Biography of Philip Needs
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





PHILIP NEEDS. - To those who were privileged to know him, Mr. Needs was not only a splendid type of the typical pioneer of the '50s, to whose energy and perseverance is due a large share of the remarkable development of California, but he was also a man who displayed ability in many avenues of usefulness and rose to a local prominence abundantly justified in the light of his varied talents. Well known for years through his practical interest in local enterprises, his passing, September 8, 1911, was mourned as a distinct loss to the community of his long association and by the friends gained during an identification of fifty years with the progress of Humboldt county. That he should have risen to success, notwithstanding the privations of orphanage and poverty in boyhood, lack of educational advantages and lack of friends to interest themselves in his behalf, betokens the sturdy, substantial qualities of his mind. Destiny qualified him to assume responsibility and fitted him for the lines of labor in which he gained prosperity. His life story in fact is one of those biographies that seem to combine the desirable elements of all stories of men who have risen to success and affluence through adversity and trials which would appear insurmountable through any human agency. Self made in the strictest sense of the word, obtaining his start in business by frugality and thrift, he developed under the pressure of responsibilities until he became a leading man in his community, influential not only because of the great means he accumulated, but also because of the high character evidenced in all his transactions. His credit was good, not merely on account of his large possessions, but on account of his proven integrity.

No memories of parental love brightened the lonely childhood of Philip Needs, who for his first four years was a charge of the overseers of the parish of Lummon, England, where he was born in October, 1828. An aunt and uncle who lived in Berluscom parish took him into their home and as soon as old enough put him to work on a vinegar farm. Later he worked on other farms in England. During 1850 he crossed the ocean to Canada and found employment successively in mills and on farms. The year 1854 found him a pioneer homesteader of Iowa, where he proved up on a claim and then leased the land to tenants, while himself working for wages on near by farms. Next he worked in a sawmill in Wisconsin and thence returned to Canada, where he remained for three years. A decision to try his fortune on the western coast brought him to California in 1858. After landing at San Francisco in June he went at once to the gold diggings on the Fraser river and later worked by the day on the dry ditch of the Sailor diggings. During 1859 he went to the Puget Sound region, where for two years he worked in the lumber woods and adjacent sawmills.

From his arrival in Eureka in 1861 until his death, September 8, 1911, Mr. Needs continuously was identified with the history of Humboldt county in logging industries and general business activities. By dint of perseverance he rose from poverty to financial prestige. Nor was his sole advance in the matter of finances. It had ever been a source of regret to him that he had received no education. At the time of coming to Eureka he could neither read nor write, but with genuine pluck he set about the task of making up for the deficiencies in schooling, and soon he had an excellent knowledge of the common branches, becoming particularly expert in arithmetic. After the burning of the Ryan mill, in which he had been employed, he entered the Vance mill and later engaged as a sawyer in the Bayside mill until 1872. Utilizing his savings as the capital for a brokerage business, he gave his attention to such interests until shortly before his death. During 1904 he erected the Needs building, a three story frame building on E and Third streets, Eureka, at a cost of about $25,000, and the oversight of that valuable property he maintained personally until his death. Recognized as a man of financial acumen, he had been selected by depositors of the Randall Bank, Eureka, to settle its accounts upon the failure of the institution, and he discharged that responsible task with excellent success and general satisfaction.

Though Mr. Needs began to earn his own living when but eight years old hard work never apparently impaired his constitution, nor hard experience, his faith in human nature and kindliness of heart. Responsibility at too early an age is not considered desirable, yet the lessons he learned made him self reliant and industrious, and ready to extend a helping hand to others in the same straits. The necessity for hard work never narrowed his outlook nor made him selfishly zealous in the promotion of his own interests to the exclusion of the rights of others or of his duties to his fellow men, and so he had a full life, enjoying the respect of his associates for his personal qualities as well as for his ability. Except for the office of road supervisor he held no public positions. He was always a Republican in political sympathy, but never took any part in the work of the party. Many years ago he joined the Sons of Temperance, and the moral and social betterment of the community never failed to receive his support. During 1871 he married Mrs. Caroline (Griffin) White, of New England ancestry, who died January 19, 1879, leaving one daughter by her first marriage, Nellie, wife of Thomas H. Chope and mother of a daughter, Carrie E. Chope, whose affectionate memories of Mr. Needs prompt this tribute to his character and life.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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