Friday, May 1, 2015

Danina Banani Provost (1852-1914)

Portrait from "The Sunday Oregonian", April 5, 1914.

    The state of Oregon has been sadly underrepresented here on the Strangest Names In American Political History, and that small list of oddly named public figures from the "Beaver State" now grows slightly larger courtesy of the 1904 work entitled "Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon." After a quick perusal through an online copy of this book, an outstanding new name discovery was made.....Danina Banani Provost! The obscure man hiding behind this unusual name was a native of Quebec, Canada, who, after migrating to Oregon in the early 1870s, built up a prosperous career in the city of Ashland, working at various times as a butcher, tinsmith, plumber, merchant, and farmer. Provost's inclusion here on the site rests on his service as Mayor of Ashland, being elected to that office in December 1902.
   One of four sons born to Benjamin Provost and the former Favi Leonard FavrostDanina Banani Provost's birth occurred in Laprarie, Province of Quebec, Canada on February 26, 1852. His early schooling occurred in the "national schools of Canada" and in 1867 left that country and relocated to Troy, New York. His stay here was short-lived, as he would remove to Savannah, Georgia a few months afterward and in 1870 pulled up stakes once again and settled in California.
   In the fall of 1870, Provost resettled in Oregon, where he would reside for the remainder of his life. Around 1871 he began farming on rented land in the town of Gervais and continued along that route for three years, moving to Yamhill County in 1874. Within a few years of his arrival, he had become the proprietor of a successful "meat-business" in the town of Bellevue, whilst also purchasing "eight hundred acres of fine valley land". 
   After selling off his property and possessions in Yamhill County Provost moved to Ashland in 1890 and later became a partner in the hardware firm of Kenney and Provost, being noted in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Western Oregon as being " the finest hardware store in town." In addition to this business Provost made headway in a number of other business ventures in Ashland, learning the trades of tinsmithing and plumbing, and was remarked to have had a:
"Mechanical ability of a high order, he is an expert worker with tools and understands the putting together of machinery of all kinds."
  After several years partnered with Mr. Kinney, Provost purchased his partner's interest in their hardware firm and continued to operate it until its sale in 1902. Shortly after its sale he became president and treasurer of the Ashland Iron Works, continuing in that role for several years afterward. A non-office seeker until his fifth decade, Provost first entered political life in 1902 when he received the "Labor Party" nomination for Mayor of Ashland. He would win election to that office in December of that year, besting Prohibition candidate Samuel H. Holt by a " majority of 45."
  Taking office in January 1903, Provost served a term of one year as Mayor and narrowly cheated death in an oil well accident which transpired in the summer of 1903. This accident (which resulted from Provost being struck and knocked unconscious by a cable pulley) was initially feared to be fatal, but the Mayor pulled through and was remarked as having been "none the worse for his dangerous experience."
  Following the conclusion of his term Provost continued in business pursuits, being the owner of the Ashland Brick Yards. His final months were marred by ill health and he died at the home of his nephew Henry on March 31, 1914, just one month after his 62nd birthday. A lifelong bachelor, Provost was survived by his three brothers and was interred at the Ashland Cemetery. Curiously, his gravestone in said cemetery not only misspells his first name as "Domina" but also lists the incorrect year of death, giving it as 1913!

A death notice for ex-Mayor Provost from the Morning Oregonian, April 2, 1914.

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