his subject clearly, and is enabled to express his conclusions with great force and clearness. He
is a logician of high order, and often enlivens his discourses with illustrations and comparisons.
He has attained a very high rank at the bar, and seems destined to rise still higher, and ulti-
mately reach the highest anticipations of his many admiring friends. He is a man of unspotted
integrity, and has the universal confidence and respect of the community in which he moves.
Personally, he is very attractive. He is tall and slender, with a graceful figure; has a well shaped
head, keen black eyes, dark hair, and classic features, and is polished and refined and urbane in
He was married to Miss Winifred Moore, March 26, 1868, an estimable, accomplished, and
highly educated lady, the daughter of C. H. Moore, of Clinton.
MARVIN A. LAWRENCE.
THE subject of this sketch was born June 12, 1820, on the Susquehanna River, in Otsego
township, Otsego county, New York. His parents, Charles and Hannah Lawrence, came
from Hartford. Connecticut, and lived for thirty-three years on the farm where he was born. His
ancestors were of Scotch origin, and immigrated to this country at an early day, settling in the
New England states. Marvin received his early education at home institutions, much of it being
acquired by the light of a tallow candle. He left a clerkship in a store at Norwich, New York, in
the fall of 1837, being determined to strike out for himself, and immigrated to Girard, Erie county,
Pennsylvania, which was then considered in the Far West. There he engaged in the manufacture
of carriages, sleighs, etc.
February 3, 1843,. he married Miss C. M. Hall, daughter of John Hall, one of the oldest set-
tlers of that section. In 1845 ne removed to Newark, Ohio, where he followed merchandising.
Three years later he moved to Evansville, Indiana, then a city of 12,000 inhabitants, where pros-
perity attended him in various kinds of business. During the first twelve years he carried on
extensive marble works. At the beginning of the war he was interested in a boot and shoe and
hat and cap house, also crockery and glassware, and had a large country store at Princeton,
Indiana, twenty-five miles distant. The last three establishments he bought of rebel sympathiz-
ers, who wanted to leave Evansville and enlist in the southern cause.
In 1850 he became a stockholder in the Canal Bank, just organizing, and was a director of the
same until 1866. With an authorized capital of $500,000 and a large surplus, it was the first bank
in Evansville to change to a national bank. He afterward helped to organize the Merchants'
National Bank in that city. For a number of years he had charge of the southern end of the
Wabash and Erie canal, from Terre Haute to Evansville, a distance of one hundred and ten miles,
the whole line extending from Toledo to Evansville. In 1863 he was a large contributor to and
spent much time in superintending the building and completing of the Walnut Street Presby-
terian Church, of which he was a trustee and afterward a member. His numerous busi ness interests
prevented him from going into active service during the civil war, but he was instrumental in the
enlistment of two others, for whose families he helped to provide during the term of their service.
In the spring of 1866 he removed with his family, consisting of two sons and one daughter, to
Chicago, where he invested in real estate, and entered into commission business, controlling one
of the leading houses of the city. The first three years, his business was largely remunerative,
but afterward severe losses were sustained through the fraud and deception of others. He then
began the buying and selling of real estate, but the great fire of 1871 and panic of 1873 caused
further losses, and finally, struggling against fate, he decided to leave his family in Chicago and
pull out for Leadville, Colorado, which was then becoming the great mining center of the state
HCCccp.r Jr S. Co
C.ig. by L S WiH,a^ 5 X, B-n,Nr
UNIVERSITY of ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY. 735
He arrived at Leadville May 25, 1879, loaded with dust accumulated during a ride of thirteen
hours in the stage. He there secured the services of a miner, whose experience of eighteen years
in the mountains enabled him to read formations as one would a book. They loaded a little
burro or Jack with a miner's outfit, and started for the mountain ranges and gulches on a pros-
pecting tour. Exposure to winds, snow storms and rain had no terror for them. They would
sometimes find in the morning an additional blanket of snow, but as they were after the almighty
dollar, failure was not thought of. This and other trips of like nature resulted in the securing of
some valuable prospects in fissure veins, many of them located in the now famous Mosquito
Gulches, about ten'miles east of Leadville, in Park county, Colorado. Among the number is the
Bonanza King, from which valuable ore was taken last fall and winter, creating a great sensation
in the camp. The same season he commenced running a tunnel in the Cornucopia mine, located
in South Mosquito Gulch. .Storms and hard rock caused the failure of four different contracts,
but by indomitable will and remaining with the miners, eating and sleeping with them in an old
log cabin, with dirt floor, often covered with snow in the morning, with work progressing at the
rate of three to four inches per day in the tunnel, he finally broke through the solid granite walls,
at a distance of forty-six and a half feet from the mouth of the tunnel, on to a fissure vein, that
proved to be over ten feet wide, composed of decomposed quartz. Being thus fully rewarded for
his energy and persevei*ance, he filled a sack with seventy pounds of the ore, and walked on snow
shoes, the snow being from three to six feet in depth, with the ore on his back, a distance of three
quarters of a mile, where he obtained a horse that carried him to Alma. There the ore was
tested, and found to contain from one to three and a half ounces of gold to the ton, besides some
silver. He sent the following dispatch to his family at Chicago: "Found fissure vein in Cornu-
copia better than expected; home soon." It was good news for them, for during three years he
had been deprived of the society of his family, and home comforts about three-fourths of the
time. He now has eight lodes, consisting of large fissure veins in Mosquito Gulches, besides
seven in other places. He ran fourteen tunnels last summer, and will return in the spring of 1883
to continue the work begun!
DENIS J. SWENIE.
DENIS J. SWENIE has been connected with the fire department of this city for over a third
of a century. He was chiefly instrumental in introducing steam instead of hand engines,
and he organized the department in its present paid form, displacing thereby the old volunteer
system. He has been a fireman from his boyhood, and has not only thoroughly mastered the
practical work of his profession, but has entered into the difficult scientific problems always pre-
sented in a conflagration. He is possessed of a strong analytical mind, and readily seizes upon
any new fact, labels it, and arranges it in his collection for future use. He is also practical to an
unusual degree, and progressive as well, and is quick to discern the best method of meeting an
emergency, and as ready to adopt an improvement suggested by another as one invented by him-
self. His mind is always on the alert for better methods and new appliances to meet the enemy,
and hence the Chicago Fire Department has become noted the world over, not only for its mar-
velous efficiency, but for being always fully abreast of the times. In order to be fully posted in
everything pertaining to his department, Mr. Swenie has, at different times, made the tour of all
the principal cities of America, and is always on hand at conventions and tournaments. Every
year something is added to the appliances under his control, and the efficiency of the department
visibly increased. In the management of the force nothing is left to chance; every company,
every engine, and every man is at all times as much under the direction and control of the chief
as the organs of the body are under the direction of the head. Through the wonderful fire-
alarm telegraph system, which went into operation in 1865, the exact location and condition of
736 UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY.
every portion of the force horses, engines and men is always known to the chief, and their
duties in any extraordinary emergency directed by him. A clear and comprehensive system of
laws regulates the force under all ordinary conditions, so that the whole department is a vast and
complicated machine, yet working for the purposes designed with wonderful regularity and effi-
Among the excellent improvements which have been introduced by Mr. Swenie, may be men-
tioned a very important invention by a member of the department Mr. John Ashworth. It is
called the portable stand pipe and water tower, and consists of a series of pipes telescoping into
each other, and running up at will from thirty to sixty-five feet, and which may be inclined at any
angle or turned in any direction by machinery at the base. Four engines can be worked on this
one pipe, and a two-inch stream thrown from the top and forced the extraordinary distance of
two hundred feet horizontally if necessary. By this means the firemen can largely avoid the
dangerous and slow methods of ladder duty, and yet have the whole burning front of a building
under control, and when necessary, send a powerful stream through its entire length. Mr. Swenie
himself first suggested the idea, and the ingenious mind of Mr. Ashworth went to work at once
to solve the problem. Fortunately enough funds had been saved from the annual appropriations
for repairs to carry on the experiments and to complete a perfect machine, so that the department
had not to wait the slow and tedious action of the city fathers, but werft energetically to work,
and in November, 1882, after several most satisfactory trials, it was adopted and put at once into
the service. The patentees are Mr. Ashworth, the foreman, and C. S. Petrie, the superintendent
of the repair shop, and the city gets the right to make and use an indefinite number for all time
to come, for the time spent by its employes and the money used to bring it to perfection. We
mention this incident to show how ready Mr. Swenie is to keep fully abreast of the times, and
support or adopt any improvement in the working of his department.
Mr. Swenie is of Irish parentage, and first saw the light of day in the city of Glasgow, July
20, 1834. He is, therefore, not yet fifty years old, and is as robust, vigorous and active as most
men who are many years his junior. He remained in "Bonnie Scotia" till fifteen years old, and
received such schooling as the public schools of Glasgow could furnish. In 1848 he came directly
to Chicago, and served an apprenticeship with C. E. Peck, at that time chief of the Chicago fire
department, at harness making; leather hose, fire hats, and other fireman's supplies were also
manufactured in the shop. That very year he joined hose company number 3, connected with
engine company number 3, as hose boy, and which was subsequently changed to Niagara engine
company number 3. His enthusiasm and efficiency increasing with his experience, he was elected
assistant foreman of Red Jacket engine company number 4, in 1852. This was for a time the
"crack" company of the city, and among its most efficient members enrolled the names of the
five Quirk brothers, who were afterward members of Colonel Mulligan's 23d Illinois infantry.
This company disbanded in 1854, reorganized in 1855 as the "Humane," was changed to its origi-
nal name, and finally disbanded in 1858, after the organization of the paid department.
In 1856 Mr. Swenie was elected first assistant engineer of the department, and in 1858 suc-
ceeded Silas McBride as chief. October 17, 1857, occurred the great fire on Water and Lake
streets, when twenty-three lives were lost, seven being firemen. Mr. Swenie had charge of the
diggers, and recovered eighteen of the twenty-three bodies supposed to be lost. This fire awoke
the authorities to a consciousness of the inferiority of hand to steam fire engines, and the import-
ance of greater efficiency in their fire department to meet the growing needs of the Garden City.
The press began the agitation, and in the following November the council ordered a new steam
engine capable of throwing four streams one hundred and fifty feet. This was delivered in the
next February, and named " Long John," after his Honor, John Wentworth, then mayor. It was
put into service about May i, 1858, and located at the old armory building, corner of Adams and
Franklin streets. The first fire it worked at was at the corner of Wells and Van Buren streets,
where nine persons perished in the flames.
In March of that year, Mr. Swenie began the work of reorganizing the fire department, sub-
UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY. 737
stituting the volunteer with the paid system. He met with very bitter opposition at the
start. Firemen who had been accustomed to pursue the dangerous but exciting occupation as a
pastime for the glory there was in it, felt indignant not only that steam should hereafter super-
sede the display of muscle, but that any American citizen should be so disgraced as to be
offered pay for the performance of so necessary a duty devolving upon the whole community
as fighting the common enemy, fire. At first the only paid men were the engineer, Joel A. Prescott,
and his assistant, William Homer; the remainder of the company were volunteers. The first
company commissioned under full pay was the Atlantic engine company number 3, organized
October 23, 1858.
The bitterness and feuds engendered by the attempt to substitute one system for the other,
would have discouraged most men, but Mr. Swenie manifested an admirable steadiness of purpose
and a wise and judicious spirit that finally mastered all difficulties, and placed the volunteer sys-
tem on a gradual decline, and it disappeared as fast as the city fathers could be induced to pur-
chase the steam engines to take their place. From the close of 1857 to the opening of 1860, four
new engines were purchased and as many companies organized upon the new system, while
several volunteer companies gave up the struggle and disbanded. The volunteers were, however,
yet in the majority, and at the election in March, 1859, revenged themselves on the man who had
doomed them to extinction, by electing U. P. Harris chief, and sending Mr. Swenie back to his
April 27, 1861, Liberty engine company number 7, was put into commission, and Mr. Swenie
elected foreman. In 1867 he took command of the Fred Gund company number 14, organized
April 7. He was captain of this company at the time of the great fire in October, 1871, and with
his men was forced to abandon their engine at the corner of Canal and Van Buren streets, and
flee for their lives. This was one of three engines destroyed in the great conflagration. Not-
withstanding the loss of their engine, and the dreadful perils through which they had passed,
Mr. Swenie took charge with his company of affairs on the North Side, and was instrumental in
saving five entire blocks near Kinzie street bridge. No company did more heroic service or
showed greater intrepidity and devotion than the Fred Gund company number 14.
On the retirement of Mr. Harris as chief engineer of the department in 1868, R. A. Williams
was appointed by the fire commissioners to fill the vacancy, and upon assuming the duties of
chief, he tendered Mr. Swenie the position of first assistant. This he declined for good reasons,
preferring to retain his old position as foreman instead. This he did until October i, 1873, when
he accepted the position of first assistant fire marshal under Chief Benner. In August, 1875, the
city adopted an ordinance abolishing the board of police and fire commissioners, and establishing
the present management of the department under a fire marshal, who should be also styled
"Chief of Brigade." This change has proved a most important one for the efficiency of the de-
partment, as it consolidates the whole force into one individuality, and gives it but one directing
head. Mr. Swenie continued to perform the duties of first assistant marshal until July 3, 1879,
when he was appointed acting chief by Mayor Harrison, and upon the retirement of Mr. Benner,
on the tenth of the following November, he was appointed by the mayor, and confirmed by the
council, fire marshal and chief of brigade. Thus, after twenty years of faithful labor in perhaps
the most important branch of the city service, Mr. Swenie finds himself once more at the head of
the department he was most instrumental in organizing. His present position is a fine testimonial
to his efficiency as an officer and his worth as a man, anc] in him and his experience and proved
ability the department and the general public repose the utmost confidence. As an illustration
of the esteem in which he is held, it may be mentioned that on the tenth anniversary of his first
appointment as foreman, his many friends in the department gave a grand banquet in honor of
the occasion, at number 14 engine house, which was a most enjoyable affair. At the conclusion
of the banquet, C. N. Holden, in a neat speech, presented Mr. Swenie with a gold watch and
chain, with fire hat and trumpet as charms, costing $450.
Mr. Swenie was married October 16, 1853, at the age of nineteen, to Miss Martha Toner, by
738 - UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY.
whom he has had seven children, six still living. Two daughters are married and settled in life.
His eldest son, Frank, is fire-alarm telegraph operator in the central office.
Although a democrat 'in sympathy, Mr. Swenie has the good sense to perceive that the fire de-
partment, of all others, should be free from political influences, and has done all he could to keep
it so. Its discipline has therefore never been impaired by political issues or controversies, and it
is justly the pride and boast of the city.
JUDGE WILLIAM E. NELSON.
HON. WILLIAM E. NELSON is a highly respected member of the bar in central Illinois;
a thorough lawyer, of sound judgment, and efficient in the trial of causes. He is lucid and
logical, and has a refinement in his methods of thought that gives him rank with other able men
in the profession. He possesses the power of analysis and condensation to an eminent degree.
Mr. Nelson is a native of Tennessee, and was born' at Sparta, White county, June 4, 1824, and is
the eldest son of Richard Nelson, a prominent Tennessee lawyer, who was a member of the con-
stitutional convention that formed the constitution of that state, in 1834, and grandson of John
Nelson, a soldier in the war of the revolution. His mother, before marriage, was Miss Eliza
McCampbell, daughter of Andrew McCampbell, who was also a revolutionary soldier. The sub-
ject of this sketch was admitted to the bar in 1844, and immediately entered upon a successful
career as a lawyer in his native town, gaining a reputation as a trial lawyer at an early age.
In February, 1857, he settled at Decatur, Illinois, where he has pursued his profession ever
since, doing a general law business, being equally successful in both criminal and civil cases. In
1870 he was appointed, by Governor Palmer, on a commission to revise the statutes of Illinois,
and operated with the commission until his duties commenced in the twenty-seventh general
assembly, which met in January, 1871. As a legislator he was efficient, and at once took a prom-
inent position. No important legislation was enacted without his cooperation. He paid strict
attention to the interests of his constituents and the state. He served on important committees,
including, among others, the judiciary committee, and committee on education, and was appointed
on a special committee to investigate the condition of the penitentiary at Joliet. In August, 1877,
he was elected one of the judges of the fourth judicial circuit, and filled that term with ability.
He then returned to the practice of his profession in Decatur, where he has remained ever since.
In addition to Judge Nelson's abilities as a lawyer, no man stands higher as a citizen. He is
an affable gentleman, of easy and graceful deportment, warm in his friendships, and faithful in
his social relations.
He was married in Sparta, Tennessee, to Mary, the eldest daughter of Colonel James Snod-
grass, of that place. They have had five children, only one of whom has attained to the age of
majority. Theodore Nelson is an active business man of Decatur. The other children died in
GEORGE D. THOMAS.
THOMASVII.LE, M. T.
/^ EORGE DEMENT THOMAS was born on a farm in Saint Clair county, Illinois, July 26 ,1834.
VJT He is the third son and sixth child of John and Isbellin Thomas, whose family consisted of
ten children, five boys and five girls. His father, Colonel John Thomas, of Belleville, Illinois, is
at this writing (1882) a state senator, and in his eighty-third year; his biography and portrait are
on page 724 of first edition of "Eminent and Self-made Men of Illinois." His mother was born
in Illinois, and was a daughter of William and Mary Kinney, who emigrated from Kentucky and
settled in Illinois while it was a territory, four miles east of Belleville, the present county seat of
UNIVERSITY of ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY. 74 1
Saint Clair. His grandfather Kinney lived on and cultivated a large farm for many years ; was
an influential man in southern Illinois at an early day, and was once lieutenant-governor of the
state. His politics were democratic.
George D. remained on the farm till the age of twenty-one ; after twelve years of age he took
an active part in the farm work, and performed his share of the labor cheerfully. He plowed
and assisted in planting the crops, which in those days were principally corn. As a corn dropper
he was skillful and an expert, the main corn dropper on his father's large farm, where there was
planted from 100 to 300 acres of corn in a season. In 1848 he and a hired man of his father's
cultivated a crop of corn of nearly ninety acres, plowing it three times, and laying it by in
August, with little or no assistance after planting.
His father was a large land owner, and each year the acreage rapidly increased, till in 1850 the
crop reached 320 acres ; 1852 this acreage was all in wheat, making over 300 acres, largest wheat
crop cultivated there at that time. The harvest lasted four weeks. George was one among the
best binders of the sixteen men employed to take care of this crop. He had assisted to fence
and break about 1500 acres of his father's land up to 1852.
Having labored constantly on the farm, his mind had been much neglected up to this time,
and, feeling the need of a better education, he entered Shurtleff College, at Upper Alton, at the
autumn term of 1852, and entered upon a regular classical course. Most of the time while at
college he kept at the head of his class; mathematics, grammar, Latin and Greek were his favorite
studies. When he entered college his intention was to take a full classical course and study a
profession, but being strongly attached to the agricultural pursuits, he changed his mind and left
college in 1855, in his sophomore year. Soon afterward, November 29, 1855, he was married to
Miss Lucy Alice Alexander ; she was educated at Monticello Seminary, near Alton, and left school
before completing her course. They had attended district school together at Shiloh in their
younger days. She was a daughter of William and Sarah Alexander, who resided near Shiloh in
Saint Clair county. Her father emigrated from Pennsylvania to Illinois with his father's family at
an early day, and settled near Shiloh, in what was known as the Alexander settlement. He was a
prominent and prosperous farmer in his day, and died in 1847. Her mother, Sarah Scott, was a
daughter of James and Sarah Scott, who settled in Saint Clair county, near Shiloh, with their
numerous relatives, who emigrated from Virginia. They were all land holders and good thrifty
citizens. Her mother was a cousin of Judge J. M. Scott, of Bloomington.
In 1856 Mr. Thomas settled upon a farm near Shiloh. At the breaking out of the rebellion he
organized the first home guard company of Shiloh, of which he was captain. He afterward