Joseph 'Diamond Joe' Reynolds
REYNOLDS, MORTON, MERRICK, BURNS, ARMOUR, DEERY, WILCOX, FLEMING, BILL, MORRISSEY, KILLEN
Posted By: S. Ferrall - IAGenWeb volunteer
Date: 6/13/2010 at 12:11:32
In 1882 the steamboat" Mary Morton," passing down the Mississippi from St. Paul to St. Louis, tied up at the landing-place at McGregor, Iowa, to discharge and take on freight. George B. Merrick, a leading Wisconsin editor, was making the trip as a guest of his oldtime river friend, Captain Burns. Mr. Merrick was himself a former riverman, was a great lover of the Mississippi, and is a prolific writer on the history of its navigation. Much contained in this sketch is derived from his records of the rise and fall of river travel and traffic. Telling of touching at McGregor on this trip he says:
Captain Burns pointed out a man, dressed in a dark business suit, sitting on a snubbing post, lazily and apparently indifferently watching the crew handling freight, or looking over the steamer as if it were an unusual or curious sight. He did not speak to any of the officers while we were watching him and Mr. Burns thought it very unlikely that he would. He did not come on board the boat at all, but sat and whittled the head of the post until we backed out and left him out of sight behind.
This was the once famous Captain Diamond Jo Reynolds, who for nearly a generation was one of the leading figures in the upper Mississippi steamboat traffic, the most widely known, indeed, of all the rivermen. At the time of this incident he was sixty-three years old.
He was born in the little village of Fallsburg, in eastern New York, June 11, 1819. His parents were Quakers and he never lost the undemonstrative, self-contained, determined characteristics their influence wrought into his life. He was the youngest of six children. From his early years business was the occupation that absorbed him. He was a born trader. One incident of his youth survives in which his inborn bent toward trade is revealed. When he was six years old one of his older brothers took him to a neighboring town to see a general militia muster, or General Training Day. The brother had a stock of ginger and other cakes to sell. Securing an eligible stand and displaying his stock he began crying, "Cakes for sale." He had brought Jo along that the boy might see the soldiers on parade and all the sights of a holiday. But no sooner did his brother begin to cry his wares than the business instinct asserted itself in little Joe, and forgetting the soldiers he took up the cry of "Cakes for sale," and entered with his whole soul into the spirit of salesmanship. Another vender had a stand near that of Silas and was endeavoring, by making the most noise, to divert his custom. Seeing this, little Joe changed his cry and shouted: "That man's cakes are good, but these are better! Good and better! Good and better!" The shrill treble of the six-year-old merchant carried conviction to the crowd and the stock of cakes was soon all sold.
We learn little of the sports of his boyhood. But in later life he used to tell, with great enjoyment, of a practical joke a sister played on him when he was a boy. The two went nutting in the woods late enough in the fall, as they supposed, to find the nuts covering the ground. As it happened they found the ground bare and the nuts still on the trees. Thereupon the sister said, "Jo, you climb the tree and shake the nuts off and I will pick them up and we will go halves." This seemed fair to Jo so up he climbed and shook and beat the branches till the ground was covered with nuts. When he had about finished, his sister called up to him: "Jo, I have picked up my half and am going home." And off she marched. This no doubt caused a temporary family feud, but when he became a man it seemed to be the most delightful remembrance of his youth.
Jo received only a common-school education, but must have been something of a student, as at an early age he was spending his winters teaching school at ten dollars a month and board. But business was his real vocation and at seventeen he was fully embarked in trade. His first venture was in the meat business. It was exactly like that of G. F. Swift, the founder of the great packing industry of Swift and Company. He bought from the farmers cattle, sheep, and hogs which he prepared for market, peddling the meat in a wagon through the surrounding villages and among the farmers along his route. He continued this first adventure into business through several seasons, but the returns did not satisfy him. He had acquired the elements of bookkeeping and kept accounts of his transactions from the beginning. This early experience was of value to him and, although not a very profitable venture, gave him sufficient capital to take his next step in his business career.
With an older brother, Isaac, he opened in the nearby village of Rockland a "general store." As one of the merchants of the place he became widely acquainted. He soon acquired a reputation for integrity and fair dealing. The best people of the community were his friends. He was the most enterprising and ambitious young man in the town. How long he and his brother continued to run the store or how successful the business was does not appear. It must have been reasonably successful, as we find him after a few years in Rockland marrying the most eligible young woman in the place, Mary E. Morton. Mr. Morton seems to have been a man of considerable means. He was also a man of sufficient discernment to recognize the very unusual business abilities of his son-in-law. The young man was quick to seize opportunities of advancement and Mr. Morton had such confidence in his business judgment and skill in management that he gave young Reynolds the most liberal financial backing.
Data relating to these earlier years are few. The "general store" disappears from view. The young man found an opportunity which looked promising to him to purchase a custom flour-and-feed mill. Mr. Morton assisted him in securing the mill and he conducted the new business with so much skill that it became very profitable. He was in the full tide of success, in a small way, when the mill, together with a considerable amount of grain he had on hand, was totally consumed by fire. Not yet having means enough of his own to rebuild, he formed a stock company and enlisted a number of the business men of the place in the new enterprise. He immediately proceeded to erect a mill of the most modern type, with " the latest and most improved machinery, with mahogany bolts and hoppers." The stockholders thereupon took alarm, exclaiming that his extravagance would bankrupt the company. Their dissatisfaction became so open and extreme that his father-in-law, Mr. Morton, whose confidence in his business acumen remained unshaken, again came to his assistance and enabled him to buy out all the stockholders and finish the mill in accordance with his plans.
It was the most perfectly equipped mill in a wide area, and proved a great financial success. Business came to it from every quarter and Mr. Reynolds began to prosper. He had, before he was thirty years old, a well-established and profitable business which was quite certain to make him one of the leading financial men of the place. Any ordinary man would have been satisfied with such a position and such prospects. But Mr. Reynolds was very far from being an ordinary man. He was seen at the beginning of this sketch sitting on a snubbing post seemingly indifferent to his surroundings. But Mr. Merrick says Captain Burns "allowed that Jo was doing a heap of thinking all the time we were watching him." It was Burns's opinion that he was "scheming." This was the way in which his associates came to regard him. Behind a very quiet, apparently unobservant, and indifferent demeanor there was a singularly alert and active intelligence, alive to developments about him and planning new projects. As in later life, this was true in Rockland before he was forty. Near bis mill was a tannery doing a small business, in which he saw, if wisely managed, large development with corresponding profits. Forming a partnership with a friend of his youth, he bought it, transformed and enlarged it, and began the manufacture of oak-tanned leather. The new venture prospered. He was making money in both mill and tannery. But he was not satisfied.
While Mr. Reynolds had been learning business and establishing himself, the great new West had been discovered and occupied. The frontier village of Chicago had become within twenty years a city of 80,000 people. A flood of immigration was pouring into the western states. The attractive power of the new West was felt in every community of the older East. Mr. Reynolds felt it not less strongly than others. He had good reasons to be satisfied with the success he had already achieved and with his prospects of increasing prosperity. But as the wonder of the development of the West grew, his mind dwelt more and more on the opportunities it presented for bigger business enterprises and opportunities than were possible in his surroundings. More than fifty years later the village of Rockland had a population of only 300. For playing the drama of his life he needed a larger stage.
When therefore in 1855 an opportunity came for disposing of both his mill and tannery profitably he welcomed it, and, winding up his affairs as quickly as possible, he moved to Chicago. There he went into his old business of tanning and established a tannery on Water Street, west of the Chicago River. His business compelled him to travel widely through the new states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, buying hides and furs for the tannery. He was brought by his business into an acquaintance, which seems to have ripened into a friendship, with P. D. Armour, the founder of the great packing and gram business of Armour and Company. They apparently became acquainted very early in Mr. Reynolds' residence in Chicago. In the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, John Deery, a leading lawyer of Dubuque, told in 1911 this story:
"It may not be true, but it is related that Joseph Reynolds and the late Phil Armour, after coming west, engaged in the same business of buying hides and furs along the river towns.
As the story goes, it appears that both had, at the same time, an overstock of hides for the market, and they agreed to play the then popular game of cards, 'California Jack,' to decide which one should take the other's stock off his hands. The result of the game was that Reynolds had to take Armour's stock. Happily for him the market soon rallied and he made good money on the deal."
In his travels along the Mississippi Mr. Reynolds soon discovered that the country west of the river had become so well settled and was produring such abundant crops that the farmers were looking for buyers for their grain. With his remarkable instinct for recognizing business opportunities he saw that the wholesale buying of grain and shipping it to the Chicago market ought to be very profitable. I give the story of what immediately followed in the words of Mr. Merrick:
About the year 1860 Reynolds disposed of his Chicago business and engaged in the grain trade exclusively, with headquarters at Prairie du Chien, at which point transhipment was made from steamboat to the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad. The Minnesota Packet Company was paramount on the upper river between Galena and St. Paul. Some of its stockholders were interested also in the railway company, and were also engaged in buying grain. Their connection with both steamboat and railroad enabled them to obtain favors not accorded to others who were considered "outsiders," of whom Reynolds was one. His grain would be refused by the boat line, while that of his rivals would be taken, often subjecting him to loss by the elements, at the point of shipment, and to pecuniary losses through failure to deliver his grain upon a favorable market.
To avoid at least some of the annoyances and delays to which he was subjected by the Packet Company, and to provide adequate transportation for his rapidly growing business, Reynolds in the spring of 1862 built the steamboat "Lansing," a stern wheel boat of 123 tons. This he placed under the command of Captain J. B. Wilcox of Desoto, Wisconsin, an experienced steamboat man, and ran her between Lansing and Prairie du Chien, carrying all his own grain and produce, and handling such other freight as was not directly controlled by the Packet Company, through the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railway Company, at Prairie du Chien.
Fearing that this small venture might lead to a competition detrimental to its business, the Packet Company prevailed upon Reynolds to sell them the "Lansing," promising in return to care for his business in a satisfactory manner. Before the season ended, however, he found that the company had no intention of living up to the promises made him, and his business was suffering from neglect and discrimination. Like the old farmer in the fable, finding that the clods of compromise and concession were unavailing to secure an even chance with his rivals in business, he decided again to resort to the weapons to which the Packet Company was amenable. In the winter of 1862-63 he built at Woodman, Wisconsin, on the Wisconsin River, some ten or fifteen miles from Prairie du Chien, a stern wheel boat of 242 tons, which was named "Diamond Jo" .... with Captain William Fleming, master. Two barges for bulk grain, the "Conger" and the "Fleming," were also built and placed in commission.
It will appear from the foregoing statement that the Packet Company was not conducted on good business principles. The inevitable result followed. In the beginning of 1864 it was reorganized under another management under the name of The Northwestern Packet Company. The new company, wishing to rid itself of a rival for river business, by promises and guaranties persuaded Mr. Reynolds to sell his little fleet to them and retire again from the transportation business. For the next three years the new arrangement worked satisfactorily. But in 1866 a new consolidation of steamboat companies again brought into river navigation rival grain buyers who were able to control conditions at the river railroad terminals at La Crosse and Prairie du Chien so completely and used their power so ruthlessly against their rivals in the business of buying and shipping grain that Mr. Reynolds was so much embarrassed that he found "he must secure other river transportation and railroad connections or go out of business." Mr. Merrick dryly remarks: " It is very unlikely that he considered the latter alternative to any great extent."
Mr. Reynolds continued through life to manifest many of the traits of his Quaker upbringing. He was quiet, patient, long-suffering. He was not easily provoked to aggressive self-assertion. He desired to live at peace with all men. But the same class of men having repeatedly threatened his business life at length aroused the sleeping lion in the man. They lived to repent their temerity.
Mr. Reynolds resolved to establish a new line of steamboats on the upper Mississippi and contest with his enemies the control of the river. He began very conservatively, buying in 1867 a small boat of only 611 tons, the "John C. Gault," and a few barges. The new line was fully established in 1868 and named the Chicago, Fulton, and River Line, with four boats, the "John C. Gault," the "Ida Fulton," the "Diamond Jo," and the "Lady Pike," together with the necessary towing barges. In 1871 the " Bannock City " was added to care for the rapidly increasing business, and the title of the line was changed to the Diamond Jo Line steamers. This soon became and remained for forty years, till long after Mr. Reynolds' death, the most famous name on the upper Mississippi. It will always continue to indicate the great days of trade and travel on the Father of Waters.
Mr. Reynolds himself came to be popularly known as Diamond Jo. It was easy therefore for those who only knew of him as a steamboat man to conclude that he must have got the name because he wore on his person a somewhat conspicuous diamond. So I myself supposed. But an employe who knew him well for many years writes me that "when this nickname was given him Mr. Reynolds had no big diamond on his shirt front nor on his finger." He was a plain, quiet, unpretentious man, never given to display.
The better explanation seems to be the following, given by a near relative. In marking his bales of skins he placed a diamond-shaped trade-mark on them. Later he found another man using the same trade-mark and thereupon changed his own by placing his name Jo inside the diamond, and thus gave himself the name by which he came to be so widely known.
Curiously enough he became, apparently, so attached to the name that he devised a signature which distinctly shows his trade-mark between the J and R, making the signature not ungraceful and certainly unique.
The second boat he built he called the "Diamond Jo". The name pleased the river and when he entered seriously on the task of establishing a new line of steamboats, the public began to call it the "Diamond Jo Line." The newspapers used the name in preference to the first real name of the company, the Chicago, Fulton, and River Line, and, yielding to this demand of the public, Mr. Reynolds, three years alter the company was formed, formally changed the name to the Diamond Jo Line steamers. His packets floated, as the company's ensign, a flag bearing the conventional figure of a diamond on a plain field.
Mr. Reynolds naturally became, as the owner of a line of river steamers, "Captain," though he never ran his own boats except, perhaps, on a single trip, and then with a competent mate at his side. He was no navigator, but a business man of such exceptional qualities that he distanced all his competitors and became the most successful and famous figure on the upper Mississippi. Other lines came and went. They failed or, on account of internal dissensions, were " reorganized"; but the Diamond Jo Line increased its service and went on with growing success.
Organized at the outset to protect his grain-shipping business and covering only a small part of the upper river, it gradually extended the area of its operations, until it covered the entire distance from St. Louis to the head of navigation at St. Paul, approximately a thousand miles. The Mississippi, as a navigable stream, is divided into two distinct parts, the lower river extending from New Orleans to St. Louis, and the upper river from St. Louis to St. Paul. The great boats of the lower river ended their trips at St. Louis. There a passenger for St. Paul would transfer to a smaller boat and proceed, perhaps, halfway up the river and then, if the water was low, he would take a still smaller boat of very light draft and go on to his destination. I once made the trip from Quincy to St. Paul and shall never forget the impression made on my mind by the contrast presented by the river at these two cities. At Quincy the great river is a most impressive stream, nearly a mile wide. Our small upper-river boat to which we had been transferred arrived at the head of navigation at St. Paul early one August morning. When I got up and went on deck I was astonished to find the majestic river on which I had begun my journey shrunken to what impressed me as an insignificant creek. It was almost impossible to believe that this was the great Father of Waters with whose vast flood I was familiar.
The first boats of the Diamond Jo Line were built for the upper river traffic. When about 1880 Mr. Reynolds extended his business to St. Louis he built the "Mary Morton," named after his wife, a boat 210 feet long and of nearly 500 tons. This was followed by the " Sidney," of about 618 tons, and the "Pittsburg," of 722 tons, all large stern-wheel boats. Others of still larger size were added later. They contrasted greatly with the small boats used on the upper river, like the "Josephine," the "Libbie Conger," the "Diamond Jo," and others, some of them half as large and still others much smaller, some of them less than 100 tons, and only ninety or a hundred feet long.
The Diamond Jo Line was so successful that during the seventies it established a shipyard at Eagle Point, three miles above Dubuque. This grew to large proportions, building the new boats required, repairing those that were damaged, constructing the many barges needed, and doing the general work of a shipyard for the river.
The traffic boats did their most profitable work towing loaded barges. The "Imperial," a very powerful tugboat, "frequently handled eight barges of bulk grain, which, with the deck load of sacked gram carried in times of good water, often reached as high as 100,000 bushels. It is estimated that, reducing this to the terms of the railroad transportation of that day, it would have loaded ten trains of twenty-five cars each, which would have required ten locomotives, ten cabooses, and ten crews to handle them, while the track covered would have exceeded a mile and a half." Captain Fred A. Bill tells me he recalls one trip in which 112,000 bushels of wheat were transported. This will give some suggestion of the volume of business done by the Diamond Jo Line of steamers. It was, indeed, a business of great risks. Mr. Merrick writes:
The life of a steamboat is brief at best. Before the river had been lighted and cleared of snags, wrecks, and other obstructions, four or five years was the limit of probabilities. Later this probability was doubled; but the possibility of loss was ever present. The Diamond Jo Company bought boats only as it had use for them, and by selling the older and smaller boats while they were yet salable and buying new and larger ones to meet its increasing business it was able to declare dividends and to outlive all its rivals, maintaining itself longer than any other line that ever operated on the Mississippi, either on the upper or lower river.
The results of the great era of railroad construction in the latter third of the last century in destroying the Mississippi as a highway of travel and traffic are well known. But it is said that the "twenty years between 1875 and 1895 witnessed the greatest activity in the lumber business ever known on the Mississippi, or any other river, or in any country or age. It gave employment to hundreds of steamboats used in towing the logs and lumber to market." This was particularly true of the upper river. It made the shipyard Mr. Reynolds had established above Dubuque a very successful and profitable part of his business. Here came the boats needing repairs. Here new boats were built for this extraordinary trade. The yard was never idle. It constantly employed a large force of skilled mechanics. "In addition to the boat builders a crew of expert divers, with all necessary gear, with barges, pumps, and other machinery and rigging for raising sunken vessels, was likewise maintained, ready at an hour's notice to proceed to the relief of any boat in trouble, anywhere between St. Louis and St. Paul."
For nearly half a century crowds gathered regularly on the levees at all the river towns from St. Louis to St. Paul at the sound of the familiar two long and two short whistles, to welcome or do business with up or down Diamond Jo steamers, their comings and goings being in many of these places the principal event of the day.
When in 1860 Mr. Reynolds entered extensively into the grain business along the Mississippi, he moved to McGregor, Iowa, one of the river towns a few miles north of Dubuque, and made his home there for the rest of his life. Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds had one son, whom they named Blake, and who was born in McGregor during the first year of their residence there. Being an only son, their hearts and their hopes were bound up in him. Mr. Reynolds was a man of almost boundless energy, and the steamboat line, which was itself a big business, was only one among his many activities. As new railroads were built beyond the river, he carried his buying and shipping of gram into the new towns that sprang up.
He was not only a steamboat, but also a railroad, magnate. The story of his entrance into the railroad business is one of the most interesting stories of his life. Soon after his sixtieth year, in the early eighties, the partial failure of his health led him to seek relief at the Arkansas Hot Springs, the medicinal qualities of which were beginning to attract large numbers of seekers after health. These now celebrated Springs were then little known. At that time they could be reached only by a tedious journey of twenty-two miles among the hills from the nearest railroad station of Malvern. The narrator of the story says:
The stages in use between the railroad at Malvern and the Springs were old and rickety, and the one in which he had taken passage broke down completely while they were yet some miles from their destination and Reynolds and his fellow-passengers were compelled to walk the remaining distance. On arrival at the Springs Reynolds remonstrated in somewhat forcible terms, to which the proprietor rejoined with a sneer: "Well, what are you goin' to do about it?" "I'll build a railroad," said Jo. The stage man thought it a bluff; but Reynolds studied the proposition while taking the "cure," later calling in engineers to assist him. Deciding that the chances were rather for than against success, he put all his ready money into the work, hypothecating his stock in the steamboat company and in his mines.
Within a few months he had completed a narrow-gauge road twenty-two miles in length from Malvern to Hot Springs, upon which he had issued no bonds, and the stock of which was practically all in his own name. Later, as the business increased, .... he bonded the road and with the proceeds changed the line to a standard-gauge, with heavier steel, and its sidetracks . . . ., from that time to this, have constantly been filled with palace cars and private coaches from all parts of the country, switched on to this, one of the best paying twenty miles of road in the United States.
Mr. Reynolds certainly made it pay. The fare for the 20 or 22 miles was about ten cents a mile for some years. When the fare was $2.00 Mr. Reynolds had a facsimile of a two-dollar bill made which was an order on the auditor of the road to pay that sum to any conductor on presentation of the bill. When asked for a pass over the road he would send one of these two-dollar bills. As I have indicated, his signature at the bottom of the bill revealed, to one who looked for it, his Diamond Jo trade-mark.
It will be recalled that in the latter third of the last century there occurred a remarkable revival of mining in the West. Great deposits both of gold and of silver were discovered. Leadville and other camps had their almost miraculous growth. All men with any speculative bent were stirred by the stories that came from the West. Fortunes were made, lost, and remade. Mr. Reynolds was one of those who became infected with the mining fever, and in the late seventies he and his son, then approaching manhood, interested themselves in gold mining in Arizona and Colorado.
Their first experience in buying a mine was a very humiliating one. Although they supposed they were using every precaution against being swindled, even putting their own men in to work it for a time before paying for it, the expert crooks who sold it succeeded in "salting" it even while Reynolds & Son's force was working it. They paid for it and suddenly found that there was not a particle of gold in it. Reynolds, however, was always a good loser. He pocketed his loss and a little later bought another mine, the Congress, in the same locality.
Someone said to him: "Mr. Reynolds, after losing so much in the Del Pasco I should not think you would buy another mine in the same locality." "Well," said Jo, "when you lose anything, don't you look for it where you lost it?" The Congress was a very rich gold mine and fully justified Reynolds in his decision "to look for his money where he lost it."
Mr. Merrick tells one story of Mr. Reynolds' mining ventures which illustrates the extent of his operations, the spirit in which he met difficulties, and his business methods. He says:
In another instance Reynolds was robbed by a man whom he had befriended and whom he trusted. A man by the name of Morrissey wired him from Leadville, Colorado, that there was a rich and promising mine there that could be bought very cheap, its owners not having funds wherewith to develop it. He immediately proceeded to Leadville, examined the property and, being satisfied that it was valuable, agreed to buy it at the purchase price of $40,000, provided Morrissey, who was a practical miner, would stay with it as superintendent, Reynolds to put in good machinery with which to operate it and to promise that as soon as it had paid all that he had put in he would deed to Morrissey one-fourth of the mine. The returns soon equaled the total of the investment, and true to his promise he deeded to Morrissey the one-fourth interest and left him in charge of the work.
Some time after, Reynolds observed that the smelter returns sent him were not numbered consecutively, and when he investigated he found that Morrissey had retained very much more than his share, the one-quarter to which he was entitled amounting to something over $250,000. The fact that Morrissey could neither read nor write probably hampered him in manipulating the returns. The shortage was settled without prosecution, Reynolds' Quaker antecedents discouraging, if not forbidding, an appeal to law in the settlement of personal differences.
In connection with the other lines of business in which he was engaged—dealing in grain, the Diamond Jo Line of steamers, the Hot Springs Railroad, etc., Mr. Reynolds continued his activity in mines and mining to the end of his life. Conducting this part of his business with the same ability and energy which had made him so successful in other lines, he made it exceedingly profitable.
Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds suffered the greatest affliction of their lives in the death of their son Blake. He was twenty-five years old. The blow was a very heavy one and shadowed the rest of their lives. Happily for them and for others it did not harden, but rather softened, the hearts of both, and awakened in them a sympathetic interest in other young men.
Mr. Reynolds survived his son only a short time. When he had passed his seventieth year, although a man of large wealth and with no apparent incentive to increase it after the loss of his son, he still continued his business activity. His death was caused, indeed, by his undue devotion to these activities. February, 1891, found him in a rude shack at the mouth of the Congress Mine, in Arizona, sixty miles from the nearest railroad station. There he was attacked by pneumonia.
Like so many other men he had neglected to make a will. Realizing that at his age and with infirm health at best, he was unlikely to survive that dread disease, he dispatched a messenger posthaste to Prescott to wire for a physician and a lawyer—the latter to draw his will. Storms and washouts delayed all travel. Mr. Reynolds was surrounded by devoted friends, but while they waited for the help which did not come the disease was making fatal progress. There were certain things he was very anxious to provide for in his will. He wished to make bequests to some of the loyal and able assistants who had done much to promote his prosperity, and in remembrance of his son to do something that would provide advantages for young men. At length, despairing of the arrival of the lawyer, he asked one of his friends to write out a will at his dictation. The approach of death, which he clearly recognized, did not greatly concern him, but he was very much afraid his strength would not hold out till he could get the special bequests he wished to make committed to paper and signed.
The paper was completed and a pen was put into his hand that he might sign it. He tried, but was so near his end that an illegible scrawl was all he could produce. He was able to see that it was no signature, and, being still able to speak, it is said that he called on those who stood about him in the hut to witness that the unsigned paper was his last will and testament and almost in the utterance of the words passed away.
Mrs. Reynolds accepted the imperfect will written in the Arizona shack and carried out its provisions as fully as possible during the few years in which she survived her husband. She was engaged in carrying out the provision in the interest of young men when, in 1895, she herself died. The family burial lot is in Mount Hope Cemetery, Chicago, and is marked by a massive block of granite with the simple inscription "Reynolds."
Mr. Reynolds made a profound impression on those with whom he was most closely associated. One of them says:
In many ways Mr. Reynolds was peculiar. He was very quiet and had little use for "society." Minded his own business and expected others to do likewise. He told very little of himself and practically nothing of his early life He became rich and famous; made money rapidly, and when it was made it was easy to trace that, it came from reasoning from cause to effect, and not from what is commonly called luck.
Another wrote of him:
As I write this little sketch, there is on my desk a picture of Joseph Reynolds, that grand old character, who left his imprint upon and who contributed so greatly to the development of what was then called, in the seventies, "the Northwest." .... Mr. Reynolds was a man who had peculiar traits, many of them most lovable, and I have been greatly influenced through my entire business career by lessons early learned from him. One of his characteristics was that when he found any man had wronged him in a business transaction he seldom made much fuss about it—-in fact, would suffer a severe loss before he would take a case into the courts; but ever after that particular person was "down and out" with Diamond Jo Reynolds. If any employee was found guilty of a breach of trust he was generally allowed to drop out without any noise; but he was out good and hard forever after.
Another feature of Diamond Jo's character was that he appointed a man to fill a place and looked to him for results. That is, he depended on the appointee's individuality and originality, without any special direction from himself There have been but few, if any, who have left such a name for probity and high integrity as Diamond Jo Reynolds; and those of us who were fortunate enough to be associated with him revere his memory and think of him as one of the grand characters in the early history of the development of the upper Mississippi Valley.
It is quite evident that he made a very strong impression on the imagination of his captains and business managers. Recurring to the opening paragraph of this sketch, when Mr. Merrick saw him sitting on the snubbing post at McGregor, paying little attention to the landing, unloading, loading, and departure of what must have been one of his favorite boats—the "Mary Morton"— speaking to none of the officers, apparently taking no notice of anything except his whittling, "it was Captain Burns's opinion that Reynolds had made a mental inventory of the appearance and condition of the boat, of the manner in which it had been handled in making the landing, and of the efficiency of the mate in getting the cargo on board; but he spoke to no one and no one spoke to him while we were looking," says Mr. Merrick, and continues: "'He is scheming!' said Burns, and his thoughts may have been in Colorado or Arizona rather than McGregor." This was the way the men who knew him best thought and spoke of him. They said: "He is thinking, scheming, working out far-sighted plans." Mingled with their strong attachment to him was a feeling of awe. They regarded him as a kind of super-business man.
At the same time he had one characteristic and one custom that brought him and his employes into a rather intimate sympathy. He had a natural genius and love for mechanical work. On some of his boats and at several points on shore he kept chests of tools. If any job of repairs needed to be done, the men would say, "Oh, let it alone till the old man comes around." And sure enough, when he did come, the first question he asked was likely to be: "Well, what have you got for me to do ?" On his boats he did not pose as the owner or spend his time in the pilot-house, but was usually found at work in the carpenter shop.
An aristocratic southern gentleman once wandered into the shop on one of the steamers and finding a carpenter at work entered into conversation with him. Later he said to the captain: "I have had a very pleasant chat with your old carpenter below decks. He seems rather an intelligent old fellow." "Yes," said the captain, "he is somewhat intelligent. His name is Reynolds, commonly known as 'Diamond Jo.' He owns this line of steamboats, a railroad in Arkansas, numerous gold mines in Colorado and Arizona, and is probably worth two or three million dollars."
It was inevitable that with his varied and extensive interests Mr. Reynolds should be a frequent visitor to Chicago. Indeed he had an office in that city during the last thirty-five years of his life. There are many business men in Chicago who, after more than thirty years, still remember him. One of the intimacies of his earlier western life that continued was that with the late P. D. Armour.
The following story, told by Mr. Armour to Captain John Killen, one of Mr. Reynolds' principal lieutenants, illustrates the extent of his credit, his reputation for absolute integrity, and the warm friendship he inspired in the strongest men.
There had been a flurry in the money market and Reynolds found himself in need of funds. He went to Mr. Armour's office and the latter, guessing his errand, for the fun of anticipating his request said at once:
"Jo, can you lend me fifty thousand dollars ?" Reynolds replied: "That is just what I came to you for. I never wanted money so badly in all my life."
"How much do you want?" asked Armour.
"I want two hundred thousand dollars," was the reply.
"I can let you have it," said Armour, and filled out checks for the amount, taking Reynolds' personal notes in exchange.
Soon after, Reynolds came back and threw a bundle of stock certificates on the desk, saying, "Phil, keep that until I pay back the money."
"Put that back in your safety box, Jo," said Armour. "But for the uncertainty of life your word would be enough for me. Were it not for that I would not accept your notes."
The bundle of stock certificates represented the entire value of the Hot Springs Railroad at that time.
If the readers of this sketch have conceived of the Mississippi River steamboat man as a boisterous, intemperate, profane character, they must free their minds of this conception in thinking of Mr. Reynolds. He was exactly the opposite of all this. His Quaker bringing-up had made him a quiet, reticent man. Surrounded by drinking men, he was himself strictly temperate, once saying to a reporter that it was so long since he had tasted whiskey that he could not remember the time. He did not drink liquor at all. There were no bars on the boats of the Diamond Jo Line, and "drinking by either passengers or crew was discountenanced." And, as Mr. Merrick says, "being a Quaker he did not swear."
It may also be said that, being a Quaker, his religion was of the silent sort. The executor of his estate tells me that among his papers was found a note in his own handwriting which said: "It is my religion to do what I say and pay what I owe."
That Mr. Reynolds was a man of extraordinary business activity and ability is evident from this brief sketch of his life. He engaged in many kinds of business and succeeded in all. In his great enterprises— dealing in grain, steamboating, railroading, mining—he accumulated a large fortune. But the enterprises I have touched upon did not limit his activities. He was interested in the Park Hotel and perhaps others in Hot Springs. He was concerned in the Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railway Company. His investments covered a wide field and his business activities, as this story has shown, continued to the very end of his life, in his seventy-first year.
He carried a small red book in which he kept a record of his business transactions. These records were concise, but complete. After his death a baseless claim was made against the estate for a very large sum by a man who had been his agent in certain transactions. The "red book" contained an entry in which he said that he had, on a date mentioned, paid the claimant for "$200 worth of service" and settled with him in full. Confronted with this the claimant and his lawyer withdrew and were seen no more.
It illustrates the essential nobility of the man that the death of his son, who would have been his heir, and in whom all his hopes were centered, instead of narrowing his sympathies, widened them and awakened in his heart a warm interest in all young men. There is something sublime and impressive and appealing in the sight of this man of wealth, lying sick unto death in that shack in the Arizona wilderness, mailing provision with his dying breath to give young men a start in life. In his last hours he thought of others rather than himself.
Mrs. Reynolds was like-minded and lost no time in taking steps to carry out her husband's plans.
The University of Chicago opened its doors to students on the first day of October, 1892. The estate of Mr. Reynolds was not then settled, but on the nineteenth of that month Mrs. Reynolds agreed to pay to the University $250,000, " to be used for educational purposes in such manner as shall commemorate the name of Joseph Reynolds and to be expended for such purposes and in such manner as shall be agreed upon." In 1895, before the settlement of the estate, Mrs. Reynolds herself died.
The Reynolds Fund did not finally aggregate the amount originally proposed. It was paid to the University by the executor in 1897 in the bonds, for the most part, of the Hot Springs Railroad, he retaining an option to repurchase them at par within five years. As long as that line was the only one leading to the Springs, its securities were gilt edged. The building of new lines, however, very materially impaired their value. When in 1901 final arrangements with the executor were made, the amount realized for the fund was found to be $113,123.45. By agreement with the representatives of the estate during that year, $80,000 was set aside for the erection of "The Reynolds Student Clubhouse," and it was arranged that "the income of the remainder of the Fund shall forever be used for scholarships for boys, to be known as the 'Joseph Reynolds Scholarships.'" The scholarship fund thus amounts to $33,123.45, and every year pays the tuition fees of twelve young men.
The Reynolds Clubhouse is one of the four buildings constituting what is known as the Tower Group. The corner stones of all four, the Hutchinson Commons, the Mitchell Tower, the Reynolds Clubhouse, and Mandel Assembly Hall, were laid on the last day of the University's Decennial Celebration, June 18,1901. The corner stone of the clubhouse was, very appropriately, laid by a student. It stands on the corner of Fifty-seventh Street and University Avenue. The avenue side is said to be strongly suggestive of the famous garden front of St. John's College, Oxford. It is built, like the other buildings of the University, of Bedford stone, and is three stories high, with a commodious basement in which are the bowling alleys, barber shop, and locker room. On the three floors above are a library, billiard room, reading room, and theater, with numerous committee rooms, all handsomely finished and furnished.
The house provides the men of the University with facilities for making student life socially enjoyable and profitable. They were quick to realize this, and at the beginning of the Autumn Quarter of 1903 organized the Reynolds Club, which took over the house and thenceforth filled a great place in the life of the University. The club has more than a thousand members and grows with the growth of the institution. It is the center of the University's social life for its young men.
The desire of Mrs. Reynolds to "commemorate the name of Joseph Reynolds" has been fulfilled in a somewhat extraordinary manner. The University has done it in building the Reynolds Clubhouse and establishing the Reynolds Scholarships. The students have, perhaps, made a still greater contribution to this commemoration in calling their organization the Reynolds Club. Mr. Reynolds' line of steamers, his railroads, his mines, his hotels, made no mention of his name. With the passing of all these it would have been forgotten. But, connected in this threefold way with a great University, it is not only assured of historic remembrance but is a living name and will continue perpetually to be spoken every day by increasing numbers. But far better than this, every year growing numbers of young men will enter the struggle of life better equipped to achieve success and usefulness because he lived and labored for them. And best of all, he was worthy of this immortality of remembrance and influence.
~source: The University of Chicago Biographical Sketches, Volume 1; by Thomas Wakefield Goodspeed; 1922; pg 225-243
Clayton Biographies maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.
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Clayton Biographies maintained by Sharyl Ferrall.