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William Thomas Simpson
THE BIOGRAPHIES of the representative men of a city or State bring to light many hidden treasures of mind, character, and courage, calculated to arouse the pride of their family and of the community; and it is a source of regret that the people are not more familiar with the personal history of such men, in the ranks of whom may be found agriculturists, business men, professional men, educators, mechanics, and those of varied vocations. History shows the names of many great and good men, who performed well their allotted tasks and passed on to worlds unknown, but leaving behind them scant record of their individual lives and their personal characteristics. So the record of such a splendid citizen as the late William Thomas Simpson, long a popular manufacturer of Cincinnati, Ohio, merits a place in the history of the state.
Mr. Simpson was born in Saratoga County, New York, September 12, 1855. He was the oldest son of Robert, now deceased and Sarah Jane (Hartwell) Simpson, the former a native of Rochester, New York, and the latter of Saratoga County, New York.
William T. Simpson was about eighteen years of age when he and his father organized the galvanizing works at 298 East Pearl Street, Cincinnati, Ohio. The business was operated for many years under the name of W. T. Simpson and Company, the "Company" being his father. It was the first enterprise of this nature west of the Allegheny Mountains, and was later reorganized as the American Galvanizing Works. In the early days of this venture, Mr. Simpson purchased sheet iron from makers of black sheets in the Pittsburgh district, which was shipped to Cincinnati to be galvanized in the Pearl Street works. Later a job galvanizing department was added, in which castings were galvanized. In 1890, he purchased the old Riverside Rolling Mills, formerly owned by E. L. Harper, and organized the Cincinnati Rolling Mill Company. This mill made black iron and steel sheets of standard quality, and sold most of the output in nearby markets, the American Galvanizing Works on Pearl Street, Cincinnati, and the American Steel Refining and Roofing Company being two of the company's largest customers. This plant was run as a sheet mill until about 1897, when it was reorganized as the Cincinnati Rolling Mill and Tin Plate Company. It was then remodeled and operated as a tin mill, making standard tin plate, "bright plate," until it was sold to the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company in 1899.
As a businessman, Mr. Simpson was remarkable successful, his rise rapid and continuous, and at the time of his death he was vice president of the American Rolling Mill Company at Middletown, Ohio, and general manager of the Zanesville, Ohio, branch, which position he held for a period of ten years. The middletown plant grew to be one of the largest in the United States, partly as a result of his wise counsel and able management. He was interested in many steel industries, in fact, was known as one of the leading steel manufacturers of the country. He was also interested in banking, having been a director of the Old Citizens' Bank of Zanesville, Ohio, at the time of his death.
Mr. Simpson was married, October 23, 1878, to Sara Foster Ricker, of Pleasant Hill, Clermont County, Ohio. She is a daughter of Major Elbridge Gerry Ricker and Margaret (Foster) Ricker, both deceased. To this union one child was born, Robert Ricker Simpson, who died at the age of four years.
William Thomas Simpson was a great lover of nature, and took much pleasure in his well-improved and productive farm of six hundred acres in southern Indiana. Here he entertained his business associates and friends during the hunting season, and was never happier than when surrounded by his wife and a party of his friends at his farm. He was and exceptionally good judge of horses and delighted in handling them, owning a number of splendid roadsters.
Mr. Simpson was more than a business man; he was an educator, a scholar, and remained a deep student of the world's best literature until the end of his mortal career. He succeeded his father as president of the Board of Directors of Belmont College, formerly known as the old Farmers' College, of College Hill. Many prominent men of the Middle West, especially Cincinnati, were graduated from this historic institution. To Mr. Simpson, legitimate endeavor was ever an enjoyment. He did not desire wealth or wealth's sake, but was a man of charitable impulses and spent hours in thinking up methods for doing the most good in a charitable way. His large gifts were kept as secret as possible, for he never supported worth causes or made the poor happy, to gain the praise of the world--never courting notoriety in any way.
William Thomas Simpson died at his home in College Hill, March 30, 1915. The funeral, largely attended by business men from all parts of the State of Ohio and other States, was conducted by Rev. George M. Clicknor, pastor of the Grace Episcopal Church, College Hill, and interment was made in Spring Grove Cemetery. The following officials of the American Rolling Mill Company, of Middletown, Ohio; George M. Verity, president; R. C. Phillips, secretary; Robert E. Carnahan, vice president; Charles R. Hook, general superintendent; and Superintendent Murphy, of Zanesville, Ohio, branch; also Caleb W. Shipley, president of the Sechler Company, of which Mr. Simpson was vice president; James R. Baird, president of the National Rolling and Foundry Company, of Avonmore, Pennsylvania, of which the subject was vice president; and Ralph R. Caldwell, a prominent attorney of Cincinnati, Ohio, were pall bearers. While the obsequies were in progress at the Simpson home, the high esteem in which Mr. Simpson was held was plainly manifested when several hundred employees of the American Rolling Mill Company, at Middletown, ohio, stopped their labor for one-half hour out of respect to the memory of their former employer; while in the Zanesvill plant, the men requested permission to hold services at the same hour services were held at the home.
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