Biography of Francis M. Osborne
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

FRANCIS M. OSBORNE, as a successful business man, and the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company, as a large industry of modern times, are inseparably linked together in the growth and development of the Cleveland of today. The Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company is the outgrowth of other successful coal organizations that were formed before it came into existence Back about 1886, Osborne, Saeger & Company was established at Cleveland, and from the start was successful. In 1899, under satisfactory inducements, this enterprise was sold to the Pittsburgh Coal Company, which attained a reputation second only to a very few in that part of the country. But the increasing demand for coal from the numerous and rapidly growing and expanding factories of every description was succeeded by another important change in this company.

In 1902, under the laws of the state, the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company at Cleveland was duly organized, almost wholly by people of Trumbull County, Ohio, with a capital of $300,000. Today few coal organizations in the United States have greater expansions and resources than has the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company, the surprising success of which is mainly due to the masterly business capacity of Francis M. Osborne. Since the establishment of the new organization the capital stock has been increased from time to time until now, in 1923, it consists off $2,000,000 of preferred stock and 100,000 shares of common stock.

No sooner had the new corporation begun operating than it commenced to expand in all directions and at surprising speed. Step by step, steadily yet rapidly, branch operating properties were purchased or secured in many of the leading coal centers of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, until at the present day fully twenty branch concerns are operating for the parent corporation, and the expansion is still sweeping onward and outward. At this time about 5,000 persons find satisfactory employment with this giant business concern and its active and ambitious branches, and millions of frigid people are made comfortable by the warm mantle spread over homes.

It should be borne in mind by all lovers of individual prominence and proficiency that the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company is not the outgrowth wholly of the increasing demand for coal in both homes and factories. Competition is one of the important American measures aimed to control monopoly, and wise, able and sagacious business men are the leaders in competition. It was largely through the instrumentality and superiority of Francis M. Osborne that this corporation was able, in spite of competition, to reach the summit of prosperity and success. But he was not alone in this important business venture. From its inception the corporation has been owned and controlled by four capable men: Francis M. Osborne, Abner Wallace Osborne, John G. Patterson and S. H. Robbins. All four have contributed their best business qualities and industrial wisdom to the success of this project. The result is neither astonishing nor marvelous, but is due almost wholly to the steady and progressive battle, fought day and night, to satisfy and deliver to the exacting public the best possible service and results. Such result is shown by the unusual and noteworthy progress and development of the organization and the multiplication of its active branches as the years have swept past.

Francis M. Osborne, Or "Frank," as he was generally known, was born in Trumbull County, Ohio, on the 12th of March, 1854, the son of Abner Osborne. The father of Abner was a native of Virginia, who came West far back in pioneer times, when Trumbull County, a part of the Western Reserve, was almost a wilderness. There he encountered the usual perils which fell upon the pioneers: Savages, wild animals, border diseases, lack of food, discomforts of every description, poor pay for labor and hardships, awful highways, rude schools and few churches, few neighbors, etc. But he was equal to the emergency. He cleared his farm, cultivated the soil, grew large crops of grain, raised big herds of live stock, reared his children properly and saw that they received sound educations, became agreeable as a neighbor and prominent as a citizen, and is remembered as one of the most reputable of the sturdy pioneers.

His son Abner grew to manhood on his father's farm, and upon reaching maturity was fully competent to conduct any or all farming operations. However, from early times he became interested in the business of testing out coal properties and problems, an important occupation in early days. He thus became well advised and posted on how to determine the value of land from the important standpoint of coaling operation. During his youth he received a good education in the country schools, and when a young man chose for his wife Miss Abigail Allison, by whom he became the father of seven children. Among the number was Joseph, who served as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil war and finally lost his life at the Battle of Cynthiana, Kentucky. Francis M. and Abner W. were among the founders of the Pittsburgh Coal Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company of Cleveland, as described above. Another son, William M., was named after the father of President McKinley and served the United States as consul at London, dying there while serving in that capacity; all of his family now reside abroad.

Francis M. Osborne passed his boyhood like the average children of his time, reeeiving a sound education and evincing at an early period marked business characteristics which disclosed themselves at a later period. He soon engaged in the coal business, and became a member of the Cleveland company of Osborne, Saeger & Company. When the Pittsburgh company was organized as the Pittsburgh Coal Company, he was one of its founders and was elected its first president, and mainly through his guidance and management it soon controlled about fifty subsidiary companies. In 1902 he was one of the founders of the present organization, and it was mainly through his hard work and close confinement attendant upon this organization that he was at last forced to give up his work. He died on the 17th of July, 1911, but before his deplorable demise he, as president, made the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company one of the foremost and most successful in the whole country. But he was not wholly tied up to his business affairs. He was much interested in all human welfare projects and was one of the city's capable and respected citizens. President McKinley was his cousin, and soon after being elected President asked him: "Now, Frank, what can I do for you?" "Nothing," replied Mr. Osborne, and he meant what he said, because he did not care to leave his business for the uncertainties of office here or abroad, preferring industrial independence and local welfare to political distinction.

Francis M. Osborne married Miss Dollie Morris, and to them were born ten children, as follows: Florence O., who married W. L. Robison; Dorothy O., who married F. C. Mills, Jr.; Morris A., who died in 1906, when in his eighteenth year; William It, now secretary treasurer of the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company; Mildred O., now Mrs. Karl F. Bruch; Francis M., Jr.; Helen O., who became Mrs. Edward E. Bruch; Clarence H.; James M., and David A. The mother of this family resides in Cleveland; nearly all of her children also reside here.

Since the year 1911, when Francis M. Osborne died, the presidency of the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company has devolved upon S. H. Robbins, who has been greatly assisted by three vice presidents, Abner W. Osborne, Walter L. Robison and Harry L Findlay, and also by William M. Osborne, secretary treasurer.

S. H. Robbins, whose business capacity has been often demonstrated, was born on the 17th of July, 1865, in Trumbull County, Ohio, and is the son of Tilghman N. Robbins and a grandson of Tilghman Robbins, who came from Virginia to Mahoning County, Ohio, in the early pioneer days and engaged principally in farming. S. H. Robbins was reared on the farm and was given a good education in the public schools. He learned practical farming in boyhood, such as planting, reaping and similar duties, but upon reaching the age of nearly twenty one years, or on the 4th of February, 1886, he engaged in the coal business, and has since made coal production a specialty. His active coal career began with the Osborne, Saeger Coal Company, the Pittsburgh Coal Company and the Youghiogheny & Ohio Coal Company, and has proved his business capacity from the start up to the present time in all of the exacting positions which he has occupied. The company was fortunate in securing the services of a president so competent after the death of Mr. Osborne, but the other original founders gave him their best efforts for success.

Abner Wallace Osborne, first vice president of the company, was born on his father's farm in Trumbull County, on the 4th of August, 1851, and was there reared and educated. A portion of the old Osborne farm is now incorporated as a part of the present City of Girard, Trumbull County. His first work was on the farm, but upon reaching the age of sixteen years he became identified with local coal operations and gradually worked himself into that pursuit to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Nearly all his coal activities have been made and demonstrated in conjunction with those of his brother, Francis M. He is now one of the active and proficient managers of the coal expansion movements of the company; but he often escapes to exercise his leisure hours in the great open places where, with gun and rod, he has secured his measure of success and happiness as a nimrod or as a disciple of the gentle Izaak Walton.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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