JOHN W. WITHEY. - John W. Withey, of the firm of Withey Brothers, carriage manufacturers of Springfield, represents a business which has had a continuous existence in this city of almost a half century, and the family name has ever been a synonym of industry, energy and integrity in trade transactions. The present partners are fully sustaining the reputation of the house and Mr. Withey of this review well deserves mention as one of the leading and influential business men of the capital. His birth occurred in the family home on East Adams street, March 16, 1849, his father being William H. Withey, who was born in Somersetshire, England, November 22, 1822. His parents were James and Jane Withey, who were also natives of the "merrie isle," and on coming to America established their home in Springfield, where they spent their remaining days, their remains being interred in Oak Ridge cemetery. The father was a wagon maker by trade and died in 1869, at the age of eighty-four years, while his wife passed away in 1864, at the age of sixty-eight. They came of a sturdy race, and none of their children in America died under fifty-seven years. Eli passed away in 1865. The second was William, father of our subject, George died in September, 1899. Caroline, born in 1829, became the wife of James King, who was born in the same year, and his death occurred in February 23, 1889, while she passed away in 1894. Jane became Mrs. McCarthy and died in 1898. James, Jr., passed away in May, 1899. John, who was a British soldier, died in India when about twenty0one years of age. He was the only one that did not come to America. The youngest son, James Withey, Jr., was the foreman of the Young America Hose Company - a volunteer organization - until the paid department was installed.
William H. Withey was educated in his native country and there learned the wagon maker's trade. In 1842 he came to the United States, locating in Springfield, and for nine years he worked at his trade in the employ of the firm of Henkle & Manning. In 1851 he began business on his own account and in 1854 he formed a partnership with his brothers Eli and George. Together they purchased the site of the present Withey carriage factory, erected the building and began the manufacture of wagons and carriages. In the year 1863 the youngest brother James was admitted to a partnership and so continued until his death. In the meantime the business greatly increased, the enterprise becoming of considerable importance in industrial circles here. It was carried on by the brothers in the older generation until 1896, when the present firm succeeded to the ownership and John W. and William H. Withey, Jr., sons of William H. Withey, Sr., have since been the proprietors. The site has been in possession of the family since 1854 and the business carried on continuously through almost a half century. In 1860, however their plant was largely ruined in a severe windstorm and the following year it was entirely destroyed by fire, but phoenix-like it rose from the ashes, for the partners immediately rebuilt and resumed business, maintaining their reputation as progressive and enterprising representatives of industrial circles in Springfield.
William H. Wither, Sr., was united in marriage to Miss Lydia Robinson, who was born in Cape May county, new Jersey, in 1824, and in 1840 came to Sangamon county, Illinois. After her father's death in 1841 she took up her abode in Springfield, where she opened a millinery store, and in the conduct of the enterprise met with gratifying success. She came of Scotch-Irish ancestry and the family was represented in the American army in the Revolutionary war. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Withey were born seven children, but two sons died in infancy. John W. is the eldest of those living. Thomas A., born in August, 1850, is a carriage trimmer and is married and has one son. Since 1873 he has been a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge of Springfield, has passed all of its chairs and for twenty0seven years has been its secretary. Arthur A. is a wood-worker by trade and resides with his mother. He has three sons and a daughter. Ervin is assistant foreman in the Sattley Plow Works and has three children. William H., born January 18, 1860, is in partnership with his eldest brother and he has three sons. The father, William H. Withey, Sr., built a home at the corner of Twelfth and Monroe streets where he resided until his death, on the 3d of April, 1891. His widow is still living there and is a most energetic woman who deserves much credit for the courage and business ability she manifested in her early womanhood as well as for the capable manner in which she presided over her home and reared her family after her marriage. In politics Mr. Withey was a Republican and his sons followed in his footsteps. He would never hold office, however, yet was deeply interested in the city's welfare and labored for its upbuilding. He gave liberally to charitable enterprises and lived a life that commended him to the confidence of all.
John W. Withey acquired his education in the public schools of this city and in 1865 entered his father's shop to learn the trade of wagon and carriage making. He has since followed the business. He gradually mastered the work in principle and detail, was entrusted with more and more responsibility as he displayed his capability and in 1896, in company with his brother William, he purchased the plant and has since been at the head of the enterprise, which has figured so prominently in the industrial circles of Springfield for forty-nine years. He settled up the business with the other members of the family and has since engaged in general repair and special order work. The firm turns out an excellent grade of work, because of their thorough understanding of the business and their desire to please their patrons, and the reputation of the house has remained untarnished for all these decades.
In July, 1877, John W. Withey was married to Miss Lilla Hughes, daughter of John A. Hughes, who was a carriage maker by trade and in later life followed the insurance business. The ancestry is English and Mrs. Withey, who was born in Springfield, is the only survivor of her father's family. By her marriage she became the mother of seven children: Elmer W., who is employed in the watch factory of Springfield; Charles E., a bookkeeper for the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad; Grace A.; Bessie M., a graduate of the high school of 1903 and a teacher in Springfield Training School; Lilla, Edith and John H. All were educated in the public schools of this city.
In 1882 Mr. Withey purchased land and built his present home at No. 220 South State street, and since that time his section of the city has had a marvelous growth. He votes with the Republican party. Prominent in the Odd Fellows Society, he has been one of its members since 1872, has filled all of its chairs and for twenty-one years he has been its secretary, while for twenty-three years he has been scribe in the encampment. He is a past grand and has represented both the subordinate lodge and encampment in the grand bodies of the state. He is also a member of Central Lodge, No. 71, A.F. & A.M. He has a very large and favorable acquaintance among the members of these orders in the state and enjoys in large measure the friendship of his fraternal brethren, while in Springfield he has a very creditable and honorable standing in business circles.