1/1/1893: Triumphant! Gigantic Plant Secured

From GenealogyBank: Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune, 1/1/1893, Knoxville, Tennessee, Volume VIII, Page 1.



Lenoir City Starts the New Year With Flourishing Prospects.




Immense Iron Foundries and a Big Car Wheel Factory.




J. H. Bass, the Great Fort Wayne Car Wheel Manufacturer in it.


There has been a long siege of hard times testing the vitality of many southern cities and only the best and most substantially found have been able to withstand the long strain. Conspicuously among these has been our conservative, strongly backed neighbor, Lenoir City. It has been managed by strong and capable business men who had invested largely of their own means and who had too much wisdom to be dragged into the crazy methods which were adopted in so many of the boom towns of the south and which have invariably brought upon themselves with the day of reckoning, bankruptcy and disaster to all who invested in them. But such men as Gen. Sam Thomas, C. M. McGhee, Senator C. S. Brice, E. J. Sanford, Oliver H. Payne and John G. Moore, Grant B. Schley, with other strong men who are back of Lenoir City, and understood the wisdom of caution and conservatism as the danger of fortuitous booming. The result has been that Lenoir City indulge in no extravagances, threw no money away on useless electric light plants, and costly hotels, but kept money in its purse and stood ready even in the hardest times, to meet every obligation and to aid and encourage such enterprises as it seemed desirable to have located there. Amid the crash of boom towns in every direction there was apparent there always the evidence of perfect confidence and the air of real substantial prosperity. The contrast to other towns which were founded about the same time was so manirffest that it attracted the attention of capitalists and was commented on wherever southern investment was being discussed. And what has been the result? The plucky city enters the new year with the proud satisfaction of seeing the smoke issue from the stock of the largest and best equipped saw mill in the south with capacity for cutting 40,000,000 feet of lumber yearly and with the assurance that it is to make the greatest lumber market in the state and that woodworking industries will be quick to see the advantage of locating there as Jno. T. Bon & Sons, of Syracuse, New York, have done with a splendidly equipped extension table manufactory.

And then on top of this comes the announcement of to day that there is to be erected there immediately the greatest car manufacturing plant in the entire south, to be built upon a scale which will outstrip anything of the kind this side of Mason and Dixons line. Such a grand stride towards the fulfillment of its founders has not been made by any city for many years. THE JOURNAL reporter got an inkling of this immense deal and to verify the rumor went to Col. E. J. Sanford, president of the Lenoir City company for facts, and this is the substance of the interview:

“Col. Sanford I hear it rumored on the street that Lenoir City has struck it rich and has secured the location of an immense car works which is to overshadow anything of the kind in this country. How is it?”

“Well, I guess you are pretty close to the truth this time. The fact is that we are to have built at once at Lenoir City a car wheel foundry and car works which are to be simply immense. The application for the charter was filed to-day.

You have heard of J. H. Bass, the millionaire car wheel maker of Fort Wayne, Ind., Chicago and St. Louis, for he owns and operates immense works in all these cities. Well,, he has for some time had in his mind the establishment of a foundry at some point in the South which would put him in position to meet the demands and probably control the trade as he does practically in the west and northwest. He had heard of Lenoir City, heard of it as a safely and conservatively managed city, with peculiar advantages for manufacturing purposes, and knew that it was receiving the special care and interest of such men as Thomas, McGhee, Payne, Moore, Brice and others with whom his business as a car wheel manufacturer had brought him in contact – men who he knew were not likely to be identified with any failure if their money and experience and influence could make it a success.

Well, it seems that he had been revolving the thing in his mind for some time, when by a combination of circumstances he and I were thrown together. The truth is, I met him for the purpose of endeavoring to induce him to locate a plant in Knoxville. To my great surprise, for I did not know that he had ever heard of the place, he had a great many inquiries to make concerning Lenoir City and was more disposed to talk about it and its plans than anything else. I was, of course, gratified to realize that our town ad attracted the notice of such a man. He afterwards came to Knoxville and looked over the situation but was not to be deterred from his purpose to investigate the situation at Lenoir City and so went there.

After taking in the town and riding over it from one end to the other, he came right out and said: “Here is the place for a great car manufacturing plant.” Here you have all the conditions necessary to success, superior shipping facilities, with water navigation to defend your freight rates, timber world without end at your very door, which can be had a near to first cost as is possible in this whole land –fuel as cheap as it may be had in Knoxville — iron within easy and cheap haul and the grandest site for a town that I ever saw — with a possibility for laborers to enjoy a most healthy location, with splendid natural drainage, procure cheap homes, have cheap living and all else that tends to make men happy, prosperous and contented. I tell you Sanford if you men will give me anything like a show I will locate here this very winter the finest car wheel plant in the south, if not in the country.”

He is a very level headed man—self-made with an immense fortune, and one not inclined to hasty conclusions–but the more he saw of the location the more enthusiastic he grew. I was gratified of course and told him that our company would certainly welcome his coming and negotiations commenced soon after his return to his home at Fort Wayne.

The location of a car wheel foundry naturally suggested the building of car, works, and the longer negotiations continued the broader the plans grew. As Mr. Bass proposed to erect the foundry on his individual account he thought it would be the right thing for others to establish at the same time works capable of using his output on the spot. He could furnish the castings and iron work, lumber could be procured here at the very lowest possible price, and with the two concerns working together he argued that they would be able to put out cars at a price which would enable them to shut out competition from every source. So the organization of car works was taken into consideration. Plans were formulated and the more the plans were discussed the more feasible it seemed. I tell you the Lenoir City company kept the ball rolling and the iron hot. It meant the fulfillent of their grandest expectations. Finally a meeting was held in New York between Mr. Bass and other interested partied, and before I left there the deal was consummated, the contracts drawn up–signed, sealed and the greatest enterprise that has been started in the south these many years was a reality.

The capital stock of the car works was subscribed as fast as pen and ink could put the names on paper, and the stockholders represent in the aggregate close on to fifty million dollars. The plant will be immense. Why, I have authority this very minute to draw at sight for a quarter of a million of dollars to go into the car works alone, independent of the wheel foundry.

We intend to build upon a  scale to enable us to turn out fifteen complete cars every day in the year. Mr. Bass writes me that he has already given orders for the manufacture of some of his machinery and is busily engaged on the plans and specifications for buildings, etc. Just think of it he is figuring on a foundry alone possibly eight hundred feet in length–it will certainly be four hundred. And all the other buildings will be on the same scale. The plans for the car works will be completed soon and work will begin immediately. Now, these are not things which may happen, but realities about which there is no uncertainty. The contracts have all been signed, sealed and delivered.

Of course all this means a big lift for Lenoir City, and all those who are so lucky as to be interested there may well wear bread smiles, for the days of prosperity are at hand. It will take a small army several months to erect the necessary buildings for the factories. Then there will necessarily be a great number of dwelling houses erected, for these shops are going to give employment to hundred of workmen of all grades–from ordinary day laborers to skilled mechanics in numerous branches And these factories are not all. We are negotiating with one or two other concerns which may locate there with big manufactories, but I am dealing with you now on certainties and we won’t talk about things which as yet are uncertain. Yes Lenoir City is going to be the Pullman of the south and it will be a good thing for Knoxville to have such a neighbor.

Every successful enterprise within fifty miles of this city is a big help to it. Its merchants and manufacturers will all derive benefits. It will be a good thing for this whole section to have a man of affairs and a capitalist like Mr. Bass identified with its growth. He is a very sagacious far seeing man and believes in the future of East Tennessee and especially of Lenoir City. His faith in the immediate and rapid growth of that place is strong enough to have induced him to buy an eighth interest in the whole property–in addition to his investment in the care wheel works. Our estimate of him and his value to our place is  evidenced in the fact that we would let him have such a big block of our stock. No man who was not to be a valuable acquisition could have gotten it.

Here the long interview ended, and, thanking Mr. Sanford his full and complete statement of the facts, the scribe bowed himself out of the office to give place to one or more of the other persons who during the day await their chance to get a whack at the time of that very busy man.


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