The boilermaker brings success to a simmer

The boilermaker brings success to a simmer

 

In certain company, a boilermaker is a shot and a beer. In other crowds, the word is synonymous with Indiana’s Purdue University, its school mascot being a “Boilermaker Special” locomotive. But the word’s origins refer to skilled craftsmen, and the tough, dirty, vital trade that forged the industrial revolution.

In certain company, a boilermaker is a shot and a beer. In other crowds, the word is synonymous with Indiana’s Purdue University, its school mascot being a “Boilermaker Special” locomotive. But the word’s origins refer to skilled craftsmen, and the tough, dirty, vital trade that forged the industrial revolution.

Many decades before he established the Reeves Banking and Trust Co. in Dover, Ohio, Jeremiah E. Reeves was a boilermaker. He was born in Dorsetshire, England, in 1845, and honed his craft in Wales beginning at age 10. He arrived in America in 1867, a year after Huntington Bank was founded.1

Reeves, a structural ironworker by training, toiled in mills in Cleveland and Pittsburgh before establishing the Reeves Boiler Works in Niles, Ohio, in the early 1870s.

In 1882, his brother Jabez joined the business, and together they formed the Reeves Sheet and Bar Mills in New Philadelphia.

The town of New Philadelphia had grown up as the southern terminus of the Ohio & Erie Canal, an inland waterway connecting the Ohio River in the south to Cleveland and Lake Erie in the north, a conduit that “helped people and products flow across America . . . (and) nurtured Ohio’s economy, transforming a wild frontier into a booming and populous state — taking Ohio from near bankruptcy to the third most economically prosperous State in the Union in just 20 years.”2

By the early 1860s, railroad travel began to displace the canal freight traffic and the economy of canal towns along this route began to shift. In the early 1880s, Jeremiah and Jabez took an interest in the Dover Rolling Mill, an operation a few miles north of New Philadelphia on the Tuscawaras River. The mill, founded in the 1860s, had “an unstable, up and down operation,” and the Reeves brothers saw an opportunity to revamp and improve it.3 They sold their New Philadelphia concern and J.E. Reeves landed a loan from First National Exchange Bank and bought the Dover Rolling Mill for $14,000.4

In 1883, the Reeves Iron Co. began operating in what was then called “Canal Dover.” From that year on, Dover came into its own as an industrial town. By 1896 the Reeveses employed 850 workers.

By the turn of the century, J.E. Reeves entered semiretirement and his son Samuel joined the operation. Samuel, nicknamed “the Young Carnegie,” and his father sold the Reeves Iron Co. to American Sheet and Tin Plate Co., a subsidiary of U.S. Steel (the massive conglomerate that included the “old” Carnegie’s steel empire).

Samuel Reeves stayed in the steel business, however, forming Reeves Manufacturing Co. in 1901 to produce black and galvanized sheet metal, corrugated steel, stovepipes and other metal building materials. When his son died, J.E. Reeves resumed his leadership of Reeves Manufacturing, but he’d diversified into other business endeavors and helped to build up the Dover community.

In 1903, J.E. Reeves founded Reeves Banking and Trust Co., headquartered on 232 W, Third St. He also took over his late son’s streetcar interests and acquired a New Philadelphia hotel known as Hotel Reeves.

Reeves, a noted philanthropist, donated land in 1904 that became the site of Union Hospital, one of the area’s major employers and health care centers.

Though J.E. Reeves died in 1920, the Reeves name lives on. When Jeremiah’s daughter Agnes was granted a license to operate a new AM radio station in 1949, she chose WJER as the call letters, a tribute to her father’s initials.5 And although Huntington Bank acquired the Reeves Banking & Trust Co. in 1982, Huntington left the old Reeves name carved on the historic Third Street building, a tribute to the founding family that had done so much to build and serve the Dover community.6

Copy of Jeremiah E Reeves

Jeremiah E. Reeves founded Reeves Banking and Trust in Dover, Ohio, after an early career as a boilermaker. Photo Credit: Reeves Victorian Home and Museum.