Location: Rock Island Illinois

Biography of Charles McHugh

Among those prominent in business, social and club life in the City of Rock Island, is Charles McHugh, a man who through persistent industry and commercial acumen has wrought for himself a successful career. His parents were Thomas Edwin and Ellen (House) McHugh. His mother was born in Syracuse, New York; his father was a native of Inniskillin, Ireland, but removed to this country, where the subject of this sketch was born September 3, 1863, at Syracuse, New York. Four years later his parents came west and located at Tiskilwa, in this State, where his mother is still living. Here their son received a common school education. Mr. McHugh remained in Tiskilwa until 1881, when he came to Rock Island. Seeking employment, he obtained a position as bell-boy at the Harper House, the hotel of which he is today manager and associate proprietor, but which was then owned and managed by the late Benjamin Harper. As a bell-boy Mr. McHugh received the princely salary of ten dollars a month, but with a firm determination to deserve and to attain a higher position he paid diligent attention to his duties. This determination upon his part was rewarded by a promotion to a position as clerk in the hotel, which position he held until 1894 when he, together with J. E. Montrose, purchased the management of the hotel from the Harper...

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Biography of Nicholai Juhl

One of Rock Island’s best known and most busily employed building contractors is Nicholai Juhl, the subject of this sketch. In the large and continuous building growth which Rock Island has undergone during the past few years, he has taken a conspicuous part, some of the largest and handsomest edifices that have been erected being his creation. He was born March 3, 1853, in the province of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, his parents being Peter and Martha (Peterson) Juhl. Neither of Mr. Juhl’s parents ever came to the United States, and both are now deceased. Mr. Juhl’s early education was obtained in the common schools of his native land, and later in evening schools in this country, to which he emigrated in 1873, being then twenty years of age. Upon landing in New York he looked about for an opportunity to establish himself in some useful employment, but soon came to the conclusion that a young man’s chances were much better further west, and consequently he came to Rock Island, which city has since been his home. Here he learned the carpentering and brick laying trades, and found plenty of employment, especially in the former trade. For sixteen years after coming to Rock Island he worked for one man, believing in and acting upon the old proverb that a rolling stone gathers no moss. In 1890 Mr. Juhl began business on...

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Biographical Sketch of Presley Greenwault

Presley Greenawalt, cashier of the Rock Island Savings Bank, was born May 31, 1858, at Wyoming, Stark County, Illinois, the son of Henry Andrew and Maria Calwell Greenawalt. In the public schools of Wyoming he obtained his education, leaving his studies at the age of fourteen to enter the printing office of the Wyoming Post. In 1882 he removed to Rock Island and secured a position as bill clerk with the Rock Island & Peoria Railroad. After a few months he was made cashier in the local freight office, from which position he was successively promoted to agent at Toulon, agent at Rock Island, and finally to cashier and paymaster for the road. In 1892 he resigned to enter the shoe business in Rock Island. At the end of a year he disposed of his store and took charge of the books of the Rock Island Savings Bank. He was made cashier in 1895, and still holds that position. Mr. Greenawalt has given much attention to fraternal work. He is a member of Trio Lodge, No. 57, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and served as master during the year 1899. He is connected with the Odd Fellows and filled the office of noble grand one term. In the National Union he held the office of secretary for a number of years and is now treasurer. He is also connected...

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Biography of Martin Schoonmaker

Much has been written in this historical work of the banks and bankers of Rock Island and Moline. However, in estimating the financial strength of Rock Island County the banks and bankers of its smaller municipalities are deserving of very prominent mention, for they are the tributaries of larger financial institutions and have an important part in swelling the stream of the county’s prosperity. To the village bank comes the farmer from the surrounding countryside and deposits the golden fruits of his toil. From the proprietor of that bank its customers may ask and receive sound financial advice. He is their friend and adviser as well as their banker. The farm loan, that solid rock of financial investment, is placed with him, or is negotiated through some larger banking institution through his agency. Upon the stability and security of these smaller banks, as well as upon the honor and integrity of those in control of them, rests the whole superstructure of the confidence and trust reposed in them. With these thoughts in mind we are now to consider the life and character of Martin Schoonmaker, the banker at the Village of Reynolds in this county, one of Rock Island County’s most influential citizens. He was born October 21, 1834, in Green County, New York, his parents being Christian and Sylvia Schoonmaker. Both Mr. Schoonmaker’s parents were natives of this...

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Biography of Robert Ward Olmsted

A good mental and physical equipment, unflagging energy, and temperate habits have been leading factors in the elevation of Robert Ward Olmsted, from a poor boy, dependent upon his own resources, to the honored position of judge of Rock Island County. Born on a farm in Edgington Township, Rock Island County, Illinois, May 6, 1868, he became almost, if not quite, self-supporting at the tender age of thirteen, and though employed early and late for the greater part of each succeeding year of his youth, he cultivated studious habits, and by close application to his books, both in and out of school, and by strict economy, he secured an education. Having done this, his advancement was rapid. Our subject is the son of Robert B. and Mary M. (Linn) Olmsted: The father was born April 13, 1832, at Havensport, Fairfield County, Ohio. He was left an orphan at an early age and grew to manhood in Defiance County, Ohio. He came to Knox County, Illinois, in 1856, and to Rock Island County in 1860. He was successively school teacher, farmer, merchant, postmaster of Milan, Illinois, insurance agent and for the last twelve years has been deputy sheriff and bailiff of the circuit and county courts. The foundation of the Olmsted family in America was laid by three brothers of English Puritan stock, who removed to this continent in the...

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Biography of Hon. William Payne

Farmers who have been elected to positions of trust and honor are not by any means few in America, but it is the exception that the tiller of the soil continues to be such long after he has won success in any sphere outside his regular calling. The allurements of city life in the great majority of cases quickly overcome the inborn love of nature unadorned and the farmer is known by another name. Honorable William Payne has been one of the few. After terms of service in county offices and through twelve years in which he held membership in the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate he remained a farmer. His broad acres in Zuma Township, Rock Island County, he still called home, and there he continued to reside and plant and cultivate and reap and raise live stock till he felt it time to retire from active business and from office. Then he exchanged his farm for city property and became a resident of Rock Island. Mr. Payne was born March 8, 1841, at what is now known as Pleasant Valley, Scott County, Iowa, his parents being Jeremiah and Letitia (Orr) Payne. They located in Scott County in 1837, the father being a native of New York State, and the mother a native of Ohio. The son received his education in the public schools near his home,...

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Biography of Rev. Thomas Mackin

Reverend Thomas Mackin was born in County Armagh, Ireland, January 4, 1841, the son of Daniel and Ann Mackin. His rudimentary education was received in the Government schools of his native land, and upon his completion of the course afforded there, he turned to teaching as a means of livelihood, and to pave the way for the attainment of wider educational advantages. In 1861 Thomas Mackin came to America, settling in Leland, Illinois. Here his brother James, was engaged in the dry goods, commission and land business. It was during war time and they did an extensive business. Thomas, however, despite that he was on the road to sure fortune in the business, was not content to devote his life to commercial pursuits. He craved knowledge, and his studious nature and literary inclinations developed a desire for the priesthood. With a view to fitting himself for holy orders, first he entered Notre Dame University, but remained there only a brief period, when he enrolled at Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia. Here he received his classical education-graduating at the head of his class in 1871. His diploma was conferred by General William Tecumseh Sherman. He was made Bachelor of Arts in 1871, by the university, and Master of Arts in 1888. From Georgetown he went to St. Mary’s, Baltimore, Maryland, to complete his theological studies, and was ordained in...

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Biography of Harry P. Simpson

Harry P. Simpson, editor of the Rock Island Argues, was born in Davenport, Iowa, on July 6, 1863, and moved to Rock Island in 1887. He attended the public schools in his native city, and while yet in high school he developed a decided taste for newspaper work, serving as reporter on a society paper called the Saturday Afternoon People. His work attracted attention and he was offered a position on the staff of the Davenport Gazette, which he accepted, representing that paper in a reportorial capacity in Rock Island and Moline. A little later he was made city editor of the Gazette and held that position for two years. He later served as city editor of the Davenport Herald. In 1887 he removed to Rock Island, having become city editor of the Argus. The Argus was then owned and edited by the late John W. Potter. After his death, in 1898, publication was continued by the J. W. Potter Company, consisting of Mrs. M. E. Potter, H. P. Simpson and the late James J. LaVelle, with Mr. Simpson as editor, a position he has filled to the present time with conspicuous ability and success. On August 12, 1884, Mr. Simpson was married to Miss Ella P. Skiles, daughter of H. M. G. and Eliza J. (McKissen) Skiles, a woman of beautiful character and many accomplishments, a devout member...

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Biography of Edwin B. Knox

One of the earliest born residents of Rock Island County is Edwin B. Knox, of Moline. Since October 15, 1842, when he first saw the light of day at Rock Island, Mr. Knox has continuously made his home in one of these two cities or their immediate vicinity. At the time of his birth, Rock Island, then known as Stephenson, was but a fair sized village and Moline but a settlement. His parents, Charles B. and Mary (Gorham) Knox, then lived in the middle of the present block east of Twentieth street, opposite Spencer Square, and the son first attended school in a small brick school house in the middle of Spencer Square. Later he pursued his studies in the basement of the old Methodist Church, located in the early fifties in the northwest corner of the same square. He finished the common branches at what was the first high school erected in the city  at Seventh Avenue and Twenty-first Street. The parents of our subject came to Stephenson in the Spring of 1842, their financial resources consisting at the time they landed from the steamboat that had brought them from St. Louis, of a single shilling. The father, though a cabinet maker of ability, sought work at anything that offered, putting much of the time for the first two or three seasons digging wells for the new settlers,...

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Biography of James A. Wendell

To the subject of this sketch more than to any other person, perhaps, is due the fact that the finest plant in the United States for the manufacture of table oil cloth is now located in Rock Island. During a long career as traveling salesman for an eastern manufacturer he was impressed with the advantages of the upper Mississippi valley as a site for a factory, and it was the soundness of his reasoning which impressed the officers of the Standard Oil Cloth Company and led to the location of the present factory on the Father of Waters at Rock Island. The new establishment, it may be added, prospered from the beginning, and bids fair to see substantial developments from time to time. James Augustus Wendell, sales agent for the Rock Island plant of the Standard Oil Cloth Company, and a stockholder of the Company, was born at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1848, the son of Joseph Wendell, a prominent merchant of Bethlehem. In the public schools of his native city, Bethlehem Academy and the Allentown (Pennsylvania) Seminary, he obtained a good general education, and at the age of seventeen entered the employ of a wholesale boot and shoe house at Philadelphia. Starting as errand boy he rose successively to bookkeeper, traveling salesman and junior partner, this last position being reached in 1871. The panic of 1873, however, swept...

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Biography of Benjamin Franklin Knox

The mission of the undertaker, rightly estimated, is not less one of helpfulness and comfort than of the mere burying of the dead for a price. Viewed in the higher aspect it is on a plane with that of the family physician, and but little less sacred than that of the minister of the gospel. The proper discharge of the duties calls for tact and genuine human sympathy. The conscientious funeral director who labors for a long term of years in a community comes, through association in most trying times, to know the people intimately and to be their friend, regardless of their social position. Such a man is B. F. Knox, who for thirty-five years has been actively engaged in the undertaking business in Rock Island. Few, indeed, in the county are better known than he, and few have more close personal friends. Taking up the work with his father when but twenty years of age he has steadily followed the vocation since, and in his long term of service has at one time or another been called into perhaps two-thirds of the homes of Rock Island and the surrounding country. His standing in his home city may be judged by the fact that he has repeatedly been given public office, serving two terms as Mayor. B. F. Knox was born in Rock Island December 3, 1852, and...

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Biography of Capt. John Burgess Davis

When the great West was young the Mississippi River, as the principal gateway to it and almost the sole means of conveying its products to the out-side world was the center of commercial life. Men who followed the river were participants in stirring events and their work was fraught with an importance in the eyes of the public that we of today can little realize. To be a steamboat captain in the fifties and sixties invested the individual with a dignity as great as that accorded to the average railroad magnate nowadays. Captain John Burgess Davis earned his title when the great stream was at its best, and there were few who won greater honors than he for his calling. Among his most notable achievements was the taking of the first boat up the Minnesota River to Big Stone Lake; thence into the Red River of the North, and the construction of the first wing dam on the Mississippi. The boat he took into the Red River was the “Freighter.” It was in 1859 that he navigated through Big Stone Lake into the Northern stream. The first wing dam was built some years later, in 1873, when he was in charge of a Government fleet, and it was located three miles below St. Paul, at Pig’s Eye Island. This method of improvement, which he was the first to use...

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Biography of Dr. Louis Ostrom

Dr. Louis Ostrom, A. B. M. D., was born in Helsingland, Sweden, May 1, 1874, and came to America when six years old. His father is a pipe-organ builder, known among hundreds of churches all over the country. Young Ostrom attended public schools, and as soon as he was able to work, was at one time or another employed during vacations in nearly all the shops of Moline. After becoming a student of Augustana College, he worked during the different vacations as section hand on the street car line, printer in a job office, and pressman to the Moline Daily Dispatch, etc. While a student, he also studied music under Dr. Gustav Stolpe; was director of the band, orchestra, and mandolin clubs, cornetist, and later elaeionetist with the Sixth Regiment Band, Illinois National Guard, of Moline, and Strasser’s Second Regiment Band of Davenport, Iowa. He also took active part in all college athletics, being a member of both baseball and football teams. He graduated from Augustana College in 1895, in the English classical course, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts. During the summer before graduation he was assistant organist to Dr. Stolpe in the Moline Lutheran Church, and after graduation was at Moor’s Prairie, Minnesota, as organist and music teacher. While there he received a call from Augustana College to become professor of wind and stringed instruments in...

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Biography of Mrs. Mary Fay Hawes

Mrs. Mary Fay Hawes, wife of Major Charles W. Hawes, and a member of the board of supreme managers of the Royal Neighbors of America, is an admirable type of the purposeful woman of the day. She proves in her own person that the American woman may exert a powerful influence in the enlargement of woman’s sphere without loss to any of the attributes of true womanhood. Mrs. Hawes was born in Fulton, Illinois, July 22, 1866, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Fay, and the eldest of a family of nine children, all living at this date. She graduated from high school in May, 1883, and spent the following two years in the Northern Illinois College at Fulton. In 1887 Mrs. Hawes, then Miss Fay, engaged in a clerical capacity with the Modern Woodmen of America, the head offices of which were at that time located at Fulton. She continued with the Society for several years, a valued attache of the head office, and thus met Major Hawes, who was elected head clerk of the Society in 1890. Her marriage to Major Hawes on December 25, 1894, marked her retirement from the Woodmen Society’s employ; but shortly thereafter, having been actively identified with the Royal Neighbors of America, the ladies auxiliary of the Modern Woodmen of America, she was chosen as one of its board of...

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Biography of Sylvester Washington McMaster

Almost the only living individual among those earliest settlers who came to Rock Island County in the thirties and forties, when the present City of Rock Island was a small village, known as Stephenson, is Sylvester Washington McMaster, a man whom nearly every man, woman and child throughout Rock Island County knows, either personally or by reputation. He was born October 8, 1811, near Watertown, in Herkimer County, New York, and died January 22, 1908, at the age of ninety-six years. His early life was spent upon a farm and he received such education as he could in the country schools of that time. At the age of nineteen years he himself was a school teacher, having charge of the same school which he had formerly attended as a pupil. Mr. McMaster came West in 1833, traveling by water from the City of Buffalo in his native State. The canal at that time was completed from Cleveland, Ohio, to Portsmouth, in the same state, and connecting with the Ohio River. Coming first to Cairo, Illinois, Mr. McMaster proceeded to St. Louis, and from thence to Galena, Illinois, on the Mississippi. At that early day there were but few houses in the village of Stephenson, and but one in what is now Davenport, that of Antoine LeClaire. Mr. McMaster spent two years (1833 and 1834) at Galena and then returned...

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