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BLACK, James 1857-1919


Posted By: S. Bell
Date: 12/5/2013 at 03:54:57

[Waterloo Evening Courier, Friday, March 14, 1919, Waterloo, Iowa]


Prominent Figure in Waterloo Activities is Victim of Pneumonia


Funeral Services Will Be Private, at Home, on Monday Afternoon

After a week's illness of pneumonia James Black, president of the James Black Dry Goods company, died at 12:40 a. m. today, at his home, 120 Independence Avenue. He was 62 years old.

News of Mr. Black's death came as a distinct shock to his man} friends in Waterloo and in other parts of the country where he was well known for his work in religious and temperance circles.

The funeral, which, will be private, will be at 3 p. m. next Monday from the home. The store will be closed all day Monday. Mr. Black had expressed the wish that when he died he should have a private funeral and that friends should be asked to bring no floral offerings. This feeling oh the part of Mr. Black was in keeping with his life long custom of not letting his right hand know what his left hand did in his generous dispensing of charities and in his liberal support of all church, Sunday school and missionary work. In this respect he was reserved, modest and retiring.

How wholly all-absorbed he was in all movements looking to the betterment of the individual, the home, the state and the church, it is only necessary to call attention to the fact that when Mr. Black returned last Thursday afternoon from attendance upon a conference of big men on the "New Bra Movement" of the Presbyterian church, he went to prayer service two hours later and recounted the action taken 'The church must measure up to its full stature of usefulness in the reconstruction period following the war." he told his pastor, Dr. John Robertson. Macartney.

All day last Friday Mr. Black was at the store, but was not feeling well. A physician was called last Saturday morning. Soon afterwards it was found that the patient was suffering from the dreaded pneumonia, but it was not until Wednesday night of this week that the disease took a more serious turn. Mr. 'Black was a little flighty at times Wednesday, but was able yesterday morning to converse naturally with his physician. Later he sank into a delirium and all thru the day. and into the evening his thoughts seemed to dwell upon how to best make a success of the church officer's council of the Laymen's Missionary movement, an entirely new phase of religious work, to be held here soon. Mr. Black was on the executive committee.

During the last few hours of his life he appeared in a deep sleep. About his bedside were members of his family, altho two daughters, Miss Elizabeth and Miss Margaret, students at Western Reserve College, Cleveland, Ohio, did not reach the home until 15 minutes after their father's death. With them came a specialist physician from Chicago.

Physicians were with Mr. Black most of yesterday and up to the hour of dissolution. Dr. Macartney asked pastors of all denominations in the city to give special, prayers for Mr. Black's recovery at the midweek service last evening. He also asked that prayers be given in the Presbyterian churches in Cedar Rapids and in Cedar Falls.

Not long ago Mr. Black spent I two weeks for rest at St. Marcos, Texas. He had suffered the effects of hard work a year or two ago, but was fully restored. It was Mr. Black's custom to spend several weeks each season at his summer cottage at the lakes in Minnesota. Just prior to his attendance at the conference in Chicago, Mr. Black had been at Des Moines to attend a church meeting. From Chicago he went to Cleveland to visit briefly with his daughters.

Surviving are another daughter, Miss Nan, the widow and four sisters of the deceased óMiss Maggie Black and Miss Mary Ann Black, living at the Black home; Mrs. John Patterson, Waterloo, and Mrs. Gamble, Ramelton, Ireland. James M. J. Graham and W. A. B. Graham are nephews and Mrs. Joseph. Hay is a niece of the deceased.

Two of Mr. Black's brothers died of mastoid trouble, and while James Graham was so critically ill recently of the same trouble, which affected both ears. Mr. Black was much worried. James Graham had been with Mr. Black as clerk or in the capacity of partnership manager for 31 years.

Mr. Black will always be best remembered for his deep interest in all movements tending to make the world better, to brighten human lives, to bring joy into the homes, to spread the gospel into the darkened corners of the earth. Big in body and mind, he was big of heart. Stories of suffering and woe always elicited in him a sympathetic interest. No man was ever know the extent of his charities and only those close to him have any idea of the extent of his support to missionary movements.

Mr. Black fearlessly, because he thought it was right, stood out against the saloon. Men warned him he would lose business, but he replied: "Morals must come first, business afterwards."

"Mr. Black was closely identified with the missionary and benevolent departments of the church, his interest was especially strong in Christian colleges, in Sunday school work, in the laymen's missionary work." said Dr. Macartney today. "He was a member of the board of trustees of the Collegiate Church at Ames, a member of the board of Coe College, a trustee of the Synod of Iowa and a valued member of the session of First Presbyterian Church. He had been a teacher in the Sunday school, having a class of young men, was a strong temperance worker, interested in the Big Brother mission, in the Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A., and was a member of the committee on the new church building. Mr. Black's death is a terrible loss to me, for I leaned on him heavily and always sought his counsel and advice."

Mr. Black's early life is clothed with a fascinating romance. His walks were lined at times with roses. At other times his way was beset with thorns. As a boy, he had his ups and downs like other lads.

Born in County Donegal, Ireland, Sept. 20, 1856*, Mr. Black as a youngster learned the dry goods trade. He went thru the common schools and when a young man - a very young man - he and a brother came to America, the land of promise, to make their fortune. The stated a modest store in Marshalltown, Iowa, selling Irish linens mainly. It was at this time that James Black and "Billy" Sunday, now world-renowned evangelist became acquainted. They were roommates. Billy drove a delivery wagon, and James went out with his samples thru the residential section of Marshalltown and into the nearby county with samples to sell his linens. Later James returned to Ireland and went into a store at Ramelton. It was there that James Graham had his first tutelage in the dry goods business.

Finally the brother died at Marshalltown and James came back to sell out the stock.

Mr. Black came to Waterloo in the summer of 1892. He would have located at Marshalltown then, but could find no empty store building. Mr. Black was 35 at the time he landed here - ambitious, full of vigor, but shy of wealth. He managed to get together $5,000, to be used in starting in business and established a home. Four thousand five hundred was spent in a dry goods stock, and a store was opened on Fourth Street East, in a building 20 feet wide and 80 feet deep.

When James Black opened his doors in business here he had two clerks and $4,500 in stock, with $500 as reserve to "live on." Today the James Black Dry Goods company is capitalized at $600,000, occupies a beautiful eight-story building, which it owns and gives employment to between 275 and 300 people, many of them men who are heads of families.

It is interesting to note that of Mr. Black's first two clerks Miss Susie Wolf is still with the company, holding an interest and that Miss Lizzie Graham is now Mrs. Joseph Hay.

In the building 20 x 80 where Mr. Black started in business in Waterloo, the stock was not sufficient to fill the shelves, and it was necessary to put up a calico curtain part way back. This shielded from the curious public's gaze the empty back portion of the storeroom.

Sept. 15, 1892, Mr. Black was married to Miss Anna M. Harper, at Marshalltown.

In 1902 the James Black Dry Goods Company was formed. In this company originally and still with the company are James. M. Graham, F. L. Benedict, W. J. Stevenson, W. A. B. Graham, Miss Susie Wolf and one or two other of the older clerks. Mr. Graham is secretary and Mr. Benedict is vice president.

Mr. Black was a member of the Waterloo Commercial club and Chamber of Commerce, was vice president of the First National Bank and was interested in some other undertakings, but within the past few years he had disposed of many of his outside interests so as to concentrate his energies upon the big store which stands as a monument to his genius - which stands as a monument to a business that was built upon a foundation of honor, candor, conscientious endeavor.

It was Mr. Black's lifelong endeavor to put into action the Emerson principle: "The way to win a friend is to be one." and Mr. Black was a friend to all. No one was more approachable than he, none more tolerant of the shortcomings of others and none more sympathetic.

Those who saw only Mr. Black standing as a sentinel in his store, the exemplar of modern business methods, can have no idea of what his softer, sunnier side of life was like. But the children in his own home and the neighbor's children knew. In his play spells Mr. Black was always happiest when surrounded with little folks. At his summer home, at the lakes, he loved to play with the children, in the water. He romped and played and laughed like a boy.

[Waterloo Evening Courier, Monday, March 17, 1919, Waterloo, Iowa]

Funeral services for James Black,, held at the home, 120 Independence Avenue, at 3 o'clock this afternoon, were brief and marked by their simplicity. Rev. J. R. Macartney, pastor and friend of Mr. Black, presided at the service, which was participated in by several clergymen who came here to attend the funeral and also by many local ministers. Burial was in Fairview.

*His gravestone states his year of birth as 1857


Black Hawk Obituaries maintained by Kermit Kittleson.
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