submitted by Neal Carter, October 13, 2007

Sketch of His Long and Successful Career

Muscatine mourns the loss of one of its foremost and long-time citizens, Hon. Benjamin Hershey, who for two score years has been closely identified with the great lumber interests of the Mississippi and for an equal period has enjoyed the prominence of being the leading manufacturer of our city. The intelligence of his demise was a shock and surprise to his legion of friends though it was not wholly unexpected.

Some ten years ago our venerable townsman sustained severe injury to his head by falling, which induced a malignant attack of erysipelas that had confined him to his room in the Chicago Beach hotel ever since. His condition was changeable during this time, and when he rallied his friends ardently hoped for his recovery, but fate had decreed otherwise and at 1:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon he passed peacefully away. (August 24, 1893)

His affectionate daughters, Miss Mira and Mrs. Sarah Hershey Eddy, were in attendance upon him during his last illness and the latter was at his bedside when the spirit lefts its earthly tenement for the invisible great beyond.

Hon. Benjamin Hershey, president of the Hershey Lumber company, of Muscatine, Iowa, and a pioneer lumberman of the city since 1853, was a native of Pennsylvania, and was born on the 10th of April, 1813, on a farm in the township of Manor, near Indiantown, Lancaster county. His parents were Joseph and Hester (Hostetter) Hershey. On the father’s side the family is of Swiss origin, and dates its settlement in America from early colonial days. The paternal grandfather of our subject resided in the vicinity of Indiantown at the time of the massacre of the red men at that place by the pale face, and hearing the noise of the slaughter at night, he visited the town the following morning, only to find its inhabitants, old and young, lying dead about their homes. On the mother’s side the family is of German descent, and her ancestors were residents of Pennsylvania prior to the Revolution. The manufacturer of the celebrated Hostetter’s bitters is a member of her family.

Our subject was reared on a farm, and his parents being of the Mennonite faith, he was trained from early childhood to habits of industry and frugality. By strict moral precepts and examples of the most rigid honesty and morality, the foundations of good character were laid by these worthy people in the minds of their children. Having attained his majority, Mr. Hershey began business for himself as a farmer, and was also a tobacco merchant at Columbia, Lancaster county, Pa., where he carried on an extensive business. In 1836 he was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth Whitmore, daughter of Daniel Whitmore, and a native of Lancaster county. Four children were born of their union, two of whom are now living: Sarah, the eldest, was married to Clarence Eddy, of Chicago; Amanda died in Europe, in 1876; Elizabeth died at Muscatine, Oct. 7, 1856, and Almira, the youngest, is the present secretary of the Hershey Lumber Co.

In the spring of 1852, Mr. Hershey first came to Muscatine, and finding the location a promising business point, he returned to Pennsylvania and in the following spring brought his family here. Renting a sawmill, he at once engaged in the manufacture of lumber, and two years later bought the mill. The opening of the Great West to civilization created a good market for the product of his mill, and the venture proved a profitable one. From the old sawmill of 1853, with its primitive machinery and limited production, has sprung the immense lumber corporation of the Hershey Lumber Co., of 1893, with its annual business of upward of a million dollars, and furnishing employment to nearly a thousand men.

In addition to his extensive lumber business Mr. Hershey found time to gratify his taste for agriculture and stock-raising. He was the owner of a fine farm of 800 acres, which is beautifully situated on the bank of the Muscatine slough two miles below the city. The farm is noted for its magnificent farm buildings, which are complete in all appointments.

In 1880 Mr. Hershey turned his attention to Nebraska as a field of operations in the line of stock and farming, and purchased a tract of land in Dodge county, near Freemont of 3000 acres. The land is situated in the center of as rich a corn and grass region as can be found in the United States.

In addition to this he bought 9400 acres in the valley of the South Platte, in Lincoln county, of the same state, which embraces some of the most fertile lands of Nebraska, the tract having a river frontage of eleven miles. Mr. Hershey has had over 6,000 head of cattle on the two ranches, besides a large number of horses. It will be observed from the facts above stated that Mr. Hershey indulged his fancy for farming and stock growing on a magnificent scale, and by so doing materially aided in improving the grade of stock, both of cattle and horses, in either state where his farms are situated. Another peculiar fancy of the deceased was to introduce a system of market gardening on the South Platte that supplied vegetables for the principal towns and eating-houses along the line of the Union Pacific railway.

Mr. Hershey engaged in the banking business here less than three years ago, being the senior member of the firm of Hershey, Brown & Co., which succeeded G. A. Garrettson & Co.

In political sentiment Mr. Hershey was a supporter of the republican party, but had never in any sense been a politician. The few times that he had accepted public office only marked the exception to the rule. He once served as a member of the City Council and twice as Mayor. He was in the Council in 1854, and held the office of Mayor during the years 1865 and 1866. He was a candidate for the same office in recent years on the republican ticket, but was defeated. Mr. Hershey began life with limited means, but possessed of abundant energy, a strong will, and a self-reliance that never failed him under the most trying circumstances. His business enterprises were conducted with method and forethought, and the general results have been a compliment to his sagacity and executive ability. His success in life was won by close application and untiring energy, and has been achieved entirely within the channels of legitimate business and on the broad basis of strict integrity.

The funeral announcement will be made after the remains of the distinguished dead arrive from Chicago.

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