Skagit River Journal
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July 1911 photo of 700 block of Metcalf street after the downtown Sedro-Woolley fire. The view is to the southwest. At the top is the location of the present U.S. Post Office. That location was then the site of the original Sedro-Woolley city hall.
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Charles Xavier Larrabee, Montana Copper King
and investor behind Fairhaven and Sedro, Part 1 of 2

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore, ©2008, updated substantially 2013

(Larrabee younger)
Charles X. Larrabee in Utah

      Although Nelson Bennett often gets the most ink as father of the Fairhaven & Southern Railway (hereafter F&S) and the boom of Fairhaven, Washington, the person who paid many of the bills and stayed around when the boom went bust was Charles Xavier Larrabee (1843-1914). Larrabee made a fortune in copper in Butte, Montana, and in Portland, Oregon, real estate and then moved to Fairhaven permanently in 1890 at Bennett's urging.
      We have detailed Larrabee's role in the Fairhaven boom in our separate story about the railroad, so we direct you there for those details. This profile will focus on his genealogy and marriage, his early formative years, his move to the Northwest away from the location of his bonanza and his overall impact on the region.
      Over the next 26 years after his initial Whatcom and Skagit investments in 1888, he funded the railroad and he also developed the coal mines — near the early town of Sedro in Skagit County, that were the reason behind the rail line in the first place. His late grandson, C.X. Larrabee the second, who lived in North Carolina for nearly five decades and had a substantial career in public relations, wrote an extensive profile of the family in his book, Larrabee, which was published in a limited printing by the Fairhaven Alumni Association in 2003. In researching this story, we read material from several different states and we are indebted to Larrabee's grandson for sharing an unpublished manuscript that he prepared for other family members and supplemented the book. (Hereafter we will refer to it as the Family Manuscript). He asked us to fill in the gaps of his narrative, so we worked closely with him and we shared new discoveries with him up until his death in the spring of 2013. [1]
      We will explain in detail why Larrabee left Butte, Montana, and eventually chose to spend the rest of his life in Dan Harris's village that rose in 1883, two miles south of the original town of Whatcom. Unlike Bennett, who moved on from Fairhaven when the railroad boom ended after the Great Northern Railway chose Seattle as its western terminus and the country fell into a deep financial depression in 1893. Larrabee sank his roots deep and diversified his investments. Many of those who did not diversify fell by the wayside. We can see the physical embodiment of Larrabee's legacy to the area in the spectacular Larrabee State Park, more than than 2,500 acres on both sides of Chuckanut Drive. We joined a family reunion there in August 2013, which also celebrated the centennial of a Washington State Parks division of government, and we draw on some of those notes here.

Childhood in New York
      Ebenezer and Lucinda had 14 children, including 11 sons, of whom William was the third. William married Mary Ann Johnson in Portville in March 1842. Portville is in the western part of New York, midway between Geneva and Buffalo. Charles's only sibling, Samuel Edward Larrabee, followed him on June 17, 1845. Lucinda was from Tully, New York, in Onandago County, the home of James Mathews, an early pioneer of the Utopia district near Minkler Lake in Skagit County and the builder of this author's childhood home.
      The couple had 14 children, including 11 sons, of whom William was the third. Although Ebenezer moved to Omro, Wisconsin, in an unknown year before 1865, William married Mary Ann Johnson, about 18, of Tully, New York, in March 1842. Portville is in the western part of New York, midway between Geneva and Buffalo. Charles's only sibling, Samuel Edward Larrabee, followed him on June 17, 1845. Tully is in Onandago County, the home of James Mathews, an early pioneer of the Utopia district near Minkler Lake in Skagit County and the builder of this author's childhood home.

(Omro map)
      This birdseye map of Omro, dated 1870, shows a view where we look southeast. The Hiram Johnson mill is located on the lower (north) side of the river. The railroad is to the right. The main Omro downtown is above the river. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Omro, Wisconsin: the Johnson family
      Although the Family Manuscript notes that the sequence in unclear, William deserted his family sometime while the boys were younger than ten. Sometime in the early 1850s Mary Ann and the boys moved to Wisconsin, where several Larrabee families lived then and later and where Mary's parents, Hiram and Mary (Bryan) Johnson, lived since the late 1830s. We researched nearly a dozen early books of early Wisconsin and the city of Omro, and we found several details that supplement the Family Manuscript and others that are in conflict with it.
      We do know that in about 1852, Mary Ann and the boys settled in the new town of Omro, which straddles the Fox River in Winnebago County, 11 miles due west of Oshkosh and Lake Winnebago. The Family Manuscript states that Ebenezer Larrabee owned a substantial shingle mill there and that Hiram Johnson, Mary Ann's father, owned a store. Those readers who have read the Journal series about Birdsey Minkler in Skagit County will recall that Minkler was born in the Omro area in 1849 and lived there until 1873. So far we have found no evidence that Larrabee and Minkler met but they likely did since both Hiram Johnson and Birdsey's grandfather, David Minckler (or Minkler), settled Omro in the first wave when the village was still known as Bloomingdale. The whole area west of Oshkosh along the Fox River was originally named Butte des Mortes, then Bloomingdale and then Winnebago County chose the name of Omro in 1852 in favor of Charles Omro, one of the early traders with Indians on the river.
      Four different histories describe "Johnson's saw and planing mill" that Hiram built with a partner named Roy Bump on the north side of the river in 1851. Mariam Smith's 1976 book, The history of Omro, notes that times were hard at first, but by 1855, the mill was running day and night, trying to keep up with orders from new settlers. The original partners sold out to Norman Gerard and another partner that year but the partnership did not work. Nathan Johnson (relationship unknown) bought it back a few years later. In 1858, Hiram and his son Chancellor platted the area as the First Addition to Omro in anticipation of the Ripon & Wolf River Railroad. In his memoir in the Omro Herald in 1910, Gerard noted that he joined most of the businessmen from Omro to buy stock in the undercapitalized railroad and he helped lay the line to Omro as its terminus, completing the job in 1860. The railroad line bisected the town and laid a spur to the Johnson mill. The firm was mortgaged for the iron rails and when the manufacturer foreclosed, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad bought it outright.
      Hiram Johnson earned space in many histories of Wisconsin two decades earlier, however, for his religious activities. Certain aspects of Hiram's character supply insight into young Charley Larrabee's moral makeup, as well as contrast, since we know from studying Larrabee as an adult that he was not as demonstrative as Hiram proved to be. In James Smith Buck's 1881 Pioneer History of Milwaukee, he profiled Hiram and his brothers, Milton and Solon, who all migrated in 1836 to the town of Wauwatosa, 90 miles south-southeast of Omro and now a suburb west of Milwaukee. They built a log cabin there on Section 36, six years before the town government formed. Although Hiram initially supported himself as a farmer, Buck noted that he soon became an "exhorter" for the church and the Rev. W.G. Miller reported in his 1875 book, Thirty years in the itinerancy, that Hiram was licensed by the Wisconsin Conference to exhort in cabins throughout the area in 1838. Buck wrote that Hiram:

The Thistle sternwheeler on the Fox River near Omro. Just as on the Skagit River, the early pioneers arrived on and shipped freight on canoes and sternwheelers in the early years of settlement. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

      . . . used to hold forth occasionally in the cabins of the settlers, up to 1840, when, becoming partially insane upon the subject of religion, he quit work and commenced a sort of nomadic missionary life, going from house to house, and singing and praying in every family. It mattered not to him what the inmates might be about, he would come right in, sing a hymn, and pray sometimes for an hour or more, until the thing became a nuisance — so much so that many were compelled to forbid him admission to their dwellings. He was a man of large frame, very muscular and powerful; had a strong will, was very decided in his way; spoke slowly and deliberately, except when upon his favorite theme, religion, when his delivery was rapid enough. He had a large head, dark hair, sallow complexion, dark eyes, large and lustrous. He had fair business abilities, but not sufficient education to fill a very high position as a pulpit orator, his manner being wholly sensational. . . . Mr. Johnson continued in this way for some two years after that, when he met with an accident that unfitted him for further usefulness in the ministry, after which he removed first to Walworth county, and lastly to Omro, where, I believe, he still resides engaged in the manufacture of shingles.
      Hiram's fire-and-brimstone manner was actually topped by his brother Milton, who, Buck wrote, "finally came to believe he was Jesus Christ, claimed to have the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils and the like." He was killed in a freak wagon accident in 1842. Their brother, Solon Johnson, appears to have been the black sheep of the family. Buck wrote that Solon "is at present a citizen of Nevada, where he settled some ten or twelve years ago, as a speculator in mining stocks, and a deadbeat generally. . . . But such is life."
      Hiram and Mary arrived at the Fox River in 1851. Harry Wilber, the son of an early Omro pioneer, serialized his memoir, Early History of Omro, in 1939 editions of the Omro Herald and noted that Hiram was among a dozen early settlers, including David Minckler and William Thrall, Birdsey Minkler's paternal and maternal grandfathers. Although he apparently prospered with his shingle mill, Hiram was enumerated in the 1860 Federal Census as a Methodist preacher in the church that was built in the 1855-59 period. Mill owners in the frontier towns often opened a general store for workers in the area and Hiram did the same. The main town and businesses formed on the south side of the Fox River, where the main town of Omro eventually formed, connected to the north side by a ferry. Larrabee's lifelong aversion to alcohol was likely influenced by Hiram, who at different times in Omro was an officer of Good Templars Lodge and the secretary of the Dane County Bible Society, and it was possibly also a result of his father's overindulgence, but that is not documented. Omro is one of the few frontier towns you will read about where saloons definitely did not outnumber churches.
      We have never learned why Hiram's daughter, Mary Ann (Johnson) Larrabee, remained back in New York in the 1830s. Perhaps she remained behind to receive a better education. Her older sister, Theodosia Johnson, who was also born in Tully, New York — on Nov. 23, 1829, did join her parents in Wisconsin at some point earlier than her sister. Theodosia married John McClean, a son of the family who lived at and worked in the mill, on a street that was named for them. Both the McCleans and Charrion family — who will prove to be important in Larrabee's early Whatcom investments, lived with the Johnsons in Racine in 1850 before they all moved to the Fox River. The Johnson mill burned in 1866 but was immediately rebuilt. By then Hiram was 68 and Mary was 72. In the 1880 Federal Census, Hiram and Mary lived with Theodosia and her family in Milltown, Shawano County, Wisconsin. Hiram died nearby in Norwood Township on Nov. 18, 1881, and Mary died there on Sept. 1, 1889, at age 91.

(Presbyterian Church)
First Presbyterian Church, Omro

Omro, Wisconsin: the Larrabee family
      When we first researched the Larrabee family in Wisconsin, we found a very prominent name, that of Charles H. Larrabee (1820-1883), who was also born in New York. We later discovered in Miriam Smith's book, The history of Omro, that he was a cousin of the Larrabee boys. He moved to Horicon, Wisconsin, in 1847, where he practiced law and rose through the ranks of the Democratic Party, serving as a circuit judge and then representing Wisconsin in the U.S. House in 1858-60. After the Civil War broke out, he was commissioned and rose to the rank of colonel in the Union Army before resigning in 1863.
      He moved to California in 1864 with Wisconsin editor Beriah Brown, and practiced law there and in Salem, Oregon and then in Seattle. Charles H. Larrabee was the first of the Larrabee family to move to Washington Territory, in 1871-72, when he published the Puget Sound Dispatch in Seattle in partnership with Brown. The Dispatch evolved into today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Charles H. Larrabee also practiced as an attorney in Seattle until 1876 with his partner, future judge and Redmond pioneer William Henry White, and subsequently with Cornelius H. Hanford, another future judge. He was seriously injured in a railroad accident at Tehachapi, California, and died soon afterwards in Los Angeles on Jan. 20, 1883. [2]
      A note by Mariam Smith indicates that Mary Ann (Johnson) Larrabee brought her boys to Omro in 1852. The Family Manuscript suggested that she moved there because both grandfathers of the boys were prominent merchants there. While we certainly found evidence that Hiram Johnson was a successful businessman there, Ebenezer Larrabee left no record behind except for his death in Omro in 1865. As Smith noted, two other sons of Ebenezer moved to Omro as merchants in 1857-58, so possibly he followed them at some point.
      The most prominent among Ebenezer's sons was A.B. "Bige" Larrabee. In his 1889 Illustrated Atlas of Winnebago County Wisconsin, George A. Randall profiled A.B. as "a native of McKean county, Penn, was born June 18, 1832 . . . in the village of Eldred . . . and is a son of Ebenezer and Lucinda (Knapp) Larrabee." That means that A.B. was 12 years younger than William Larrabee and way down the chain of 14 children and 11 sons, but he was born in the same town. Randall continued,

      . . . He came to Omro in 1858 and has since remained here. For a short time he was engaged as a clerk and later embarking in business alone. He has engaged in several classes of business, as merchant, liveryman and hotel keeper. At present he is the successful operator of the Larrabee House [hotel] at Omro, in connection with which he operates a livery stable. He is the senior member of the firm of A.B. Larrabee & Son (the son was Carroll H. 'Connie' Larrabee), in the drug business and is one of Omro's most successful business men.
      That hotel replaced the original hotel in town, the Fox River, which was built on the same site on the south side of the river in 1850. Gerard recalled that he ran the hotel for a year in 1853 when the original proprietor died and he attached a hotel party notice, dated September 1 that year, with the name B. Larrabee on it, but we have not connected that person with Ebenezer's family. Smith also noted that a William Larrabee was a new arrival in Omro in 1857 and opened a grocery in 1858, but a man by the same name was among the first settlers at Horicon, Wisconsin, in 1839, so we are unsure if Mary Ann's husband was that new arrival.
      Once the boys were of the age to work and help support their mother, our Charley worked for grandfather Hiram at his store and at the mill, and Edward worked for a dry goods store, probably Brown's General Store. Both boys left Omro in the early 1860s but since Edward's business career developed faster and because he was an important Fairhaven investor, we will follow his post-Omro career first.
      Before we leave Omro, however, we found another note that indicates how the boys' character was molded. The Family Manuscript noted how Charley and Ed donated their mother's property to the Omro Presbyterian church after her death in 1881. Mariam Smith explained the process in detail. She also noted that S.E. was known as Eddie in his boyhood and that the boys joined that church (built in 1851) in 1852, so that is why we timed their arrival in that year.
      Smith wrote that Mary Ann lived on Piety Hill and that the boys "replaced their old home on the hill with an up-to-date charming manse-parsonage which they deeded to the Presbyterian Church in memory of their mother who is buried there. An unusual stipulation provides that each autumn the Session should place seven symbolic kernels of corn on the gravesite and care for the plot each year. Mary, the mother's grave was amid a large clump of evergreen trees and marked with a large monument." The old manse still stood on the hill in 1876.

Ed Larabie's life, post-Omro
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            The names both brothers became known by have confused people all over the map, including historians, so we will address that confusion with what we know. They were recalled fondly in a couple of books as Charley and Eddie. From the Family Manuscript, we learned that Charley remained bitter and unforgiving about his father's desertion, so much so that when his father was dying in Michigan in 1871, Charley refused his father's request to see him one more time.
      In the Family Manuscript and in a letter from Larrabee family member, both writers conclude that the father's full name was Charles William Larrabee and that his son was also christened with that name. In an unknown year, Charles purged his given middle name and chose Xavier to replace it. Some have claimed that the change occurred later in life or even that Fannie invented Xavier to explain the X. initial, but Mariam Smith noted that his middle name was Xavier after he left Omro.
      Samuel Edward's name change was more dramatic and has often confused historians. While he continued as a clerk for the Omro dry goods firm in 1863, his employer decided to pull up stakes for the gold fields of Montana near Virginia City and Alder Gulch. At age 18, Edward drove an ox team west from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and followed the Platte River west. In 1863, the present state of Montana was largely part of the Dakota Territory until March that year, when it became part of the newly formed Idaho Territory. The Family Manuscript asserts that along the way Edward changed his name to Ed Larabie in an effort to simplify the spelling and conform to the spelling of Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Laramie was the major stopover on the Oregon Trail in the area, located in what is now Goshen County, Wyoming, near the junction of the North Platte and Laramie rivers and about 100 miles north-northeast of Cheyenne.
      Ed continued north to Alder Gulch in west-central Montana, where he may have continued clerking but he also tried mining for gold and then he moved east to Deer Lodge in 1866, 40 miles north of Butte. Deer Lodge was the second oldest city in Montana after Stevensville, which was located west at the present border with Idaho. Although his mining turned out to be less than lucrative, he became an expert gold assayer and Deer Lodge became his home for the rest of his life. He joined Tutt & Donnell grocers and his career path started steeply upwards. The firm sold in 1870 and the partners went into banking in Deer Lodge. By 1872, Ed became a partner in Donnell, Clark & Larabie, which also established the first bank in Butte. 1885 he and William A. Clark bought out Donnell. Clark would soon become acknowledged as the copper king of Montana. Later they dissolved their partnership; Clark took the Butte branch and Ed the Deer Lodge bank, which he managed for the rest of his life as Larabie Brothers & Co. Bank.
      In the 1880 Federal Census, Mary Ann Larrabee was enumerated as living with her son, Ed, and his wife in Deer Lodge, but in the following year she sought medical care in Chicago for cancer and died there at age 58.

Charley's life, post-Omro
      Mary Ann Larrabee had urged her boys to continue their education and Charles took her up on it. He left Omro in 1862 after spending most of his savings to hire a substitute to serve in his place in the Civil War. He moved back to New York and attended the Eastman Business School in Poughkeepsie, received a teaching certificate and then taught school over the next four years, as we will address below.
      The next records of his life that are cited in the Family Manuscript are a series of correspondence between Charles and his mother in 1865. We know that he was in Albany when Abraham Lincoln's funeral train passed through on April 25, 1869, because he commented on it. In a July 8 letter to Mary Ann, he noted that Indian trouble in Montana might delay her letters from Ed. Then he wrote that he was, "awaiting an answer relative to a position . . . and if I do not get one then shall go further on up the lake and try my chances." The Manuscript notes that is the last record of Larrabee's life for the next ten years.
      We discovered an answer to this mystery when we researched the life of Cyrus L. Gates, who Larrabee hired in 1890 as his business secretary. We found in one of Gates's obituaries, in the Jan. 13, 1927, edition of the Bellingham American, that the two men met when Gates was a grade-school student near Castleton, Vermont, and Larrabee was a teacher there, a fact that other historians have not noted. We wonder if that teaching job was the "position" that Charles took in 1865. Several other histories note that he taught during the winter terms for four years after 1862, but the Family Manuscript contends that he taught all four terms in Omro. Our research on that matter continues. We will profile Gates in a separate story, where you will read that he grew up near Woodstock Farm in Vermont.

(Clark Fork River)
This is the Clark Fork River in the hills west of Deer Lodge, Montana. The Clark Fork rises near Butte, flows by Deer Lodge and Missoula and winds more than 300 miles through southwestern Montana and Idaho. See this terrific Big Sky Fishing site for more photos of the river and for fishing opportunities in the area.

The brothers build their fortunes in Montana
      By 1875, Ed Larabie decided to begin breeding Morgan trotter horses in preparation for the large Willow Brook Ranch he would build near Deer Lodge in 1880. Although he bred his stock in Montana, he trained them and bought young stock in the Blue Grass region of Kentucky. Horse races were a major attraction in Montana from the time that Indians imported horses in the 1700s. The small village of Racetrack near Deer Lodge took its name from a long straightaway where Indians raced their ponies. Trader Malcolm Clarke brought the first Kentucky stallion to Montana from the region north of the Great Salt Lake in the early 1860s. [3]
      The next letter from Charles to his mother was dated Feb. 9, 1875, from New York City, where Charley and Ed dined out and attended the theater in the big city. In that letter he left no hint as to where he had been before that, to the consternation of his late grandson. He discussed the presents he was buying for his brother and the bride who Ed was about to fetch in Lexington, along with more horses. On April 28, Charles indicated to his mother that he was inclined to return to Montana after his brother's honeymoon.
      The Larabie family bible, complete with colored plates and plants from the Holy Land, recently sold for $315 on the Internet, and on the first page, we found that Samuel E. Larabie and Julia Woolfolk married on Feb. 16, 1875 in Lexington, with other inked names and births on the following page.
      On May 23, Charles wrote from St. Louis that the horses were holding up well and that he was on his way to Council Bluffs and would continue on to Deer Lodge via Corinne, Utah. If you read the accompanying story about Larrabee and the F&S, note that one of the key investors, Edward M. Wilson, edited a newspaper in Corinne around that time.

(Ed Larabie)
Ed Larabie, obit photo courtesy of the Deer Lodge Silver State newspaper

      Charles would become just as enthusiastic about horses as his brother nearly a decade later, but for the mean time, he had a lot of work ahead before he matched his brother's growing wealth. He soon proved that he was not averse to back-breaking work as he developed a series of copper mines in the vicinity of Butte, Deer Lodge and Home Park. An 1885 History of Montana lists the mines as the Shannon and Manitou, Mountain Boy, Anaconda and Mountain View. His crew sank the shaft of the Mountain Boy mine to 514 feet, the deepest shaft by horsepower in the territory. An 1890 Fairhaven Herald story added that Charles sank the shaft of the famous Anaconda mine 40 feet and he held 1/2 interest, which he sold before locating and developing St. Lawrence mine. In 1890, 50 percent of all copper mined in the U.S. came from Montana
      In Charley's obituary in the Sept. 16, 1914, Deer Lodge Silver State, the reporter noted that Charles was the first man to show faith in the St. Lawrence and that he and his partner sold that claim for $175,000. Charles then joined a partner named Green and secured a $25,000 bond on the Mountain View mine, while Ed loaned him $50,000 from his bank to capitalize the operation. Some others dismissed the possible success at that location, but Larrabee persevered for several years and then discovered a bonanza of copper ore. Aware that he had discovered a very valuable property, he interested financiers in the property and they organized the Boston and Montana Co. In 1887, Larrabee sold the Mountain View stock he had accumulated to Boston investors for more than $2.5 million.
      In his perseverance we see another character trait that may help explain why Larrabee remained in Fairhaven even after the boom went bust. This was obviously a man who was "in it for the long haul," as observers said admiringly back then, not a short-termer but rather, once he committed himself, he stayed at it until the job was done.

(Butte Montana)
1900 postcard of Butte, Montana, showing the Mountain View mine at the top right and the juxtaposition of the mines to the business district. The author witnessed the eminent-domain strip-mining in the downtown district of Butte during his honeymoon in 1967 while visiting his friend and Butte native Ed Nichols. We opened the back door of a blind-pig bar at about four a.m. and saw the deep pit that cut like a scar almost directly below.

Charley moves west
      When Ed took over the Deer Lodge branch of the bank and renamed it Larabie Brothers & Co. Bank, Charles became a partner, which must have confused those who saw their names side by side. After Ed carved out his Willow Brook Ranch for his horses, Charles finally found enough time to follow Ed's lead and carved out his own spreads, Brook Nook Stock Ranch, near Dillon, and Ruby Dell Ranch at Alder. His grandson found this description that Charles wrote to explain his intense interest in the Morgan trotters and his ranches:
      Montana, everything considered, grows the best horse in the world. The soil, climate, grasses, oats, pure water, dry atmosphere, altitude, latitude, valleys, benches, foothills and mountains, combined, produce the best feet and legs (solid, tough and dense horn and bone, muscle, lung power (depth through heart), endurance and weight not found elsewhere. [Family Manuscript]
      Charles wrote that, however, after he moved to Portland in 1888. Why did he leave his horses and the place that made him wealthy? One could conclude that he moved on the recommendation of Ed and of Nelson Bennett. Charles met Bennett when Bennett freighted with mule teams to Butte and through the Rockies, and built Butte's first street railway along the way. But his grandson attributed the move to the strict moral code that his mother, a single mom on the frontier, instilled in him and his brother
      In a grimy, rough frontier town where mayhem of every kind, killings, fraud and larceny were on the daily menu, and where everyone, except the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Chinese and Charles X. Larrabee, got drunk every night, the latter's sobriety, industry, honesty and high moral conduct must have stood out like beacons. In contrast with Charley's high morals, William Clark told the citizens of Butte that the smoke and fumes from the copper smelters were good for their health. [Family Manuscript]
      Indeed, when the WCTU decided that a public library would be a means to help combat Butte's excessive drinking and violence, the officers tracked down Larrabee to Fairhaven and they appealed to him for what might be one of the first examples of "matched giving." He told the WCTU that if they could raise $10,000 locally, he would provide $10,000. Not wanting to be upstaged, Clark chipped in $5,000. The result was the Silver Bow County public library that still stands, with a plaque that reads, "This Library was established by the generosity of Charles X. Larrabee and the citizens of Butte, Nov. 1890." We would only argue that both reasons influenced his move West.

(Ben Holladay)
Ben Holladay

Larrabee temporarily lands in Portland
      In most of the Larrabee biographies, we found that the reason for the move is that his brother, Ed, and Nelson Bennett urged him to buy the Holladay Addition on the east side of Willamette River, then called East Portland. There is more to that story, however.
      Born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1819, "Stagecoach Ben" Holladay established a freight-and-passenger empire by 1866 with his Holladay Overland Mail & Express Co. His empire stretched over a few thousand miles of dusty wagon roads between Atchison, Kansas, and the Pacific Coast. Betting that railroads would eventually win the freight battle, he sold his interests to Wells Fargo in 1868 and moved to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. There he bribed legislators in the Oregon Legislature to vote for his control of a federal land grant of millions of acres. Soon he controlled both the rail and steamship lines along the Willamette River. By the early 1870s he had gone too far, selling discounted bonds to European investors to finance further rail construction. The Financial Panic of 1873 caught them all overextended. German bondholders sent Henry Villard to recoup their losses and by April 1876, Holladay's empire fell.
      The Holladay Addition to Portland straddled both sides of Sullivan's Gulch, near where the gigantic Lloyd Center stands today, and was one of his many real estate ventures from the boom days. He platted the purchase into 61 blocks, and established the four-block park, Holladay Park, and later added the Holliday Park Addition. H.W. Scott's book, History of Portland, published in June 1890, explains why Larrabee may have moved on to greener pastures that year, to strike while the iron was hot. Scott noted that Holladay's brother, Joseph, was nearly the opposite in temperament from Ben. Ben was flamboyant and acquisitive and foolhardy and was often described as unscrupulous, boorish, vulgar and a show-off, an egregious example of conspicuous consumption with lavish mansions from New York City to Washington, D.C. to Portland and Seaside, Oregon. Joseph had no such ambition and did not show off, but was crafty and stubborn and collected interest on sound investments. When Ben was cash-poor and needed capital from his brother, Joe demanded properties as collateral for mortgage, including part of the Holladay Addition.

(Hollady Park)
Holladay Park in northeast Portland is Larrabee's legacy to that city. He chose not to change the name.

(Hotel Esmond site)
C.X. Larrabee and family lived in the Esmond Hotel near the western approach of the original Morrison Bridge over the Willamette river.

(Hotel Esmond)
The Esmond was Portland's grandest hotel in the last half of the 1800s; presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant stayed there. It was torn down in 1908. Photo, circa 1905, courtesy of Vintage Portland, a spectacular photo blog. Photo restored by Bill Stearns.

      When his empire disintegrated, Ben moved back to D.C. and he did not return until 1884, when he moved to redeem the real estate of his former Oregon Real Estate Company, including the Addition. Thus ensued a three-year legal brawl between the Holladay brothers, with the property in the hands of a receiver. By 1887, the case had gone to the State Supreme Court, which decreed a settlement to Joe and that is when Nelson Bennett and Ed Larabie showed up to pick up the pieces, and invited Charles along for the ride.
      And what a ride it was, because Ben died on July 8, 1887, leaving a will dated in 1875 that still named Joe as executor, which Ben's wife, Esther, disputed. She was joined in court by former creditors who brought innumerable suits and soon the dockets were crowded with cases connected in some way with the Holladay property. Although Holladay's Addition was platted in 1887 and Portland's first streetcar line originated there in 1889, title to much of the property was clouded. Just when some of the problems were cleared up, Esther Holladay died on April 5, 1889, and a new round of suits was lodged, some in the name of their two minor children. Although Larrabee did not seek publicity about his personal generosity, in the Portland Oregonian obituary we learn that:

      It is related, as a sidelight on the character of Mr. Larrabee, that after the purchase of the addition at a price he considered too low, on account of its forced mortgage sale by the Sheriff, he made the Holladay heirs, Ben and Linda, children of Ben Holladay, pioneer stagecoach operator and railroad builder, a present of a 700-acre farm in Polk County, a valuable triangle of land, and $125,000 in cash. The farm and the triangle were part of the Holladay estate.

Continue to Part Two of the Larrabee story including: sizing up Whatcom County in 1888; sinking his roots in Fairhaven, the roller coaster boom town; overview of Fairhaven in 1890; Charley takes a bride in 1892; Fairhaven Hotel, liquor and Mark Twain; the Larrabees' legendary philanthropy.


1. C.X Larrabee, the 2nd
      C.X. Larrabee II, a grandson of Charles Xavier Larrabee and son of longtime Southside-Bellingham realtor Charles F. Larrabee died on June 12, 2013. In North Carolina, he served as the institute's manager of public information and public relations from 1964 until his retirement in 1989. In his retirement he began writing a biography of Charles and the whole Larrabee family. Starting with letters that he shared with other members of the family, he shared his research publicly in a 2003 book, Larrabee, published by the Fairhaven Alumni Association. We have prepared this profile in collaboration with him over nearly two decades.
      He went by "X" and was affectionately known as Xie, a fine man. See his obituary and a review of his life in the Documents section linked below. For 25 years he was a principal of the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in Durham. His daughter, Sarah, joined other family descendants when we all gathered for a family reunion and celebration of X's life at the beautiful Larrabee Park in August 2013. It was the first state park, opened in 1915, and has grown from 20 acres to more than 2,500 acres, including trails up to the Cyrus Gates Outlook. The reunion coincided with the celebration of the centennial of Washington State Parks and we draw on some of our notes here.
      In researching this story, we read material from several different states and we are indebted to X. for the Family Manuscript. X asked us to fill in the gaps of his narrative, so we worked closely with him and we shared new discoveries with him up until his death in the spring of 2013. Consuelo Larrabee and other descendants shared memories, documents and photos.[Return]

2. William Larrabee of Horicon
      William Larrabee's whereabouts are indeed a mystery. We discovered in Virgil J. Vogel's Indian Names on Wisconsin's Map, "Horicon was the name applied to Lake George in upper New York State. In 1839 a group of settlers from that vicinity came to the Wisconsin place then called Hubbard's Rapids. At a meeting held in the home of one of them, William Larrabee, the settlers voted to rename the place Horicon." After further research, we learned that this William did also come from New York but he was married to a woman named Lucy. Horicon was the name that James Fenimore Cooper applied to Lake George in upper New York state, as explained in his introduction to The Last of the Mohicans, 1826. The name is also translated as "clean and pure water." [Return]

3. Racetrack at Deer Lodge
      See "Horse Racing in Montana, A Gallop Through History," at this site, Distinctly Montana [Return]

Links, background reading and sources to be added
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Story posted on July 13, 2008, updated substantially Aug. 9, 2013 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 44 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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