The prosperous, genial, pleasant and popular business man, named above, is a member of the law firm of Stearns & Thomas, of Nez Perce, which does not only a good law business but also handles a great deal of insurance and does a loaning business.

Clay M. Stearns was born in Pennsylvania, on July 29, 1858, being the son of Josiah H. and Sarah (Russell) Stearns. The father was born in Maine, in 1832, and now lives in Lovell, Maine, and is a farmer. His first ancestor that came to this country came with the Puritans and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1680, and the family has been a prominent New England house since that time. Our subject’s father was a captain in the Twenty-third Maine, Company H. and served in the battles of the Army of the Potomac for fifteen months. The paternal grandfather was a lieutenant in a Massachusetts regiment in the war of 1812 and later was commissioned general; the great grandfather was prominent in the Revolution. The mother of our subject was a native of Maine and a great granddaughter of Benjamin Russell, the founder of the Columbia Sentinel, a noted Whig organ of influence. Louis Phillip, the exile from France, was a guest of Mr. Russell for a long time and at the time of the restoration, he was offered a patent of nobility but refused it.

Our subject was educated in the Fryburg and Bridgeton Academies and the Bowdoin College. Daniel Webster taught at the Fryburg institution in 1800. Following his college course, Mr. Stearns taught school, was County superintendent in Oxford County, and a member of the state legislature in 1884, being the youngest member in the house, aged twenty-six. In 1885 he came to Walla Walla and from May of that year until January of 1887, he was in the law office of Allen, Thompson & Crowley, then he practiced in Farmington, Washington, and three years later he returned to Walla Walla. After some time there he went to Pullman and practiced until 1897, when he stationed his family in Spokane and followed mining in various places in the northwest.

It was 1901 that Mr. Stearns came to Nez Perce and established himself in his present business, taking as partner Charles D. Thomas. Mr. Stearns has considerable city property and is doing a good business. He has the following brothers and sisters: Henry, a physician in Dunbarton, New Hampshire; Leslie L., at Great Barrington, Massachusetts, handling a boot and shoe business; Adelbert, on the old homestead in Maine with parents; Sargeant S., in the government service in Washington, D. C.: Mariam, wife of Willis Walker, in Lovell, Maine, a heavy property owner there. Mr. Stearns is a member of the A. F. & A. M., Walla Walla Lodge, No. 7: of the I. O. O. F., Pullman Lodge, No. 29; K. of P., Washington Lodge, No. 32, at Lovell, Maine; M. W. A., Nez Perce Camp, No. 7498: Yeoman of America, at Nez Perce, being foreman of this last order; and is also a Knight of the Palm and Shell.

On September 17, 1887, Mr. Stearns married Miss Etta E., daughter of Leonard and Hannah (Preston) Ladd, and a native of Minnesota, born on July 7, 1862, at Elgin. The father died when this daughter was young and her mother lives at Walla Walla. Mrs. Stearns has two brothers and three sisters: George, a farmer in Umatilla County, Oregon; Edward, in The Dalles machine shops; Florence, single, living in Walla Walla; Jennie, widow of Millard Roff, in Walla Walla; Nellie, widow of John Delaney at Spokane. Her husband was killed in the Philippine War. Mr. and Mrs. Stearns have one child, Gladys, born March 20, 1889.

Back to: Nez Perce Biographies

Source: An Illustrated History of Northern Idaho, Embracing Nez Perce, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, Western Historical Publishing Company, 1903