Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hyrcanus Blackman (1847-1921)


    A prominent businessman, political figure and lumber merchant active in the Washington Territory, Hyrcanus Blackman was born on January 4, 1847 in Bradley, Maine, one of six children born to Adam and Mary Howard Blackman. Hyrcanus received his education in the public schools of Maine and later went on to study at the Westbrook Seminary for a time. The Illustrated History of Skagit and Snohomish Counties gives note that Blackman later graduated from the Charles Wells Business College in New Haven, Connecticut. After concluding his education Blackman began teaching school for a short while but eventually joined his two older brothers (Alanson and Elhanan) in the manufacture of lumber. Hyrcanus married on May 17, 1870 in Maine to Ms. Ella Knapp, with whom he would have two children, Clifford and Eunice.
   Born into a family long active in the Maine lumber industry, Hyrcanus and his two brothers migrated from their native Maine to the Washington Territory in 1872, eventually settling in the county of Snohomish. It was here that the three Blackman bothers soon began plotting their business future, and within a few years of their resettlement had built up a very lucrative lumber and logging business. This business eventually grew to include a gigantic sawmill as well as numerous logging camps and a general store to sell merchandise and hardware. 
  
           From Volume II of The History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington (1889).


  While the two older Blackman brothers were the prime movers in this burgeoning logging industry, it was Hyrcanus alone who became active in politics in the territory. Hyrcanus was regarded as the financial brains behind the family business success and this probably helped with his political career, as the county of Snohomish elected him to the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1878 and 1880. In addition to his burgeoning political career, Hyrcanus also began to develop his own business interests in the county, building his own general store in the mid 1880s and later constructing the luxurious Penobescot Hotel in 1888.
   In 1890, Blackman's political star rose again when he was elected as the first Mayor of the city of Snohomish (which had incorporated itself as a city that same year). Research on his term gives mention that he served until December 1890, when the new city elected Emory Ferguson. Although most sources list Blackman as the city's "inaugural" mayor, some sources list the aforementioned Ferguson as the first holder of the office.
  Throughout the remaining years of his life Blackman continued with his earlier business interests in the Snohomish area. He died at his mansion on June 1, 1921 at age 74 and was survived by his wife Ella, two children and brothers Alanson and Elhanan. He was later interred at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Snohomish. In addition to all of the above, Blackman's unusual first name stems from a long forgotten King of Judea and Jewish priest named Hyrcanus. As an emperor, Hyrcanus was condemned to death by the Emperor Herod in 30 B.C.

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