by Gary Arnold
Sampson Hirem Freundlich was born in New York City December 16, 1840. As a young man, he made his way to the west coast in 1863 and eventually to Eugene in 1865. Although full of energy, he was empty of financial resource. Penniless, he found work at Goldsmith and Blanding's General Store where he worked for four years. Turning some of that energy into hard work he opened his own store around 1869.
This is a story repeated thousand of times in America. Going west to find a better life. Why should anyone in the Friendly Area Neighbors find this story of more than passing interest? Somewhere in his youth, Sampson Freundlich shortened his first name to Sam and "Americanized" his last name from German to English. He became Sam Friendly. Eventually his adopted city of Eugene would name a street and neighborhood after him—our very own Friendly neighborhood.
His dry goods store at 884 Willamette (west side of the street, just south of where the mid-block crosswalk is located) gradually transformed into an upscale mercantile which imported fabrics and patterns of the latest big-city fashions (you sewed your own clothes back then).
Sam didn't live in the Friendly neighborhood. Back then, what would become FAN was well outside the city. His home at 10th and Willamette was close to the store and close enough to some of his favorite recreations. Sam and his neighbor, George Dorris (both future mayors of Eugene) were known for being extremely hospitable to visitors and University students. The house was gone by the early 20th century. The Schaefer Building now stands at that location (southeast corner of 10th and Willamette).
Sam married a Salem girl, Mathilda Adler, on Nov 16, 1873. They had three daughters, Carrie, Theresa, and Rosalie.
Sam started to make a name for himself by becoming an active booster for bringing the railroad to Eugene (which happened in 1871). He also was elected president of the Eugene Board of Trade in 1888. He was described as a small, quick-stepping man who always had time for the University and its students. He is rumored to have never missed a U of O football game (first game 1894). His interest in the U of O led him to sit on the board of Regents for the University 22 years (1895-1915).
A statewide ballot measure in 1907 considered whether the state should continue funding the university. A "no" vote would have brought the school to ruin. Sam worked tirelessly in support of continued funding, and when the measure passed in the June election, a huge victory rally was held at the old Kincaid Field (located on Memorial Quad between Chapman and Condon Halls). The students demanded a speech from Sam, bodily lifting him from the muddy field and placing him onstage. Although he had no speech prepared, he met with resounding applause from the assembled crowd.
Sam served two terms on the city council and was elected mayor of Eugene from 1893-1895. During this time, in appreciation of his work with the university board of regents, the new university dormitory built in 1893 was named Friendly Hall.
Sam lived out his days in Eugene. He died on August 13, 1915 at the age of 75. His obituary in the paper ran a full page. He is buried in the mausoleum building at the Eugene Masonic Cemetery, not too far from Friendly Hall, Friendly Street, and the Friendly neighborhood.