J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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pitious beginning was not satisfactory very long. The machinery which was old
and out of repair, could have been remedied, but a serious difficulty manifested it-
self in the attitude of the foreign workmen under him. The race war was at its
height in this part of the country, and the men resented direction from so young
an American. Finding no cause for complaint and not daring to oppose him openly,
all manner of means were resorted to in their determination to force him to leave.
Belts were slipped from wheels, knives were inserted in a way to make them fly
from their places, when the engine started up ; little clogs were ingeniously placed
to cause breaks and each day something was disturbed, but accustomed to go over
his machinery before beginning work and knowing the situation he was in, by great
care young Harvey escaped these dangers and sought to placate the men by friend-
liness. The organized antagonism was too widespread, however, for an individual
to overcome, and after two weeks of anxious vigilance, the proprietor came to Mr.
Harvey, saying he must leave, his danger was so great, that he dare not be respon-
sible. This seemed like acknowledging defeat to Mr. Harvey and he urged to be
allowed to remain and be given more time to overcome the opposition, but Mr.
McFall, who knew conditions and seemed to thoroughly like Mr. Harvey, was im-
movable in his decision, and regretfully they parted. There was no difficulty now
in obtaining a position ; he had been observed and was immediately sought and in-
stalled as foreman in the larger concern of Grey, Morrison & Company. Here
all went well until through the death of Mr. Grey and the withdrawal of his
capital the financial condition of the firm was weakened and later in the season
the house became insolvent and closed. By this time Mr. Harvey had made many
acquaintances in the trade and was much liked. Abbott & Kingman, the largest
factory of sash, doors and blinds in the city, called him to the position of foreman
in their establishment and he remained with them for five years.

These were active, and developing years, into which crowded most varied ex-
periences. The pressure of responsibility and occupation filled the days of his
first summer in Chicago with absorbing interest, but the loneliness and homesick-
ness of that summer, after working hours, was never forgotten. Without any so-
cial acquaintance and disinclined to the chance companionship of his surroundings,
evening after evening that hot season, after the plans were made for the following
day, he sat alone upon the door steps of the factory, too tired and warm to read.
His room was in the building and his only visitor the night watchman on his
rounds. Occasionally he attended a political meeting, if Mr. John Wentworth was
to speak, for whom he conceived an enthusiastic admiration or would wander into
the Second Presbyterian church, but he did not feel himself a part of the city's
life and longed for the home far away. His purpose to remain however, never
wavered ; he would wait. Notwithstanding, the stress of the change wore upon him
and that fall when cholera swept over the city, he was violently attacked by the


disease and nearly lost his life. The epidemic was so virulent that the authorities
were unable properly to care for the dead. During the first severity of his ill-
ness, he could hear the wagons hurriedly carrying off the victims from the buildings
backing upon the alley, in the rear of the factory. His isolation and the thought
of a nameless grave haunted him, but this seeming calamity proved the "open
door" to his career of usefulness in the city of his choice. A bustling kindly doctor
came to him and soon after "An angel" in the person of Mrs. Abbott, the wife of
the senior partner of his firm. No longer did he lack for comfort or friends.
Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, who had no children, took him to their home as soon as he
could be moved, became attached to him and kept him with them as a son, until
his marriage. He occupied a seat in their pew in church and through them, made
many of his dearest life friends. They were Methodists and devout people. Un-
der their influence he became interested in some special revival services being held
by that denomination and took his first individual stand, as a Christian, uniting
with the Wabash Avenue Methodist church, located near Harrison street, with
whose membership and activities he was associated during a great part of his
life. Denominational lines were sharply drawn in those days and his parents
with their Presbyterian affiliations found it difficult to rejoice in their son's an-
nouncement with the warmth they felt his action should receive. However, this
connection opened to his young manhood the most splendid opportunity for service,
and it was in this church that he met Miss Maria Louisa Hardman of Louisville,
Kentucky, while on a visit in Chicago, who later became his wife.

During the time Mr. Harvey was with Abbott & Kingman, he had the best op-
portunities to become acquainted with the needs of the rapidly developing western
country, in his line of business and became personally known to the lumber trade.
He fully appreciated these advantages. More and more responsibility in the
manufacturing department, attached to his position, but the finances were managed
by the heads of the firm. There was no visible indication of weakness in this
direction, and when after the death of Mr. Abbott, the firm failed, it brought not
only very keen surprise but great loss to Mr. Harvey.

With the exception of the investment in two small lots far out on Indiana
avenue, he had kept his earnings in the concern. Mr. Abbott was drowned, when
the Lady Elgin went down with all on board, in a terrific storm on Lake Michigan
near Chicago, in sight of the helpless onlookers upon the shore. This catastrophe de-
prived him of his friend, his employment and his savings. He had married, con-
sidering himself amply able to care for a wife, as well as to assist in the main-
tenance of the parents' home, when again he had to face life without capital or
employment, amid widespread business inactivity in the country. With his new hap-
piness, however, and larger experience, he felt courage to brave every difficulty and he
and his young wife resolutely accepted their trying situation and together met their
limitations. Undaunted he sauntered forth to discover what could be done. Pass-
ing the planing mill of Mr. Peter B. Lamb, 329 South Canal street, Mr. Harvey
observed that the machinery was not running. Stepping inside, he saw Mr.
Lamb sitting alone in the silent room, looking much dejected. Enquiring as to
the cause of shutting down, Mr. Lamb replied, "No business." They chatted
for a time. Mr. Lamb was well equipped, had no indebtedness, but also had
no trade. Mr. Harvey persuaded Mr. Lamb that, although he had no money,


he could bring customers. Mr. Lamb knew his energy and popularity and
agreed to take him as a partner and allow him to start right in. Before Mr.
Harvey left the mill, a gentleman walked in, enquiring for a certain kind of
cornice bracket. Mr. Harvey advanced toward him, took a letter from his pocket
and sketched upon the back, the pattern of a bracket, such as he supposed the
customer wished, asking if that would suit. The gentleman said it was exactly
what he wanted and stated the number he required. Mr. Harvey gave him the
price and said he would have them ready for him in the morning, and the gentle-
man left. Turning quite sharply upon Mr. Harvey, Mr. Lamb said, "Why did you
sell that man those brackets? We have no machinery to make anything of that
kind." "No," Mr. Harvey replied, "but your neighbors upstairs have and I know
how to get them." On the following day, the brackets were ready when called for
and the man from whom they were obtained, paid in planed boards. The cash
paid by the gentleman realized a profit of two dollars and a half. Not a large
sum upon which to start business, but a beginning on the right side of the ledger.

The firm of Lamb & Harvey was formed in 1859, and without discussion, the
duties of each were understood. Mr. Lamb had charge of the machinery and Mr.
Harvey conducted the business. They prospered most remarkably and, in 1861,
it became necessary to have a larger establishment. Ground was purchased and
a new mill built on the corner of Polk and Beach streets.

Mr. Lamb did not share Mr. Harvey's religious convictions and was in the
habit of repairing his machinery on Sunday. Mr. Harvey dropped in one Sunday
after church service, found him busily occupied in overhauling the machines, and
remonstrated. Mr. Lamb thought no planing mill business could be conducted
otherwise and that it would be found impracticable. Mr. Harvey said it would
benefit all concerned to have one day of rest in seven, and that he felt compelled
to abide by this command. Throughout all the branches of his extensive business
during his career, he never swerved from this position.

The outbreak of the Civil war in 1861 brought constantly increasing trade to
the firm. His responsibilities rapidly multiplied. The nation's earnest appeal for
defense was seriously considered, but with wife and young children, the financial
obligation he maintained for the parents home and the ever-growing claims of the
large business he had developed, it was decided best that he remain at home and
his brother Barton represent the family at the front. Barton therefore enlisted
in the Seventh New York Cavalry, in the very beginning of the war and was in
almost every battle of note during the conflict, until taken prisoner and sent to
Andersonville in 1864. With the same sturdy build and vigor of inheritance as his
brother, Barton lived through six months of the unspeakable hardships to which
those prisoners were subjected. When General Sherman's raid through the south
caused the Rebels to remove these living skeletons to Milan, Georgia, the strain
of the expectant release overcame Barton and he died on the train five miles from
the prison. Miss Clara Barton, known as the "Angel of the Battlefield," with the
assistance of Mr. Dorrance Atwater, an employe of the prison, placed a headboard
with his name at his grave and as soon as permitted, after peace was declared,
his brother went south and brought Barton's remains, to the family ground in the
cemetery in Sandwich, Illinois, where his parents were then located.


In 1865, Mr. Lamb, who was advanced in years, felt that he had acquired a
sufficient fortune, to retire and return to his early home, in the state of New York
and he and his wife enjoy their declining years, amid the pleasant surroundings
of their youth. Mr. Harvey consented and purchased Mr. Lamb's interest for one
hundred thousand dollars, from that time carrying on the business alone.

Strenuous years followed the close of the war. So exacting were Mr. Harvey's
duties, that for a period of over seven years, he was not outside the then small
area of the city's limits, but he could always find time to spare for religious and
philanthropic work. He was superintendent of an afternoon Sunday mission
school on the west side, having an attendance of over eight hundred children, be-
sides conducting the morning Sunday school in the home church of which he was
superintendent, for twenty-five years. He took a leading part in all the activities
and responsibilities of his church and was president of its board of trustees also
for a period of twenty-five years. Rising at day break, driving or ridng from
mill to docks, from railroad offices to banks, from river cargoes to lumberyards,
his days were a busy round, and he would reach home for the evening meal only to
return to get possession of freighting cars and see them placed upon his tracks,
ready for the next day's loading. The demand for cars was so great and it was so
difficult to get them, that it was the man on the ground, at the time of switching
in the freight yards at night, who succeeded in obtaining the number necessary
for his shipments.

In 1870, during this time of business pressure, a great sorrow came into the life
of Mr. Harvey. Consequent upon the birth of their sixth son, he lost his beauti-
ful and beloved wife and the babe soon followed the mother. This left him with
four little boys, the first child, little Willie, having died at the age of fourteen
months, with membranous croup. A faithful and competent German woman, who
had lived with Mrs. Harvey for nine years, cared for the children, but the home
spirit had fled. Few men are capable of such great and loyal devotion as Mr.
Harvey possessed, and this grief, together with his excessive labors, told seriously
upon his health. His friends feared for him a nervous breakdown, but he was a man
of such sincere and vital faith, that he soon gathered himself, found recreation in
his affection for his children and his horses, and renewed his interest in his busi-
ness and public services. The volume of his business continued steadily to in-
crease, until it reached a position second to none. The red shingle attached to
the cars carrying his lumber and bearing his name was the most familiar sign along
all railroad lines to the western frontier, the Superior region in the north, and far
into the southwest, and eastern buyers learned the reliable quality of the lumber
dressed by T. W. Harvey.

The mill built in 1865 was burned previous to the great fire in 1871. In consider-
ing rebuilding, the city had grown up so rapidly about this site, that Mr. Harvey
found it expedient to move to the outskirts, and secured property at the corner of
Twenty-second and Morgan streets, where, in 1 869, he erected a larger and more
commodious establishment, the most thoroughly equipped in the citv. This planing
mill was considered the first really fire-proof building constructed up to that time,
its safety features being entirely contrived and worked out by Mr. Harvey. Brick
and iron were the only materials used and through immense pipes bv suction all
inflammable collections of sawdust and shavings, which had been such a constant


menace, were carried off and utilized as fuel. This was a double economy, feed-
ing the fires and saving the previous expense of carting off these accumulations.
This mill had a capacity for planing from two hundred and fifty to three hundred
thousand feet of lumber per day. For the year 1883 the extent of the business
reached the enormous figure of one hundred and forty millions feet. Across the
street were the receiving and distributing docks, occupying the entire frontage of
Mason's slip and Troop's canal, with track facilities for loading one hundred cars
of lumber daily.

In 1871 ten dry-kilns were erected, the first steam dry-kilns ever constructed.
These also were Mr. Harvey's own invention and enabled him to prepare dry lum-
ber for the market in from three to five days' time, which previously had required
several months.

Mr. Harvey was most successful in the selection of men. Those at the head
of all his departments began with him in youth, developing with the business, and
continuing with him during the thirty-five years that he conducted his own busi-
ness. Mr. Purmort, head of the office force, John Kallen, foreman of the mill and
shipping, George Legg, engineer, Mike Hart, foreman of the lumberyards, Mike
McCabe, foreman of the teamsters, and Frank Saunders, a sturdy woodsman, fore-
man of the docks. Frank Saunders was a noted character along the river. He
was so powerful and courageous that during labor struggles or strikes, he was
as formidable as a body of infantry and his presence and control of the men under
him made him almost a guarantee of security.

Mr. Harvey had lumber mills at Muskegon, Michigan, and Marinette, Wiscon-
sin, transporting the rough lumber by Lake Michigan, in his own boats to be piled
in the Chicago yards and dressed at the planing mill. The conduct of such a
business made the employment of every possible device for expediting work and
economizing cost, necessary, and Mr. Harvey was known as a patron of every in-
vention which led to these ends. Among the most far-reaching of these was the
adoption of the narrow gauge, logging railroad for reaching distant tracts of tim-
ber. This gave the same value to trees growing in the interior, as to those border-
ing the streams, or within easy hauling distance by ox and horse teams, and
opened up a vast region which had been comparatively of small worth. Mr. Har-
vey inaugurated this innovation in the pineries in 1878, and it proved so entirely
successful and resulted in such a saving of time and money, that railroad lumber-
ing has largely superseded other methods and eliminated the fear of unfavorable
winters for hauling. The first road of the kind was constructed by Mr. Harvey
through Mr. William Gerrish, and extended in Michigan from Lake George to the
Muskegon river. In 1883 Mr. Harvey organized the T. W. Harvey Lumber Com-
pany, into which he put a capital of one million dollars and took in as partners, a
number of his employes, and became its president.

Mr. Harvey was also president and principal owner of the National Lumber
Company, the White Pine Lumber Company and the Jones & Magee Lumber Com-
pany, which companies operated some ninety lumberyards in Nebraska, Iowa and
Kansas. Mr. Harvey was director in the Metropolitan National Bank and in the
American Trust & Savings Bank.

In the field of doing good to others Mr. Harvey's activity, after the great fire
of 1871, is perhaps the most striking. He had been a director in the Chicago Re-


lief and Aid Society since 1866, and in 1886 was its president, thirty-three years,
during all of which time he took a leading part in raising funds for the society.
During the year following the fire, he was a member of the executive committee.
The title of this society indicates plainly enough the purpose of its organization,
but it found a great field of operation during the time of and following the awful
calamity, as the great fire fund of ten million dollars, was entrusted to this society
for distribution. On October 13, Mayor R. B. Mason, by proclamation, transferred
the relief work from the general relief committee to the Chicago Relief and Aid
Society and on the same day, it took full charge of the work thus assigned. This
society was thoroughly organized, every department was systematized and it had
upon its executive committee, a gallant band of Chicago's noblest and strongest
citizens, who during the long months succeeding the fire, lost sight of self in their
endeavors to assuage the distress of the suffering. The wisdom and ability with
which they managed and dispersed the inflowing tide of the world's generosity
have left a record for devotion and integrity of which Chicago has reason to be

Standard Hall, on the corner of Thirteenth street and Michigan avenue, was
selected for the general headquarters. Here these men met after the day's tremen-
dous activities, night after night in executive session and wrestled with the emer-
gencies and conditions consequent upon the city's overwhelming catastrophe. Most
appropriately, Mr. Harvey was selected to serve on the shelter committee. He was
not the chairman, but as Mr. T. H. Avery was incapacitated from taking an active
part in the work, Mr. Harvey filled his position, and did it most admirably. As a
proof of the close attention he gave to this work of relieving suffering, it can be
stated that he was not at his own business office but one hour during the six months
following the fire. The Chicago Relief and Aid Society was accustomed to make a
report to the common council of its work each year, and this report was in-
variably contained in a small pamphlet of some twenty-five pages. The report of
the work of the society, however, during the year of the fire and the winter which
came with extreme severity close upon its heels, took a large volume of nearly
four hundred and fifty pages. A few extracts from the report show clearly the
true condition of affairs. At one point it says:

"The exigency was imperative. We were on the verge of the most inclement
season of the year, and those familiar with the great severity of our winters, and
our exposed situation between the open prairies on the one side and the lake on the
other, can understand how the question of shelter pressed upon us. Some rude
barracks were, at the outset, put up by the committee, which could only answer
for immediate protection from the weather; but such structures, even if well built,
were open to grave objections as the homes of forty or fifty thousand people in
the winter. It was decided, therefore, to put in barracks the minimum number
who could not be provided for otherwise, and to provide small but comfortable
houses for the rest; much the larger portion had families and had owned or had
leases of the lots where they had previously resided. Messrs. T. M. Avery and
T. W. Harvey, members of the executive committee of this society, were at once
put at the head of a shelter committee, and the result of their labors was even
more successful and encouraging than the most sanguine had anticipated."


Mr. Harvey was no sooner apprised of his appointment than he began making
estimates. In the space of a few minutes while riding in a buggy from one point
to another, he figured out a plan for two sizes of houses, a one-room and a two-
room house, and had put down on paper the bill of material for the construction of
each. The two-room house was to be 20x16, for families of more than three per-
sons, and the other 12x16, for families of three only. The floor joists were 2x6,
covered with a flooring of plain and matched boards ; the studding was of 2x4s,
covered with inch boards and battened on the outside, or with planed and matched
lumber; and the inside walls were lined with thick felt paper and each house had
a double iron chimney, two four-paneled doors, three windows, and a partition to
be put where the occupants pleased. To the house was added by the committee,
a cooking stove and utensils, several chairs, a table, bedstead, bedding and suffi-
cient crockery for the use of the family. The total cost of this house and furni-
ture was one hundred and twenty-five dollars. Some idea of the work done by the
shelter committee may be gained from the statement that in one month, from Oc-
tober 18 to November 17, they erected five thousand two hundred and twenty-six
houses, which number was increased later to over eight thousand. During such
trying times as these the question of cost is likely to be forgotten, but Mr. Harvey
knew that a great portion of the lumber used would have to be paid for, either out
of the society funds or by the city at some future time, and he took a wise pre-
caution. Millions of feet of lumber were destroyed by the fire, and still more by
the forest fires in Michigan and Wisconsin that year, and he readily foresaw that
such a wholesale loss would cause a rise in the price. He therefore at once began
making contracts for all he could get at the ruling prices, about fourteen dollars per
thousand feet. The wisdom of the step was recognized when it was found that the
price had, by November 26, reached twenty dollars per thousand feet. The shelter
committee used about thirty-five million feet in their work, and the saving made
to the society by the forethought of Mr. Harvey amounted to over two hundred
thousand dollars.

The following incident will serve to illustrate the heroic service he performed,
and also the wonderful energy and the humane character of the man. As a re-
sult of a terrible snow storm that had prevailed for several days, soon after the
fire, nearly all incoming coal trains were blockaded, and the people were suffering
greatly for want of fuel and what did arrive was side-tracked and left on the
outskirts of the city. It seemed impossible to hire teams and wagons to haul it.
This was the situation one bitter cold Sunday morning, but Mr. Harvey proved him-
self equal to the emergency, and undoubtedly saved hundreds of people from freez-
ing to death during that terrible storm. Realizing the situation, his first work was
the purchase of teams, wagons and harnesses, employment of teamsters and labor-
ers ; and all that day he personally superintended the work. The snow was so

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) → online text (page 26 of 74)