CHARLES SUHRA (now known as CHARLES H. SEWARD). - Intention has no force in the business world unless backed up by unremitting energy and practical judgment. Many a man is wise in planning, but fails in the execution of his ideas, and it is he who can make his opinion and plans of value in the world who gains success. Mr. Seward, who has become well known as a contractor, builder and architect of Springfield, possesses strong force of character and his determination, persistency and industry have enabled him to become not only a factor in the improvement of Springfield but also to build successfully his own fortunes.
A native son of the capital city, his birth occurred September 26, 1864, at the corner of Sixth and Carpenter streets. His father, Charles Suhra, was born in Altenburg, Germany, in 1823, and after emigrating to the new world worked as a cabinet-maker on the Leland Hotel. He had learned his trade in the fatherland and he also served in the German army before crossing the Atlantic to the United States. In New Orleans, in 1856, he married Miss Dora Miller, who was born in Germany, in March, 1832, in the same province as her husband. He had come to this country in 1855, as a sailor, but returned the following year for the lady whom he made his bride. They became the parents of eight children, of whom two daughters and a son died in early childhood, and William died in Alton, Illinois, April 2, 1880, while returning home from a trip which he had taken in the hope of benefitting his health. The living members of the family are Gussie, the wife of William Canfield, of Springfield; Charles H.; Dora, the wife of Charles Hancock, of Springfield; and Katie, the wife of E. L. Hardin, who is engaged in the transfer business here. The children attended the public schools and also the German Lutheran school, in which they were graduated. In 1864 the father purchased the family home at No. 554 West Canedy street and erected thereon the residence in which he lived until his death, April 30, 1872. His remains were interred in Oak Ridge cemetery. At the time of the Civil war, he enlisted, in August, 1861, as a private of Company A, Twenty-seventh Illinois Infantry, and in November, 1862, was honorably discharged because of a wound in the knee, which had forced him to remain for a time in the hospitals of St. Louis and Carroll. He was a man of genuine worth and a faithful member of St. John's Lutheran church, to which his widow also belongs. She has been an invalid for fifteen years and now lives with her son at the old family homestead.
Charles H. Seward was educated as were the others of the family and also attended night schools. In early youth he worked at anything that he could get to do in order to aid in the support of the family, and he spent a few months at Huron, North Dakota, after which he returned to Springfield. In 1880 he began learning the carpenter's trade under William Deffenbaugh, serving for four years in the shop, after which he served as foreman of construction for about seven years, having many older men under him. During that time he successfully managed some very difficult and dangerous work on the Illinois state house and other large contracts. In October, 1891, he took his first contract and started in business on his own account on a small scale, but gradually his patronage increased and he is now a general builder and contractor, doing a large and profitable business. In the season of 1902 he erected seventeen residences. In December, 1903, he purchased in connection with T. C. Baker, Jr., the block of vacant property on south Walnut street just opposite his home. Within six months seven nice residences were begun thereon, costing considerably over twenty thousand dollars, five of which he was the sole architect and builder, so that today it is one of the handsomest uniform blocks in the city. He employs only expert workmen and confines his operations to Springfield, where he has the business support of many prominent men. Mr. Seward is his own architect and among the residences he has erected are those of W. G. Harbeston, George Stehlin, T. C. Baker, Jr., A. Stehlin, Joseph A. Humphreys, N. J. Paullin and Ed Schwarberg, together with many other fine homes in this city. He gives his attention strictly to the business, personally superintending his building operations, and is now one of the leading contractors and architects of Springfield. He purchased the old home and in 1889 rebuilt it. He has since purchased the house next to it on the east and the residence adjoining it on the corner, and in the fall of 1903 again enlarged, remodeled and completely modernized the old home at an expense of about two thousand dollars, so that he now owns one of the most handsome and imposing corner properties in the choice residence district of the city.
On the 14th of August, 1889, Mr. Seward was married in Springfield to Miss Carrie Malter, who was born here, May 28, 1869, a daughter of John Malter, who died in the year of her birth. Her mother bore the maiden name of Mary Kern and after the death of her first husband married H. Bergener. She is still living in Springfield and is fifty-five years of age. Mr. Seward is now building her a nice modern home just across the street from his home. By her first marriage she had three children: Kate, the wife of Henry Stark, of Joplin, Missouri; Mrs. Seward; and John, who died in infancy. Unto our subject and his wife have been born eight children: Clara, Charles, Robert, John, Pearl, Gertrude, George and Thurman Curtis, but Robert died in infancy.
Mr. Seward belongs to St. John's German Lutheran church and is a member of Liberty Camp, No. 1534, M..W.A.; Banner Lodge, F.C.L.; and Inini Tribe, No. 117, I.O.R.M. He was left fatherless at an early age and has ever been a dutiful and loving son to his mother, aiding in her support in former years, and for some time she has found a pleasant home in his household. All that he possesses has been acquired through his own labors. The secret of his success lies in work - earnest, persistent, honorable work, and his career shows what others may accomplish if they but follow his example.