Jacob Kamm

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Jacob Kamm

Jacob Kamm (12 December 1823 – 16 December 1912) was a prominent early transportation businessman in Oregon, USA.

Early life[edit]

Kamm was born on 12 December 1823, in Canton of Glarus, Switzerland.[1][2][3] His family migrated to America when he was 8 to Illinois, St. Louis and then New Orleans.[2][3][4] He worked as a printer's devil beginning at age 12.[5] A story repeated after Kamm's death was that a thief stole $12 from him in 1837, leading Kamm to work on a Mississippi steamer, the Ark, as a cabin boy.[3][4] Trained as an engineer on the Mississippi River, he was certified chief engineer with the St. Louis Association of Steamboat Engineers at age 25.[2] In 1849, he moved west with the California Gold Rush, piloting the Blackhawk, a steamer, on the Sacramento River.[2]


Kamm moved to Oregon in 1850 after being hired by the Milwaukie founder Lot Whitcomb onto his ship, The Lot Whitcomb, being the chief engineer on the Willamette River.[2][3][6] The Lot Whitcomb was launched on 25 December 1850.[3] Kamm and John C. Ainsworth joined with Abernathy and Clark, merchants from Oregon City, in 1854 or 1855 to build the Jenny Clark, a sternwheeler on the Willamette.[3][6] Kamm owned half of the Jenny Clark, Ainsworth owned a quarter, and Abernathy and Clark shared the remaining quarter.[6] They then built the Carrie Ladd steamer in 1858, called the "keystone of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company".[6]

He was a founder of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company in 1879 and a shareholder in the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company.[2][7] He built steamboats including in 1891, the Ocean Wave and in 1900, Athlon.[7] One of the companies he owned was the Vancouver Transportation Company.[7]

Kamm sold property to the city in about 1910 to construct Old Lincoln High School, currently known as Portland State University's Lincoln Hall.[8][9] His 1870s French Second Empire style home, the Jacob Kamm House was moved from its 14th and Main location in the 1950s to construct the current Lincoln High School.[2] This estate near 14th and Main contained 11 acres (45,000 m2).[2]

Personal life[edit]

Jacob Kamm - Oregon.png

Kamm married Caroline Augusta Gray on 13 September 1859 during the Pig War, on the PS Eliza Anderson steamer just outside Fort Hope, Canada.[10][11][12] They had one son, Charles Tilton Kamm (1860-1906).[2][11][12][13] Kamm was a Mason, being inducted[clarification needed] at age 21 in St. Louis.[2] In Portland, he was affiliated with the Multnomah Lodge in Oregon City, then the Willamette Lodge in Portland.[2] He was also a Knights Templar and a Shriner.[2]

Caroline Augusta Gray was born on 16 October 1840 at Camp Lapwai, outside Lewiston, Idaho.[11] Her father was William H. Gray.[11] She died in 1932.[5]

Late life and death[edit]

In December 1907, Kamm was "run down by a reckless bicycle rider" in Portland.[14][15] Another report described the bicyclist as a "careless boy bicyclist"; Kamm was confined to his bed for many days.[16]

Kamm became ill on 1 December 1912, "being an invalid" since the 1907 bicycle wreck.[17][18] By December 13, The Oregonian reported he "may only live a few hours", stating his condition was "sinking rapidly".[17] The following day, he entered a coma and died.[2][19][20] He was buried at the River View Cemetery in Portland.[21][22]

At time of death, his estate was valued at approximately $4 million.[13][17][23][24] Aside from the Jacob Kamm home and property, he also owned a half-block building at Front and Pine, a quarter block at Third and Yamhill, a quarter block at First and Washington, the Vancouver Transportation Company, was a "heavy stockholder" in the First National Bank of Astoria, and a "heavy stockholder" in the First National Bank of Portland. He also owned valuable property on Market Street in San Francisco.[2] At the time of his death, the Vancouver Transportation Company operated two ships: the Lurline and Undine on routes between Portland and Astoria.[2]

In 1929, E.W. Wright, a marine historian, wrote that Kamm was one of "two outstanding figures whose leadership in Columbia river steamboating will never be disputed".[6]


  1. ^ National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form: Kamm (Jacob) House. Oregon: State Historic Preservation Office. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Jacob Kamm Now in State of Coma. Veteran Portland Man's Life Slowly Ebbs out and End in Near". The Oregonian. 14 December 1912. p. 4. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Deane, Early (19 December 1965). "Thief put Kamm on Map". The Oregonian. pp. F6. 
  4. ^ a b Scott, Harvey W. (1890). History of Portland, Oregon. OCLC 4342776. 
  5. ^ a b "Portland Youth Play in Adventure House". The Oregonian. 11 August 1946. p. 5. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Wright, E. W. (10 February 1929). "Credit for using river boats given Captain Ainsworth and Jacob Kamm". The Oregonian. 
  7. ^ a b c Newell, Gordon R., ed., H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, at page 60, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA, 1966
  8. ^ "Rush Job Ordered. District to Build before Restrictions Are Enforced". The Oregonian. 16 July 1910. p. 9. 
  9. ^ Alfred Powers, Howard McKinley Corning, ed. (1937). History of Education in Portland. WPA Adult Education Project. pp. 184, 241. 
  10. ^ Sullivan, Ann (27 November 1984). "Historic house set for 3rd lease on life". The Oregonian. pp. MP2. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Mrs. Jacob Kamm observes 90th birthday anniversary". The Oregonian. 18 October 1930. p. 3. 
  12. ^ a b "Copy of will is offered". The Oregonian. 16 January 1913. p. 3. 
  13. ^ a b "Kamm's Widow is Chief Beneficiary. Dead Transportation Man's Will Creates Trust Fund for Four Grandchildren". The Oregonian. 20 December 1912. p. 15. 
  14. ^ "City News in Brief". The Oregonian. 21 December 1907. 
  15. ^ "Little Improvement Noticed". The Oregonian. 23 December 1907. p. 7. 
  16. ^ "Jacob Kamm Improving". The Oregonian. 26 December 1907. p. 7. 
  17. ^ a b c "Jacob Kamm Now Dying. Veteran Steamship Man Here May Live Few Hours". The Oregonian. 13 December 1912. p. 1. 
  18. ^ "Jacob Kamm Takes to Bed. Hopeful Responses Are Made to Inquiries as to His Condition". The Oregonian. 5 December 1912. 
  19. ^ "Death Notices". The Oregonian. 15 December 1912. p. 8. 
  20. ^ "Veteran Steamboat Man Dies Wealthy". The Olympian. Portland, Oregon. 115 December 1912. p. 4.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  21. ^ "Kamm burial is today". The Oregonian. 16 December 1912. p. 7. 
  22. ^ "Jacob Kamm is buried: Masons officiate at funeral of brother". The Oregonian. 17 December 1912. p. 11. 
  23. ^ "Kamm Estate Big. Value of $1,767,721,87 Placed on 2 Counties' Properties;". The Oregonian. 28 January 1913. p. 16. 
  24. ^ "Legislative Acts or Legal Proceedings". The Oregonian. 7 February 1913. p. 7. 

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