HON. WILLIAM HEILMAN was born in
Albig, Rhenish Hesse, Germany, October
11, 1824. His father, Valentine Heilman,
was a reputable farmer who died in 1826.
For her second husband Mrs. Heilman
married Peter Weintz, and in 1843 the family
came to America, landing in New
Orleans. Thence they moved to St. Louis
and shortly afterward to Posey County, Ind.,
where Mr. Weintz engaged in farming.
William was at this time a sturdy lad
of nineteen years and had evidenced the
possession of those traits of character which
have since contributed so largely to his success.
Life on a farm was not congenial and
he resolved to seek a more profitable vocation.
In 1847 he came to Evansville, and
in company with his brother-in-law, Christian
Kratz, established a small machine shop
and foundry on Pine Street, using two blind
horses to supply the motive power. In a
comparatively short time the tact and sagacity
of Mr. Heilman as a man of affairs
began to attract attention. Three years
later the business had increased to such an
extent that increased facilities became absolutely
necessary, and the firm built a commodious
brick shop and commenced using
steam power. In 1854 they manufactured
their first portable engine, and in 1859 their
Upon the breaking out of
the war of the rebellion many of Mr.
Heilman's business associates were in doubt
as to the ultimate success of the Union
armies. Mr. Heilman and his partner took
a decided stand for the preservation of the
union of the states, and it was here that that
business forecast so essential to the successful
business man was exhibited in its strongest light.
In 1864 Mr. Kratz, receiving for
his interest $100,000, thus showing with what
success they had worked up to that time,
retired from the firm, since which time Mr.
Heilman has conducted the business alone.
Through his energy the establishment has
grown to massive proportions, occupying
nearly an entire block.
While so deeply
engrossed in business, matters of public import
have always received Mr. Heilman's
careful attention. In 1852 he was elected
Councilman, and for many years discharged
the duties of that office with credit to himself
and to the entire satisfaction of his constituents.
Mr. Heilman has always been a
staunch republican. In 1870 he was elected
to the State Legislature, and in 1872 was
nominated for Congress, and although the district
was democratic by 2500 votes, he reduced
his opponent's majority to 112. In 1876 he
was elected to the State Senate, and while in
Europe in 1878 the republicans of the First
Congressional District of Indiana again selected
him as their standard bearer. He accepted
the proffered honor, and after a short
stay in his native land, returned, and at the
close of a spirited canvass of sixteen days, was
elected by a flattering majority.
as everywhere else, Mr. Heilman evidenced
that keen perception and sterling good sense
which have been conspicuous in all his under
takings. In evidence of this fact, a portion
of a speech delivered in the house it
1879, on the "Warner Coinage Bill,"
measure intended to enrich the holders of
silver bullion at the expense of the people
to the extent of 15 cents on the dollar is
quoted below. Mr. Heilman was thoroughly
convinced that the success of the important
measure of resumption, then but a few
months old, required nothing but letting
alone. He insisted that "honesty is the
best policy" in governmental matters as well
as in everything else, and while denied a finished
education in books, he had always been
an apt pupil in that other school in which the
teachers are observation and experience.
In his speech his business acumen asserted
itself. He thus expressed his views on the
bill: "I am strongly in favor of well considered,
practical legislation to benefit the
agricultural and manufacturing interests, to
increase our commerce and wealth, but by
all means let us have some stability in our
financial legislation. The condition of the
country is at last surely, although perhaps
slowly, getting better, and what commerce
and finance need just now more than anything else
is to be let alone."
In Congress he was noted for his keen
foresight and watchful study of public affairs,
and he was regarded by his fellow members
as one of the best of business legislators.
his views were always practical and his
advice sound. While Mr. Heilman's political
record is enviable, his pre-eminence lies
in his career as a man of affairs, and it is
safe to assert that what his enterprise and genius
have done to advance and foster the
commercial prosperity of the city of Evansville
has not been excelled by the efforts of
any other individual.
The cotton mill owes
its existence to his energy and capacity in
financial investments, and the same remarks
will apply to many other important enterprises.
Every project having for its object
the advancement of the interests of the city
of Evansville has always found in him a
warm friend arid supporter. To him the
Latin phrase "faber suac fortunae" is eminently
applicable. Beginning with little
more than his natural endowments as his
capital, he has achieved success in all departments
of life, and his course is worthy
of emulation by all classes of young men.
Commencing at the bottom round of the
ladder with a borrowed capital of $500, he
is now regarded as one of the wealthiest
manufacturers of the state. His capacity
for work has been great and his dispatch of
business rapid. He is now sixty-four years
of age, but is still an indefatigable worker
and always punctual. These characteristics
have contributed largely to the successful
achievements of his life.
In 1848 Mr. Heilman was married to Miss
Mary Jenner. She was born in Germany,
and came to this country when nine years of
age. The result of this union is a family of
line children. His sons, George P. and
William A., are prominent business men, the
former manager of the Heilman Hominy Mills
and the latter associated with his father in
the Heilman Machine Works.
Mr. Heilman has been a consistent member of St.
John's Evangelical church since its organization in 1851.