J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) online

. (page 38 of 74)
Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) → online text (page 38 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Endowed by nature with keen intellect, developing in his youth a laudable am-
bition, Arthur Dixon has throughout his entire life made wise use of time, talents
and opportunities, nor have his efforts been confined alone to lines resulting in
individual benefit. Into those fields where general interests and the public wel-
fare are involved he has extended his efforts, becoming a recognized political
leader of republican faith and one of the most efficient and active workers in the
Methodist denomination of Chicago. His residence in this city covers more than a
half century.

He was a young man of twenty-four years at the time of his arrival, his birth
having occurred in County Fermanagh, Ireland, March 27, 1837. His parents were
Arthur and Jane (Allen) Dixon. His father was a man of noticeable flexibility
and force of character, who successfully cultivated the fields, acted as instructor
in the schoolroom and was engaged in the practice of law. Many of his sterling


traits of character seem to have been inherited by his son, who in his youth dis-
played remarkable alertness and vigor, both mental and physical. In his school
days he was particularly fond of mathematics, logic, history and ethics. The discip-
line of his youthful years was moral as well as mental and from early boyhood
he was a constant attendant at the Episcopal and Methodist Sunday schools. His
literary training was received in the district and national schools and at the age
of eighteen years he left home to enjoy the broader opportunities which he felt
were offered in America. Arriving in Philadelphia in 1855, he there resided until
1858, having been influenced in his choice of a destination by the fact that some
of his old-time friends were living in that city. He afterward spent three years
in the nursery business in Pittsburg and following his arrival in Chicago, in 1861,
entered business circles as a grocery clerk in the employ of G. C. Cook. Soon after,
however, he opened a grocery store on his own account, conducting it with fair
success from 1861 until 1863. It was seemingly an accident that led him into the
field of business in which he has so long remained, in which his fortune has been
gained and in which he has attained enviable reputation because of capable manage-
ment, executive force and able direction of his interests. In payment for a debt
contracted in his grocery store he accepted a team of horses and wagon and this
led him into the teaming business, which he found so remunerative that in 1862 he
disposed of his grocery store and opened an office at No. 299 Fifth avenue. In the
half century which has since elapsed the name of Arthur Dixon has become a
synonym in Chicago for the transfer business, for efficient service and for honor-
able dealing. A general transfer, storage and forwarding business is conducted,
it having been incorporated in 1888 under the name of the Arthur Dixon Transfer
Company, of which the founder is still the president. It has developed into the
largest enterprise of its kind in the city but the business resources of Mr. Dixon
have not been taxed to their fullest extent in its conduct and management, for
other interests have also felt the stimulus of his energy and initiative. He is now
a director of the F. Parmelee Company, the Central Trust Company, the West
Pullman Land Association, the Dixon Land Association, the Baltimore & Ohio
Railroad Company, the Grand Trunk Railroad Company and was for many years
a director of the Metropolitan National Bank. His opinion upon important busi-
ness propositions has often been sought and his counsel has been freely given.

Pleasantly situated in his home life, Mr. Dixon is at the head of a family that
is very prominent socially. In January, 1862, he married Miss Annie Carson, of
Allegheny, and of their fourteen children six sons and six daughters are yet living.
George W. Dixon, the second son, is secretary and treasurer of the Arthur Dixon
Transfer Company, while the third, Thomas J. Dixon, is general manager. It has
been said that his home at No. 3131 Michigan boulevard represents an ideal Ameri-
can household. His children are in sympathy with him in all that he has done
and have been particularly helpful in his work in behalf of the church. He was
reared in the Episcopal faith but for many years has been a leading member of the
First Methodist church, serving as trustee and Sunday school teacher for almost
a half century and also as president of its board. He is likewise one of the trus-
tees of the Wesleyan Hospital. He belongs to the Methodist Social Union and to
various organizations which promote the ethical and educational interests of the
city. He has a membership in the Art Institute, the Historical Society, the Chicago


Real Estate Board, the Bankers' Club, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Union
League and the Hamilton, Calumet and Illinois Athletic Clubs. He has served as
president of the Irish Literary Society and is interested in all that stimulates
higher thought, his own wide reading and investigation being indicated in his
choice library of religious, scientific, poetical and philosophical works. He is one
of the old-time representatives of Masonry in Chicago, having become identified
with the craft in 1865. He is now a life member of the chapter and commandery
and lias attained the thirty-second degree in the Scottish Rite. He has been a
close student of the great questions involved in citizenship and is splendidly quali-
fied for political leadership, yet on the whole has preferred that his public services
should be done as a private citizen. However, his capabilities have been called
forth in leadership in the republican party, of which he became a most earnest
supporter during the period of the Civil war. His sympathies were with the
Federal government and his work in enlisting and equipping men for the Union
ranks called forth general praise. A contemporary biographer, in this connection,
has said: "Toward the end of the war he became especially prominent in local
politics and obtained firm standing with his fellow citizens by his active partici-
pation in the establishment of the fire limits. In the spring of 1867 he was
elected by the republicans as alderman from the second ward and for twenty- four
years served continuously as a member of the city council, holding the record both
for faithfulness and length of aldermanic service. Although he was returned to
his seat year after year with increased majorities and sometimes without opposition,
the contest in the common council over his elevation to the presidency of that body
was bitter. He was chosen, however, and continued in office from 1874 to 1880, in-
clusive. At various times he served as chairman of all the important committees
and, whether as a working member, a debater or 'watchdog of the city treasury,'
made his mark. Among other important measures he advocated municipal owner-
ship of the gas plant, high water pressure, building of sewers by special assess-
ment, creation of a public library, annexation of the suburbs, building of viaducts
over railway crossings, the drainage law and the extension of the fire limits. At
Mr. Dixon's resignation in April, 1891, the city council, as a body, expressed its un-
qualified regret at his action and placed on record its conviction of 'his great public
worth, his zeal for honest and economical government, his sincere interest in the
cause of the taxpayers and his undoubted and unquestioned ability in every posi-
tion assigned to him.' Mr. Dixon was one of the foremost in laying a wise and
substantial foundation for the World's Columbian Exposition and in April, 1892,
was elected one of its directors, his services and counsel being invaluable. Mr.
Dixon represented the first senatorial district of Illinois in the twenty-seventh
general assembly, and among the bills introduced and passed by him at that ses-
sion were those providing for the location of the Chicago public library and the
extension of sewerage and water by special tax levy and sundry other bills. For
a quarter of a century he has been a member of the city and county republican
central committees and has served many times as chairman of both of these bodies.
In 1 872 he was a leading candidate for congress, failing of the nomination by only
a few votes, and in 1880 served as a delegate to the national republican convention
which named James A. Garfield for the presidency. Justly proud of his nation-
ality, Mr. Dixon has also been highly honored by the Irish republicans of the city


and nation. In 1868 he was elected president of the Irish Republican Club of
Chicago and in the following year to the head of the national organization." Mr.
Dixon is a splendid representative of a race that is represented by illustrious men
throughout the civilized world. To the ready adaptability and versatility of the
Irish people he added American enterprise and resolution. Throughout all his
course he has never faltered in the accomplishment of what he has undertaken in
either individual or community affairs and his history proves that success is am-
bition's answer.


Success in the practice of patent law presupposes not only a comprehensive
knowledge of the principles in this department of law but also an understanding
of mechanics and engineering so that the practitioner may himself pass upon the
value of the patent over which litigation is waged and recognize the points of dis-
similarity to anything of the kind previously put upon the market. Well known
as a patent attorney, A. Miller Belfield has made continuous progress in this field
in which he has elected to specialize. He is one of Chicago's native sons, his birth
having occurred September 6, 1873. His parents were Henry Holmes and Anna
(Miller) Belfield, natives of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Ohio, re-
spectively. About 1867 they became residents of Chicago and the father was at
one time principal of the Jones school and afterward of the North Division high
school. He was also the first and only director of the Chicago Manual Training
School, located at Twelfth street and Michigan avenue, later absorbed by the Uni-
versity of Chicago as part of its University School of Education. He was not only
a distinguished educator of this city but was also widely known throughout the
entire educational world as an early exponent of manual training, as opposed to the
old classics. At present he is retired and is traveling abroad. At the time of the
Civil war his patriotic nature prompted response to the country's call for troops
and he enlisted in the Eighth Iowa Cavalry, serving with the rank of adjutant. He
was captured and for sixty days was incarcerated in Charleston Prison, after which
he was exchanged. His wife was a daughter of Andrew Miller, an early settler of
Chicago and one of the pioneer shipbuilders and owner of several dry docks. Mrs.
Belfield was one of the high school girls that took part in the Lincoln funeral march
when the body of the martyred president was brought to Chicago and here lay in
state before the funeral procession to Springfield was resumed, the interment being
made in the capital city.

A. Miller Belfield acquired his preliminary education in the public schools of
Chicago, later attended the Chicago Manual Training School of this city and sub-
sequently became a student in Purdue University at La Fayette, Indiana, from
which he was graduated with the class of 1892. While at Purdue he became a mem-
ber of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Determining upon the practice of law as a life
work, he made preparation for the profession as a student in and was graduated
from the law department of Northwestern University in 1894. The same year he
was admitted to practice. He had pursued a course in electrical engineering, which



constituted an excellent foundation for success in patent law. To this branch of the
profession he immediately turned his attention and therein met with notable suc-
cess. He was at one time a member of the firm of Page & Belfield, but the senior
partner is now deceased. Later he became associated with the firm of Brown, Cragg
& Belfield but for some years has been alone in practice. His clientage is drawn
from among the large corporations and is quite extensive and he has been the victor
in a number of prominent patent law suits, which demonstrates his superior ability
in this particular field of practice.

Mr. Belfield is a member of the Union League, the Homewood Country and the
Chicago Law Clubs. His membership with the Loyal Legion is due to his father's
connection with the Union army. He is also a member of the Chicago Association
of Commerce and interested in its projects for the development of the material in-
terests of the city. His religious faith is evidenced in his membership in the Hyde
Park Presbyterian church, in which he is serving as deacon and in the work of
which he takes an active and helpful interest. He likewise belongs to the Young
Men's Christian Association and the Hyde Park Men's Club. His interest centers
in those movements and measures which tend to uplift humanity, to promote the
upbuilding of the city or to bring relief where aid is needed- by the individual.
Sterling manhood places him with Chicago's representative citizens.


What the name of Marshall Field is to the dry-goods trade the name of D. B.
Fisk is to the millinery trade, and while twenty-one years have come and gone
since he passed away, there remains as a monument to his activity and enterprise
the large wholesale establishment which he founded and conducted. He was born
at Upton, Massachusetts, January 23, 1817, his parents being Daniel and Ruth
(Chapin) Fisk. His education was afforded by the common schools and at sixteen
years of age he entered his father's general store in Upton, there receiving his
business training. He was thus identified with commercial interests at that place
for a considerable period and while there residing he was married to Lydia Chapin
Wood on the 12th of June, 1838. They became parents of two sons and a daughter:
D. Milton, Henry E. and Mrs. Bennet B. Botsford.

Mr. Fisk left New England to become a resident of Chicago in 1853, in which
year he founded the millinery house of D. B. Fisk & Company a name synony-
mous with the commercial history of the city. The store at that time was located
on Wells street, between Lake and South Water streets, and later was removed to
Nos. 53-55 Lake street, where the business was continued until the building was
destroyed during the great Chicago fire. Immediately afterward D. B. Fisk & Com-
pany resumed business at Washington and Clinton streets, where they remained un-
til the completion of their new building at the southwest corner of Washington and
Wabash avenue, where the firm has been located for over forty years, a record in
the downtown district of forty-one years in one and the same location and building.
The firm is at present erecting a thirteen-story building at 225 North Wabash
avenue, which they will occupy January 1, 1913. Mr. Fisk was, throughout the


period to the time of his death, the motive spirit in the development and upbuilding
of this business, making his establishment adequate to the demands of the whole-
sale trade in the growing western city. Its goods were sent out to all parts of the
middle west and even to more remote districts and the sales of the house reached
a large annual figure. At the present time their goods are sold from coast to coast
and beside the Chicago establishment, salesrooms are maintained at New York city
and St. Louis.

The death of Mr. Fisk occurred July 29, 1891, when he had been a resident of
Chicago for thirty-eight years. His name was ever a prominent one in commercial
circles and his establishment set the standard which others followed. He came to
be widely known in social connections and was a member of the Chicago, Calumet
and Washington Park Clubs.


Prominent among those men who did much to place Chicago in its foremost
position among the leading cities of the world in certain lines of industry and
commerce was the gentleman whose name heads this review. Born January 28,
1855, he was a native of Birmingham, England, where his boyhood days were
spent. His opportunities for education did not extend beyond the first fifteen years
of his life or beyond his native country, for at that age he came with his parents
to America and in Chicago entered upon his business career, first as an employe
of Lunt, Preston & Keene, bankers. He was but a boy of fifteen, yet he displayed
an aptitude that characterized him as a lad who would win victories in life's battles.
He remained with this firm until after the great Chicago fire and was an employe
of the bank at the time of the conflagration, being at length forced to flee from
his post owing to the encroachment of the flames shortly before the building col-
lapsed. In 1873 he entered the employ of William Kirkwood and by close ap-
plication and fidelity won advancement until in 1876 he was admitted to partner-
ship, the firm later becoming Geddes, Kirkwood & Company. Mr. Wells retained
his membership and active connection with this firm until about 1896, when he
withdrew to become president of the Continental Packing Company, continuing
at the head of the latter concern until about 1902, when he resigned the presi-
dency and disposed of his interest therein. Soon afterward he founded the present
commission house of T. E. Wells & Company, remaining its president until his
death. During the latter years of his life he lived practically retired and spent a
great deal of his time with his wife and younger members of the family at "Top
Farm," Broadway, Worcestershire, England, where he owned a country estate.

The life history of Mr. Wells was that of a self-made man in the fullest mean-
ing of the term a man whose start in life was his ambition and energy, one who
could detect opportunities and was not afraid to back his judgment with the finan-
cial strength he possessed. His interests were large and varied. He had grown
up in the business that brought him his greatest success. In the early days he
had spent some time in ranching enterprises in Kansas an experience that no
doubt furnished information of value in his subsequent successful career. Varied


as were his interests, there were none with which he was not thoroughly familiar
and, therefore, capable of their successful direction. He always had great faith
in Chicago and its future and many years ago began to invest in city realty. In
1855 he purchased real estate at what is now 4733 Vincennes avenue, where he
erected the home that was always afterward his Chicago residence and where his
widow still resides while in the city. At the time of its purchase there were but
few homes or business houses in that locality.

Mr. Wells was married October 17, 1874, to Miss Mary Nash, of Worcester-
shire, England, who with three sons and three daughters survive, the children be-
ing: Mary, the wife of W. H. Noyes, of Chicago; John Edward; Annie, now Mrs.
A. H. Noyes; Thomas Edmond; Preston Albert; and Eleanor May. All are resi-
dents of Chicago, one son, Richard A., having previously passed away.

Mr. Wells was a member of the Forty-first Street Presbyterian church, of which
he served as a trustee, and he took deep interest in church and religious affairs.
He was for many years a member of the Chicago Club and was a man of many
friends and one of the well known citizens of Chicago in business and financial
circles. When business hours were over, however, his greatest pleasure was in his
home and his deepest interest was for the comfort and welfare of his family.

Mr. Wells' death occurred on the 4th of August, 1910, at Evesham, Worcester-
shire, England, while abroad with his wife and family, his demise following an
operation for appendicitis. His remains were brought to Chicago and rest in Oak-
woods cemetery.


Joseph Peacock, who was one of the oldest living settlers of Chicago at the
time of his death, was born in Cambridgeshire, England, on August 21, 1813, and
died May 13, 1886. He was the son of William and Susannah (Caldecott) Pea-
cock. For several years during his early childhood he lived with his parents at
his native town, and then went to Huntingdon, the birth-place of Oliver Cromwell,
to live with his grandfather Caldecott, a jeweler. A clock of this grandfather's
manufacture, which is over one hundred years old, Mr. Peacock had in his posses-
sion. After residing for some years in Huntingdon and obtaining his education at
the common schools, he learned the trade of gunsmith at his native village, work-
ing at it in different places in England until 1834, when he came to America. He
at first located in Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked seven months for a gunsmith
named E. P. Andrews. He then started a small gunsmith shop of his own, which'
he ran about a year, when he sold it and removed to Albion, New York, where he
worked one winter, and, in the spring of 1 836, came to Chicago. In the. succeeding
fall, he opened a gunsmith shop at the northwest corner of Clark and Lake streets,
which he ran about three years, and continued in this business, in various locations
on Lake street, until 1850, when he retired from it. In 1842 or 1843, he erected a
two-story brick building at No. 224 Lake street, one of the first erected on that
street, and occupied it with his shop for some years. After selling his gunsmith
business in 1850, he was unoccupied for some years, and then, in 1853, purchased


the pine timber lands and sawmill owned by Silas Billings, near the mouth of
Ford River, in Delta county, Michigan. After selling lumber by the cargo for
about a year, he opened a yard near the east end of Twelfth street bridge, for
storing the lumber for which a ready market was not found. He continued to
manufacture lumber on Ford River, and manage this Chicago yard and deal gen-
erally in lumber, until 1864, when he sold both lands and mill to John S. McDonald,
John Lynch and a Mr. Simple. After making this sale, he continued his lumber
business in Chicago, having an office at various places until 1882, when he, for the
most part, went out of business.

Mr. Peacock was married in 1842 to Miss Margaret Sobraro. They had nine
children. Those living are as follows : Maggie, who married S. Q. Perry, formerly
president of the Perry-Pearson Company; Russel D., who died October 22, 1911;
Alice M., who married D. C. Alton; and Florence, wife of Albert P. Green, of whom
a sketch appears elsewhere in this work. The grandchildren are as follows: Joseph
Peacock Green, Margaret Green, Russel Philip Green and Albert Pennington
Green, II. Mr. Peacock was highly respected for his sterling honesty and strength
of character.


It is not strange that the biographer should hestitate when he attempts to pen
the lines which shall pay fitting tribute to such a good man and true as was John J.
Hanlon, whose life was expressive of all that is meant by nobility and sterling worth.
There entered into his career the distinctive and unmistakable elements of greatness,
if greatness has its root in honorable ancestry and is fostered in the development
of high character and successful accomplishment. A native of Dublin, Ireland, John
J. Hanlon was born January 14, 1835, and his life record covered the intervening
period to the 22d of March, 1905, when he passed away at his home on West Mon-
roe street, in Chicago, at the age of seventy years. He was the son of James Han-
lon, a wealthy architect, and was descended from a very ancient and honorable
Irish family that had well served their country. The name figures prominently
upon various pages of Ireland history, for the O'Hanlons were distinguished as
soldiers, as scholars and in the priesthood. The roster of O'Neil's army in 1590
and the army of James the Second, one hundred years later, shows that many of
the name were valiant soldiers in defense of their country's interests. At Limer-
ick they distinguished themselves with Sarsfield and officers of that name went with
the brigade into France. Redmond O'Hanlon is spoken of as the most fearless man

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) → online text (page 38 of 74)