Simeon and Amanda Wood Reed in 1854, shortly after coming to Portland.
Simeon made the fortune, but Amanda was no pushover. Inspired by Thomas Lamb Eliot, she dreamed of giving Portland—long viewed as a provincial outpost—a beacon of art, culture, and learning.
Simeon Reed: I was born in East Abington, Massachusetts, on the twenty-third of April, 1830. I married Amanda Wood on the seventeenth of October, 1850. I came to California via the Isthmus of Panama, and then to Oregon in 1852. I built a store in Rainier on the Columbia River, and engaged in general merchandising. At the time they were raising lots of potatoes and onions along the river and they were running a steamer twice a month down to San Francisco, so I thought Rainier would be a good shipping point and subsequently a good place for a store. I eventually sold out the business, and moved to Portland to take a position with William S. Ladd, who was then Portland’s mayor, in general merchandising. I remained with Ladd until he started in the banking business. While clerking for Ladd I had bought an interest in the Columbia River Steam Navigation Company, eventually buying out the balance of the company. I had about as much to do with bringing about the organization of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company as perhaps any one person.
Lloyd Lyman ’48: Simeon Reed was fussy about his clothes and tended to be a flashy dresser. On Sundays he drove to church with his wife in a smart landau behind high-stepping matched horses in silver-mounted harnesses. He also liked bourbon whiskey and was not a stranger to the wines that go with good living. But his passion seemed to be for expensive cigars that he bought in lots of five hundred and smoked constantly...
Reed showed his wife the utmost devotion and respect. Such treatment was partly engendered by her fiery disposition. Despite the appearance of a prim and docile wife, Amanda was strong willed. If the situation warranted it, she was capable of displaying a temper that her husband described as “swearing mad.” She also possessed an astute and capable mind that Simeon trusted in both domestic and business problems. It is an irony of fate that in the midst of all the luxury and plenty that money could produce, the only barren things were Reed and his wife. Undoubtedly it was this frustrated desire for children that prompted Reed’s interest in the education of young people.
Henrietta Eliot: Mr. and Mrs. Reed were Universalists when they came out here, but they were brought into the Unitarian church of my husband, Reverend Thomas Lamb Eliot, and became faithful members. They sang in the choir. Mrs. Reed was a woman of relatively simple tastes given her affluence. There was nothing ostentatious about her at all personally. She did not seem to realize that she was a very rich woman. She was a person of great poise and dignity, and, in a quiet way, of leadership.
Last Will and Testament of Amanda Reed: It is my desire and intention that the institution so founded and established shall be a means of general enlightenment, intellectual and moral culture, the cultivation and development of fine arts, and manual training and education for the people. And I desire and direct that it forever be and remain free from sectarian influence, regulation, or control, permitting those who may seek its benefits to affiliate with such religious societies as their consciences may dictate.