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Peter M. Arthur
A QUESTION that has been a bone of contention with scientists fro ages past, and which will doubtless continue so until the end of time, has been the one of heredity. Does the fact that a child comes from a long line of men who have been honest, honored, and respected for generations, have any influence to off-set later environment; or will environment have greater weight in moulding the child's character? The question has been discussed pro and con, some taking one view, some the other. Instances can be cited to support both theories. There are many instances where a child has been left during the formative stage of its life where the environment was anything but conducive to building up a good character, but who have, whether from the fact that they were of what usually is termed "good blood," or from some other cause, come up in the world to a place where they have been prominent in the affairs of their respective communities, and what is still more important, good men. Such is the history of the subject of this memoir. Peter M. Arthur was descended from an old Scotch family who had been prominent in the industrial world for many generations. The product of their genius and handiwork was well and favorably known through out the entire civilized world. He was born in Paisley, Scotland, the home of the famous Paisley shawls, on August 4, 1831. His parents were Peter and Jane Mac Arthur.
Mr. Arthur's uncle was a manufacturer of Paisley shawls, and his father handled the product of the mills, exporting to all parts of the world. Mr. Arthur's father's business often necessitated trips abroad, and often he would be in America for long periods. When Mr. Arthur was about nine years of age, and while his father was in New York on one of his business trips, Mr. Arthur's mother died suddenly. Mr. Arthur was put aboard ship, shortly afterward, and sent to Ne York to join his father. But his father had decided to return to Scotland earlier than he had intended, and the ship he sailed on passed the one his son was on, in mid-ocean. When Mr. Arthur landed in New York he was received with open arms by an uncle, his mother's sister's husband, and was taken into the bosom of the family. But such is the perverseness of human nature, that when word reached New York that Mr. Arthur's father had passed away while en route to Scotland and was buried at sea, and that his affairs were left in such shape that there was nothing left for the young man, there was a great change in the attitude of his uncle. Instead of being a child of wealth and consequence, Mr. Arthur was now a charge, and he must be made to pay his way. Thus began a course of brutal treatment that lasted for several years. Never a kind word or look. Hard work far beyond his strength was his daily task. Brutal beatings for failure to do as he was told when the poor, tired, little body could go no farther. No task master in the old South could have treated his slaves with more brutality. When Mr. Arthur had reached the age of fifteen, this treatment continuing, he decided to run away. So, one day he packed the little belongings, and stole away, taking the boat up the Hudson to Albany. Here is where Mr. Arthur decided to drop the "Mac&; and become "Arthur." His fear of his uncle was so great that he was afraid to give his right name.
Albany of those days was not the Albany of today. The farmers still came to town on market day, and it happened that the day of Mr. Arthur's arrival i Albany was a market day. Strolling through the market place, Mr. Arthur was attracted by the face of a kindly looking farmer. Thereupon he decided he would like to get away from city life, and so he went up to this farmer and asked him if he knew of any one who was needing the services of a boy. It so happened that this man had only recently lost a son about the same age of Mr. Arthur, and being struck with the intelligent appearance of this young lad, told him he wanted a boy. Then came the first happiness in this young man's life since the death of his parents. For several years Mr. Arthur remained with this old man, until when he was nineteen years of age he was offered and accepted a position in a store at Schenectady, New York. He remained in this position for three years, when he went to Albany and got work as a wiper in the roundhouse of the New York Central Railroad. Very shortly, however, he was made a fireman, and when he had been with the railroad three years, he was made an engineer. His progress was very rapid. Intelligent, capable, active, with nerves of steel, he was soon running the engine of one of the best trains. In 1865, Mr. Arthur was accorded a signal honor by the management of the railroad. When the whole country was mourning for our martyred President Lincoln, and his body was being bourne across the continent to its final resting place, Mr. Arthur was elected as the engineer to run the train which bore the body over his division from Albany to Syracuse. The memory of that day was one that Mr. Arthur fondly cherished to the day of his death.
Mr. Arthur early affiliated himself with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, always taking an active part in the affairs of that organization. He was regularly a delegate to their conventions, and was several times elected to various minor offices in that organization. In 1874, he was elected Grand Chief of the order. That necessitated his moving to Cleveland, where the headquarters of that organization was located, and where he made his home up to the time of his death. Mr. Arthur proved such an efficient officer that he was re-elected year after year, and was still holding that position, and very active in the work of the order, when he passed away. It might be said that he was too active, never stopping to consider that he should conserve some of his energy. He burned the candle at both ends, and his very activity was a large contributing cause of his death.
In civic affairs Mr. Arthur was greatly interested. While he never held or aspired to any public office, he was always in close touch with the affairs of the Republican party, and numbererd among his close friends such men as Mark Hanna, William McKinley, and Myron T. Herrick, men who largely controlled the destinies of their party in Ohio.
Mr. Arthur was greatly sought as a public speaker. A rather interesting and complimentary tribute was paid him at one time in that respect. He was asked to make an address at the dedication of a church in Tarrytown, New York, at which services the late Bishop Potter presided. At the conclusion of his address Bishop Potter came to him and warmly congratulated him, and told him if he ever wanted a "job," to come to him, and he would start him in as a preacher.
Mr. Arthur was a very strong church man. Upon coming to Cleveland he affiliated himself in an active way with the Second Presbyterian Church, of which Doctor Sutphen is the pastor, retaining his membership there to the last. As a young man in Albany, Mr. Arthur was very active in church and Sunday-school work, being the superintendent of the Sunday school for many years, until the nature of his work made it impossible for him to continue. In social affairs Mr. Arthur was a member of the Union and the Euclid clubs, and he was also a director for many years of the Society for Savings.
While he was employed in Schenectady, Mr. Arthur was married to Caroline Hildebrand, a daughter of Jacob and Caroline (Oliver) Hildebrand, one of the old families of Schenectady. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur had four children, two of whom are still living. They are, Jane Crawford and Charles Burgess. The former was a graduate of Wesleyan College at Cincinnati. She was married to Samuel F. Haserot, a prominent business man of Cleveland, and they have one child, Helen Alcott.
Charles Burgess, after his graduation from Williams College, was married to Miss Ida B. Strudevant, a daughter of one of Cleveland's old families. They have two children, Charles Burgess, Jr., who is attending his father's alma mater, and Harriet C., who is a student at the Laurel School in Cleveland.
Mr. Arthur's death, which occurred in 1903, at Winnepeg, Canada, was rather tragic. As has been stated, Mr. Arthur was ever in demand as a public speaker, and for many years had addressed the annual convention of the Canadian Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. On the evening Mr. Arthur was closing his address, his last words would indicate that he had a premonition that the end was near. He said, "This may be the last time--" when he dropped to the floor unconscious. Doctors were immediately called, but they said death must have come instantaneously.
The passing of Peter M. Arthur was a great blow to his friends and his immediate family, and in the organization which he ruled for so long, he will ever be missed. They need no memorial to set forth his virtues. They need to erect no monument to his memory. The work he did while the chief executive of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is a monument that will stand till the end of time. In his family was was a loving husband and father, always cheerful, kind, and affectionate. It is such me as Peter M. Arthur that have made our country to-day stand at the head of nations. And while time, the great healer, will sear over the wounds his going left, the memory of this good man will not pass until death overtakes those who knew and loved him.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds