John McGraw was elected governor in 1892, just in time to face the depression that followed the bank panic of 1893. Because of the weak economy he was not re-elected in 1897, the first year of the Alaska-Yukon gold rush.
HERE FACING southeast from his own little park stands this state’s second governor, John Harte McGraw — born in 1850, dead by typhoid in 1910, honored by public subscription with New York sculptor Richard Brooks’ heroic monument.
McGraw was elected governor in 1892, just in time to face the depression that followed the bank panic of 1893. Because of the weak economy he was not re-elected in 1897, the first year of the Alaska-Yukon gold rush. Instead, the former governor packed a miner’s outfit and boarded the S.S. Portland, whose arrival in Seattle days earlier had started the rush.
Although traveling first class, McGraw was peculiarly broke. It was judged that he owed the state $10,000 from some unwarranted expenses during his term. His hopes to find it in Yukon dirt did not pan out, but when he returned to Seattle, his deep connections and investments did. He wound up president of both the chamber of commerce and Seattle First National Bank.
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Before his time in Olympia, McGraw had three terms as the sheriff of King County. Earlier this year, at the dedication of the McGraw Square Plaza, the governor’s great-great grandson, Scott Pattison, noted that McGraw considered his “proudest moment” his standoff as sheriff with the anti-Chinese mobs of 1886. It was also his luckiest. After the sheriff took three bullets — one through his hat, two through his coat — the vigilantes scattered.
In 1909 during ceremonies for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition, McGraw was squeezed beside the rotund President W.H. Taft in a parading motorcar. McGraw also attended the expo’s unveiling of a statue honoring William Seward. Of course, he could not have known that the same sculptor (Brooks) would soon be casting his likeness in Paris for an unveiling on July 22, 1913.
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