Recognized as one of Duluth, Minnesota's prominent business figures of the late 19th century, Zar Delevan Scott rose from quiet beginnings in Michigan to the front ranks of the Minnesota timber industry, for many years owning and operating two of that state's largest lumber businesses. A pioneer in the burgeoning conservation movement in the early 20th century, Scott held the Presidency of the Minnesota State Board of Forestry and also had fleeting involvement in politics, being a Prohibitionist candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1888.
Born in the small village of Northville, Michigan on October 25, 1848, Zar Delevan Scott was the second of five children born to George and Abigail Hart Scott, both former natives of New York. Scott attended schools local to the county of his birth and later went on to study at the Kalamazoo College and the University of Chicago before enrolling at the University of Michigan, graduating in the class of 1873 with his bachelor of science degree. Following his graduation Scott worked as a surveyor in the employ of the U.S. government, taking part in the U.S. Lake Survey of the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River, and in 1874 made his first foray into the lumber industry, taking work at a Minneapolis lumber yard.
Zar D. Scott married in 1875 to Frances Gage (1849-1926), recorded as one of the first two women to ever graduate from the University of Michigan. The couple would later have two daughters, Ruth and Alice. Five years following his marriage Scott and his family resettled in Duluth, Minnesota, where they would reside for the remainder of their lives. Shortly afterward he began a decade-long connection with D.E. Holsten in the lumber firm of Scott and Holsten. The company is recorded as having done a successful business in manufacturing "moldings, sashes, doors and blinds."
With his name firmly established in Duluth business circles, Zar D. Scott entered into city civic affairs in the mid-1880s, serving at various times as president of the Duluth school board and member of the city council. Active in the Prohibition Party in Duluth, Scott attended that party's nominating convention for Congress in 1888 and during the nominating process proposed the name of Charles E. Shannon. Later in the convention, Scott's name was put forth by another convention delegate, Capt. J.W. Miller, and a short while later Zar D. Scott had received the party's nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives! News of Scott's candidacy was reported not only in Minnesota by also in the New York Times, which related in its July 28th, 1888 edition that:
"The candidate is a sash, blind and door manufacturer, and although he wears the Prohibition sash he is not blind to the interests of the people, and soon his party will open wide the door and place the country on the threshold of a new national life. He has never sought nor held any public office except that of a member of the school board and has heretofore been a Republican of the Minnesota low tariff variety."
Zar D. Scott's nomination as profiled in the Duluth Evening Herald, July 19, 1888.
As one of three candidates in that year's Congressional race, Scott faced off against Republican candidate Solomon G. Comstock (a former state representative and senator) and Democrat Charles Canning. On election day in November 1888, Scott placed a distant third, garnering only 4,254 votes to Solomon Comstock's winning total of 31, 350. Comstock would go on to serve one term in Congress (1889-1891) before being defeated for reelection in 1890.
Following Scott's brief flirtation with politics he returned to his earlier business dealings in Duluth, and in 1890 established another lumber firm, the Scott-Graaf Co. Manufacturing similar products to that of his previous business, Scott served as the vice president and general manager of this company, which also dealt "in the buying and selling of Minnesota and California timber lands" and " fine millwork and cabinetry. " Scott remained connected with this company until a few years before his death, retiring when he was in his mid-seventies.
Any record of the life of Zar Delevan Scott wouldn't be truly complete without highlighting his involvement with the Minnesota State Forestry Board, of which he served as president between 1909-1914. As an advocate of reforestation in Minnesota, Scott's 1931 obituary in the Duluth Herald notes that he took an extended trip to Germany to learn of that country' s replanting methods, and after returning to the United States began to replant "30,000 young pine and spruce trees, many of which were brought from Germany." Scott's death notice in the 1931 Michigan Alumnus further relates that he was:
"Listed among the few men making great fortunes in the northwoods who early realized the value of the preservation and protection of the forest lands......He was an ardent advocate of a scheme for lowering taxation on growing timberlands to encourage the regrowth of the forests by landowners in the rapidly denuded northwest"
Zar Scott (second from right) and his wife at the University of Michigan Commencement, 1922.
Throughout his life, Zar Scott maintained a close connection to his alma mater, the University of Michigan, and as one of the school's prominent alumni attended many reunions at the University. Active in fraternal groups both in Duluth and elsewhere, Scott was a member of the National Geographic Society, the Duluth Commercial Club, and the Duluth Boat Club. Following many years of involvement in business and civic affairs in Duluth, Zar Scott died shortly after his 83rd birthday on November 19, 1931 at the St. Luke's Hospital in that city. A burial location for him is unknown at this time but is presumed to be in the Duluth-St. Louis County area.
Zar D. Scott (pictured in 1930) from the Michigan Alumnus, Volume 38, 1931.