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William Sargent Ladd (October 10, 1826 – January 6, 1893) was an Americanmarker politician and businessman in Oregonmarker. He twice served as Portland, Oregonmarker’s mayor in the 1850s. A native of Vermontmarker, he was a prominent figure in the early development of Portland, and co-founded the first bank in the state in 1859. Ladd also built the first brick building in Portland and was a noted philanthropist. Part of his former estate, the Ladd Carriage Housemarker, was on the National Register of Historic Places until 2008.

Early life

William Ladd was born to Nathaniel Gould Ladd and Abigail Kelley Mead on October 10, 1826 in Holland, Vermontmarker. Nathaniel was of English heritage and received his education at Dartmouth Collegemarker, becoming a physician, while Abigail was from New Hampshiremarker. When William was seven years old, the family moved to Sanborton Bridge, New Hampshiremarker where he was educated in the local public schools and an academy. During the summers, he worked and at age 15 his father got him a job on a farm. William later worked on the family’s farm before at age 19 beginning to work as a teacher in area schools.

His father had earned his way through school, but was successful enough to pay for William to attend college. However, William decided to pay for his own way in life and did not attend college. He then began working for the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad at a freight house in Sanborton Bridge. Ladd received several promotions and was briefly in charge of the company’s freight department before being returned to Sanborton Bridge. Disillusioned with the demotion, he decided to move west to work with Charles Elliott Tilton, a former classmate, who was involved in a mercantile business in San Francisco, Californiamarker.

Ladd left from New York Citymarker on February 27, 1851. Upon arriving in San Francisco he attempted to get Tilton to become partners in a venture to import good to what was then the Oregon Territorymarker. Tilton declined and Ladd traveled north to Oregon on his own.


He arrived in Oregon in 1851 with a small load of merchandise, which he sold off in Portlandmarker at a small store. Then in association with Mr. Goodkin he continued in the mercantile business for several years, and in 1852 partnered with Tilton. Ladd would then open W. S. Ladd & Company in Portland, and was soon joined by his brother John Wesley Ladd. He then erected the first brick building in the city in 1853. In 1854, William sent for his bride to be, Caroline Ames Elliott, who he had fallen in love with back in New Hampshire. She arrived in San Francisco where Ladd met her, and they were married there on October 17, 1854. The couple then arrived in Portland on November 6. He and Caroline would have seven children. William M., Helen Kendall, Charles Elliott, John Wesley, and Caroline Ames were five of the seven children.

In 1855, Ladd bought out Tilton, with Tilton returning east. Ladd then made his brother a partner in his firm. In 1858, Tilton returned and after a slight delay re-joined Ladd. They opened the first bank in Oregonmarker in April 1859: Ladd & Tilton Bank. Tilton would retire and leave the partnership in 1880. The company later become Ladd, Reed & Co.. when Simeon Gannett Reed joined the business. Reed’s wife Amanda had accompanied the future Mrs. Ladd. William and Simeon would also partner in a variety of ventures, including a hobby farm where Reedville, Oregon now stands. In 1862, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company was formed with Ladd as the second biggest investor, and Reed investing as well.

Over the years Ladd would be a major player in the early economic development of Portland. Investments or promotions included the Oregon Furniture Manufacturing Company in 1874, the Portland Flouring Mills Company in 1883, the Portland Cordage Company in 1888, and the Portland Hotelmarker in 1887. Other enterprises included the Oregon Telegraph Company in 1862, Oregon Iron Companymarker in 1864, the Oregon Central Railroad Company in 1866, and in 1868 the Idaho Telegraph Company. In 1867, Ladd along with Asahel Bush founded the Ladd and Bush Bank in Salem, Oregonmarker. Ten years later Bush would buy out Ladd and become the sole proprietor of the financial institution.

Ladd was also involved with agriculture. He owned farm land in Multnomah Countymarker and neighboring Washingtonmarker and Clarkmarker counties. He imported cattle, thoroughbred horses, hogs, and sheep for his Broad Mead farm. Ladd served as the president of the board of regents at the state’s agricultural college in Corvallismarker, now known as Oregon State Universitymarker.


In 1853 and again in 1856, Ladd served on the city council in Portland. In between he was the fifth mayor of the city, serving from March 15, 1854 to April 1, 1855. After serving the one-year term, he was out of office for two years before returning in 1857 for a second one-year term. In 1886, he was a member of the city’s water commission. Originally a Democrat, he became a Republican in 1864 when he supported Abraham Lincoln’s re-election.

Later life and philanthropy

Ladd was one of the first people to contribute funds toward the creation of the Portland Library fund. He also endowed a chair at the state’s medical school in Portland (later Oregon Health & Science Universitymarker) and a scholarship at Willamette Universitymarker in Salemmarker. He endowed a chair at the Presbyterian’s seminary in San Francisco in 1886. In Portland, he helped to establish River View Cemeterymarker. In 1891, Ladd platted what became Ladd's Additionmarker in what is now Southeast Portland. The addition has a criss-crossed street layout, and had parks, utilities and is annexed into Portland that year along with the rest of East Portland.

William S. Ladd died in Portland on January 6, 1893 at the age of 66. He was buried at River View Cemetery. His estate was valued at $10 million. Ladd Acres Elementary in Reedville, Oregon (part of the Hillsboro School Districtmarker) was built on the former land of Ladd and Reed’s farm in Washington County, with the school named in Ladd’s honor.

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