GEORGE N. BLACK - George N. Black, whose labor, influence and cooperation have been a strong moving element in the business, political, intellectual and moral development of Springfield, has risen to prominence through the inherent force of his character, the exercise of his native talent and the utilization of opportunities, and the high regard in which he is uniformly held comes through the fact that his is largely an ideal American manhood. While he has controlled important and extensive business enterprises, they have largely been of the character that promote public progress as well as individual prosperity, and his efforts have been directed along many lines in which the community has been the sole recipient of benefit. His connection with the public interests of the city has seen of a most practical and helpful character, for he has aided in shaping the municipal policy, and in promoting the educational, aesthetic and moral development of Spr ingfield. His patriotic citizenship and interest in community affairs, have found manifestation in his zealous labors for improvements instituted through aldermanic measures, through his efforts in the upbuilding of the public library and through the institutions of many trade interests, affecting the material growth of this portion of the state.
Mr. Black was born in Berkshire county, Massachusetts March 15, 1833, a son of William M. and Persis (Fuller) Black. In the paternal line he is descended from good old Revolutionary stock. His grandfather, who came from Scotland to America in 1775, served for two years as a captain in the American army and then as clothier general of the state of New York, throughout the remaining period of the war. In the maternal line Mr. Black is a direct descendant of John Alden and Dr. Samuel Fuller, both of whom came to America in the Mayflower in 1620.
After attending the public schools Mr. Black acquired an academic education and at the age of fifteen years came west, locating in Vandalia, Illinois, where he engaged in clerking, for his brother in a general store for two years. In 1850 he came to Springfield, where he has since made his home and here he began his business career as a clerk in the dry-goods house of Colonel John Williams, whom he served in that capacity for six years and then became a partner in the business, this relation being maintained for twenty-five years during which time the enterprise proved a highly profitable one. In later years Mr. Black has been engaged in the promotion of various interests and success in marked degree has always attended his ventures. He is now president of the Aetna Foundry & Machine Company and a former director and treasurer of the Springfield Furniture Company, both of which are leading concerns in their line. He is the sole owner of the business conducted under the name of the Barclay Coal & Mining Company of Springfield, is a director of the Sangamon Loan & Trust Company, of the Springfield Iron Company and the Springfield Electric Light & Power Company, all of which are prosperous concerns and are important factors in the business and commercial life of the city. No citizen has taken a more active interest in the development of Springfield or worked harder to secure its growth than has Mr. Black, who has given freely of his time and means for the establishment of manufactories and the building of railroads, upon which two enterprises the building, and prosperity of a city always depend. He was instrumental in the building of the Pana , Springfield & Northwestern Railroad and was a director and secretary of the company for many years. This line is now a part of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad system. He was one of ten influential business men who built the Gilman, Clinton & Springfield Railroad, now a branch of the Illinois Central, and served as a director and treasurer of the company. He was one of the prime movers toward securing contributions for the Springfield & Northwestern Railroad, contributing most generously hiself and continued to operate the road as receiver and general manager until 1880, when it passed into the hands of the Wabash Railroad Company. He was one of the promoters and a director of the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern Railroad Company, and through the advancement of shipping facilities he has contributed in no small measure to the material upbuilding of Springfield, to the development of the natural resources of this portion of the state.
Mr. Black has also taken an active interest in city and state politics, has served as a member of the municipal council and for sixteen years was receiver of the United States land office at Springfield, to which position he was appointed by President Lincoln in 1861. He has long been an active and influential Republican and for eighteen years was chairman of the Republican county central committee, showing in his control of the political forces, strong powers of management and thorough understanding of the conditions and so controlling all factional elements as to produce harmonious results.
A lover of books Mr. Black has one of the finest private libraries in Springfield, embracing many choice and rare volumes. He has been a director of the city public library since its establishment and is now president of the library board. He has traveled extensively throughout America and the old world and is a man of wide information possessing that liberal culture which comes from travel and study. He is noted for his social qualities as well as his eminent business ability, and in religious faith he is a Presbyterian, having been a regular attendant at the First Presbyterian church since his arrival in this city.
On the 24th of October, 1859, Mr. Black was married to Miss Louisa I. Williams, of Springfield, and they became the parents of four children, of whom two are living -- John W. and Anna Louisa, the latter the wife of Dr. Stericker, of Springfield. The family has long maintained a foremost position in the leading social circles of the city. Mr. Black, however, numbers his friends in all walks of life, for he has ever been quick to recognize true character worth, and upright manhood can always win his respect and friendship. On the other hand there is no man in Springfield who does not esteem and honor George N. Black, for throughout his entire career he has manifested those sterling traits-honor in business, patriotism in citizenship and fidelity in social and home relations which in every land and clime command confidence and good will.