Harvey Whitefield Scott


To the great majority of the people of the northwest journalism and The Oregonian are synonymous terms, and all recognize that The Oregonian owes its position, its influence and its standing in notable measure to Harvey Whitefield Scott, who was its editor for four decades. A native of Illinois, he was, born in Tazewell county, February 1, 1838, and was of Scotch descent, the family having been founded in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1755. His grandparents became residents of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and his parents, John Tucker and Ann (Roelofson) Scott, established their home in Illinois, where Harvey W. became familiar with every phase of farm work ere he left his native county in 1852, accompanying his parents on the long journey across the plains and over the mountains to Oregon. While en route his mother and brother had succumbed to the hardships of the trip. The others of the family lived in Yamhill county for about a year and then settled near Olympia in what is now Mason county, Washington.

Harvey W. Scott bore his full part of the work of developing a new farm. In 1855 he became a private in the Washington Territory Volunteers and participated in warfare against the Indians for about nine months, while later he worked in logging camps and at surveying and farming until 1857. Up to this time he had had no educational opportunities other than those offered by the district schools in his native county, and ambitious to secure a better education, he walked the entire distance from Olympia to Oregon City, where he attended school. Later he became a student in Pacific University at Forest Grove, meeting the expenses of the course by working as a farm hand in the neighborhood. In 1863 he was the first to complete the four years' classical course. In the meantime his father returned to Oregon and settled on a farm near Forest Grove, and near by was a sawmill in which Mr. Scott worked when not employed elsewhere. He made excellent use of his opportunities for mental progress, was fond of the classics and read in the original all the Latin and Greek authors he could find. Throughout his entire life he was a student, constantly broadening his knowledge by reading, observation and study.

After leaving Pacific University, Mr. Scott spent a year in mining and whipsawing in Idaho and in 1864 came to Portland, where for a few months he was librarian of the public library. During that time he wrote a few articles for The Oregonian and then obtained a position on the paper through the influence of Matthew P. Deady, then president of the Portland Library Association. In journalism he found a congenial field. In this connection a contemporary writer has said: "Showing a decided talent for newspaper work he soon became editor of The Oregonian, in which position he found a wide scope for his tastes and abilities. Without previous experience in the complex duties of what is usually first a trade and afterwards a profession, he rose to all the exacting requirements of his work, and so signal was his success and so thoroughly was his individuality associated with his paper that his name became a household word over the entire northwest. One of his first notable articles was an editorial written on the death of President Lincoln, which attracted widespread attention. He gave The Oregonian his continuous editorial service until October, 1872, when he was appointed collector of customs for the port of Portland, which position he retained for four years, and in 1877 returned to The Oregonian as editor and part owner, where he remained until his death in 1910. To a certain extent he had so learned the feelings, demands and habits of the people that his utterances were the daily voice of the Oregonians. Bold and forceful in his writings, never seeking to conciliate, he met with opposition but usually prevailed. Earnest and sincere in all that he did, he had no patience with pretense and had a wholesome contempt for shams. Avoiding rhetorical art or indirection of language, he went with incisive directness to his subject and commanded attention by the clearness and vigor of his statement, the fairness of his arguments and the thorough and careful investigation of his subject. In the midst of his journalistic and business affairs he found time to pursue literary, philosophical, theological and classical study and to his constant and systematic personal investigation in these directions were due his scholarly attainments. At the time of the reorganization of the Associated Press in 1898 he took a prominent part therein and served as a member of its board of directors until his death in 1910."

In October, 1865, Mr. Scott married Miss Elizabeth Nicklin and they had two sons, John H. and Kenneth, but the latter died in childhood, while the mother passed away January 11, 1875. Mr. Scott was married in 1876 to Margaret McChesney, of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and they became parents of two sons and a daughter: Leslie M., Ambrose and Judith.

Throughout his life Mr. Scott was keenly interested in Oregon and the development of her natural resources, her great forests, mines and broad acreage that was cultivable. He made the advantages of the state known to the public through the columns of his paper. Politically Mr. Scott was always a republican but was never bound by party ties and never hesitated to express his honest convictions though in opposition to a party policy or program. In 1876 he was a delegate to the republican national convention and in 1886 was temporary secretary of the state convention and on various other occasions attended republican conventions of Oregon as a delegate. His writings, clear, concise, forceful and convincing, did much to shape political thought and action of Oregon. He was offered the positions of ambassador to Mexico and minister to Belgium but declined, having no political ambition. In local affairs, however, he rendered valuable service, acting as a member of the Portland water board and taking prominent part in the erection of a monument in the Plaza to the dead of the Second Oregon Volunteers who fought in the Spanish-American war. He served as a trustee of Pacific University for a number of years and at his death was president of that board. In 1903 he was elected president of the Lewis and Clark Fair Association and greatly promoted the success of the exposition.

Mr. Scott had membership in the Arlington and Commercial clubs of Portland and in 1905 became a member of Portland Lodge, No. 55, A. F. & A. M. He afterward took the various degrees of the York and Scottish rites and had membership in Al Kader Temple of the Mystic Shrine. He passed away August 7, 1910, following a surgical operation in Baltimore, Maryland, and his funeral services were conducted under the auspices of the Scottish Rite Consistory. Mr. Scott was a man of many admirable qualities. He was always friendly and charitable in considering the errors and faults of men. He was kind-hearted and sympathetic, quick to vindicate the right and denounce the wrong, whether of public or individual concern. His crowning virtue, however, was the love he bore for his state and his pride in its material advancement. He labored unceasingly for high ideals and the betterment of the common lot. Success and honor were his, each worthily won, and there is in his history an element of inspiration for others and an example of high principles and notable achievement. In his death Oregon lost one of her most illustrious men.

History of the Columbia River Valley From The Dalles to the Sea, Vol. III, Published 1928, Pages 696 - 697 Author: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company


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