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Allen Weir

Please note that some of the info contained in this biography differs from other sources, including spelling of his first name.


Hon. Allen Weir, of Olympia, was thoroughly western in spirit and interests, his entire life having been passed on the Pacific coast, where through his business ability and public spirit he contributed in substantial measure to the wonderful development and progress of this section of the country. He was born in El Monte, Los Angeles county, California, April 24, 1854, and when six years of age was brought to Washington by his parents, who reached Port Townsend on the 28th of May, 1860. He was a son of John and Saluda J. (Buchanan) Weir. The father, a native of Missouri, was at different times, a pioneer of that state, of Texas, of California and of the Puget Sound country. Removing to the Lone Star state, he there married Miss Buchanan and their three oldest children were born in Texas. In 1853 they started by wagon across the plains for southern California and were about a year in making the trip. The father engaged in blacksmithing and farming at Lexington, Los Angeles county, California, and in 1858 he made his way northward to Port Townsend and then to Dungeness, where two years later he was joined by his family. He settled two miles from the straits, where he took up government land and developed a farm, residing thereon until his demise. He cleared all his land, made all his own roads and also made the first plow in the county. He likewise built the first wagon in the county and he continued to engage in blacksmithing as well as in general farming. He possessed expert mechanical ingenuity and could make anything out of wood and iron. He lived to be sixty-three years of age and his wife, who survived him for about twelve years, had reached the age of seventy at the time of her demise. In their family were the following named: Marion, deceased; Mrs. Laura B. Troy, of Olympia; Mrs. Susan L. Evans, of Dungeness, Washington; Allen, of this review; Mrs. Martha J. Whit- tier, who has passed away ; and Julia, the widow of Charles Kennard, of Tacoma.

Allen Weir attended school in Olympia but is largely a self-educated man and has gained many of his most valuable lessons in the school of experience. In his boyhood he was thrown in close relations with the Clallam Indians, who were numerous and often worked on his father's farm. Taking an interest in their language, he soon mastered it, and this ability to speak the Chinook language was of great value to him later in his legal practice as it enabled him to be his own interpreter. When nineteen years of age he started in business on his own account by renting land of his father, on which he engaged in the cultivation of crops and in raising hogs. He afterward spent two years in driving ox teams in logging camps but, desirous of improving his education, he then went to Olympia and spent two years in the Olympia Collegiate Institute, where Professor Royal took a great interest in him and assisted him as far as possible. While pursuing his studies Mr. Weir did his own cooking and worked as janitor of the building in order to pay his tuition. He kept ahead of his class, and left some time before his class was graduated, he having completed the course. It is a well known fact that it is under the stimulus of necessity and the pressure of adversity that the best and strongest in man are brought out and developed and Mr. Weir thus early displayed the elemental strength and force of his character.

Returning to Port Townsend, he purchased the Puget Sound Argus, a small weekly newspaper, which also did job work. About six months later, or in November, 1877, he was married and his wife became his active assistant in the business. Together they built up the paper, largely increasing its circulation and its advertising patronage, and after twelve years they sold the business at a good profit. Not long after they began the publication of the paper a daily edition was started. Mr. Weir had had no practical experience as a newspaper man but he applied himself thoroughly to learning the business and soon proved his capability therein. After disposing of the Argus the Commercial Club of Port Townsend offered him ten thousand dollars if he would return and again enter the newspaper business there. He had served as secretary of the chamber of commerce and in both connections had much to do with the upbuilding of the town, the development of its interests and the exploitation of its resources. In fact he took an active part in shaping the history of the state in consider- able measure and in the spring of i88g was elected a member of the constitutional convention which met at Olympia. He took part in various debates of the convention and did much toward framing the organic law of the state. The same year he was nominated for secretary of state and was the first to hold that office after the admission of Washington to the Union. He proved a capable official but did not become a candidate for reelection. He had previously served as clerk in the upper house of the territorial legislature in 1887 and in many ways he aided in forming public policy. He was a great friend of Governor Terry and many other distinguished statesmen of Washington and in their councils his opinions many times carried great weight. He was well fitted for leadership by reason of his keen mind and his natural oratorical powers, which had been developed while he was a member of a literary society in school. He became a pronounced advocate of the temperance cause and in this, as in every other public question, he studied every phase of the problem and his utterances were based upon thorough knowledge. For three terms he held the office of president of the Olympia Chamber of Commerce. After retiring from the office of secretary of state he entered upon the practice of law in Olympia. having been admitted to the bar in 1892 upon examination before the United States supreme court, having the distinction of being the first one thus admitted. He was always alone in his law practice, which became extensive and of a very important character. He made a specialty of handling tide land litigation and is a recognized authority on tide land law. Years before when he was filling the office of justice of the peace at Port Townsend he rendered decisions in tide land cases which were accepted by the state courts and are still quoted in the trial of such cases. He continued actively in practice until September 1915, when ill health forced his retirement.

On the 12th of November, 1877, in Dungeness, Mr. Weir was married to Aliss Ellen Davis, a daughter of Hall Davis, who came from Ontario, Canada, in 1873 and was one of the leading dairymen of Washington. He developed a fine farm as well as a splendid dairy herd and his business affairs were most wisely, carefully and successfully managed. While he made his home at Dungeness his death occurred in Seattle. The surviving children of Mr. and Mrs. Weir are two sons and a daughter: Eva, who wedded Mr. White of Olympia, and has three children: Allen C, Elizabeth and Mary-Ellen; Frank A., who married Minnie Huwald and is now county engineer of Thurston county; and Royal F., a lumberman of Hoquiam. Two other children died when young.

Mr. Weir was long a devoted and faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal church, in which he held every lay office. Mrs. Weir is also a member of that church. From 1877 until his death he was identified with the Ancient Order of United Workmen. The breadth of his interests is further indicated in the fact that he served as regent of the Territorial University. His political allegiance was always unfalteringly given to the republican party. Before he was twenty-one years of age he was nominated by a democratic committee for a seat in the territorial legislature, but when the committee waited upon him to tell him of their choice he replied that he could not accept as he was a republican. He did much campaign work and in 1896 delivered campaign addresses throughout Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. There is something stimulating in the life history of such a man. One responds to the story with a thrill, recognizing how successfully he battled with untoward circumstances and wrested fortune and prominence from the hands of fate. His expanding powers brought him prominently before the public and his history proves that merit and ability will come to the front. Prompted by a laudable ambition to be something more than a common laborer and realizing that the fundamental step toward this end was the acquirement of an education, he developed the studious habits which remained his through life and which made him the peer of the ablest men of the northwest.

In September 1915, he suffered a stroke of paralysis, from which, however he almost completely recovered. On the 17th of August 1916, while he and his wife were visiting at Port Townsend they took a drive with S. Troy and from some unknown cause the car ran off the dock into the strait. Mr. Troy was killed instantly, Mrs. Weir was thrown clear of the car and escaped with bruises and Mr. Weir received such a severe shock and was so bruised that he began to fail rapidly in health and passed away on the 31st of October 1916, at the hospital in Port Townsend. Mrs. Weir has since lived in Olympia at the home of her daughter, Mrs. White.

Source: Washington, west of the Cascades; historical and descriptive; the explorers, the Indians, the pioneers, the modern; (Volume 2); by Herbert Hunt; Publisher: Chicago, Seattle, etc., The S. J. Clarke publishing company; 1917.

Deb Nelson, Webmaster and County Coordinator