- The Hood River News, Hood River, OR., December 11, 1912, page 1DAVID ECCLES IS STRICKEN SUDDENLYDavid Eccles, president of the Oregon Lumber Company and owner of a controlling interest in the Mt. Hood Railroad, died suddenly of heart trouble in Salt Lake City last week. Mr. Eccles and his associates went into the timber business in Hood River in 1888 and have operated extensively in and near Hood River ever since. Although Mr. Eccles was a resident of Utah, he spent a great deal of his time in Oregon and was well and favorably known in Hood River and around the state. He was in Portland recently and had just advised the management of his Hood River interests that he would be here to visit them this week. Few men, if any, have contributed more to the development of Hood River county and the State of Oregon than Mr. Eccles and he had many personal friends in this city who feel his death keenly. Besides his interests here, Mr. Eccles was president of the Amalgamated Sugar Company and of the Sumpter Valley Railroad. He was president of several banks in Utah and was also interested in the Ogden street Railway company and other electrical lines. The funeral was held yesterday afternoon. -------------------------------------The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., December 12, 1912, page 1DAVID ECCLES DIES AT SALT LAKE CITYDavid Eccles, president of the Amalgamated Sugar Company and one of the wealthiest citizens of Utah, died suddenly at the Emergency hospital here tonight of heart disease, was the statement of the dispatch received here last Thursday evening from Salt Lake City. Mr. Eccles was president of the Oregon Lumber Co. and of the Mount Hood railroad leading out from this city to Dee and Parkdale. He was heavily interested in lumber properties in Baker and Columbia counties and in a beat sugar factory at La Grande. Mr. Eccles came here frequently and was well known to many Hood River people. Although he had built up one of the largest fortunes of any businessman in the west he was very unostentatious and practiced the same frugal methods of living that enabled him to think clearly in his earlier life, when he was working hard to lay the foundations of his fortune. Charles T. Early, manager of the Eccles interests in this county, left last Friday afternoon for Salt Lake to be present for the funeral of Mr. Eccles, which was held Tuesday. During the funeral service of Mr. Eccles, which was held at the Tabernacle in Ogden Tuesday afternoon, all traffic was stopped on the lines of roadways of which he was chief owner at Baker and at this city. The funeral was one of the most largely attended ever held in Ogden, the railways running in special trains from points in Idaho and Utah. The commercial organizations of Salt Lake and Ogden passed resolutions on the death of Mr. Eccles. ---------------------------------------The Hood River Glacier, Hood River., OR., December 19, 1912, page 8DAVID ECCLES FINANCIAL GENIUSDavid Eccles, president of the Oregon Lumber Co. and the Mount Hood RR. Co. of this county and head of a score or more other large business enterprises in Utah, Oregon and Idaho, was one of the shrewdest financial geniuses in the northwest or the intermountain region. His great success was due to his keen perception of business relations, his understanding of man and his unceasingly application. The committee of the Ogden Clearing House association consisting of A.R. Heywood, E.A. Hoag and A.P. Bigelow, secretary, adopted the following resolutions on Mr. Eccles’ death: Whereas it has pleased an all wise Providence to take from our midst Ogden’s leading citizen and financial captain, Hon. David Eccles, and,Whereas it has been ordered that suitable expression be made of the great loss and public grief, Now be it resolved by the Ogden Clearing House association that while obediently bowing to the hand of our Divine Father, we testify to the great worth and distinguished character of the deceased. By his commanding genius as a man of affairs he hewed into conspicuous greatness an array of industrial and fiscal institutions that arrested the attention of the country. His magnificent touch breathed life into legitimate promotions, and his dynamic energy and far seeing courage driven on with an executive ability that was a marvel to an intelligent public produced results that not only brought rich rewards, but also built up and developed the intermountain section. To those who come after him we call attention that the people of three great states and more assemble to pay honor to his memory and to register a page in the history of time that shall never grow dim or become effaced. The laurels which rightly belong on his brow are and shall be placed there by his fellow townsmen who appreciate what he has done for the upbuilding of Ogden and the west, record their testimony with grateful and continuing appreciation. A.P. Bigelow, Secretary.
David Eccles was born in Paisley, Scotland, on 12 May 1849. He was the second son in a family of seven children born to William and Sarah Hutchinson Eccles. William, a half-blind woodturner, and Sarah lived in poverty in the Glasgow area until 1863, when, having converted to Mormonism, they migrated with their children to Utah. They located in the Ogden Valley -- at first in Liberty, then in Eden.
His older brother having returned to Scotland, David, now fourteen, was the principal support for his family, peddling his father's wooden products, and trading. Not doing well in Ogden Valley, the family moved in 1867 to Oregon City, in western Oregon. There David and other family members worked in a newly erected woolen mill. David cut cordwood for the mill for a year, went to the Puget Sound area for six months to work for a lumber corporation, and worked another six months on the California and Oregon railroad. The family returned to Ogden in 1869, hoping the completion of the transcontinental railroad would enable them to find work in "Zion."
David Eccles, now twenty, helped build houses and cut wood in the canyons. He went to Wyoming as well as to the mines at South Pass to freight goods, and later worked in the Union Pacific coal mines. He earned enough to buy a yoke of oxen, and returned to Ogden, where he took a contract to cut and haul logs in Ogden Canyon. He also entered into a partnership with his bishop, David James, to work a sawmill in the Monte Cristo area east of Ogden.
In 1874 for three months Eccles attended Louis Moench's school in Ogden. There he learned to "figure," a talent he magnified in subsequent business transactions. At Moench's school David met Bertha Marie Jensen, a Danish convert-immigrant, whom he married in 1875. Bertha went with him to the mountains to cook for Eccles and his employees at the mill.
Within ten years David had cleared $15,000 from his enterprises and partnerships and launched out with three undertakings: A new retail lumber yard in Ogden, the Eccles Lumber Company; a sawmill, shingle mill, and general store at Scofield, a coal mining district in eastern Utah; and operation of small mills near Hailey and Bellevue, Idaho, where he provided lumber to the incoming miners and their suppliers in the Wood River area. In three years there, Eccles and his partner, A.E. Quantrell, had earned $50,000. When the Wood River mines failed, Eccles set up a mill and general store at Beaver Canyon, near Idaho's Montana border, which provided ties and lumber for the Utah and Northern Railroad, which was under construction between Ogden and the Montana mines.
Having set a pattern of following up localized opportunities opened up by railroad construction activity, Eccles then acquired some fir and white pine timber tracts in eastern Oregon, at the time the Oregon Short Line was being completed from Pocatello, Idaho, to Portland, Oregon. He built a planing mill, shingle mill, and box factory, then a larger lumber mill, an electric plant, and other enterprises. Soon he set up other mills at other locations in Oregon and Washington. He invited friends and acquaintances in northern Utah to go to Oregon and homestead timber tracts and work for him. He and his associates also built the Sumpter Valley and Mount Hood railroads. All of these operations were profitable and Eccles shipped much of the finished lumber to Utah where it was used in building homes.
Shortly prior to his debut in Baker, Eccles was admired by Ellen Stoddard, the daughter of one of his partners, John Stoddard. As loyal Mormons, both David and Ellen recognized that he might marry a second wife. After a brief courtship they were married. Ellen remained in Baker for several years, after which she established a home in Logan. She and David had nine children.
Meanwhile, in Ogden, David's wife Bertha bore and reared twelve children. Eccles put all of these children to work at the earliest possible age. They carried water to railroad crews, nailed boxes, kept accounts, stacked lumber. As the children grew older, Eccles sent some of his sons on gospel preaching missions for his church, and supported some of them in university training. One graduated from University of Michigan Law School, another from Columbia University in business and finance, and others had training at Brigham Young College in Logan, at Utah State University and at the University of Utah.
During the twenty-three years between the formation of the Ogden Lumber Company in 1889 and David Eccles' death in 1912, he probably earned five or six million dollars from his Oregon enterprises. Much of this was invested in Utah. He bought into banks, insurance companies, railroads, beet sugar factories, flour mills, construction companies, condensed milk plants, and canneries, coal mining ventures, electric light plants, a hotel in London and the Grand Ogden House in Ogden. One of the companies in which Eccles was a partner, the Utah Construction Company, built 700 miles of mainline track for the Western Pacific Railroad and became a leader in the heavy construction field.
A community-minded person, Eccles was elected to the Ogden City Council and served as mayor from 1888 to 1890. On two occasions he came to the rescue of the Mormon Church in a financial way by lending it large sums of money at no interest. Perhaps his most significant transaction was the sale of a majority interest in several beet sugar factories in Utah and Idaho to Henry Havemeyer of the American Sugar Refining Company in New York. At the time of his death, he was president of sixteen industrial corporations and seven banks. He was also a director in twenty-four other banks and industries. He was Utah's first multimillionaire.
David Eccles died of a heart attack in 1912 in Salt Lake City; he was only sixty-two years of age.
See: Leonard J. Arrington, David Eccles: Pioneer Western Industrialist (1975).
Leonard J. Arrington