Jackson County

Biography - SAMUEL B. EATON

Chief among the big producers of coal and coke in Southern Illinois is the Majestic Coal & Coke Company of DuQuoin, of which Samuel B. Eaton is the vice president and general manager. The owners of a tract of four thousand and one hundred acres of land southeast of DuQuoin and in the richest coal belt of the state, the company is producing an average of three thousand tons daily, and to Samuel B. Eaton is due the major part of the credit for the accomplishments of the company. His was the mind which promoted and organized the company, and his splendid ability in his managerial capacity is one of the prime factors in the success of the project which has long since passed the stage of experiment and is now a stable and solid business.

Born upon a farm three miles southeast of DuQuoin, which farm now forms a portion of the holdings of the Majestic Coal & Coke Company, Samuel B. Eaton is the son of William B. Eaton, who was born in Groton, Massachusetts, in 1831. The first of the Batons of whom we have record was Daniel Eaton, of Boston, who was the father of Abel Eaton, the son of Abel Eaton being William, the father of Samuel B. Eaton of DuQuoin. Abel Eaton lived quietly and unpretentiously upon his farm home in Massachusetts, and in the home which he founded was reared a goodly family. Of these William B. on reaching man's estate married Elizabeth Buckles, a daughter of Joseph Buckles, who was a native of Virginia, but migrated first to Kentucky and then to Illinois. His wife was Elizabeth Arnold, and they passed away in advanced years on their farm home in Jackson county, where they had passed many happy years.

After his marriage William B. Eaton settled on a farm near to DuQuoin, and until 1865 was content with the operating of his farm. In the year 1865, however, he gave over his farming activities and, moving into DuQuoin, engaged in teaming about the mines. In his later years he became associated in a business way with his son, who had by that time entered the ranks of the mining operators, and his final years were passed in that manner, passing away in May, 1908. Mr. Eaton was always a man who led a quiet, retired life. His home life was his chief interest from first to last. He was a Republican in his political beliefs, and a member of the Odd Fellows. His wife died in 1891, leaving him three children: Samuel B., Mary E., the wife of Edward Musselman, of DuQuoin, and Abel C., who is a foreman at the mine of the Majestic Coal & Coke Company.

The date of the nativity of Samuel B. Eaton is July 15, 1857, and since that time he has been a part of the life of DuQuoin and vicinity. His boyhood was sufficiently humble to insure a brilliant future, if success in life is contingent upon that condition of birth, as many believe. Be that as it may, the success which Mr. Eaton has thus far achieved fully amplifies and evidences the fact that a generous degree of success is not dependent upon favorable conditions of birth and early training, but rather upon the possession of traits of honesty, integrity, thrift and perseverance, all of which Mr. Eaton shares in a generous degree. The education of the boy was of necessity of a very meagre order, only the district school of the community in which he was reared being available to him, and the curriculum of the district school of his boyhood offered but a slender course of study, including not more than the "Three R's,” commonly spoken of as reading,’riting and’rithmetic. As an aid to his father, Samuel Eaton at an early age began work as a teamster about the mines of W. P. Halliday at St. John, Illinois. It was there he attracted the attention of Mr. Halliday, who was ever on the lookout for boys of promise, and he won the position that gave him his first significant business opportunity by a mere incident, insignificant, yet serving to indicate to the big capitalist that he had met that all-desirable something a boy whom he could trust. He was taken into the store of the Halliday company, where he acted as delivery-boy, freight handler and errand-boy while the potential man of affairs was being tried out for positions higher up in the gift of the Halliday company. Step by step he advanced in the confidence and esteem of his superiors until he became superintendent of the store, after which he resigned, having spent nine years in faithful service with the concern. In 1885 Mr. Eaton entered the grocery business in DuQuoin with William Blackburn, remaining thus for two years. His modest success while thus engaged in those years furnished him with the capital with which he first entered the mining field as an operator. Together with nine practical miners he purchased the Little Gem mine, located to the east of the town, and arranged a co-operative method of carrying on the business. His part was to furnish the money for the project, and his nine partners were to supply the labor. The arrangement soon proved to be anything but a success, due to the fact that the labor was not forthcoming on the part of his partners, whereas he had already invested his capital in the property. To save himself, Mr. Eaton took over the property, cleared the indebtedness, equipped it with a quantity of primitive paraphernalia, conspicuous among which was a blind horse to furnish the power, and after some time spent in trying out the property it was proved to be a paying adventure. This mine he shortly disposed of, but the success which he had realized as its operator and owner encouraged him to venture in the business on a more extensive plan.

Accordingly Mr. Eaton interested the Sylvester Coal Company of St. Louis, and began operating the Jupiter mine, adjoining the Little Gem, still later interesting M. C. Wright and L. P. Parker, when they opened Jupiter No. 2, which plant later went into the Weaver Coal & Coke Company by purchase. This transaction added very materially to the ready capital of Mr. Eaton, upon which he and Mr. Wright, together with W. D. Ward, acquired a tract of two thousand acres of land southeast of DuQuoin, and the three made overtures to Chicago men of capital to join them in the launching of a new mining industry. The arrangement was effected without difficulty, and the new company was incorporated under the name of the Majestic Coal and Coke Company, with R. Floyd Clinch, of Chicago, as president and Samuel B. Eaton as vice-president and general manager. The property is well financed and officered, and has an average daily output of three thousand tons, giving employment to about seven hundred men when running at its limit of capacity The company is a. splendid example of what the perseverance of one man of brains and integrity can be made to accomplish.

The Majestic Coal & Coke Company does not represent the sum of Mr. Eaton's interests in matters of a financial and industrial nature. He is vice-president of the First National Bank of DuQuoin, and was one of the organizers of the bank. He is secretary and treasurer, also manager, of the DuQuoin Land Company, which is doing an extensive business in scientific farming, and in numerous other ways is active in the upbuilding of the city in which he lives. Mr. Eaton has been a director of the township high school for some years and president of the board since its organization.

On May 2, 1889, Mr. Eaton married Miss Laura Blackburn, a daughter of his one time partner, William Blackburn, who came from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, settling in DuQuoin and living there for many years as a merchant. He was the husband of Louisa White, and he died on December 18, 1904. Mr. and Mrs. Blackburn were the parents of two daughters, Mrs. Eaton and Miss Ella Blackburn. Mr. and Mrs. Eaton have one son, Leslie B. He was born August 17, 1890, and was educated in the schools of DuQuoin, graduating from the high school. He was connected with his father's business for some time as an electrician, but as he manifested a strong leaning towards the automobile business, he secured an assignment of territory for the Marion Automobile Company of Indianapolis, with headquarters at Dayton, Ohio, and is now actively connected with that business.

Mr. Eaton is prominent in Masonic circles, holding membership in the Lodge and the Chapter, and he is president of the board of trustees of the Methodist church, taking a healthy interest in the good works of that organization.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, volume 2, page 898.

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