Bio: Ingram, Orrin H. (1914)
Surnames: Ingram, Grauger, Rumsey, Paul, Kennedy, Dulaney, McVeigh, Pierce, Hayes
----Source: History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin (1914) pages 740-745
Orrin H. Ingram. The Wisconsin lumber industry during its high tide of activity brought together and developed many remarkable men, in many respects the most noteworthy figures in the citizenship of the state during its history. One of these, who would be mentioned in any group of the leading lumbermen of the last half century, is Orrin H. Ingram. Since the pioneer days he has been identified with the lumber interests of the Chippewa Valley, with Eau Claire his headquarters and residence during a period of fifty-five years. Engaged from youth up in one of the most picturesquely rugged of industries, he developed those fine qualities which we like to associate with the forest and the woodsmen, and at the same time the active forces of his career were permeated by a solid integrity and thorough going honesty that were as typical of himself as his more superficial characteristics. During his active career, Mr. Ingram was not only a vitalizing factor in the lumber industry as a business, but was also an originator, an inventor, and some of his devices and mechanical improvements have done a great deal to make the business of lumbering easier and more profitable.
Orrin H. Ingram comes from New England, the original home of American lumber interests. He was born at Westfield, Massachusetts, May 12, 1830. His parents were David A. and Fanny (Grauger) Ingram. When Orrin was a child his parents moved to Saratoga, New York. There the father died in 1841, leaving very limited means for the support of his widow and children. Left at the age of eleven years, Orrin Ingram had to confront the severe responsibilities which usually fall to the lot of grown manhood. Instead of attending school, he was bound out to work for his board and clothes. Thus his early years were spent until he was seventeen years of age, and he then joined his mother, who had married again, on Lake George, and while working on a farm attended school during the winter months for three years.
At the end of this time some of his early deficiencies in educational equipment were remedied, and he was better prepared to take up the future responsibilities of life. Returning to his native state of Massachusetts he there made application for position in the United States armory at Springfield. Three years later he received word that the place was open for him. One of the most interesting facts of biography comes from a study of those incidental causes which deflect a career from one channel to another.
Had Mr. Ingram accepted the place in the armory his life and its accomplishments would have made an entirely different story. As it was in the three-year interval he had changed his mind, and accordingly refused the offer of a position in the government armory. Thus in 1847, having returned to New York, he entered the employ of Harris & Bronson Lumber Company, whose enterprise was located in the vicinity of Lake Pharaoh, in Warren county. During the winter months he received wages of twelve dollars a month, and in the summer while working in the mill got thirteen dollars a month. That was his practical introduction to the business which he closely followed upwards of half a century, and with which, both in its pioneer and its modern phases, there is probably no better informed man in Wisconsin today. Later he took entire charge of the company's mill, and assisted in building a mill for the firm of Fox & Englin, on the Rideau Canal in Canada. About the same time he built and operated mills on the Morra river, near Bellville, in Canada. Returning to his former employers, Harris & Bronson, he built and operated a mill for them at Ottawa, Canada, and soon gained a reputation as a lumberman thoroughly qualified in all departments of the business, and possessed of unusual foresight and skill and thoroughly reliable. For this reason he was the recipient of many excellent offers, and among them came an offer from the firm of Gilmour & Company, of Ottawa, Canada, the largest lumber concern in the world at that time. This firm offered him four thousand dollars a year, with house rent, horses, and other incidentals furnished, and he accepted and for several years worked for that company. During this time he remodeled several of their large mills and had entire charge of the manufacturing end of the business, from the handling of the saw logs direct from the river and booms to the perfection of the finished lumber.
It was while with the firm of Gilmour & Company that Mr. Ingram first contributed an invention which did much to facilitate lumber manufacture. This was his invention of the gang edger, a device that has been of greater benefit to the lumber business than any other single invention. However, it was characteristic of the man that he did not patent his invention, merely putting it to practical use in various mills of which he was superintendent, and also in a number of Wisconsin mills. Some time later a man named Paul applied for a patent on the edger, and the patent was granted to his heirs. However, it was proved that the edger had been invented and had been introduced and was in regular use in a number of mills, and its real author was Mr. Ingram, whose invention had been practically stolen by the man Paul. Thus the Paul heirs were never able to collect any royalties on the invention.
Having in the meantime accumulated considerable means of his own, Mr. Ingram, in 1856, determined to go into business on his own account. The old firm of Gilmour & Company offered him six thousand dollars a year to remain, but he saw too much in the future as an independent operator and declined the liberal offer. In 1857 he established the firm of Doyle, Ingram & Kennedy.
This firm began lumbering in the Chippewa Valley of Wisconsin, and soon afterwards opened up a large tract of timber, rafted it down the river, and established a lumber yard at Wabasha, Minnesota, and also one at Dubuque, Iowa. At the latter place they built a saw mill. In 1861 their mill at Eau Claire was destroyed at a total loss of fifty thousand dollars. In 1862 Mr. Doyle retired from the firm and two years later two of his employees were given a one-eighth interest to be paid out of the share of their profits. The firm then became Ingram, Kennedy & Company. In 1865 this firm built the steamer Silas Wright, and conducted the largest part of the trading between Reeds Landing to Eau Claire.
About this time Mr. Ingram devised the system of lighters which enabled the company's boats to ascend the river while other boats of less draft had to remain down stream. This invention he had patented in 1867. Later the boat with its appliance was taken south and operated on the Arkansas river, though still later purchased by H. T. Rumsey, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who put on a line of boats, planned and operated after the Ingram device.
In 1880 Mr. Ingram organized the Charles Horton Lumber Company, of Winona, Minnesota. The following year Mr. Kennedy sold his interests in all the enterprises to Messrs. Dulaney & McVeigh, and the Empire Lumber Company was then established with a capital of eight hundred thousand dollars, absorbing the interests of the former Ingram, Kennedy & Company. The Dubuque business was also incorporated about that time as the Standard Lumber Company, with five hundred thousand dollars capital. Mr. Ingram became president of the Standard Company, and president of the Wabasha Lumber Company. In 1883 he organized the Rice Lake Lumber Company, with a capital of six hundred thousand dollars, and was its president. He was also vice president of the Chippewa Valley Lumber & Boom Company, a large concern with a capital of one million dollars. Among other important business connections, he was president of the Eau Claire National Bank and the Union National Bank, was a director in the Hudson Saw Mill, president of the old Eau Claire Water Works Company, president of the Fort Scott Lumber Company, and treasurer of the Anthracite Coal Company, of Alberta, Canada, a concern with a capital stock of over one million dollars.
With such a record of remarkable business achievements, and with the generous accumulations which naturally have flowed from his great undertakings, Mr. Ingram has always shown a lively sense of his responsibilities in managing and caring for these large industrial resources and his personal wealth. He has been liberal in many ways, and charity and public wealth in many forms have benefited from his influence and generous assistance. He is a member of the board of trustees of the state committee of the Congregational church. He belongs to the Young Men's Christian Association at Eau Claire, and is a director in the Ripon College. A number of years ago he built the Ingram block in Eau Claire, one of the finest office buildings of Wisconsin. He was the prime mover and gave twenty thousand dollars as a fund towards the construction of the Y. M. C. A. building at Eau Claire. Though his own church is the Congregational, he has always been liberal in his donations to all religions, and benevolent and charitable works. He gives freely, and yet with such unostentation that no one has ever known the full extent of his philanthropy.
On December 11, 1851, Mr. Ingram married Miss Cornelia E. Pierce, of Lake George, who died in 1911. Of their children, Charles is deceased, Erskine is a member of the Ingram Company, and Miriam is the wife of Dr. E. S. Hayes. Mr. Ingram, in his earlier years, was equal to bearing burdens with any of his associates and competitors, and still retains much of the ruggedness which was characteristic of him when he was active in the woods and on the rivers. For many years he has been a leader among men. In his control has been vested the direction of millions of dollars in resources, and his dominant mind and forcefulness have never failed to preserve the principal intact and increase the investment many fold. Although now past eighty-four years of age, with a record of achievements and success such as could be ascribed to few Wisconsin men, Mr. Ingram is still an active man, and is still a vital force in Wisconsin's industrial affairs. He has that kindliness born of close contact with the hardships of nature and from long experience with mankind. His fortune was made at a time when the successful man was both strong in body and mind. He had to possess the practical ability covering all the varied life of the woods and the rivers. Mr. Ingram, in his earlier day, could skillfully ride a log down a foaming current, knew how to get the lumber out of the woods, how to get it safely to the mill, and many days and nights were spent out in the open among the woods and about the lumber camps. He ate beans and bacon along with his men and when it was necessary he could put his shoulder side by side and hold up his share the equal of any lumber jack in his crew. In addition to the many other concerns with which Mr. Ingram has been associated, as already mentioned, he has taken part in both business and public movements of only less importance, and deserves properly to stand among the builders and pioneers of Eau Claire and vicinity.
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