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Howard Tilton– Freight Agent, Merchant

February 12, 2014

Howard Tilton was born at Olympia in 1858 where father James Tilton was Surveyor-General of Washington Territory.  He came north in 1880 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway construction company as General Freight Agent, based at the supplies depot headquarters at Emory, BC.
His older brother was EG Tilton, engineer and superintendent of construction for Andrew Onderdonk, the general contractor at Yale.

Howard Tilton remained in the Fraser canyon about three years, though his job required frequent travel by steamer and train.  On one such trip to California in January 1883, he was asleep on board a stopped Southern Pacific Railway train at Tehachapi summit when the train began to run away down a steep incline.

In the resulting crash as the train met a bend in the road, Tilton found himself unharmed. He succeeded in rescuing several other passengers from overturned and burning cars, pulling out the last man to survive the wreck. Twenty-one persons were killed and twenty injured in the disaster. The inquest determined that the brakes had not been set.

It was later reported that Tilton had experienced a premonition of disaster the evening before he left Yale to board the steamer and almost decided to stay behind.

Kyle & Tilton importers 1884A few months later Tilton retired from railway work and entered into a business partnership at New Westminster with William Black Kyle.

WB Kyle was the older brother of George F Kyle of the CPR.

In June 1883 WB Kyle left employment with the steamer line Canadian Pacific Navigation Co to go into business with Howard Tilton.

The New Westminster firm of Tilton & Kyle, located on Front Street facing the Fraser River, advertised itself "Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Groceries, Provisions, Liquors, etc."


James Ellard & Co - JW HarveyOn August 20, 1884 Howard Tilton was married to Annie Maria Smith at New Westminster. 

Miss Smith, whose mother’s name was Ellard, was a milliner employed in the dry goods store established by former Royal Engineer James Ellard. 


(The Ellard Block at 6th and Columbia in New Westminster, housing Starbucks, is a remnant of this old family firm.)

By 1887 Tilton’s partnership with WB Kyle had broken up and Howard Tilton was in business under his own name in Victoria, listed as a "grain merchant."

In March 1888 it was reported that EB Marvin had moved into Howard Tilton’s old store on Wharf Street.

1890 Seattle dir - Howard Tilton of Risdon-Cahn


Tilton’s next stop was a return to Stateside.  In 1889 he joined the newly- incorporated Seattle branch of San Francisco wholesaler Risdon, Cahn as Secretary-Treasurer. 


Howard Tilton remained in Seattle until his death August 9, 1935.

Anne Tilton lived until age 93, passing away April 11, 1955. 

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