John T. McChesney
Once James J. Hill had formed the Everett Improvement Company, he needed someone in whom he had the utmost confidence to run it. The man he chose was John T. McChesney. In his early 40s at the time, McChesney had been a bank president, mayor of Aberdeen, South Dakota, and head of the syndicate that organized Chattanooga, Tennessee, before he came to Everett in late 1899. Like his boss, McChesney never owned or operated an Everett wood products plant, but he was enormously influential in the development of the city’s industrial base. With Hill, he recruited leading lumbermen to Everett. Though the Everett Improvement Company, he offered them sites on Everett Improvement Company property at little or no cost. The North Waterfront, like other sections of Everett Waterfront, was soon filled with lumber and shingle mills and Everett flauted its reputation as the “City of Smokestacks.”
McChesney’s organizational genius was not limited to the lumber industry. Among his many activities he founded the American National Bank, served as its president, and constructed a splendid brick structure on the southeast corner of Hewitt and Colby avenues to house the bank. He also built the Everett Theater next to the bank, and the Improvement Dock on the bayfront. Additionally, he was active in organizations such as the Cascade Club, Rotary Club, Everett Elks, the golf and country clubs of both Everett and Seattle, and Seattles Rainier Club.
When McChesney died in September 1922 he left a wife, three grown children, and 10 grandchildren. On the day of McChesney’s funeral, Everett’s mayor W.H. Clay asked that all flags be flown at half-mast and all businesses close their doors for the first five minutes of the service. Clay requested this as a tribute to a man he described as “our distinguished citizen who has been foremost in the upbuilding of our city from its very early history and the real leader for many years in its industrial growth.”