Alexander County

Biography - Joseph B. Reed

JOSEPH BALLARD REED. The late Joseph B. Reed was the pioneer in the industrial field of Cairo. His life here spanned a period of nearly half a century, and his foresight in coming into this field opened the door of opportunity to himself and developed an industry which contributed materially to the growth of this city. He led a life of activity and the things that he achieved weighed heavily in marking the career of the successful man. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, March 16, 1831, he was a grandson of Thaddeus Reed, born August 25, 1755, who was a member of Captain Parker's company in 1775, which served in the morning and in the afternoon of the memorable 19th of April, 1775, at Cambridge in May, and on the day of the battle of Bunker Hill in June. Joseph Reed's father was Thaddeus Reed, a Bay state man, born October 1, 1794. and who died at Lowell in 1837. Thaddeus Reed, Jr., was twice married, his first wife leaving him a son, Henry Stillman Reed, who was the founder of the Bank of Commerce of St. Louis, now the National Bank of Commerce, and was a leading financier of the city. Catherine Dow became the second wife of Thaddeus Reed, and she died at Boston, Massachusetts, as Mrs. Ballard, her second husband having been a well-known journalist and publisher. Three children were born to Mr. Reed by his second marriage: Charles, who lost his life along with so many others during the fatalities so common to the trip overland to California during the early 'fifties; Joseph Ballard; and Miss Phoebe Ann, who died in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1911, and is buried in the old cemetery in Lexington.

Joseph Ballard Reed was brought up in Lexington, Massachusetts, acquired a fair education, and learned the trade of machinist at Lawrence. During the early years of his majority he started West, making his first journey down into Maryland and stopping at Cumberland, where he passed two years as superintendent of a machine shop. In 1856 he came on West to St. Louis, and soon became proprietor of the Laclede Foundry and Machine Shops, and subsequently associated himself with a Mr. Mann and engaged in business at the foot of Carr Street, on the levee. He built the first tug-boat ever used on the Mississippi river in 1861 in that shop, which experiment nearly worked a financial disaster with him. He sold it to Jo Gartside at a great sacrifice before its usefulness as a tender of heavy vessels became established, and eventually Mr. Gartside turned it over to the Government at a fancy price. This pioneer tugboat was eighty-five feet long, with fifteen-foot beam, had a depth of hold of six and one-half feet, and was propelled by a six-foot wheel. However, financial failure in building the first tug served as a boomerang for Mr. Reed, in that it established a demand from the United States for other tugs, and he was employed to build them. A small fleet of such craft was constructed during General Fremont's regime as commander-in-chief of this department. At the suggestion of the Government, Mr. Reed established a branch factory at Cairo in 1863, for the specific purpose of doing the repair work on the Federal craft, and his plant turned out other work for private parties. Several boats were built at St. Louis for the Wiggins Ferry Company, two were built and launched for Jo Gartside, and two were also built for Captain Sam Brown, of Pittsburg, and were used in the Memphis and New Orleans harbors for towing coal barges. A mention of these few contracts serves to show that Reed & Mann were important factors in this line of industry in the Mississippi Valley, and while engaged as a builder of vessels the firm also did an extensive business in mill and boat supplies, and in this way Mr. Reed drifted into the wholesale hardware business in 1868.

As a citizen, Joseph B. Reed was absorbed in his business. His varied enterprises assumed such extensive proportions as to demand his personal supervision until the shadows of evening began to fall upon his life, and his wholesale house was not less important to the firm than the rest. His foundry extended its field to the manufacture of mill supplies and machinery for the equipment of machine shops, powerful lathes, drills, planes and punches, and the lathe manufactured there has superseded that of other firms wherever it has been tested. So interesting had this vast business become and so secure had its foundation been laid that it was with much regret that Mr. Reed laid down the reins with which he had driven it so long when the infirmities of age came upon him.

Mr. Reed married Miss Helen Stickney, a daughter of Captain Stickney, a seaman of Beverly, Massachusetts, who was engaged in the domestic trade, and she still survives her husband. The children born to them are as follows: Joseph, who lives in Cairo; Helen, who married a Mr. Knesche, of Wheeling, West Virginia; Frank Stickney, who succeeded his father as head of the Joseph B. Reed enterprise; and Miss Alice. Mr. Reed, Sr., was a man of religious training and practice, was a member of the Presbyterian church, and was an elder of the congregation in Cairo for many years.

Frank Stickney Reed was born in Cairo, Illinois, August 8, 1869. He was educated liberally in the public schools and was put to learning the trade of machinist in his father's shop, worked as a journeyman for several years, and was eventually given a commission to represent the firm as a traveling salesman, remaining on the road until 1907, when he took the active management of the business. The wholesale house serves territory in the states of Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, and keeps three men in the field as its contribution to the order of "Knights of the Grip." The capacity of the factories is sufficient for the employment of a small army of men, and the whole enterprise brings to Cairo a realization of its position .among the effective industries of the city.

Frank S. Reed was married in Carlinville, Illinois, December 23, 1890, to Miss Eva Battise, daughter of James Battise, and two children have been born to this union: Russell Stickney, a sophomore in the agricultural department of the Illinois University, with pomology as his specialty in view of taking up fruit culture in Washington; and Frank Ballard, a schoolboy in the grades. In their political belief the Reeds are Republicans. Frank S. is a Knight of Pythias and belongs to the orders of Hoo-Hoos and Elks.

Extracted 15 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 History of Southern Illinois, Volume 2, pages 688-690.


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