Henry E. Lewis

HENRY E. LEWIS


A history of Henderson County, Kentucky, would be incomplete that did not give a sketch of the ten years citizenship therein of the late Henry E. Lewis.

Edward Hutchinson Lewis and Eliza Lewis, his wife, were decendants[sic] of the same family, both natives of Boston. The Lewis family of Boston were an old and honorable line of Massachusetts, in colonial times and days of the American Revolution. Their relations number some of the good and worthy names of Boston from those early times to the present. Mr. E. H. Lewis came to Kentucky early in life--about the year 1812, and settled in Louisville. In the course of years, he was married to Miss Lewis, a cousin, and returning, came to make their home in the "Falls City"--then the "far West," and border land, too, of the South. The home they made was, first of all, pre-eminently a christian one, and there a social centre for many genial forces which benefitted[sic] the town as well as society, they were respected and beloved by all classes, and her social graces, and charitable works satisfied the love her beauty won. On the "eighth of January," 1822, to such worthy parents were born a son--the subject of this sketch, Henry Edmund Lewis. He was an only child, and grew up,good and well trained, amid the happiest circumstances. After his education was completed, he early engaged in mercantile pursuits. His father was both a wholesale commission merchant and a banker, and he took charge of his father's business in New Orleans, where he lived between one and two years. Then H. E. Lewis decided to go into other business and formed the firm of "Lewis, Bacon & Co.," wholesale grocers and commission merchants, of Louisville, When quite young, Henry E. Lewis was married to Miss Margaret Eleanor Clark, daughter of George Wallingford Clark and his wife Emily J. Clark, residents of Louisville, but formerly from Baltimore. After the period of Mr. Lewis' marriage he disolved the firm of "Lewis, Bacon & Co.," and entered into a new business, in which his father was always his principal partner. This business was importing and wholesaling queensware, china, and glass. For a period of over twenty years the firm of H. E. Lewis & Co., Louisville, Kentucky, was one of established reputation for honor, and transacted a leading and active business on Main Street, in Louisville. Mr. Lewis' father was a banker for many years, engaged long ago in some active manner with the "Northern Bank of Kentucky," then President or Cashier of the "Franklin Bank of Kentucky," then retiring from the latter, a new bank was formed called the "Jefferson's Savings Institute of Louisville, Kentucky." Edmund H. Lewis was President of this bank for many years. In 1860 came the war; E. H. Lewis and H. E. Lewis were both Union men, but both were identified with Louisville and Kentucky. In politics the father was a Whig in old times; in the war a Democrat, if of any political party then. H. E. Lewis was a lifelong Democrat. Discharging all duties of citizenship faithfully, they came through the war Union men on principal, but Southern in temperament and affection. H. E. Lewis was a prime mover in getting up the "First National Bank of Louisville, Ky.,"in lieu of the Jefferson's Savings Institute. Edmund H. Lewis was made its President. This was, perhaps, the first National Bank organized and established in the State of Kentucky. H. E. Lewis & Co. sold their importing queensware business in 1864; some years prior to this time, H. E. Lewis had purchased tracts of land in Henderson County, on, and contiguous to Green River; other tracts, inland lying thirteen miles from Henderson, in the oldest settled part of the county. These land were in the unbroken forests, except one hundred and thirty-five acres bought afterwards. About 1857, or '58, Henry E. Lewis became a member of the Masonic order; he was an ardent Mason, and achieved a brilliant reputation in the conferring of those ancient and sublime orders. He was Master, High Priest of the Royal Arch Chapter in Louisville, and a shining and educated Knights Templar. He filled many offices and possessed many titles, "not understanded[sic] of the people outside of the order." He had taken up to and including the twenty-second degree in the ancient and accepted Scottish Rite, an order of which Albert Pike and General John C. Breckenridge were distinguished members. Near the end of the war, the Masonic Savings Bank was incorporated in Louisville. In this project, Mr. Lewis was an active and influential mover; previous to this time Mr. Lewis became an invalid, resigned the Presidency of the First National Bank, and remved[sic] in October, 1865, with his family to his beautiful place in Henderson County. He thus gratified a fancy, by beginning with land in the woods, upon an estate which he had opened for a farm in 1860, and now consists of four hundred and eighty acres, lying in one body. These lands originally belonged to Mrs. H. E. Lewis' maternal ancestors, the Hughes family of Maryland. William Hughes, father of Mrs. Lewis, was of the early settlers of Henderson County. This beautiful home, now one of the handsomest natural sites in the State, was named by Mr. and Mrs. Lewis " Haven-Wood."

Mr. Lewis had prospecting made for oil lands in different localities in Kentucky. In the season of 1865 and '66, in Henderson County, there was lubricating oil "struck" by the "Alvasia Oil Company"--one of Mr. Lewis' companies, working in Henderson County. The name of this company was original with him, given in cimpliment of Mr. William L. Alves, the manager of that work, and an associate of Mr. Lewis in leasing oil lands. The "Alvasia" works were located on the farm of Mr. Elisha Williams, near his homestead, on the Owensboro Road, about ten miles from Henderson. Previously Mr. Lewis had gotten several charters from the Legislature of Kentucky, and controlled two oil companies, of which he was the principal incorporator. When the enterprise promised success in Henderson County, stock was in demand; but the petroleum, when found, after months of toil and a steady outlay of capital, proved not to have been struck in paying quantities. The oil developed proved to be the best lubricating petroleum, experts, and influential persons in Pittsburgh, Pa., giving a favorable opinion of the richness and body of the crude oil. an unwillingness on the part of the stockholders to go on and bore other wells to find a "flowing well," decided Mr. Lewis and Mr. Alves to desist from the work--as theirs had been the largest part, and no benefit was reaped by them or the stockholders. But the record has been made--petroleum has been found in Henderson county. By his experience Mr. Lewis was content to hold his oil property, and leases in "statu[sic] quo," as they remain, though "oil men" from time to time have offered inducements for "prospecting." H. E. Lewis then gave his whole attention to his place, having orchards set out containing several thousand trees of the choicest varieties of the standard fruits of our climate. One experiment, which was only successful for a few years, was a vineyard of Catawba grapes, bought from Mr. N. Longworth, of Cincinnati, and cultivated by his system; but that method is not suited to this section, the land, climate, nor labor. In 1869 Mr. Lewis erected a steam grist mill, with capacity for four run of burrs, for both wheat and corn. and a good custom was at once established with four counties. At that time there were but three or four mills in Henderson County. A need for a store came about, and one with a good stock was established by Mr. Lewis. Mr. William L. Alves, son-in-law of Mr. Lewis, was associated with him in business. They also farmed, and raised and bought live stock and tobacco, and the name of Lewis' Mills was given to the business point. The topography of the estate could hardly be improved by an accomplished civil engineer for beauty and convenience "Lewis' Mills" is in a level valley, the homestead on a hill near by, with the open farm and woodland surrounding all. A coal mine was opened and worked for more than a year in 1870 and '71. The coal was solely mined for fuel for the mill. The coal was good bituminous coal. About 1871 H. E. Lewis wrote and had printed a "circular," addressed "to manufacturers, corporators and capitalists," which, if there was space, would be interesting to quote here--it ante-dated Henderson and Henderson County's present spirit of progress, and in a quiet business view; but other business intervened, and his family thought he ought not to enter into new and added cares, so Mr. Lewis held that matter in obeyance[sic]. In this retrospect many subjects come to mind of interest, but space must be considered. In 1873 or '74 Mr. Lewis stopped his mill, and only opened the store occasionally, concluding that such an active business of so many kinds was really depriving hiim of the leisure he had retired from city life and come to his new home, "far from the maddening crowd" to enjoy. He could not review his labors as a citizen of Henderson County but with satisfaction. He had done much more for the public good than make "two blades of grass grow where grew but one;"he had circulated thousands of dollars of his capital here, and had done all in his power to benefit his fellowmen in many ways.

Looking back, it seems it was a prophetic feeling which made him take a space of quiet repose and existence simply at home. In the spring of 1875 Mr. Lewis was quite sick, but recovered, as was supposed--he had always in his life been perfectly well. But his recovery was not a real one, and he was taken sick in July, and died on the eighth of October, 1875. He died a member of Christ, and in the communion of the church.

It is not fitting to say more here, than to mention that two obituaries of Henry E. Lewis were voluntarily written by friends--one sent from Henderson, and published in the "Southern Churchman," and one written and published in Louisville. But it must be recorded feelingly, that his "Companion" Knights Templar of Henderson paid Masonic honors at his grave, after the holy services of the church were performed. It may be permitted a filial hand to trace the fact that his faults were few, and the world better for his having lived among men. His record shines with the lustre of many virtues. According to the wished of Mr. Lewis, his family continued his home and plans; and for eight years. all activities here have been kept up and revived and enlarged at "Lewis' Mills, Henderson County, Kentucky," where William L. Alves farms, handles live stock, and in addition to the flouring mill and store, has built up a saw mill and lumber business, all in active operation at the present time. In the flush of the prosperity and progress of Henderson and Henderson County, in this year of grace, 1883, it is pleasant for Henry E. Lewis' family to remember that he foresaw such an era here, for he was convinced that success and wealth would reward the pioneers in the development of our city and county; and this favored section of he "land-of-our-love" will prove rich in treasure under the works of man, in mines and manufactures, and agriculture and horticulture, as it is blessed with the riches of nature in climate, minerals, and soil, by the power of the Creator. Since the foregoing was written, Mr. and Mrs. Alves and Mrs. Lewis, widow of our subject, have removed from their lovely county home to another, just beyond the city limits, on Lower Main Street.


The History of Henderson County, Kentucky by Starling 1887 page 660-64;

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