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The Honorable Edgar A. Sims


"About 22 years ago a brawny Canadian boy of 14 landed in the northwest corner of the United States with a compound wrought iron determination to do things. He had grit.

He didn't dally around looking for something soft or aesthetic but grabbed hold of the first thing he saw, which happened to be logs and fish and such other things as you find around that section.

Today he is a rich man. Has represented his district two terms in the legislature and is a member of the cogent body, the Rules Committee.

He is a big strong two-fisted fighter and never knows when he's whipped. Ed Sims, Fisherman and Logger."

These description are from an early Legislative article about Who's Who in the Legislature. By 1909 Edgar was involved in logging at Brinnon and with a group of Port Townsend business men had bought the Eisenbeis wharf for use to start a wood yard. Edward Christian was in charge of the wood business, and a steam sawing and splitting machine was installed. He continued with his fishing enterprises which were making him a very wealthy man. In November of 1909 he had purchased the Port Townsend Packing Plant from J.W. Cook. The Leader of November 7 noted: " The acquirement of the Cook Cannery, a larger plant indicates that he will continue in the business with enlarged capacity as occasion merits. It is encouraging to learn that the property has passed into the hands of a local man for this insures Port Townsend people, in the future, as in the past being given preference in employment by the new owner."

His Political life opened up new avenues for his tremendous energy and he became a political force. At home he was getting support from the local Yacht Club, the Good Roads Association and others. But in 1910 when he was running for Speaker of the house he was criticized on an "American" issue, because he supported saloons and the liquor business. This was at a time when Washington State was headed toward prohibition and support of liquor was not a politically sound thing to do. But the folks back home loved him and said they were "the best represented county in the state."

By 1912 he had spread out from Washington State and purchased a Cannery in Hoohah Alaska. The July 10, 1912 Leader headlined "Hoonah Cannery Doing Well, Salmon run is good and a pack of 14,000 cases has been made. The Hoonah Alaska Cannery owned by E.A. Sims and H.L. Somons is making a record according to reports received here yesterday. Thus far the pack is 14,000 cases and the run of fish in Northern waters is reported to be quite heavy. The traps owned by the company are taking many fish and it is thought that the cannery this year will put up its capacity pack." Six carloads were shipped to the East. He later purchased the "Glory of the Sea's, for use as a floating cannery, one of the first to do this.

Sims stayed in the House until 1915 when he announced he announced he was going to retire, and he and Harriet started on a world tour which was cut short by World War I. On the trip they visited Cuba where according to his obituary "Later he visited Cuba and official Washington had its eyes opened again by him when he had several exciting adventures with Cuban bandits."

When they returned from their trip, Edgar decided he was too young to retire and got back into the fishing, logging, and mining businesses. In 1918 he dismantled the Key City Cannery selling the machinery to various other canneries, no one wanted to buy it.

In 1923 he once again ran and was elected the Republican representative for Jefferson County. During the next few years he served as Fisheries, chairman; Mines and Mining; Rules and Order; Revenue and Taxation; Congressional Apportionment.

He was also a big supporter of the Olympic Highway (SR101) and worked hard to bring the connection into Port Townsend. In honor of his work the road from the city limits to the Ferry is known as Sims Way. He was in charge of the House Road Appropriations, he also helped bring the Crown Zellerbach Kraft Mill to Port Townsend. In 1928 the Seattle Times reported that E.A. Sims might run for Governor.

In 1929 he once again decided not to run for office and came home to Port Townsend. 1929 was the year his brother Horace drowned. He was running the Sooke Harbor Packing Company. "Reports show that, with his companion Mr. Sims had been putting some cable on some loose piling when rough weather stopped driving operations. It is supposed that the cable became entangled in the propeller of the gas launch they were working from and they had gotten into a skiff to disentangle it, when the skiff overturned in such a manner as to allow them but little chance for rescue in the rough water of the harbor. So far as can be learned there were no witnesses to the fatality...H. Pontius a young fisherman also drowned." He was fifty two years old and left a wife and four children. [PTL 8 April 1929 obit for Horace Sims.]

Maybe Edgar realized time was passing and it was time to enjoy some of his successes. Sims retained his interest in mining, owning mines in Montana and oil wells in the West End of Jefferson County. In 1939 it was speculated he would run for governor but he never competed. Although he kept involved in many local activities his life was mostly private. His investment in mining proved lucrative in 1927 and 1928 until copper went down in price and the mine finally closed. Just before the 1929 crash it was reported the mine almost sold for a cold million dollars. His investments in the oil wells of West Jefferson County were never realized although test wells produced oil in small quantities.

Edgar Albert Sims died on September 20, 1945 at the age of seventy. The Port Townsend headline read "Death Takes Ed Sims, Last Rites Held Here Sunday For Colorful Leader." He was survived by his wife Harriet and various nieces and nephews, children of his brother Horace.

Harried lived in their home at 716 Taylor Street where according to her obituary of April 10, 1952 she "was found dead when friends called to visit her Sunday. She apparently had died at about noon that day while preparing food in the kitchen..." Harriet was eighty seven years old.

His mother Margaret Wilson Sims had died on April 8, 1943 at the age of eighty nine.

And what of Maxwell Levy? In 1910 the family moved to San Francisco and lived with relatives of his wife Lucy McIntyre Hogg Levy. By 1920 they were living in Seattle where Max was listed on the census as an "importer/exporter."

He died April 27, 1931 in San Francisco, his wife Lucy died April 28, 1938 in Bremerton at the home of her daughter Sophie Hogg Bliss, the Leader noted "She was a granddaughter of F.W. Pettygrove, an early settler." Their son James Maxwell Levy died in 1947 in Tacoma after a fall, he had no wife or children.

Some Sims stories from his years in office were often retold and elaborated on.

"Friends have heard him tell the story on himself of the time a man considerably larger than himself called him a "yokel" for no particular reason. Without hesitation Sims knocked the man to the ground, and as his victim lay unconscious in the gutter, Sims turned to an acquaintance and asked "Say, what is a "yokel" anyway."

While Sims was serving in the legislature, the Seattle Star ran a series on prominent legislators. The journalistic content of the gaudy headlines being their main news items they had a field day when they received information about Sims' reputed shanghaiing activities. "According to Carroll [H.J.] Sims put in an appearance at the Star offices. Sims mentioned to an editor he had been a poor boy growing up in Port Townsend and that if he was going to live his life over he probably would do some things differently. The Star editor failed to be properly sympathetic, responding that his paper would publish what it damn well pleased. Sims then drew out a .45 pistol, placed it on the counter and pointed to the offending article. He told the editor, "I'll give you five minutes to eat that - or you're dead. He ate it," said Carroll. Then Sims told the editor that was the last time he wanted to see his name in the Seattle Star." or so the story goes."

Another story from Carroll was when Sims told him what a business man was. "You sit across from another man at a table with a quart of whiskey between you," Sims told his young friend. "You smoke cigars and go drink for drink with him. "Pretty soon the other guy falls off the chair," Sims concluded. "When you do that, you're a businessman." ["Ed Sims: Key City's premier Millionaire, by Gina McMather, published in the September 5, 1990 PTL]


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