Samuel Wesley Fordyce Biography


That the sources of our power lie within ourselves is demonstrated in the career of Samuel Wesley Fordyce, the measure of whose greatness is seen in thousands of miles of railroad, in banks and business enterprises which he established, in public activities which he instituted and political policies which he formulated. His notably broad vision found expression in practical effort for the embodiment and adoption of high ideals in connection with the development and up building of the country. His breadth of view not only saw possibilities for his own advancement but for the country's development as well, and his lofty patriotism prompted him to utilize the latter as quickly and as effectively as the former. Mastering the lessons of life day by day, his post-graduate work in the school of experience at length placed him with the men of eminent learning and ability and it was said that he was the counselor of every president from Lincoln down to the time of his death, which occurred on the 3d of August, 1919, when he had reached the age of seventy-nine years. The great majority of men his age and of his wealth would have retired from business long years before, but he remained an active factor in the world's work to the end, his counsel and advice being continuously sought in matters of far-reaching importance.

Samuel W. Fordyce was a native son of Ohio, his birth having occurred in Guernsey county on the 7th of February, 1840, his parents being John and Mary Ann (Houseman) Fordyce, both natives of Pennsylvania. He was descended from Scotch and Dutch ancestry, the Fordyce family being founded in America by his grandfather, Samuel Fordyce, who was born in Armoy, Antrim, Ulster, Ireland, in 1735 and leaving the Emerald isle, established his home in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1775. There he passed away in 1824. The maternal grandfather, emigrating from Holland, took up his abode in the Keystone state only a little later.

Samuel W. Fordyce was one of a family of ten children. His early youth did not foreshadow his greatness, for his boyhood was spent in the usual manner of the lads of the period, devoted to the acquirement of a common school education. He was however, ambitious to advance his knowledge and eagerly embraced the opportunities offered in that direction. After leaving the public schools he attended Madison College at Uniontown, Pennsylvania, and subsequently became a student in the North Illinois University at Henry, Illinois. He then returned home and when twenty years of age first became connected with railway interests, in which limitless field of labor he was destined to win distinction and greatness. His original position, however, was a humble one, being that of station agent on the Central Ohio Railroad, now a part of the Baltimore and Ohio system. With the outbreak of the Civil war, all business and personal considerations were put aside and he joined the Union army as a member of the First Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. While he enlisted as a private, he was soon made second lieutenant and later was advanced to the rank of first lieutenant of Company B, First Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. His next promotion in 1863 placed him in command of Company H and a few months afterward he was made assistant inspector general of cavalry in the Army of the Cumberland and assigned to the Second Cavalry Division under the command of General George Crook. He participated in the battles of Murfreesboro and Chickamauga under General Rosecrans, and under General Buell took part in the battles of Shiloh and Perryville, Kentucky, together with other engagements of minor importance. His courage and valor were manifest in the fact that he was always in the thickest of the fight, being three times wounded and three times captured by the enemy, though he never served a day's imprisonment, having the good fortune to be recaptured twice, while once he succeeded in making his escape.

While a northern man, Mr. Fordyce following the close confinement he removed to Arkansas in January, 1876, establishing his home in the mountains near Hot Springs. He at once recognized the value of that locality as a health resort and that Host Springs today is a health city of world-wide reputation is due perhaps to the influence and efforts of Mr. Fordyce than any other individual. He was instrumental in securing the passage of a bill in the United States congress settling the matter of title to four section of land which had been in dispute for sixty years. It was also through his influence that general John A. Logan, then United States senator, introduced the bill for the erection of the finely equipped Army and Navy Hospital on the government reservation at Hot Springs. His financial support was back of the building of the leading hotels and opera house of Hot Springs, of the establishment of the water, gas and electric light works, of the building of the street railway system and the promotion of other public enterprises. Both Dallas and Denison, Texas, too, benefitted greatly by his efforts, for he financed and had constructed the first cotton compress in those two cities.

It would be impossible for a man of Mr. Fordyce's ability not to visualize the opportunities of the southwest. He felt that this great section of the country must eventually become a thickly settled district whose resources would be utilized by thousands and thousands, and he knew that the first step in this direction must be the building of railroads. The greater part of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway mileage was built under the management of Mr. Fordyce, and though discouraging circumstances were continuously to be met, he persevered for sixteen years in the construction and development of this road. He was also vice president and treasurer of the Texas and St. Louis Railway for three years ending in April, 1885, and he then served as receiver for the road until May, 1886. With the reorganization under the name of the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railway, he served as president from 1886 until 1889. Again he acted as receiver of the western Railway Company, he served as president from 1890 until 1898. In 1899 his Superior ability in connection with railway management and control led to his appointment as receiver of the Kansas City, Pittsburgh & Gulf Railway and he became president of the road in 1900 under its reorganized title of the Kansas City Southern Railway. The years 1900 and 1901 were largely devoted to the construction of the Little Rock, Hot Springs & Western Railroad and he subsequently aided in the building and financing of the St. Louis Valley line, now a part of the Missouri Pacific system. His other activities included cooperation in the building and financing of lines now operated by the St. Louis & San Francisco system, also the Missouri, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad, the Illinois, Indian & Minnesota Railroad, the Apalachicola & Northern Railroad in Florida, the St. Louis & El Reno Railroad in Oklahoma, the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico in Texas, besides being one of the underwriters of the Fort Worth & Denver, now a part of the Colorado southern system In all it is estimated that Mr. Fordyce built, financed or assisted in financing at least twenty-four thousand miles of railway. His ability as an executive was so generally recognized by his associated that while he was president of the St. Louis Southwestern, Mr. Fordyce was chosen by the unanimous vote of all the lines comprised in the Southwestern Traffic Association as chairman of its executive board. This association represented practically the entire movement of traffic from the Atlantic seaboard to all points west of the Mississippi, to California and old Mexico, and so wisely did Mr. Fordyce discharge the duties of the important office that on his retirement in 1898 he was presented with a set of resolutions, engrossed on parchment, approving the uniform fairness of his rulings. This confidence was not confined to his associated alone but was shared by his subordinates and employees, as is evidenced by the fact that, while strikes prevailed on nearly all other railroads, the men under Mr. Fordyce relied on him to protect their rights and never once found occasion for striking.

Extensive and important as were the interests of Mr. Fordyce in the matter of railroad building and management, he nevertheless found time for cooperation with many other business interests and in fact was the promoter of various projects which were of greatest benefit in the development and upbuilding of the Mississippi Louis Union Trust Company and represented the directors of the Laclede Light & Power Company of St. Louis and the Jefferson Hotel Company. He was vice president of the Arlington and New York Hotel Companies of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was president of the Hot Springs Electric Street Railway Company. He was a director of the Illinois, Indiana & Minnesota Railroad, of the Apalachicola & Northern, the Kansas City Souther, the Little Rock & Host Springs Western and was chairman of the executive committee of the St. Louis, Brownsville & Mexico; a director of American Rio Grande Land & Irrigation Company of Texas, operating the largest irrigation canal system in the United States; and president of the Houston Oil Company.

Mr. Fordyce was also a most potent factor in shaping political history. Although a soldier of the Union army in the Civil War, he was a democrat in his political views and took active part in reconstruction work in the south following the close of hostilities between the two sections of the county. He was also a member of the state committee in 1874, when, for the first time after the war, the entire democratic ticket was elected in Alabama. His influence in politics in Arkansas was perhaps even greater. He acted as a delegate to the state convention of 1880, when a nominee for governor was chosen, and was a delegate to the state judicial convention of 1884. He was a member of the democratic national committee of Arkansas from 1884 Until 1888 and a delegate to the national democratic convention of 1884. He was made a member of the committee that notified Cleveland and Hendricks of their nomination for the offices of president and vice president of the United States and in 1892 was delegate at large to the democratic national convention, in which he was made chairman of the committee on permanent organization. He declined to act as a delegate to the democratic national convention of 1896 and called a meeting of the sound-money democrats at Little Rock and headed a delegation to the Indianapolis gold standard convention, where he acted as a member of the platform committee. He was often solicited to become a candidate for governor and to accept the nomination for United States senatorship, but he consistently declined, as it was no part of his program to fill political offices, feeling that he could to greater service to his country in the development of its natural resources and the upbuilding of it industrial, commercial and financial greatness. He enjoyed the fullest confidence of political leaders of both parties and, by reason of his wide knowledge of conditions, President Hayes sought his advice concerning the nomination of a cabinet member who would be acceptable to the people of the south. Mr. Fordyce recommended John Hancock, then congressman from Texas, who, however, declined the honor, much to his subsequent regret. Later President Harrison sought his opinion concerning appointment to his cabinet and Mr. Fordyce named General John W. Noble, who was afterward made secretary of the interior. Mr. Fordyce enjoyed the personal friendship and confidence of President McKinley, who would have made him ambassador to Russia, but he declined the proffered honor. He was a warm friend of General Grant, in which connection it was told of him that a Pittsburg Landing, General Grant was seated on a horse which became unruly and threw him. Mr. Fordyce, them serving as lieutenant, recaptured the horse and assisted the commander to remount. Several years later, when in Washington, he met the then chief executive on the street and saluted him. President Grant returned the salute, saying: "I remember you well. You helped me manage my horse at Pittsburgh Landing." Mr. Fordyce was equally widely known among the distinguished captains of industry, leaders of finance and others prominent in connection with the history of the country and he stood as a man among men, honored by all.

It was in Huntsville, Alabama, during his residence there immediately following the close of the Civil was, that Mr. Fordyce formed the acquaintance of Susan E. Chadick, a daughter of the Rev. William D. Chadick of that place, who entered the Confederate army as a chaplain and when discharged was colonel of his regiment. The marriage of Mr. Fordyce and Miss Chadick was celebrated on the 1st of May 1866. They became the parents of two daughters and three sons, and four of the family are yet living. Jane is the wife of Colonel D. S. Stanley, of the quartermaster general's department, U.S.A. John, a prominent engineer of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was superintendent and engineer of construction work at Camp Pike, Arkansas, during the war, while later he was promoted to the rank of major and brevetted lieutenant colonel, U.S.A. He was sent to St. Louis as chief engineer to the railroad administration for special sevice in connection with the Mississippi River and Warrior River Railroad Transportation. William C. is a banker and financier, and S. W. Fordyce, Jr. is a member of the St. Louis bar.

Mr. Fordyce was at one time commander of the Missouri Commandery of the Loyal Legion of America and he was a member of the St. Louis, University, Bellerive and Noonday Clubs of St. Louis. Perhaps no better indication of his high standing and of the honor everywhere entertained for him can be given than in the statment that his honorary pallbearers embraced some of the most distinguished and prominent men of St. Louis and elsewhere, including John J. O'Fallon, Wells H. Blodgett, William H. Lee, John F. Lee, B. F. Edwards, Frederick W. Lehmann, Captain W. R. Dodges, Lyman T. Hay, Fetus J. Wade, Fr. D. S. H. Smith, N. A. McMillan, R, McKittrick Jones, Edwards Whitaker, Murray Carleton, Walker Hill, Sam Lazarus, F. F. Bush, J. M. Herbert, Jackson Johnson, Paul W. Brown, William McChesney, Clarence H. Hoard, Rolla Wells, James E. Allison, Lawrence Pierce, Julius S. Walsh, Albert T. Perkins, Harry B. Hawes, Paul W. Brown, Frank Carter, John G. Lonsdale and Edward Pryor. One of the St. Louis papers said editorially of Mr. Fordyce: "But it was as an empire builder, a farsighted financier and an individual with infectious enthusiasm that he gained his greatest prominence. He was famous as a steadfast friend and he found friends in all classes of society and treated them in his own inimitable way, whether they happened to be presidents, cabinet officers, renowned bankers or some companion of his youth who had become entangled in the meshes of the law. Some of his reminiscences recently appearing in America at Work, a St. Louis periodical, are self-revelatory beyond the run of recollections. Franklin himself was never franker than Colonel Fordyce in relating personal experiences. He had such a zest in life and such a confidence in his own integrity as to make his autobiography real. Long ago he reached the age at which men of his manifold investments usually retire, but he kept in the harness because he enjoyed his work and because his associated were reluctant to lose his counsel and the benefit of his stimulation personality. Although he had done much and his possessions were vast, Colonel Fordyce was most appreciated for what he was, an unspoiled man among men." He was indeed one who never lost the human touch and to the end of his days he judged men not by wealth but by their worth. He placed no false values on life, his broad vision enabling him to put a correct estimate on all those things which go to make up life activities. He attempted important things and accomplished them, and the progress of the world was promoted thereby. Many decades will have passed were the influence of Samuel E. Fordyce and his work will cease to be felt as a potent force for good in the world's work.

Upon the death of Colonel Fordyce the following resolutions were passed by the Kansas City Southern Railway Company.

WHEREAS, Colonel Samuel W. Fordyce has long been a member of the Board of Directors of the Kansas City Southern Railway company, at all times serving the interest committed to him with ability and foresight, prudence and fidelity, prudence and fidelity, and

WHEREAS affable in manner, equable in temper, effervescent in humor, gentle in sympathy, circumspect in judgment, and conciliatory in method, he won the regard of many, challenged the admiration of friends and forestalled the criticism of adversaries; and

WHEREAS, in time of national peril, he relinquished civil pursuits, became a soldier, and acquitted himself with honor; and

WHEREAS, clear in his vision, he penetrated the future; tireless in his energy, he attempted much; indomitable in his courage, he surmounted obstacles; by constructive genius and administrative skill, he achieved material prosperity and contributed in a conspicuous degree to the well being of a wide area; and

WHEREAS, he departed life at Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the afternoon of August third, nineteen hundred and nineteen, in the eightieth year of his age; and

RESOLVED, that the members of this Board, in sorrow for the death of Samuel W. Fordyce, and moved by the sympathy towards the bereaved, record the high esteem in which he was held, and pay tribute of respect to his memory; and

RESOLVED, that these resolution be spread upon the minutes of the Board, and that a copy thereof be transmitted to the family of the deceased.

Centennial History of Missouri (The Center State), One hundred Years in the Union, 1820-1921, Kansas State Historical Society, vol. IV, pub. 1921, pgs. 964-970

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