There are few cities which owe their existence to a single manufacturing or industrial enterprise but rather to the aggregation of many business interests. Yet among these there are always some that stand out prominently as most potent factors in the commercial growth and prosperity of the community. Such a place in Racine circles is that occupied by the Harvey Spring Company, of which William J. Harvey is the president and whose well defined efforts have been a most potent force in bringing about the development and consequent success of the concern of which he is now the directing head. He comes from another manufacturing center-the city of Leeds, in Yorkshire, England, where his birth occurred June 11, 1846. His father, Thomas Harvey, was born on the Isle of Guernsey and. was a son of John Harvey, whose birth occurred in Cornwall, England, where he resided until a few years after his marriage, when he removed to Guernsey, there passing away at the age of forty-five years. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Elizabeth Guille, came of a family whose members were noted for longevity. She reached the age of ninety-nine years and five months, while one of her daughters attained the remarkable old age of one hundred and eleven years, dying April 4, 1903, while another passed away at the age of ninety years and another at the age of eighty-nine
Thomas Harvey, the father of William J. Harvey, became a merchant of Leeds, where he resided until 1849, when he crossed the Atlantic with his family and established his home in Racine, where for some years he conducted a planing mill. Prior to his death, however, he retired from active business and spent his remaining days in the enjoyment of well earned rest. In his native country he had married Jane Payne, a native of Jersey, as was her father, Francis Payne. Serving as justice of the peace, he was known in his locality as Judge Payne, and he passed away in Jersey in old age. He had married a Miss Journeaux and they became the parents of thirteen children, including the daughter Jane, who became the wife of Thomas Harvey. While in his native country Thomas Harvey had served as a member of the Guernsey militia. Both were members of the Church of England and passed away in that faith, the latter in 1860, at the age of fifty-one years, and the former in 1876, when in his seventy-third year. They had a family of four children: Elizabeth, who became the wife of James Bennett, of Portland. Oregon, but is now deceased; Thomas F., who has passed away; Edward G., living in Republic, Washington, and William J.
The last named was a little lad of but three summers when his parents took passage on the sailing vessel called The New World and came with their children to America, landing on the eastern coast after a six weeks’ voyage. They at once made their way in the interior of the country, however, settling in Racine County, and William J. Harvey was reared in the village of Thompson-rifle. There he attended the public schools and later became a student in Racine College. For twelve years he engaged in general merchandising in Thompsonville and then turned to general agricultural pursuits, to which he devoted a similar period. At the end of that time he took up manufacturing, beginning the work of making bolster springs for wagons, and in the intervening period he has built up a trade of large proportions, now manufacturing high-grade vehicle springs of all kinds. He has a large factory situated at No. 1700 Seventeenth Street and employs a force of one hundred and seventy workmen. In the beginning he did all of the work himself and the growth of his patronage is indicated by the number now on the pay roll. His plans have ever been carefully formulated and promptly executed and today his output is shipped over the entire United States, Canada and Mexico. In addition to his other interests he is a director of the First National Bank of Racine.
In 1871 Mr. Harvey was united in marriage to Miss Catherine Schickel, a daughter of Joseph Schickel. They have become the parents of eight children, but lost their first born, Jane, at the age of about three years. William, the eldest son, who married Jane Briggs, has become interested in the Harvey Spring Company, of which he is now the secretary and treasurer. Richard is engaged in the practice of law in Racine. Edward is superintendent of the factory. Harriet is engaged in teaching in the Racine high school. Elizabeth married Dr. Carl M. Schwendener, of Milwaukee. Harold is in the factory. Ruth is at home. Five of the children, William, Richard, Edward, Harriet and Elizabeth, are graduates of the University of Wisconsin. The family resides at No. 2002 Washington Avenue, where Mr. Harvey erected a fine residence, and in addition he owns other real estate in Racine. He has always been interested in the cause of education and while living upon the farm served as clerk of the school board, while for twenty-two years he has been a members of the board of education in Racine. His political allegiance is given to the Republican Party and his religious faith is that of the Methodist Episcopal Church, both he and his wife being consistent and active members of the First Methodist church of Racine. His has been an active and useful life marked by steady progress resulting from the wise utilization of his time, his talents and his opportunities.