Transcribed from "An Illustrated History of The Big Bend Country, embracing
Lincoln, Douglas, Adams and Franklin counties, State of Washington",
published by Western Historical Publishing Co., 1904.
HON. NATHAN T. CATON. This
is a name well and favorably known throughout Washington. Eminent
as a jurist the subject of this article is one of the earliest of pioneers
in the Big Bend country, having come here anterior to the creation of Washington
as a territory.
Nathan T. Caton, now a prominent attorney
residing at Davenport, Lincoln county, was born at St. Louis, January 6,
1832. His parents were George W. and Sarah H. (Moore) Caton, the
father a native of Alexandria, Virginia; the mother of Westmoreland county,
Maryland. The paternal grandfather was an Irishman and served with
distinction in the Revolution, and our subject well remembers hearing him
describe the battle of Monmouth. He died at the advanced age of ninety-eight
years. The father of Judge Caton, who was by avocation a tailor,
was born in 1800 and passed away at the conclusion of the Civil War, in
1865. The maternal grandfather was Nathan Moore, a soldier
during the War of 1812. He participated in the battle of Bladensburg,
at the time Washington city was burned by the British, and the mother of
our subject was in that city at the time.
The parents of Judge Caton removed to Booneville,
Missouri, when he was less than a year old. Subsequently he was matriculated
in the Columbia University, at Columbia, Boone county, but his father having
met with financial reverses, he was compelled to leave college in his senior
year, and before graduating. He then entered a mercantile house as
salesman and bookkeeper, and in 1849, when seventeen years of age, crossed
the plains to California, driving an ox team. There he mined for
a few months and early in the fifties went to Oregon where he taught school
in the far-famed Willamette valley. Returning to California in the
spring of 1851 he remained there five months, then went back to the Willamette
valley where he was located when the act creating the territory of Washington
was passed by congress. In 1857 he was appointed postmaster of Salem,
Oregon, serving four years, when he was elected clerk of Marion county.
He read law with Governor Lafayette Grover, who was later United States
senator from Oregon, since which period he has practiced continuously.
In 1866 he removed to Silver City, Owyhee county, Idaho, practicing his
profession, mining and conducting for a time a newspaper, the Owyhee Bullion.
With his family he came to Walla Walla, Washington, practiced his profession
and was three times elected to the legislature. During his last term
Judge Caton introduced bills creating Douglas, Franklin, Adams and Asotin
counties, writing personally all of these measures and introducing them.
He was speaker of the house in 1872. He served one term as prosecuting
attorney during the territorial days, and in 1898 was elected prosecuting
attorney of Lincoln county, serving four years.
April 14, 1853, our subject was married to
Martha A. Herren, a native of Indiana. The ceremony was solemnized
at Salem, Oregon. Her father, John, was a native of Kentucky, born
in 1799. He crossed the plains frown Indiana so early as 1845, and
died near Salem, Oregon, in 1864. Her mother was Dosha (Robbins)
Herren. Mrs. Caton has two brothers and three sisters living: Levi
M.; Noah F.; Susannah, widow of William T. Wallace; Jane, widow of John
B. Keizer, and Sarilda R., wife of T. S. Leonard.
Judge Caton is a member of the K. P., of which
he is past chancellor; of the A. F. & A. M., being past master; of
the R. A. M., and has attended grand lodge as delegate many times.
He was present and assisted in the organization of the first grand lodge
of K. P. in Tacoma, and was department supreme chancellor two terms under
Supreme Chancellor S. S. Davis. Judge and Mrs. Caton are members
of the Christian church. Politically, he is a Democrat and prominent
in the councils of that party.
The session laws of 1872 contain a bill passed
by the territorial legislature to prevent extortions by railroads.
This bill was written, introduced and fought to its passage by the subject
of this sketch. Though afterwards repealed by force brought to bear
by Henry Villard, then president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, it will
be seen that the origin of the railroad legislation of the sort that is
rightly so dear to the people of eastern Washington at the present time
dates back to 1872 and to a resident of this county, Hon. Nathan T. Caton.