Stone, Corliss P. (1838-1906)

  • By Casey McNerthney
  • Posted 5/10/2024
  • Essay 22980
See Additional Media

Corliss P. Stone was a visionary Seattle real estate developer who platted land around north Lake Union, Wallingford, and Fremont. A Vermont native, he came to the Northwest for better business opportunities and first ran a successful store in Port Madison, and then near Seattle’s waterfront. Elected as one of Seattle’s first city councilmembers, Stone became the city’s third mayor. Perhaps best known for the urban legend that in 1873 he stole $15,000 and fled town with another man’s wife, Stone did abandon his mayoral role and made self-serving business moves, but was cleared of the rumored malfeasance and returned to Seattle, where he had enormous business success. He’s the only person in Seattle history with streets named for both his first and last names, and when he died in 1906, six Seattle mayors were his pallbearers.

Life Before Washington

Corliss P. Stone was born in Berkshire, Franklin County, Vermont, on March 20, 1838, the son of James Corliss Stone (1793-1883) and Charlotte Lathrop (1793-1857), of Chelsea, Vermont. His first name was perhaps the maiden name of his grandmother, Hanna Corliss (1769-1857). One brief account said Stone was one of six children – three sons and three daughters – though other family histories list only Stone and two older sisters surviving to adulthood: Charlotte M. (Stone) Foster (1831-1922) and Frances Arabella Stone (1833-1924).

That brief account, in the 1903 book Representative Citizens of Seattle and County of King, said Stone’s great-great-grandfather was a colonial settler of Connecticut and that grandfather Benjamin Stone served in the Colonial Army in the Revolutionary War. Corliss P. Stone attended public schools in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and started his career as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He was a prominent businessman there, running the E. F. Brown store with business partner Henry Foster. (After Stone’s later move to Seattle, he stayed in touch with friends from Vermont, even writing an account for a Vermont newspaper of the Northern Pacific Railroad’s completion in the Northwest in 1883.) Stone later ran his own store in Vermont before making a voyage around Cape Horn in the clipper ship Archer – one that lost a mast and was in imminent peril, but was able to stop for repairs and finish the voyage to San Francisco after 110 days. Stone came to California following the advice of fellow Republican and New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, who said young men should go west for good business opportunities.

There are varying accounts on when he married Frances K. Boyd (1839-1923), a Rockland, Maine, native, though records indicate it was March 11, 1865, in Seattle. They came to Port Madison in Washington Territory in 1863 and had two sons, Charles Lathrop Stone (1869-1943) and George P. Stone (1870-1890), though the marriage didn’t last. In 1874, Frances married Thomas Randall Arey (1843-1915) and had three other boys: Walter (1876-1958), Albert (1879-1900), and Joseph Arey (1883-1964). Frances and Thomas Arey moved to Port Hadlock in Jefferson County, where Arey was employed by the Washington Mill Company. George Stone also lived in Hadlock, and died of spinal meningitis there in 1890. Frances later resided in Port Townsend, and when she died there on February 5, 1923, she was remembered as one of the best known and beloved women of the Chimacum Valley region.

Illinois records indicate Stone’s second marriage, to Almira Crossman (1867-1912), a Montreal native, happened on January 13, 1874, though accounts also vary on that date. After his 1873 departure from Washington Territory, Stone spent time in Chicago, Denver, and Healdsburg, California, where he had real estate dealings. While Stone had family connections in Illinois, including his father in Aurora, Kane County, the specific reasons why he went to the other locations aren’t clear. 

Arriving in the Northwest

Stone’s first job in Washington Territory was in Port Madison, on the north end of Bainbridge Island, where he worked as a store salesman. It may have been one of Stone’s San Francisco connections that led him to Port Madison, where there was a booming lumber business after G. W. Meigs came from San Francisco and set up a mill. Starting in 1861, Port Madison was the seat of Kitsap County (until a vote in 1892 moved the seat to Port Orchard). It was there in Port Madison where Stone hired William J. Colkett, who later became Seattle’s assistant postmaster and a school-board president.

Though accounts differ, by 1867 Stone had a presence in Seattle. That year Stone established a Seattle storefront with partners Charles Burnett and Sumner B. Hinds. The firm, which by 1873 had become Stone & Burnett, sold dry goods, clothes, groceries, paints, hardware, and other general items on Commercial Street (now 1st Avenue South). Stone also was one of the incorporators of the Puget Sound Wagon Road Company, founded in the fall of 1869. The goal was to build a toll road from Seattle to White Bluff on the Columbia River, but, as historian Clarence B. Bagley put it, "the people were not ready to finance such an enterprise and nothing was done toward building the road" (Bagley, 215).

Stone also invested in early efforts to supply coal gas for lighting Seattle’s streets, residences, and businesses. He was one of the organizers of the Seattle Gas Company, founded in August 1869. Despite support from a number of other prominent citizens, including Henry A. Atkins (Seattle’s first mayor) and Henry L. Yesler (a pioneer industrialist), the company "was a little ahead of the city’s development and did not meet with sufficient encouragement to go ahead with the project" (Bagley, 443). Gas lighting did not arrive in Seattle until December 1873.

Stone was one of Seattle’s first city councilmembers, in 1869, and on July 10, 1871, was elected to his third term (fellow councilmembers were Amos Brown, Frank Matthias, C. W. Moore, L. B. Andrews, S. F. Coombs and S. P. Andrews). The following year, the lifelong Republican was elected as Seattle’s third mayor, and his year-long term started on July 29, 1872. While mayor, Stone was still a partner in Stone & Burnett. To the public, his mayoral term and business seemed to be going along fine – until February 1873.

"An Astounding and Inexplicable Affair"

On March 10, 1873, The Weekly Intelligencer reported details of what it called "An Astounding and Inexplicable Affair," alleging that Stone had swindled $15,000 of his business partner’s money, left his mayoral position, and left Seattle with another man’s wife. The Weekly Standard in Olympia aggregated the Intelligencer’s story of the "scandalous proceeding," and the Puget Sound Dispatch in Seattle also reported the rumors. Readers wondered if Stone had abandoned his own wife and son. In 1988, an anniversary edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reprinted the rumor, but omitted follow-up information, incorrectly claiming "it’s not known what became of the mayor" ("Tongues Wag ..."). That led to a new generation of misinformation.

While Stone did abandon his mayoral position, Seattle lore ignores the fact that Stone returned to the city, re-established himself as a successful businessman and developer, and when he died in 1906, six Seattle mayors were his pallbearers.

What goes unanswered is: Why did Stone leave the business so abruptly, causing creditors to be at his business partner’s door? It seems that Stone, arguably a better businessman than Burnett, saw that it wouldn’t be successful and bailed for more personally beneficial ventures – like the kinds he had in later decades in Seattle. There are hardly any documents about Stone in the Seattle Municipal Archives, and none about his departure from his business with Burnett. Five letters from Stone reside in historian Clarence Bagley's files in the University of Washington Special Collections, but those too only detail later real estate deals. If the business was on the ropes and Stone took the available cash and left the rest for his business partner to deal with, proof of that is lost to history. Whatever happened to the business in the months or year before Stone’s departure isn’t clear, either – but may explain his frustrated former business partner’s openness with the press spreading false rumors about Stone.

About a month after Stone’s departure, Rev. Daniel Bagley (1818-1905) was elected chairman of a meeting of creditors for Stone & Burnett. Dexter Horton (1825-1904), Bagley, and Captain William Renton (1818-1891) were among the top creditors needing payment. The committee found $82,397 in liabilities and $61,109 in assets, and relieved Burnett from further liability, even though there was a financial loss on the final adjustment. Stone stayed in contact with another creditor, Seattle City Councilmember S. F. Coombs, and seemed surprised there were questions as to whether what he’d left was satisfactory.

Meanwhile, Stone’s resignation from the mayor’s job was accepted on April 3, 1873, and John T. Jordan was appointed to fill the mayoral vacancy. (Jordan had preceded Stone as Seattle’s second mayor.) Jordan served for two months before Moses R. Maddocks was elected to finish Stone’s tenure. Maddocks's term began June 5 and ran through August 3, 1873. 

On May 10, the Intelligencer printed a rebuttal from Stone of the newspapers coverage. Frustrated that he was informed while in Denver that he had suddenly left with the money, Stone wrote he was surprised when he learned the bank drafts were objected to and that he voluntarily surrendered them in Denver. Stone said he did not act unfavorably, didn’t sell his certificates in a rush, and spent extra time in Denver to ensure the matters were handled. Had he been in a rush to cash the protested drafts, he could have – as any businessman would at once see, Stone wrote. For verification, he listed Mr. S. N. Wood, Assistant Cashier of the Second National Bank of Colorado at Denver.

The woman he was said to have run away with – Mary Elizabeth Klink (1850-1925) – did leave her husband around the same time, and that summer was the subject of a divorce claim citing adultery. However, the divorce documents, which were never reported at the time, don't mention Stone. Klink’s husband, William, filed for divorce based on her connection to an unrelated man, Thomas Benjamin, whom she later married. Though Klink and her father rebutted the connection to Stone in the papers – and at least two, the Weekly Intelligencer and the Puget Sound Dispatch, ran brief corrections – the story became part of Seattle lore, and that initial misreporting is often retold when covering Stone’s time in Seattle.

Back to Seattle

Stone returned to Seattle on the steamship Dakota on Tuesday June 25, 1878, the year he opened a cash grocery in the Sullivan Bock of Front Street (now 1st Avenue). He returned with only $240, but W. A. Jennings and Bailey Gatzert – Seattle’s mayor in 1875 and into 1876 – gave Stone $1,000 credit that he used to grow the grocery business. Eventually the store expanded to 1,200 square feet with four additional warehouses to store goods, including three on Yesler’s wharf and one in the rear of his store by 1883. That year the Post-Intelligencer wrote: "To give some idea of the trade done by this establishment, we will state that Mr. Stone keeps his two-horse delivery wagons and two hired delivery wagons going all the time delivering goods about town; besides a two-horse truck and a dray constantly employed in hauling goods to and from the store, wharves and depot. We doubt if there is another retail store in Oregon or Washington Territory that can show a record like this" ("A Growing Business").

On April 5, 1883, Stone bought a 4,110-square-foot lot at what’s now 1st Avenue and Cherry Street and paid Ranke and Lohse contractors $16,000 to build a two-store brick building with a basement. When it opened that September, the Post-Intelligencer noted its plate-glass front and descriptions of beautiful fixtures and an elegant grocery stock. The second floor was used as offices, and by the time it opened, records of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company showed Stone was the second largest shipper of goods to Puget Sound. 

In 1884 – seven years after the first organized baseball game in Seattle – employees of Stone’s grocery organized a team. Stone served as the team’s treasurer. The players were: F. H. Norman, captain and pitcher; Wiliam Mayfield, catcher; T. F. Sherwood, first baseman; S. J. Phinney, second baseman; A. P. Brown, third baseman; W. J. Hughes, shortstop; Charles Webber, left fielder; H. Bigelow, center fielder; and Stone’s 14-year-old son, Charles Lathrop Stone, playing right field. 

It was also in 1884 that Stone platted his first of several additions to the city: the Lake Union addition, including 160 acres of land. After the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad was built in 1887, real estate plats started along the line. Stone and William Ashworth (the namesake of Ashworth Avenue N) platted the 30-acre region of N 36th Street and Ashworth Avenue N, which Stone named the Edgewater addition after Chicago’s Edgewater Beach. Today that area is where Wallingford and Fremont meet. Stone then platted an extension to Edgewater and followed with another 20-acre addition that adjoined Lake Union.

Stone is also the only person in Seattle’s history to have streets named for his first and last names: Corliss Avenue N and Stone Way N, which forms an unofficial boundary between the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods. (Corliss Avenue N runs through multiple neighborhoods and continues into the city of Shoreline, with its northernmost appearance at N 194th Street.) There also was a Stone Way Bridge at what’s now N 34th Street from 1911 to June 1917. Stone purchased land from the government for $1.25 per acre, according to a state history, which lists Stone’s total platted land at 250 acres. 

Later Life

Though Stone mostly focused on private business ventures, he occasionally dipped back into public life: being appointed property appraiser in 1893 and serving as a police commissioner in the 1890s. He’d gather Seattle Republicans for meetings at his boathouse in the Latona neighborhood, and in 1894 he made an unsuccessful bid for one of two open county commissioner positions. One of the candidates he ran against was John Wallingford Jr. (1833-1913), a fellow real-estate developer and namesake of the neighborhood who had moved to Seattle from California the year prior.

Stone also worked as treasurer of the Union Electric Company and president of the Standard Lime Company. But his biggest focus was real estate as half of the firm Stumer & Stone. In March 1899 he bought a lot near the north corner of Seneca on 2nd Avenue in Seattle, and also had property in Doc Maynard’s plat on the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue S. Stone, who was listed as president of the Cascade Laundry, bought half of the lot from George Kinnear and the other from Melvina J. and James H. Dickson, a couple from Crawford, Pennsylvania. Other real estate investments included ownership of the Kline-Rosenberg Building at 1st Avenue and Cherry Street, which in 1905 was sold to Harry Silver for $80,000. Stone’s workspace was office No. 31 in the Hinckley Building at 713 2nd Avenue in Pioneer Square (demolished in 1925).

Working into his late 60s, Stone's ads for Fremont real estate advertised they were one block from the streetcar line and that anyone paying $300 for a 6,900-square-foot lot would get a "liberal discount" off the $300 price if paying with cash. He also lived in the neighborhood off Stone Way, about a block north of Fremont Brewing’s location (as of 2024).

Stone died of heart failure, officially listed as apoplexy, on September 14, 1906. Services for the 68-year-old were held three days later at Bonney-Watson, conducted by Dr. Van Horn of the Plymouth Congregational Church, and Stone was interred at Lake View Cemetery. Stone’s pallbearers were then-mayor William Hickman Moore and former mayors Richard Ballinger, Frank D. Black, Byron Phelps, James T. Ronald, and William D. Wood. Stone died with a considerable fortune. The inheritance tax alone on his estate in May 1907 was $4,548.45. His wife was the sole executor and received a lump sum, with his surviving son and oldest sister, Charlotte M. Foster, of Aurora, Illinois, received monthly payments.

Stone's son, Corliss Lathrop Stone, married Dora Avisa McMullen on August 25, 1895, in Seattle. The couple had a son, Corliss Edgar Stone, born in Seattle August 30, 1900. Corliss Lathrop Stone has some of his own bad press, being arrested for writing bad checks in Spokane in March 1904. Dora filed for divorce in February 1906, and Stone married Kate Schansenbach on June 24, 1907. He died at age 73 in July 1943 in Los Angeles.

Corliss Stone’s nephew, Edward Corliss Kilbourne (1856-1959), recalled on his 97th birthday how he came to Seattle in 1883 because his uncle wrote with the praises of the Pacific Northwest saying, "the Puget Sound air is so bouncy that the children don’t even stub their toes" ("Dr. Kilbourne ..."). Kilbourne became the first territorial dentist with an office in one of his uncle’s buildings at what’s now 1st Avenue and James Street. With his dental riches, Kilbourne purchased 40 acres from his uncle on Lake Union’s north shore, including the area that’s now Gas Works Park, and platted Kilbourne’s Division of the Lake Union Addition. Kilbourne also received the city’s franchise to restore electric power after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, and three years later became the majority owner of the Union Electric Company, where he worked with his uncle. Union Electric held a contract not only for lighting the city with arc and incandescent lights, but also for furnishing power to the public. That led to Seattle’s first electric trolley running from Seattle to Lake Union – and the line also helped bring interested potential homeowners to Fremont. Kilbourne seemed to have the same entrepreneurial spirit as his uncle.

"He exercised his official prerogatives for the improvement and substantial progress of Seattle and has labored earnestly for the advancement of this part of the state," a biographer wrote of Corliss Stone shortly before his death. "Regarded as a citizen in his social relations, he belongs to that public-spirited, useful and helpful class of men whose ambitions and desires are centered and directed in those channels through which flow the greatest and most permanent good to the greatest number" ("Representative Citizens").


“Seattle City Election,” The Washington Standard, July 15, 1871, p. 2; “Absconded,” Ibid., March 15, 1873, p. 2; “An Astounding and Inexplicable Affair,” The Weekly Intelligencer., March 10, 1873, p. 3; “Notice,” Ibid., March 10, 1873, p. 2; “A Vacancy in the Office of Mayor,” Ibid., March 10, 1873, p. 3; “Meeting of the Creditors of Stone & Burnett,” Ibid., March 29, 1873, p. 3; “Selling Off At Cost,” Ibid., April 5, 1873, p. 2; “A Letter from Mrs. M. E. Klink,” Ibid., April 5, 1873, p. 3; “Receiver’s Notice,” Ibid., April 5, 1873, p. 3; “Provided For,” Ibid., April 19, 1873, p. 3; “Render Unto Cesar,” Ibid., May 10, 1873, “Civil Docket,” Ibid., August 2, 1873, p. 3; “Death of Corliss P. Stone,” The St. Johnsbury Caledonian, September 26, 1906, p. 4; Ibid., October 19, 1883, p. 3; “A Shocking Affair,” Puget Sound Dispatch, March 13, 1873, p. 1; “Correction,” March 13, 1873, Ibid., p. 1; “Benefit of Creditors,” March 24, 1873, p. 3; “Stone Heard From,” Ibid., April 3, 1873, p. 1; “Meeting of Creditors,” Ibid., April 3, 1873, p. 1; “City Council Proceedings,” Ibid., April 10, 1873, p. 3; “Financial and Commercial,” Ibid., April 17, 1873, p. 3; “District Court Docket,” Ibid., January 27, 1876 p. 1; “Local News,” Ibid., June 29, 1878, p. 4; North Star (Danville, Vermont), May 20, 1865, p. 3; Morning Oregonian, January 24, 1873, p. 1; Albany Democrat, September 12, 1873, p. 3; “Estate of the Late Corliss P. Stone,” Spokane Chronicle, May 16, 1907, p. 13; “A Growing Business,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 15, 1883, p. 6; “Match Game Arranged,” Ibid., March 20, 1884, p. 2; “Corliss Stone …” Ibid., September 5, 1893, p. 5; “Many in the Field,” Ibid., August 3, 1894, p. 8; “Sale of Second Avenue Property,” Ibid., March 24, 1899, p. 5; “Persons In Seattle and Vicinity,” Ibid., May 21, 1899, p. 8; “Fourth of July Celebration,” Ibid., June 2, 1899, p. 5; “Ninth Ward Republicans,” Ibid., February 10, 1900, p. 10; “For Rent,” Ibid., Sept. 8, 1900, p. 12; “Falls Through Sidewalk …” Ibid., Oct. 16, 1900, p. 9; “Fremont Real Estate,” Ibid., December 2, 1900, p. 21; “Valuable Real Estate Sold,” Ibid., Dec. 9, 1899, p. 5; “Corliss Stone,” Grandson of Pioneer, Dies, Ibid., August 26, 1963, p. 35; “Tongues Wag When Mayor Takes Money,” Ibid., November 14, 1988, p. C8; “Protest Against Canal Boulevards,” The Seattle Star, Oct. 10, 1901, p. 7; “The Kline-Rosenberg Building,” Ibid., May 27, 1905, p. 1; “C. P. Stone Buried,” Ibid, September 17, 1906, p. 1; “Stone Will on File,” Ibid., Sept. 25, 1906, p. 8; Lawrence Kreisman, “First Home,” The Seattle Times, January 24, 1999, p. 176; Paul Dorpat, “Edgewater’s Bridge,” Ibid., February 4, 1996, p. 39. “Dr. Kilbourne, Who Grew With City, Is 97,” Ibid., January 11, 1953, p. 51; Frontier Justice: Territorial Court Case files: King Frontier Justice, 1873, Washington State Archives, case number KNG-445; original case number 444; Clarence Bagley Papers, 1864-1931, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections, container 3/6, accession 0036-001; Representative Citizens of The City of Seattle and County of King (New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903); Clinton A. Snowden, History of Washington Volume 6 (New York: The Century History Company, 1909); Benjamin Lukoff, “Corliss Avenue North,” Writes of Way ( accessed February 15, 2024); “Stone Way North, Ibid.; “Mayors, 1869-1890,” Seattle Municipal Archives ( accessed February 15, 2024); “Seattle City Council Members: 1869-1882,” Ibid. (accessed April 3, 2024); “Ordinance 7449,” Office of the City Clerk ( accessed March 3, 2024); “Edward Corliss Kilbourne papers, circa 1888-1958,” University of Washington Special Collections ( accessed April 3, 2024); “Stone, Corliss P., House, Fremont, Seattle, WA,” Pacific Coast Architecture Database ( accessed February 22, 2024); “Port Madison,” Revisiting Washington ( accessed April 2, 2024); “Hinckley Building, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA,” Ibid., accessed February 22, 2024; “Frances K Boyd Arey (1851-1923),” Find A Grave ( accessed April 3, 2024); “George P. Stone (1870-1890),” Ibid.; “Corliss P. Stone (1870-1890),” Ibid.; “Corliss Lathrop Stone (1869-1943),” Ibid.; “Corliss Edgorton Stone (1900-1963); Jade D'Addario, email to Casey McNerthney, February 16, 2024, in possession of Casey McNerthney; Mahina Oshi, emails to Casey McNerthney, March 7, March 31, 2024, in possession of Casey McNerthney; John LaMont, email to Casey McNerthney, March 29, 2024, in possession of Casey McNerthney; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “John Wallingford Jr. (1833-1913)” (by Paul Dorpat); “Kilbourne, Edward Corliss (1856-1959) (by Louis Fiset); “Street Railways in Seattle” (by Walt Crowley); “Voters elect Corliss P. Stone as mayor of the City of Seattle on July 8, 1872” (by David Wilma and Cassandra Tate); “Seattle Neighborhoods: Wallingford — Thumbnail History” (by Paul Dorpat), (accessed April 1, 2024).

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You