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Frederick, Donald Edward (1860-1937), a Biography by his Great Grandson

  • By Gordon Padelford
  • Posted 5/29/2002
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 3792

This biography of Donald Edward Frederick, co-founder of the Frederick & Nelson Department Store, is by Frederick's great grandson, Gordon Padelford. Gordon Padelford is age 13 at this writing (May 2002).

Donald Edward Frederick

Donald Edward Frederick, my great-grandfather, was born in Marshallville, Georgia, on February 3, 1860. He was the son of Donald Barton and Amanda (Shuler) Frederick. No one could even imagine then that he would be the owner of a business in Seattle of all places. According to the media he worked for the welfare of the city and, "a man whose quiet charities contrasted with the monumental expression of his business sagacity in the department store he helped found." But more about that later.

In his early life D.E. went to a local Marshallville school and worked on his father's cotton plantation for a number of years until he decided to seek his fortune out West. Following three years of mining and farming in Texas and Colorado, he moved to Seattle, Washington, arriving in 1890.

D.E. arrived here with little money but a strong determination and courage. He soon started his own retail store. His friend from Colorado, Nels B. Nelson, met him a year later and bought into the business. Their store slowly rose in size and prestige. As the success grew, D.E. became one of the country's best merchants. He ran the store until he sold it to Marshall Field and Co. of Chicago, in June 1929. Then he retired with great admiration from the business world as well as from the population in Seattle.

D.E. was married in Portland, Oregon on December 23, 1915 to Fay, daughter of Benjamin Franklin Swick, a farmer of Dayton, Oregon. They had a daughter, Fay Frederick, my grandmother.

During his business career, D.E. was a trustee of the Metropolitan Building Co, the First-Seattle National Bank, and for 30 years, of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the board of the Seattle Art Museum and a member of the Masonic order (32nd degree) and the Rainier, Seattle Golf and Country and Swinomish Gun clubs. Fond of hunting, he was personally responsible for establishing and maintaining the duck sanctuary on Lake Washington, which became nationally known. He also was a Methodist and a Democrat.

Donald Edward Frederick died in Seattle on July 6, 1937 of pneumonia. He was an unselfish person, very smart in business, devoted to Seattle and his friends. "I knew D. E. Frederick since he came to Seattle" said Joshua Green. "I never met a kindlier, gentler, or more forceful man in a quite way then he." D. E., as most people called him, had many, many friends and associates who loved him dearly and were deeply saddened when he died.



He was my great grandfather. Interviews with: Dorothy Bailey (family friend), Carol Padelford (aunt), Diana Padelford (aunt), Sue Livingstone (my mother); The National Cyclopedia of American Biography: Being the History of The United States Vol. 34 (James T. White and Co.); Robert Septor, More Than a Store: Frederick and Nelson 1890 to 1900 (Bellevue, WA: Documentary Book Publishers, 1990).

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