Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 90 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 90 of 192)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

raised the question of the right tobuild railway bridges
across navigable rivers. The controversy was exceed-
ingly bitter, and the river interests even resorted to the
expedient of burning the spans of the bridge to pre-
vent its completion. But Mr. Tracy's determination
was not to be balked, and he persevered with the same
firmness that characterized his conduct during the
" Erie Railroad War," and success finally crowned his
efforts. At first the Federal Court decisions were
averse to the construction of the bridge, but in the end
the United States Government became joint owner
with the road in a first-class iron bridge. In 1870,
while maintaining his position as president of his
favorite corporation, the Rock Island, he secured con-
trol of the Chicago and Northwestern R. R., its active
competitor, and became its president, which office he
held till 18'75, when he resigned by reason of failing
health. Mr. Tracy was the first capitalist that fully
recognized the importance of the New York rapid
transit movement, and liberally aided it, and in con-
junction with his brother-in-law, Hon. W. L. Scott,
fought the battle of rapid transit through years of leg-
islative, legal and popular antagonism, until every
point in dispute was settled and the problem solved.
Mr. Tracy was the equal, if not the superior, of any
man in the country in his expert and invariably suc-
cessful management of railroad combinations. He was
reticent, determined, and above all, self-reliant. One
of his marked traits was the great tenacity with which
he adhered to any opinion he had formed after mature
consideration, and the resolute manner in which he
championed and executed his favorite projects in de-
fiance of all difficulties and opposition. In his private
life he was one of the least ostentatious and most kind-
hearted of men. His large wealth was bestowed gen-
erously in the direction of public and private charity.
Mr. Tracy's health began to fail at the age of 50 years,
by reason of his very active life, but he had done his
work well, and lived long enough to make himself one



of the fathers of the " American Railway System." He
remained unmarried, and died at the residence of his
brother-in-law, Hon. W. L. Scott, in Erie, February 13,
1878. His remains rest by the side of his father and
mother in the Erie cemetery.

Hon. Williatn L. Scott. The busy and eventful
life of Hon. William L. Scott was spent in Erie.
Here were his home and family, and here his affec-
tions were centered. To him it was "dear Erie," as
feelingly expressed in one of that series of masterly
and statesmanlike addresses made in his Congres-
sional campaign of 1886. He sought to make it
"beautiful Erie," and his efforts towards its embellish-
ment in their wide scope (worthy of a Baron Hauss-
man or Christopher Wren) embodied not only the
city with its blocks and mansions, its churches, parks
and avenues, but the construction, development and
adornment of Massassauga Point, and the improve-
ment of the cluster of highly cultivated farms, which,
with their elegant surroundings, ample approaches
and unexcelled roads, surprise and delight those who
spend their summers on the shores of Presque Isle
Bay. Mr. Scott's life was one of wide activity. It
was characterized by methodical and systematic plan-
ning, intense thought, alert action and energetic liv-
ing. These enabled him to accomplish those vast re-
sults, which in a review of his life so amaze, when an
attempt is made to comprehend the extent of his plans,
the directness of action, and his dazzling success in
the execution of that which only genius could have
originated and an inexorable will performed. William
L. Scott was of ancient lineage and of Scotch-Welsh
descent. His great grandfather. Rev. James Scott,
of the Church of England, graduated at Aberdene
University, and was ordained and licensed to preach
in Virginia by the Bishop of London in 1735. His
grandfather, Gustavus Scott, was educated at Aber-
deen and completed his law studies in London in 1771.
Returning to America he resided in Annapolis or
Baltimore. He was a member of the Continental
Congress and held many offices of distinction in Mary-
land. The family name is indelibly associated with
the illustrious Virginians whose patriotic deeds in
Revolutionary days are interwoven with the brightest
and most honored pages of American history. In
recognition of this sentiment, in 1794, President Wash-
ington appointed Gustavus Scott one of the first board
of commissioners to lay out the City of Washington.
Accepting this trust, Mr. Scott built and occupied until
his death the noted "Kalorama" residence at the site
of the future Federal City. Maj. Robert L. Scott, son
of Gustavus, was a graduate of West Point, and served
with distinction in the war of 1812. He was the fa-
ther of William L. Scott, and died when the latter was
quite young, leaving six children. Of these William
L. Scott achieved a commanding position in public
affairs; Robert Wainwright Scott (deceased), entered
the navy, served through the late war, and was pro-
moted to be commander; and Miss Ann Eliza Scott,
a resident of Erie, is now sole survivor of the family.
Hon. William L. Scott was born in Washington City
July 2, 1828. He received a common school education.
He was first appointed a page in Congress about the
year of 1840. While serving as such he attracted the
notice of Gen. Reed, representative of the Erie Dis-
trict of the Twenty-eighth Congress, by whom in 1840,
at the age of 16 years, he was brought to Erie. Gen.

Reed was then in the zenith of his commercial career,
with his fleet of steamers and vessels on the lakes, his
numerous clerks, agents and warehouses. In one of
the latter the young southerner was placed, to receive
those first lessons in commerce and modes of trans-
portation, which, then in their infancy, were yet to be
so vastly developed by the master mind of Gen. Reed's
youthful protege. The celebrated Howell Cobb, after-
wards Secretary of the Treasury under President
Buchanan, served in the same Congress with Gen.
Reed from 1843 to 1845. At that time it was a ques-
tion whether the young page would go with Mr. Cobb
to his Southern home to imbibe his fiery idea of South-
ern rights, the assertion of which drove him from
President Buchanan's cabinet into the Rebel army, or
to the care, the tuition and patronage of Gen. Reed,
the noted capitalist, steamboat owner and master mind
of lake commerce. A destiny was involved. Fate
decided, and William L. Scott came to Erie. It was
the pivotal point in the orphan's career. To him the
commission house and office of Gen. Reed, with their
network of transportation, was as important a school
as was the Military College at Brienne in the career of
the Corsican orphan who there commenced the studies
the fruits of which were developed at Marengo, at
Austerlitz and at Jena. Mr. Scott's progressive steps
were rapid. In this sketch but the merest mention
can be given of them. In 1850 he made his first ven-
ture in the coal and shipping business with the late
Hon. Morrow B. Lowry. This firm continued in busi-
ness but one year. In 1851 he engaged in the coal
business with Mr. John Hearn, the firm continuing un-
til Mr. Hearn's death, when it was succeeded by W. L.
Scott & Co. This company, eventually, did the largest
business of its kind in the world. It controlled mines
in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. Mr.
Scott owned upwards of 70,000 acres of coal land. He
gave employment to 12,000 people. He was the con-
trolling owner of the stock of the Youghiogheny
Coal Company of Pennsylvania, Spring Valley Coal
Company of Illinois and Union Coal Company of
Pennsylvania. If his coal investments were large, his
railroad interests were on an equally grand scale. In

1861 Mr. Scott built that portion of the Erie & Pitts-
burg R. R. which extends from Girard to New Castle,
and in 1863-64 constructed the completing link from
New Castle to the Fort Wayne R. R., becoming a
large owner of the same. He was president of the
Erie and Pittsburg R. ■ R. Company up to his death,
and during the war located and constructed the Pitts-
burg Docks at the mouth of Cascade run, in Erie. In

1862 he and his brother-in-law, John F. Tracy, extended
the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific R. R. from
Grinnell, Iowa, to the Missouri river, being the first
railroad built to that waterway. Prior to his death he
was the president and director of 22,000 miles of rail-
road, bemg more miles of track than any one man has
been the central figure in operating. He was one of
the pioneers in rapid transit in New York City, and
with John F. Tracy was interested in building the first
elevated road in that city. Mr. Scott was one of the
builders of the Philadelphia and Norfolk R. R., in
1884, which was the first railroad on the peninsula of
Virginia. He aided to develop the Canada Southern
and Canadian Pacific Railroads. He was at his decease
the oldest director of the Lake Shore and Michigan
Southern R. R., director and member of the Chicago
and Northwestern R. R.. director in the Pittsburg,



Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis and New Castle and
Beaver Valley Railroads; Michigan Central R. R.and
Albermarle and Chesapeake Canal Company. He
was a manufacturer of iron in the Shenango valley
and in Missouri. He was the controlling owner of the
Northwestern Fuel Company of .St. Paul, and had in-
terests in the Missouri Iron and Coal Company of Mis-
souri, the Sligo Furnace Company of Missouri and the
What Cheer Coal Company of Iowa.

The memorials of his presence in Erie are abiding.
He built the Scott Block, on the northwest corner of
State and Tenth streets, in 1872, costing about S180,-
000. His elegant home residence was ample and
luxurious. Seemingly averse to change from his
original residence, he had enlarged and adorned the
old homestead until its size, commodiousness and ele-
gance were in keeping with his position. The vast
and imposing three-story mansion erected for a resi-
dence for his daughter, on West Park, at a cost of four
to five hundred thousand dollars, for which Mr. Scott
was so long in consultation with architects, will con-
tinue to manifest his grandeur in design and munifi-
cence in execution. He owned 2,000 acres of land in
Erie county. The utilization of this land for use as
stock farms, and the creation of beautiful Massassauga
Point, with its approaches and surroundings, involved
the exercise of artistic judgment and the expenditure
of vast sums. The result has been the addition of a
permanent attraction to Erie and a wider use of the
bay as a pleasure resort, which before was but imper-
fectly realized.

His civil and political career was remarkable;
especially so when the great influence he exerted
upon the counsels of his party and the moulding of
its policy are concerned; for aside from his service as
mayor of Erie, he never held a political office until his
election to Congress in 1884, a position he held but
four years. He had become one of the trusted lead-
ers of the Democratic party and his influence in their
National conventions was most potential and some-
times irresistible. He was mayor of Erie in 1866 and
again in 1871, serving two full terms. He was nom-
inated for Congress in 1866 and in 1876, but took no
part in the campaign. He was a delegate to the Na-
tional Democratic Conventions of 1868, 1876, 1880 and
1888. He was representative of Pennsylvania on the
Democratic National Committee from 1876 to 1884.
He was in 1884 elected to Congress from the Erie dis-
trict. In Congress his surroundings were most con-
genial and agreeable. They could hardly have been
more so. It was his lot to have the fullest confidence
and personal friendship of the President and Speaker
of the House during his successive terms of service;
with very much of influence in shaping the course of
the administration. In this respect it is doubtful if
any member of the cabinet had more fully the confi-
dence of the President. He introduced and put upon
their passage the Chinese Exclusion bill and the Oleo-
margarine bill, both of which were enacted. His posi-
tion in the modification of the Tariff was in advance of
that of many of the Pennsylvania Democrats; a posi-
tion to which many of the party came. He took a
leading part in the preparation of the Mills bill, in
the Fiftieth Congress, in 1888. After its passage by
the House and its amendment by the Senate, he pre-
pared a masterly article for a leading publication,
calling in question and assailing the constitutional
right of the Senate to modify a bill for "raising rev-

enue" which by the Constitution was required to
originate in the House. His speech in Congress upon
the silver question was most elaborate and exhaustive,
indicating remarkable study and research and involv-
ing a mass of facts and array of figures and tabulated
statistics not often placed together. Later events have
shown its predictions to have been prophecy. While
his views and wishes on the revenue, owing to the
adverse action of the Republican Senate, were not
then enacted into laws, yet the large number of ap-
pointments made upon his recommendation evinced
his sagacity in selection and his consideration for
friends, which was one of his most pleasing character-
istics. His domestic relations were of the happiest
character. Soon after his arrival in Erie he made the
acquaintanceof Miss Mary M. Tracy, daughter of John
A. Tracy, one of the most substantial and public-
spirited citizens of Erie, and grand-daughter of the
noted Captain Daniel Dobbins, whose fame as an
early lake navigator and one of the commanders in
Perry's renowned fleet has connected his name with
history. With tastes so congenial, and purposes so
much in unison, their marriage, September 19th, 1853,
became a union of hearts and of hands. It was more:
for the large experience of Mr. John A. Tracy in rail-
road construction and the bent of mind of his son,
John F. Tracy, destined to so much of distinction, in
the extension of Chicago's great system of railroads,
doubtless tended materially to encourage and develop
the early efforts of Mr. Scott, in the commencement
and prosecution of his railroad career, which assumed
such large proportions. Mr. and Mrs. Scott had two
children: Mrs. Richard H. Townsend, of Washing-
ton, D. C, and Mrs. Charles H. Strong, of Erie. His
personal appearance was striking, and in social inter-
course his manners were bland and winning. Of
blonde complexion and penetrating glance, his voice
was soft and his utterance rapid, earnest and em-
phatic. His movements were quick. His mind was
active and his examination of any subject in hand
most exhaustive. He had a large and valuable library
in which his investigations of any matter under con-
sideration were studiously concentrated. As a result
his after treatment of his subject was masterful. It
was his habit to make most thorough investigation of
a matter in hand, and it was this comprehensive prep-
aration that made his influence in conference or m
public meetings so great. During the war he equipped
and fitted out at his own expense Capt. Miller's bat-
tery of artillery and sent it to the front. Many resi-
dents of Erie in widely separated walks of life were
gladdened by the flow of charity emanating from hirn-
self or his household; this was further manifested in
substantial aid to worthy religious and charitable or-
ganizations. These it would be impracticable to spe-
cify at length, as his giving was as unostentatious as it
was generous. Yet these may be mentioned: A gift
of §10,000 in interest bearing bonds to St. Vincent
Hospital; a like sum to the Hamot Hospital, Home
for the Friendless, St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum, and a
church organ to St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Erie,
while all through the community in which he dwelt
there were perennial streams from the same inex-
haustible source. But Mr. Scott, never physically
strong, was unequal to the great strain involved in
the conduct of so much business. He sank under his
arduous labors, in the Fiftieth Congress.J Repeated
attacks or shocks continued to remind him of his wan-



ing strength. Finally under most eminent medical
advice, he sought rest and recuperation in the pure air
and sea breezes of Newport. But his heeding was too
late. He was never to see Erie again. On the 19th
of September, 1891, while still at the seaside, he sank
into his final sleep. His death was a startling and sad
event for Erie. His funeral was most notable. Dis-
tinguished men gathered from various parts of the
country, from Chicago to New York, magnates of
civic, of political and of railroad celebrity. These
with all classes of the community gathered at the
darkened home. The President of the United States
(then in the interim of his exalted service), the Gov-
ernor of Pennsylvania, railroad magnates and Erie's
best citizens, stood around the bier containing the
honored dead, to bid a last farewell to him who lay in
the calm repose of eternal sleep. On the beautiful
afternoon of the Thursday following his death, a
typical September day, amid crowded streets and
masses of sympathetic friends and townsmen, reach-
ing from his home to the cemetery, the remains of
Erie's most honored and distinguished citizen were
borne to their last resting place, the President and
Governor heading the pall-bearers. The casket was
placed in the splendid mausoleum, designed for the
resting place of Mr. Scott and his family.

The Galbraith Family, of Pennsylvania, came of
Scotch-Irish stock, so prominent in the early history
of the Commonwealth. James Galbraith, the founder
of the family in this State, emigrated from the North
of Ireland and settled at Donegal, in what is now
Lancaster county, in 1712 ; he bought large tracts of
land from William Penn proprietary ; his son, James
Galbraith, jr., great-grandfather of Wm. A. Galbraith,
married, in 1735, Elizabeth Bertram, who, with her
father, Rev. William Bertram, came from Edinburgh,
Scotland. These people were all Presbyterians in
their religious faith, and the old stone church at Done-
gal, where they worshipped, has in its churchyard the
bones of many of the family. James Galbraith, jr.,
was elected sheriff of Lancaster county in 1742 ; he
was made Judge of the Common Pleas in 1745, and
was for many years a justice of the peace ; he removed
to Cumberland county in 1760, and in 1763 was ap-
pointed judge in that county. He took an active part
m the French and Indian war in 1755-56, and during
the Revolution, in 1777, was appointed colonel for
Cumberland county, being then 73 years of age ; he
was obliged, however, to resign after a twelve-month's
service, on account of advanced years and bodily in-
firmities. In Egle's History of Pennsylvania, the
writer says : "The Galbraiths of Cumberland county
all came from James Galbraith, jr.; every one of his
sons became prominent in the Revolutionary war on
the side of the patriots. Bertram Galbraith, first lieu-
tenant in Lancaster county, was his son, and did no-
ble service in the cause of his country. Andrew Gal-
braith, another son, served with distinction as an offi-
cer in the Revolution. Chief Justice John Bannister
Gib.son married one of his daughters. John Galbraith,
the youngest son, was a soldier of the Revolution; he
was taken prisoner at the battle of Long Island, and,
with many others, suffered great hardships in the
British prisons in New York city. After the war he
removed to Huntingdon county, and from there to
Butler county, where he resided until his death. In
the southeast corner of the old Derry churchyard, on

the line of the Lebanon Valley R. R., at Derry sta-
tion, is a stone slab bearing the following inscription :
' Here lieth the remains of the Rev. Wm. Bertram,
first pastor of this congregation, who departed this
life ye 2d Feb., A. D. 1799, aged eighty-five years.'
Immediately beside it is another slab with this in-
scription : ' Here lieth the remains of James Gal-
braith, who departed this life ye 23d August, 1744,
aged seventy-eight years; also James Galbraith, Esq.,
the younger, on ye 11th June, 1787, aged eighty-three
years, who dwelt beloved by all, in rational piety,
modest hope and cheerful resignation.' " Andrew
Galbraith, brother of James Galbraith, jr., was the first
coroner of Lancaster county. In 1730 he was ap-
pointed one of the judges of the Court of Common
Pleas, a position he held until 1746. He was created a
member of Assembly in 1730, and for eight consecu-
tive sessions thereafter. In 1732, when a candidate
for Assembly, he had a most extraordinary canvass;
his wife, mounting her mare, Nelly, with spurs
strapped to her heels, rode out among the Scotch-
Irish in Donegal and collected more than 100 voters,
at whose head she rode into Lancaster borough,
where the elections were held, and in Penn Square
haranged them with such effect that her husband was
returned elected by two or three votes. This incident
is thus referred to in a biographical sketch of Madame
Patterson Bonaparte in Lippincott's Magazine for
September, 1877 (Mrs. Patterson, Madame Bonaparte's
mother being the grand-daughter of the successful
feminine electioneer): "Mrs. Patterson came of that
sturdy, independent, Scotch-Irish race that has
peopled Pennsylvania's prosperous valleys. Her
grandmother, Mrs. Galbraith, was of considerable
force of character, taking a prominent part in Revo-
lutionary stir and, on one occasion, traversing on horse-
back the then almost wilderness, canvassed votes for
her husband's election to the Assembly, which she
won, whether by robust argument or in the felicitous
way of the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, is not re-
corded." Robert Galbraith, one of the sons of James
Galbraith, jr., was appointed prothonotary for Bedford
county, March 21, 1777; he was also justice for the
same county. In 1778 he removed to York and there
practiced law; he was member of the Assembly from
that county, and was appointed agent to sell the con-
fiscated estates of the Tories; he returned to Bedford
county in 1784, and was, in 1788, appointed President
Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon
county; he was an ofiicer in the Revolution, and served
with honor to himself and country. The late Judge
John Galbraith, the son of the John Galbraith above
referred to, was born in Huntingdon, Pa., in 1794.
His father moved to Butler county about the begin-
ning of the nineteenth century, where the son was
reared on a farm. Long before he was of age he was
in charge of a school, and in due time served an ap-
prenticeship to the printing business in the same office
m Butler where James Thompson, afterward Chief
Justice, was employed. Tiring of printing, he studied
law with General William Ayres, of Butler, and was
admitted to the bar, at the age of 24. Soon after he
married Miss Amy Ayres, daughter of Rev. Robert
Ayres, an Episcopal minister, long resident at Browns-
ville. Pa., brother of General Ayres. About the same
time he moved to Franklin, Pa., where he rose rapidly
both in his profession and in popular esteem. His first
official position was as a member of the Assembly, to

"^^o e^(y{ c/. V^'/^



which he was thrice elected; was elected to Congress
as a Democrat in 1832-34-38, servin>_: nn important
committees. In 1837 he moved to I-,nc :iinl w.i^ rver
after a resident of that city. On niniiiL; liom tdn-
gress he practiced law until the fall nl |s."il, w In ii he
was elected President Judge of the Sixth judicial dis-
trict, running as Democratic candidate in a district
which usually gave a Whig majority of 1,100. His
death occurred June 15, 1860, near the close of his ju-
dicial term. Judge Galbraith was one of the foremost
men in promoting the various public enterprises that
gave the first strong impulse to Erie county; he was the
pioneer in building the railroad to the Ohio line; was
the largest stockholder in the Erie and Edinboro plank
road, and aided greatly in reviving the long projected
railroad from Erie to Sunbury. One of his favorite
ideas, the establishment of a reform school for youth-
ful offenders, has been adopted by the State in the in-
stitutions at Huntingdon and elsewhere. Mrs. Gal-
braith died in Philadelphia, March 2, 1868. Their
children were: William A., and Elizabeth Ann, inter-

Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 90 of 192)