LIMA — On an early Thursday afternoon in November 1925, Arthur Lincoln White, who once foresaw a bright future for Lima, decided he didn’t have one.
“White went to his home (at 711 W. Market St.) shortly after noon Thursday,” the News reported Nov. 20, 1925, ”and going upstairs to his room, sent a bullet through his left ear which penetrated his brain. He was dead when his wife, who was downstairs at the time of the shooting, reached him.”
The 64 year old, according to the News, had been despondent over failing health and recent failed business ventures. The coroner ruled the death a suicide.
“A.L. White, next to the late B.C. Faurot, will go down in Lima history as having been the most influential of creating geniuses this city ever claimed,” the News wrote Nov. 19, the day of his death. He had organized the Lima Locomotive Works, was instrumental in the organization of the Ohio Steel Foundry and brought to Lima from Bowling Green the Logan-Gramm Truck Co., which later became the Gramm-Bernstein Truck Co.
The 1906 History of Allen County and Representative Citizens described him as “one of the most public spirited and prominent citizens of Lima, although he has been a resident of the city but five years.” The history goes on to assert, “He is always interested in any movement that pertains to the best interests of the city.”
White was born in Knox County in 1861, the son of John W. and Catherine Springer White. “He was educated in Knox County and then entered the shop of the C&G Company, manufacturers of ‘Corliss’ engines. He remained with this firm 25 years, beginning at the age of 15 as an office boy and steadily advancing as he grasped the details of the business until he was made superintendent of the great plant,” according to the 1906 history. White married Lucy Belle Spindler and the couple had one child, a daughter named Janet.
In 1900, Ira Carnes of the Lima Locomotive and Machine Company, which manufactured Shay engines in a cramped East Market Street plant, came calling. “White was an ideal manager and entrepreneur of the first order,” Eric Hirsimaki wrote in his book on the Locomotive Works, Lima: The History. “On May 7, 1900, he met with the Board and was offered the General Manager’s job at a monthly salary of $200. White accepted the position, and thus a new era began at the Machine Company.”
At a board meeting on Feb. 14, 1901, White was elected president of the company, W.T. Agerter, secretary-treasurer and Ira Carnes, plant superintendent. White, according to Hirsimaki, “was the leader of the group and responsible for just about everything that happened between 1901 and 1916. While an able manager, he was actually a true entrepreneur typical of the age.”
A lot happened between 1901 and 1916.
In 1901, short of funds and pressed for space to manufacture the popular Shay engine, White spearheaded a plan in which 260 acres of city land was secured and divided into lots, which were then sold with the proceeds used to build the new plant on South Main Street.
As part of the plan, the Locomotive Works donated land for a public park. That park, named after Faurot who died in 1904, was dedicated in July 1907 and was an immediate hit. On Aug. 12, 1907, the Lima Daily News reported oppressive heat had driven people from the city to the “cool breezes and shady nooks” of the parks. “Faurot’s Park accommodated its regular large crowd, and hundreds listened to the afternoon concert given by the Merchants’ band.”
With funds in hand, meanwhile, the Locomotive Works constructed a “new locomotive erecting shop, machine shop, boiler shop and other buildings in south Lima,” Hirsimaki wrote. “Among the interesting features of the Machine Company’s new home were the concrete floors, three elevators, a lavatory, a bath house for employees, and the office ‘apartments’ that would occupy two floors of one corner of the machine shop.”
On March 5, 1902, the Lima Locomotive and Machine Co. again expanded with contracts being awarded for the construction of “new shops to be built for the company’s works on the south side,” according to the Lima-Times Democrat. “The new shops, when completed, will be the most modern of the kind in the city.” A month later, the company sold 20 acres of land adjoining Woodlawn Cemetery to the east to the cemetery association.
“Regardless of the inclement weather,” the Times-Democrat wrote Nov. 12, 1903, “the reception at the Lima Locomotive and Machine Works yesterday afternoon was a success and visitors who had subscribed to lots in order to see the enlargement of these works were well pleased with the first year’s progress.” Under White’s leadership, the newspaper noted, the company’s employment had grown to 600.
And there was more to come. In January 1905, the company announced plans for a building at the north end of the factory complex to house offices and the drafting department. By 1910, the Daily News bragged that the company’s complex covered 20 acres — “the only plant of its kind in the west” — and had “carried the name of Lima to the utmost confines of the globe …”
The booming business, however, created a problem for White and the Locomotive Works: a shortage of steel castings. “To remedy the problem,” Hirsimaski wrote, “three foundrymen were recruited from current suppliers in early 1907.” Actual control of the plant was divided among the three new men, including John Galvin, and White and Agerter. Ohio Steel would work closely with the Lcomotive Works for decades.
Other ventures were less successful. A 1907 attempt to start the Lima Southern Railway Company, a short line to service the steel plant and Locomotive Works, ultimately faltered as did the Lima Vacuum Machine Cleaning Company.
On Dec. 8, 1909, “to help promote their varied business interests, and to enhance the profitability of each, the Agerter-Carnes-White trio incorporated the ACW Realty Company …,” according to Hirsimaki. ACW obtained 72 acres next to the Ohio Steel foundry, apparently, Hirsimaski noted, to develop an industrial park and then sell the land to new firms.
“The Realty Company was active in moving the Gramm truck plant to Lima, having it in operation by late 1909/early 1910,” Hirsimaki wrote. The Gramm-Bernstein Co. produced the Liberty Trucks used by the U.S. Army in World War I at its plant just west of the steel foundry.
In February 1916, the Locomotive Works board reorganized, and White was ousted, ending his amazing run at the Locomotive Works but not his business ventures.
After leaving the Locomotive Works, “White organized a foundry in Marion, Indiana, and a candy factory here, but neither was ever prosperous,” the News wrote at the time of his death. The candy factory, which he formed with W.M. Kellogg, who had operated a small candy shop on South Main Street, had recently moved into a new two-story building on East Pearl Street, when it was destroyed by fire in May 1921. The partners quickly rebuilt, but the company never recovered.
White was “heavily engaged in building the financial structure of the Page Organ Co.” when he committed suicide, the News noted.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.