Friday, March 16, 2012

Birth of the Steel Mill – Part Two

Here is the conclusion of the article from the July 26, 1939 issue of the Lorain Journal and the Lorain Times-Herald. It tells the story of the transformation of the farms, forest and swampland in what is now South Lorain into Lorain's original steel mill.


Farms Changed to Mills Within 16 Months

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story was written especially for the 60th Anniversary edition of the Journal by John Gould, secretary of the National Tube Co.'s Old Timers Committee.


First Child Born
The first child born in the Sheffield allotment was a son to Mr. and Mrs. Ault, grocery store keeper on Seneca-st. Walter Ault grew up in the community, but at present is living in the west.

Tom L. Johnson can be given credit for paying high wages for labor than was being paid elsewhere for the same type of work.

Tom L. Johnson (in bowler hat) in his Red Devil
Photo courtesy
He will be remembered by many in connection with his famous auto, the "Red Devil," which he used to make his business trips to Lorain and his political trips throughout the state. The auto cost $11,000 and Johnson and Arthur Fuller his driver were always in trouble with the law for speeding. The "Red Devil" was driven 200,000 miles by Johnson, when it was bought by E. W. Kneen who was head of the Sheffield Land Co., in Lorain, and he added another 100,000 miles to its record before it was scrapped.

Many interesting stories might be told of A. J. Moxham and his very interesting family and the beautiful mansion with its 71 rooms, its swimming pool and its theatre and green house in the wilderness, on property now occupied by the Whittier Junior High School.

The mansion was dismantled when Moxham moved to Nova Scotia.

GAR Veterans at Work
The three bachelors, Pat Boyd, Dan Coolridge, H. C. Ryding, who rented a house on East 31st-st just off Pearl-av and were outstanding characters during the early steel plant days, are another potential source of stories.

The three Grand Army men who came to Lorain with the Johnstown organization, John Litz, Sr., Ad Penrod and B. F. "Dad" Wisinger, are another.

Of the group "Dad" Wisinger was the first Lorain workman to be granted a pension, being pensioned April 1, 1911. John Litz was the last Grand Army man to work in the mills was was the last survivor. He was pensioned Jan. 1st 1918 and died March 31, 1931 at the age of 82.

While men were cutting down trees and dynamiting stumps, a young photographer of Elyria, Carl W. Scheide, was hired to make a picture record of the progress of work done. As a result a number of folios with hundreds of large sized pictures each carefully dated and noted as to the progress of work during the eventful days. The folios are on file in the general office.

Promoted Safety
Mr. Suppes not only was a master in engineering and mechanics, but was a great organizer, and the plant in Lorain will always remain a monument to his genius. He was ahead of his times in the matter of safety and the welfare of his men. Long before it was popular in the mills and factories throughout the country, he insisted on cleanliness and safety first in every department of the plant.

His first general foreman, Robert McKee, he secured from the construction company who erected the iron works in both the Johnstown and Lorain plants because McKee could not only get works done efficiently but he had ability to handle men safely.

One of the early instructions which was printed and posted throughout the plant was to the effect that workmen were not to obey any order which might endanger his life or limb. This order was issued by Mr. Suppes when generally the foreman's order was law. Not so with Mr. Suppes.

When the Lorain Steel Co., became part of the United States Steel corporation with Chas. M. Schwab the corporation's first president, Schwab and a committee from various plants visited Lorain, and after an inspection of the local plant, Schwab had the committee form a large circle and stepping to the center, he took off his hat and bowing to Suppes, stated he took off his hat to the man who had the cleanest, safest and best kept plant in the corporation.

Veterans Named
Of a possible quarter of a million men who have labored in connection with the plant since its inception I wish to mention just a few names in addition to those already named:

E.T. Horan, Watkin Y. Williams, R. L. Rankin, Ben Cargo, Robert Niz, George Ferguson, George Bailey, the Bonsor Brothers, Ben Bevan, J. T. Jelley, Mart Sanders, W. W. Whitehouse, William Andrews, H. W. Thomas, Clark Loughry, Ed. Buchannan, J. L. Chapman, M. A. Donaldson, George Schoutz, H. K. Ford, Fred W. Waterman, L. R. Williams, J. B. Clark, John Kent.

Of this group of men who recall events of those early days, only one is in active service, all others are retired or just a memory.

That Lorain will eventually become a large city and a great industrial center is assured because of its location and its natural resources, land in abundance, with good shale foundation with only six to eight feet of subsoil, good drainage, being better than fifty feet above river level at steel plant, and a river and a harbor unexcelled on the great lakes. With these and other splendid resources nothing can prevent Lorain's continued growth.

The writer's first information of Lorain was gained when he read in a Pittsburgh paper a glowing report of the model city and plant to be erected in Lorain by Tom L. Johnson. Like many others he was led at a later date to the promised land by that cloud of smoke by day and pillar of fire by night; only at first to be disappointed, but as years passed by to become an enthusiastic booster. To enjoy the experience of growing up with a community as we did in the steel plant district, comes to a man once in a life time.

Vintage postcard from Ebay

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