John N. Casey

J. Casey portrait

Lockley, Fred. "History of the Columbia River Valley, From The Dalles to the Sea." Vol. 3. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1928. p. 960.


John N. Casey, who was classed with Portland's leading business men, rose from a lowly position to one of prominence in local commercial circles and was long a dominant figure in the affairs of the Ira F. Powers Furniture Company. Tireless energy, keen perception, honesty of purpose and a genius for devising the right thing at the right time were among his salient traits as an executive, and in matters of citizenship he was loyal and public-spirited. He was born in Necedah, Wisconsin, August 16, 1865, and his parents, Patrick and Margaret (Clancy) Casey, were natives of Ireland. Both left the Emerald isle in youth and their marriage was solemnized in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1862 they went to Wisconsin, where Patrick Casey became identified with the lumber industry, and was thus engaged for several years. About 1877 he came to Oregon and settled on a ranch six miles west of McMinnville, in Yamhill county. To Mr. and Mrs. Casey were born eleven children: Harriet, Ellen, Margaret, Catharine, John N., William H., Edward P., Fred S., Louise, Fannie, and one who died in infancy.

The eldest son, John N. Casey, received his early instruction in the public schools and for two years attended a Baptist institution now known as Linfield College. For one summer he worked with a surveying party in eastern Oregon and came to Portland to take a course in the Armstrong Business College. About 1888 he secured the position of deliveryman with the Ira F. Powers Furniture Company, with which he remained until 1893, and then entered the service of the Peoples Outfitting Company, whose business was acquired by the Gadsby Furniture Company in 1894. Mr. Casey was with the latter corporation for eleven years and during the period of the Spanish-American war he had full charge of the business. In 1905 he returned to the Ira F. Powers Furniture Company, of which he was elected vice president and manager, and remained the incumbent of those offices until his death on the 17th of May, 1928, when he was sixty-two years of age. His highly specialized knowledge of the business was supplemented by initiative, rare judgment and executive force and the policies and practices which he inaugurated were vital factors in the development and expansion of the business. This is one of the largest commercial institutions in the city and also one of the oldest and most reliable.

In 1891 Mr. Casey was married in East Portland to Miss Mary Louise Sharkey, a native of Wheeling, West Virginia, and a daughter of Patrick Sharkey, who was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, March 17, 1835. He was the third of the seven children of John and Katherine (Carroll) Sharkey, who sailed for Canada about 1843 and settled on a donation land claim on Prince Edward Island, where their son Patrick completed his studies. At Georgetown he learned the trade of a harness maker and afterward went to St. Johns, New Brunswick, where he followed that occupation for two years. Returning to the United States he located in Grandfalls, Maine, where he conducted a general store for four years, and then went to Boston, Massachusetts. There he entered the government service as a harness maker and was sent to Chattanooga, Tennessee. After the Civil war he spent eight months in Baltimore, Maryland, and then went to Wheeling, West Virginia, where he lived for twenty years, devoting his attention to the harness business. In 1883 he made a trip to the Pacific coast and was so well pleased with the country that he disposed of his business in Wheeling, settling in Portland in 1886. He established the city's first horse collar factory, situated on Union avenue, between Washington and Alder streets, and later removal was made to Union avenue and Taylor street. There Mr. Sharkey continued the enterprise until his death on the 20th of August, 1902, and with the assistance of his son, Edward J., established a large industry. On November 4, 1859, he had married Miss Elizabeth McClement, who was born in County Derry, Ireland, and was a child of four when her parents, Patrick and Elizabeth (Miller) McClement, settled on a farm near St. Johns, in the province of New Brunswick, Canada. Mr. and Mrs. Sharkey had a family of nine children.

Their daughter, Mary Louise, the fourth in order of birth, acquired her early education in Wheeling, West Virginia, her native city, and had become a sophomore when she accompanied the family to Portland. Here she continued her high school studies, graduating with the class of 1888. She then took up educational work, teaching in the public schools of Kalama and Cathlamet, Washington, after which, for two years, she taught the old Fernwood school and the Holliday school at Portland. The old Fernwood school was located at Thirty-second and Hancock streets and Mrs. Casey was driven to school by her father. The district had only a few settlers in those days and on the entire east side there was a population of only five thousand. Mr. and Mrs. Casey became the parents of five children. Margaret, the eldest, is at home. William Allen, who enlisted for service in the World war, was a victim of the widespread epidemic of influenza in 1918 and died at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, October 18 of that year, when a young man of twenty-two. Edward P., who received his higher education in the University of Oregon and the George Washington University at Washington, D. C., was chosen to succeed his father as vice president of the Ira F. Powers Furniture Company, and ably discharges the duties of that important office. In October, 1927, he married Miss Madeline Patricia Jennings, a native of Portland and a daughter of John A. and Mary (Healy) Jennings. The former, who was a member of the pioneer real estate firm of Jennings & Company, passed away in 1927 and is survived by Mrs. Jennings, who resides in Portland. Edward P. Casey is a business man of high standing and belongs to the Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club. John F., who was the third in order of birth, died at the age of one year and Charles F., the youngest son, met death in an automobile accident March 21, 1928, while a student at Notre Dame University. His tragic death was a great shock to the father and hastened his demise.

John N. Casey adhered to the Catholic faith and was affiliated with the Church of the Madeline. In the local activities of the Knights of Columbus he took a leading part, serving as exalted grand knight of the council, and supervised the building of the new home of the organization. He was also connected with the Woodmen of the World, the Chamber of Commerce, the Progressive Business Men's Club, and was a charter member of the Rotary Club and a life member of the Irvington Club. One of his marked characteristics was his devotion to his family, whose welfare and happiness constituted his chief concern. In business he was the personification of its highest ethics and in social intercourse he was genial, kindly and sympathetic. He never lost the common touch and his handclasp was as warm for the friend in a threadbare coat as for the prosperous business friend of his later years. Mr. Casey never failed to recognize and appreciate the good in others and was always ready to assist those in need. He was honored and respected by all who were brought within the sphere of his influence and his passing deprived Portland of a citizen whom it could ill afford to lose.


Submitted to the Oregon Bios. Project in March 2013 by Diana Smith. Submitter has no additional information about the person(s) or family mentioned above.

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