Whiteside County, IL Biographies 1885
19 Mar 2012
Thomas A. Galt, a pioneer manufacturer of Sterling and a member of the banking firm of Galt & Tracy, was born in Lancaster Co. Pa., Jan. 13, 1828; was reared on a farm and received only a common-school education.
Being only 14 years of age when his father died, he was early thrown upon his own resources, and for the first year he worked only for his board and lodging, but thenceforward until he became of age he received over $100 annually.
He was first employed as a clerk in Concord, Pa., and afterward at Strasburg, same State, and at Philadelphia, until 1849, when he entered into business for himself at Strasburg, in which he was very successful. Being an enterprising nature, he sold his business there in 1855, and emigrated West, first engaging in the hardware business with D. M. Crawford . The firm of Galt & Crawford continued until 1858, when the latter withdrew and Mr. Galt admitted his brother, John M., the firm name becoming Galt & Bro. In 1863 two more partners were admitted, and under their joint management their business grew to significant proportions. During the same year Mr. Galt, in addition to his hardware store, commenced the manufacture of farm implements, and soon after he became associated with George S. Tracy, who was then carrying on a planing-mill in Sterling. The mill and the manufactory were merged into one establishment, under the firm name of Galt & Tracy./ The title of"Keystone Works" was soon after adopted.
In 1864 the manufacturing business had grown to such an extent as to demand Mr. Galt's whole attention, and he sold his interest in the hardware business and retired from the retail trade. The wholesale manufacturing business, as he continued in it, became highly successful. In July, 1867, the whole premises and stock of the factory were destroyed by fire, causing a loss to the firm of about $30,000, the property being uninsured. The activity and vim which were characteristic of Mr. Galt's nature were not crushed by this blow, and measures were soon taken for the restoration of the firm's business. The factory in Sterling was rebuilt, and so vigorously was the work pushed forward that in three weeks from the time of the fire the new structure was not only finished but furnished with machinery, including engine and boiler. The factory was appropriated to sash and door manufacturing and planing-mill.
In the meantime the firm purchased a water privilege and some land at Rock Falls, opposite Sterling, and commenced a new factory, including foundry, machine shops and implement works, which were pushed on so vigorously that within three months from the burning of the old works the new were all in working order. This manufactory was the first of any kind erected in Rock Falls. Within six months after commencing business, the firm turned out about 1,500 agricultural machines of all kinds, besides a large amount of wood-work from the planing-mill.
In 1870 the trade had increased so much that a joint-stock company was incorporated, under the name of th "Keystone Manufacturing Company," with a capital of $150,000, which has since been increased to nearly half a million. Mr. Galt was elected President, and George S. Tracy Vice President and Superintendent. This company is now among the largest manufacturers of farm implements in the world, and their trade extends throughout the United States and Mexico, and Central and South America. They employ usually about 200 to 250 hands. Mr. Galt is also interested in several other manufacturing firms in Rock Falls and Sterling.
Messrs. Galt & Tracy have also engaged in the banking business in the Galt House Block, where they do a general banking business, dealing in foreign and domestic exchange, stocks and bonds. They also own the Academy of Music building.
Mr. G has large real-estate interests in Sterling, among which is a fine residence of brick, with stone trimmings, on Third Street.
n addition to his other enterprises, Mr. Galt commenced the erection of the Galt House in 1876, and completed in ti 1877, at a cost of $65,000. He also owns the Galt House, Wallace House and Waverly House, which are all the hotels in town, and several large store buildings on Third Street. He is a Director and Trustee of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary of the Northwest, located in Chicago. He and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church. He has also been Mayor of the city one term.
Mr. Galt has been twice married, first in 1850, to Miss Julia Jones, of New Hartford, Conn., who died in 1853; and he was married again in 1856, to Miss Catherine Anthony of Onondaga Co, N. Y., daughter of Isaac and Permelia Anthony, and a sister of Dr. J. P. Anthony, of Sterling, and also of Judge Anthony of the Chicago Superior Court. Mr. Galt and two children by his first wife, which died in infancy; and by his second wife eight children, three of whom died in infancy. The living are: E. Leroy, Treasurer of the Keystone Manufacturing Company; one daughter is the wife of E. L. Brookfield, President of the Rock Falls Manufacturing Company; the others, daughters, are at home.