William Muir Urquhart

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William Muir Urquhart (December 22, 1855 – April 14, 1933) was an American entrepreneur, businessman and public servant. For many years he was treasurer of Lewis County, Washington.[1] He also served as mayor, councilman, and postmaster of Chehalis, Washington, where he lived and worked for more than 50 years. He was a merchant, banker, railroad entrepreneur, land developer and timber company investor. He was instrumental in planning the layout the business district of Chehalis in the early days of the city.[2]

Early life[edit]

William was born in Cutting's Prairie, north of the Columbia River in the newly created Washington Territory, a vast area of wilderness which had been separated from the Oregon Territory by an Act of Congress in 1853. He was the first member of his family born in the United States. His father, James Urquhart, left Scotland in 1851, taking a ship to New York City, and traveling on foot to New Orleans and by boat up the Mississippi River to Iowa, before joining a wagon train and heading west on the Oregon Trail. William's mother and five older brothers and sisters reunited with James Urquhart in early 1855. They traveled around Cape Horn to San Francisco and then to the mouth of the Columbia River by ship, where they transferred to canoes for the last leg of their journey up the Cowlitz River. The trip took them over six months. William was born later that year in a house his father had built on land he had acquired through a Donation Claim. As the Urquhart family continued to grow in size, they added additional acreage to their holdings and tended to a variety of crops and animals for their own use and for the markets of Olympia on the Puget Sound.[3] Like his ten siblings who grew to maturity, William became skilled at all aspects of farm work on the frontier.


When William Urquhart was eighteen, his father added to the family's real estate holdings when he purchased a large tract of land that included a small store and its merchandise. James Urquhart opened a general store (which he ran with his son, John). He laid out a town which he named Napavine. In addition to farm work, William began to clerk in the store learning the merchant's trade. In 1878 his older brother, John, moved six miles north to Chehalis where he opened a store of his own. John was also the Treasurer of Lewis County and involved in making Chehalis a main stop of the new railroad as well as the county seat. John's sudden and unexpected death changed the course of William's life.


When his older brother died, William Urquhart moved to Chehalis to take over the store. He was twenty-five years old. It was 1880 and Chehalis was just beginning a period of great growth. For the next fifty years he lived in Chehalis and was involved many aspects of the city's growth. When he arrived the buildings were mainly wood. In 1889 he greatly expanded his business and constructed a large brick building for his merchandise house. He joined a group of businessmen who formed the National Bank of Chehalis (later Coffman & Dobson) and built a large brick building to house it. He was part of the Chehalis Land and Timber Company which was responsible for much of the planning and growth during the ensuing years.[4] For eight years he was the Treasurer of Lewis County; he served as Mayor of Chehalis and also as Councilman; and he was Postmaster for a number of years.[3]


In 1881 William Urquhart married Anna Manning whose pioneer parents had settled near Winlock, not far from Napavine. Anna's father, Joseph P. Manning, had crossed on the Oregon trail in 1848. His future wife,Caroline Aubert, was part of the same wagon train. William and Anna had four children who lived in very different circumstance than their pioneer parents. The house the Urquharts built in 1902 on Pennsylvania Avenue[5] is today part of the National Register of Historic Places. His eldest son James, a banker, was killed in a car accident while on a family outing in 1916. His second son, William, became a lawyer and investment banker, traveling the world visiting the ancient seat of the Clan Urquhart at the Black Isle and enjoying the social seasons at Craigston Castle. His daughter, Helen, married a school teacher turned banker and raised her two sons in Chehalis. His second daughter, Louise, married a businessman and moved to the midwest. William Urquhart died at home in 1933. His wife, Anna, had died two years earlier. They are buried at Fernhill(Urquhart)Cemetery just a few miles from downtown Chehalis. William and Anna had donated the land for the cemetery and provided a fund for its upkeep. A number of his Urquhart relatives and their pioneer friends lie with them.[6]


William Urquhart never visited Scotland. He spent his entire life in the Pacific Northwest in the Puget Sound area.He served for many years as a trustee at the Westminster Presbyterian Church[7] in Chehalis as well as a number of other civic and fraternal organizations. He had very little formal education. He learned through his own efforts and failures, but he lived long enough to see his grandson, Jim Urquhart, become the captain of the Yale University crew in 1933.[8] Later in the 1930s another grandson, Dick Wright, played for two national championship golf teams at Stanford University[9]


  1. ^ "Urquhart, William M.", History of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington (1889). Retrieved 28 March 2011 via Accessgeneology.com.
  2. ^ "Chehalis", National Register of Historical Places, National Park Service, 22 August 1991. Retrieved 27 March 2011 via Google Documents.
  3. ^ a b Prosser, William Farrand; A history of the Puget Sound country, The Lewis Publishing Company (1903), p. 425.
  4. ^ Jones, Edward Gardner; The Oregonian's handbook of the Pacific Northwest, The Oregonian Publishing Company (1894), p. 315.
  5. ^ "Photograph: William M. Urquhart Home", Waymarking.com. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  6. ^ March, John Planinshek;"Fernhill Cemetery", United States Genealogy Web Archives (2000). Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  7. ^ "History", Westminster Presbyterian Church website (2008). Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  8. ^ Bodman, Edward D; "N.T.S. Oarsmen to Race Crimson Wednesday", The Harvard Crimson, 24 August 1904. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  9. ^ "1939 National Champion Team", Stanford Men's Golf Team website (2009). Retrieved 27 March 2011.