Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 4 – 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 four out of five, containing a wealth of biographies of important people.
Memoirs of Milwaukee County, Volume 4
Excerpt from the text:
From the period of pioneer development to the era of later progress and prosperity Edward Payson Bacon was connected with the history of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin. He was a contributing factor to the material growth and substantial improvement of the city in many ways and looked beyond the exigencies of the moment to the opportunities and possibilities of the future in his cooperation with public affairs. Mr. Bacon was born in Reading, Schuyler county, New York, May 16, 1834, being the eldest son of Joseph F. and Matilda (Cowles) Bacon. In both the paternal and maternal lines he came of New England lineage, his ancestors having lived in Massachusetts and Connecticut for many generations. His grandfather in the Bacon line was a fife major in the Revolutionary war. On the distaff side he is a descendant of John Cowles, who migrated to Massachusetts from England about 1635.
Edward P. Bacon was a lad of four years at the time the family home was established in Geneva, New York, where he pursued a public school education, and in vacation periods worked along different lines in order to contribute to his support. He displayed special aptitude in his studies and was ambitious to acquire a college education but the financial resources of the family made it impossible. When a lad of thirteen he secured a position as errand boy in a store, and his faithfulness, industry and loyalty soon won him promotion. After two years he carried out the cherished wish of pursuing a more advanced education by entering an academy at Brockport, New York. In May, 1851, he became a clerk in the freight office of the New York & Erie Railroad at Hornellsville, New York, and was in the employ of that company for four years, during which time he was located successively at Corning, Elmira and New York city.
In the service of the railroad he won various promotions until he became chief clerk in the general freight office, having charge of the accounts with agents over the entire road. In 1855 when the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana Railroad, now known as the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, was completed into Chicago, he accepted o position that placed him in charge of the freight office of the road in that city. He believed that greater advancement could be secured in railroad service in the west than in the east, and time justified this belief. The following year he was appointed freight agent of the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad at Milwaukee, which was the first line built west of Lake Michigan and north of Chicago. When the line was extended to Prairie du Chien, in 1857, Mr. Bacon was placed in charge of the entire freight department and remained with the road for nearly ten years, serving as auditor, as general freight agent and general ticket agent. To him was assigned the task of organizing the various departments and systematizing the work in connection therewith, after which he turned the completed work over to others in order to take up still further tasks of organization. To Mr. Bacon was due the credit of inventing the present coupon ticket case in general use all over the country.
In 1865 Mr. Bacon entered into partnership relations with Lyman Everingham, freight agent at Milwaukee for the La Crosse & Milwaukee Railroad, to carry on a grain commission business under the firm name of Bacon & Everingham. The new enterprise prospered but on account of the strenuous labors which Mr. Bacon assumed his health became impaired and he devoted the year 1874 to travel, withdrawing from the partnership. He afterward became interested in a wholesale grocery concern under the name of Bacon, Goodrich & Company, but three years later formed a partnership with Oren E. Britt and M. P. Aiken and again engaged in the grain trade under the name of E. P. Bacon & Company. The firm was dissolved in 1877 and Mr. Bacon continued the business alone until 1890, when he admitted George H. D. Johnson and George W. Powers, two of his former employees, to a partnership, and their business became one of the largest of its kind in the upper Mississippi valley.
In 1865 Mr. Bacon became a member of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, in the work of which he took a most active and helpful part, doing everything in his power to advance the commercial interests and the civic development of the city. In 1883 he was one of the leaders in a contest that was waged by the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce to secure better rates from the railroads having terminals both in Milwaukee and Chicago, the result being the establishment of more favorable freight rates, which were of great importance to the business interests of the city. For ten years he served on the directorate of the Chamber of Commerce, six years as a director, two years as vice president and two years as president. He was instrumental in having the Chamber of Commerce scales installed throughout the city. He represented the Chamber at various commercial conventions and was chosen to represent Milwaukee as a member of the National Board of Trade, being elected vice president of that organization for five consecutive years from 1884 to 1889. He was one of the committee from the National Board of Trade to urge the passage of the interstate commerce act at the time that the bill was pending before congress. On various occasions he was sent as a delegate to appear before different congressional committees to oppose the adoption of free silver and to advocate various measures affecting the commercial interests of the country.
In 1892 at the time of the great Milwaukee fire Mr. Bacon was the first to call a meeting of the citizens for the relief of the sufferers and his efforts brought comfort into many households. In addition to all of his other public service he was keenly interested in the question of the regulation of railroad rates, both state and national, and nothing better illustrates his tenacity of purpose than the campaigns he waged for the abolition of rebates and the passage of the inter-state commerce law of 1906, which enlarged the powers of the inter-state commerce commission. The labors of Mr. Bacon and others resulted in the passage of the Elkins bill in 1903, which made the giving or receiving of rebates a criminal offense.
As chairman of the executive committee of the inter-state law convention, which was an organization made up of nearly three hundred Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce and leading commercial bodies of the country, Mr. Bacon gave practically four or five years of his life. Never conscious of defeat, facing disheartening opposition from the railroads with their money and legal talent arrayed against him, he kept to his task — a disinterested public service. Mr. Bacon’s standing in the commercial world, masterful grasp of transportation subjects, and his absolute fairness commanded respect and consideration from members of congress as well as shippers and carriers throughout the country.
Twice under President McKinley’s administration the bill to enlarge the powers of the inter-state commerce commission failed of passing. Mr. Bacon liked to recount how President Roosevelt struck his fist on the table at the end of a conference with him, and said: “Mr. Bacon, I am with you!” In his message to congress, President Roosevelt strongly recommended the enactment of the desired legislation, and on June 29, 1906, after a struggle of nearly seven years, the bill, known as the Hepburn bill, was passed — one of the most far-reaching acts of legislation of recent years, giving to the inter-state commerce commission power to determine a reasonable rate to be substituted for one found to be unreasonable after full hearing, to go into immediate effect, and to continue until reversed by the courts. To Mr. Bacon more than to any man, was due the passage of the bill.
On the 18th of May, 1858, Mr. Bacon was married to Miss Emma Rogers Hobbs, of Paterson, New Jersey. They had four children, of whom the eldest and the youngest, both daughters, passed away. The others were: Lillian, the wife of Rollin B. Mallory of Milwaukee; and Frank Rogers, who became a prominent business man of this city. Mrs. Bacon died in 1892, and in 1895 Mr. Bacon married Mrs. Ella (Dey) Baird of Pelham Manor, New York, daughter of John H. Dey, for many years associate editor of the New York Evangelist.
Mr. Bacon long manifested a most helpful interest in religious work. Soon after becoming a resident of Milwaukee in 1856 he united with the Plymouth Congregational church, of which he was a devoted member for sixteen years. He then transferred his membership to Immanuel Presbyterian church, with which he was actively identified for the rest of his life. He took active and helpful part in organizing the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1857, and helped to place the society upon a substantial financial basis, serving as vice president and acting as president of the organization.
He served for many years as a trustee of Beloit College and established a fund for assisting young men to secure a college education, or training for the ministry, never forgetting his own desire along that line in his youth. He was constantly reaching out a helping hand to aid fellow travelers on life’s journey, especially those who were anxious to aid themselves. He obtained a substantial measure of success, but this was never the end and aim of his existence. He never lightly regarded his duties to the individual nor to society at large, and his love of country was manifest in his earnest efforts to promote general progress and advancement. Mr. Bacon rounded out his character of an honorable man and public-spirited citizen with the choicer qualities of mind and spirit. He possessed a keen appreciation of the beautiful in nature and in art. Courteous in all his dealings, he was nevertheless reserved; the finer, more sensitive side of his nature was known only to friends and those closely related to him. They alone fully realized the unselfishness, generosity and nobility of his nature. He stood as a splendid type of American manhood and chivalry, one of the great builders of the empire of the middle west, and his service was at all times a blessing and a benefit to mankind.
Dr. John S. Gordon, oculist and aurist, whose practice also includes the treatment of diseases of the nose and throat as well as of the eye and ear, has gained an enviable reputation in Milwaukee, where his ability has found recognition in the ready endorsement of the public. Born in Berlin, Wisconsin, April 18, 1888, he is a son of John Gordon, a merchant, who was a native of Baltimore, Maryland, born in 1861, while his death occurred in Milwaukee in 1918. In early manhood he married Mrs. Agnes J. (Hark, a widow residing in Milwaukee. She was born in Chicago in 1858.
Dr. Gordon was largely reared in Waupaca, Wisconsin, pursuing his early education there until graduated from the high school with the class of 1907. In the fall of that year he entered the University of Wisconsin, where he pursued an academic course for one year, while later he won his professional degree upon graduation from the medical department of the University of Illinois in 1912. For one year he served as interne in the Milwaukee Hospital and since 1913 he has concentrated his efforts and attention upon diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat, specializing as a partner of Dr. Henry B. Hitz and Dr. Gilbert E. Seaman. The firm enjoys a very extensive practice of a notable character and their professional services have been highly satisfactory to their patients.
On the 12th of November, 1913, Dr. Gordon was united in marriage to Miss Ida N. Perry, who was born in Evanston, Illinois, and is a graduate of Lawrence College. Prior to her marriage she engaged in teaching. She has become the mother of one son, John S., Jr., now in his sixth year.
Dr. Gordon is a republican in his political views and always keeps well informed on the vital questions and issues of the day. Fraternally he is a Master Mason, loyal to the teachings and purposes of the craft. He belongs also to the Wisconsin Club and to the Milwaukee University Club, while in the field of his profession he is well-known through his membership in the Milwaukee Academy of Medicine, the Milwaukee County Medical Society, the American Medical Association, the Milwaukee Oto-Ophthalmic Society and the Tri-State Medical Society. He is thoroughly informed concerning the latest researches and discoveries of the profession and his practice is at all times thoroughly scientific in character and of the utmost worth in the results attained.