pages 100 - 119
MANUFACTURES. FOUNDRIES AND MACHINE-SHOPS.
foundry and machine business has made many men rich, but perhaps nearly as many
poor. To prosecute this business successfully requires skill, patience, and
financial ability. The most of manufacturing projects will succeed if the
parties have skill and financial ability; but with both these qualities a man
will fail at the above business unless he have patience. For years the expense
for patterns will swallow up most of the profits, and without patience a man
will go down. But after years of perseverance, all the ordinary patterns will
have been made and laid by; then, if a man have skill and financial ability, the
greenbacks will roll into his lap.
The first man who undertook this business in Peoria was William R. Hopkins. He had learning, but no skill in this matter, no patience, nor financial ability. He commenced the business about twenty-seven years ago, in a one-story brick building, on the ground where the Central Hotel now stands, at the corner of Harrison and Water streets. The house had been built by Messrs. Isaac Underhill and Aquila Wren, for a pork-packing house. Mr. Hopkins did considerable business; but, as I understand it, he made no money, and run out for want of means.
The next who attempted the business in Peoria was William Peters. He had skill and patience, and perhaps financial ability; but he commenced very poor, and strove on to the time of his death, say fifteen years, to get a start. All that time, besides supporting his family, it took him to procure sufficient buildings, machinery, and patterns. Since his death, his establishment has fallen into the hands of men who, it is understood, have made money by it. It is now believed to be a success. Five practical men, under the name and style of Nicol, Burr & Co., now own and are operating that establishment; and they report to me that they work every day in the year, Sundays excepted, upon an average, fifty men. That during last year they built seven steam-engines, and that they make every day, upon an average, except Sundays, from 3600 to 4000 pounds of castings. That in doing this they use during the year 150 tons of anthracite coal, 60 tons of Blossburg coal, and 360 tons of common Illinois coal. In connection with this business, they have started the manufacture of corn-planters, and expect to run pretty largely into that business this year.
At a pretty early period, Mr. Luke Wood run a foundry a while, but for some reason, that I have forgotten, if I ever knew, it went down. I do not remember the date of his operations. [more research]
The foundries that are now driving the business, with every prospect of success, are Voris & Co., who call their establishment 'Voris Steam-Engine Works'; and Nicol, Burr & Co., who call their establishment 'The Peoria Foundry and Machine-Shop'.
H. G. Anderson, for several years, has been doing a large business in the old foundry established by the Messrs. Moore, which, it is understood, belongs to Mm and Mrs. Evans, late Mrs. Moore; but, for some reason not explained to me, the business is now suspended.
All the above are machine-shops as well as foundries.
There are two iron-foundries, however, that have no machine-shops attached, to wit, the foundry of Culter & Proctor, who make the manufacture of stoves a specialty, and the firm of O'Rorke & Co., which is composed of several practical moulders. They do a good business, mainly in making castings for the manufacturers of agricultural implements. They labor every day, except Sunday, every one of them, and are not even at the expense of a clerk. One of the parties does the clerking, without charge, after working-hours are over.
We have two brass-foundries: one operated by Messrs. Kinsey & Mahler, and the other by Messrs. Frazer, Thompson & Co. The business of both these establishments seems to have increased amazingly, since the establishment of our water-works and the extension of the gas-pipes.
We have three establishments in which the manufacture of steam boilers is followed as a business.
The greatest things, however, we have in the way of machine-shops. are the machine-shops of the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw Railway Company. In the engine and machine department of that road, or so much of it as lies between the Indiana state line and the Mississippi River, are employed 260 men. Of these, about 195 are employed in and about the machine-shops in Peoria. This force use in a year 21,632 tons of coal. The greater part of this is Illinois coal, obtained beside the road, and costs, delivered in the cars, only eight cents a bushel, or $2.00 per ton. This coal, for most purposes, is as good as any, but for some purposes it is not, and they consume in a year about 350 tons of Pennsylvania coal, of a kind called Blossburg coal. This costs them, delivered here, about ten dollars per ton.
The shops do the mending for the road, and occasionally manufacture a car or locomotive engine.
I have not the means of showing the amount of machinery made at Peoria; but the following is a correct statement of the number of pounds of merchantable castings made by the Voris Steam-Engine Works during each month of the year 1869. The aggregate shows an increase over the previous year's business, which is especially gratifying in view of the general dullness of the times. It is proper to be understood that this establishment does not do any agricultural work, consequently the winter months are the dullest, and the spring and summer months the best of the year.
Carried forward: 150,266
Brought forward: 150,266
Total for 1869: 690,238
Total for 1868: 544,416
Increase during 1869 145,822
Rate of increase, 27 per cent.
Luke Wood’s Foundry: A
Research Note By Susan E. Stemont, 2006.
In 1870, C. Ballance in his History of Peoria, Illinois, makes a brief reference to the foundry of Luke Wood, stating “At a pretty early period, Mr. Luke Wood run a foundry a while, but for some reason, that I have forgotten, if I ever knew, it went down. I do not remember the date of his operations.” My research note comes as an addendum to Mr. Ballance’s work, if a bit delayed at 136 years after the fact.
I’ve found some information about Luke Wood’s foundry in connection to my research on mid 19th century Peoria resident, James S. Hickey, a moulder from New York. In July, 1850 an advertisement appears in the Peoria Democratic Press announcing the partnership of Wood and Hickey:
Rankin’s Steam Flouring Mill was located on Washington Street between Jackson and Fayette, and later newspaper articles place the foundry on the corner of Washington and Fayette.
From surveying the papers from Wood’s estate, it appears that Wood was the money man behind Hickey’s craftsmanship. Luke Wood had his finger in many pies, including a steamboat named the Governor Briggs, and parcels of land in several counties. But the partnership with Hickey was to be a short one. When the foundry burned on New Year’s Eve 1851, Wallace and Jones had already been renting the property from Wood for a few months.
FIRE.-- Last Wednesday evening about 10 o’clock, the foundry on the corner of Washington and Fayette streets, belonging to Luke Wood, was descovered [sic] to be on fire. Efforts were made to stop the flames, but in vain. The building was destroyed in a few minutes.—There were many valuable castings and patterns, besides tools of the workers, in the building, which with a few exceptions, were all destroyed. A steam engine was also destroyed. The amount of the loss is supposed to be upwards of $2,000. Messrs. Wallace & Jones had but a few months since rented the foundry, and were carrying on business in it. No insurance.
Peoria Weekly Democratic Press. January 7, 1852, page 2, column 3. [note that this paper was a weekly publication, hence fire took place the previous Wednesday, December 31, 1851.] Transcribed by Susan E. Stemont, 2006. Thanks to librarian Elaine Sokolowski of the Peoria Public Library, for locating this item.
Hickey moved on to Missouri, where his first son was born in 1852. Later, he’d move back and forth over the Mississippi, following work in Pittsfield, IL, Louisiana, MO, and Quincy, IL, before his death in St. Louis in 1897. When Luke Wood died of cholera in Chicago in September 1852, much of his land and properties were sold to settle the estate. Only one piece of paper tying him to James S. Hickey appears in the estate papers, a note dated August 30, 1850 to William Hale instructing him to “Pleas [sic] let Jas S. Hickey have 1 Bbl of flower [sic] & charge the same to me Luke Wood.”
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