Stephen Henry Velie
The City of Moline owes its prominence throughout the United States,
and in fact, throughout the entire civilized world, chiefly to its
manufactories. And to Stephen Henry Velie, deceased, who, during his life,
was conspicuously identified with several of that city's leading
manufacturing establishments, Moline is greatly indebted for the
preeminence she now maintains in industrial enterprise.
Mr. Velie was born April 21, 1830, near Hyde Park, Dutchess County, New
York, his boyhood, until he arrived at the age of fifteen years, being
spent upon his father's farm in that county. During this period he
attended the public schools of that locality. In 1845 he went to New York
City, where he made his home with his grandfather, Stephen Herrick, who
was engaged in the commission business. While with his grandfather, Mr.
Velie obtained valuable business training and experience which was of
great advantage to him in later life. After remaining for some time in the
home of his grandfather, Mr. Velie went to Poughkeepsie in the same state,
and in 1847 came west, locating in St. Louis, Missouri. Here he was
employed in the wholesale grocery house of Edward J. Gay & Company. Mr.
Gay, the head of the firm, made his home in Louisiana, and was after-wards
elected to congress from his district in that state. At this time Mr.
Velie lived with him at his Louisiana home and man-aged his large
plantation for a period of two years during his employer's term in
congress. He again returned to St. Louis where he remained until 1854 when
he came to Rock Island. For five years after removing to this city he had
charge of the C. C. Webber & Company's foundry, at the expiration of which
time he went to Princeton, Illinois, where he was for two years engaged in
the mercantile business.
In 1863 Mr. Velie returned to this locality and entered into
partnership with John Deere, the pioneer plow manufacturer of the west.
In 1868, when the concern was incorporated, Mr. Velie was elected to the
offices of secretary and treasurer and held that
||position until the time of his
death, which occurred February 14, 1895. In addition to the
responsibilities and duties devolving upon him in consequence of his
connection with Deere & Company, Mr. Velie was largely interested in
numerous other financial and manufacturing enterprises. These
interests and holdings he acquired from time to time during his life
in consequence of his business judgment and acumen in commercial
affairs. Every enterprise with which he identified himself
prospered, and as the substantial fruits of these increased, Mr.
Velie was constantly seeking new fields of investment for his large
returns, so that at the time of his death, Mr. Velie, in addition to
possessing large lumber holdings in the south, was interested in the
stone quarries at Le Claire, Iowa, as president of the Moline
Central Railway Company, the Moline Water Power Company and the
Peoples Power Company.
On May 10, 1860, Mr. Velie married Miss Emma C. Deere, daughter of
John Deere, the founder of Moline's great
plow works, and of this marriage five children were born, they being
Charles Deere Velie, one of the present managers of Deere & Company's
branch house at Minneapolis, Minnesota; Stephen Henry, Jr., manager of
that firm's branch house at Kansas City, Missouri, and also of the Velie
Harness Company of the same city; Willard Lamb, president of the Velie
Carriage Company, of Moline; John Deere Velie, who died August 14, 1870,
and Grace Deere Velie, the wife of Stuart Harper of Rock Island.
In politics Mr. Velie was originally a Whig, but later joined the ranks of
the newly formed Republican party which had taken a firm and decided stand
against the iniquity of the ownership of human beings. To this latter
party he gave his allegiance and support throughout his remaining years,
always rejoicing in its successes and lamenting its defeats. He was
constantly contributing both his personal influence and his means to his
party's cause, but never sought political honor for himself, the only
public office he ever held being that of a director of the Moline Public
Library, to which he was chosen when that institution was first organized.
Mr. Velie was a man of religious conviction and was a consistent member of
the Congregational Church at Moline, and in maintaining and furthering
church work, he was always a liberal contributor.
He was a Mason, belonging to the Order of Knights Templar and was also an
Odd Fellow, and in his fraternal, as well as in his domestic business,
political and other relations in life, he set and maintained a high
standard for himself.
|Mr. Velie was a large employer of labor, with
whom he dealt fairly, equitably and liberally, and with whom his
relations and dealings were at all times fraternal and never
He was a splendid type of citizen. He possessed a broad and
comprehensive under-standing of the trend of public events.
Although actively engaged in business, with great interests
demanding his most careful attention, he never became so engrossed
in matters pertaining to finance or commerce that he was difficult
of approach. He was a man of suave and genial temperament, ready
to help those less fortunate than him-self, and to help them in
the way best suited to their peculiar need.
In his hours of relaxation, he was a most delightful companion having
the rare power of discovering and adapting himself to the environment he
might be placed in, and so he was held in warm regard by all who knew
him as a man of great congeniality. He was devotedly attached to his
home and family, and in return he reaped the reward of their enduring
devotion. The best biography of Stephen Henry Velie is written in the
memory of those who knew him, and, knowing him, found him to be
possessed of those qualities that are found only in a high standard of
Source: Biographical History of Rock Island County's
Early Settlers and Leading Business Men.
The above biography is held at
Access Genealogy. Permission
has been granted to republish here.
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