Oregon Pioneer Biographies - Francis M. Chrisman

Oregon Pioneer Biographies


From "History of Central Oregon," published 1906
Biographical Sketches of Lake County, pgs. 914-915

Transcribed by: Sherrain Glenn


Francis M. Chrisman is one of the best known business men in Lake county. He personally supervises his diversified interests in such a manner that he has won a splendid success in every line. Without doubt an account of his life will be very interesting to everybody.

Francis M. Chrisman was born in Lane county, Oregon on October 29, 1865. His fathler, Peter G. Crisman, better known as "Major" Chrisman, a native of Illinois, crossed the plains to Oregon in 1851. He came west with his father, Cambell E. Chrisman, who was the grandfather of our subject. Major Chrisman was one of the sturdy and leading pioneers of the Willamette valley and in 1842 came to Silver lake, being among the first settlers of this section. He occupied himself with the stock business until 1882, when he sold out and was a moving spirit in the organization of the Lakeview Bank. For eleven years he was president of that institution and then retired from active life. For a time he dwelt in California and now is residing in Baker City, Oregon. He married Nancy Porter, who crossed the plains from Illinois to Oregon about the same time as her husband. She is now living with her husband in Baker City. They were the parents of four children; Francis M., who is our subject; Mrs. Amanda J. Moore of Baker City; Rhoda and Wiley A., deceased.

After studying in the public schools, our subject took a three years course in the state university at Eugene. He had come with his parents to Silver Lake in 1874 and after returning here from his school work, he engaged in the stock business. Later he sold these interests and went into partnership with J. H. Clayton in general merchandising, the firm being know as F. M. Chrisman and Company. This was in 1890. Two years later Mr. Chrisman's brother purchased the interest held by Mr. Clayton and the firm was changed to Chrisman Brothers. Owing to the failure of his brother's health, Mr. Chrisman purchased his brother's interest and has since conducted the establishment alone. His brother died in 1895. Mr. Chrisman has a fine large store building, forty four by sixty, two stories high with two store rooms below, and the upper apartments, which are all well fitted with a first class assortment of general merchandise. He carries everything in the line of dry goods, notions, groceries, crockery, clothing, boots and shoe, hardware, farm implements and so forth. Mr. Chrisman is a very progressive and energetic man an is also a skillful buyer. Thus he is enabled to keep his store replenished and thoroughly up-to-date. It is the second best stock of goods in Lake county. The store building is supplied with a fine fire proof safety deposit vault which is first class in every respect. Since 1891, Mr. Chrisman has been postmaster at Silver Lake and is now also notary public. In addition to this, he handles the hotel Chrisman, the leading hotel in Silver Lake, which is a fine, up-to-date hostelry. This thriving hotel business is practically under Mrs. Chrisman's management. Nearby, Mr. Chrisman has a comfortable dwelling, besides other property in the village. He owns one hundred and sixty acres of first class farming land. He is vice president of the Lakeview Telephone and Telegraph Company and is among the largest stockholders. He also owns town property in Silver Lake. Thus it is seen that in the business world, Mr. Chrisman is one of the leading men of this part of Oregon. His ability and integrity as a business man is first-class and his standing in the community is of the very best. Mr. Chrisman has so handled his large interest that everything from the minutest detail to the general management is conducted on sound business principles with a wisdom and energy that is bringing success in every department.

Fraternally, he is associated with the Masonic lodge at Eugene, Oregon. Mr. Chrisman has always been very active in educational work and is a moving spirit for the betterment of facilities in this line constantly. He is a public minded man, generous and always ready to assist every movement for the benefit of the community. In church matters, Mr. Chrisman has always donated liberally and is an ardent supporter of the gospel.

On September 28, 1888, Francis M. Chrisman married Juda E. Robinett, who was born in Lane county, Oregon. Her father James Robinett, was born in Boone county, Missouri, and crossed the plains from Buchanan, Missouri, to Clackamas county Oregon in 1847. Later, he removed to Linn county, then to Lane coundty, where he remained until his death in 1896, being then in his six-fourth year. He married Jennie Shields, a native of Clark county, Illinois, who journeyed with her parents to Buchanan county, Missouri, and there attended the same school as did her husband. She crossed the plains in 1851 with her parents to Linn county, Oregon where she was married on November 27, 1851. She is now making her home in Silver Lake, Mr. and Mrs. Chrisman have one daughter, Vida R. Mr. Chrisman and his wife and her mother all belong to the Baptist church as also did Mr. Robinett before his death. In addition to the other enterprises mentioned, we note that the public telephone is in Mr. Chrisman's office.

Mr. Chrisman was owner of the goods in the storerooms of the building which burned on the night of December 24, 1894, in which terrible conflagration sixteen men, sixteen women, and eight children lost their lives, and which is fully detailed in another portion of this work. Immediately upon receipt of the news of the fire in San Francisco, Mr. Chrisman's creditors garnisheed such an amount of his insurance as would cover their accounts, and telegraphed to the Portland creditors that a balance of insurance was available to apply on their accounts. Let it be remembered that so terrible was the catastrophe that the whole country was dazed at the appalling loss of life and property, and scores of homes were draped in mourning for loved ones. Every effort was being put forth to rescue the remains of the unfortunates, and Mr. Chrisman, with others, was wholly occupied in looking after the injured and rescuing the remains of the dead. At such a time, the harsh act of the San Francisco men tell heavy. However, some men were found in Portland who had enough of the milk of human kindness and honor to reply to the unwarranted advances of the San Francisco men by wiring back that F. W. Chrisman would pay every cent of his obligations without such harsh actions in the time of such deep sorrow. And he did-paid every cent, but we can well understand how differently he feels toward the two set of creditors.

Hon. Cambell E. Chrisman was a member of the Oregon legislature in early days and was a man who succeeded in life well, not only in financial lines, but in leaving a testimony for right and integrity. He stood above reproach and his advice and counsel was sought by all who knew him. He died in 1884, at Cottage Grove, Oregon.

G. R. Crisman, who is a uncle of our subject, is county judge of Lane county and interested in the Firs National Bank in Eugene.

It is interesting to note that P. G. Christman, our subject's father, built a log cabin on Silver creek, hired a teacher and had school for six months for his and the neighbors' children, this being the first school on the creek. He was very liberal in his dealings, was highly thought of by his neighbors, who had the utmost confidence both in his integrity and his ability to handle finances. Even in the stringent times of 1892, and thereabouts, while he was president of the Lakeview bank, they all counted on his ability to carry the institution through safely, which he did.

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