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William Pettet


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"Spokane and The Spokane Country - Pictorial and Biographical - Deluxe Supplement." Vol. II. The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912. (No author listed.) pgs. 22-27.


       The life history of William Pettet if written in detail would furnish many a chapter of thrilling interest and in the plain statement of facts should serve to inspire and encourage others, giving indication of what may be accomplished when a high sense of duty is coupled with determined purpose, energy and intelligence. He came to Spokane as a pioneer of 1883. He was then sixty-five years of age, his birth having occurred in England in September, 1818. He was born of wealthy parents, pursued his education in the schools of his native land and in 1836, when about eighteen years of age, crossed the Atlantic to New York. Two years later he removed to the south, settling in Mobile, Alabama, where in connection with two practicing physicians he established a drug store. The following year, however, his partners and two other business associates succumbed to the yellow fever. He bravely faced this crisis in his affairs when it became necessary for him to close out the business and make a division of interests in behalf of those deceased, although he had scarcely entered upon manhood at that time. In 1841, then twenty-three years of age, he established a commission house in New York and in 1842 accompanied the Amon Kendall party as far as Galveston, Texas. On the 6th of May, 1846, he left Independence, Missouri, on the overland trip to San Francisco, whence he made his way to Yuba Bueno. When they passed through Kansas they experienced considerable trouble with the Indians and at different times had to reckon with the hostility of the red men, engaging with them in a severe fight on the Truckee river in order to recover stock driven away by them. When near Truckee lake they were overtaken by a snow storm at which time Mr. Pettet joined a party of six and started for the Sacramento valley, leaving behind their wagons and about sixty people who, refusing to proceed, camped near the lake. Mr. Pettet and his companions reached Sutter's Fort in safety, but those who remained all perished save four and these were insane when they finally secured assistance.
       Mr. Pettet remained at Sutter's fort for the purpose of enlisting emigrants as they came in for the war that was then being waged in southern California. With quite a number of enlisted men he went to San Francisco where the troops were fitted out for service on the sloop of war Portsmouth. Returning to Yuba Bueno Mr. Pettet then organized the firm of Ellis & Pettet for the purpose of dealing with the Russians at Sitka, Alaska, and when he had disposed of his business interests in that country he returned to San Francisco, where he was elected to the office of city clerk. He was afterward appointed sheriff and at the close of his term in that position returned to New York. In 1851, however, he returned to San Francisco, sending around Cape Horn the material for the first iron building erected in that city---a structure destroyed by fire a few weeks after it completion. Ill health again compelled him to return to New York and while there he became interested in mercantile enterprises. In 1868 he went abroad with his family and spent five years in Europe, returning to United States in 1873. For some time he was a resident of St 1874. Paul, where he was widely known.
       The year 1883 witnessed the arrival of Mr. Pettet in Spokane and believing that the city would enjoy rapid and substantial growth at a later day, he made considerable investments in real estate. The following year, in connection with F.R. Moore, now deceased, F. Chamberlin and William Nettleton, he secured the block on which the county courthouse now stands and at their own expense these gentlemen erected a building for the reception of the county records when they were brought from Cheney. In association with Messrs. Moore and Chamberlin Mr. Pettet also established permanent arc lights for the streets. From this partnership developed the present Edison Electric Light Company of Spokane. It was this company that purchased the lower falls of the river and the land on which the big power plant of the Washington Water Power Company now stands. He invested in considerable business property together with a large amount of north side residence property and with the growth of the city and demand for realty, his holdings grew in value, in time making him one of the wealthiest residents of Spokane.
       On the 7th of November, 1850, in Milford, Worcester county, Massachusetts, Mr. Pettet was united in marriage to Miss Caroline S. Dean, a daughter of Sylvester and Charlotte (Cutler) Dean, both representatives of old and well known Massachusetts families. The former was a son of Seth Dean, a soldier of the Revolutionary war. Sylvester Dean became a merchant of New York, where he long continued in business. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Pettet were born two children. The son George is now assistant secretary of the Spokane & Eastern Trust Company. The daughter, Grace, became the wife of J.P.M. Richards, president of the Spokane & Eastern Trust Company, and unto them were born five children: Grace, who is the wife of the Rev. E.P. Smith, of Boise Idaho, and who has two children, Dorothy and Cornelia; Caroline, the wife of Lieutenant Sherburne Whipple, of the United States army now stationed in the Philippines and by whom she has one son, Sherburne; and John Vanderpool, Josiah and William Pettet Richards. In the spring of 1889, three months before the great fire, Mr. Pettet was stricken with typhoid fever from which he never fully recovered. The latters years of his life were largely spent at his home, Glasgow Lodge, on the North boulevard, where he had a forty-acre tract of land within the city limits and a beautiful residence on the banks of the Spokane river, fitted up in English style. His eightieth birthday was celebrated by a garden party attended by over two hundred of his friends. It was said of him: "Mr. Pettet's benign influence has been very sensibly felt in Spokane, to the development of which he has contributed incalculably. He has always been a man of great energy and his superb business ability and keen foresight made him eminently successful in his various enterprises."
       In his political views Mr. Pettet was a republican during the early days of his residence in this country but in later life became a stanch democrat. He attended the Episcopal church until old age compelled him to remain away from the house of worship after which he always observed the Sabbath in services at home. He was a most congenial, entertaining man, of kindly nature and greatly enjoyed the companionship of young people. He died in November, 1904, in London. He and his wife three years before had left Spokane for an extended tour of the old country and were on their way home when both were taken ill in London. Mrs. Pettet improved but her husband gradually failed until the end came. He was then about eighty-six years of age. His had been a long, well-spent and honorable life, and it is said that no one who met him, even casually, would ever forget his frank personality. He was a remarkable and unique character and a most valuable citizen. He sought out his own ways of doing good but they were effective ways, productive of immediate and substantial results. He contributed much to the pioneer development of the city, giving impetus to its industrial and commercial interests in the era which preceded the fire and also in the period that followed the great conflagration. His wise judgment and clear insight were often used for the benefit of others as well as in the conduct of his own business affairs and he stood as a splendid type of the Anglo-Saxon race who finds or makes his opportunity and uses it to the best advantage.

Submitted by: Nancy Pratt Melton

* * * * Notice: These biographies were transcribed for the Washington Biographies Project. Unless otherwise stated, no further information is available on the individuals featured in the biographies.


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