Friday, March 3, 2017

Stiles Rust Nettleton (1834-1911)

Portrait from Steel and Searl's Legislative Souvenir of 1895-1896.

   Buckeye state native Stiles Rust Nettleton spent the better part of his seventy-seven years with a case of wanderlust, journeying around the United States. From humble beginnings in Ohio Nettleton rose to be a veteran of the Civil War, took a bride in Michigan, grew cotton in Alabama, was a newspaper owner and Judge in Minnesota and served as a special treasury agent for the Pribilof Islands in Alaska. Relocating to Seattle, Washington in the early 1890s, Nettleton served one term in that state's house of representatives from 1895-1897. Truly a multifaceted man!
   Born on April 7, 1834 in Delaware County, Ohio, Stiles Rust Nettleton was one of several children born to Hiram and Lavina (Janes) Nettleton. In addition to Stiles Rust the Nettleton family would also boast Alvred Bayard Nettleton (1838-1911), who (odd name not withstanding) went on to prominence in his own right, being a Brevet Brigadier General during the Civil Ward and Assistant U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under Benjamin Harrison from 1890-93.
  Little could be found in regards to Stiles Nettleton's early life or education, excepting notice of his casting his ballot for Lincoln in the election of 1860, and his enlistment for service in the Twelfth Ohio Volunteers. Nettleton's time with that unit saw him see action in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and in the latter state participated in attacking "the salt supply of the Confederacy" on several occasions. Nettleton would also take part in the raids conducted by General George Stoneman that destroyed portions of Confederate railway supply lines in Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
    Research has shown that during the late 1850s Nettleton was a resident of Sanilac County, Michigan, and during his time there served as a Notary Public, Commissioner of Roads and town clerk of Lexington. Stiles R. Nettleton married in Sanilac County on March 20, 1862 to Almeda Orline Mills (1834-1921). The couple were wed for nearly five decades and within a year of their marriage had returned to Ohio. Their lengthy union would see the births of nine children: Elva (1863-1913), Alma (1864-1872), Hiram Sherman (1866-1951), Clark Mills (1868-1943), Fannie Lavinia (1868-1872), Alice Lyra (1873-1962), Mabel Orline (1874-1946), Stiles Rust Jr. (1876-1942) and Sarah Marie (1880-1975). 
   Following his discharge from service in November 1865 Stiles Nettleton is recorded as residing in Alabama, where in 1866-67 he had an interest in a "cotton raising and mercantile enterprise." By 1868 he was again residing in Ohio and in the early 1870s went west as a special agent with the Jay Cooke and Co. In 1872 Nettleton had moved his family to Minnesota, and was later employed as "a local agent for the land department of the Northern Pacific Railroad". 
    Nettleton's early residency in Minnesota saw him residing in the Clay County town of Glyndon, where in 1872 he and his wife became charter members of the Glyndon church. Nettleton also made his first foray into Minnesota politics during this period, being elected as Clay County Judge of Probate in 1879. He would be reelected to that office in 1881 and three years later removed with his family to  Northfield. Following his arrival Nettleton would add another feather to his cap, that of newspaper editor. He would purchase the Northfield News, "which he would conduct with success for four years."
    In the late 1880s Nettleton would move once again, this time purchasing a stock farm in the southern portion of the state. In 1889 he received the appointment as assistant special agent for the U.S. Treasury Department on the Pribilof Islands, a group of rocky, sparsely populated  islands located off the coast of mainland Alaska. Despite being sent to such a remote location, Nettleton took to the appointment with vigor, and in the autumn of 1889 settled into his duties on the Island of St. Paul, keeping a diary of his work with the local citizenry, as well as taking notes on the fur seal population. In the following year he returned to Minnesota and in 1891 was again dispatched to Alaska, first returning to St. Paul. He was later transferred to the island of St. George, remaining there until June 1892. During his time on St. Paul Island Nettleton was joined by his wife and youngest daughter, with his wife serving as a school teacher on the island during their stay.

Portrait from the 1895-96 composite photo of the Washington House of Representatives.

    After concluding his work on the Pribilof Islands Stiles R. Nettleton resettled in Seattle, Washington, where he worked in the customs service on the Puget Sound. In 1894 he was elected as one of King County's representatives to the Washington state legislature, and during his term (1895-97) sat on the house committees on Corporations, Counties and County Boundaries, Federal Relations and Immigration, Harbors and Waterways, Labor and Labor Statistics and Public Morals. 
    Following his time in the legislature Nettleton resided in Kirkland, Washington, where he was a mining broker. He died in Kirkland on May 17, 1911 at age 77 and was survived by his wife Almeda and several of his children. Both Stiles and Almeda (along with four of their children) were interred at the Kirkland Cemetery. Prominence would continue in the Nettleton family with Clark Mills Nettleton, a former engineer and railroad contractor who in 1918 took over the ownership of the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Nettleton's death notice from the Seattle Republican, May 26, 1911.

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