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Biography of Edmund P. Melson
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The magnificent structure owned by the Missouri State Life Insurance Company is the tangible evidence of the business ability and organizing powers of Edmund P. Melson, who established the corporation that finds its concrete embodiment in a building which is an adornment to St. Louis. He was for many years identified with insurance interests, his work finding its culmination in the organization and direction of what is today one of the strong and reliable insurance companies of the United States. Mr. Melson is one of Missouri’s native sons, his birth having occurred in Rails county, October 29, 1866, and be was one of a family of nine children. He is descended from Scotch ancestry, the family having been founded in the new world by Thomas Melson, who came across the Atlantic from the land of hills and heather in 1776 the year which marked the opening of the Revolutionary war. He joined the colonial forces, imbued with the love of freedom, and served in the army of Washington with great distinction, rising to the rank of captain. Samuel J. Melson, father of Edmund P. Melson, was born in Bedford county, Virginia, and in 1857 removed to Missouri but at present writing lives in Jacksonville, Florida. While in Missouri he took an active part in public affairs, served as sheriff and collector of Rails county for four years and was chosen as the representative of his district in the thirty-fifth general assembly. He married Sarah D. Pendleton, daughter of Pressley B. Pendleton, of Rails county, Missouri, who was born near Lexington, Kentucky. The Pendletons came from England in the early part of the eighteenth century, the family home being established in Virginia. Edmund Pendleton, uncle of Edmund P. Melson in the maternal line, went to California at the time of the gold rush in 1849 and soon afterward settled in Oregon, where he became prominent politically, serving for some years as a member of the senate of that state. About 1851 he became the founder of the now prosperous city of Pendleton, to which he gave his name.
Edmund P. Melson was educated in the public schools of New London, Missouri, after which he pursued a comprehensive business course in the Gem City Business College at Quincy, Illinois. He then obtained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and was graduated therefrom after a four years’ course in 1888.
In 1889 Mr. Melson took up life insurance work in connection with the Union Central Life Insurance Company, with which he remained until 1892. Recognizing the possibilities in that field of endeavor, he then became the organizer of the Missouri State Life Insurance Company, which has since grown to such wonderful proportions. He became the president of the company in 1897 and continued in that position until his retirement in 1918 to devote his entire time to his private interests. The Missouri State Life is today the largest insurance company whose headquarters are located west of the Mississippi river and must ever remain as a monument to the energy and perseverance of its organizer, Edmund P. Alelson. Space does not permit a detailed account of the almost insurmountable difficulties met and overcome during the first years of its existence, but there are many business and professional men of the present who recall the familiar figure of Mr. Melson on the streets and in the office buildings, soliciting business throughout the day. In keeping the books and records of the company he often worked far into the night. Since resigning from the presidency of the Missouri State Life Insurance Company he has devoted his time and attention to his private interests, which are many and varied. He has sold vast tracts of land in the south and southwest, and in fact has the reputation of being one of the most extensive land dealers in the country. Endowed by nature with a splendid physique and keen mentality, he is the embodiment of dynamic energy, forceful and resourceful.
On the 22d day of May, 1889, Mr. Melson was married to Miss Virgie I. McClintie, of Monroe City, Missouri, who is now deceased. Three children were born of this marriage: Edna, who is now the wife of Harry M. Webster, of St. Louis; Irene, deceased; and Lena, now the wife of J. DeWitt Mills of St. Louis. On the 17th of July, 1920, Air. Melson married Mary E. Stonesifer of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Melson gives his political support to the democratic party and his religious faith is indicated in his membership in the Baptist church. He belongs to the Missouri Athletic Association, to the Normandie Golf Club and to the Chamber of Commerce. He is very fond of hunting and golf, to which he turns for recreation and diversion when leisure permits. He maintains an office in the Railway Exchange building, there giving supervision to his invested interests. Starting out in life without special advantages, his record should serve as a source of inspiration and encouragement to others, showing what may be accomplished through individual effort intelligently directed. Charitable and kindly and recognized as one of the leading philanthropists of St. Louis, his benefactions are nevertheless of a most unostentatious character and in accord with the Scriptural admonition not to let the left hand know what the right hand doeth.
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