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Edsin Ruthven Perkins
EDWIN RUTHVEN PERKINS, of Cleveland, for a long lapse of years one of the best known business men of the Forest City, and one of the most representative citizens of the State of Ohio, led a successful, useful
and honorable life because he understood the basic principles of cause and effect and directed his efforts to worthy ends. He was not only an eminent railroad man, banker and capitalist, but was a noted churchman and philanthropist, doing much in his long career to promote the cause of religion and education.
Mr. Perkins was born on February 20, 1833, in Chocorua, Carroll County, New Hampshire, and was the scion of sterling old Colonial stock, one of his ancestors on the father's side having located in Hampton, New Hampshire, as early as 1634, and in that same year an ancestor of our maternal side settled at Ipswich, Massachusetts. The parents of our subject were True and Mary (Chapman) Perkins, both natives of Tamworth, New Hampshire. The father was a man of sterling character, a leader in church and civic affairs. His family consisted of five children, only one of whom is now livingóWinslow True Perkins, of Malden, Massachusetts.
Edwin R. Perkins grew to manhood in New England, and he took his preparatory course for college at Phillips-Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire, and entered Dartmouth College, Hanover, that State, in September, 1854, a member of the sophomore class, having completed his freshman year at Exeter. He was an industrious student, made excellent grades in all these institutions, and became a fine debater, taking a lively interest in college politics and becoming a leader in his party in all college controversies.
Mr. Perkins first came to Cleveland, Ohio, 1857, and began his life work as a teacher in the public schools, being principal for a time of the old Mayflower and Eagle schools. Later he became a member of the Cleveland board of education, was its president and most influential member from 1868 to 1874, doing much to encourage better local schools. The influence of his work in this connection is still apparent. He began the study of law while teaching, continuing his law course for two years after resigning from the Cleveland schools. His preceptors were Otis & Adams, at that time one of the leading law firms of the Forest City. He was admitted to the bar in 1863, but before entering upon the practice of his profession he was offered a position in the Commercial National Bank, and in 1865 became its assistant cashier, which position he held for five years. Five years later he organized the private banking house of Chamberlain, Gorham & Perkins, in partnership with Selah Chamberlain and A. S. Gorham, which was conducted for ten years, its pronounced success being due for the most part to the enterprise and sound banking principles of Mr. Perkins. In 1878 he became cashier of the Merchants National Bank of Cleveland. He was one of the organizers of the Mercantile National Bank in 1884, which succeeded to the business of the Merchant's Bank. He was vice president of this institution until 1891 when he was promoted to the position of president, the duties of which he continued to discharge with his usual rare ability and fidelity until his resignation in January, 1902. He continued as one of its directors and was also a director of its successor, the National Commercial Bank, until his death. As a banker he enjoyed the confidence and good will of the patrons of the various institutions with which he was connected, as well as of his associates, and he acquired a reputation as a financier equaled by few in the his- tory of Cleveland's business circles.
Turning his attention to railroading, Mr. Perkins was the principal factor in the re-organization of the Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling Railroad Company, and was its president from 1891 to 1893. In 1904 he became president of the Cleveland & Mahoning Valley Railroad Company which office he continued to hold until his death. He was for many years a director in the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company and in 1904 became its vice president, which office he held as long as he lived. As head of these roads he won the admiration of the stockholders for his able and successful management and became widely known in the railroad circles of the country. He was also a director in many large corporations, including the larger banks of Cleveland and a number of big railroad, mining and industrial companies, in all of which he made his influence felt for the good and general development of the business of each. Large estates were also entrusted to his management, especially during his career as banker. His former partner, Selah Chamberlain, left to him a very large estate in trust, by will, to be held and managed at his sole discretion for the period of fifteen years, expressly stipulating that no bond should be required and no accounting to any court.
He was a trustee of the Western Reserve University for many years, and this institution conferred upon him the degree of doctor of laws in 1906. President Charles F. Thwing, of the university, said of Mr. Perkins, upon hearing of his death: "Mr. Perkins was a trustee whose judgment was greatly trusted. He was a man of keen intellectual insight, a classical scholar of a type largely passed away. He read his Cicero for his own pleasure. His power as a scholar and thinker was shown in his writings and speaking. Though his life was largely spent in business he maintained interest in all scholarly concerns. Entrusted with affairs of great importance, Mr. Perkins performed every trust with scrupulous fidelity."
Mr. Perkins was a member of the Union Club, the University Club and the Mayfield Country Club, all of Cleveland. He was a trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art for many years and had much to do with the planning for the Museum building, which was completed in 1915. He was a worthy member of the Second Presbyterian church fora period of fifty-six years, and at the time of his death was senior elder. He was clerk of its session for twenty-five years and was frequently a commissioner to the General Assembly, taking a prominent part in its proceedings. In 1896 he was a delegate to the World's Presbyterian Alliance, held in Glasgow, Scotland. He was an active worker and liberal supporter of his church all his mature life.
Mr. Perkins was married in 1858 to Harriet Pelton, of LaGrange, New York, who still resides in the beautiful Perkins home in Cleveland. To their union four children were born, namely: Mary Witt, True, and Edwin R. Perkins, Jr., all of whom reside in Cleveland; the second child, Harriet Pelton Perkins, died in 1890, at the age of twenty-one years. Mr. Perkins deeply loved his home, being ever solicitious for the welfare of his family, surrounded by which he was most happy. No father and husband was ever kinder, more indulgent, gentle, and loving. He was one of Cleveland's prominent and useful men. Being charitably inclined lie was never appealed to in vain regarding the furtherance of any worthy cause. He was a man of exceptional intellectual attainments, a ripe scholar, profound student and courteous gentleman in all environments; with rare executive ability, he had commanding influence among his associates, in business, educational and church circles.
The death of Mr. Perkins occurred on April 21, 1915, in his eighty-third year, his long life having been of great blessing to the world.
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds