J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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head, capitalist and manufacturer, left the impress of his individuality upon its
business development. The later years of his life were here passed and his success
gave such proof of his business ability that his opinions were largely accepted as
authority upon many important business problems.

Mr. Whitehead was a western man and in his life exemplified the enterprising
and progressive spirit that has ever dominated this section of the country. He
was born in Madison, Indiana, July 29, 1846, a son of Jesse and Rebecca McClure
(Hays) Whitehead. In the acquirement of his education he passed through con-
secutive grades in the schools of his native city until graduated from the high
school, after which he continued his studies in the Collegiate & Commercial Insti-
tute of New Haven, Connecticut, and then entered the Philadelphia Polytechnic
Institute, from which in due course of time he was graduated. Liberal education
thus qualified him for the onerous duties of business life and from the time of his
initial experience in business circles his course was marked by continuous and
substantial progress. He was first employed as entry clerk in the house of Hale.
Aver & Company, wholesale iron merchants of Chicago, and afterward secured a
position in the office of W. B. Phillips & Company, insurance agents, who were
succeeded by O. W. Barrett & Company. His experience in these different lines


qualified him for the conduct of a business of his own when he entered into part-
nership with N. S. Bouton in the manufacture of agricultural implements at Naper-
ville, Illinois, under the firm name of Bouton, Whitehead & Company. From
the beginning the enterprise prospered, the business steadily growing in volume
and importance until it was very extensive. At a later date the plant was removed
to Chicago under the name of the Naperville Agricultural Works. Extending his
efforts into other fields, Mr. Whitehead became secretary of the Elgin National
Watch Company. He also joined the Chicago Stock Exchange but in his later
years resigned membership therein.

On the 10th of December, 187-1, Mr. Whitehead was married, in Chicago, to
Miss Grace Madeline Laflin, a daughter of George H. Laflin and granddaughter
of Matthew Laflin, a pioneer of Chicago, both of whom are mentioned elsewhere in
this volume. She is a direct descendant of Elder William Brewster, who came from
England to America as one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620. Mr. and
Mrs. Whitehead became the parents of five children: Mary Brewster, now the
wife of Ralph W. Miller; Rebecca McClure, now Mrs. W. Rockwood Gibbs; Jesse;
Grace Madeline, the wife of Lawrence D. Rockwell; and Virginia Laflin.

In his political views Mr. Whitehead was throughout his life a supporter of
republican principles. He belonged to the Chicago Athletic Club and was an in-
terested and active member of the First Presbyterian church and a worker in the
Railroad Mission Sunday School. The attainment of success was never in any
way allowed to warp his kindly nature or ready sympathy. He strove for the
attainment of high ideals in business and social circles and municipal affairs as
well as in private life. His strong and salient characteristics were such as won for
him unqualified confidence and favorable regard and throughout the period of his
residence here he was numbered among the honored citizens of Chicago.


Harry Frank Harvey, a wholesale liquor dealer of Chicago, was born in Co-
manche, Iowa, August 10, 1859, a son of Squire T. and Laura A. (Sessions) Har-
vey, of whom mention is made elsewhere in this work. In the spring of 1862 the
parents removed with their family to Chicago and the son pursued his education
1n the public schools here and in a business college. At the age of nineteen he went
to Denver, where he spent two years and on his return entered the employ of his
father, acquainting himself with every phase of the trade, so that he was well fitted
to assume leadership when in 1885 he became a partner. Upon the retirement
of his father in 1888 he assumed full control of the business, which he has since
continued, engaging in the wholesale trade and in the importation of wines and
liquors. For many years past he has also been interested in mining in Colorado
and his investments in that connection have brought him good returns.

On the 26th of September, 1883, Mr. Harvey was married to Miss Hattie J.
Richardson, of this city, who is a member of the Congregational church. The four
children of this marriage are Ruby May, Laura Madge, Eugene J. and Addison J.


The second daughter is the wife of Joseph H. Grut, a banker of Salt Lake City,
while the others are still at home.

The family residence is at No. 1635 Bryan avenue and they also have a beau-
tiful summer home, Oak Glen, which is located at White Lake, Michigan, where
Mr. Harvey is largely interested in real estate. He has done much toward devel-
oping a popular summer resort there, having laid out one of its finest subdivisions,
known as Maple Beach. There he spends most of the time during the summer
months and greatly enjoys the sport furnished by his motor boat and his yacht,
being a member of the White Lake Yacht Club. In politics he is an independent
democrat, for while he believes in the principles of the party, he does not consider
himself bound by party ties. Fraternally he is connected with the Masons, being
a charter member of Park Lodge, No. 843, F. & A. M.; Park Chapter, No. 213,
R. A. M.; the Knights of Pythias; and the Royal League. He is also a member
of the Illinois Athletic Association but he cannot be called a club man, preferring
to devote his time to his family and such friendship interests as center in his home.


History bears out the statement that the largest fortunes in America have
been made by men who have sought the opportunities of a new locality, where
one may take advantage of natural resources and the conditions that arise through
the growth and progress of a section. The great majority of men, however, fear
to leave the beaten path, to break the ties that bind them to a district and seek
fortune in new fields. They lack the enterprising spirit that carries them be-
yond the confines amid which they have labored, but of this class Matthew
Laflin was never a representative. Where favoring opportunity led the way he
was quick to follow and he saw and readily recognized advantages that others
passed heedlessly by. To find scope for his energy and industry his dominant
qualities he sought the west when Chicago was but a village and for a number
of years he remained as the last link that bound Fort Dearborn to the metropolis
of the present, that connected the history of pioneer days with the records of
metropolitan greatness. When he passed away on the 21st of May, 1897, in the
ninety-fourth year of his age, he had been a resident of Chicago for almost six
decades. Fort Dearborn was his first place of residence in the embryo city, it
affording better shelter for his family than any building which could be secured
at that time. The history of Matthew Laflin and his business operations is to
a large measure the history of Chicago's growth and progress, for few men
have taken more active or effective part in instituting the business interests which
have formed the basis of Chicago's commercial greatness. He established the
first stock yards here, was one of the promoters of the water works, was an ex-
tensive operator in real estate and conducted other business affairs of far-reaching
importance. The 16th of December, 1803, witnessed the beginning of his life
history, for on that day he was born at Southwick, Hampden county, Massa-
chusetts. It is said that he came of a long-lived race and inherited "the sagacity



and thrift of the Scotch, the quickness and energy of the Irish and the invincible
endurance and perseverance of the English" and in the broad field of western
enterprise these qualifications found full scope. The Laflin line was the source of
the Scotch-Irish strain, the family being founded in America by the grandfather
of Matthew Laflin, who came to this country from Ireland. His son Matthew
Laflin was born and reared on this side of the Atlantic and wedded Lydia Ris-
ing, of English lineage.

Matthew Laflin was indebted to the district school system of his native place
for the educational privileges he enjoyed, regularly attending school a portion of
each year until he reached the age of sixteen, when he became a student in the
academy at Holyoke, Massachusetts. His education completed, he became a
clerk in the store of his elder brother, who was the senior member of the firm
of Laflin & Loomis, at Lee, Massachusetts. He became familiar with the gun-
powder business through his connection with the establishment of his father, who
was engaged in the manufacture and sale of gunpowder, and on attaining his
majority Matthew Laflin joined his elder brother, Roland Laflin, in a partner-
ship for the sale of powder manufactured in his father's mills. He drove through
the country in a wagon, from which he disposed of the product, and at the end of
a year his profits were such as to enable him to become part owner in powder
mills at Canton, Connecticut, in which his brother-in-law Norman Mills was
interested. On the death of the latter Mr. Laflin purchased his brother-in-law's
interest and become a partner of Isaac Mills. For seven years he was associated
with that business, during which time he continued to drive through the country
selling powder, for which he was often forced to receive farm products in ex-
change. With a capital of ten thousand dollars he removed to Saugerties, New
York, where he began the manufacture of axes, but this undertaking proved un-
profitable and, forming a partnership with his elder brother, Luther Laflin, he
opened a powder manufactory at Saugerites and in time the firm acquired possession
of another powder mill in that locality. Their business grew rapidly, extending
into both eastern and western territory.

It was while thus engaged that Mr. Laflin's attention was attracted by the
commencement of operations for the building of the Illinois and Michigan canal
in 1837. Hoping to make sale of blasting powder to the builders of the canal,
he paid his first visit to the west, making his way at once to Chicago. He quickly
recognized the advantageous situation of the little city on the lake and in a
measure foresaw its future. He, therefore, resolved to ally his interests with
the growing western town and took up his permanent abode here, having charge
of the western sales of the Saugerties Powder Works and of the agencies which
were soon afterward established at St. Louis, Missouri, at Milwaukee and Janes-
ville, Wisconsin, and at Springfield. At these points under the direction of Mr.
Laflin the business grew rapidly and in 1840 Solomon A. Smith, afterward the
president of the Merchants Savings, Loan & Trust Company, was admitted to a
partnership under the style of Laflin & Smith, which was subsequently changed
to Laflin, Smith & Boies. The business developed along substantial lines and Mr.
Laflin continued his connection therewith until he sold out in order to devote his
entire attention to his real-estate investments, which had not only grown in ex-
tent but also had rapidly increased in value in the intervening years.


As previously stated, Mr. Laflin arid his family at one time lived in Fort
Dearborn. This was during the winter of 1838-39, at which period Chicago's
boundaries were practically the river on the west, the lake on the east and Kinzie
and Twelfth streets. A few warehouses, packing houses and foundries were
built along the north shore of the main branch of the river, with a few frame
dwellings beyond, but it was necessary to reach these by ferry. Many evidences
are cited of Mr. Laflin's New England sagacity and business foresight, but nothing
more clearly indicates his qualities in that direction than his real-estate invest-
ments. As he traveled over the country, supervising his powder agencies, he
noted the rapid growth and development of the territory tributary to Chicago
and was impressed with the fact of the rapid development of farm lands which
within a few years were brought to a state of fruition that made them much
more valuable than farms developed for twice as long in the east. He knew that
Chicago would become the market for all the outlying territory and he saw, too,
that it would not be long before the great open prairies west of the river would be
demanded for settlement by Chicago's population. He, therefore, placed his
capital in investments in that region. His first purchase represented the invest-
ment of nin? hundred dollars, saved from the failure of the Saugerties Axe Factory,
in nine acres of land from the sale of which he finally realized four hundred
thousand dollars. From 1849 he concentrated his energies entirely upon his real-
estate operations and at one time owned one hundred and forty acres of land
within the city limits and property which he bought originally for three hundred
dollars became worth millions. He pinned his faith to Chicago's future, believing
that he would live to see the wisdom of his judgment demonstrated by time.
Many regarded him as most visionary and unstable in business affairs when, in
1 849, he went far beyond the improved portion of the city and purchased about
one hundred acres of land on the west side, extending eastward from Madison
street and Ogden avenue. This he subdivided and at once began to improve,
erecting upon the intersection of those streets a large three-story frame building,
which he called the Bull's Head Hotel, planning to make it a resort for the stock-
men who gathered in Chicago from time to time. He also built barns, sheds and
cattle pens and thus established Chicago's first stock yards. In 1851 he also
instituted the first omnibus line to carry his hotel patrons between the Bull's Head
and the market, then located on State street. This old and well known hostelry,
one of the landmarks of the city, was torn down in 1876, after having been used
for many years as the Washingtonian Home for the cure of inebriates. On the same
site, however, was erected a handsome brick block for the same purpose. His
land was divided and sold as residence and business blocks and a further element
in the improvement of the west division of the city was the building of the south-
western plank road, better known in those days as the Blue Island road, extending
diagonally from the city limits toward Blue Island. Upon this road a toll gate
was placed and the collection of toll proved a profitable source of revenue to Mr.
Laflin. Again his labors constituted a valuable element in the city's growth in
his efforts to establish the first water works system of Chicago, when it became
necessary to discontinue the use of wells up to that time owned by individuals and
secure a city supply of lake water. A state charter was obtained by the company,
which built a reservoir of pine logs and boards near the shore at the foot of


Lake street, into which water was pumped from the lake and thence distributed
through wooden pipes, the power used for pumping being supplied by a flouring
mill. Mr. Laflin was one of the chief owners of the water works, which he operated
for thirteen years, making improvements from time to time as the growth of the
city demanded.

Even beyond the limits of Chicago the enterprising spirit of Mr. Laflin was
felt. When it seemed that the Elgin Watch Company must suffer failure because
of lack of funds, he decided to accede to the request to finance the enterprise and
become one of the chief stockholders in the concern, which through his aid was
placed upon a substantial basis and is today one of the important enterprises of
the character in the country. He was likewise very active in the development
of Waukesha as the famous Wisconsin watering resort. He purchased a farm
there in 1874, undertook to make extensive improvements thereon and built a
large hotel the Fountain Spring House near the newly discovered spring which
he named the Fountain Spring. From that time forth Waukesha was not only
patronized by people in search of health through the medicinal properties of the
water but also by those who sought diversion and rest at an attractive summer
resort. When the new hotel was almost completely destroyed by fire, in 1879,
Mr. Laflin at once rebuilt it on a scale of even greater magnificence and thus his
labors extended out as a beneficent and upbuilding influence in the west as well as
in Chicago.

Long before his removal to this city Mr. Laflin was married, in Canton, New
York, in 1827, to Henrietta Hinman, of Lee, Massachusetts, and they became the
parents of two sons and a daughter: George H. and Georgina, twins; and
Lycurgus. The daughter died in infancy and after the death of his first wife
Mr. Laflin wedded Miss Catherine King, of Westfield, Massachusetts. They had
several children but all died in youth. Mrs. Catherine Laflin passed away in
1891 and the two sons of the first marriage are now deceased, although they were
for many years prominent factors in the business life of Chicago. For years no
man was better known in this city than Matthew Laflin and at all time he mani-
fested a genuine interest in Chicago, her welfare and progress. During the dark
days which followed the financial crash of 1857, when an ominous quiet seemed
to hang over Chicago, he did much to sustain and awaken the faith of the people,
who were dispairing of the public credit by purchasing state bonds at par. When
the Civil war was in progress he was one of a company of citizens who compelled
the Chicago Times to moderate its tone in discussing the war issues before General
Burnside took military possession of the paper and office. His political allegiance
was always given to the democracy, but he was a stanch champion of the Union
cause. It is said that in appearance and in personal characteristics he presented
a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln. In the later years of his life one
of his biographer's wrote: "Although now approaching the ninetieth anniversary
of his birth, he is still remarkably a hale and stalwart man, enjoying the full
possession of all his faculties, physical and mental. His eye has not grown dim
with advancing years, nor are his natural forces perceptibly abated." Few men
in the evening of life have kept in such close touch with the progress of events as
did Matthew Laflin. He was ever an advocate of law and order and had no sym-
pathy for the labor unions that in their strikes indulge in violence and the destruc-


tion of property", believing it to be the duty of the government to protect every
citizen in his constitutional right, not only to life and to liberty but also to the
pursuit of his lawful business freely and without molestation. In his last years
he arranged to give to Chicago the Matthew Laflin Memorial, now called the
Chicago Academy of Sciences, in Lincoln Park. At his death the Chicago Times
said: "For fifty-eight years he has been a resident here. He came to Chicago
when the town was hardly more than a buffalo wallow on the prairies. He lived
to see it take a place among the great cities of the world by reason of the gen-
erosity of nature and the courage and confidence of its citizens. He was the last
of those industrious pioneers whose lives were linked with Fort Dearborn the
last of that splendid race of strong men who had made their impress on the his-
tory of Chicago." In editorial comment the Tribune wrote: "The story of Mr.
Laflin's life is the story of New England thrift and business sagacity grafted on
western energy, enterprise and adventure. It is true he did not have the humble
origin, or experience the early privations of some men, who have achieved success,
but on the other hand not one in a thousand who have enjoyed his modest ad-
vantages have turned them to such excellent account. The wisdom, energy and
success with which he pushed his way along are a study for American youths.
Mr. Laflin was a typical Chicago man and, indeed, there is little doubt that he
and a few other spirits like him were the real originators and fathers of Chicago's
daring and enterprise." The name of Matthew Laflin is indeed closely interwoven
with the history of this city and he has left the impress of his individuality for
all time upon its records, having given impetus to many enterprises, measures and
movements that have not yet reached their full fruition in the life of the city.


The characteristics which have made Charles Hallett Thome one of the promi-
nent merchants of Chicago are clearly defined and their development have placed
him in the position of leadership which he today occupies as treasurer of the firm
of Montgomery Ward & Company. He was born in Chicago, December 3, 1868,
a son of George R. and Ellen (Cobb) Thorne, of whom mention is made elsewhere
in this volume. The public schools of his native city afforded him his early edu-
cational privileges and later he attended the University of Michigan. Thus well
equipped by liberal mental training for the duties of life, he entered upon his busi-
ness career on the 2d of January, 1889, as stock clerk in the house of Montgomery
Ward & Company and was advanced through various intermediate positions until
made assistant treasurer in 1893. Later he was elected treasurer and one of the
directors of the company. The unique position which the house of Montgomery
Ward & Company occupies in relation to the trade interests of America is well
known, and under the progressive policy of Charles H. Thorne and his associates
rapid growth has been one of the features of the house, resulting from a spirit of
enterprise that has wrought out along new lines, the ' initiative power being
evidenced in an originality that has wrought for splendid success. Mr. Thorne
is financially interested in other enterprises and is a director of the Continental &


Commercial National Bank. He has also taken an active interest in civic affairs
and cooperates in many movements for the direct benefit and upbuilding of the
city. He is a member of the Commercial Club and one of the Chicago Plan com-
mittee of that body.

On the 30th of December, 1891, at Peoria, Illinois, Mr. Thome was married
to Miss Belle Wilber, of that city, and they have three children, Hallett W., Eliza-
beth W. and Leslie, aged respectively fifteen, thirteen and six years. The family
residence is at Winnetka. Mr. Thorne is interested in golf as a means of recrea-
tion and is a member of various leading clubs, including the Chicago Athletic and
Chicago Yacht Clubs and all the principal north shore clubs the Midlothian,
Skokie and Exmoor Country Clubs. He stands today as a splendid type of the
business man who has made Chicago one of the chief world commercial centers,
and yet his interest in business is not of that absorbing kind which precludes
activity along those lines whiqh make for well rounded character and development.


Herbert Franklin Fisk, for fifty-five years a factor in educational circles and
professor of education in Northwestern University at Evanston since 1888, was
born in Stoughton, Massachusetts, September 25, 1840, a son of the Rev. Franklin
and Chloe Catherine (Stone) Fisk, both of whom were descended from Massa-
chusetts ancestry, coming to this country from England about 1630. Nathan Fisk
was born in England about 1615 and became a resident of Watertown, Massachu-
setts, about 1641. He died in 1676. His third son Nathaniel Fisk, was born in
1653 and died in 1735. His son Nathaniel (1678-1719) married Hannah Adams
and they became the parents of Moses Fisk, who was born in 1713 and died in
1773. His son, also Moses Fisk, was born in 1746 and died in 1810. He was a
member of a military company called into service on the occasion of the battle of
Bunker Hill. He also held various town offices and was a member of the legis-
lature. His son, the third Moses Fisk, was born in 1776 and departed this life in
1851. On the ancestral records also appear the names of Broad, Clark, Jennison,

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) → online text (page 22 of 74)