Green, Joshua (1869-1975)

  • By James R. Warren
  • Posted 9/27/1999
  • Essay 1689

Joshua Green was a sternwheeler captain, an innovative leader in the Puget Sound shipping and ferries industries, and a leading banker who was active in business almost to end of his life in 1975 at the age of 105.

Green's family moved to Seattle in 1886, when Joshua was 17 years old, from Mississippi, where his family was punished during the Reconstruction period for manufacturing Confederate uniforms. His father was a visionary who chose Seattle as a home because he foresaw the importance of the rivers in Washington territory for future hydroelectric power.

The family soon met future Seattle mayor Bailey Gatzert (1829-1893), who landed Joshua a job as a chainman on the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern railroad surveying crew. Gatzert later helped him obtain a position as purser on the sternwheeler Henry Bailey, a survivor of Seattle's early mosquito fleet. On the sternwheeler, Green helped transport cargo and passengers to the Skagit river region.

Mining the Gold Rush

Eager to own a business, Green persuaded three fellow officers of the Henry Bailey to become partners in a 100-foot sternwheel steamer called the Fanny Lake. Jacob Furth, founder of the bank that eventually merged with Dexter Horton Co. to become Seattle First National, loaned them $5,000 without collateral, on the strength of Green's friendship with Furth's associate, Gatzert. The partners expanded their fleet and absorbed a competitor, eventually naming their new firm the La Conner Trading and Transportation Co., with Joshua Green as president. He soon became a master and captain himself on several company sternwheelers.

The company survived both the severe Depression of the mid-1890s and fires on its original ships. It later profited on routes to Southeastern Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s, transporting both prospective miners and their gear along with cargo. The profits from those trips provided the nucleus of Green’s future wealth, but in his frugal fashion, he plowed most of it back into the company.

In 1903 his firm merged with Charles E. Peabody's Alaska Steamship/Puget Sound Navigation Company. The resulting business became a leader in Puget Sound shipping over the next three decades. As president of the company, Green realized the future importance of the cross-Sound route to Bremerton and led the industry into refitting old mosquito fleet ships to carry automobiles. By the time he resigned from the company in 1927 to pursue his banking interests, Puget Sound Navigation was ready to dominate the Sound's ferry system under the Black Ball flag until 1951, when the ferries were sold to the state of Washington.


Green developed a new interest that would prove fortuitous: banking. In 1925, Green purchased Peoples Savings Bank, which had fallen on hard times, for $200,000. He changed the name to Peoples Bank and Trust Co. two years later. Because branch banking was not allowed at the time, the firm added First Avenue Bank as a wholly owned but independent subsidiary in 1929, followed in subsequent years by the acquisition of banks in Renton and North Seattle. The bank prospered. By 1949, when Green's son, Joshua Jr., was named president of the bank, it had deposits of $128 million and was serving 103,000 customers. By 1969, the year Joshua Green turned 100, deposits surged to $400 million.

Joshua Green died at age 105 in 1975. In 1988, U.S. Bancorp of Portland acquired Peoples Bank and renamed it U.S. Bank of Washington.


"A Century of Business," Puget Sound Business Journal, September 17, 1999; Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound Hall of Fame Series; Gordon Newell, The Green Years (Seattle: Superior Publishing Company, 1969); M. S. Kline and G. A. Bayless, Ferryboats: A Legend on Puget Sound (Seattle: Bayless Books,1983).
Note: This essay was reprinted from Puget Sound Business Journal, 1999, and revised by Noel V. Bourasaw, Editor, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore on March 14, 2003.

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