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Edward Corliss Kilbourne was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, on January 13, 1856. Two years later, the Kilbourne family moved to Aurora, Illinois. Following his graduation from high school at the age of 16, Kilbourne studied dentistry under his father. After a few years of working first as a country dentist in Illinois and, later, as a miner in Colorado, in 1883 he moved to Seattle, where he established a new dental practice. Kilbourne’s move was inspired by his uncle, Corliss P. Stone, who had been an early pioneer to Seattle and had served as the city’s mayor from 1872 to 1873. On June 23, 1886, Kilbourne married Leilla Shorey, the daughter of early Seattle pioneers Oliver C. and Emiline Bonney Shorey, at Plymouth Church.
Kilbourne’s dental practice grew rapidly and, in 1886, he became one of the founders of the Washington Territory Dental Association. He was also named Chief Dental Examiner by the territory’s governor. After his dental office was destroyed in the fire of 1889; however, Kilbourne began to focus his work on different endeavors. He had invested much of his earnings in real estate, and purchased forty acres on the north shore of Lake Union, which he intended to sell as home lots. He also purchased the steamer Maud Foster in order to transport residents to this new area. After partnering with the firm L. H. Griffith & Co, he was able to sell many of these lots quickly. He then purchased an additional 240 acres slightly west of his initial purchase. The newly-developed town in which this second tract of land existed—now a Seattle neighborhood—was named Fremont after Griffith’s home town. One of the main roads, Aurora, was named for Kilbourne’s hometown in Illinois.
Travel to Fremont from Seattle was difficult, however, as the only road was un-graveled and on a steep hill. Kilbourne and Griffith—joined by Frank H. Osgood—therefore constructed what would become Seattle’s first electric railroad in 1887. The railroad was an immediate success, and in 1891 was expanded to include a line to Green Lake, where Kilbourne had moved in 1890.
Kilbourne was also granted an electric light franchise and ultimately incorporated the Union Electric Company on February 23, 1892. His electricity career was prolific: in addition to his work in Seattle he also constructed more than forty irrigation pumping plants along the Columbia River, installed light and telephone systems for the city of Waterville, and more.
Kilbourne retired from business in 1911, but remained active in many other ways. He was greatly involved with the Plymouth Congregational Church, which he joined soon after his arrival in Seattle. He taught Sunday School for sixty-seven years, served as the Senior Deacon, was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and supervised the construction of a new church building. Furthermore, he was also a leading member of the YMCA and served on its board of directors and as president from 1860 to 1865. He was also very devoted to the public park system and helped with the establishment of Woodland Park, Ravenna Park, and others. Kilbourne was also a member of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Municipal League, the Nassack Club, Electric Club, West Coast Mineral Association, and the Plymouth Rocks. He died on August 15, 1959, and the age of 103.
Organized into series.
Series 1, Biographical Materials
Series 2, Certificates
Series 3, Correspondence
Series 4, Writings
Series 5, Newsletters and Publications
Series 6, Clippings
Series 7, Miscellaneous
Scope and Content
Autobiographical and biographical accounts of Kilbourne's personal and professional life, as well as correspondence, writings (including articles that were printed in local newspapers), newsletters and publications mentioning Kilbourne's involvement in local organizations, and newspaper clippings pertaining to Kilbourne and other local issues.
Terms of Access
Open to all users.
Creator's copyrights not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.
|Last modified: February 25, 2016|