The descendant of a family identified for many years with the jurisprudence of Ohio, with the founding of at least one of the towns of that state, and with the maintenance of its agricultural prestige, the career of Hon. John F. Caples has naturally been founded on broad and liberal lines, and with a view to large accomplishment. He was born at what is now Ashland county, Ohio, January 12, 1832, and is the youngest of the eight sons and two daughters born to Judge Robert Francis and Charlotte (Laffer) Caples, natives respectively of Westmoreland and Allegheny counties, Pa. The paternal grandfather Caples was of English descent, and was an early settler in Pennsylvania.
Judge Robert Francis Caples became identified with Wayne county, at a very early day, where he engaged in farming and was associate judge of the county courts. In time he removed to within fourteen miles of Tiffin, Seneca county, Ohio, where he entered, cleared and improved the land upon which he was one of the proprietors. The nearby town of Rome, of which Mr. Foster was proprietor, was eventually incorporated with Risdon, under the name of Fostoria. Judge Caples studied law in his youth and was admitted to the bar, in after life becoming known for his equitable rulings and wise disposition of legal complications. His death occurred in 1835 of cholera. His wife was of German descent, and a daughter of John Laffer, a pioneer of Allegheny county, Pa., who followed the martial fortunes of Washington during the Revolutionary war, under command of General Wayne. Mrs. Caples died in Ohio in 1852, having survived her husband seventeen years. Three of her large family are living, and of these Henry L., a resident of Vancouver, an attorney, and an ex-member of the Washington legislature, came to the coast in 1852.
The education of Hon. John F. Caples was acquired in Risdon, now Fostoria, Ohio, and at the Ohio Wesleyan University of Delaware, which latter institution he attended for four years. His legal training was inaugurated with the firm of Stanton & Allison, of Bellefountaine, Logan county, Ohio, and he was subsequently admitted to the bar of Logan county in 1853. In 1855 he transferred his law practice to Findlay, Ohio, and later to Warsaw, Ind., and after returning to Ohio entered the government recruiting service in northwest Ohio and northern Indiana. In 1865 he brought his family to the coast via the Isthmus, San Francisco and to Vancouver, Wash., in which latter city he engaged in practice and served as city attorney. A year later, in 1866, he located in Portland, and in 1872 was elected to the legislature from Multnomah county, was chairman of the judiciary committee, and assisted in the election of Mr. Mitchell to his first term in the United States senate. In 1878 he was elected district attorney, his territory comprising Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia and Clatsop counties, a responsibility maintained by Mr. Caples for six years in succession, an honor hitherto accorded to no district attorney in the state. In 1897 Mr. Caples was appointed United States consul to Valparaiso, Chili, by President McKinley, and while holding this important post had opportunity to exercise the diplomacy and tact which have been important factors in the formation of his success, and which were especially required because of the complications resulting from the Spanish-American war. Mr. Caples resigned the consulship in 1901, and thereafter returned to Portland, where he has since engaged in a general practice of law.
In Champaign county, Ohio, Mr. Caples married Sarah J. Morrison, in 1854, Mrs. Caples having been born in Ohio, and her death occurred in California in 1877. Six children were born of this union: Carrie, wife of Dr. W.H. Saylor, of Portland; Mrs. Matthieu, of Portland; Mrs. Paget, or Portland; Mrs. Anthony, of California; Robert A., a newspaper man of Vinita, I.T.; and Jennie, living at home. Mr. Caples is a member of the State Bar Association and of the Board of Trade. Fraternally he is associated with Portland Lodge No. 55, A.F. & A.M., the Consistory and the thirty-second degree of Scottish Rite; and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. As a staunch upholder of Republicanism he has enrolled himself among the western politicians in the broadest sense of that abused term, and aside from the honors before mentioned, served as presidential elector of Oregon in 1892, and was the messenger who conveyed the vote to Washington. In 1896 he served in a similar capacity for President McKinley. Back in Ohio Mr. Caples was a delegate to the Ohio state convention at Columbus in 1856, and he was present at the Chicago nomination of Abraham Lincoln. As an orator, eloquent and effective platform speaker, and general trial lawyer, Mr. Caples is excelled by few, if any, on the Pacific coast, and within the state of Oregon no one is personally known to more people than he. He is a member of the Taylor Street Methodist Episcopal Church, a member of the board of trustees, and chairman of the same for many years.
"Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley", pages