In 1949, when I visited Urbana with my parents, we stopped at a broom factory near my father's boyhood home on Bloomfield Avenue and purchased a broom. At the time I didn't have any clue as to the significance of the broom industry in Urbana, but later, when I studied our family's history, I learned something about my great grandmother's older brother, David S. Perry, and realized that that factory could have been the successor of one started by uncle David.
The following biography of David S. Perry is from page 659 of the Centennial Biographical History of Champaign Co., Ohio, published by the Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, Illinois, 1902. It seems to contain at least two serious errors of fact, misstating the names of both of D. S. Perry's grandmothers.
D. S. PERRY
One of the most expert authorities on broom-corn in Champaign County is D. S. Perry, a substantial citizen of Urbana and variously interested in the surrounding agricultural, industrial and banking enterprises. A native of Venango County, Pennsylvania, he was born February 20, 1837, a son of John and Mary (Smith) Perry, and grandson of Moses and Phoebe (Cross) Perry.1
The origin of the family is authentically traced far back into Scottish history, in which country Moses Perry was born,2 and from where he emigrated to America with his parents when yet a boy. His wife was born in Ireland, and as a child crossed the sea with the rest of her family, settling, as did the Perrys, in Pennsylvania. After the marriage of the young people, they removed to Venango County, Pennsylvania, and lived upon the same farm for sixty-five years, or until the time of their respective deaths. While tilling their land and taking a prominent part in the grneral affairs of the County, the grandparents reared a family of five sons and three daughters.
The parents of D. S. Perry were born, reared and married in Pennsylvania, in which State the maternal grandfather, David Smith,3 was born, and in his longevity showed a truly remarkable hold on life, attaining to four months less than one hundred years. He married Ann Lane,4 who was of Welsh descent, and who died at a comparatively early age. To John and Mary (Smith) Perry were born five sons and four daughters, one son and two daughters being deceased. Three of the sons served their country in the Union Army during the Civil war. Two of the daughters, Mrs. John W. Snyder5 and Mrs. D. C. Carey6, as well as D. S. Perry, are the only members of the family living in Champaign County.
Up to the time of his removal to Urbana in 1880, D. S. Perry engaged in farming and stock-raising, and from his fourteenth year has been interested in either the raising, purchasing or manufacture of broom-corn. While still on the paternal homestead, he attended the public schools, and in the Spring of 18627 settled on a farm in Union Township, this County, where, with his brother,8 he engaged on an extensive scale in the cultivation of broom-corn. The handling of this necessary commodity proved such a reliable source of revenue, that on locating permanently in Urbana, Mr. Perry devoted himself entirely to promoting his chosen industry, and with his brother formed the broom-corn manufacturing enterprise under the firm name of Perry Brothers. In time the brother withdrew from the concern by disposing of his share to Mr. White, and for the following ten years the affairs of the manufactory were conducted under the firm name of Perry & White. At the expiration of this time, the interests of Mr. Perry passed into the hands of J. D. Valentine, and the now reliable and successful firm of White, Valentine & Company maintain the old substantial business integrity fostered for so many years by the Perry brothers.
In the meantime Mr. Perry had been perfecting arrangements for an independent broom-corn business along somewhat different lines, and he has since been engaged in the supply department, principally in buying and selling corn, and also the machinery required for its conversion into brooms. He has heavy holdings in several concerns, notably the Ohio Straw-Board Company, of which he is president and chief promoter. Additional responsibilities have been assumed as President of the Ohio Laundry Company, of Urbana, as a Director in the Citizens' National Bank, and as a stock-holder in warehouse interests in Arcola, Illinois. Mr. Perry is also interested in general farming, and he raises stock on an extensive scale.
On the 30th of March, 1864, Mr. Perry was united in marriage to Susan L. Madden, and of this union there have been three children, one of whom, a son,9 died at the age of seventeen years. The daughters are married, respectively to Mr. A. [Alvin] B. Offenbacher and L. C. Shyrigh.10 Mr. Perry is a member of the board of trade, and in political affiliation is a Republican. With his wife he is connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church. His is a career which has been watched with increasing pride on the part of his fellow citizens, among whom he is regarded as a typical businessman of the progressive and reliable order.
The following mention of D. S. Perry's business is taken from the history of Urbana on page 380 of the History of Champaign County, published in 1881 by W. R. Beers & Co.:
Within the last few years, two establishments have been built for the manufacture of corn-brooms, both near the mouth of North Main street, one by Messrs. David Perry & Bros., the other by J. J. Robinson & Sons. The two establishments work from thirty to forty hands, turning out sixty to one hundred dozen brooms a day, which are shipped to Pennsylvania, Western and Northern Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. Dugan Prairie has a reputation for raising an unsurpassed quality of broom-corn - J. W. Ogden, David Carey, David Perry, Mark Higbee, Freyhoff, Dalhousie and perhaps others living on the prairie making a specialty of the crop and illustrating the first principles of commercial prosperity - the bringing of the producer and manufacturer side by side.
The enterprises thus begun on the returning tide of prosperity, conducted within control and under the hand of experience, bid fair to become manufactories of magnitude and importance.
David S. Perry's obituary appeared in the Urbana Citizen 29 Jan 1917:
D. S. Perry Died Monday Morning Rather Suddenly
HAD BEEN ILL BUT THOUGHT TO BE HOLDING HIS OWN
WAS URBANA'S MOST WEALTHY RESIDENT
Estate Conservatively Estimated at $200,000 -- Prominent Manufacturer.
The community was shocked by the report of the death of David S. Perry, probably Urbana's wealthiest and one of her most prominent citizens Monday morning at 3:30 o'clock at his home on North Main Street. It was not generally known that Mr. Perry was seriously ill and his death came as a decided surprise to his many friends and acquaintances. Since Thanksgiving he has been in failing health and for the past week had been bedfast. While his condition during the past four days had been serious, repeated rallies had served to encourage the members of the family and even on Saturday he had taken nourishment for the first time in several days and that was counted an encouraging sign. Death was due to pneumonia contracted about a week ago, although he had had considerable trouble with his heart. His physician, Dr. Marlo Houston, stated Monday that Mr. Perry had been a very sick man for some time and that he had not left the house for two months. Dr. Houston had been in constant attendance during the past few days and noted the rapid decline.
Native of Pennsylvania
Mr. Perry was born in Franklin, Venango county, Pennsylvania, February 20, 1837 and was within a few days of his eightieth birthday. He was of Scottish origin. The parents of the subject of this sketch, John and Mary (Smith) Perry, were born , reared and married in Pennsylvania. Here was born five sons and three daughters, one son and two daughters of which besides Mr. Perry, are deceased.
Mr. Perry moved to Champaign county in 1862, locating on a farm on the Ludlow road. Here he engaged in the raising of broom corn and grew to be one of the experts in that line of farm products. He engaged in the manufacture of brooms in a small way, using a part of his crops to that end. In 1886 he came to Urbana, where his two brothers James and William, had a broom shop. He entered the business with them forming the Perry Brothers' Broom Company and going into the manufacture of brooms upon an extensive scale.
Had Large Broom Factory
Their shop became one of the largest in the country and was a power in the industry. Later the brothers, desiring to go west, sold out their interests to the late Joseph White and, after a successful term as Perry & White, Mr. Perry sold out his interests to J. D. Valentine and the company became known as White, Valentine & Co., which still flourishes. Mr. Perry's activities took new lines and about twelve years ago with other local capitalists, organized the Urbana Packing Company which is one of the city's best industries. Mr. Perry also owned extensive farm holdings and at the time of his death was one of the richest, if not the richest men in Champaign county. His estate is conservatively estimated at $200,000. He was vice president of the Citizen's National Bank and was identified in other local enterprises.
He was married on March 30, 1864, to Susan L. Madden and to this union three children were born, two daughters surviving with the wife. The daughters are Mrs. Alice Offenbacher and Mrs. Elva Shyrigh. A son David Good Perry, died July 27, 1887, at the age of seventeen years. Three brothers, James and William now of Indianapolis, and John of Venice, California and a sister Mrs. John Snyder of Urbana also survive. Two sisters, Mrs. David Carey and Miss Anna Perry are deceased.
Mr. Perry united with the First Methodist church in 1874 and had been an active member since that time, contributing largely to the organization and lending it his strong moral support. By nature he was modest, quiet and most kindly. Never a harsh word was spoken and gentleness and kindness played the big part in his life. He held the respect and esteem of a wide circle of friends both in a business way and socially. He will be missed in business and church circles as well as in his home where he was a gentle companion and a kind parent.
The funeral arrangements had not been completed at noon, Monday and word from the brothers in the west was expected before these arrangements would be announced.
Another article in the 31 Jan 1917 newspaper described D. S. Perry's funeral:
Simplicity Marks End
LAST SAD RITES FOR D. S. PERRY IN KEEPING WITH THE LIFE HE HAD LIVED.
The funeral of the late D. S. Perry was held from his home on North Main street Wednesday afternoon and was largely attended. Many prominent citizens gathered to pay honor to the friend they had known, both in a business and a social way. The directorships of the Citizens' Bank and the Urbana Packing Company, in both of which the deceased had held offices, and the official board of the First Methodist church, in which Mr. Perry had been prominent, attended in a body and presented resolutions of regret upon the death of their brother and friend.
The services were in charge of Rev. J. H. Denney of the First Methodist church and were impressive in their simplicity. The minister spoke of the many excellent qualities of the deceased and the excellent example his life had been for others. Two favorite hymns, one of them, Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar", were read impressively by the minister.
Beautiful flowers, a number of them elaborate set pieces, were tendered by friends, both as individuals and organizations.
The interment was made in the family burial lot in Oak Dale Cemetery. The following were the pall bearers: W. R. Wilson, J. D. Valentine, Philip Morgan, Julius Rasmussen and I. O. Tritt. G. S. Tarbox, of Arcola, Illinois, a broomcorn man, with a friendship for the deceased of many years' duration, was present and was an honorary pallbearer.
Among those from a distance were James Perry, a brother of the deceased, and wife of Indianapolis; Rev. George Carey, a nephew, of Troy, and Rev. C. D. Munsey, a friend of many years, now a resident of South Charleston. William Perry, of Indianapolis, a traveling salesman, too far away to arrive in time for the funeral, and John Perry, another brother, residing in California, were not present.
The Citizen's National Bank and the National Bank of Urbana closed in honor of the deceased and remained closed during the time of the funeral. The Urbana Packing Company also closed down during the funeral period.
Susan (Madden) Perry passed away 16 Mar 1926 and was remembered in the following obituary:
MRS. D. S. PERRY DIES AT HOME SUNDAY MORN
Well Known Long Time Resident of City Succumbs to Ravages of Time.
Mrs. Susan L. Madden Perry, widow of the late D. S. Perry, died at her home in North Main Street, Sunday at 2:30 a.m., following an illness of about a month, due to the infirmities of old age.
She was a daughter of Perry G. and Polly Madden and was born in this county, September 4, 1838, and had lived here her entire life of more than 87 years, in Champaign county and Urbana, having been a resident of the city for more than 45 years or since 1880 when, following her marriage to Mr. Perry, they removed to Urbana from a farm northeast of Urbana.
Mrs. Perry was the mother of three children, two of whom survive. These are Mrs. Mary Alice Offenbacher and Mrs. Martha Elva Shyrigh, both of Urbana. A son David Good Perry died on July 27, 1887. In addition to the two daughters, two grandchildren, Mrs. John Thackery11 and Mrs. Robert Baker,12 together with five great grandchildren survive. A sister, Mrs. Martha Pearce of Chicago, also survives. Mr. Perry, the husband, died a number of years ago. They were married on March 30, 1864, by Rev. W. B. Jackson, one of the pioneer Methodist ministers of Urbana, in the home of the bride's parents, in Wayne township. Mr. Perry and her husband were long time active members of the Methodist church, the latter having united with that organization February 10, 1874 and remained a faithful member until she was called to the Church Triumphant Sunday Morning.
Funeral services will be held from the home, 412 North Main street, on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., in charge of Rev. J. S. Altman, pastor of the M. E. church. Interment will be made in Oak Dale cemetery by the side of her husband and son, under the direction of Humphreys and son.
The Champaign county public library has photographs of two Urbana broom factories which were once operated by D. S. Perry on its Glimpses of Our Past page. Both pictures show grim, gray 19th century factory buildings. The following chronology of the two factories may be of interest:
|White Valentine Broom Co.||Urbana Broom Company|
|1883 Perry Bros. 504 N. Russell |
1884 Perry & White
1886 Burned and Rebuilt
1887 White & Valentine
1898 Burned and Rebuilt
1899 J.D. & G.L. Valentine Co.
|1870 D.S.Perry 731 N. Main St|
1898 Relocated 501 W. Court
1898 Urbana Broom Co. (renamed)
|There were other broom companies in the area. The pictures above are the only pictures the library owns of the broom factories.|
|Information from Historical Facts & Trivia of Champaign County, Ohio by Ed Ridder, 1997|
The reports of the death and funeral of David and Susan's daughter Mary Alice "Allie" (Perry) Offenbacher (1865-1951) appeared in the 8 and 12 March 1951 issues of the Urbana Daily Citizen:
Mrs. Offenbacher Dies Suddenly Early Thursday
Mrs. Mary A. Offenbacher, 84, of 412 North Main street, died suddenly in her residence at 8 a.m. today.
Born in Champaign county, March 25, 1864, she was the daughter of David and Suzanne Madden Perry. She was a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Urbana.
Surviving are one daughter, Mrs. Robert J. Baker of Urbana, one granddaughter, Mrs. Philip [Mary Alice] Legge of Watertown, New York; one grandson, Robert Baker of Cincinnati; and three great-grandchildren.
The body was removed to the Humphreys and Son Company funeral home where it will remain for services at 2 p.m. Saturday in charge of a reader of the Christian Science church. Burial is to be made in Oak Dale cemetery.
Funeral Services Are Conducted For Mrs. Offenbacher
Funeral services for Mrs. Mary A. Offenbacher of 412 North Main street, who died March 8 in her home, were held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Humphreys and Son Co. funeral home. A reader, Mrs. Edna Margal, of the Christian Science church of Springfield, conducted the services.
Interment was made in Oak Dale cemetery. Pallbearers were Jack Thackery, John Thackery, Howard Martin, Floyd Pflaumer, Ellis Warren and Robert Baker.