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E. Henry Wemme

E. Henry Wemme (c. 1850 – 1914?) was a wealthy businessman in Portland, in the U.S. state of Oregon. He was an active business investor during the pioneering era of automobiles and aviation.

Born in Germany, he immigrated to the United States at about 14 years of age, not intending to stay. He later said he "went broke and couldn't get away."

According to an account published in 1932 by August Wemme, his brother, Henry Wemme began his career in Portland in 1883, "with a spool of thread and a needle or two as capital."

One of his ventures was as a supplier of tents and other supplies to those joining the Klondike Gold Rush.

Wemme owned the first automobile in Oregon, a Stanley Steamer bought in 1899 from what became the Locomobile Company of America. He also introduced other automobiles to the Portland area, including a Haynes-Apperson, an Oldsmobile, a Reo, and a Pierce-Arrow. He was president of the Portland Automobile Association.

He at least briefly turned his attention to aviation, becoming the Pacific Northwest agent for the biplanes by Curtiss. One of his automobile salesmen, Eugene Ely volunteered to fly Wemme's first Curtiss biplane to Oregon. Ely crashed without serious injury, and soon went to work for Curtiss.

He developed the Overlook neighborhood in North Portland.

In 1912, Wemme bought the Barlow Road for $5400. He built bridges and made other improvements, and eventually bequeathed it to the state of Oregon. Wemme, Oregon is an unincorporated area along the Mount Hood Corridor and is named after him.

Wemme's brother cites his year and place of death as Los Angeles, California in 1914, though other sources cite 1917 or 1919 as the year. The book bemoans a probate dispute over "an estate appraised at more than a million dollars…"; the book was written to

get before the American people…the facts as how E. Henry Wemme's will was set aside, rendered null and void, and how both heirs of his body and the E. Henry Wemme Endowment Fund now administered by the Oregon Community Foundation was pillaged and plundered and dissipated, and to show how and why I have been cast into prison, where I still languish at the age of sixty three…

Wemme's will was drawn by Portland lawyer and friend, George W. Joseph, bequeathed half to the Christian Science Church and half to German heirs. The dispute evolved into a major political fracas, going as far as the Oregon Supreme Court; in the process, Joseph was disbarred, and also launched a strong run for Governor of Oregon, though he died shortly after earning the Republican Party's nomination.

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