Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 2

Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 2 – Josiah Seymour Currey

Jerome A. Watrous, the author of the first volume, and Josiah Seymour Currey, the compiler of the biographical volumes two through five, present a thrilling narrative and in-depth-biographies of an eventful past of a county, the rapid growing of a fantastic city on the lakeshore, and the lives of hundreds of people that were so important for the history of Milwaukee town and country. The whole five books contain thousands of pages of valuable information and are essential for everyone interested in the history the most populous and densely populated county in Wisconsin. This is volume two out of five, containing a wealth of biographies of important people.

Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 2

Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 2.

Format: eBook.

Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 2

ISBN: 9783849661069.


Excerpt from the text:


Edward P. Allis, for many years an outstanding figure in connection with the development of Milwaukee, became prominently known throughout the country as an iron manufacturer. The extent and importance of his business activities brought him to a place of leadership in this field of labor. He was resourceful, alert to every opportunity and possessed notable energy and determination, so that he ultimately arrived at his objective and the results achieved were of benefit to city and state at large as well as to his individual fortunes. He felt, too, that political questions are a matter of personal concern to every loyal American citizen and therefore he stood staunchly by the political organization with which he was allied. It is doubtful if he ever weighed an act of his life in the scale of policy, for his gauge was ever that of right and justice. Mr. Allis was born in Cazenovia, New York, May 12, 1824, and was of English lineage, the ancestral line being traced back to William Allis, who was born between 1613 and 1616, probably in Essex or London, England. William Allis came to America in 1630 with Winthrop’s fleet, as a passenger on the Mayflower, which was then making its third voyage to the new world. They landed at Charlestown Harbor, Boston (then called Trimountain), on the 1st of July, 1630. William Allis was a surveyor and before 1634 laid out the town of Mount Wollaston, afterward Braintree, comprising fifty square miles. During that year, by order of the general court, it was annexed to Boston. To induce settlement in the town large grants of land were made and William Allis received twelve acres on February 24, 1640. On the 13th of May of that year Mount Wollaston was incorporated as the town of Braintree and with Dorchester, Dunham, Hingham, Natasket and Roxbury was incorporated to form the city of Boston. On that date William Allis was made a freeman. To him and his wife Mary, whom he wedded in 1641, there were born eight children. William Allis was prominently connected with public affairs and lived in Braintree until 1663, when he removed to Wethersfield, Connecticut. There the town of Hadley was established and the home of William Allis was on the west side of the main street in the center of the settlement. The present meeting house, town hall and Congregational parsonage stand on the lot which was assigned to William Allis. That part of Hadley afterward became the town of Hatfield and there William Allis held the offices of deacon, justice of the peace and selectman and was often on advisory committees. He took part in the battle of Great Falls against the Indians, serving as a captain there, and with him in the engagement were three of his sons, one of whom, William Allis, Jr., was killed. About two years later his wife Mary met death when there was an Indian massacre at Hatfield and his granddaughter, Abigail Allis, was captured by the red men. On the 25th of June, 1678, William Allis wedded Mary, daughter of John Bronson and widow of John Graves of Hatfield, and on the 6th of September of the same year William Allis passed away. Representing the second generation of the direct ancestors of Edward P. Allis of Milwaukee was John Allis, son of William, who was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, March 5, 1642, and died in Hatfield in January, 1691. He was married December 14, 1669, to Mary, daughter of Thomas Meekins and widow of Nathaniel Clark. John Allis resided in Hatfield, near his father’s home, was a millwright and carpenter of note and prominent in public affairs of the community. He built many churches and was erecting the first corn mill at Mill River when he died. He served in King Philip’s war and was in the fight at Great Falls on May 19, 1676, while afterward he became a captain in the militia. It was his daughter Abigail who was captured by the Indians at the time of the massacre and it was not until eight months later that she and other captives were returned to their homes. Ichabod Allis, son of John Allis, was born in Hatfield, July 10, 1675, and became a farmer and builder, spending his entire life in his native city, his death there occurring July 9, 1747. In 1698 he wedded Mary, daughter of Samuel Belden, Jr., who was born August 27, 1679, and died September 9, 1724. Ichabod Allis was married again November 25, 1726, his second marriage being with Sarah, daughter of Benjamin Waite and widow of John Belden. By his first wife. Mary, he had eight children, the youngest being Elisha Allis, who was born in Hatfield, December 3. 1716, and there died in 1784. In the meantime, however, he had resided at different periods in Whately, Massachusetts, and Somers, Connecticut. Both he and his wife possessed large landed interests and their marriage agreement is a most quaint and unique document. He first married Anna, daughter of Sergeant John and Sarah (Williams) Marsh of Hadley, on the 20th of December, 1744. His second wife, Sarah, was a daughter of Samuel Reade of Burlington and widow of Thomas Cutler. Her death occurred March 25, 1807. By his first marriage he had seven children, the fourth being Josiah Allis, who was born about 1754, in Hatfield, Massachusetts, and died in Whately, Massachusetts, April 17, 1794. Like his father, he was a wealthy farmer and was prominent in church and town affairs, holding various town offices and acting as representative to the general court in 1787-8 and as a delegate to the convention to revise the federal constitution in 1788. He served as a colonel in the militia. He was married March 1, 1774, to Anna, daughter of Elisha and Lucy (Stearns) Hubbard of Hatfield. Their family numbered eleven children. Jere Allis, the seventh in order of birth, was born July 25, 1786, in Whately, Massachusetts, and was a hatter and furrier by trade. At an early date he removed to Prattsburg, New York, and afterward to Cazenovia, that state, while later he became a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but passed away in Franklin, New York, April 19, 1885, when almost ninety-nine years of age. He retained his physical and mental faculties to a remarkable degree and it was said of him that “his memory remained clear and acute and his temper exceedingly sweet and sunny.” He was married October 1, 1814, to Mary, daughter of Deacon Salmon and Lydia (Amsden) White of Whately, Massachusetts, who was born June 3, 1793, and died February 2, 1877. This worthy couple were the parents of Edward Phelps Allis, Milwaukee’s distinguished and honored manufacturer. In the acquirement of his education Edward P. Allis attended the academies of Cazenovia and of Geneva, New York, before entering Union College at Schenectady, New York, from which he was graduated with high honors in 1845. Immediately afterward Mr. Allis started out independently in the business world. He came to Milwaukee in 1846 and for a short time read law with the intention of entering upon a legal career but did not find this congenial and wisely changed his plans, turning his attention to commercial life. He became a dealer in leather in 1846 and was one of the builders of the large tanneries at Two Rivers, Wisconsin, now owned and operated by the Wisconsin Leather Company. He remained the active head of the business until 1857, when he sold his interest to his partners and for three years de voted his attention to business activities that seemed to indicate no marked change nor advance in his career, but when the opportunity came for advancement he eagerly seized it. For a time he was associated with John P. McGregor, under the firm style of Allis & McGregor, in the conduct of a private banking business, dealing also in coin and exchange. In that undertaking, however, he did not feel the keen joy which every man should find in the successful accomplishment of his business purposes and he therefore withdrew from banking circles to become a factor in the manufacturing interests of Milwaukee. In connection with C. D. Nash and John P. McGregor, he purchased the Reliance Works formerly owned by Decker & Seville, a business which at that time was in a state of decline. Mr. Allis attacked its problems with zeal and enthusiasm and saw the opportunities for constant growth and development in that field. Before the close of the first year he had purchased the interest of his partners and from that time forward directed the operation of the works through all the stages of rapid development and growth. One writing of his activity at the time said: “The extent of the business is already beyond the managing capacity of most men, yet it does not appear to have reached the limits of his administrative powers. They seem to be measured rather by the work he finds to do than by his ability to perform By his labors in building up the iron manufactures of the city he has put his indelible stamp upon it for all time to come, and ranks among the foremost masters and workers in iron in the country.” in the genealogy of the Allis family appears the following concerning the business career of E. P. Allis: “From a moderate beginning Mr. Allis enlarged and ex tended the original Reliance Works until the buildings covered three city blocks, and he was the life and moving spirit of the immense industrial establishment he created. Starting with a business of thirty-two thousand dollars a year, with twenty employees and a payroll of thirteen thousand dollars, the enterprise broadened under his management into a business of three million dollars a year, with between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred employees and a payroll of over seven hundred thousand dollars. Those iron works were the first in the country to make roller mills for the making of flour by the roller process, and were also prominent in the manufacture of steam engines, sawmill machinery, mining machinery and heavy pumping machinery. Their products were sent to all parts of the world, including Cuba. Mexico, South America, Europe, Japan, Australia and Sandwich Islands. The turning point in the life of the old Reliance Works came in 1869. when the city of Milwaukee voted to erect and install its own waterworks and advertised for piping and machinery. Bids came in for piping from all over the country and nobody dreamed of Mr. Allis bidding on the work, as his foundry was not equipped for the making of pipe, but when the bids were opened it was found that he had secured the contract. Of course the first thing to be done was to build a pipe shop, and in four months from the date of signing the contract the shop was completed and the first casting made, and from that time on the goods were made and delivered as fast as human skill could turn them out. He also secured the contract for the pumps and engines, and the machinery which he made and installed for the city of Milwaukee is an everlasting monument to his memory. That work brought an immense amount of engine work to the company, causing extended enlargements and improvements in the property, and the business was given such an impetus that very soon the Reliance Works of E. P. Allis became the largest machine shop in the west. For nearly thirty years he gave to the great work of his life all that could be given by tireless industry, unflagging energy and persevering determination. Besides the Reliance Works he owned and operated the large Bay State Works in Milwaukee, a foundry on Bay street, and rented and operated another foundry in the same city.” From a biography of Mr. Allis, which appeared in the proceedings of the American Society of Civil Engineers, we quote the following: “Mr. Allis was not an engineer, not an inventor, not a mechanic, but he had in full measure that rare talent for bringing together the work of the engineer, the inventor, the mechanic, that it might come to full fruition, and the world at large be a gainer thereby. From the day he took charge of the small, struggling, bankrupt pioneer shop, until the day of his death, he was the life, the moving spirit of the immense industrial establishment he had created. For nearly thirty years he gave to the great work of his life all that could be given of tireless industry, unflagging energy, and persevering determination.” The character of the man could largely be estimated in his treatment of his employees. The fourth floor of the central building of the immense plant which he created was used as a dining and reading room and hall for the social and literary meetings of the employees, and he frequently met with them and spoke to them upon questions of public concern or of interest to them as factors in the great business establishment which he built up. When death called him there were more than a thousand of his employees who assembled together to pay their last tribute of respect to him, passing quietly by his bier to look upon his face for the last time. The Allis Mutual Aid Society, an organization formed of his employees, passed the following resolutions: “Whereas, Death has taken from us our much loved and respected employer, to whom we have been in the years that have passed so deeply indebted, not only for the work he has done in our behalf, but much more than this for the kindly personal interest he has always taken in all that has concerned our well-being and prosperity: and Whereas, As his employees, bound to him by so many ties of mutual sympathy and common interest in the building up of the great business which has been his life work and which remains his most fitting monument, we are desirous of paying our tribute to his memory; therefore be it Resolved, That by the death of Edward P. Allis, we have lost not only a kind, conscientious and liberal employer, but also a personal friend, endeared to us by his winning manners and by so many instances of thoughtful kindness and dis interested generosity, ever ready to meet with us on the broad plane of a common manhood. Resolved, That we have ever found him in his dealings with us, to have been honorable and upright, sympathizing with us in our desires and ambitions for advancement; and always willing to consider our interests in preference to his own, holding both subject to the welfare of the shops, which have been our common pride. Resolved, That such of our number as are members of the Allis Mutual Aid Society, cannot express too strongly our appreciation of the spirit of humanity which prompted him to found it and to contribute so generously to its support. Resolved, That we extend to his sorrowing family our most heartfelt sympathy in this the hour of their bereavement; and that we pledge to them the same loyal service it would have been our greatest pleasure to render to him had he been spared to continue his work with us.” On the 12th of September, 1848, Mr. Allis was married to Miss Margaret Marie Watson of Geneva, New York, who was born September 28, 1828, a daughter of William W. Watson. She survived her husband for about twenty years and was eighty-one years of age when she passed away December 20, 1909. They became the parents of twelve children, the sons becoming active associates of their father in business as they attained sufficient age to take up the responsibilities of life. Further mention is made elsewhere in this work of three of the sons: William Watson, Charles and Louis. Mrs. Allis was a charter member of the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin and an earnest worker for the erection of the Athenaeum, the first woman’s clubhouse in the United States. She assisted in establishing the Wisconsin Industrial School for Girls and the Wisconsin Training School for Nurses and was one of the organizers of the Unitarian church in Milwaukee, which she earnestly supported to the time of her death. On the 1st of April, 1909, as a memorial of her husband, she gave to the Wisconsin University Settlement Association the settlement house and grounds on First avenue. On her eightieth birthday she gave the settlement twenty acres of ground for their summer camp on Lake Beulah. Her philanthropies were many. She was a woman of broad sympathy, culture and refinement. She used the means at her command to relieve suffering wherever she found it and she took a keen personal interest in every movement for the betterment of the city. She was one of the earnest supporters of the Associated Charities, yet, notwithstanding the time and energy which she gave to social and public interests, she was always a devoted mother. Coming to Milwaukee with her husband as a bride, she found time to devote to music and the study of art, in which she was always a connoisseur. The costly and beautiful paintings that made the Allis home a veritable gallery of art were of her selection and in her home she dispensed a most generous and charming hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Allis took the deepest interest in their children and it is said that it would be difficult to find a home in which the educational standards of an entire family were so high. Mr. Allis felt the keenest interest in all of his wife’s activities. He was a man of much culture and possessed an appreciation and love for the finer things of life in an eminent degree. He was actively interested in the association for the advancement of Milwaukee and in July, 1883, he became a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers and manifested an intense interest in its affairs. While Mr. Allis gave the major part of his time and attention to the interests and duties of business and of home, he also found opportunity for public service and at no time neglected any duty of citizenship. He was a stanch advocate of all republican principles until 1877, when, differing from the party upon its financial policy, he publicly withdrew from active affiliation therewith and accepted the nomination of the greenback party for governor of Wisconsin. Up to the time the nominating convention was held on the 4th of July, 1877, the greenback party had no state organization worthy of the name, although there were many advocates of the party principles throughout Wisconsin. Mr. Allis at once resolutely set to work to perfect an organization and promote the interests which he championed. He coordinated seemingly diverse elements into a unified and harmonious whole and conducted one of the most brilliant political campaigns known in the annals of the state. He made a thorough canvass throughout Wisconsin, winning hundreds of adherents to the hitherto unpopular doctrines by his persuasive speech and the magnetic and irresistible force of his earnest conviction. After four months of effort in behalf of his party, a vote of twenty-six thousand two hundred and sixteen gave the party a sufficient number of representatives in the general assembly to control the activities of that body and placed the hitherto dominant republican party in a numerical minority in the state. The political activity of Mr. Allis arose from his earnest belief in the cause which he championed. He had no desire for office as a reward for party fealty nor was he ambitious to occupy positions of political honor and prominence. No one ever questioned the integrity of his position and no one ever challenged his right to rank with the most eminent and progressive citizens of the state. His business activity was a most valuable asset in the growth of Milwaukee and the extension of Wisconsin’s commercial connections and his name is honored and his memory revered wherever he was known. One who knew Mr. Allis intimately for many years, said of him: “The panegyrist of Edward P. Allis, no matter how eloquently he speaks, can never express the deeper feeling of silent and true appreciation of those with whom he was intimately acquainted. His success in business would have marked him a prominent man in any community. His retiring modesty, his fine culture and broad learning, would have given him high social standing anywhere, but when to these qualities, great in themselves in him, were added the higher principles of benevolence, fraternity and human feeling, which prompted him to conceive and carry out his plans for the benefit of his workingmen, we see in every phase of his being the true man. His name will live in the future a powerful example for employers to follow, and will do more to harmonize capital and labor in our city than statutes or boards of arbitration.” To which another adds: “Modest yet bold, tender yet strong, mild yet firm, unusually successful, in still greater measure useful, he was above all men I know beloved by the people. The world is better for his having lived.” The editorial which appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel at the time of his death said: “Mr. Allis was something more than an ordinary business man. He was college-bred, and a man of cultivated and refined tastes. His pleasures, outside of his business, were found largely in books and pictures. Within a few years past, he had been a liberal patron of art, and in his home are many choice paintings by the best modern European masters. In his relations as a citizen and neighbor, and as an employer of men, Mr. Allis was fortunate. He was kindly and genial, and made few or no enemies. While never a robust man, his health was usually good, and he seemed to have the promise of many more years of activity and usefulness. By his death Milwaukee loses one of its most enterprising and valued citizens. The heartfelt sympathy of the whole community will be extended to his deeply bereaved family.” Edward P. Allis was laid to rest in Forest Home cemetery with the quiet and simplicity that marked his entire life. Many organizations to which he belonged passed suitable resolutions of respect and the president of the Merchants Association, with which he was long associated, said on this occasion: “The names of the older members of the Merchants Association are fast being transferred from the roll call to the roll of honor. The name now in sorrow to be added to that cherished and revered list is the name of our late highly esteemed friend and associate, Edward P. Allis. He was a man endowed by nature to govern and to lead. Acuteness to foresee, readiness and wisdom to contrive, vigor and decision to act, were the characteristics of this great industrial leader of our city. Although his life, work was largely restricted to this locality, his fame is national, and those who know and appreciate his worth are to be found in every quarter of the globe. His busy and useful life should prove a powerful incentive to the grand army of youth who aspire to walk also in the path of honor and attain the goal of success. Edward P. Allis executed with fidelity all trusts reposed in him. His phenomenal executive ability in numerous and large transactions for the advancement of public and private interests have made his name an honor and a credit to our city. His modest bearing and many estimable traits of character — preeminently his loyalty and devotion to Milwaukee — made him an exemplary citizen. Tireless in the pursuits of business, this earnest and sympathetic man, amid the engrossing cares of a busy life, cherished the beautiful in nature and in art. He was a man of culture, a patron of art, a kind and considerate employer, a true and genial friend, a wise and devoted husband and father, a Christian gentleman. He championed the cause of the weak, and with willing hand gave bountifully to rear and maintain the temples of education, of religion, and of art. Silence and shadow stand now forever between our associate and ourselves, but we lay this day upon the altar of our friendship the choicest tribute we can bring — the tribute of cherished and honored memory. Better than chiseled stone to perpetuate his name and fame, are the words he uttered when among us: ‘It has always been my rule of life to speak of my fellowmen charitably, or not at all.’ “



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