1897-1900
6
Ames, Edgar
44 items
1894-1903
6
Ames, Henry
27 items
1893-1905
6
Ames, Lucy
76 items
1863-1902
6
Anderson, Charles Mack
2 items
1888
6
Andrews, E.W.
2 items
1898
6
Ankeny, Levi
1 item
1904
6
Bancroft (A.L.) Company
6 items
1874
6
Barnett, A. M.
3 items
1888
6
Bellingham Bay National Bank
13 items
1892-1895
6
Bingham, N.T.
2 items
1875-1879
6
Blackman, Henry
1 item
1894
6
Blackmer, W.E.
4 items
1888
6
Bowers Seattle-Yukon Dredging Company
5 items
1897
6
Bradford, Oscar
5 items
1874-1879
6
Brainerd, Erastus
3 items
1894-1902
6
Breckinridge, John Cable
2 items
1887
6
Bridges, Robert
2 items
1897, 1898
6
Brown, Webster
5 items
1893
6
Burke, Thomas
2 items
1902
6
Burke, (Thomas), Shepard, and McGilvra
3 items
1892-1902
6
Burton, Theodore E.
15 items
1902-1904
7
Cadwell, E.P.
3 items
1888-1890
7
Canby, E.L.
5 items
1892-1893
7
Cann, T.H.
5 items
1889
7
Carrier, B.N.
6 items
1887-1888
7
Carroll, Thomas
7 items
1888-1893
7
Cochrane, William
1 item
1889
7
Cushman, Francis W.
3 items
1902
7
Dawley, J.M.
2 items
1898
7
De Courey, B.W.
12 items
1891
7
Democratic Party, Washington
3 items
1886-1904
7
Dolph, Joseph N.
1 item
1893
7
Duniway, Abigail Scott
2 items
1872, 1874
7
Dutton, Chauncy N.
3 items
1895-1896
7
Eastwick, Philip G.
3 items
1891-1892
7
Egan, John G.
9 items
1893-1903
7
Emery, C.D.
3 items
1888
7
Ernst, B.C.
5 items
1897
7
Evans, Elwood
3 items
1888
7
Fay, James D.
2 items
1870
7
Ferry, Elisha P.
5 items
1894
7
First National Bank, Blaine, Washington
9 items
1890-1895
7
Floyd-Jones, Bel
18 items
1862-1869
7
Foster, Addison G.
5 items
1902-1904
7
Franklin County, Washington (Miscellaneous offices)
3 items
1888
7
Freemasons
8 items
1883-1908
7
Gatzert, Bailey
1 item
1887
7
Gilfry, Henry H.
3 items
1871-1894
7
Gilman, Daniel Hunt
2 items
1893, 1895
7
Glover, T.B.
3 items
1887-1888
7
Great Northern Railway Company
6 items
1902-1904
7
Greene, Roger Sherman
1 item
1904
7
Griffith (L.H.) Realty and Banking Company, Seattle
4 items
1891
7
Grover, Lafayette
10 items
1868-1874
7
Guineau, Thomas E.
6 items
1894-1897
7
Habersham, R.A.
3 items
1891
7
Hale, Julius F.
13 items
1894-1904
7
Hall, William H.
3 items
1894
7
Hanford, Cornelius H.
1 item
1889
7
Hemrich, Andrew
3 items
1904-1905
7
Hestwood, J.O.
7 items
1898
7
Heustis, F.D.
4 items
1893
7
Hicks, Gwin
3 items
1888, 1889
7
Hicks, U.E.
2 items
1865
7
Hill, George D.
3 items
1887-1889
7
Himes, George H.
1 item
1903
7
Hulbert, Ellen
4 items
1864-1888
7
Humphrey, William E.
2 items
1903, 1908
7
Isham, A.E.
2 items
1888, 1889
7
Jones, Wesley Livsey
8 items
1902-1904
7
Jones, William Carey
5 items
1894-1906
7
Junger, Aegidius, Bishop of Nisqually
2 items
1887
7
King, John Floyd
3 items
1886
7
King County, Washington Sheriff
2 items
1889
7
Kittitas County, Washington Sheriff
9 items
1888-1889
7
Knights of Labor, Spokane Assembly
4 items
1884
8
Ladd and Tilton, Bankers, Portland
3 items
1895
8
Lewis, James Hamilton
10 items
1888-1889
8
Lindsay, William
4 items
1893
8
Long, Clark
5 items
1888, 1889
8
Lucia Mill Company
24 items
1895-1900
8
McBride, George W.
2 items
1882, 1896
8
McCammon, Joseph K.
36 items
1889-1903
8
McGraw, John Harte
2 items
1894-1896
8
McNaughton, John
3 items
1898-1899
8
Metcalfe, J.B.
4 items
1887-1888
8
Miller, G.A.
3 items
1890
8
Miller and Stapleton
11 items
1893-1894
8
Mississippi Valley Trust Company
14 items
1899-1905
8
Mizner, Lansing B.
40 items
1863-1890
8
Montgomery, J.B.
2 items
1893
8
Moody, R.E.
3 items
1900, 1902
8
Moore, James A.
23 items
1906-1908
8
Moore, Miles Conway
5 items
1889-1903
8
Moran, Robert
12 items
1897-1898
8
Morris and Whitehead
13 items
1900-1902
8
Morrison, W.R.
2 items
1893, 1894
8
Mosher, Lafayette
2 items
1873, 1875
8
Muckle Brothers
6 items
1891-1892
8
Mullikin, U.
1 item
1871
8
Munn and Company
39 items
1903-1907
8
Nesmith, James W.
2 items
1870, 1884
8
Newell, William A.
3 items
1888-1897
8
Northern Pacific Coal Company
2 items
1888
8
Northern Pacific Railroad Company
2 items
1887, 1893
8
O'Conner, M.H.
2 items
1889
8
Oregon Governor
4 items
1873-1887
8
Oregon Improvement Company
3 items
1888-1889
8
Owens, H.K.
2 items
1899, 1900
9
Pacific Coast Company
2 items
1899, 1903
9
Pacific County, Washington Sheriff
2 items
1887
9
Paine, F.W.
6 items
1887
9
Parker, Frank J.
42 items
With enclosures
1885-1892
9
Parry, Will H.
21 items
1900-1907
9
Paschall, George M.
13 items
1897-1902
9
Patterson, T[homas]
13 items
1868-1883
9
Perley Brothers
5 items
1892-1893
9
Pigott, Harry H.
1 item
1906
9
Plummer, Fred G.
3 items
1893
9
Powell, Archibald O.
4 items
1906, 1907
9
Prosser, William F.
13 items
1891-1893
9
Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Company
5 items
1902-1903
9
Ritz, Philip
14 items
1887, 1888
9
Roeder, Henry
4 items
1888
9
Rollins, C.H.
4 items
1900-1904
9
Royal Arcanum
5 items
1904
9
Saleno, Samuel H.
9 items
1897, 1898
9
Scott, Julia Semple
37 items
1864-1874
9
Semple, James
6 items
1865-1866
9
Semple, Mary S.
7 items
1869-1872
9
Semple, Maude
12 items
1883-1903
9
Semple family, miscellaneous
9 items
1864-1884
9
Sharpstein, John L.
2 items
1887, 1888
9
Shipley, T.H.B.
3 items
1865-1868
9
Simpson, Sylvester C.
1 item
1873
9
Spokane City Guard
2 items
1888
9
Squire, Watson Carvosso
6 items
1887-1894
9
Stevenson, Adlai Ewing
1 item
1893
9
Stillaguamish and Sultan Mining Company
4 items
1894, 1895
9
Symons, Thomas W.
33 items
1894-1907
10
Tobin, Henry G.
5 items
1889
10
Tongue, Thomas H.
3 items
1902
10
Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress
8 items
1895-1904
10
Turner, George
3 items
1887-1902
10
Union Patent Investment Company
8 items
1904-1905
10
United States Army Corps of Engineers
20 items
1892-1906
10
United States Department of the Interior
6 items
1889, 1904
10
United States Department of Justice
8 items
1887, 1889
10
United States Department of the Navy
4 items
1902, 1904
10
United States Treasury Department
14 items
1887-1889
10
Vancouver, Washington Mayor
2 items
1892
10
Voorhees, Charles S.
1 item
1887
10
Wahkiakum County, Washington Sheriff
3 items
1887, 1888
10
Washington Attorney General
43 items
1888-1897
10
Washington (Territory) Hospital for the Insane
7 items
1887
10
Washington (Territory) National Guard
42 items
1887-1889
10
Washington Harbor Line Commission
45 items
1890-1893
10
Washington Commissioner of Public Lands
21 items
1892-1906
10
Washington, University of Washington
1 item
1888
10
Washington [Various state government offices]
9 items
1891-1904
10
Washington (Territory) [Various territorial government agencies]
3 items
1887-1889
10
Watson, D.M.
15 items
1888
10
Watson, W.G.
6 items
1887-1888
10
Wells, S.A.
3 items
1887, 1888
10
Western Drilling Company
5 items
1888, 1889
10
White, W.H.
1 item
1885
10
Wickersham, James
5 items
1888-1892
10
Wilson, John M.
5 items
1891-1893
10
Wintermute, J. S.
55 items
1887-1895
10
Women's suffrage associations
6 items
1888
10
Women's Christian Temperance Union
3 items
1888
11
Yakima County and Kittitas County, Washington District Attorney
6 items
1887, 1888
11
Unidentified and incomplete letters
8 items
1891, 1903, 1904, undated
11
Women's Suffrage Bill of 1887
100 items
11
Letters and petitions recommending Semple for governorship of Washington Territory
11 items
1885-1887
11
Copies of letters and a petition relating to strike at coal mines at Roslyn and Newcastle
13 items
1888
11
Miscellaneous letters to Semple as Governor
115 items
Mainly concerning patronage, favors, arid sheriff reports.
1887-1889
Box
12
Genealogical material and biographical data
undated
13
Telegram code
undated
13
Diary
1887, 1889
13
Date books
1865-1894
Agreements
Box
13
Semple a party
undated
13
Semple not a party
undated
Court papers
Box
13
Semple a party
undated
13
Cases of Lawrence & Semple Law Firm, Portland
1865-1867
13
Relating to Everett, Washington tidelands
1893
13
Miscellaneous
undated
13
Clippings
undated
Documents
Box
13
Relating to bankruptcy of Semple and position as Oregon State Printer
1871-1885
13
Relating to prospective excavation in Tacoma's harbor
1893
13
Abstracts of Title
1858-1868
13
Act incorporating the University of the Territory of Washington
Two certified copies
1888
13
Miscellaneous
undated
13
Patents
undated
Box
14
Field notes of land surveys
undated
14
Speeches and writings
undated
Financial records
Box
14
Relating to expenses as Governor of Washington Territory
undated
14
Stocks and bonds
undated
Box
14
Legislative Bills
undated
14
Clippings: Newspaper accounts of Semple's career from various newspapers
undated
14
Photographs and sketches
undated
14
Miscellaneous notes
undated
Ephemera
Many are annotated
Box
14
"Martial Law at Seattle, Washington Territory," by Semple (Vancouver, Washington Territory, 1886)
1886
14
"Petition and Statements Accompanying Chart of Columbia River..." (Register Printing Office, Vancouver, Washington Territory, 1885)
1885
14
Report of Governor, Washington Territory, to Secretary of Interior
1887
14
Message of the Governor, Washington Territory, to Legislative Assembly
1887
14
Columbia Waterway Convention, Vancouver, Washington Territory
1886 October
14
Miscellaneous
undated
Box
14
Estate notes
1908, 1926, undated
15
Covers (envelopes)
undated

Business papersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Lucia Mill Company, Vancouver, Washington
Box
16
Agreements
1883-1885
16
Incoming correspondence
approximately 50 items
1893-1899
Bigham (A.J.) Huston Co., Vancouver, Washington
Box
16
Outgoing correspondence-- letterbook
300 pages
1884
16
Financial records: ledger
218 pages
1884
Box
16
Leonard, Harvey Reid: papers relating to a balance wrench patent
approximately 50 items
1871-1872
Herald Printing Company, Portland
Box
16
Composition book
1869
Subscription list
1869
Box
16
Oregon Herald
1869
16
Democratic Party, Oregon
1869
Box
16
Lincoln Oil and Gas Company, Washington: miscellaneous papers
approximately 20 items
1900-1904
16
Snoqualmie Central Development Company
2 items
1895
Bowers Seattle-Yukon Gold Dredging Company
Correspondence and other papers
approximately 20 items
1897-1898
Box
16
Bowers, Alphonzo B.
1897-1898
16
Hestwood, James O.
1897-1898
16
Moran, Robert
1897-1898
16
Paschall, George M.
1897-1898
Seattle General Contract and Finance Company
7 items
1907
Box
16
Letters
1907
16
Stock certificates
1907
16
Articles of incorporation
1907
Washington Harbor Line Commission
Papers regarding Semple's work as a Commission member
15 items
1890-1892
Box
17
Northwestern Lumber Company, Hoquiam
1890-1892
17
Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company
1890-1892
17
Stimson Mill Company, Seattle
1890-1892
Box
17
Semple and Hale law firm, Portland: docket book
1 volume
1893-1894
Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company
Box
17
General correspondence
approximately 300 items
Major correspondents:
  • Ames, Edgar
  • Brainerd, Erastus
  • Burton, Theodore E.
  • Durie, David E.
  • Ferry, Elisha Peyre
  • Hale, Julius F.
  • Hemrich, Andrew
  • Jones, William Carey
  • Parry, Will H.
  • Paschall, George M.
  • Symons, Thomas W.
See also the Letterpress books, 1893-1899 (3 volumes) in the Personal Papers series, which include both personal and business letters.
1891-1907
18
Histories of the canal controversy
10 items
undated
18
Prospectuses and proposals
15 items
undated
18
Majority and minority reports regarding location of canal
5 items
1902
18
Court papers
10 items
undated
18
Miscellaneous notes
10 items
undated
18
History of House Bill 349
1 item
1893
folder:oversize
OS folder 1
Map showing proposal of Major Millis
1 item
1903
Box
18
Financial records
25 items
undated
18
Appraisement of Seattle Tidelands
1 item
circa 1900
18
Agreements
10 items
undated
18
Specifications and estimates
15 items
undated
18
Stock certificates
5 items
undated
18
Clippings
5 items
undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Banks and banking--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Businessmen--Washington (State)--Archives
  • Canals--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Capitalists and financiers--Washington (State)--Archives
  • Chinese--Civil rights--Washington (State)
  • Chinese--Washington (State)--Government relations
  • Governors--Washington (State)--Archives
  • Harbors--Washington (State)--Seattle
  • Journalism--Oregon--Portland
  • Labor disputes--Washington (State)
  • Printers--Washington (State)--Archives
  • Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining--Washington (State)
  • Women--Suffrage--Washington (State)
  • Personal Names :
  • Ames, Edgar
  • Ames, Lucy V. S
  • Parker, Frank J
  • Scott, Julia Semple
  • Semple, Eugene, 1840-1908--Archives
  • Symons, T. W. (Thomas William), 1849-1920
  • Wintermute, J. S
  • Corporate Names :
  • Lucia Mill
  • Munn & Co. (New York, N.Y.)
  • Seattle and Lake Washington Waterway Company
  • Washington (State). Harbor Line Commission
  • Washington (State). National Guard
  • Washington (State). Office of Commissioner of Public Lands
  • Washington (State). Office of the Attorney General
  • Geographical Names :
  • Portland (Or.)--Politics and government
  • Roslyn (Wash.)
  • Seattle (Wash.)--Politics and government
  • Washington (State)--Emigration and immigration--19th century
  • Washington (State)--Ethnic relations
  • Washington (State)--Politics and government--1889-1950
  • Washington (State)--Politics and government--To 1889