Richard Weaver, Life of

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HON. RICHARD WEAVER. One of the best known men in Waukesha County Is this sterling( English gentleman, who has been one of its honored citizens since 1837. He is a native of the county of Sussex, England, where his birth occurred August 2.^), 1827, Being the fourth in a family of sixteen children, whose parents were Hon. James and Elizabeth (Fielder) Weaver. Of the eight sons and eight daughters comprising this family eleven are still living, and arc named .as follows: William is a retired merchant of Sussex; Richard is the next; .Toiin is a farmer in Oregon; Edward J. pursues the same calling at Cambria, Columbia County, Wis.; Mary is the wife of .lames Craven, a farmer of Lisbon Township; Emily married Robert Frost, a retired farmer of Sussex; Lucy is living in the same village; Lydia became tiic wife of John Russell, an agriculturist of Cambria, Columbia County; Ann married James Howitt, a farmer of Empire Prairie, Mo.; Alfred S. is an agriculturist and stock-raiser of the town of Lisbon, and Richmond T. is also a resident of the same township. The father of this family, the Hon. James Weaver, was born in the county of Kent, England, October 17, 1800, and died in Lisbon Township, October 8, 1886. In his native land he was reared to the occupation of gardener, and received a good common school education. In 1830, accompanied by his wife and six children, he set sail in the brig “Emma” from the harbor of Rye on the 17lh of April, and after a voyage lasting six weeks, stepped on shore at New York. On reaching Oneida County, where he made a location, he had just enough money to purchase a cow. He at once turned his attention to agriculture and to growing hops, which at that time was an important industry. In the year 1837, the westward journey was resumed by way of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes. The vessel on which they came, the “Julia Palmer,” landed at Milwaukee on the14th of June. The magnificent city was then a hamlet, no pier had been constructed, and the passengers were therefore taken ashore on an old scow. As there was no bridge across the Milwaukee River, they were taken over by means of a crude ferry-boat. The principal part of the business done on East and West Water Streets, and what is now the most valuable portion of the city was then a tamarack swamp. Wiscon- sin had not dreamed of having a railroad, factory or any other great industr.y. Mr. Weaver came on to Lisbon Township, which was then embraced within the limits of Milwaukee Coiinty. There were but three log cabins in the town, the one erected by Mr. Weaver being the fourth. It was .as good as any the first settlers liad, but his son, Richard, says that oftentimes when they arose in the morning, two or three inches of snow covered the lloor and bed. The Indians had not 3-et de- parted for their western home; as many as three hundred Winnebagoes camped within eighty rods of the Weaver homestead. Churches and schools, the great promoters of civilization, with their elevating and moralizing influences, as yet had not been established. It the happy lot of Mr. Weaver to assist in creating and promoting these institutions. Having secured three hundred and twenty acres of wild land, this pioneer began its development, and in connection with general farming, raised hops from roots which he had brought with him from the east, thus becoming tiie fouiuler of tiiat industry in this county. Mr. Weaver was a leading and influential man in his community; ho assisted in the organization of the town of Lisbon, in which he held the ollice of Supervisor and others of minor importance. In 18(;.5 he was chosen as Assemblyman from his district, and lopresented in a satisfactory manner the interests of his constituents. From the time he cast liis first Presidential vote for Andrew .Jackson until the day of his death, he adhered unswervingly to the principles of the Democratic party. He and his wife were devout members of the Episcopal C’liurcli, being pillars in the congregation that woishippc<l in the beautiful stone edilice erected in Sussex. Mr. and Mrs. Weaver were of that ([uiet, unobtrusive dis- position that never lets the right hand know of the good deeds done b’ the left. Tiie subject of this sketch was a lad of ten years when he came to this county. As the educational advantages were so very meager, his scholastic training has been rather an unimportant factor in his successful career. He is a self-educated and self-made man in the truest sense. Possessed of superior ability, and of that grit and determina- tion characteristic of the Knglish i)eople, he has made his course in life a scries of triumphs. Reared on his father’s farm he became thoroughly conver- sant with agriculture and the hop business, and from these has largely come his wealth. At the age of twenty-one Mr. Weaver began business on his own responsibility, his first venture being the purchase of sixt3′ acres of wild land, for which he went in debt. At tlie end of three years every dollar hail been paid, and as the possessor of that farm, unincumbered, he felt richer than he has since felt. In IHCO, in company with Ins fa- ther, he began dealing in hops, the partnership continuing three years, when the latter disposed of his interests to his son, William, the firm becoming 1. Weaver A: 15ro. Their operations were carried on so extensively that they became well known throughout the northwest. Their father had planted the tirst hill of lK)ps in .luue, l.S.’!7, and sold the product of that planting al-‘sl per i)ound; from this small beginning the business increased until in 1RS2 it reached .almost $600,000. One check given by the Weaver brothers, on the 17th of November of that year, and drawn on the ”old reliable” Waukesha National Bank, called for%2.”),- 607. .51. These gentlemen are recognized as lead- ing financiers in the count}-. In 187!) Mr. Weaver of this sketch, accompanied by his wife, went to the I’acilic Slope, visiting San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pl.acerville, the mining camps, Port- land, Salem, Eugene (‘ity, and making a trip the entire length of the Willamette ^’alley. The ob- ject of the lri|) to |nirchase hops. Mr. Weaver bought some fifteen car loads at a cost of i5*28,0()(), being the tirst to ship from that .section direct to the breweries at Milwaukee. In addition to liis possessions in Wisconsin, Mr. Weaver is lafgely interested in real estate in Mis- souri. His home farm in the town of Lisbon con- sists of one hundred and sixty acres, besides he owns twentj-two acres in Menomonee Township. He is a large stockholder, and is ‘ ice-President of the Waukesha National Bank, one of the solid financial institutions in the state. Managed by capable business men, this bank passed through the great panic of 1893 unscathed. In company with A. .1. Frame he is largely interested in the New Park Hotel at Sault de Ste. Marie, Mich., which is a magnilicent structure, having a dining room with a seating capacity for one hundred and twenty-live guests. This property is owned t an incorporated company, of which Mr. Weavei- is President. It is no secret that this gentleman is one of the wealthiest men of the count.y, and this notwithstanding the fact that he began life ^100 in debt. He has sold many a bushel of wheat for fifty cents, and has iierformed many a day’s work for an equal amount. But his time has not been given wholly to personal affairs, indeed he has been a very useful member of society. Both he and his wife are faithful workers in St. Alban’s Episcopal Church of Sussex, in which he is also Treasurer and Vestryman. The Weavers, along with a few other good English peojile who settled in the vicinity, have not only built and kept up the churcli, but also Sussex, which is a typical En- glish village. Our subject has ever given the public schools his hearty assistance, in truth he has PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD. 201 favored everything that promised to be helpful to the coiniminity. In a marked degree has Mr. Weaver enjoyed the conlidence and consideration of his fellow-citizens, as is shown by the miniber of positions of honor and trust tliey liave cliosen him to (ill. For several terms he lias served his town as C’hairman, was As- seniMynian in 1.S78, and State Senator in 1879-80. In every ollicial capacity his aim was to promote the best interests of the [)eople. Mr. Weaver has been a life-long Democrat, though his (irst Presi- dential vote was cast for Zacharj’ Ta^ylor. On the 22(1 of November, 1818, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Weaver and Miss Rhoda Stone, a native of Sussex County, Kngland. Mrs. Weav- er was born in the same house .is her husband, which was an old style double house. Two chil- dren were born of this union, Serena .1., wife of D. P. Topping, and Rhoda M., who died at the age of sixteen years. Mr. Topping was born February 9, 1812, in .Schoharie County, N. Y., and on the 24th of December, 18()8, occurred his marriage to Miss Weaver. They have two children, Nellie R. and Estella May, ))oth of whom liave received a literary and musical education. The former com- pleted her schooling at the public schools in Wau- kesha, and the latter at Carroll College, where she was a stu<lent for three years. The mother of these children was a native of the town of Lisbon, born May l.’J, 18.50. For forty-two 3’ears Mr. Top- ping has been a resident of Wisconsin. His life has been spent in mercantile pursuits, first in Del- ton, Sauk County, then in Kilboiu-n City, Colum- bia County, and since 1870 he has carried on the same business in Sussex. He handles a good stock of general merchandise, and is doing a prosperous business, tlie volume of which amounts yearly- to about $7,000. By courteous treatment of his customers he has won their esteem and patronage. Mr. Topping cast his maiden vote for (George R. McClellan, and has since affiliated with the Democratic party. During Cleveland’s first administration he was appointed Postmaster at Sussex. Socially, he belongs to Lincoln Lodge No. 183, A. F. & A. M., of Menomonee Falls, and in religious faith he and his wife are Episcopalians. For over fifty-seven years Mr. Weaver has been a resident of Waukesha County, and Mrs. Weaver has made this her home since she was a girl of thirteen; they have therefore witnessed the development of this county from a wilderness to one of the finest in the state. It is with a feeling of pride and satisfaction that Mr. Weaver can look back upon his career, which was begun as a poor boy and terminated in affluence. His course in life has been marked throughout b^’ fairness, justice and honest business methods. At a reunion of the Weaver family, held on the 16th of October, 1875, to commemorate the birth- day of Hon. James Weaver, some reminiscences were given that may prove of interest to friends and relatives of the family. His birthday occurred on the 17th, but as that came on Sunday’, Saturday was selected as a more suitable time. There were over one hundred and fifty guests assembled at the residence of William Weaver. Sr., just south of the pretty little village of Sussex, where temporary tables had been prepared to accommodate the large gathering of the descendants of the Weaver fam- ily. The historical narrative of the Weaver fam- ily was prepared by Stephen Weaver, Esq., and read by the Rev. Dr. Wright. William Weaver, the father of the Hon. James Weaver, was born in Tenterden, county of Kent, England, January 5, 1767, and died on the 3d of July, 1815. All of the children, with the exception of two, Stephen and Thomas, were born in Old Romney, Kent County. Of the entire Weaver family at that date, there were two hundred and twenty-seven members, and of that number there were yet living one hundred and eight3′-four. This was the most notable family reunion ever held in Waukesha County. After due ceremony, the Hon. James Weaver made some suitable and fitting remarks upon the auspicious occasion, in which he expressed his heartfelt thanks to Almighty God for the be- nelicenlcarc that had been exercised over himself and family all these .years. Hon. Thomas Weaver made an eloquent address, and was followed by the Hon. Richard Weaver of this biography as follows: “To the reunion of the Weaver famil}’, greeting. Little, at the time when the four brothers and one sister with their aged father set out on the brig “Emma,” did the}’ expect to see the great change that time has wrought. Neitlier did they stop to think, but left tlieir Fathfiland to better llieir circumstances if possible for themselves and their families, and on landing on the shores of America, in the slate of New York, by industry and frugal- ity, they accumulated small sums, with which they emigrated to the territory of Wisconsin. Here, after ver^’ many hardships and with energy and perseverance, all have made for themselves and families good comfortable homes, and nearly all have lived to see perhaps as great improvements and changes as an}’ one generation can expect to see, for on arriving in Wisconsin livit little could be seen save the dense forest, with its large oaks and tall pines, with here and there a laige prairie and its wild grass, with but few exceptions, inhab- ited by wild bands of Indians and tiieir ponies. To-day what do we see where the forest stood and prairie laid.’ The highly cultivated fields with fine buildings in the |)lace of the log huts and the In- dian wigwam. And to-day we have seen the table covered with the good things of earth, in place of the corn meal and pigeon stew; more tlian that we have seen the once small town of Milwaukee grow to be one of the most beautiful cities of the land; have seen the lirst railroad built, and the steam horse, putting through our forests and across tlie prairies, to-day stretching her lines into almost every nook and corner of the state. Again, look at the wonderful art of telegraphy by which we can in a few moments communicate with our Fa- therland. Last, but not least with us, we have seen every house built in our pleasant little village of Sussex, and have nearly every one of us helped to build a standing monument, the church, for future generations, as well as for ourselves. Hop- ing that the present and future generations ma}’ still work together in unity and love, and carry forward every good work, marked out by an aged father here, and for our welfare hereafter.” Mr. Weaver followed by other speakers on this memorable occasion, namely: Martin Weaver, Jere- miah Smith, George Elliott and Alison Weaver. The whole affair was well conceived and passed ofif most |)leasantl3′ •’^”‘1 happily. One of the noted social events in Sussex was the celebration of the silver wedding of Hon. Richard Weaver and wife, on the 22d of November, 1873, at which his father presented them with a beauti- ful silver piece, and accompanied it with the fol- lowing words: “This present is a token of love from j-our Father Weaver to Rhoda. Hoping that you may live together as many more years as hap- pily, and enjoy yourselves as in the years past, is the wish of your affectionate father.” Mr. Rich- ard Weaver responded in a few happy remarks, “Our father, brothers and sisters, it is with pleasure that we meet you all here to-night to commemo- rate an event which look place twenty-five years ago. Richard and Rhoda, having made up their minds to join in the holy bonds of wedlock, started from the house of the late .James Stone to our par- ish church, where the knot was lied by the Rev. N. C. Armstrong, one of the first graduates of Nashotah (the first couple he married). Back we trudged on foot to partake of the wedding sup- per awaiting us. The next day we went to the house of Hon. .lames Weaver for our wedding trip, which consisted of one day, as that was all we could afford, as it was Richard to the plow and Rhoda to the cows.” During that quarter of a century many changes have been wrought: Richard has given the plow over to younger hands, and Rhoda sends a substitute to look after the cows, while in their beautiful home at Sussex they are enjoying the comforts gained by years of toil. Mr. Weaver is known in his community as a ready and pleasing speaker. At the golden wed- ding of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cooling on Christmas eve, 1892, he was called upon to make a speech, and responded thus: “Mr. and Mrs. Cooling, 1 ex- tend to you many happy returns of this day. For a half-century you have met the duties and shared the trials of life’s uneven ways with love to each other, and a faith thai looked to a bright here- after. This half-century leaves him, at seventy- three, as erect in form as when he led her to the altar, and his step is more elastic than that of half of the men at fifty. She too is active and with mind undimmed. It has been my lot to live as neighbor with you for about forty-four years, sharing your J03’s and sorrows. While we have passed many happy hours together, when sickness PORTRAIT AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD. 203 and death have entered my liousehold I have al- ways found you ready and willing to extend a helping hand and a sympatiiizing iieart. Ilojiing your remaining years will be as happy and pleas- ant as falls to the common lot of man, and that you may attain the good for vvliich we are all striving, ‘May joy your home surrounding, Keep care and gloom away; And all good gifts abounding, Make glad this golden wedding-day.’ ” At the 0|wning of the Milwaukee, Menomonee Falls A: Western Railroad, on the 2;tth of April, 18′.)0, n large gathering of citizens celebrated the event at Sussex. After enjoymgan excellent din- ner served by the ladies at the Town Hall, speeches were made by Hon. Richard Weaver, Rev. Mr. Burleson, A. .]. Frame, .lolin Ross and Messrs. Had field. The same gentlemen had been present in Waukesha at the opening of the first railway in Wisconsin, in 18.’)1. ‘Mr. AVeavcr was one of the leading financial promoters of the road to Sussex, and b^- his special invitation all the assembled guests took a ride to Menomonee Falls and back. There is not a better known citizen in Waukesha County than Hon. Richard Weaver. Self-made and self-educated, he stands witiiout a superior in this section as a man of moral worth and as a financier.