HENRY M. WICKHAM - Henry M. Wickham has figured in the business circles of Springfield for more than forty-eight years and for thirty years has engaged in business in his present line - that of a dealer in coal and wood. He was born at Glastonbury, near Hartford, Connecticut, March 4, 1827, and thus for almost four score years has been a witness of the history of the country, its progress, development and improvement. He is a son of Joseph and Millie (Wright) Wickham, who were natives of the Charter Oak state. His father hauled goods from Boston to his home in Connecticut with ox teams and was never in a railroad car. Our subject remembers that when a boy his father took him to see the first railroad train running between New Haven and Hartford. Joseph Wickham was a farmer by occupation and saw the entire development of the section of the country in which he lived. Eight children were born unto him and his wife, all of whom reached mature years and reared families, but the subject of this review is the only now living.
Henry M. Wickham was reared upon his father's farm in Connecticut and attended the primitive schools of that day. At the age of fourteen he removed to the city where he further pursued his studies, but the schools at that time had not attained the advanced condition of the present and he went little beyond the "rule of three." His first step after leaving school was to enter a wholesale and retail shoe house, in which he worked for about two years. On leaving that establishment he learned the carpenter's trade, serving an apprenticeship of three years and for many years he followed that pursuit. For about seven or eight years he engaged in contracting on his own account, during which time he erected a large number of buildings. The growing west with its greater opportunities attracted him and in 1855 he arrived in Springfield, where he continued his connection with the building business until 1873, when he opened his present establishment and has since dealt in coal and wood, enjoying a large patronage. When he arrived Mr. Broadwell made the remark, "If you have no aversion to mud you will like this city." It was, however, little more than a village as far as its equipments were concerned. While there is no richer land in all this broad country than the prairies of Illinois it can become almost bottomless in the time of the spring rains and often the teams were unhitched from wagons in the streets of Springfield because it was impossible to haul them farther. Abraham Lincoln was at that time a resident of this city and Mr. Wickham well remembers him and the tales he was fond of telling. The Great Western Railroad had been built, but it is now known as the Wabash road. The country around was largely prairie and Mr. Wickham saw much of this broken with ox teams hitched to a plow with a wooden moldboard. Springfield contained a population of only about six thousand at the time of his arrival and the executive mansion was just being built. He made the journey westward to Chicago and thence by rail to Springfield, coming over the Chicago & Alton road, and was among the early settlers. Through the intervening years he has taken an active part in Springfield's development and is widely and honorably known as a leading business man here.
Ere leaving the east Mr. Wickham was united in marriage in Hartford, Connecticut, on the 25th of June, 1850, to Emeline Louise Lathrop, the wedding ceremony being performed by the Rev. William W. Patton, D.D. She was born May 26, 1832, in Ashford, Connecticut, a daughter of Erastus and Sarah (Bailey) Lathrop. Her parents come of Revolutionary stock and were married in New London, Connecticut. Her father was a contractor and builder and established his home in Hartford, where Mrs. Wickham was reared. She was the youngest of a family of seven daughters and two sons, and she pursued her education in the public and private schools of Hartford. She has two sisters living, Mrs. Mosely, the eldest, being a resident of Hartford, where her husband, George W. Mosely, is engaged in the wholesale grocery business. The other sister is Mrs. C. R. Post, the mother of C. W. Post, formerly of Springfield. The home in this city known as the Carrie L. Post Home for Aged Women was given to Springfield by her son in honor of his mother, who is now living in Fort Worth, Texas, in her seventy-seventh year. She possessed considerable poetic talent and at the time of the dedication of the home she wrote a poem expressing her regret at being unable to attend the services then held. This poem was printed and widely distributed. Mrs. Post takes great delight in making fancy work and many articles of her handiwork have been given as acceptable presents to her friends. Her son, C. W. Post, is a very wealthy business man of Battle Creek, Michigan, of marked benevolence and kindly spirit and in his contributions to the poor is most generous. He is engaged in the manufacture of postum cereals, grapenuts and other food products. Mrs. Wickham is the third living sister of the Lathrop family. By her marriage she has become the mother of six children, three sons and three daughters, all of whom are living. The eldest is Mrs. Emma C. Jewell, of Hutchinson, Kansas, and she has four children, Clinton, Helen, Edna and Howard. Her daughter, Helen, is the wife of Frank Batiste and in June, 1902, became the mother of twin daughters, Mildred and Marian. Mr. Jewell is a very successful real estate man and at one time sold sixteen thousand acres of land at a single deal, this being considered the largest real estate transaction ever executed in Kansas. C. H. Wickham, the second of the family, is at home, being connected with his father in the coal and wood business. Helen Louise is the wife of Charles E. Bell, a prominent contractor who has just completed the capitol of Helena, Montana, and now has under construction the courthouse at Billings, Montana. He takes contracts for public buildings and has a very large business. They are the parents of five children: Walter, who is private secretary to Senator Clark, of Montana; Emlen, who is a bookkeeper for a lumber firm of Helena; Earl and Harlow, who are attending school; and Helen. Julia, the next member of the Wickham family, is deceased. William L. is connected with Consolidated Coal Company of St. Louis. He married Eliza Atkinson of Sangamon county and they have one son, Lathrop. Annie M. is the wife of Ed L. Knecher and they have two children: Eleanor, who at the age of thirteen is in her second year in high school; and Charlie, eleven years of age. Mrs. Knecher was a stenographer and cashier for the Prudential Insurance Company in Springfield for five years. Edward C. is in the office with his brother William in St. Louis, and is the youngest of the family. He was married November 26, 1903, to Miss Bertha Jacobs, of St. Louis.
In his early boyhood days Mr. Wickham attended church services with his parents, who were strict Presbyterians, and was required to repeat the text after the services were over. He and his wife became early members of the Second Presbyterian church at Springfield, with which they have been identified since 1856. She became a member of the Fourth Congregational church of Hartford, Connecticut, at the age of sixteen years. They took a very active part in church work, doing all in their power to extend the influence and promote the growth of the organization. Mr. Wickham votes with the Republican party and is one of its standard bearers, yet has never been a politician in the sense of office seeking. His interest is centered in his home and family and his efforts in behalf of those whom he loves at times has reached the point of self sacrifice. He has some years passed the Psalmist's span of three score years and ten and yet he is an active business man who in spirit and
interests seems yet in his prime. So long connected with the commercial history of Springfield, no account of the city and its business development would be complete without mention of Henry M. Wickham, a man whose life has at all times been energetic, industrious and honorable.