PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL ALBUM
page 201, 202, 203, 204
WILLIAM FOOS. In the honored class of self-made men, America can boast of some names as illustrious as make glorious the history of any nation. In the career of the subject of this sketch, whose portrait will be noticed on the opposite page, is finely illustrated that of a man who, beginning life without any means and dependent upon his own resources, has made his way upward, step by step, until he now occupies an enviable position among his fellow-men. Mr. FOOS is in many respects a remarkable man, and at an early period in his life gave indication of the mettle of which he was made. He began life’s battle for himself at the age of fourteen years as the manager of a farm which he rented from his maternal grandfather. He was successful in his undertaking, and from that time on his career has been one of which he and his descendants may well be proud. He is owner of one of the finest estates in Southern Ohio, thus including large landed interests, while in the city of Springfield, to which he came in August, 1837, he operates as a banker, and is otherwise prominently identified with its most important interests.
About 1861 Mr. FOOS was engaged in private banking, and when the law creating national banks went into effect he changed the institution which he inaugurated, into the Second National Bank, of Springfield, and operated it very successfully for a period of twenty years, each year declaring a dividend of from 10 to 12 per cent. At the expiration of this time he sold his stock at 100 per cent, premium on its par value, having decided to dispose of his banking interests on account of ill health. He was at that time President, and his son, F. W. FOOS, was Cashier. He is widely and favorably known throughout this section of the country, and is acknowledged as having contributed in no small degree to the growth and prosperity of this country.
In reverting to the antecedents of the subject of this notice, we find that he was born in Franklin County, this State, July 14, 1814, and is the son of Gen. Joseph and Margaret (PHIFER) FOOS, who were among the earliest residents of Franklin, then the county seat of that county, and who spent their last days in Madison, Ohio. Gen. Joseph FOOS was a man of great energy, and took an active part in public affairs. He received the appointment of Brigadier-General of militia, and agitated the matter of a ship canal across the Isthmus of Darien. The project was considered wild and impracticable, and was spoken of in those days as “FOOS’ Folly.”
Gen. FOOS investigated the feasibility of the canal across that isthmus, and published a pamphlet setting forth the great benefit which would result to the world of commerce from such a canal. He at the same time prepared maps and plans to further illustrate the design. Later, and after the death of Gen. FOOS and when Tom CORWIN was Senator from Ohio, the question of the canal was brought up in the Senate and a senator in his remarks stated that, owing to the right of discovery of the plan, England claimed the right to construct and control the canal. Senator CORWIN retorted that such was not the case, but that the credit and honor of being the first originator of that enterprise belonged to the late Gen. Joseph FOOS, and he substantiated the statement by sending back to Ohio and getting a copy of the pamphlet.
Gen. FOOS was a member of the Ohio Legislature for eighteen years while living in Franklin County, as a representative of the Whig party. The State Capital was then at Chillicothe, and it was in a large measure due to the influence of Gen. FOOS that the Capital was changed to Columbus. The citizens were so well pleased with the efforts of Gen. FOOS on their behalf that they presented him with a choice lot on High Street, Columbus, as a slight testimonial of their regard.
By a sensible application to his studies during the limited time which he was permitted to spend in school, our subject acquired a fair education, and after the age of fourteen years was required to labor for the support of his family. After carrying on the farm above spoken of a few years, assisted by two younger brothers, he decided upon a change of occupation, and began his real estate business experience at the age of nineteen years, at Pekin, Ill., being employed as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He furnished his horse and saddle and rode through the entire journey. At the age of twenty-three (1837) he, with a partner, opened a dry-goods store at Springfield, but finding that the partner was not wholly reliable, he sold out and changed the scene of his operations to Logan and Madison Counties, continuing in the mercantile business.
Leaving Logan County two or three years later, Mr. FOOS established himself at London, Madison County, still engaged in the dry-goods trade, but during his stay in that county he purchased and improved a farm near London. In 1846 he returned to Springfield and again engaged in merchandising, at which he continued until 1854. During this time he also became interested in a number of outside business enterprises, buying wool, operating a cotton-mill, and in connection with his brother, laid out ninety acres of land in city lots, making an addition which now contains some of the handsomest residence property in the city.
In 1859 William and Gustavus FOOS established a private banking house, which, in 1863, became the present Second National Bank. Of this Mr. FOOS was President, and his son, Fergus W., was Cashier. For a period of eleven years, from 1866 to 1877, Mr. FOOS was a member of the firm of James LEFFEL & Co., manufacturers of the celebrated LEFFEL Turbine water wheel and other mill machinery. It is a recognized fact that all concerned in this enterprise realized large profits, and it is but just to say that the success attained was largely due to the energy and ability of Mr. FOOS and his son, Lamar, the latter of whom was in charge of the branch house in New York City.
Disposing of his mercantile interests in 1854, Mr. FOOS purchased four thousand acres of wild land in Champaign County, Ill. He then put up a neat and substantial residence on High Street, in Springfield, and concluded to retire from active business. Only a short time had elapsed, however, until he became convinced that he was too young to retire from active life, and so the banking house of FOOS & Bro. was established. About this time Mr. FOOS began developing the plan for the improvement of his Illinois lands, and in this enterprise spent thousands of dollars. The result of this was fully in accordance with his expectations, and the great farm thus opened is probably one of the finest and best conducted of any in the West, not excepting any east or west of the Mississippi, it is cut through the centre by the Wabash Railroad, and upon it is located the station and village of Fooland, laid out and built up mostly by the means and enterprise of the projector.
The above-mentioned farm is furnished with an abundance of water by Lone Tree Creek, and Sangamon River, which pass through it, and which also affords excellent drainage. Further drainage has been secured by fifteen miles of open ditch, an in addition to this, several thousand dollars worth of tile drains. The farm has thirty-six miles of fence, twenty-five miles of which is fine osage orange hedge, which at all seasons of the years presents a beautiful appearance, being neatly trimmed, and like everything else about the place, kept in the best of order. The ground is so systematically laid out and the fields are so numbered that, in connection with a system of monthly reports, Mr. FOOS is able at all times to have a thorough knowledge of the proceeds and expenses, and thus, although he can only visit it a few times during the year, he is enabled to understand fully where he stands financially in regard to it.
This farm is largely devoted to stock-raising, accommodating usually $40,000 worth, constantly cared for by a Superintendent. On the place are ten houses, also ten barns located at convenient points. Mr. FOOS, in the spring of 1830, sold two hundred head of fat cattle at $7.56 per hundred in his yard, and their average was seventeen hundred and forty pounds. That same year fifteen hundred acres of ground was subjected to careful cultivation, while five hundred acres in meadow and pasture land furnished abundant food for the live stock. During some seasons five hundred tons of hay are cut and cured. Thus, it must be acknowledged, in addition to being a business man of more than ordinary capacities, Mr. FOOS is also a first-class farmer.
The marriage of William FOOS and Miss Sarah MARK was celebrated at the bride’s home, in 1837. Mrs. FOOS was born on September 21, 1817, in Madison County, Ohio, and is the daughter of James and Nancy (VAN KIRK) MARK. The father was a native of Lexington, Ky., and the mother of Bourbon County, Ky. Mr. MARK and Walter DUNN entered lands in Madison County at Government prices, and after Mr. MARK moved on his land a tribe of Indians were on the land and held possession for six months. They lived and died in Madison County, Ohio—the father aged sixty-seven, and the mother aged ninety-seven and one-half years.
In April, 1889, Mr. and Mrs. FOOS purchased the ground and built upon it the handsome edifice known as the Church of Heavenly Rest. It is Gothic in style, built of brick with stone trimmings and slate roof, and finished and furnished in the most complete manner. The entrance is on Plum Street and the building forms one of the attractions of the city, being in point of architecture second to nothing of the kind in Springfield. In the rear of the main building is a room for Sunday-school purposes, which is neatly and handsomely furnished, and the study is situated between this and the main audience room. Every comfort and convenience is afforded the rector for the pursuance of his studies. The present pastor is the Rev. C. YOUNG. Mr. FOOS and his wife also purchased the house and lot adjoining for a parsonage. The total amount expended in this manner by them has not been less than $20,000, all of which has been bestowed as a free gift to the church, with the furniture contained therein. They also paid $1,000 toward the purchase of the magnificent pipe organ. It is hardly necessary to say that both Mr. and Mrs. FOOS are devoted members of this church, whose progress and growth they have watched with the warmest solicitude, and in their substantial aid have signalized their interest in its prosperity and welfare. Politically, Mr. FOOS is, and always has been a stanch Republican.
Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio
Chapman Bros., Chicago. Copyright 1890.
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