HAWKS, WILLIAM EDWARD, the son of Alvah and Julia Ann (Pratt) Hawks, was born in Bennington, on the 27th day
of January, 1832; there fore he is now just past his fifty- seventh anniversary of birth. His father and mother
were also natives of the town of Bennington, and on both sides his ancestors have been pioneers of the county.
The father of our subject was a farmer by occupation, and on the farm William was brought up at work and attending
school in season, until he attained his eighteenth year, at which age lie went to New York City and took a clerkship
in the house of Hunt Brothers, importers and jobbers of dry goods. With this firm young Hawks continued about four
years, when they suspended business, whereupon he entered the dry goods house of Richards & McHarg, in the
capacity of salesman, and with whom he remained from 1854 until 1857, when this firm also was obliged to suspend.
Having now been some years in the city of New York, and having acquired a pretty thorough knowledge of the business
with which he had been connected, and what was of equal value to him, having saved as much as possible of his salary,
Mr. Hawks joined his accrued capital with that of Charles C. Hurd, and entered into active business life at 13
Park Place, as importers and jobbers of hosiery and notions, under the firm name and style of Hurd & Hawks,
which business was continued with indifferent success until 1860, when the senior partner went out of the firm
and our subject was left to close out the stock as best he might.
In the year next preceeding this, or in 1859, on the 2d day of February, William E. Hawks was married to Helen
Elizabeth, daughter of Major Saniuel H. Brown, of Bennington. Of this marriage five children were born, all of
whom are still living.
Again, in 1864 our subject ventured into business in New York, this time as a dealer in ladies’ and gentlemen’s
furnishings. This proved far more profitable than his previous undertaking at the metropolis, and his endeavors
were rewarded with abundant success. And during the same period, or from 1864 to 1870, Mr. Hawks was engaged in
other business enterprises, and these, too, were fortunate and brought satisfactory returns. But in 1870, or about
that time, the. capitalists of the East were giving much attention to Western investinents, and our subject saw
for himself that these promised better returns than any Eastern enterprises offered at that time; he therefore
closed out his mercantile business in New .York, and “turned his face toward the setting sun,” and there, in the
main, has he been interested from 1870 until the present time; but not to the prejudice or neglect of his native
town -- Bennington -- for here has been his acknowledged home notwithstanding the magnitude of his interests in
other localities. And he has been, and now is, largely interested in investments in Bennington and elsewhere in
its vicinity; he is director and stockholder in the Bennington County National Bank, vice-president of the Bennington
County Savings Bank, the owner of a large amount of real and personal property in the county; also, he was one
of the chief advocates of the graded school enterprise, and connected with the Monument Association in their most
laudable undertaking. Mr. Hawks, too, is known to possess much public-spiritedness and generosity, and no worthy
charity has ever appealed to him in vain.
But, turning for a moment to some of Mr. Hawks’s Western investments, we find him, in 1872, one of the organizers
and directors of the First National Bank of Marseilles, Ill.; later he becomes president of the Marseilles Water
Power Company, and the largest stockholder of the concern; he was also at one time vice-president of the Joliet
Water Works Company; is president of the Plymouth Rock Cattle Company, a corporation having a capital stock of
$250,000; also president of the Leadville Water Company, the capital of which is $300,000; also president of the
Soda Springs Land and Cattle Company, capital stock $300,000. In each of these enterprises Mr. Hawks owns a very
large and controlling share of the stock.
Such, then is a brief résumé of the principal business operations of William E. Hawks. If it indicates
anything it is that he is a remarkable man in his capacity to grasp and successfully direct great enterprises.
In such undertakings, the detail of which would distract and paralyze the powers of men less favorably constituted
for such operations, Mr. Hawks has seemed to observe the end from the beginning. He looks over his ground, forms
his judgment with rapidity and almost unerring accuracy, and then proceeds to the execution of his plans with the
serene confidence that all will end according to his expectation. And he is, as must be seen, a very busy man;
but his manifold interests never seem to worry him; in all these his power has been found sufficient for any emergency,
and his time adequate for all requirements. And he has found time, too, for other duties than those confined to
his business operations; indeed, to every improvement that has promised to add to the welfare or beauty of his
native place he has given the same care and efficient attention that is bestowed upon his own affairs. His personal
connection with the Congregational Church covers a period of twenty years, and this, and other religious institutions,
have received his sympathy and material aid. In short, he has not only succeeded in erecting a business and financial
fabric of large proportions, but is in all respects the useful citizen, to whom the confidence and respect of his
townsmen are not the least appreciated of his rewards.