Saturday, May 21, 2011

David Dows

If the writer of this short biography was asked to preface what he has to say with a text suggestive of his subject he would select the words, “There were giants in the earth of these days – the same became mighty men –men of renown.”

There is no country of modern times, and history does not point to any of ancient times, that has raised, as it were, into such prominent and gigantic proportions as the United States.

This marvelous development is not the growth of centuries, or of periods, or of any of those divisions of times that have heretofore marked the rise and fall of great nations, but it is the outgrown of the years and months and days, in lifetimes of men whose energies have been concentrated upon great purposes, and whose courage and enterprise and never-failing faith in the possibilities of the future, have worked out to a successful issue the problems they have undertaken to resolve.

It is true that the field in this country is a wide one, and that men of Anglo-Saxon extraction, standing on the broad platform of American independence of thought, conscience, and action, have opportunities that are unsurpassed, and which are not possible in the Old World.

Yet it must not be forgotten that opportunities are simply means, and become dead letters if neglected or passed by unperceived. Opportunities cannot make the man, but the man who has perseverance, courage, and the ability to see and grasp the opportunity may become great; and such a man is DAVID DOWS.

It is also true that in this earnest struggle for place and development, utilitarian results have been more sought after here, more than in older continental countries might be judged healthful or beneficial for the general good; but it must be remembered that those who first emigrated to these shores were not not the most enlightened or philanthropic people of Great Britain and Europe, but were from the middle classes, who could not brook the intolerant spirit of those who were in authority, and were willing to suffer for conscience sake; or else from the working classes who were crowded out to make room for their more opulent neighbors and who hoped for immediate benefit to themselves from the change.

The Dows or Dowse family is of English origin, hailing from the neighborhood of Colchester and Bellerica in Essex. The first mention that we have of any prominent member is of Eleazer Dowse, who attached himself to the fortunes of Oliver Cromwell, and became a colonel in the army of the British Commonwealth.

A short time prior to that period ( about the year 1630) two brothers of Eleazer, named Ebenezer and Maximilian, emigrated with many others to the colonies, and under the leadership of Governor Winthrop helped to found Boston, and subsequently settled at Charleston, Massachusetts

Eleazer, the father of David Dows, and of the fifth generation in the United States, was born in 1764, and at the age of fifteen became a soldier in the American Army, serving under General Sullivan at Newport, Rhode Island, where he frequently saw Lafayette, and subsequently at West Point, when the traitor Benedict Arnold was in command.

After the war he went to New Hampshire to reside but in 1788 he moved to Saratoga County and purchased a farm in the then wilderness, about nine miles from the town of Schenectady. His energetic and determined spirit made him the leading man in that section of the country, and to the little village that sprang up near his residence he gave the name Charlton.

In 1790 he took to himself a wife in the person of Linda Wright, daughter of Capt. John Wright, of Ballston (an officer in the Revolutionary Army). By who he had twelve children – six girls and six boys.

David Dows, the youngest of the boys was born in 1814. He was the eleventh in order of birth and he worked on the farm until he was fourteen years of age. He received such educational advantages as the District School could give, with now and then an opportunity of showing forth his proficiency to the somewhat eccentric and celebrated Reverend Ammi Rogers, a fast friend of his father and the Episcopal Church missionary who had charge of the spiritual condition of all that region of the country.

Luke, David’s older brother, followed his father’s vocation and became a farmer; but the family counsel, reinforced by the Rev. Roger’s dictum decided that the other boys should adopt a business career and, as each became old enough to leave the paternal roof he received his father’s blessing, and set forth to make his way in the world.

John, the second oldest brother and a man of remarkable shrewdness andforce of character and many years David’s senior, had already established himself in partnership with Ira B. Cary, as a forwarder on the Mohawk River, and subsequently on the Erie Canal, withy headquarters in New York. In 1828 he obtained for David a situation as a clerk in the dry-goods store of Isaac W. Statts, of Albany.
David entered the store in vigorous health and full of hopeful ambition. He soon won the respect and confidence of his employer, who, although adhering to the financial part of their contract, gave him time for physical and mental improvement.

He remained in Albany till the close of 1832, after which he went to the office of his brother Ammi in Utica for a few months, and in May, 1833, upon the invitation of John, he removed to New York, and accepted a clerkship withy the firm of Dows and Cary, who meanwhile had added a commission department to their business, and were gradually withdrawing from transportation.
In 1834 the firm of Eli Hart, Dows &Co was formed, consisting of Eli Hart, Jas. M. Hoyt, John Dows and Ira B Cary, and David went with them as their employee. In 1836, Eli Hart, Dows & Co. dissolved and formed two firms- those of Eli Hart & Co., and Dows and Cary. David remained with the later and the year following was admitted to partnership in that firm. John Dows died in 1844, leaving David his executor and an equal partner withy Mr. Cary, in a business that had greatly extended its proportions since David’s advent to New York.

The following year was a most disastrous one to all persons interested in the grain and produce trade in the United States. Prices were unusually low, the demand was limited, many country dealers had failed to forward the produce on which their city factors had already advanced; confidence was much shaken, and money became exceedingly stringent.

After manfully struggling to weather the storm, Dows and Cary, in the spring of 1846, were forced to suspend of those acceptances which had not been covered by shipments of property, but so thoroughly did they enjoy the confidence of their creditors that they were enabled almost at once to effect a compromise without any serious interruption of their business.

The year following, the law of compensation asserted itself. The firms operations were unusually successful, the Irish famine demand stimulated prices, and very large profits (for those times) were realized. Not only were the compensation notes of the firm all cared for before maturity, but that portion of their obligations that had been compounded and legally cancelled was paid in full with interest, and the credit and honorable intent of the firm more firmly established than ever before.

Soon after this Mr. Cary’s health became partially impaired, and he was obliged to withdraw from the more active management of the firm’s affairs. This was David’s opportunity, and with a cool head and a firm hand he grasped it . His comprehensive mind had already taken in the situation. He saw that water transportation had done much, but the railroads were destined to become the main factors in bringing the United States, as a great commercial country, to the front.

Under this appreciative and far-reaching policy, new avenues were opened up and the business of Dows &Cary rapidly increased. The strict justice of their dealings, their honorable record and high credit, together with their ability to make advances on property, shipped in large volumes from the interior, made them the most popular commission house in New York.

In 1854 Mr. Cary died (for the times a wealthy man) leaving David his managing executor, and the sole owner of the largely increased and rapidly increasing business. Mr. Dows keenly felt the loss of his old and tried friend, for whom he entertained the warmest regard; but, for the reason that his partner’s long sickness had taught him to depend upon his own judgment and resources, the business progressed almost without a ripple. Many flattering offers of partnership withy large capital facilities attached were tendered him, but all were refused.

But although his spirit was irrepressible the physical conditions began to assert themselves. As the volume of business continued to increase and could not be kept down, the strain caused by the panic of 1857 warned him that he must have some relief; therefore in 1858 he induced his brother Ammi, who had a few years before retired from the firm of Dows and Guiteau, to accept an interest; and the firm name was changed to D&A Dows & Co. Three years of continued prosperity followed, but the cares and anxieties caused by thye financial crisis that immediately followed the election of President Lincoln, in the autu,n of 1860, together with the weight of accumulating years, induced Ammi (who was eleven years the senior of David) to retire in 1861.

This was at the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion; but the emergency had stimulating effect on David Dows. Patriotism had much to do with his decision. To his mind courageous and enterprising merchants were just as essential in sustaining the Government and re-establishing the integrity of the Union, as thye brave soldiers and sailors who were so manfully upholding the flag at the front. He accepted two new partners and continued the firm as David Dows &Co.

Large as the business had been before, the fact that the firm had successfully weathered the winter of 1860-61- while so many others (together withy very many financial institutions throughout the country) had suffered shipwreck – seemed to give it largely increased prestige with western shipping merchants, and its resources and ability to care for the ever increasing consignments were taxed to the utmost.

Meanwhile the old conditions were fast changing – gold had passed from being a money factor into an article of merchandise. A new currency had been created, and a system of banking, the most magnificent and comprehensive that had heretofore been conceived and which was predicated upon the faith and stability of the Government, had been inaugurated, armies were being raised, equipped, and fed, and Government loans aggregating enormous amounts were being, and would still have to be negotiated. In all these conditions the country was without the benefit of previous experience; they were the sudden inventions of the great and pressing necessity, and yet in looking back upon that period of our history from the standpoint of the present day, how very few mistakes seem to have been made – Great men were holding the helm, and great minds were ready withy their counsel. It was the crisis of the Republic, and it was bravely and nobly met.

In many of these emergencies David Dows was consulted, and his active cooperation cheerfully given. It was soon apparent that customary methods must be abandoned, and that in provisioning the large armies in the field the old systems in vogue with the Washington authorities were entirely inadequate. On the subject David Dows &Co were called upon to advise and suggest a remedy. This they did; but as their ideas prohibited divided responsibility, and conflicted with the established rules of the War and Treasury Departments, there was a long struggle withy “red tape” before the urgency of the conditions compelled that the efficiency of their plan should be thoroughly tested.

AS the first transaction was experimental and required the disbursing of several millions of dollars, and the negotiation of a large amount of United States securities by his firm on behald of the Government, the following letter from the Commissary-General of the United States Armies gave David Dows the keenest satisfaction and completely vindicated the soundness of his judgment:

[ Letters to be included at a later date]

The result of this experimental operation was to sweep away any further opposition, and David Dows & Co. continued to serve the Government as occasion required til the close of the war and the disbandment of the armies of the Rebellion; although the firm never permitted that fact to appear upon the surface of their large transactions.

Nor were these dealings without, now and then, some amusing features. In one instance the Commissary-General complained that he was much troubled obtaining supplies in some large western cities because of combinations formed to advance prices whenever the Government appeared in the market as a purchaser, and named Cincinnati as being exceedingly aggressive in this respect. He was advised to withdraw his advertisements and announce that the needs of the Department had been provided. This was done, and a day or two later- and without the slightest premonition of where the supplies came from- the morning papers announced that the Commissary Department was the recipient of several thousand packages of provisions, and that more were on the way. The Cincinnati speculators were demoralized; they acknowledged their defeat, and the contest was never again renewed.

When the national banking system was first inaugurated, the Secretary of the Treasury, Hon. Salmon P. Chase, came to New York and urged a prominent National Bank should be at once organized, so as to give character, standing and confidence in the system to the country. There was much hesitancy, for the old established banks were not cordial, and very many financial sages feared the new departure would prove a failure.

David Dows and other earnest patriotic spirits with him were then applied to and they at once organized the Fourth National Bank with a capital of $5,000,000. They agreed that the books should remain open just four days, and that all the stock not then subscribed for, they would take in addition to their original large subscriptions. Their confidence and pluck inspired the doubting withy courage, and the enterprise proved a grand success. Mr. Chase returned to Washington encouraged and hopeful, for he saw that the National Bank problem, to which he had devoted so much time and thought, had taken root and would become the back-bone of the financial system that was to carry the Northern States successfully through the terrible struggle in which they were then engaged.

These are only samples of what took place in those stirring times. Men were just as truly patriotic then as in 1776; and with a like wonderful energy, which served in times past to build up this great nation, did they rally to the support of the Government in the face of European jealousies and outside discouragements, and secured a result that has never been equaled in ancient or modern history.

The business of David Dows &Co was strictly a commission one. Almost all the prominent houses in the the produce trade of the West and North-West have been its clients. They received and sold the agricultural products of the United States at the Eastern seaboard, and when their correspondents desire the advantage of foreign markets they forwarded such consignments to their agents in British or Continental ports. They had branch houses in Baltimore, Chicago, St. Paul and Duluth, opened from time to time as the country developed. It was the policy of the firm to to follow closely the pioneering railroad, and be ever ready to lend a helping hand in stimulating and forwarding all those interests that gave to the agriculturalist and inland merchant the largest return for their labor and enterprise. They helped build elevators wherever they were needed, including their own elevators on the Brooklyn shore. And were largely the means of making New York the American seaboard granary of Great Britain and the Continent.

In furtherance of these ends, Mr. Dows early in his career became identified with railroad construction, and urged it forward with all the energy of his active nature. When he left his father’s farm, in 1828, there were less than twenty miles of railroad in the United States; today there are over one hundred and twenty-five thousand, and of almost all the opening of the Great West and Northwest, he has helped to build, and taken an active interest in their management…
Nor in all this railroad building and Western development did Mr. Dows overlook an urgent need that lay nearer to home, even at his very door, the lack of which was recognized by him as a great desideratum to the more rapid growth of New York into the Metropolis of the United States. The peculiar formation of Manhattan Island permitted of the extension of the city in only one direction- that towards the north. The omnibus and the horse-car-road had each been tried and, up to a certain point, had done good service, but as the homes of existing means of transit was beginning to stunt the City’s growth, and to aid in building up towns and villages in a neighboring State at a very rapid rate.

Mr. Dows was a believer in Elevated Roads operated by steam or some other power equally effective. Experience had taught him that passenger trains weighing three hundred tons and over could be moved at the rate of forty to fifty miles an hour over surface roads, supported at places fifty feet and more above the ground, with perfect safety, and hence he argued that trains weighing less than one hundred tons could be moved at fifteen to twenty-five miles an hour upon elevated structures from fifteen to twenty-five feet above street-level with equal safety.

After much opposition, largely emanating from horse railroad companies, in 1866-67 a company was organized and a charter obtained to construct and elevated road from the Battery, through Greenwich Street and Ninth Avenue to the Harlem River, to be exclusively operated by means of stationary engines and revolving cables. In 1868 this charter was amended so as to permit of the use of steam, but the directors did not avail of this privilege. Although much opposed to the cable system of propulsion, yet for the reason that any kind of rapid transit was a step in the right direction, Mr. Dows was one of the few persons who subscribed to its capital stock but declined to take any part in the management of the company. In the early part of 1870 the road was completed as far as 30th Street, but the stationary engine and endless rope system proving an utter failure, the company was unable to proceed further, and the Grand Jury having declared the structure a public nuisance, a bill was introduced into the Legislature to have the charter repealed. At this point three gentlemen, John F. Tracy, William L. Scott and David Dows, came to the rescue. They first abrogated the cable traction system, then contributed the ways and means, and strengthened the superstructure so as to admit of the use of the Locomotive, and for nine months successfully operated the road from Dey Street to 30th Street, although the compliment of passengers carried only averaged three hundred and fifty per diem.

Having demonstrated the efficacy of steam and inspired courage among the doubting, Mr. Dows helped to organize the New York Elevated Railroad Company (…) in 1872 and was its first Treasurer.. He then served in the same position in the Metropolitan Elevated Company and was until very lately one of the trustees of its Mortgage obligations. From the beginning and until this important question of rapid transit was solved, Mr. Dows was an energetic leader, although he would not permit it top so appear, never doubting that the modest passenger record of three hundred and fifty in 1871 would swell into the daily aggregate of five hundred thousand in 1888, and that the Upper Wards, in time, would vie withy the lower in value and in sources of revenue to the City for all time to come.

In matters of finance, he became prominent as a merchant. Mr. Dows has stood at the very front rank. He helped to organize or direct many of the New York and Chicago banks, among which may be mentioned the Corn Exchange, the Fourth National, the Central Trust Co., the Merchant’s Bank – all of New York, - and the Union National Bank of Chicago, and has ben urged to join the boards of many others, but was obliged, for lack of time, to decline. He has also been identified in the formation and management of many large insurance companies, both domestic and foreign, and he organized, and for many years was the President of the New York Corn Exchange, out of which in later years the Produce Exchange has grown to its present grand proportions.

In politics M. Dows is a staunch Republican, but has never taken any prominent place in his party or accepted any Government position. He believes I his party because of the results of its great work – the abolition of slavery, and the preservation of the Union, - and although at times he can discover errors of judgment and faulty nominations to high places by the leaders, he charitably remembers tha men are human, and he is therefore loyal with his support.

Mr. Dows is a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church and has been for many years Senior Warden of St. George’s Church, where for over thirty years his old friend, the Reverend Stephen H Tyng, D.D. was the rector.
In 1852 Mr. Dows married Margaret E., daughter of Horatio Worcester, Esq., of New York, by whom he had nine children: Annie, wife of Richard M. Hoe; Linda, wife of George b Cooksey; David Dows, Jr. Margaret Worcester, wife of Carroll Dunham; Susan, wife of Dr. C.; A Herter; Mary and Tracy, and two boys, Harry, and Stephen Guion, who died in infancy. His home during the winter is on Fifth Avenue corner of 69th Street, and in the summer at his handsome residence in Irvington, one of the most beautiful locations on the Hudson River.

Although Mr. Dows is in his 74th year, time has dealt kindly with him. His tall commanding figure is but slightly bent, and though his hair is mixed with gray, and a benevolent and patriarchial condition asserts itself, yet the large well-shaped head, the clear intellect, the quick penetrating eye, the firm compression of the mouth that speaks of energetic will, the genial temperament and thye social magnetism that attracts all who come within his sphere of influence, are just as potent as they ever were in his younger days.

Such is David Dows in the midst of one of the happiest of homes – esteemed and loved and honored by unnumbered friends. His elevated example is cherished by his contemporaries. The impress of his life will be a valuable legacy to his generation; and to the younger merchants of his country it will be pointed to as the sure results of enterprise and good morals. What an enviable position this great and good man enjoys! He can look back on the labor of his life – labor, because no good work can be done in any field without genuine labor- without a shade of egotism, and know and feel that his country and his country-men are better because he has lived. He has proved himself to be an unpretending practical philanthropist, who, while working for himself and those dear to him with his head, pursued a policy that was meanwhile improving the condition of his neighbors, elevating and upholding the claims of American enterprise and American labor, and furnishing the ways and means of living to thousands and tens of thousands wage winners, who work with their hands.
A zealous, upright merchant whose name is a household word in commercial circles from the Atlantic to the Pacific; - a good citizen who stood by his country in its greatest and darkest hour of need, and an upright Christian gentleman, David Dows well deserves the success that has crowned his life work and the place in the annals of his country’s history, which the mercantile world, that has so long adorned his talents and his virtues, so gratefully and proudly accord him – a position in the very foremost rank of the famous men of this more than famous nineteenth century.


Be it remembered, That, at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company, held at the General Offices of the Company in the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, on the third (3d) day of June, 1890, the meeting was addressed by the Hon. George G. Wright as follow:

Mr. President: If goodness is greatness – if integrity is nobleness – then David Dows, for so many years connected with our deliberations, and whose death we, and a circle of friends seldom equaled, this day mourn, belonged to the nobility of manhood. Such greatness I do not measure by a too short sectarian yard-stick, weigh in scales constructed and balanced by popular judgment, nor guage by those instruments so often, yet incorrectly, used in estimating moral worth and mental strength. A life, however seemingly exemplary, shadowed by fear, or stained by temptation, is not great; for there is not apt to be any principle of true manhood involved therein. He who squares his conduct by the popular verdict, is too often inspired by debasing, and not ennobling influences. His moral perceptions are not enlarged nor developed when thus guided and colored.

The man, on the other hand, who does what enlightened Christian conscience dictates; who has love of country, not for gain, but as a part of his true and real life; who believes in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man; who has a sincere desire, and labors to make the world better; who has an everlasting life current which runs still, and yet strong; who has brains to know the right, and the honesty and courage to do it; whom the lusts of office cannot buy, nor the clamor of men deter; who, without flagging or flinching, bragging or boasting, can tell and act the truth, whoever may oppose; who utterly abhor all show, all pretence, all tricks to deceive, all indirection to mislead, -such a man is truly great, and by the enlightened judgment of the world should “step from the topmost round of the ladder of earth to his home in the skies.”

I am fully conscious that not infrequently friendship seeks relief for its sorrow in the extravagance of eulogy. I know, too, that as flowers placed on the bier of our friends by the hands of flattery or the fingers of insincerity would perish and decay, so would words of mere fulsome eulogy be out of harmony with his quit and unostentatious every-day walk, and the estimate of his family and friends of his true and upright life. And yet in no spirit of eulogy, but with a satisfaction which death can neither extinguish nor qualify, I, with you, may bear testimony to his high character, and say in all truthfulness, he belonged to the class I described.

His leading characteristic was a modesty seldom paralleled, in the discharge of every duty. Firm and tenacious in his own views, he was free from dogmatism which purposely offended. Ready to assert and maintain his own, he was never-the-less mindful of the rights of those around him. As a rule unwilling to impute fault, he was tender of the feelings of those with who he associated. Possessed of a love of country which, if unselfish, is always the surest guaranty of national safety and unity, he often shamed the unseemly greed and acts of those much higher in public estimate. His was a humanity broad as the universe, active as the human heart can prompt; and thus he was led to honesty in the marts of trade, and lived the life of a true Christian, whether in pew or office. If of such men we would know the best, we should follow them from office or marketplace to their homes, to the quiet of domestic life, where children respect their words, and acts of kindness are a matter of course rather than subjects for praise or encomium.

He was the friend of the poor, and struggling men everywhere, now and for time, will rise up and call him blessed. And so was each day of his life, whether in the quiet of his loved home, or in the discharge of his multiform duties, on this board or elsewhere, he erected for himself a monument which time cannot efface nor possible criticism tarnish. For he ever realized that –

“True worth is in being, not seeming,
In doing each day that goes by,
Some little good – not in dreaming
Of great things to do by and by.”

And also that –
“There is nothing so kingly as kindness,
And nothing so royal as truth.”

And thus we have a man, who, by the judgment of those who knew him – and those who knew him best will readily concur – is entitled to be called good, and hence great.

But pardon me that I speak too long, especially in the presence of those who knew him more intimately, and with better opportunities to speak of his worth.

I present for consideration, the following brief memorial and resolutions:

DAVID DOWS, son of Eleazer Dows, was born in 1814 in the county of Saratoga, State of New York, and died at his residence in the city of New York, March 3, 1890.

A farmer’s son, he only had such educational advantages as the schools of those early days could give. While still young he left the home roof to seek success in the business world. His was an ambition full of hope and health most vigorous. How like a romance it sounds, and especially to the doles, foppish, listless young men of our times, to know that this man, afterwards so useful in life and so impressing himself upon all the material interests of our greatest city – as also his state and nation – started life as a clerk under three years contract, boarding and clothing himself, for the meager salary of little more than $150.00 per year. And yet, as we consult their lives, thus have our best and truest men started and been made. That he hade the confidence of his first employer, a he continued to have of all those with whom he was afterwards associated, goes without saying.

Starting in Albany, then going to Utica, in 1833 he accepted a clerkship in New York, where he remained, growing withy the growth of that marvelous city, and was most intimately connected with almost its every financial interest, until his death. Briefly it may be said, that he organized its strongest banks; took an active interest in all the important methods of municipal transportation, so intimately connected with the commercial interests of the city, as also in the great lines of railway, west as well as east, taking upon himself trusts public and private of the most onerous and responsible character; aided the government in its hour of greatest need by the liberal use of his wealth, manifesting his confidence in the stability of the Union, and accumulating by honest efforts a fair fortune, which made him not narrower and more sordid, but broader and more liberal and catholic in all his views as the weight of years came upon him. Thus, in brief, he lived and died, loved and mourned as few others in that great metropolis and throughout the nation.
This paper would, however, be quite incomplete, and especially on this occasion, without reference to his connection with this company- an organization in which he had the most unbounded confidence. Elected a director of the old, or original Chicago and Rock Island Company, in 1857, member of the executive committee in 1860, and vice-president in 1877, he, save for three months – March 6 to June 5, 1868 – held those positions continuously, in the old and consolidated companies, until his death. Always elected without dissent, among the largest, if not the largest holder of our stock, his several official relations are without parallel for lengthy of tenure, and seldom equaled for fidelity to his trust or the value of his advice and counsel. His was not a nature to tear down, but rather to build up and extend.

Though conservative, he still earnestly and warmly seconded every movement calculated, in his judgment, to extend the area of our operations with benefit to the company. While he labored to advance the interests of the company in which he was so largely interested, he discountenanced all improper warfare on others, appreciating that this was a rich and growing land, replete withy infinite possibilities, that the welfare and prosperity of all were inter-dependent, and that to unnecessarily antagonize and disparage others was neither wise nor just. Than him this company has never had a more sincere friend – one who took greater pleasure in its success – nor one whose counsels were of greater value or more highly appreciated. In a word, as one very near to him writes, “whether as a trusted official of this company, or whatever the trust exercised or the work to be done, he ever sought what was right: principle was always paramount to expediency – money and money-making subordinate to the demands of truth and justice.”

In view of such a life and his long connection with this board, we may appropriately pause in the discharge of our duty to pay tribute to his memory. Expressive of our appreciation of the man, and our deep sensibility of his loss to us as a friend and coworker, it is resolved:

First. – That we have learned with the most profound regret of the death of DAVID DOWS at his home in the city of New York on the 30th of March last, one so long prominently and usefully connected with this company as director, vice-president and member of our executive or working committee, whose words were listen to for more than thirty years with the consciousness that they were prompted by integrity – were wise in their conception and the outgrowth of the ripest experience.

Second.- In his death this company has lost not only a most valuable officer and counsellor, but the city of his adoption a leading citizen, his state one almost without peer among those laboring for its advancement and prosperity, the nation a faithful, fearless advocate of its highest and best interests, we as individuals, a friend, who was such amid the storms of adversity or the the sunshine of posterity, and his family a husband and father who, honoring him, were honored by him.

Third.- That a copy of this memorial and these resolutions be spread upon our records and a copy transmitted to his family signed by the President and Secretary, with expressions of our sincere condolence and sympathy in their deep affliction.

The Memorial and Resolution were adopted by the unanimous vote of all the Directors present.

State of Illinois
County of Cook

I, W.G. Purdy, Secretary of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company, do herebt certify that the foregoing is a true copy of an extract from the records of the meeting of the Bioard of Directors of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company, held on the third day of June, 1890, as fully as the same appears of record in my said office.
In TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of the said company on this third day of June, A.D., 1890.

W.G. Purdy.
(signature is consistent with other published examples of such)

Rock Island Line

It’s cloudy in the west
Looks like rain
Bought me a ticket on a railroad train
Pour on the water
Shovel on the coal
Stick your head out the window
See the drivers roll –


Oh, well the Rock Island Line is a mighty good road
Oh, the Rock Island Line is the road to ride
The Rock Island Line it is a mighty good road
Well if you want to ride it you got to ride it like you find it
Get your ticket at the station for the Rock Island Line.


The seven forty five was always late
But arrived today a quarter to eight
The engineer said when they cheered his name
We’re right on time but this is yesterday’s train

Refrain (…)

The engineer said before he died
There’s two more drinks I would like to try
The conductor said what can they be?
A hot glass of water and a cold cup of tea.

Refrain (…)

The east bound train was on the west bound track
The north bound train was on the south bound track
The conductor hollered Now ain’t this fine
What a peculiar way to run a railroad.
Refrain (…)
Words and Music by Huddie Ledbetter, edited by Alan Lomax


  1. He proved himself to be an unpretending practical philanthropist, who, while working for himself and those dear to him with his head, pursued a policy that was meanwhile improving the condition of his neighbors, elevating and upholding the claims of American enterprise and American labor, and furnishing the ways and means of living to thousands and tens of thousands wage winners, who work with their hands.

  2. The first document by anonymous without any attribute whatsoever, simply found somewhere in the family archives.

  3. This part is pretty mind-blowing!

    "After much opposition, largely emanating from horse railroad companies, in 1866-67 a company was organized and a charter obtained to construct and elevated road from the Battery, through Greenwich Street and Ninth Avenue to the Harlem River, to be exclusively operated by means of stationary engines and revolving cables."

  4. "He has proved himself to be an unpretending practical philanthropist, who, while working for himself and those dear to him with his head, pursued a policy that was meanwhile improving the condition of his neighbors, elevating and upholding the claims of American enterprise and American labor, and furnishing the ways and means of living to thousands and tens of thousands wage winners, who work with their hands."

    Damn. Who wrote this? "Unpretending practical philanthropist"

  5. That first piece is titled: "To The Old Friends of David Dows
    This short sketch of his active and honorable life is respectfully dedicated
    By A. E. Orr, Brooklyn, 1888". Orr (who we sometimes refer to as Eeyore) married David Dows' niece, Juliet Buckingham Dows.
    Juliet's parents were Jane Eliza Wilbor and Ammi Dows, David's brother. I'd have posted this on your blog but the old dysfunction is kicking in...Pippa gave me a copy of this which was another prompt to look at the family history. Thanks for sharing this!-Kirstan Turner

  6. Wow, much more impressive than the bio in our genealogy: The Dows or Dowse Family in America, which was published in the same year as David Dows' death, by my grandfather's uncle, Azro Milton Dows. Azro's father, Amos Wright Dows of Lowell, MA was also a 6th generation American Dows, and another great-grandson of Ebeneezer, as was David. Amos' story, as told on pg 68 of the genealogy available online here is one of extreme perseverance and determination.

    Amos' younger brother Gustavus Davis Dows invented and patented the marble soda fountain in 1861 and introduced it to Europe at the Paris Exposition of 1867, where "Kings and princes, sheiks and sultans quaffed of Yankee ingenuity". Dows, Clark & Van Winkle of Boston & London, also operated the American Cafe at the Paris Expo (although the fountain stole the show). At the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, the popular concession was marked as a national institution.

    Until now, I knew of David Dows as a grain merchant primarily because of the first and largest 5 masted schooner (actually a barkentine, because it had square sails) on the Great Lakes. It was named after him by the shipbuilders in Toledo, Ohio.

    Learning that a ship had my name before I was born caught my attention, although I also have as my middle name the first name of the first Dows in America, Lawrence, arriving in Boston before 1642.

  7. Wow, i had not read this before. I own a number od David Dows' stock documents in the various railroad companies. I am awlays proud and invigorated by the memory of this great ancestor of mine. karl Bieberach Dielman

  8. Hello, I am a historian at Northern Arizona University doing research on David Dows' grain business. I'd like to know where you obtained these records.

    Please email me at

    Thank you very much!

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  11. This sketch by Alexander Ecton Orr is great. Is it possible to include "letters to be included at a later date"? I'm curious if this is AB Eaton or Joseph P Taylor who commends Dows.