Biography of Merrill P. Freeman
Arizona Biographies





MERRILL P. FREEMAN, LL. D., pioneer, financier, and retired business man of Tucson, has been a resident of that city during the past thirty two years, and during this time has attained to a prominence in the financial, educational, political and fraternal life of the state that is rarely equalled in the span of one man's life. Dr. Freeman was born in Ohio, in February, 1844, but was removed to Iowa with the family when but three years of age, and crossed the plains to California by ox team when he was but eight years old. The latter trip, now to be made by rail in three days, then required five months, during which he rode horseback, driving loose cattle until his pony was stolen by the Indians. His playmates for the first few years of residence in California were only little Indian boys. In 1857 Dr. Freeman went by steamer from San Francisco via the Isthmus to the east, where he took a four years' academic course, and returned to California, as before, by ox team, this trip requiring the same length of time as the previous one, and although but seventeen years old, he did regular guard duty against the Indians. In 1862 he removed to Nevada, where, during the larger part of a residence of eighteen years, he was engaged in mining and banking. He also served as agent for the Wells Fargo Express Company at a number of points, and had charge of the western end of their overland stage line at the time of the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad. in 1869. At various times during his residence in Nevada he held offices of political trust and honor, among which were Regent of the University, Receiver of the U. S. Land office, Postmaster, county treasurer and chairman of the Republican County Central Committee. In the winter of 1880-1881 he came to Arizona on mining business, and located at Tucson. In 1884 he was appointed postmaster of that city, but resigned this position in 1887 to accept the position of cashier of the Bank of D. Henderson. As cashier of the Bank of D. Henderson, he began what has proven to be one of the most notable and influential financial records in Arizona's history. This bank was afterwards consolidated with the Bank of Tucson and subsequently became the Consolidated National Bank, and during most of the intervening years it has had the benefit of Dr. Freeman's wisdom and foresight and has been guided to its eminent success largely because of adherence to his sound banking policy. In 1888 he severed his connection with The Consolidated National Bank, retiring for a time from active financial duties, and later established the Santa Cruz Valley Bank, now the Arizona National Bank, another of the state's soundest institutions. In 1895 he returned to his former field of effort, The Consolidated National Bank, as its president, and until compelled by a nervous breakdown in 1911 to retire, continued in the president's chair. Many years of close application to business in various lines had so impaired the health of Dr. Freeman that it seemed the part of wisdom to dispense with some of his arduous duties, and since then, although generally recognized as "retired," he is a keenly alive man of affairs, whose influence is still felt and whose advice is still sought on matters of importance. During the fifteen years Dr. Freeman was president of the Consolidated National Bank the deposits increased from something more than $100,000 to one and one half millions, which, in addition to being an important factor in the history of the bank, is a high tribute to its management.

In 1889 Dr. Freeman became closely associated with the University of Arizona as a member of the Board of Regents, which position he has since filled at intervals for a total of sixteen years, ten of which he served as chancellor. At one period, at the earnest solicitation of the governor, resigning as chancellor of the University to fill a term on the Territorial Board of Equalization, he was subsequently returned to his old position as chancellor. In 1911, on nomination by the governor of the state, he was invested with the degree of LL. D., "for constant and conspicuous service to the state and university, for devotion to every detail of his high office as regent and chancellor."

In 1870 Dr. Freeman was made a Mason, and has since received every degree in Masonry to and including the thirty third. He has been Grand Master of two separate jurisdictions, Nevada and Arizona, an unusual distinction, and President of the Association of Past Grand Masters of Arizona.

During his years of residence in Arizona, Dr. Freeman has taken an especial interest in its very early history - dating back to Coronado's expedition of 1540 - a fondness for which has developed into what may well be termed a hobby, and has acquired an extensive and valuable library on this subject, consisting of more than 400 volumes, some of which are very rare and from one to two hundred years old, many of them out of print and very difficult to get. What disposition will ultimately be made of this valuable collection, Dr. Freeman has not definitely decided, other than that it will never be permitted to leave Pima County. In knowledge of early events in the history of the southwest, he probably has no superior in the state, his store of information along these lines keeping pace with his accumulation of material bearing on the subject.

Having lost his wife, father and mother many years ago, Dr. Freeman makes his bachelor home in Tucson at the Old Pueblo Club, which he was largely instrumental in establishing.

From:
Who's Who in Arizona
Vol 1
Compiled and Published by Jo Conners
Press of The Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona 1913


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