McLean County, Illinois
LYMAN FERRE, a capitalist of Bloomington, whose portrait is shown on the opposite page, is one of its most highly respected citizens, and one to whom its intelligent people invariably turn in all matters affecting its general interests. His has been a busy and industrious life, upon which he can look back with satisfaction as having done a great work among the business and industrial interests of his adopted State, and contributed in a large measure to her wealth and prosperity.
Mr. Ferre was born in Springfield, Mass., in 1821. His father, Solomon Ferre, was also a native of the Bay State and a descendant of ancestors who came from the South of France and settled in this country at an early period in its history. His father, Solomon Ferre, married Miss Margaret Rumrill, of Springfield, Mass., who descended from English stock, and whose father's people were among those who first settled in Massachusetts. Solomon Ferre was a shoemaker by trade, and became one of the most skillful manufacturers in that locality, his business operations extending eventually over a large territory. He was a man of great energy and force of character, his perseverance being proverbial, seldom abandoning anything which he undertook. He continued in business in Springfield, Mass., for many years and there spent the remainder of his days. The parental household included eight children, five sons and three daughters, only two of whom survive, our subject and his brother Goodman, now a resident of Bloomington. He was born in January, 1806, and was for many years a manufacturer of carriages and wagons in this city.
Lyman Ferre was the seventh child of his parents' family. He passed his boyhood in his native State, and in later years went to Western New York. From there, in 1840, he turned his steps westward, coming into Bloomington, a stranger without means or friends. He was willing to work at whatever his hands could find to do, and this, with his strong arms and honesty of purpose, soon secured for him the friendship of all honest men. He was variously employed until the fall of 1850, when, the gold excitement being at its height, he resolved to travel across the plains to California. He had saved what he could of his earnings and had a small amount of capital when starting for the Pacific slope. After arriving in Sacramento he sought the mining districts, and spent the following year searching for the yellow ore. This not proving as remunerative as he hoped, he determined to make a change and began to buy cattle, for which he exchanged a portion of gold dust. Some of these he allowed to run on the range and fatten on the grass, then sold to freighters at a good price. After sufficient experience in this manner of living he concluded to return within the bounds of civilization, and started for the old camping-grounds in Illinois, via the Isthmus of Panama to New Orleans, thence by steamer to St. Louis where, after arriving, the crew were not allowed to land under twenty-four hours on account of cholera. After finally reaching terra firma, our subject made his way to Pekin and thence, to Bloomington.
Here, in 1852, Mr. Ferre opened up a carriage and wagon shop, and engaged in the manufacture of all kinds of road vehicles. His energy, industry and good judgment soon placed him on the high road to prosperity, and it was not long before he was enabled to provide twenty men with employment. His first shops were located on the corner of Front and Center streets. In August, 1856, the stock and building were destroyed by fire and Mr. Ferre lost heavily. He did not sit down to mourn, however, but immediately erected some cheap sheds, and getting together stock and tools, commenced again. He continued in this manner for two years, meeting with success, and then commenced building a brick structure which was to be three stories in height, covering an area of 22x66 feet. Into this he removed soon after its completion. His manufactures increasing steadily in numbers and quality, he was then obliged to put up another building of the same size in which to accommodate his extensive business. This he occupied until 1876, and then put up the structure now familiarly known as the post-office block, which is three stories in height, and 44x85 feet. The first floor of this is occupied by the post-office and the third floor is devoted to the use of the Masons. Besides these buildings and other valuable city property he is the proprietor of a good farm, and is a large stockholder in the People's Bank of Bloomington, with which he has been connected since its organization.
In 1840 Mr. Ferre made the trip by wagon and horse-team from Springfield, Mass., to Bloomington, Ill., camping out. In 1850 he made another overland trip, from Bloomington to California, by horses to Salt Lake, thence by ox-team the remainder of the way. In the meantime he had made a round trip from Bloomington to the Genesee Valley, N. Y., camping out both ways. He started out with a good team and wagon, a few provisions, and $12 in money, and made the journey on that amount to Western New York.
Mr. Ferre was united in marriage with Miss Jeanette E. Hayes, of Bloomington, in 1841. Mrs. F., like her husband, comes from New England, having been born in Connecticut in 1823. Of this union there have been three children, two daughters and one son: Ada died when about eighteen years of age; Belle is the wife of William G. Taylor, a prominent attorney of Cleveland, Ohio; the son, George, died in infancy. The residence of our subject is a handsome and convenient structure, finely finished and furnished, where Mr. F. and his family dispense a generous hospitality to scores of friends, embracing the most cultured people of the city. Mr. Ferre is a member of Bloomington Lodge No. 43, A. F. & A. M., Chapter No. 24, and De Molay Commandery, and Chicago Consistory, having taken the 32d degree in Masonry. In politics he is a stanch Republican and has been since the organization of that party.
Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887), 525. Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.
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