The names of those men who have distinguished themselves through the
possession of those qualities which daily contribute to the success of
private life and to the public stability and who have enjoyed the respect
and confidence of those about them, should not be permitted to perish. Such
a one is the subject of this review, one of the leading lumber dealers in
E. L. Bledsoe, president of the Bledsoe Lumber Company, of Salem, was born in Bradford, Indiana, in 1858. His father was William J. Bledsoe, a native of Tennessee, who came to Indiana when a young man. He was a United Brethren minister. William J. Bledsoe was a soldier in the Union army during the Civil war, having been a member of the Thirty-seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He died in a hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, from illness contracted while in line of duty. Two sons, William J. Jr., and James W., were also in the army, having enlisted in Company H, Twenty-fifth Iowa Volunteer Infantry. They fought side by side in twenty-seven battles. Both reenlisted after their time was up and served until the close of the war. James W. was wounded twice. Both were with Sherman on his famous march to the sea. They are both living. The father died May 5, 1867.
The mother of the subject was Martha Ridgeway, a native of Chillicothe, Ohio, who married the subject's father in Franksville, Indiana. She was a woman of many fine traits and was called to her rest in 1883 while living at Rock Island, Illinois. The following children were born to this union: James W., of Rock Island; William J. Jr., also of Rock Island; George B. died at Rock Island in 1906; J. P., of Davenport, Iowa; E. L., our subject; Frank A., of Rock Island; Mark S., of St. Louis; Mattie J., who is a physician located at Chickasha, Oklahoma. Our subject was taken to Iowa by his parents when about three years old. The family located at Washington, but most of the subject's boyhood was spent in Marshall. He received only a common school education, his course of study being interrupted by reason of the fact that his father frequently moved from town to town in carrying on his ministerial work, but he is a well educated man, nevertheless, having gained it first handed from the world.
Mr. Bledsoe has been twice married, first in 1876 to Minnie Dizotell, of Eldon, Iowa, the ceremony having been performed in that city. She was born in Canada. Her father was of French lineage and her mother was Irish. After bearing the subject one child, she was called to her rest in 1901 at St. Louis, Missouri. The child born to this union is Truman C. Bledsoe, manager of the Bledsoe-McCreery Lumber Company, of St. Louis. He married Stella Farrell, of that city, and they are the parents of two children, Barbara Louis, and Truman C., Jr. The subject was married in 1903, his second wife being Lillie Mattox, of Terre Haute, Indiana. One son has blessed this union, Maurice William, who was born on September 2, 1904.
The following history of Mr. Bledsoe's railroad career, which forms the lengthiest and one of the most important chapters in his life history, is based on a sketch which the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway system issued in book form, containing a history of the road's representative employees, which article shows the high regard this company had for Mr. Bledsoe.
When only a lad of fifteen our subject began working as a water boy for Howell's corps of engineers in 1870. A survey was then being made from Washington, Iowa, to Princeton, Missouri, the line being an extension of the Chicago and Southwestern Railway, which was later absorbed by the "Rock Island System." The lad was familiarly known as "Squire," which soubriquet has clung to him through life. He worked his way to more important positions in this corps, having remained with them until the survey was completed and the corps was disbanded at Princeton. Our subject then returned to Eldon, Iowa, to which point his mother had moved during his absence. In the fall of 1872 he determined to become a brakeman, to which idea his mother strongly protested, arguing that such a life was too hazardous for her son to undertake, but the son began his career as head brakeman on a very cold night the following winter, his duties being partly to watch for dangers ahead and to watch the lights on the caboose. The rear cars had broken loose on this particular occasion and were running down grade as if about to crash into the section of the train ahead. There were no air brakes on freight trains at that time, and the old square draw bar was dangerous and hard to handle. It was up grade and down grade from Eldon to Washington, but the boy stuck faithfully at his post and all came out well, and from that night of somewhat exciting initiation to the last one on which he pulled the brakes, he proved loyal to his trust, having laid off only about ten days during his entire service. Mr. Bledsoe was a model young man and soon all who formed his acquaintance learned to admire him, and up to this writing, 1908, not a drop of intoxicating liquor has ever touched his lips or a profane word ever passed them and up to the time of the death of his first wife he had never used tobacco, but since that time he has been accustomed to smoke having been greatly shocked at her demise from which he has never fully regained his former vivacity. His word has always been as good as his note and he has been all his life an exemplary character, which is the result of careful teachings by a Christian mother. He has always been a modest and retiring man, unassuming and never in the least pompous or found seeking notoriety, according to the friends who know him best. He has always been cool and calculating and this fact has doubtless saved him accidents while in the railway service, however, death stared him in the face twice during his service on the road; once when he was assisting the fireman in taking coal at Perlee, Iowa, he was caught between the cob and the apron of the schute, but the engineer, Frank Hudler, prevented the accident. At Washington, Iowa, while making a coupling he was pressed into a very close place by the giving way of a draw bar, but the rear car received the impact and rebounded away preventing an accident. In due time Mr. Bledsoe was promoted for his faithful service and wore the badge of conductor. When he resigned it was after nine years of freight runs on the first Iowa division of the southwestern branch of the Rock Island System, his resignation taking place in 1881, which was tendered for the purpose of retiring permanently from railroad life, but he was induced to accept a position on the St. Louis division of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, with which he remained for three years, and then resigned to accept a position as sleeping car conductor for the Pullman Palace Car Company. He remained with that company for four years, during the latter part of which he was inspector of all the company's cars entering St. Louis. He had the distinction of placing in the union station at St. Louis the first Pullman vestibuled train, it being under his personal inspection. He subsequently resigned this position to accept an offer from the Huttig Sash & Door Company, of St. Louis, and in 1900 he was traveling representative of this firm in southern Illinois. He remained with this firm for eighteen years, during which time he rendered them services of the most efficient type and was the cause of their business rapidly increasing. And during his long services with the above mentioned companies he was held in the highest esteem by his employers who placed in him implicit confidence and had unqualified faith in his ability and integrity.
Mr. Bledsoe came to Salem, this county, in 1904 and organized lumber companies here and at Sparta, Illinois, known as the Bledsoe Company, retail yards, wholesale; the Bledsoe-McCreery Lumber Company, being interested in all of them, and by reason of his knowledge of this line of business and his reputation for square dealing, coupled with his courteous manners, he has built up a very extensive business throughout this locality which is constantly growing. In his fraternal relations our subject is a member of the Knights of Pythias. He also belongs to a lumber dealers' association, the Concatentated Order of Hoo-Hoo, and both Mr. and Mrs. Bledsoe are members of the Christian church, and they are among the popular and highly respected residents of Salem.
Extracted 05 Jun 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical Review of Marion, Counties, Illinois, pages 276-279.