Transcribed by Mary Ann Kaylor
Louis H. Coleman , who is identified with financial interests in Springfield as a loan and investment banker, was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, September, 2, 1842. His paternal grandparents were James Ormsby and Lucy (Hawkins) Coleman, who moved from Virginia to Kentucky in the early history of the latter state. In their family were four sons and three daughters, including Hardin Hawkins Coleman, the father of L. H. Coleman, who was early trained in the habit of industry and frugality by his mother, a woman of more than ordinary force. He was for many ears a successful and prominent business man of his community and a stanch Union man during the War of the Rebellion. Hardin H. Coleman married Barbara Ann Hopper, a woman of more than ordinary refinement and Christian graces, the eldest daughter of William and Edith (Harrison) Hopper. Her mother was a relative of William Harrison, the ninth president of the United States. Her father was a tanner by trade, a man of indomitable energy, whose moral, religious and political convictions were commensurate with his physical energy. Although a slave owner he was not a slave driver, and he was so much out of sympathy with the institution of slavery that in 1837 he liberated his slaves and moved to Warren county, Illinois, where he purchased prairie land bordering on the timber, in common with all Kentuckians who were accustomed to woodlands, and for forty years lived the life of a prosperous farmer. In politics Mr. Hopper was an original Whig up to the birth of the Republican party, when he identified himself with this organization, not was an office seeker, but as an earnest worker in its ranks and a most intelligent and forceful advocate of its principles. His political education was enriched by the constant reading of the New York Tribune and his religious current formed by a careful study of the Bible and reading Alexander Campbell's Millennial Harbinger. As a farmer he was both intelligent and progressive, was perhaps the first owner of a mowing machine in Warren county and a cook stove. On his way from Kentucky to Illinois he passed through St. Louis and purchased two Carry wooden mold-board plows with cast iron points, which were so much better than the crude plows used in Kentucky that he could hardly surrender them for the greatly superior steel plows introduced in the early '50's. It was while using one of these Cary plows that a young man who accompanied him from Kentucky when asked how he like plowing on the prairies of Illinois said he could go all day long on a trot, if the horses could stand it. Anyone having had an experience in Kentucky plowing on hill sides and stony ground, where shins were often bruised and plows thrown from furrows by stones or broken by stumps, would greatly enjoy the young man's enthusiasm and not marvel at his ambition to go, and go fast. Mr. Hopper's life was characterized by tireless industry, unfaltering honesty and consistent Christian living, all of which gave him success in his business and made him a valuable factor in his community. In 1877 at the good old age of either-six he passed away, preceded by his wife in the sixty-eighth year, greatly respected and honored by all who knew him as a man of sterling worth. In this Hopper family were six children of whom Barbara Ann was the eldest. From her marriage with Hardin H. Coleman five children were born - Mary H., now the wife of William T. Wood, a retired merchant of Bloomington, Illinois; Louis H.; James O., of Sacramento, California; William of Lincolnville, Kansas; and Stephen O., of Bloomington.
Louis H. Coleman received his preliminary education in the private schools of his native town, afterward attended Abingdon College (Illinois) for parts of two terms, and subsequently attended Bethany College of West Virginia, during the fall and winter term of 1860-61. At this time the Civil war broke out and most of the students were southern, they left for their homes, and the school virtually closed. Upon his return to Hopkinsville he abandoned the idea of completing his college course and engaged in the mercantile business with his uncle, E. H. Hopper, which relation he maintained until the early spring of 1865, when he moved to Bloomington, Illinois, and formed a partnership in the dry goods business with W. T. Wood. In 1864, while on a visit to Illinois, he formed the acquaintance of Jenny B. Logan of Springfield, Illinois, a daughter of Judge Stephen T. Logan, and on the 4th of October, 1866, was united in marriage to her. Within two months of this event, at the earnest solicitation of Judge Logan, he severed his business relation in Bloomington and moved to Springfield where in May, 1868, he formed a partnership with George M. Brown, then of the firm of W. H. Johnson & Company, and re-entered the dry good business under condition which would not now be considered very inspiring, as all values were abnormally high and on a descending scale, and money, of which the firm had to borrow much to carry a fifty thousand dollar stock, was worth ten per cent. This partnership, though pleasant, did not continue long. Major Brown's interest being out of proportion to his expenses, he sold out to Mr. Coleman, who continued the business on the east side of the public square until May, 1881, when he sold out to Reisch & Thoma. At the time of this partnership Mr. Coleman was quite young and inexperienced as the manager of a large business and he was very fortunate in having the co-operation and counsel and financial backing of Judge Logan, whose memory he will ever revere, not only because of his eminence as a lawyer, but because of his great kindness to him. Mr. Coleman's policy as a merchant was to give close attention to all the details of his business and buy his goods from producers, sell them at as nearly uniform prices as possible, on reasonable profits, know personally all his customers and see that no misrepresentation were made all mistakes corrected. This policy secure for him a constantly increasing trade and enable him to retire with a long list of good customers and a trade that had grown from seventy-five thousand dollars a year in 1868-0 to one hundred and thirty-six thousand dollars in 1881, at that time considered a large business. In 1882 Mr. Coleman formed a partnership with C. W. Post, then a small manufacturer of cultivators, and Wilson Reed, and organized the Illinois Agricultural Works and built a factory at the intersection of Tenth and South avenue, where farm implements were manufactured. Owing to the impracticability of the supposedly practical man, the enterprise was not successful, but Mr. Coleman has ever consoled himself with the thought that though his loss was severe his effort was not without some good to the city, for out of it has grown the present prosperous and successful Sattley Manufacturing Company, conducted by two practical men, who were induced to come to this city and for whom Mr. Coleman helped to make up a five thousand dollar purse. After eighteen years' retirement, Mr. Coleman again entered the field of business activity as a loan and investment banker and is now pursuing this business with the same devotion and enthusiasm that characterized him as a merchant. During his residence in Springfield he has ever taken a deep interest in the moral and material development of his city, doing what he could, in a quiet way, to further the best interests of the community. In 1881 when the city water supply was poor and of a quality not better than the washing from a barn yard (at this time Buffalo Miller was feeding several thousand head of cattle at the Riverton distillery and allowing his feed lots to be drained into the Sangamon river) Mr. Coleman was the first one to organize an effort to improve the water conditions. Together with Colonel Wiggins, of the Leland Hotel, he called on some of the prominent citizens and arranged for a mass meeting, to discuss ways and means for relief. This meeting resulted in obtaining the consent of Judge Treats' court to an appropriation of five hundred dollars by the water commissioners for experimental purposes. A hydraulic engineer was obtained, borings made and a fifty-foot well sank, and, later on, aqueducts constructed, which afforded an abundant supply of pure water for twenty years. One of the outcomes of this citizens' mass meeting was the organization of the Citizens Association in June, 1882, of which Mr. Coleman was secretary and treasurer, which organization lifted the city out of its old ruts and inextricable depths of mud by adopting a system of street paving. This organization did much for the beautifying of the city and the quickening of the impulses of the citizens to make the city a beautiful place and a worthy capital of the great state of Illinois. Mr. Coleman was twice a member of the school board, once a member of the Oak Ridge Board of Managers, and for four years a member of the Sangamon County Fair Association, which organization developed the best and largest county agricultural fair ever held in any state, and finally secured the permanent location of the state fair in Springfield. His residence on his grandfather's farm from 1853 to 1857 familiarized him with farm matters and caused him ever to take a deep interest in agriculture. He has actively co-operated with the leading spirits of the Farmers' Institutes, both state and county, and encouraged many young farmers to attend the Agricultural College at Champaign. At the session of the first Farmers State Institute, held in the state house at the conclusion of the reading of an excellent paper on Domestic Science, by Mrs. Senator Dunlap of Savoy, Illinois, he introduced a resolution requesting the chair to appoint a committee of three to consider the question of establishing a department of domestic science on the state fair grounds. The committee was appointed, the matter discussed from time to time with the state board of agriculture, and now this department is comfortably housed in the woman's building on the fair grounds and a large club of young women from all over the state instructed from three to four weeks each year during the fair by Mrs. Sarah Rorer and others. Mr. Coleman, so far as is known, was the first man to do any general farm tiling in Sangamon county. He began the systematic tiling of land in 1872 and kept at it until all the lands in which he is interested were well tiled. He believes in keeping farms well improved and in establishing such a relationship between the owner of the land and the tenant as to make the latter feel that it is just as much to his interest to take good care of the farm as it is to the former to have him do so. He has always insisted that the theory entertained by too many, that anything is good enough for the tenant, is pernicious, and will invariably create the sentiment in the mind of the tenant that anything is good enough for the owner. Just before his appointment on the board of Oak Ridge managers he had planned the paving of Monument avenue from North Grand avenue to the cemetery north gate. His acceptance of the appointment was conditioned on the willingness of the board to co-operate with him in this undertaking. Finding the board friendly, he accepted the appointment and soon secured the completion of the pavement by raising about seventy-five hundred dollars by popular subscription and getting the board to assume the payment of about eight hundred dollars. The many frequenters of the cemetery will not only appreciate this boulevard for its beauty, but for its elimination of one of the worst pieces of roadway in the city and its smoothing of the way over which the sacred treasures of bruised hearts must be borne to their final resting place to await the triumphant resurrection morn.
Mr. Coleman regards his marriage to Jenny B. Logan as the most important event in his life. It gave to him, though an entire stranger, ready admission to the very best families of the city and a favorable introduction to the business community. Mrs. Coleman was a woman of rare gifts, intellectually and socially. She had the quickness of perception of her father and an affability that at once gave her an easy passport into social circles. But her great strength was not so much in society as in her home as a mother. She was quick to anticipate the every want of her children and had them under her complete control, and unconsciously subject to her authority, every exercised in love, before they left the cradle. She was indeed a companion and playmate to her children, and so completely possessed their love and confidence as to secure their loving obedience without the application of such corrections as were deemed indispensable to those who did not possess her rare gift of family government. She was liberally educated in private and public schools of Springfield, Williams Female Academy in Kentucky and Monticello Seminary at Godfrey, Illinois, and was well qualified to teach the higher branches of mathematics and Latin has she been so inclined. By this marriage they became the parents of four children, Logan being born May 25, 1875; Christopher Bush, April 24, 1875; Mary Logan, February 18, 1880; Louis Garfield, August 6, 1881. All four passed through the public schools without a single tardy mark and with grades from ninety-two to above ninety-five. Logan graduated from Lawrenceville preparatory school in 1892 and from Princeton College in 1896 and is now in the Illinois National Bank; Christopher, from Lawrenceville in 1892 and from Yale College in 1896, now a professor of history in Butler College, Indianapolis, Indiana, and an ordained minister of the Christian church; Mary, Monticello Seminary in 1900; Louis, from Lawrenceville in 1899 and from Yale in 1903, and now in his first year at Harvard Law School. Mary has just returned from touring Palestine with Professor Willet's Chicago University class, some twenty-three in number.
Mrs. Coleman died at "Logan Place," her home in Springfield, May 21, 1891, at the age of forty-eight, her birth having occurred February 19, 1843. She was an active member of the First Christian church of this city from early girlhood and a most estimable woman, whose kindly sympathies and good traits of mind and heart and hand endeared her to all who knew her.
Mr. Coleman was united with the Christian church in early boyhood in Kentucky and has been a consistent member of the First Christian church for thirty-eight years and has ever been active in promoting its peace and prosperity. It was largely through the liberalities of his family that the West Side Christian church, corner of Edwards and State streets, was erected in 1891. His life has ever been honorable, his business methods correct, his intercourse with men sincere, and in Springfield has won warm personal friendships such as are only given in recognition of sterling personal worth.