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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 in courage.

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 reputation.

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 fields.

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.




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