William H. Metson
WILLIAM H. METSON, lawyer, financier and man of affairs in San Francisco,
is prominently identified with the work of developing Seward Peninsula, being
president of one of the largest ditch enterprises in the country, the Miocene
Ditch Company, and president of the Nome-Arctic Railway Company. The two most
important problems that confront the miners of Northwestern Alaska relate to water and
transportation, and the man that digs ditches and builds railroads in this country is one
of the leaders of the industrial army that has recently invaded the Northland. In the
practice of his profession Mr. Metson assisted in making the history of Nome. As
attorney for the Pioneer Mining Company, in the notorious injunction and receiver law
suits during the regime of Judge Noyes, he took an active and a leading part in the
famous litigation which makes one of the most interesting stories of this volume. This
story reveals Mr. Metson as a man of prompt decision and aggressive action. It shows
that he is a master of detail and that he possesses an accurate knowledge of character and
motive; that he is frank and fearless, resolute and sincere. Honesty of purpose and
directness of method are correlatives, and always accompany a character that is not lacking
Mr. Metson is a native of California. He was born in San Francisco March 16,
1864. The family moved to Nevada shortly after his birth, and most of his boyhood
days were spent in Virginia City. It was here he received his early education, and
developed a character typical of the West. Leaving Virginia City when sixteen years
old, he went to Bodie and entered the law offices of Hon. Patrick Reddy. A few
years later he accompanied Mr. Reddy to San Francisco and attended the Hastings
Law School, University of California, and was graduated in the class of '86. He continued
the study of the law under Mr. Reddy, one of the most distinguished barristers
of California, whose reputation as a mining lawyer was preeminent, and in 1900
Mr. Metson became a member of the firm of Reddy, Campbell & Metson. This
was a leading law firm of San Francisco, enjoying an extensive and a lucrative practice.
Although time has changed the personnel of the firm, which is now composed of J. C.
Campbell, Wm. H. Metson, C. H. Oatman and F. C. Drew, it has not dimmed its
The news that came from Nome in the fall of 1899 revived in Mr. Metson the
memory of early days in Virginia City and Bodie, and he resolved to visit the northern
mining camp. Going to Nome the following spring he became interested in the litigation
mentioned above, and perceiving the prospects and possibilities of the country he associated
himself with industrial enterprises, and is taking an active part in developing these gold
Mr. Metson is widely known in California, both as a lawyer and a useful citizen. He has endeavored to keep out of practical politics, although he has accepted office where
there is no pecuniary reward while persistently declining salaried positions. He has been
Commissioner of Yosemite Park since 1898, having been appointed by Governor Budd,
a Democrat, and reappointed by Governor Gage, a Republican. He is one of the
Commissioners of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, receiving his appointment from
Mayor Schmitz in January, 1905. He also held this position under Governor Budd, but
the new charter of San Francisco legislated him out of office. Mr. Metson has extensive business interests in California, Nevada, Washington and Alaska. He is a
director in a number of corporations, among them the Scandinavian-American Bank
of Seattle. He has earned and gained a reputation as a financier, and by inherent
strength of character has drawn around him staunch and loyal friends who know his
moral worth and repose confidence in his judgment.
He is a member of the Pacific Union, Bohemian, San Francisco, and Merchants
Clubs of San Francisco, and is prominent in the Order of Native Sons of the Golden
West. Socially he is an urbane gentleman and a genial comrade. In all matters
he shows a keen perception of ethics, and follows a rule of conduct which may be
briefly expressed in the following words: Work, fight, if necessary, and have no fear, be
honest and be true to your friends.
The law firm of which Mr. Metson is a member has branch offices in Nome, Tonopah,
Goldfields and Bullfrog. Mr. Metson directs these offices, most of the business of which
relates to mines and mining.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison.
Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.