Clearly defined purpose and consecutive effort in the affairs of life will invariably result in the attainment of a large measure of success; but in following out the career of one who gained success by his own efforts there comes into view the intrinsic individuality which made such accomplishment possible, and thus there is gained an object incentive and inspiration, while at the same time there is enkindled a feeling of respect and admiration. In connection with industrial interests, the reputation of the late Charles W. Tritt was pronounced in the business circles of Union City and Randolph county for a long lapse of years. In studying the lives and characters of prominent men in any walk of life we are naturally led to inquire into the secret of their success and the motives that prompted their actions. Success is oftener a matter of experience and sound judgment and thorough preparation for a life-work than it is of genius, however bright. When we trace the careers of those whom the world acknowledges as successful, and those who stand highest in public esteem, we find that in almost every case they are those who have risen gradually by their own efforts, their diligence and perseverance. These qualities were undoubtedly possessed in a large measure by the gentleman whose name introduces this memoir. Although his life was a busy one, his every-day affairs making heavy demands upon his time, he never shrank from his duties as a citizen and his obligations to his friends and the general public. Always self-possessed, never demonstrative, his life was, nevertheless, a persistent plea, more by precept and example than by public action or written or spoken word, for the purity and grandeur of right principles and the beauty and elevation of wholesome character. He had the greatest sympathy for his fellow men and was ever willing to aid and encourage those who were struggling to aid themselves against adverse fate, yet in this as in everything else, he maintained an admirable dignity and was entirely unassuming. To him home life was a sacred trust, friendship was inviolable and nothing could swerve him from the path of rectitude and honor.
Mr. Tritt was born November 3, 1852. in Fairfield, Greene county, Ohio, and was a son of Tilghman Tritt and wife, natives of Frederick, Maryland. When he was four years old his parents removed to Union City, Indiana and here he grew to manhood, and here he attended the public schools until he was fourteen years of age, finishing his school work at Hillsboro, Indiana. He also attended White Water College, at White Water, Ohio, a select college. He began his work in the school of experience, as clerk in a grocery store in Union City, owned by Reeves & Robbins, and continued in their employ for about two years, when he bought his employers out and conducted the grocery business successfully for about twelve years, being one of the most enterprising of our local merchants. In the year 1881, with the assistance of James Starbuck and Pierre Gray, eldest son of ex-Governor Gray, he organized the Union City Carriage Company, and for a period of thirty-two years remained at the head of this company, his wise foresight, sound judgment and close application making it a pronounced success, and one of the leading manufacturing plants in northeastern Indiana. The capital stock was originally thirty thousand dollars. Its growth was remarkable and its present plant consists of five large brick factory buildings, which are equipped with every modern device for the rapid manufacture of high-grade carriages which have gained a very wide reputation, and this great institution will long stand as a monument to his name. In a few years the business grew to very large proportions and an extensive and constantly growing trade is now carried on over a vast territory. Mr. Tritt was its general manager up until twelve years ago, when he retired from that position and was made president of the company. Only skilled artisans were employed, and owing to the superior workmanship and quality of the products of this concern they have ever found a ready market, the demand being often greater than could be readily met. When Mr. Tritt retired from the buggy building business four years ago, he entered the automobile business with the firm name of J. W. Shreeve & Company, and early in 1913 this company dissolved partnership and a new company was organized, which is now known as the J. Thornburg Garage Company, of which firm our subject was actively engaged up to the time of his death. He was until shortly before his death the head of the Tritt Electric Company, which his able management made successful, He was also a heavy stockholder in the Commercial National Bank of Union City. He was very successful in a business way, having started with nothing and forged his way to a position of wealth and influence through his individual efforts and honorable dealings with his fellow men, and he was deserving of a great deal of credit for it all. In June, 1911, he retired from active life, spending the rest of his days looking after his large farming and other business interests. His farm in Darke county, Ohio, was kept well improved, retaining its original fertility, and the dwelling thereon remodeled and equipped with all modern conveniences, such as electric lights, furnace, hot and cold water, in fact, everything equal to a home in the city. It is perhaps the finest country home in that county.
The happy and harmonious domestic life of Charles W. Tritt began on November 7, 1880, when he led to the hymeneal altar a lady of exemplary characteristics, known in her maidenhood as Elizabeth A. Reeves, a representative of a sterling and honored old family. She was born in Lancaster, Jay county, Indiana, June 30, 1858, but she was reared and educated in Union City, Randolph county, whither she removed with her parents when a child, and here the major portion of her life has been spent. The union of our subject and wife was blessed by the birth of five children, namely: Russell J., whose, birth occurred November 11, 1882, was educated in the Union City high school and the Muncie Business College; he married Nina Turpen, a daughter of Charles Turpen, and to them one child has been born, John Turpen Tritt, whose birth occurred July 12, 1911; Raymond C., second child of our subject, died at the age of five years; Inez Alberta married W. Mort Martin, of Indianapolis, and they had one child, Elizabeth Jean Martin, born September 20, 1911; the death of Mrs. Martin occurred December 28, 1912; Nellie E., fourth child of our subject, was born July 15, 1890, educated in the Union City high school and Eureka College in Illinois; Frank Tilghman Tritt, born August 31, 1896, was educated in the Union City high school.
Mrs. Elizabeth A. Tritt is a daughter of the late Dr. J. L. Reeves, who was born in Darke county, Ohio, September 14, 1827. He was a son of James and Rachael Reeves. In 1882 Doctor Reeves came with his parents to Randolph county, the family locating in the woods in Jackson township, four and one-half miles north of Union City, near where later was built the village of New Lisbon. The elder Reeves built a log cabin, being the fourth voter to build a cabin in that precinct. He entered land from the government which he cleared and developed into a good farm, becoming an influential man in that community. John L. Reeves was reared pretty much the same as other pioneer lads, working on the farm in summer and during the brief term of school in the wintertime he studied at the neighborhood school house. He spent part of his time with his grandfather in Delaware county. When but thirteen years old he walked through the great woods from his father's to his grandfather's home, returning in like manner. He remained at home until he reached his majority, when but a boy he began reading medicine, sending to New York for a few books which he studied eagerly. In the fall of 1851 he began plastering which he followed three years, receiving eight dollars per month for same. With this he bought books and studied medicine at night and also read under Dr. Noah Simmons of New Lisbon. He farmed for awhile, but this induced bleeding at the lungs and necessitated his abandoning tilling the soil. In 1849 he was married to Angelina Milligan, who died in 1854. In that year he began practicing his profession in the village of Pittsburg, northwest of Lisbon, continuing there successfully until 1856, when he located at Lancaster or Salamonia, Jay county, where he built up a fine practice and was actively engaged until the commencement of the war between the states. When Sumter's signal gun heralded the great conflict Doctor Reeves at once organized a company of state guards at Lancaster which was offered to the government at Indianapolis, and the company was distributed throughout various regiments. Doctor Reeves entered the service as lieutenant of Company F, Fortieth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and was first sent to Camp Chase, Columbus, Ohio; later the regiment was sent to eastern Kentucky and became a part of the army of the Cumberland. The Doctor was then made captain of his company and served under Gen. James A. Garfield at Pound Gap, and was in all skirmishes and marches in which his regiment participated, serving his country most faithfully and gallantly for a period of three years and four months. At the great battle of Chickamauga, September 20, 1863, he was wounded in the left ankle which lamed him for many years. He was also stunned by a shell and his comrades supposed him to be dead. He recovered from the shock in due time but was disabled for three months. He came near being captured the same day, but was spared the horrors of Andersonville. His company was then placed to guard the crossing at Shell Mound, Tennessee, and Captain Reeves remained with his men, lying on a brush pile until the following spring instead of going to a hospital. At that place the company veteranized on January 1, 1864, and in March of that year Captain Reeves was promoted to major and served with that rank most gallantly until mustered out of the army and honorably discharged on December 10, 1864. In the meantime his company had gone into the Atlanta campaign after General Hood. At the bloody battle of Franklin, Tennessee, the, Major's regiment was consolidated with the Fifty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and Major Reeves was offered the commission of colonel of the same, but as he had been in active service for over three years and his health was somewhat shattered he declined the honor, resigned his commission as major and returned home. For a short time he engaged in the grocery business at Union City. In 1866 he entered the Eclectic Medical College at Cincinnati, Ohio, from which he was graduated in 1867. He resumed the practice of medicine in Union City.
He enjoyed a large and lucrative practice until 1882 when an old trouble, which arose while in the army, returned and he was compelled to give up active practice, although he continued to practice to some extent until within a few years of his death, and up to the last he dictated prescriptions and gave advice to friends who sought his services. In 1890 he purchased a drug store in the Ross Opera building which he utilized for office and business rooms.
Doctor Reeves first marriage resulted in the birth of two children, James S. Reeves, now deceased, for a number of years a well-known business man and postmaster at Union City; and Emmeretta, who lived in Missouri with her grandmother, Mrs. Margaret Milligan, both of whom were driven out by the Confederates in 1861, and both died seven years later at the home of John Milligan in Darke county, Ohio, from exposure and nervous prostration caused by their expulsion. The second marriage of Doctor Reeves was to Esther McFarland, of Pittsburg, Indiana, and to this union four children were born, three of whom survive, namely Mrs. Elizabeth A. Tritt, wife of our subject; J. C. Reeves, and W. R. Reeves, of Union City.
Doctor Reeves was a man of remarkable energy and strong intellect, which he retained until the autumn of a busy and useful life, gaining for himself unaided and alone an honorable position among his fellow men. Few have tried harder to mount the weary steps of success than did this noble gentleman, and few succeeded better in Randolph county during the generation that is past. As a physician he was exceptionally successful. For years he kept a barn full of good horses and he rode day and night, administering to the sick for miles in every direction. He was always held in highest regard by those in his profession and out of it, all having the greatest respect for his ability and integrity, yet withal he was extremely modest, leaving praise and commendation to others. He believed the world to be a place of usefulness where each should do his part and do it well without ostentation or display. He was kind to every one, simple in habits, strong in will and character. He was an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was president of his company which met in annual reunion, which were among the happiest days during the latter part of his life. He was also a worthy member of the Christian church, and belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Union City, and he practiced the doctrine of both church and fraternal order in his daily life. He was a loving husband, kind father and helpful neighbor, a splendid citizen and loyal friend, and he will long continue to be missed by all whose lives he touched in the long, trying earthly journey. This splendid man was called to his eternal rest on Wednesday, April 7, 1913, and was buried in the Lisbon cemetery, the beautiful "God's acre," as known to the old Saxons the places where they laid their dead away until the resurrection. In the interest of this cemetery and in other local things he had labored arduously, hence the community owes him a debt of gratitude which it can only repay by reverencing his memory.
Charles W. Tritt was for many years a leader in local matters pertaining to the general good of Union City and community, and while he was a loyal Republican, he never sought political office, desiring to devote his attention to his large business affairs and to his home. Religiously he was a devout member of the Christian church, belonging to the official board of the same. Fraternally, he was a member of the Masonic Order and the Knights of Pythias, a charter member of the local lodge of the latter.
On February 21, 1914, Mr. Tritt was summoned to close his eyes on earthly scenes, in his sixty-second year, his death being sudden and unexpected, although he had been in failing health for more than a year. His funeral was one of the largest ever known in Union City, people of all walks of life delighting to do him honor, which proved the genuine worth of the man. We quote a few lines from the eloquent and appropriate eulogy pronounced upon him by Rev. C. W. Buchanan. "Whatever work Mr. Tritt undertook he always saw victory. He stood above the mountain peaks of failure among the successful ,men of his generation. He had a vision of God's kingdom and the harvest field that is waving with the ripened grain. He was convinced that the liquor traffic was opposed to God and His laws and he gave not only his money, but his time to fighting this great menace. He was not only a man of vision-steadfast in his ways, a man of courage and strength, but he was more, he had a heart of sympathy; he could not bear to see any person suffer-to the poor he was always kind. He gave not only to his church, but to every worthy cause, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Temperance Missions and all kinds of benevolent work. He tried to be a man in every way".
The following tribute, an estimate of the life of Charles W. Tritt, appeared in The Union City Eagle, and is well worth preserving in this history:
"Again our city is in the shadow of a cloud of grief. Today there are being enacted the final scenes in the life of one whose career has meant much to the city's growth. We are carried back to another scene of many years ago when a young man, the offspring of hardy, honest, hard-working parents, started out to make his way in the world and solve life's stubborn problem. He had no capital behind him except his own strong body and robust manliness, his own clear and vigorous mind, unwearied energy and worthy ambition to do something worth while in the world. We see him as a clerk, courteous, attentive, efficient. We see him as a partner with a pride of personal interest and ownership. He prospered; he succeeded. People liked him, applauded him, patronized him, encouraged him. He was climbing the weary ladder round by round. Then we see him with others organizing an industry which came to be the greatest in the city. For more than thirty years he was the master mind, the moving spirit of that industry. Others came and went, reorganizations were had and had again, but he remained throughout it all, with his hand on the wheel. Until two years ago he continued in this capacity, then retired. The Union City Carriage Factory is his memorial. He needs no other.
Such in brief is an account of the business career of Charles W. Tritt. And it is an enviable one. He succeeded. Many others who started with him failed and their names are forgotten. Such things do not happen without cause. Why did this boy who started without a dollar of capital in money, achieve success? The reasons may be many but a few will suffice. He was the embodiment of industry. He worked unceasingly. He remained on the job. In the early years of the Union City Carriage works he labored day and night for its welfare and he relaxed his effort only when he severed his connection with it. During its first ten years its future was decidedly uncertain. The bulk of the supervision fell to him. By his efforts a trade was created, a demand for its output. He traveled over the country seeking customers and built up by degrees a patronage which now embraces three great , states and even reaches beyond their limits. His whole mind and energy was directed to the accomplishment of this task. It is said that 'every life is a lesson.' To the discouraged and despairing the life of this man is a hope and inspiration, an exemplification of the maxim that 'The gods sell everything for labor.' He was a man of vision, of wide knowledge of human affairs, of keen, cultivated insight into human nature. His mind reached out beyond the present. He saw a glimpse of that which lay beyond the mysterious curtain of the future and applied this knowledge to the present. While conservative in business, yet he anticipated the needs of the business in which he was engaged. He recognized the fact that the people wanted a vehicle of medium price, and he set out to have just that kind of vehicle made, and made in large quantities. He did things on a large scale, believed in a volume of business. Not only in business was he far-seeing, but in everything else as well.
Charles W. Tritt was a natural organizer and leader. He was in control of everything in which he was engaged. From the time he went into the carriage company until the time he went out he held a controlling hand. His cool, forceful, executive mind placed him in the fore rank and kept him there. He was a strong character, firm, resolved, determined, and all who came in contact with him recognized at once his force of will and strength of character. Early and forced economy gave him a most distinct and sharp idea of values. To him economy in everything was a virtue. He believed that 'a penny saved is a penny earned.' His thrift was largely due to this belief. Yet he was by no means parsimonious, but, on the other hand, was generous and charitable. The full extent of his charity will never be known. He did not want it known. He did not care for praises from the housetops. Although he was possessed of a large annual income he gave more than a tenth of it to the cause of the church and charity. For several years he and his brother, the late, F. C. Tritt, gave on an average of eight hundred dollars a year to the cause of charity in this city. The books of one shoe dealer show where they purchased and paid for two hundred dollars’ worth of shoes a year. Clothing merchants and grocery keepers will give the same testimony. All this went to help the needy. He started many in life, helped many along the way of life, and many will ‘rise up and call him blessed.’ Deeply impressed with the truth of his convictions, he supported them with an earnestness born of sincerity, with a fulness of information due to his habit of industry, and with a power that sprung from large natural ability disciplined by severe training. He was simple in his manner, frugal in his habits. When he spoke he hit the mark, used no additional words, sought for no decoration. He said what he thought, in plain, strong, terse, effective words, then listened, To him life was a practical problem and he treated it in a practical way. He knew, likewise, that death must come, and he had prepared for it, as he had prepared for everything else. For many years he had not been a well man. 'I am likely to go any time,' he would remark. Only within the last week he remarked, 'I have my vault in the cemetery completed, and I'm ready for the end.' He dealt with the problem of death just as he dealt with those of life, in that cool, serene and calculating manner. He met the 'king of terrors' like a warrior faces his foe-grandly, bravely, fearlessly, with the sweetest assuring hope that 'joy cometh in the morning' and that all will be well on the morrow.
Charles W. Tritt was a good citizen, a lover of law and order, a patriotic man who wanted the best for the state, city and county. He looked upon the liquor traffic as an outlaw and he fought it bitterly and uncompromisingly with money and with influence until his death. Whatever he considered wrong he opposed; whatever he considered right he supported. He took great pride in his home city. He was in favor of growth, progress and improvement in every way. When the city needed money recently to complete certain improvements he gladly advanced a large amount in order that the improvements might be carried on. His heart was in every good and patriotic cause. His unbounded affection for his family was another of his striking characteristics. When released from business cares and duties he could be found at home with wife and children. Social pleasures had no charms for him. Lodges received but little of his time. He loved his home and dear ones, and there he preferred to be, providing liberally for their comfort, enjoying their companionship. He was deeply interested in the work of the church. For many years he was the leader of the board of trustees and had a leading part in the rebuilding of the Christian church. The church leaned heavily upon him and he remained true to the cause until the end.
And so a strong, good, helpful man has gone from our midst, not in the morning of active life, not in 'the sere and yellow leaf,' but in the meridian of his usefulness and power. The solemnity of this hour, of his funeral, the crowded church, these emblems of mourning, these heaps of fragrant flowers, these idle hands and saddened faces, all unite in expressions of heart-felt sorrow. A good man, a faithful servant has gone from us, one who will be missed by many. But his name will be revered, his memory cherished, his good works treasured by those whose lives he touched and helped and brightened while traveling along life's weary pathway. His life-work is left, his monument erected, not only in stone, but in the memory of those who knew him, in the influence which he wielded, in the molded, rounded, useful life which passes not away.”
Past and Present of Randolph County, Indiana, 1914.
Contributed by Gina Richardson
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