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Sullivan, Parks, Wheeler, & Hawkins

Jean Labbé (1835-1905)

"Portland Oregon, its History and Builders", page 769-770

Among the Latin peoples none have been more active in extending the influence of civilization than have the French nation. Wherever exploration has led the way the sons of France have followed to take active part in the commercial development and intellectual progress. Portland has profited by the efforts of those born under the tri-colored flag, among the early French residents of the city being John Labbe, who came to Portland in 1863. He was born near Claremont, France, December 25, 1835, and acquired his education there, coming to the United States in 1854 when a young man of nineteen years. He lived in the east through the succeeding decade and in 1863 came to Portland. The following year he and his brothers, Blaise and Antoine, established a grocery business at the corner of Second and Washington streets. Antoine, the oldest, had come to this city about a year before, and John and Blaise arrived together from Wisconsin. The three then became associated under the firm name of Labbe Brothers in the conduct of a grocery business which was maintained until 1894. From the outset their trade steadily, increasing with the growth of the city and surrounding country until it was one of the extensive and important commercial enterprises of the city, the name of Labbe Brothers becoming a synonym for business activity in Portland. They erected the Labbe block across the street from the site where they had early established their store, and aside from his interests in the business John Labbe became the possessor of large property holdings in other parts of Portland, making purchases as he saw opportunity for judicious investment until his real-estate interests became a substantial source of revenue. He lived retired during the latter years of his life save when the management of his property claimed his attention.

On the 27th of February, 1872, Mr. Labbe was married to Miss Angeline Mathiot, a daughter of Jean Jacques Mathiot, who came to Oregon from Ohio in 1853, accompanied by his family. They crossed the isthmus of Panama and proceeded up the Pacific coast, locating at length upon a farm in Marion county, Oregon, where the death of Mr. Mathiot occurred. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Labbe were born four children: Dr. E. J. Labbe, of this city; C. Henri, a Portland attorney who is now French consul and also vice consul of Belgium; Antoine G.; and Marguerite L., who died at the age of twenty-three years.

The death of Mr. Labbe occurred March 1, 1905, after a residence of forty-two years in Portland. His worth and work were estimated in substantial terms and he belonged to that class of men whose labors are features in promoting public progress as well as individual success. Mrs. Labbe, still surviving him, now occupies a fine residence on Portland Heights, and is well known in the social circles of the city.