Bio: Rickman, Robert Lee (1914)
Surnames: Rickman, Alford, Norris, Greeley
----Source: History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin (1914) pages 843-844
Robert Lee Rickman, inventor, president and manager of the Cement Products and Construction Company, of Eau Claire, was born November 8, 1863, in Bedford county, Tennessee, the son of Newton K. and Mary Jane (Alford) Rickman. The father was born in Williamson county, Tennessee, in 1815, and there and in adjoining counties spent his life engaged in farming. His death occurred December 21, 1872.
In November, 1877, his mother removed to Somervell county, Texas, and the following year to Young county, Texas, where he lived on the farm until 1883, when he apprenticed himself to Mr. J. B. Norris, of Graham, Texas, to learn the trade of a tinsmith, after completion of which he took a course in a business college and then returned to Graham, where his former employer, Mr. Morris, started him up in business under the firm name of R. L. Rickman & Co. After continuing this business for five years Mr. Norris and he organized the J. B. Norris Hardware Company, of which he was vice-president and bookkeeper until he sold his interests in the spring of 1898.
On October 6, 1893, after a short attack of malarial fever, his mother, who had always been his constant companion and counselor, died at the age of 73 years. Any success that he may meet with through life will be largely attributable to her influence over his early manhood.
In October, 1898, he moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he resided for more than a year, going from there in the spring of 1900 to Denver, Colo., where he remained for some two and a half years, during which time he perfected a "valveless'" air drill and some other inventions. After being "fleeced" out of these inventions, he decided to take Horace Greeley's advice and "go west," and started for Vancouver, British Columbia, arriving there on June 30, 1902. After spending some time here, he decided to enter into the manufacture of cement products, and do a general contracting business, which he carried on until the fall of 1910. While engaged in this line of work he was convinced that the machines in use for the manufacture of cement blocks, sewer pipe, brick, etc., were inadequate for the purpose and set about to evolve machines that would meet the requirements. In 1911 he closed out his interests in British Columbia and came to Eau Claire for the purpose of building the machines which he had invented. He has built a large power sewer pipe and power block machine, which he has installed and has in successful operation. These machines have large capacity and turn out an excellent quality of material at a greatly reduced cost of labor. He is receiving many inquiries concerning his machines from all parts of the world, and hopes to be able in a short time to place these machines on the market.
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