The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

Wilson C. Lemert –

Posted by JRW on February 7, 2011

from The History of the Ohio Republican Party written by John Patterson Smith 1898 –  Google Books

WILSON C. LEMERT needs no introduction to the citizens of Ohio, for he is known throughout the length and breadth of the state. He is a man of seemingly limitless capacity and ability for business and has probably been connected with more enterprises that have promoted the material welfare of the state than any other one man. Varied as are the interests with which he is connected, he gives to all a personal oversight, and under his wise direction they are carried forward to successful completion. Prosperity depends upon commercial activity, and of far more practical benefit to a town is an industry which furnishes employment to many men than a gift of money whose investment brings no work to those who must depend upon their labor for their livelihood. In the establishment of the multiplicity of enterprises with which he is connected, Mr. Lemert, therefore, has not only acquired wealth but has been a public benefactor in keeping the wheels of trade in motion, thus supplying the means of support to hundreds of families.

Ohio numbers him among her native sons, his birth having occurred on a farm in Texas township, Crawford county. He began his education in the common schools, later pursued his studies in Republic Academy, in Seneca county, Ohio, and Heidelberg College, of Tiffin, Ohio, and was graduated in the Ohio Wesleyan University, of Delaware, in 1858. He then entered the Cleveland Law College, and was graduated in that institution in 1859. The following year he opened a law office in Greensburg, Indiana, but when the Civil war engulfed the country in its horrors he laid aside the pursuits of private life to enter the service of his country.

It was in 1861 that Mr. Lemert joined the Seventh Indiana Infantry and before leaving the state he was chosen second lieutenant. During the first year of his field service, for meritorious conduct at the battle of Winchester, he was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant, and later was made captain. In 1862 Governor Tod, without his solicitation, tendered him a major’s commission in the Eighty-sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which he accepted. In 1863 he reorganized that regiment and was appointed its colonel. It was assigned to General Burnside’s Ninth Army Corps, and was an active force in the historical east Tennessee campaign. When the Union troops gained possession of east Tennessee, Colonel Lemert was assigned to the command of the Third Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Army Corps, consisting of over seven thousand soldiers,—infantry, cavalry and artillery,— which constituted the federal force in the department of the Clinch, with headquarters at Cumberland Gap, the natural strategic gateway of east Tennessee. Colonel Lemert continued in command of the brigade and part of the time of the division until the expiration of his service in 1865.

Returning to his home he entered upon a business career that is almost marvelous in its scope and volume. In 1865-6 he was president and general manager of the Bellefontaine Cotton Company, engaged in raising and dealing in cotton in Mississippi and Louisiana. From 1867 until 1877 he was partner and manager of the A. M. Jones Company, extensive manufacturers of materials for use in the construction of wagons, carriages and sleighs. In 1877 he became manager of the business interests of McDonald & Company, railroad builders, and constructed and operated the Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad. In 1878 he became president and manager of the Moxahala Furnace Company, of Perry county, Ohio, constructed and operated the plant and also opened coal, iron ore and fire clay mines at Moxahala. During 1878-9 he superintended the construction of the Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad from Moxahala to Corning, which included the supervision of the building of the Moxahala tunnel, a most difficult piece of engineering. He bought the land and platted and built the town of Corning, and developed seven coal mines contiguous, with a daily capacity of three thousand tons. In 1880 he completed the Corning mines, built a railway from Corning to Buckingham and was appointed manager of the entire coal and railway property and conducted the ” Corning war,” which resulted satisfactorily to miners and operators.

During the same year Mr. Lemert secured the location of the railroad machine shops at Bucyrus, Ohio, and purchased and reorganized the Bucyrus Foundry & Manufacturing Company, which did an extensive business in the production of mining and railroad equipments, steam shovels and dredges. In 1881 he built the extension of the Ohio Central Railroad from Corning to the Ohio river, a distance of fifty-one miles, and in the same year was appointed chief engineer on the staff of Governor Foster. He turned his attention to a very different line of business in the same year, purchasing large ranches in Iowa and Colorado, where he was extensively engaged in raising horses for ten years. In 1883 he commenced the construction of the railway from Findlay, Ohio, to Columbus, which was sold to the Ohio Central Company when partially completed. He was also interested in the Nickel Plate Enterprise, which was sold to the Vanderbilts.

Colonel Lemert secured the privilege of heating Toledo with natural gas and organized the Northwestern Ohio Natural Gas Company, which supplied Toledo, Sandusky, Tiffin, Fostoria, Fremont, Clyde, Bellevue and Detroit with gas. He then assumed the general supervision of the Brice-Thomas natural-gas plants in Ohio and Indiana,—at Springfield, Dayton, Piqua, Sidney, Troy and Lima, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Logansport and Lafayette, Indiana. In 1887 he purchased, re-built and consolidated the gas and electric light property at Bucyrus, and in 1889 bought the Brick Machinery Factory of Frey, Sheckler & Hoover, organizing the Frey-Sheckler Company, which operates the most extensive manufactory of clay-working machinery in the world. In 1894 Mr. Lemert purchased, combined, rebuilt and extended the gas and electric lighting plants and electric railway system at Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1896 he organized the American Clay Working Machinery Company at Bucyrus, Ohio, and by purchase and combination of the factories of the same specialties, to-wit, the FreySheckler Company, of Bucyrus, and the Penfield & Sons, of Willboughby, Ohio, created a clay machinery plant four times as large as any of its class in the world. The America, for such is the name under which the firm does business, has trade relations with

every civilized nation in the world. He is an active director of the First National Bank of Bucyrus, Ohio, and finances six other corporations.

Such in brief is the history of the business life of one of Ohio’s most prominent and influential citizens, and the most casual observer in reviewing such a career cannot but be impressed with the magnitude of the undertaking. His work among the railways alone would be an accomplishment worthy of the life devotion of many a man, and through this avenue alone he has increased the wealth and benefitted the state toan immeasurable degree. Trade reaches a dead center unless there are good transportation facilities to bring into connection the sources of supply and demand, the market and the consumer, and through the building of the various lines, Mr. Lemert has brought about an activity in commercial circles that has benefitted hundreds and thousands of Ohio’s citizens. The industries that he has established have given employment to an army of workmen; and the historian has said truly that he who pays over his counters each week a thousand men does far more for humanity than he who leads an army forth to battle. 

The only civil office that Colonel Lemert has ever filled was that of postmaster of Bucyrus, in which capacity he served in 1868-7. Many offices have been tendered him, and he could probably obtain almost any official preferment that he desired, but he has refused all advances in that direction, preferring to devote his entire energies to the manifold interests which have felt his guiding hand. The great variety of enterprises with which he has been connected well indicate the versatility of his power. It takes a very strong, clear mind to put in operation a large business concern and so control its affairs as to make it a paying investment, but Colonel Lemert has the brain to devise, and the will to direct mammoth concerns. His success, seemingly marvelous, is the outgrowth of these qualities which should always enter into transactions,—, perseverance and straightforward dealing, but the secret of his power lies in the fact that he watched his opportunity and was able to recognize it when it came to hand. He stands today among the capitalists of the state, covered with wealth and honor, and so fairly have his possessions been gained that he is above the envy ^of those less fortunate financially.

One Response to “Wilson C. Lemert –”

  1. Kathleen Roby said

    This should be read by every Southern Local SD student with the truth that they CAN indeed aspire to successes…and how each should progress onward! It is stunning how much Colonel Lemert accomplished in just one lifetime!!
    I am thankful for it all. However, in retrospect, now that this region (and others) are now poorer after helping to build many big cities, I would also like to learn what he also have to help the people when as the companies dwindles. Perhaps,that is another amazing story and, if so, I want to read it and have it also shared with students.

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