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Biography of Isaac Negus

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Illinois,New York | No Comments

Isaac Negus, deceased, who, during his lifetime, was one of the leading business men in Rock Island, was a man whose be-lief in the future of the city he had chosen for his home took the substantial form of building enterprise.

He was born December 31, 1799, at Labions, Ondaga County, New York, where he received a common school education. After leaving school he found employment in the construction department of the Erie Canal in New York State, where he remained for three years. The experience and practical knowledge gained during those three years was a great service to him later, when he, with his partner, Mr. James Sanger, took a $150,000 contract for a part of the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the scene of their operations being Chicago.

Mr. Negus removed from New York State in 1829, locating in Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois, where for three years he was engaged in the mercantile business. From thence he moved to Chicago and later went to Galena, Illinois, where he was again en-gaged in mercantile lines until he came to Rock Island on October 8, 1844. Here he again took up mercantile life and made an enviable record in his business career.

He was also a member of the banking firm of Osborn, Negus & Company known as the Rock Island Bank, the firm at that time operating the principal bank in the city. He was also one of the owners of the first street car system between the cities of Rock Island and Moline. In those early days electricity had not supplanted the horse as a means of motive power, and indeed, a hack line which Mr. Negus started and operated between the Twin-Cities was a nucleus from which the first horse car system grew. Mr. Negus was also one of the stock holders in the Rock Island Watch Company, and held a large interest in the Rock Island Stove Company.

In 1876 Mr. Negus built the Rock Island Hotel which is still one of the city’s leading hotels, and this building stands as a monument to the man who believed in the future of his city and who took pride in her welfare. He stood always ready to co-operate in every possible way with any movement that looked toward the best interests of Rock Island. He invested largely in city property and at the time of his death he had very extensive holdings. He was a man of a benevolent and charitable nature and was’ always ready to extend a helping hand to a needy fellow being. Mr. Negus was a self-made man. A strong and vigorous character, he determined to achieve success and through his own unaided exertions he attained his goal.

On November 28, 1839, he married Miss Jusiva Waldo, a native of Mansfield, Connecticut, the scene of their marriage being Section 3, Number 4, Summit Division of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Four children were born of this union, they being Charles W., who died September 29, 1900; Anna S., wife of the late W. S. Knowlton, (Mrs. Knowlton’s death occurred March 25, 1901); Henry, who died in infancy, and William O., of Rock Island.

Although Mr. Negus had no church affiliation, yet he was a liberal supporter of the Presbyterian Church, of which his wife, whose death occurred September 1, 1873, in Rock Island, was a devout and consistent member.

In politics Mr. Negus was a Democrat, and although personally he never cared to hold office, he took a great interest in political affairs. Yielding to the solicitations of his party in Rock Island he was once prevailed upon to become a candidate for mayor of his city, which was at that time overwhelmingly Republican. He was defeated by a small majority, his personality and well known interest in municipal affairs drawing to him many votes from the opposition. At one time he was president of the Old Settlers’ Association of Rock Island County.

On November 27, 1883, Mr. Negus passed away at his home in Rock Island, his death bringing to a close a long and successful life. In his old age he retired from active participation in business affairs, but he never ceased to take the same keen and zealous interest in his home city, and in the success of the enterprises which he had helped in so large a measure to create. He was a man of whom it can be said that his convictions took form in acts, and who, in his prosperity, helped those less fortunate than himself.


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