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The City of Moline owes its prominence throughout the United States, and in fact, throughout the entire civilized world, chiefly to its manufactories. And to Stephen Henry Velie, deceased, who, during his life, was conspicuously identified with several of that city’s leading manufacturing establishments, Moline is greatly indebted for the preeminence she now maintains in industrial enterprise.
Mr. Velie was born April 21, 1830, near Hyde Park, Dutchess County, New York, his boyhood, until he arrived at the age of fifteen years, being spent upon his father’s farm in that county. During this period he attended the public schools of that locality. In 1845 he went to New York City, where he made his home with his grandfather, Stephen Herrick, who was engaged in the commission business. While with his grandfather, Mr. Velie obtained valuable business training and experience which was of great advantage to him in later life. After remaining for some time in the home of his grandfather, Mr. Velie went to Poughkeepsie in the same state, and in 1847 came west, locating in St. Louis, Missouri. Here he was employed in the wholesale grocery house of Edward J. Gay & Company. Mr. Gay, the head of the firm, made his home in Louisiana, and was afterwards elected to congress from his district in that state. At this time Mr. Velie lived with him at his Louisiana home and man-aged his large plantation for a period of two years during his employer’s term in congress. He again returned to St. Louis where he remained until 1854 when he came to Rock Island. For five years after removing to this city he had charge of the C. C. Webber & Company’s foundry, at the expiration of which time he went to Princeton, Illinois, where he was for two years engaged in the mercantile business.
In 1863 Mr. Velie returned to this locality and entered into partnership with John Deere, the pioneer plow manufacturer of the west. In 1868, when the concern was incorporated, Mr. Velie was elected to the offices of secretary and treasurer and held that position until the time of his death, which occurred February 14, 1895. In addition to the responsibilities and duties devolving upon him in consequence of his connection with Deere & Company, Mr. Velie was largely interested in numerous other financial and manufacturing enterprises. These interests and holdings he acquired from time to time during his life in consequence of his business judgment and acumen in commercial affairs. Every enterprise with which he identified himself prospered, and as the substantial fruits of these increased, Mr. Velie was constantly seeking new fields of investment for his large returns, so that at the time of his death, Mr. Velie, in addition to possessing large lumber holdings in the south, was interested in the stone quarries at Le Claire, Iowa, as president of the Moline Central Railway Company, the Moline Water Power Company and the Peoples Power Company.
On May 10, 1860, Mr. Velie married Miss Emma C. Deere, daughter of John Deere, the founder of Moline’s great plow works, and of this marriage five children were born, they being Charles Deere Velie, one of the present managers of – Deere & Company’s branch house at Minneapolis, Minnesota; Stephen Henry, Jr., manager of that firm’s branch house at Kansas City, Missouri, and also of the Velie Harness Company of the same city; Willard Lamb, president of the Velie Carriage Company, of Moline; John Deere Velie, who died August 14, 1870, and Grace Deere Velie, the wife of Stuart Harper of Rock Island.
In politics Mr. Velie was originally a Whig, but later joined the ranks of the newly formed Republican party which had taken a firm and decided stand against the iniquity of the ownership of human beings. To this latter party he gave his allegiance and support throughout his remaining years, always rejoicing in its successes and lamenting its defeats. He was constantly contributing both his personal influence and his means to his party’s cause, but never sought political honor for himself, the only public office he ever held being that of a director of the Moline Public Library, to which he was chosen when that institution was first organized.
Mr. Velie was a man of religious conviction and was a consistent member of the Congregational Church at Moline, and in maintaining and furthering church work, he was always a liberal contributor.
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He was a Mason, belonging to the Order of Knights Templar and was also an Odd Fellow, and in his fraternal, as well as in his domestic business, political and other relations in life, he set and maintained a high standard for himself.
Mr. Velie was a large employer of labor, with whom he dealt fairly, equitably and liberally, and with whom his relations and dealings were at all times fraternal and never tyrannical.
He was a splendid type of citizen. He possessed a broad and comprehensive under-standing of the trend of public events. Al-though actively engaged in business, with great interests demanding his most careful attention, he never became so engrossed in matters pertaining to finance or commerce that he was difficult of approach. He was a man of suave and genial temperament, ready to help those less fortunate than him-self, and to help them in the way best suited to their peculiar need. In his hours of relaxation, he was a most delightful companion having the rare power of discovering and adapting himself to the environment he might be placed in, and so he was held in warm regard by all who knew him as a man of great congeniality. He was devotedly attached to his home and family, and in return he reaped the reward of their enduring devotion. The best biography of Stephen Henry Velie is written in the memory of those who knew him, and, knowing him, found him to be possessed of those qualities that are found only in a high standard of manhood.