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Porter Pleasants


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/5/2001 at 10:37:22

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
Porter Pleasants is the senior member of the hardware firm of P. & R.W. Pleasants. In presenting his sketch to the readers of the Album, we record the life work of one of Birmingham’s most enterprising citizens, whose business industry and energy have done not a little for the building of the city.
The Pleasants family is of English extraction and was founded in America during the early days of Virginia history. The Goff family, fro which our subject is descended on the maternal side, was one of the early families of Massachusetts and had its representatives in the Revolutionary War. The gun that the great-grandfather of our subject carried, during that struggle, is now in the possession of Charles C. Pleasants, father of Porter, and is one of the cherished relics of the family.
Mr. Pleasants is a Bostonian by birth, the date of his arrival in that city being 1812. When he was ten years of age, he was left an orphan and soon afterward was bound out to learn the ship carpenter’s trade. With the son of his boss, who was captain of a vessel, he went to sea, and believing that he was able to look after his own affairs, he left his master, and for twelve years continued to follow that life. He arose to the position of mate, but not having education enough to permit further advancement he left the ocean and worked at his trade on the Erie Canal. In Seneca County, New York, he married Miss Sarah A. Goff, who was born in that county in 1818. Believing that it would be for the interests of his family to make a home in the West, in 1855, he came to Van Buren County and for a time kept a hotel in Birmingham. Twenty-two years later he and his sons opened a hardware store in Birmingham which has been carried on by the family continuously since. In 1882, Porter and Richard W. became sole proprietors and are still the owners of the establishment. In the family were six children: George W., a rancher and teacher of California; Porter, whose name heads this sketch; Charles H., a resident farmer of Brown County South Dakota; Eleanora, wife of G.B. Sapp of Illinois; Frances M. wife of Robert Fee of California; and Richard W., Charles H. served two years in the late war as a member of the Fifth Iowa Infantry.
To return to the history of our subject, he was born in Seneca County New York on March 25, 1843, and was twelve years of age when he accompanied the family to the then far western state of Iowa. Four years later he was apprenticed to learn the cabinet trade but ere the completion of his term of service he enlisted for the late war, becoming a member of Company H, Fifth Iowa Infantry, the first company that went from Birmingham In July of 1861. After operating under Fremont in Missouri, with Pope, the troops went to the capture of New Madrid and when that was accomplished proceeded up the Tennessee River to the siege of Corinth, where he was stationed during a greater part of the summer. Receiving his discharge in December 1862, at Quincy Illinois, Mr. Pleasants returned to his home and finished learning his trade in Fairfield, after which he spent a year working at the same in Hannibal Missouri. In 1865, he crossed the plains to California, reaching after five months of travel, Virginia City Nevada, where he carried on operations as a millwright for about four years. In the meantime, the Pacific Railroad was constructed, and in 1869 he returned to Iowa by rail, but after a few months spent at home again traveled, but this time his course laid southward. He found work in New Orleans very scarce, and soon the supply of means, which he and his friend had brought with them, was exhausted. But still no work, so Mr. Pleasants then pawned some of his clothes, but the money thus obtained was also spent before work was secured. As they saw no opportunity for securing work at their trade, they shoveled dirt on the levee for a few days and the started for Jackson Mississippi, making the entire distance one hundred and fifty miles, on foot. There occurred a change in his fortune and his efforts to secure employment were at last met with success. He erected a number of sawmills and became superintendent of the machinery in a planning mill.
It was also in the South, that on Christmas Day of 1879, Mr. Pleasants was joined in wedlock with Miss Sarah Warner, who was born near Jackson Mississippi, December 13, 1848. In 1872, they returned to Birmingham but soon afterwards went to Jacksonville Illinois, Mr. Pleasants hoping thereby to regain his health. In 1873, he went to Hannibal Missouri where he followed his trade for a short time and in June we find him in St Louis, where he remained until December of 1881. Again coming to Birmingham, he then became a partner in the hardware store of which he is now senior proprietor. His father was for some time a part owner but in 1882, the business was turned over to himself and a brother, Richard W. The latter was born in Birmingham, September 12, 1859, and was reared and educated in the city schools. He entered the business in February 1878, and with the exception of about two months has always been found behind the counter, strictly attending to the interests of the store. The firm of Pleasants Bros. Is composed of two of the leading businessmen of Birmingham and the excellent trade, which has come to them, is justly merited. The senior partner is also a director in and secretary and superintendent of the Birmingham Butter and Cheese Manufacturing Company. He is a Republican in politics but Richard is a Democrat. The former has been honored with the office of Mayor of Birmingham, to which he was four times elected, and the latter has served as Councilman. Mrs. Pleasants is a member of the Christian Church and Mr. Pleasants holds membership with the Grand Army of the Republic. With no rich relatives or influential friends to aid him, he started out on foot from Birmingham after the war, with a capital of $1.50 in his pocket. Many discouragements and difficulties were encountered, but pressing forward with indomitable energy and determined will; he at length reached the goal of success. It takes push and thrift to succeed in this world, and when we know under what obstacles Mr. Pleasants labored, we see that he must have had an abundance of those elements essential to prosperity. I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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