Biography - Henry Beach

Henry Harrison BEACH, manufacturer, Litchfield, of Connecticut ancestry, is a native of Otsego County, N. Y., whence he was removed by his parents in his early childhood, to Erie County, same State. At the age of fourteen years, he entered a machine shop as apprentice, and, at a general shop at Rochester, completed his training. Continuing three years in the machine shops, he then ran an engine on the New York Central Railroad, and a construction train on the Great Western Railroad of Canada, and then became foreman of the shops of the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana road. In 1854, when twenty-five years old, he was appointed Assistant Master Mechanic of the MichiganSouthern shops at Adrian. Three years later, Dyer WILLIAMS, the Master Mechanic, and Henry A. ANGEL, the owner of a foundry, together with our subject, visited the village of Litchfield, where they decided to build a foundry and machine shop, Mr. BEACH to be the manager, and resident, and business partner. Mr. BEACH, at this time, had become an accurate and accomplished machinist; he possessed a social disposition, good health, courage and hopefulness. These qualities constituted almost his entire capital. In August, 1857, the foundry was put in blast, and his machine shop, containing a few pieces of second-hand machinery and lathe engines, was ready for business. At this hour, the panic began; his venture appeared about to collapse; for, in a sparsely inhabited region, where the people were wedded to rustic implements and the soil, he was obliged to create a demand for his wares and labor; he had no rival shop between Alton and Terre Haute; various small loans made on the street delayed a catastrophe, and, when ruin seemed only a few days away, he bought, on credit, a portable mill for grinding corn, and, placing it in the loft of his machine shop, began the manufacture of Indian meal for the St. Louis market; by the profits of this humble enterprise, he tided over the first winter and spring, until the complete removal to this point of the railroad shops created an active demand on the resources of his shop and foundry. In 1860, Mr. ANGEL retired from the firm, and a couple of mill engines had established Mr. BEACH'sreputation as a builder of steam engines. In 1865, Mr. WILLIAMS ceased to be a partner, and a third interest in the concern was sold to D. C. AMSDEN, on the usual terms of payment, and the firm was thenceforward H. H. Beach & Co. Mr. BEACH was married, in 1866, to Elizabeth GAGE; he has been blessed with one child, Estelle H. At length, theprivate and industrial welfare of the city demanded cheap fuel at its doors, and in 1867 his firm bought real estate, and, with BEST & SPARKS, millers, guaranteed a large bonus for sinking a coal shaft. The experiment of seeking for coal at this point was a bold one, as no coal-field was known to exist nearer than twenty miles; the prospectorfailed, and a coal company, with a capital of $20,000, was formed, his firm being the largest stockholders; the company collapsed when its capital was exhausted, and the mine was not ready to raise coal; a second one, with a capital of $10,000, was organized, to continue the work, and again his firm was its chief supporter. When this company, burdened with a debt of $22,000, was unable to put the mine in working order, his firm, with a few individuals, assumed the debt, and advanced the funds to develop the mine. Three years' work and $50,000 were required to open it. The coal company, of which he is the head, has disbursed in wages three-quarters of a million, and reduced the price of fuel totwo-thirds the previous price. Mr. BEACH was active in measures to secure the WabashRailroad, a railroad to Louisiana, Mo., and one to Springfield, Ill.; these two are not yet built, but the Jacksonville road, to which he also contributed, is in operation. In 1868, he became a member of the firm of Hagar & Seath, of Terre Haute, who desired to build a foundry and car works in that city; Mr. BEACH was the banker, and, when the investment became profitable, he retired; by his aid, Mr. SEATH now writes himself one of the solid men of Terre Haute. In 1871, he took one-third of the stock of the Litchfield Bank, which, proving a better thing for its officers than for its owners, he aided to close out their interests, and founded on its site the banking house of Beach, Davis & Co., whose success was its own, and whose misfortunes were a result of the panic of 1873, which, however, passed with no loss of stability or public confidence. The removal of the car shops left vacant a series of buildings well adapted for car works. Mr. BEACH and others conceived the design of forming a company to builds cars. Two Eastern gentlemen offered to supply the skill to operate the company, if other parties would supply the money; their offer was declined, and a home company organized, Mr. BEACH subscribing one-seventh of the stock. The companynominally failed in a few years, paying only 85 cents on the dollar. Again his aid was implored, and, by his personal assurances and engagements, the creditors were appeased; he also advanced thousands to J. B. L. KEATING, the brilliant grain merchant, who, paying out a couple of millions for grain, failed - as men trading on borrowed capital usually do. In 1875, his firm sold their plant to the car works, and the securities taken shrank to half their former value. He was called on to meet a vast amount of accommodation paper, and this, with other losses, scaled his fortune down to one-third its value in 1870; but he was an officer of the car works and the coal company, with a comfortable salary; he became the proprietor of a flouring-mill and elevator; he invested in the Indiana coal mines; he is the foremost man in the Oil and Pipe Line Company. Although Mr. BEACH began life without means or business connections, the enterprises which are indebted to him for existence, or for theirprosperity, have at times disbursed wages at the rate of a third of a million a year. His agency in securing water-works for the city is treated of more fully elsewhere in this work.

Extracted 19 Nov 2016 by Norma Hass from 1882 History of Bond and Montgomery Counties, Illinois, Part 2 Biographical Department, pages 128-129.

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