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William F. Calkins


Submitted by Lisa Hoffious and Bill Moore


William F. CALKINS.    A native son of Michigan who has shown distinctive initiative and executive ability, as well as broad technical knowledge along mechanical lines, is William Fenelon CALKINS, who has been essentially the architect of his own fortunes and who has risen to secure status as one of the representative captains of industry in his native State.  He has been a resident of Traverse City since 1887 and is one of its honored and influential citizens, with large interests in connection with a number of the leading manufacturing enterprises which lend to the industrial precedence of Grand Traverse county, as further data in this context will fully reveal.  He has been dependent upon his own resources from his boyhood days, and in his character and achievement he has signally honored the State that gave him birth and to which he accords unfaltering loyalty and appreciation.

    Mr. CALKINS is a scion of a sterling pioneer family of Michigan and was born at Battle Creek, this State, on the 26th of November, 1855, the present fine metropolis of Calhoun county having been at that time a mere village.  He is a son of Fenelon and Louise (PIERCE) CALKINS, both of whom were born and reared in Wyoming county, New York, and he is a posthumous child, as his birth occurred six months after the death of his father, the other child of this union being Emma, who is the wife of Oscar F. WALRATH, of Glen Ellyn, Dupage county, Illinois.  The mother finally contracted a second marriage, becoming the wife of John C. DYKMAN, and she continued her residence in Michigan until the time of her death.  William F. CALKINS owing to the death of his father, early faced the battle of life on his own responsibility, and while he thus had fellowing with toil and adversity in his youth the discipline proved valuable in developing and maturing a strong and resourceful nature and in prompting that ambition and self reliance that have made him a successful man of affairs and a progressive and useful citizen.  He attended the public schools until he had attained to the age of twelve years, and he then went to the State of New York, where he remained for several years on the old homestead farm of his paternal grandparents.  His broader education-and he is a man of large information and mature judgment has been gained principally through self-application and through the lessons received under the preceptorship of that wisest of all head-masters experience.

    At the age of nineteen years Mr. CALKINS went to California, where he was variously employed, but within a few years he returned to Michigan and became actively identified with the great limbering industry, which was then in its zenith.  He had already acquired a considerable amount of practical experience as a millwright, and after passing three years at Big Rapids, in sawmill work; he went to Muskegon, where he entered the employ of the firm of STIMPSON, FAY Company.  He there remained as superintendent of the sawmills of the firm for six years, and had supervision of the work of a corps of eighty-five men.  His early experience at Muskegon and Traverse City included the supervision of the manufacturing of more than two million feet of white-pine lumber, during the twelve years of his connection with the firm mentioned.  After the closing down of the mills of this representative firm Mr. STIMPSON earnestly importuned Mr. CALKINS to join him in lumbering operations in the State of Oregon, where Mr. STIMPSON became a prominent and successful operator in manufacturing of lumber.  Mr. CALKINS was tendered flattering overtures to assume the superintendency of the a STIMPSOM mills on the Pacific coast, but he had promised to remain in Traverse City and has never had cause to regret this promise, for here he has found ample opportunity for the achieving of distinctive success.

    In 1887 Mr. CALKINS went to Traverse City in company with John J. FAY, with whom he became associated in the operation of the saw mill at that time known as the “Big Mill” of the firm of HANNAH & LAY.  The mill was later purchased by John F. OTT, who operated it until the business was closed down owing to the lack of adequate supply resources, with the virtual exhaustion of the timber of this section.  After having the management of this mill for a period of six years, during which he was still in the employ of STIMPSON, FAY & Company, Mr. CALKINS identified himself with the Traverse City Iron Works, then operated by the late William HOLDSWORTH, who was succeeded by the firm of THRILBY & JACKSON.  Upon the retirement of Mr. JACKSON his interest was purchased by the late Robert W. ROUND, and in 1894 Mr. CALKINS himself became one of the interested principals, whereupon the title of the firm was changed to THRILBY & CALKINS.  Under this firm name the business was successfully continued until 1908, when its expansion in scope and importance rendered expedient the incorporation the Traverse City Iron Company, which bases it operation on a capital stock of $100,000 and the executive corps of which is as here designated: William THRILBY, president; William F. CALKINS, vice president and treasurer; and George THRILBY, secretary.  Mr. CALKINS not only gives close attention to his executive duties as vice president and treasurer but also has general superintendence of the plant, as a man of fine technical ability and as an expert artisan.  Concerning his association with this enterprise the following pertinent statement has been made:  “He is thoroughly conversant with every branch of the business and is considered an authority on many subjects in connection therewith.  The plant builds gas-producing engines of the highest grade, and a specialty is made of the installing of heating plants, besides which the enterprise includes diverse other lines of work common to industrial concerns of this order.”  A more recent phase of enterprise taken up by the company is in the erection and equipment of electric light and water power plants, and the corporation has assumed large and important contract of this kind in Midland, Barry, Missaukee and other counties of the State.  In this special department of the large and substantial business the company give employment to a force of thirty men.

    Broad-minded and enterprising as a citizen, Mr. CALKINS has ever been ready to lend his influence and co-operation in measures and under-takings projected for the general good of the community, and while he is a staunch adherent of the Republican party and has had no ambition for public office, his civic loyalty prompted him to accept the position of member of the Traverse City board of public works, an office to which he was elected in April 1897, and concerning his connection with which the following estimate has been given:  “He served on this board for seven years, as its chairman during his term of office, and within his regime was completed the first street paving in the city, and it was largely through his efforts that the splendid work thus done on Front street was ordered by the city council.  He retired form office with an excellent record and much to the regret of many representative citizens, who would have been glad to have him remain in the position indefinitely.” 

    Mr. CALKINS is a stockholder and director of the First National Bank of Traverse City and a stockholder in the People’s Savings Bank.  He is president of the BROWN Lumber Company and also of the Potato Implement Company, which latter represents one of the important industrial enterprises of Traverse City.  Of this corporation he was one of the organizers, and he has been its president form the beginning, besides which he is president of the Traverse City Brick Company, of which likewise he was one of the organizers.  He has a wide acquaintanceship among the representative figures in manufacturing circles in his native State and his broad and intimate knowledge of mechanics makes his judgment virtually authoritative, the while he has ordered his course upon a high plane of integrity and honor and fully merits the unqualified esteem in which he is uniformly held.  A reader and student, Mr. CALKINS has become a man of wide mental ken, and well fortified views, and he has taken special pleasure in the study of astronomy, besides delving into other scientific subjects.  He is a member of the National Geographic Society and a member of the Northwestern Bankers Club.

    In the city of Muskegon, on the 7th of November, 1882, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. CALKINS to Miss Annie C. ROYCE, who was born at Pembroke, Renfrew county, Province of Ontario, Canada, and who is a daughter of Isaac B.  and Susan ROYCE, her father having been a pioneer fur dealer and later becoming prominently identified with lumbering operations at Muskegon, this state.  Mrs. CALKINS is an influential and popular factor in social, church and club affairs in her home city, where she is a zealous member of the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, and prominent in its missionary work, as is she also in leading social and literary clubs in Traverse City, where she is also secretary of the board of trustees of the public library.  Mr. and Mrs. CALKINS have one daughter, Lulu, who was born at Muskegon, in 1883, and who is now the wife of Frederick A. NOTEWARE, a member of the editorial staff of the Chicago Inter Ocean, now under the same control as is the Chicago Herald.  Mr. and Mrs. NOTEWARE have a daughter, Margaret, who was born in 1904.


Source:  History of Michigan by Charles Moore, 1915     pages 1637  - 1639


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