By A. J. Roush
That "the proper study of mankind is man" is evinced in our most casual observation.
The stately palace, the costly mansion, the rustic cottage, however interesting on account of their architectural beauty, vanish in importance and interest before the story of the life of the builder or inmate. In him or her we see mirrored some phase of our being; what we are, have been or may achieve.
So the Farmer's Bank, one of the ornaments of the city of Lafayette, and the Old COLEMAN Mansion, the handsomest home in the county, inspire the inquiry: Who built them? What are the facts of that enterprising and successful man's life? Did he have fortune thrust upon him, or was he the architect of his own fortune?
Yes, in the life of THOMAS COLEMAN there is an example to inspire and encourage others starting on life's voyage. From poverty, obscurity and surrounding ignorance, he rose, by the dint of his energy and industry, to wealth and high position in society.
He was born August 2, 1818, on a farm in the county of Jefferson in the State of Ohio. It was then a new country; the pioneers were generally poor and without the means to properly educate their children. At the age of 16, THOMAS had learned to read and write at a three-months school, such as was then kept in the country.
At this early period of life, without money, education or influential friend, young COLEMAN adventured from home to seek a livelihood for himself. His first employment was that of driver on the Ohio Canal, between Cleveland and Portsmouth. This was hard work and poor pay. Yet there was promotion before him, if he achieved it himself. Industry, economy and thrift always gain the rewards of life. At the end of seven years he had saved enough to become part owner of the boat, and its Captain. This was in 1841. He so prospered that in 1845, in company with Mr. Standort, of Cleveland, he bought five canal boats and put them on the Toledo and Erie Canal. The year following, they bought six more and sold them out at a good profit. In this cold climate the water froze, and navigation closed every Winter; COLEMAN, therefore, sought other employment for this season of the year. He engaged for six Winters in the purchase and shipping of horse from the neighborhood of New Philadelphia, Ohio, to the Baltimore market, over the mountains.
In 1847, he disposed of his boating interest in Ohio and bought a farm near La Gro, in Wabash County, Ind., and also bought a warehouse in the town of La Gro, and carried on, for five years, the grain business, and did his own shipping on his won boats to Toledo.
During his residence here, he met and married MISS JULIA WHEELER, the accomplished and faithful companion of his declining life and the mother of his six children.
In the year 1852, he sold out his La Gro property at a large profit over the purchase price, and moved to Tippecanoe County and bought the BEN EASTBORN farm, 420 acres, for $5,000. He here went into farming and stock business and continued for two years, at the end of which time he sold the farm for $10,500 and came to the city and went into the broker's business. He devoted his entire time to handling stock and buying notes and mortgages and lending money.
His success in handling money in this manner attracted the attention of the banker and capitalist, JOHN L. REYNOLDS, with whom he formed a partnership in 1857, under the firm name of COLEMAN & CO. This co-partnership continued until 1861. From this time up to 1867, MR. COLEMAN continued in the same business, handling stock, buying notes, lending money and buying and selling real estate. In the year 1867, he formed a partnership with T. G. RAINEY, and established the Farmer's Bank of Lafayette, he being the capitalist in the establishment and RAINEY receiving a part of the profits as pay for his services. This partnership with MR. RAINEY lasted ten years, up to 1877, since which time MR. COLEMAN does all of the business of the bank in his own name.
In 1858, he bought the REUBEN STEELY farm, now known as the COLEMAN homestead. It consisted of 240 acres, in the suburbs of the city. He has added to it until it now has over 500 acres. It is one of the most attractive and beautiful places in the county, and the mansion house is princely in its appearance and surroundings. This is MR. COLEMAN'S country residence. His city residence is one of the most beautiful in the city, at the head of Main Street. His banking house is one of the ornaments of the city, besides being built in the most substantial manner.
It is a matter of encouragement, this wonderful success of MR. COLEMAN. Without education, without money to start in life, and without friend to help him, he is, at the age of 60, a well-informed gentleman, a millionaire, with substantial property at home and large and valuable investments in Kansas, Colorado and other Western states.
That MR. COLEMAN has a rare faculty for business, there is no doubt. But the secret of his success has been that he attended to what he had in hand with an undivided attention. With his prosperity, he has been public spirited, subscribing stock for railroads, assisting in raising money to equip the soldiers in late war, and furnishing the city with a town clock at his own expense.
At his home, he is hospitable. He has saved no pains in educating his children, or expense to make his fireside comfortable and happy.
Combination Atlas Map of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, pg. 31
Kingman Brothers, Publishers, 1878
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