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Hon. Thomas M. Blackstock, Page 658
HON. THOMAS M. BLACKSTOCK, President of the Phoenix Chair Company, and a prominent early settler of Sheboygan, was born in the north of Ireland, in County Armagh, province of Ulster, on the 12th of January, 1834. He is the only son of Thomas and Sarah (Martin) Blackstock, who were also natives of Ulster. His father died when he was but three years old. Until nearly fourteen, Thomas received religious instruction under the auspices of the strict Presbyterian Sunday-school.
In 1848, he came to America in company with an aunt and his three sisters (his mother having preceded him several years), and settled in Sheboygan. On coming to this country, our subject spent one year at St. Catherines, Canada, coming from there to Sheboygan in the spring of 1849. The mother died in Sheboygan in 1872. The eldest sister, Elizabeth, is now Mrs. James McBride, of St. Catherines, Canada; Agnes, the second, is the wife of George Churchill, and resides near Hamilton, Canada; Susannah is the widow of Theodore Martens, and makes her home in Chicago.
After coming to Sheboygan, our subject had one winter's schooling, he then being in his fifteenth year. he began the world for himself without means or personal influence, entirely dependent on his own efforts for success. His natural shrewdness and good principles soon won for him an opening. At first he found employment for a time in a hotel, after which he secured a place in a drug-store as clerk (in 1850) with Dr. Brown, and continued in that line for six years. About 1856 he was made Superintendent of Construction of the Sheboygan and Fond du Lac Plank Road, serving in that capacity until 1861. He then retired from that position, and purchased the drug business of Dr. J. J. Brown, of Sheboygan, which he carried on successfully until 1876. The year previous he was one of the most active in the organization and establishment of the Phoenix Chair Company, of which he was Secretary for about a year. At the expiration of that time, he was chosen President and General Manager of the company. He held a controlling interest in the business until 1892, when he sold a large portion of his stock and retired from the position of Manager, but continues to hold the office of President. (See history and description of the Phoenix Chair Company elsewhere in this work.)
Mr. Blackstock was one of the promoters of the Sheboygan Mutual Loan, Saving and Building Association, of which he has been President since its organization. This co-operation was capitalized at a million dollars, half of which stock is taken. The association has done much to promote the growth and improvement of the city, and in aiding people of limited means to secure comfortable homes. The enterprise has been successful from the start, and its business is steadily increasing. Mr. Blackstock has been actively identified with the Sheboygan Agricultural Society, of which he is President. He is also President of the Sheboygan Humane Society, and has proved a useful and influential member of that body.
In politics, Mr. Blackstock is a Republican, taking an active and prominent part in the councils of his party. He has borne a leading part in local and State conventions, where his speeches have always been listened to with pleasure. While his friends do not claim for him the powers of a great orator, they assert that he has a happy faculty of saying the right thing at the right time, and that his speeches abound in pleasant humor and sound sense, that hold his audience in close attention, and leave them feeling better and favorably impressed. His efforts at public speaking in conventions and upon other occasions have won for him a creditable reputation throughout the State. Previous to the Republican State Convention of 1892, his name was prominently used in connection with the gubernatorial candidacy. He consented to be a candidate before the convention only in case ex-United States Senator Spooner positively declined to be a candidate. When Senator Spooner finally consented to the use of his name in the convention as a candidate, Mr. Blackstock refused to allow his name to be presented as a competing candidate, and the Sheboygan Delegation voted solidly for Spooner. Mr. Blackstock has served four terms in the Common Council of Sheboygan, three terms as Mayor, and one term as a member of the Lower House of the Wisconsin Legislature. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention held at Minneapolis in 1892, and was appointed one of the committee to notify President Harrison of his nomination; he was also a delegate to the Republican League Convention at Louisville, Ky., in May, 1893, being appointed Vice-President for Wisconsin. While serving as Mayor and afterward, he was a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Debt, and was instrumental in effecting a satisfactory and profitable settlement of the city's indebtedness.
In November, 1861, Mr. Blackstock was united in marriage, at Sheboygan, to Miss Bridget Denn, who is a native of Waterford, Ireland, and a daughter of Martin and Ellen Denn.
Mr. Blackstock has a fine farm of one hundred and seventy-four acres, within a mile of the city, lying to the north. He is President of the South Sheboygan Land Company, and is largely interested in other real estate in the city.
The subject of this sketch is eminently a self-made man. The record he has made should serve to encourage the young men of limited means, or perhaps none at all, in their struggle to gain an honorable position and success in life. It is well known to the old settlers of Sheboygan County, many of whom still survive, that Mr. Blackstock came to Sheboygan from a foreign land when but a lad and penniless; that he struck out manfully for himself, and by enterprise, integrity and indomitable energy, won his way to wealth and honorable position. Perhaps the memory of his own experience accounts for his warm interest and kindly aid to young men starting out in life, where timely encouragement at a critical turn (as has been the case in several instances) has brought success and prosperity, where failure and utter disappointment seemed inevitable.
All worthy public enterprises have received a cordial support from Mr. Blackstock, and the founding of the Phoenix Chair Manufacturing Company, and the management of it until it was an assured success, may be largely attributed to him. Others aided materially, but his connection with it was a good guarantee for the safety of the invested capital. The success of the Phoenix Company has encouraged the establishment of other factories, not only in the same line, but in others.
His course in life has been such as to command the confidence and respect of his fellow-citizens, and of all with whom he has had business or social relations. His has been a busy, helpful life, one worthy of all high regard and honor.
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