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Colonel William Edwards
COLONEL William Edwards who in many ways left the impress of his individuality upon Cleveland and her substantial progress came of ancestry distinctly American in both the lineal and collateral lines. He was himself a native of New England where both his paternal and maternal ancestors had lived in early colonial days. His line of descent was traced back directly to Alexander Edwards, who came from Wales and was one of the seventy original proprietors of Springfield, Massachusetts. Among his descendants was the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, probably the most noted divine in New England in his day.
The paternal grand-parents of Colonel Edwards were Captain Oliver and Rachel (Parsons) Edwards. Their son, Dr. Elisha Edwards was born in Chesterfield, Massachusetts, in 1795, and in early life went to Northampton. Later, he made his way to Springfield, where he went into business, continuing actively and successfully until his death in 1840. He was a man of many sterling traits of character, and exerted his aid and influence for the material and moral progress of the community. He married Eunice Lombard, a daughter of Daniel and Sylvia (Burt) Lombard, who survived her husband for many years.
Colonel William Edwards, known and honored as one of the most prominent and valued citizens of Cleveland for many years was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, June 6, 1831. His early education was acquired at a classical school in his native city, and when very young he made his initial step in business in a mercantile establishments, where he remained until 1852, during which time he gained broad experience concerning the methods of the business world.
On severing his connection with his first employer he made his way westward to Cleveland which was entering upon a new era of development consequent upon the building of the railroads. Colonel Edwards and many other Eastern men were induced to found homes in the growing city of the lake. Their New England foresight and keen perception enabled them to see and value the possibilities and probabilities of growth and of future importance and enterprise. Colonel Edwards possessed an alert mind and keen perceptive faculties, noted the signs of the times, saw and recognized the opportunities for business activities and was well equipped for the successful conduct of important interests at the time of his arrival in Cleveland. His first connection with the commercial interests of the city was as an employee in the wholesale grocery house of W. J. Gordon, which at that time was the largest wholesale grocery establishment in the West. The young man proved himself efficient, capable, and progressive, and after a year spent with Mr. Gordon he entered into partnership with Marcus A. Treat, under the firm name of Treat and Edwards, in the wholesale grocery business. Colonel Edwards bent every energy towards its development. His persistency of purpose, utilization of opportunity and reliable business methods were important factors in the establishment of a large trade. After little more than three years he purchased the interest of his partner and admitted Hiram Iddings, of Trumbull County, to an interest in the business. Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War the yearly sales of the house aggregated nearly a quarter million dollars and was the rapid growth of the business demanded the aid of others on and executive capacity Hon. Amos Townsend was admitted to the firm in 1762 under the style of Edwards, Iddings and Company. When Mr, Iddings died a year later, J. Burton Parsons became a partner on the first of January, 1864. The firm name was then changed to Edwards, Townsend and Company and so continued until December, 1886, when William Edwards and Company was assumed, which was the style of the house at the time of Colonel Edwards' death in September, 1898. On the first of January, 1906, the business was recognized under the name of the William Edwards Company, with J. W. Roof as president, George A. Jones, secretary, and Harry R. Edwards, vice president and treasurer. From the beginning, Colonel Edwards was the leading spirit in the development of this enterprise. His business insight was keen, his methods reliable, and his progressive spirit and ready adaptability enabled him to overcome all difficulties and obstacles and work steadily upwards until he ranked among the foremost wholesale merchants of the Middle West. The reliable policy of the house, which was inaugurated at the outset, has always been maintained and the form had ever held to high standards in the personnel of its representatives and in the character of the services rendered to the public.
Although engaged in building up an important and profitable commercial enterprise, Colonel Edwards always found time to cooperate in movements for the general good and was a man of much influence in the management of city affairs and of matters relative to the upbuilding of northeastern Ohio. Undoubtedly he could have had almost any office within the gift of the people of his part of the city had he not declined to accept political preferment. Upon the most earnest solicitations of those in charge, however, he consented to become a director of the work house, and for eleven years filled that position most creditably and acceptably. He was a leader and stalwart advocate of the Republican party but never placed partisanship before the general good nor sacrificed public interests to personal aggrandizement.
In many ways outside the field of political work and influence Colonel Edwards did important services for the public. He was for years president of the Board of Trade prior to its reorganization into the Chamber of Commerce and was also president of the Lakeview Cemetery Association. In 1872, he became a member of the board of directors of the Citizens Savings and Loan Association, thus continuing for many years and was also a member of the Guardian Savings and Trust Company. He was for years and up to the time of his death a member of the sinking fund commission and was also one of the Ohio Commissioners to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Colonel Edwards did not secure his military title at the front but that he was entitled to it was the opinion of all who knew him. During the exciting years of the Civil War, he was one of the most ardent Union men in northern Ohio and because of his efforts in forming military organizations he was given the honorary title of Colonel, which clung to him until his death. He was also honorary member of the Loyal Legion.
Colonel Edwards was also an enthusiastic club member, being a charter member of the Union Roadside, and Country Clubs, and was always eagerly welcomed by his associates in those organizations. He was president of the Cleveland Driving Park Association, which under his management gained a reputation second to none. Indeed it was largely due to his efforts that the Cleveland Driving Park Association was organized. From his boyhood his love of fine horses was one of his characteristics and he was one of the chief supporters of the old Northern Ohio Fair Association. Believing that a driving park would prove a success both financially an from the standpoint of a pure sportsman, Colonel Edwards induced many of his friends to assist him in organizing the Cleveland Driving Park Association of which he was president at the time of his death. He cared more about it than any other pleasure interest he had in life. He was always present in his place in the judge's stand and was the spirit of every meet. At the last circuit races in July preceding his death, he was in his place as starting judge. Thoroughly understanding horses was and the racing of them, he stopped every race at the start if it was unfair, sternly admonished any driver guilty of trickiness or discourtesy and kept the audience well informed on the status of events on the track. It was owing largely to his influence and exertions that the Gentleman's Driving Club was organized and brought to its high standing among clubs of similar nature, for Colonel Edwards took an active interest both in the sport and in the business of the organization. In this his influence was always on the side of the best, and the purity of the sport was itself a tribute to his character. From the time of its formation in 1895, he was honorary president of the club.
Colonel Edwards' home life was exceedingly happy and his hospitality was so broad it became almost national in its scope. His manner was most attractive, his cordiality and his interests sincere and deep-rooted and his friendship could always be relied upon if it was once gained. Colonel Edwards married Miss Lucia Ransom, of Clarence, New York, who still occupies the homestead on Prospect Avenue. They were the parents of four children. Clarence R., who entered West Point and was graduated in 1879. For awhile during the Spanish-American War he was on the staff of General Coppinger and later was with the lamented General Lawton in the Philippines. He also had charge of the bringing of the remains of that brave officer to the United States. He has been at the head of the insular department at Washington since it was organized, bearing the rank of Brigadier-General. He married Bessie Porter, of Niagara Falls, New York. Harry Edwards, the second son, entered Harvard and was graduated in 1883. He is now vice president and treasurer of the William Edwards Company. Lucia R., the surviving daughter, is the wife of Charles A. Otis, of Cleveland. Kate R., died in early life. The death of Colonel Edwards occurred September 21, 1898.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds