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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


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John Withnell.

WHOEVER achieves fortune and social position by his own efforts, and preserves at the same time an unblemished reputation, is a credit to humanity, and is a safe example and guide to succeeding generations. The subject of this memoir belongs to this class of persons, who, by their own untiring energy and business talent, have risen by degrees to prominence among their fellow-men; and whose purity of character the foul breath of calumny has never aspersed.

John Withnell was born March 19th, 1806, at Chorley, Lancashire, England. His father, John Withnell, after whom he was named, was an honorable and practical business man, and his mother, Elizabeth Spencer, was of an old Catholic family, and a woman remarkable for her Christian and domestic virtues.

John Withnell, the elder, was a lumber merchant and builder, who early instilled into the minds of his children the principles of integrity and self-reliance as the great secrets of life. He gave them all a sound English education, sufficient to fit them for any vocation; and then, this done, he felt confident, from the precepts and example he had given them, that they would steer safely and successfully their course; nor has he been mistaken. He had three sons and three daughters. Two of the latter died before forming any alliance in life, and the youngest, Elizabeth, is still living, having married Mr. William Smith, of her native town. All of the sons have been busy reapers in the harvest-field of life, and have garnered amply of its riches. One of them, William, went to the West Indies, where he soon, by his talents, assumed a most prominent position, and became most fortunate in all of his business connections, and now lives in Liverpool, in the quiet enjoyment of the independence he has acquired. Another son, Thomas, is successfully following the occupation of an architect in Spain; and the father still lives, at an advanced age, and sees with pride, that the example he set in life, and the principles he inculcated, have been followed by his children.

At the age of fourteen, John Withnell was taken from school, and, after spending some time at home in employment, was apprenticed to the stone-cutting business, and remained in that capacity, in Liverpool, for five years. He was always attentive to his work, and perfected himself in all of its details; for he had determined to be in the first rank of his vocation, and win his way to fortune.

After leaving Liverpool, he returned home for a short time, and made Preparations to sail for America. He had, for years, yearned for that favored land which offered such inducements to the young votary of aspiring ambition. He landed in the United States in 1829, with one sovereign in his pocket, and, after sojourning in the East a short time, departed for Pittsburgh, on foot; for it was the commencement of the winter of 1829, and he could not well work at his trade during the inclement season.

Mr. Withnell's advent in Pittsburgh was propitious. It was there he

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formed the acquaintance of his present estimable lady, whose maiden name was Martha Graves Wainwright, whom he married in January, 1833, when he had become a resident of St. Louis. She was the daughter of Mr. Joseph Wainwright, of Lawrenceville, who is still living.

After a trial of Pittsburgh for nearly two years, he departed for St. Louis, where he arrived in August, 1831, and in a little while afterward assisted in building the penitentiary at Alton. He soon became known in St. Louis for his skill and attention to business, and many of the large contracts for stone-work fell into his hands. He had the contract for the stone-cutting of the cathedral, and many others of much importance.

He had formed a business connection in St. Louis with Mr. Coates, a gentleman of fine abilities and social worth, which existed until 1838 when Mr. Withnell went to Jefferson City, having obtained the stone-contract of the capitol. He was engaged in this contract for three years, and the capitol of our state, which is built of a kind of marble susceptible of the highest finish, owes much of its beauty to his skill and tasteful execution. He was also for many years a partner in the brewery business conducted by Wainwright, Coates & Co.

Shortly after leaving Jefferson City, he took the contract for the county jail, which was the last work he performed in the stone-contract business, and in 1843 bought the place where he now resides, in the suburbs of St. Louis, which was then a wild. Years before, in his rambles through the country, he had been delighted with the beautiful location, and had determined, when sufficiently able, to purchase it. He has adorned it with the most exquisite taste and elegance, and the grounds are among the most tasteful and lovely in the Western country.

Mr. Withnell has avoided politics as uncongenial with that quietude in which he delights; but in 1843, he was persuaded by his friends to become a member of the Board of Aldermen, in which he served two terms. He was one of the corporators of the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association, and was one of its efficient directors for three years. He is also a director in the Gas Company, and his name adds weight and respect to every thing with which it is connected. He is retiring in his disposition, domestic in his habits, warm in his friendship, and passes his life chiefly in superintending the cultivation and adornment of his farm, and in the serene enjoyments which nestle around the family hearthstone.

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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
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