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Charles Freeman is numbered among the successful business men of Racine, being active in the ownership and conduct of a mammoth manufacturing plant, his interests being conducted under the name of the S. Freeman & Sons Manufacturing Company, of which he is the president. This has become one of the important productive industries of the city and throughout his entire business career Mr. Freeman has been associated with the undertaking, starting out in this line when a youth of fourteen. He was born in Washington County. Illinois, March 17, 1858, and is a son of Stephen and Elizabeth (Willich) Freeman, the former a native of Wales and the latter of Pennsylvania. The father came to the United States in 1856 and settled at Centralia, Illinois, where he worked in the boiler shop of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, occupying the position of foreman. The following year he removed to Cairo, Illinois, and was engaged in the boiler business there with John O’Brien. With the outbreak of the Civil war he put aside all business and personal considerations and in 1861 became connected with Admiral Porter’s fleet, having charge of the boilers of the fleet, in which capacity he served for two years. Becoming ill, he was ordered north and in the fall of 1864 made his way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where his ability soon won for him the position of foreman of the boiler shops of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company. Subsequently he removed to Watertown, Wisconsin, and in the winter of 1867 came to Racine, where he established business on his own account. He had learned his trade in Laird’s shipbuilding yards at Liverpool and before coming to the new world he had rendered military aid to his country by a year and a half’s service in the Crimean war. With his arrival in the new world he entered upon a business career in which he made steady progress, interrupted only by his military service as a defender of the Union cause in the Civil war. He continued active in business in Racine until his death and won a prominent place in the regard of his fellow citizens, both as a business man and as a public officer. He served for two years as alderman of his city from the fifth ward and was also supervisor. His political allegiance was ever given to the Democratic Party, while fraternally he was connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Both he and his wife were devout members of the Episcopal Church, continuing communicants of that faith until called to their final rest, the former passing away September 10, 1889, while the latter died in 1894.
Charles Freeman was one of nine children, five sons and four daughters, and was a lad of about nine years at the time of the removal of the family to Racine, so that his education was largely acquired in the schools of this city. When fourteen years of age he entered his father’s boiler shop and thoroughly mastered the business, acquainting himself with every phase of the trade in principle and detail. He also learned the business management and upon the death of his father became president of the company and has since continued at the head of the enterprise, which figures as one of the foremost industrial interests of the city. A liberal patronage is accorded the company and the work done has ever been in harmony with the highest standards.
On the 30th of August, 1883, Mr. Freeman was united in marriage to Miss Jessie Williams, of Racine, a daughter of Hugh O. Williams, one of the old settlers of this city. To them have been born four children: Gertrude, the wife of Myron G. Hayward, of Omaha, Nebraska; Harold C., who is superintendent of the boiler works; and Kathleen and Elaine, at home.
Fraternally Mr. Freeman is connected with the Odd Fellows lodge, in which he has filled all of the chairs, has attained the Knights Templar degree in Masonry and is a past exalted ruler of the Elks lodge. His religious faith is that of the Episcopal Church, in. which he was reared. In politics he has always been a democrat and was a delegate to the national convention of the party in 1904. For eighteen years he has served as school commissioner of Racine, the cause of education finding in him a stalwart champion. For the past two years he has been alderman of the second ward, exercising his official prerogatives in support of well defined plans and measures which are matters of civic virtue and civic pride.