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History of Milwaukee, city and county (Volume 2) online

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belonged to all the principal musical societies of this city. Throughout his entire
life he has read broadly, thinks deeply, and he is a natural designer and artist, his
skill in this connection, combined with his musical talent, making him highly
proficient in his cliosen life work.


Charles Thompson has almost completed a third of a century of service with
the Chicago & Northwestern, which he now represents as general agent at Mil-
waukee. Step by step he has won advancement to the position of large respon-
sibility which he now fills and at all times he has enjoyed the entire confidence and
trust of those whom he represents. Milwaukee claims him as a native son and is
proud of his record. He was born in 1866, his father being Charles Thompson,
whose birth occurred in Norway and who became a resident of Milwaukee in 1844,
when the city was but a small town. At one time the father was engaged in the
ship industry but lived retired for a quarter of a century prior to his demise and
was honored as one of the old and respected citizens here. He married Maren
Grundy, also a native of Norway.

Spending his youthful days under the parental roof Charles Thompson of this
review acquired his education in the public schools and at nineteen made his initial
step in the business world by securing a position in the freight offices of the North-
western yards in the third ward. He acted in that capacity for six months and was
then promoted to the position of freight solicitor. Promotion after promotion fol-
lowed, giving him comprehensive knowledge of various phases of railroad activity,
management and control and nineteen years after he first obtained employment
with the company he returned to the office where he had started, this time as freight
agent in charge of the department where he had begun as a clerk. On the 1st of
August, 1906, he was advanced to the position of general agent for Milwaukee in
charge of the freight and passenger business with the Northwestern road. At that
time — fifteen years ago — the yearly earnings of the Milwaukee office were about
two million dollars and something of the increase in the business is indicated in
the fact that the annual earnings are today twenty-five million dollars. When Mr.
Thompson entered the employ of the road the entire system had thirty-five hundred
mileage and today this has been increased to nine thousand, six hundred and sixty-
five, while the number of employes has advanced from sixty thousand to four hun-
dred thousand. Moreover, when Mr. Thompson entered the service the North-
western company operated but three trains daily each way between Milwaukee and
Chicago, while today there are thirty and the best time between the two cities three
decades or more ago was three hours. Today it is but an hour and fifty minutes.
The same rate of improvement has been manifest in the freight service of the line
and today a fast freight can reach the Pacific coast in better time than it required
for the fastest passenger train thirty years ago. Since 1906 Mr. Thompson has been
in absolute control of freight and passenger traffic in the second largest city on the
nine thousand, six hundred and sixty-five miles of the lines of the Chicago & North-

On the 18th of February, 1896, Mr. Thompson was united in marriage to Miss
Margaret H. Upham of Milwaukee, a daughter of Emerson Olds Upham. a news-
paper man, and they have a son, John Walker. Mr. Thompson was a most active


worker in all war campaigns and represented the railroad administration on one
of the most important committees. He also acted on numerous other committees
and on the various drives to raise the funds necessary noc only to finance the war
but to promote the physical comforts and social well-being of the soldiers in camp
and overseas. Mr. Thompson is himself a man of social, genial nature, which has
made for popularity in the various clubs and organizations to which he belongs.
He has been the president of the Milwaukee Athletic Club, also president of the
Milwaukee Transportation Association and has served as a director of the Citizens'
Business League. He likewise belongs to the Chamber of Commerce and is well
known in Masonic circles, being a past master of Kilbourn Lodge, A. P. & A. M.,
and a member of Wisconsin Consistory of the Scottish Rite and has also been active
in Tripoli Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., and has ever been a faithful follower of the
teachings and purposes of the craft. He belongs to the Old Settlers Club and his
residence in Milwaukee covers a period of fifty-four years. His progress has been
continuous and step by step he has advanced not only in business life but also in
the regal d and high esteem of his fellow townsmen.


John E. Pitzgibbon, vice president and general manager of the Phoenix Knitting
Works and thus connected with one of the leading manufacturing interests of Mil-
waukee, is also well known in many other connections, being prominent in the club
circles of the city and also recognized as a political leader in republican ranks. He
was born in Neenah, Wisconsin, February 7, 1885, a son of James H. and Agnes (Ryan)
Pitzgibbon, the latter a native of Ireland, while the father was born in America.

John E. Pitzgibbon pursued his early education in the public schools and attended
the West Division high school of Milwaukee, from which in due course of time he was
graduated. After putting aside his textbooks he entered the Milwaukee Sentinel as
office boy and in that connection worked his way upward to the position of advertis-
ing manager, remaining in the office altogether for about eight years. In 1908 he
became associated with the Phoenix Hosiery Company as advertising manager and
when he had filled that position for about seven or eight years he was elected to the
vice presidency and also made general manager, having entire charge of the factory.
This is one of the important manufacturing interests of the city. The Phoenix hosiery
is known from one end of the country to the other and the name has become a recognized
synonym for standard goods. The company has never sacrificed quality to quantity,
but by reason of the worth of its product has built up a business of mammoth pro-

In 1915 Mr. Pitzgibbon was married to Miss Elsbeth Malcolm of Milwaukee, and
they have one daughter, Jane Elizabeth, who was born in 1918. Mr. Pitzgibbon has
always given his political allegiance to the republican party and was presidential
elector in 1920. He did his full share in war work and was sales director for War
Savings Stamps for Wisconsin. He is identified with many interests of public con-
cern and many of the leading social organizations of the city. He belongs to and is
now vice president of the Milwaukee Association of Commerce and vice president of
the Associated Advertising Clubs of the World. He belongs to the Milwaukee Athletic
Club, the Press Club, the Rotary Club, the Blue Mound Country Club and the Wood-
mont Country Club and his social qualities have gained him wide popularity in these
different organizations. There have been no esoteric phases in his career. His course
has been clearly defined and laudable ambition has actuated him at every point, so that
step by step he has progressed and is today a fell known figure in business circles and
in public connections in his adopted city.


Theodore J. Ferguson, one of the alert, energetic and farsighted business men.
of Wauwatosa, now vice president of the Hawks Nursery, was born in Springfield,
Pennsylvania, June IS, 1850, and is a son of Phineas C. and Malissa (Mershon)
Ferguson, both of whom were natives of Springfield, Pennsylvania, where they
resided until called to their final rest, the father there following the occupation of

Theodore J. Ferguson was reared in the usual manner of the farm bred boy.
He attended the country schools and in vacation periods assisted in the work of the
fields. In fact, he early became familiar with the task of plowing, planting and
harvesting, but after reaching adult age he began traveling and for fifteen years
was engaged in the sale of nursery stock, going from coast to coast in connection

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with this business. In 1889 he became associated with Charles H. Hawks in organ-
izing a company and two years later the business was incorporated under the name
of the Hawks Nursery Company, the main office being established at Rochester,
New York. In March. 1893, a branch office was opened in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin,
and Mr. Ferguson took charge of this end of the business, becoming a resident of
the village in 1895. The company has a forty-acre nursery here of shade trees
and shrubs and ornamental stock and its business has grown to be one of the best
of the kind in America. The name of Theodore J. Ferguson is widely known in
connection with the nursery business and his enterprise and efforts have been a
dominant element in the success of the company with which he is identified.

In November, 1S92, Mr. Ferguson was married to Miss Emma Newman of
Elkhart, Indiana, and they have become parents of three children: Edna; Frank
N.. who is cashier of the First National Bank of Wauwatosa; and Dorothy, the
widow of Russell Holbrook. The daughter, Edna, was with the Y. M. C. A. in
the welfare work in France for more than a year during the World war, visiting
the soldiers camps and doing everything possible to promote their comfort and
entertainment. After the war she visited various European cities and countries and
her life has been enriched with the many experiences that came to her through
her unselfish devotion to the interests of the soldiers and her later European
travels. Mr. Ferguson is a member of the Old Settlers' Club and is most promi-
nently known in Wauwatosa, where he has a circle of friends almost coextensive with
the circle of his acquaintance.


Harry A. Plumb, secretary and treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce of the
city of Jlilwaukee, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, October 19, 1867, and is
a son of Dr. Henry and Sarah Eugenia (Tolles) Plumb, who were natives of Con-
necticut. They removed to Pleasanton, Kansas, in 1868 and there the father still
resides at the advanced age of eighty-six years. He is a physician by profession but
has been retired for a number of years. He served as a surgeon in the Civil war,
with the rank of major.

Harry A. Plumb obtained a public school education in Kansas and also attended
the Chicago high school. After putting aside his textbooks he was employed by the
Armour Packing Company in Chicago for a period of four years. In 1893 he came
to Milwaukee and entered the employ of the Chamber of Commerce as assistant
secretary, acting in that capacity until 1909, when he was promoted to the position
of secretary, which office he has since filled. He has given his entire time and atten-
tion to his duties in this connection and has made himself widely known among the
grain men of the country. His labors have been a most potent force in the upbuild-
ing of the organization which he represents and in the extension of its work along
the lines of improving trade conditions, promoting outside business connections and
upholding all those interests and activities which are a matter of civic virtue and
of civic pride.

On the 31st of December, 1889, Mr. Plumb was married to Miss Isabel Langson
of Milwaukee and they have become parents of two children: Eugenia and Leslie.
The latter served in the Three Hundred and Fortieth Wisconsin Infantry during the
World war as a member of the medical department and went overseas, being away
from his native country for about a year. Mr. Plumb is a member of the Elks Club
and is widely known, his social qualities making for popularity among a wide circle
of acquaintances.


There is perhaps no life history in this volume which indicates more clearly
the possibility of achievement in this broad land of ours than does the record of
James E. Kreil. Starting out in the business world in a most humble capacity, he
made steady advancement through his own efforts until he became the vice presi-
dent of the Reinhart Mitten Company of Milwaukee, a position which he occupied
to the time of his death.

He was born in Vienna, Austria, on the 17th of March, 1871, and was a son of
Anton and Frances Kreil. The father died in his native land, but the mother
-afterward determined to come to the United States, believing that she might here
afford her children better opportunities for advancement. Accordingly the family
left Austria, crossed the Atlantic and made their way westward in this country to
Michigan. After residing in that state for a time they came to Wisconsin and


established tlieir home in IVIilwaukee, where James E. Kreil entered the employ
of the Reinhart Mitten Company as a cutter. Step by step he advanced, winning one
promotion after another until he was elected as one of the officials of the company
and for a considerable period was vice president of the corporation. His thorough-
ness enabled him to quickly master every phase of the business and his comprehen-
sive understanding of the work qualified him in his later years to direct the efforts
of employes in the factory.

In 189 6 Mr. Kreil was united in marriage to Miss Mary Guschel, who passed
away in 1900, leaving a son, William, who is now a trave ing salesman for the
Netz Glove & Mitten Company of Milwaukee; and a daughter, Louise, now Mrs.
Oscar Parker. On the 6th of October, 1908, Mr. Kreil was again married, his second
union being with Mary Schwartzby, a daughter of Charles and Ellen (Kitts)
Schwartzby, residents of Green Bay, Wisconsin. There were four children of this
marriage: James, Frances, Carl and Arthur.

Mr. Kreil belonged to the Fraternal Order of Eagles and his religious faith
was that of the Catholic church. In politics he maintained an independent course,
voting according to the dictates of his judgment rather than according to party ties.
On the 5th of May, 1916, he was called to his final rest and Milwaukee thus lost a
citizen who had made for himself a most creditable and substantial position in busi-
ness circles. He concentrated his attention upon manufacturing interests and one
element of his progress was the fact that he always continued in the same line in
which he embarked in early manhood, never dissipating his energies over a wide
field. His labors, therefore, brought a substantial reward and he was able to leave
his family in comfortable financial circumstances.


Some years ago the newspapers of Wisconsin and especially of Kenosha and of
Milwaukee chronicled the tact that Mrs. Louisa K. Thiers was approaching the cen-
tury mark. Each year since that time the papers have teemed with interesting
accounts of the celebration of her hundredth, hundred and first, hundred and second
anniversaries and so on down to the present time, when at the age of one hundred and
seven years she still graces the home of her daughter, Mrs. Charles Quarles of Mil-
waukee, and not infrequently makes visits to the homes of her sons. What a wonder-
ful history is hers! Born in 1S14, during the administration of President Monroe,
she has witnessed the introduction of the steam car, the telegraph, the telephone, the
commercialized use of electricity and the hundred and one other things which have
made the past century marvelous for its achievements. Moreover, she has the dis-
tinction today of being the oldest member of the Daughters of the American Revolu-
tion and is a real daughter, for her father. Dr. Beth Capron, aided in achieving
American independence. He was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, September 23, 1762,
and came of French ancestry. He was a great-grandson of Banfield Capron, the first
representative of the name in America. Banfield Capron, with three boys about his
own age — fourteen years — who were schoolmates, agreed to leave their friends in
England and come to the new world. They concealed themselves in the hold of a
vessel which was about to sail, with food enough for a few days, and thus they left
Chester, in Cheshire county, a seaport on the north of England, in the year 1674. When
the vessel was four days out they were discovered but after some parley were allowed
to continue on the voyage. Banfield Capron lived in Massachusetts until 1752, when
he passed away at the age of ninety-two years, leaving a family of twelve children, six
sons and six daughters, which number included Jonathan Capron, who in turn was the
father of Elisha Capron and he of Dr. Seth Capron.

When America sought to win independence from Great Britain. Seth Capron, too
young to be drafted, was also too short in stature to pass inspection at muster. In
1781, at the time of his country's greatest peril, he managed, by elevating himself upon
his toes, to pass the mustering officer and so enlisted at the age of nineteen, serving
first as a private and afterward as a corporal in Colonel Shephard's regiment. He
first heard artillery fire at the siege of Newport, when attached to General Lafayette's
corps of light infantry, and it was there that a cannon ball, aimed at the general,
grazed the top of his head. This led to an acquaintance between Dr. Capron and Gen-
eral Lafayette that was renewed fifty years later when the great French general re-
visited this country. Dr. Capron being one of those who received him at Newburgh,
New York.

Dr. Capron participated in the battle of White Plains, New York, and was then ■
transferred to headquarters at West Point under Washington, where he served during
the remainder of the war, commanding the barge that conveyed the "Father of his
country" to Elizabethtown Point, where he was the last man to receive the General's
benediction as the great commander-in-chief bade adieu to his army.






When the war was ended Dr. Capron returned to Attleboro, where his father,
Elisha Capron, owned a good farm, but about that time he sold it, taking his pay in
continental money, which was soon declared worthless. The young man then began
studying medicine under Dr. Bazeleel Mann, an eminent physician and man of letters
who had also served his country during the Revolutionary war, his fellow townsmen
having placed him upon the committees of safety, correspondence and judiciary —
services which at that time were demanded of the best citizens. Moreover, Dr. Mann
was the great-grandson of William Mann of Cambridge, JIassachusetts, who was grand-
son of Sir Charles Mann of Kent county. England, knighted in 1625 for loyalty to
King Charles I. When Dr. Capron studied medicine there were but two medical
colleges in the countr>- — one at Cambridge, Massachusetts, the other at New Haven,
Connecticut. Like most physicians of that period, he pursued his preparation through
private study and began practice in 1789 at Cumberland, Rhode Island. He married
Eunice Mann, daughter of his preceptor, and in 1806 removed to Oneida county, New
York, traveling across the country in his own carriage with his wife and four young
sons — a journey of five hundred miles. He located at Whitesboro, now a part of
Utica, New York, and there by diligent attention to his profession secured a handsome
competence. He also took great interest in manufacturing, built the first cotton mill
and afterward the first woolen mill in the United States, it is said, being associated in
his enterprises with Dewitt Clinton, Elisha Jenkins and Francis Bloodgood of Albany,
New York. In 1823 Dr. Capron removed to Walden, Orange county. New York, travel-
ing by canal boat from Utica to Albany, the Erie canal having just been completed,
thence to Newburgh, on the Hudson, by steamboat ninety-five miles. He remained in
Walden until his death, which occurred September 4, 1835, thus closing an eventful
life of seventy-three years. In a publication of that day it was said: "He was a man
of great integrity and moral worth, uncommon ardor, industry and enterprise. Few
have led more active lives and few have accomplished more. His mild, persuasive
manners, the honesty and goodness of his purposes and the uniform correctness of his
example gave him a wonderful influence over the villagers. Obedience followed his
will as if he had been invested with absolute power. The village will long mourn for
him as for a father." Of his wife it was written: "The mother ordered well her
household, being a woman of strong intellect, and she commanded through a long
life the respect and love of all who knew her." It was while the family was residing
at Whitesboro that the daughter, Louisa K. Capron, was born in 1814. She was reared
in a home of culture and refinement, trained to the activities which girls of the
period participated in, and thus she was well qualified to manage a household of her
own when in 1S47 she became the wife of David B. Thiers, a merchant of Orange
county. New York. They afterward removed to Laurel. Maryland, traveling on the
canal boat Pumpkin Seed from Utica to Albany and from the latter city to Newburgh,
New York, on one of the first steamers on the Hudson river. In the year 1850 Mr.
and Mrs. Thiers came to the west, arriving at Kenosha on the 7th of June. They lived
in the Thomas Bond house until July, 1S51, when they removed, to the town of Alden,
McHenry county, Illinois, where besides Mr. and Mrs. Thiers the members of the
household were her mother, her brother, John Capron, and five children of her brother
Horace. They lived upon a farm in that county until March 1, 1854, and Mrs. Thiers'
mother there passed away in 1S53. To Mr. and j\lrs. Thiers, while upon the farm, there
were born two children. Herbert and Emma, and after a second marriage of her brother
Horace and his return to the farm Mr. and Mrs. Thiers again came to Kenosha, renting
the house of Dr. Hatch, which they purchased a year later. There two other children,
Edward and Louis, were born to them. The three sons became prominent business
men of this section of the country, while the daughter is now Mrs. Charles Quarles of
Milwaukee, with whom Mrs. Thiers has made her home for many years. Her husband
died in 1S75 and for thirteen years thereafter she continued to live in Kenosha but in
1888 went to live with her daughter, Mrs. Quarles, with whom she has now resided for
more than a third of a century. It seems hardly possible to those who see her that
she has passed the one hundred and seventh milestone on life's journey. She is
described as a lady upon whom age has laid a light hand. Her blue eyes are still
bright, her hair snow white but soft and abundant and, best of all, her mentality is
still keen. Unlike many aged people, she does not live in the past but in the present,
keeping in touch with what is going on in the world around her. yet her calm and
placidity are not disturbed by the turmoil of the present times. She enjoys greatly
the birthday parties and receptions which are annually held in her honor and Mil-
waukee's citizens count it a keen pleasure to have a few minutes' conversation with
this most interesting woman, whose memory covers an entire century of America's
existence. When the World war came on, Mrs. Thiers saw much similarity to con-
ditions which preceded and followed the Civil war in this country. From the first
her sympathies were with the allies — both by reason of her French descent and her
recognition of America's debt to Lafayette and his French soldiers, who aided in
winning the Revolution. When the Liberty loans were launched she became the oldest
subscriber thereto, on which occasion she received from Secretary McAdoo a personal


letter of thanks which reads as follows: "My Dear Mrs, Thiers: It is a great privilege,
and I esteem it an honor as well, to thank you in behalf of the government for your
subscription to the Liberty Loan of which I have just been advised. Let me take the
opportunity also of congratulating you upon the completion of your one hundred and
second year of useful life: and upon the fact that your father was a soldier In the
Revolutionary war, serving under Washington and Lafayette, and that he contributed
to the establishment of .the liberty which we enjoy today. It is a thrilling and in-
spiring thing to receive a subscription from an immediate daughter of a soldier of the

Online LibraryWilliam George BruceHistory of Milwaukee, city and county (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 90)