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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

Seattle Inheritance Comes Home

Philip H L was born February, 1825 in Lawrence County, Illinois, the third child of twelve children and the second son of Paul and Ann Stewart Lewis, original pioneers to this county.

Byron Lewis, a noted genealogist, stated that “Philip and the Indians mined coal and sold it to the pioneers. He owned a lot of Seattle property. He went to the California gold fields in 1851. He was a bachelor. On his death he left a gold watch, chain and charm, one large flat gold chain, one gold ring, and some property in Seattle, Washington, to his brother, Perry Lewis of Lawrenceville. "

These facts are mostly correct. No proof has been found yet as to the claim about the gold field but a stone by Philip’s tombstone in Seattle, Washington, is lettered “Pioneer 1852”. Another old pioneer who was interviewed on Philip’s death said that Philip was practically broke when he arrived and for a time worked as a common laborer, digging wells, etc.

According to Seattle history, two surveyors, Philip H. Lewis and E. Richardson, discovered coal in the course of surveying the Washington territory land for the General Land Office. Its discovery in 1863 caused considerable excitement. Among the claims taken was one by Philip H. Lewis. By 1865, Lewis with a few other miners organized and incorporated the Lake Washington Coal Company.

Some of this coal was given to a ship captain asking that he give it a trial. The captain reported the new coal created too much heat and “came near melting down the smoke stacks of his vessel”. Hard on smoke stacks but great news for the owners of the mines.

After a disagreement among the partners, Philip eventually sold his interest in the company for $30,000. He became a speculator in real estate and a money lender amassing quite a fortune. A Seattle newspaper reported that Philip bought two lots for $1700, and three weeks later sold them for $2500.

For ten years, even after he became quite well-to-do, he slept in a bank as night watchman and drew pay for the service, which saved him the expense of room rent. Later, he built a small house on a lot on 2nd St, where he lived alone. He took care of the room himself, but every few months he would hire someone to come in and clean it up. Afterwards he built the residence, at the corner of 6th and Seneca Streets, in which he died. He lived there alone, although the house was large enough to have built more rooms inside. A newspaper reporter who wrote about Philip’s life at his death, said that he had once asked Philip why he did not finish up the second story and build a staircase. “Oh, if I did, people would be bothering me to rent it to them,” Philip replied.

Byron Lewis was correct in that Philip H. was a bachelor. On his death, a reporter was quoted as saying that when Philip first came to the Coast from Missouri, he was engaged to a girl back there. He met with financial reversals in Oregon, and soon afterwards, Philip learned that his sweetheart had married another man “which ever afterward soured him towards women.”

On November 6, 1891, Philip wrote a will two years before his death, providing well for his brothers and sisters. His brother, James S and his sister, Martha S each received $35,000. The children of his sister, Matilda Mays, received $10,000 with the child of his sister, Mary Mays, receiving $5000. His nieces, Alice M Lewis and Lydia Lewis Price, daughters of his brother, Perry Lewis, each received a lot in Seattle as did his namesake, a grand -nephew, Phillip H Lewis Jr. of Bridgeport. All the remainder of his estate was left to his brother, Perry Lewis of Lawrence County.

Philip H. Lewis died January 26, 1893, aged 66 months, 6 months, and 18 days, at his home in Seattle, Washington. Philip’s funeral was held at his home and at the close of the services, the remains were taken to Lake View Cemetery and interred. A tall obelisk monument marks his grave.

Bryon Lewis understated Philip’s wealth upon his death. An inventory of Philip’s estate, showed that he owned at least 126 lots in Seattle, plus lots and acreage in Skagit and Mason Counties, Washington, lots in Salt Lake City, Utah territory, and lots and acreage in Baker City, Baker Co, Oregon. In addition, the inventory included three pages of promissory notes owed to him as well as judgements due him. While there was no actual figure given as to the amount Perry received when all the debts were collected and real estate sold, the amount must have been significant. For example, the $35,000 that he left in 1893 to his sister is equivalent in purchasing power to about $1,152,320.56 today in 2022.


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