Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Newberry, Oliver

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NEWBERRY, Oliver, steamboat-builder, b. in East Windsor, Conn., 17 Nov., 1789; d. in Detroit, Mich., 30 July, 1860. He served during the war of 1812, and also during the Black Hawk war. In 1816 he settled in Buffalo, N. Y., but in 1820 he went to Detroit, Mich., where he established himself in business, which he thereafter prosecuted with considerable success. Soon after his arrival in Detroit he secured government contracts to furnish all supplies to the numerous forts and Indian trading-posts in the northwest. He was unable to obtain suitable transportation, and was compelled to build a vessel for his own use. Afterward he constructed other vessels during successive years until he became one of the largest owners of shipping on the lakes. In 1833 he built the “Michigan,” his first steamboat, which was the largest that until that time had been launched for the lake trade. Several warehouses were constructed by him along the river front in Detroit, where his various schooners, brigs, and steamboats were loaded. Mr. Newberry was elected an alderman in 1831, and he was associated in the early history of Michigan railroads. He was a man of strict integrity in his business and personal relations. For many years he carried all of his business papers in his hat, and was rarely seen uncovered. He was known as the “commodore” of the lakes, and was sometimes called “the steamboat king.” — His brother, Walter Loomis, merchant, b. in East Windsor, Conn., 18 Sept., 1804; d. at sea, 6 Nov., 1868, was educated at Clinton, N. Y., and fitted for the U. S. military academy, but, failing in the physical examination, entered commercial life in 1822 with his brother in Buffalo, N. Y. In 1828 he removed to Detroit, Mich., and there engaged in the dry-goods business with great success, but after a tour of observation about the great lakes with Gen. Lewis Cass and William B. Astor bought lands at various points, notably at Chicago, whither he removed in 1833, and entered in business with George W. Dole, as forwarding and commission merchants and dealers in general merchandise, afterward becoming a successful banker. Mr. Newberry was one of the founders of the Merchants' loan and trust companies bank, and long one of its directors. He was also a director and president of the Galena railroad (now the Great Northwestern railroad). He was for many years in the school board and twice its chairman, and for six years he was president of the Chicago historical society. In 1841 he was active in founding the Young's men's library association of Chicago, and was its first president. He sailed for Europe, and died on the voyage. By his will half of his estate, or more than $2,000,000, was left under certain conditions to found a library, to be named for him, and erected in the north division of Chicago. At the death of his widow in December, 1885, his two daughters having died unmarried, this bequest became available. The Ogden block, situated in the north division, and containing 68,000 square feet, is the site of the permanent building. The books were moved from their temporary quarters, November, 1893. William Frederick Poole, the first librarian, took office August, 1887. He died in March, 1894, and in December of that year John Vance Cheney became his successor. The Newberry library is a purely reference library. The books are arranged in departments. Some of these are already important. The medical department contained in January, 1898, 30,303 volumes and 24,642 pamphlets. The library has also a valuable collection of Americana. The total collection of the Newberry library, 1 Jan., 1898, was 144,938 volumes and 58,170 pamphlets, also about fifty portraits presented by the artist Healy. — His nephew, John Stoughton, lawyer, b. in Waterville, N. Y., 18 Nov., 1826; d. in Detroit, Mich., 2 Jan., 1887, was graduated at the University of Michigan in 1845, became a civil engineer, and engaged in the laying out and construction of the Michigan Central railroad on its line west of Kalamazoo. He then studied law and entered on the practice of that profession in 1853 in Detroit, where he soon acquired a large practice in admiralty and maritime cases before the U. S. courts. Eventually he made a specialty of that department of law, in which he acquired the distinction of being one of the foremost authorities in the west. In 1864 he became associated with James McMillan (q. v.) in the organization of the Michigan car company, a corporation that ultimately became the largest firm of car-builders in the United States, controlling similar factories in St. Louis, Mo., and London, Ont. He held the office of president, vice-president, or director in more than a score of incorporated companies that gave employment to more than 5,000 men, thus materially aiding in the development of Michigan. His time became gradually absorbed in the care of these enterprises until he entirely relinquished his law-practice. In 1862 he was appointed provost-marshal for Michigan, and served for two years, during which time he had charge of two drafts, with the forwarding of conscripts and enlisted soldiers to the seat of war. He was elected to congress as a Republican, and served from 18 March, 1879, till 4 March, 1881, but refused a renomination in order to give his attention more exclusively to his business enterprises. Mr. Newberry accumulated a large fortune, and gave $100,000 toward the building of a public hospital in Detroit. He bequeathed to various benevolent purposes $600,000 in addition to his other legacies. He edited “Reports of Admiralty Cases, 1842-'57” (New York, 1857).