Biography of William Foos
Springfield, Clark County, OH Biographies





WILLIAM FOOS, banker and farmer, Springfield; is one of the residents of Springfield, and prominently identified with its business and growth He is a son of Gen. Joseph and Margaret (Phifer) Foos, who were early residents of Franklin, the then county seat of Franklin Co., Ohio; he was a man of great energy, and took an active part in public affairs, and received the appointment of Brigadier General of Militia; he was the first man to suggest the feasibility of a ship canal across the Isthmus of Darien, it being known and spoken of in those days as "Foos' folly." The subject of this sketch was born in Franklin County in 1814; he received a fair education in his youth, but was required to labor for the support of the family after he became 14 years of age, and commenced at that age farming as a renter; his first business experience was as a clerk in a dry goods store, and, at 23 years of age, he embarked in that business in Springfield, but, finding he had an unsafe partner, he sold out and afterward engaged in the same business in Logan County. After two or three years, he removed to London, Madison Co., where he continued in the same trade. During his stay in Madison County, he purchased and improved a farm near London: In 1846, he returned to Springfield and again engaged in merchandising, which he continued until 1854, during which he was also engaged in a number of outside business enterprises; buying wool, operating a cotton mill, and, in connection with his brother, laid out a tract of 90 acres, and made additions to the city, which now contains some of the handsomest residence property in the city. In 1859, he in connection with his brother Gustavus, established a private banking house, which, in 1863, became the present Second National Bank, of which he is President, and his son, Fergus W., Cashier,' the two owning the large majority of the stock. The stock of said bank is now worth double the capital stock, notwithstanding, they have generally made an annuals dividend of 12 per cent. From 1866 to 1877, Mr. Foos was a member of the firm of James Leffel & Co., manufacturers of the celebrated Leffel turbine water wheel and other mill machinery. It is but just to say that the success attained was largely due to the energy and ability of Mr. Foos and his son Lamar, who was in charge of the branch house in New York City. It is a well kown fact that all concerned became rich. The establishment has since passed into the hands of John W. Bookwalter. When Mr. Foos sold out his mercantile interests in 1854, he purchased 4,000 acres of wild land in Champaign Co. Ill.; built himself a good house on High street, and concluded to take it easy the remainder of his life; but a short trial at that sort of life convinced him that loafing was not his forte, and so the banking house of Foos Brothers was established. Soon after he commenced the development of a plan for the improvement and remunerative culture of the land in Illinois, which was his intention when he purchased it. In this enterprise he spent thousands of dollars, and although the distance from his home precludes his personal visit oftener than three a year, when a complete invoice is taken and balance sheets made, which show a good annual dividend on the capital invested and expenses incurred. It will be interesting for cattle men to know that Mr. Foos sold, in the spring of 1880, 200 head of fat cattle at 5 cents in his yard. The average weight was 1,747 pounds. He has a system of monthly reports, and the ground is so laid out and numbered that the farm virtually receives his weekly personal supervision. It now has thirty two miles of fence, twenty five of which is fine Osage orange hedge, fifteen miles of open ditch, and, in addition to this, $3,000 worth of tile drains, while Lone Tree Creek and the Sangamon River pass through it, affording excellent natural drainage and abundance of water. He has from $30,000 to $40,000 worth of stock, constantly cared for by his steward and assistants, and, in 1880, cultivated 1,500 acres besides his meadows and pastures, some seasons cutting and putting up over five hundred tons of hay. His tract of 4,000 acres is known in that vicinity as the model farm. This achievement stamps Mr. Foos as a remarkable man, for the successful improvement and remunerative cultivation of such a tract of land, is beyond question a work of which but few men are capable even when giving their personal attention and entire time. Mr. Foos began life's battle when but 14 years of age as the manager of a farm, which he rented of his grandfather Phifer, and which his two younger brothers assisted him to cultivate. During the years that have passed, he has not only proved himself a superior farmer, but also a business man of care, discretion and ability, and has contributed much toward the prosperity of his adopted home. The grand farm in Illinois which is cut through the center by the Wabash Railroad, and upon which is located the station and village of Foosland, laid out and built mostly by Mr. Foos' means and enterprise, will remain to remind future generations of the wisdom and liberal enterprise of the founder. He married, in 1837, Sarah, daughter of James and Nancy (Van Kirk) Mark, of Madison Co., Ohio.

From:
History of Clark County, Ohio
W. H. Beers & Co.
Chicago 1881


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