Harmon Phenix

Stark County, Illinois and its People:  A Record of Settlement,
Organization, Progress and Achievement, (1916)
Pages: 32 & 35-37
Submitted by Danni Hopkins

      Harmon Phenix is still active in financial circles as president of the Phenix Banking Company of Bradford, although he has reached the advanced age of eighty-two years, and his business ability and acumen are recognized by all. He has resided in Bradford for many years and has worked his way steadily upward from comparative poverty to financial independence.
     Mr. Phenix was born in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, on the 20th of January, 1834, of the marriage of John and Lydia A. (Daniels) Phenix. John Phenix was a native of New York, as were his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Phenix, but his grandfather was born in the north of Ireland, whence in company with a brother he emigrated to New York city. He, his son Stephen and grandson John Phenix were all weavers by trade and expert artisans. John Phenix went to Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, in early manhood and there turned his attention to carpentering, but following his removal to Stark county, Illinois, in 1834, which was then a part of Putnam county, he entered eighty acres of land in Penn township and concentrated his energies upon the operation of his farm. Two years later his wife and children joined him, going by boat to Peoria, the voyage requiring seven weeks. At that time Peoria was but a small town and this entire section of Illinois was a pioneer district. The family lived in a log house for some time but later a more comfortable residence was erected, and at length Mr. Phenix built a third home, which was commodious and convenient. He at length turned the operation of his farm over to his son Abram and devoted his time and attention to the carpenter’s trade until he was compelled to retire because of physical disability. He died at the age of seventy-two years. He was an adherent of the democratic party and served acceptably as a member of the school board. His religious faith was that of the Methodist Episcopal church. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Lydia A. Daniels, was born in Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, where she was reared and educated. At the time of her marriage she was engaged in teaching school. She reached the venerable age of ninety-one years and passed away in Osceola township in the faith of the Methodist Episcopal church. She was the mother of six children, namely: Daniel B., a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this work; Elizabeth, who married Samuel Sturm and died at the age of eighty-four years; Nancy, who became the wife of Solomon Geer and was seventy-five years old at the time of her death; Abram, who is living retired in Bradford and a sketch of whom appears elsewhere in this work; Mary C., who married Hiram Drawyer and died when about eighty years of age; and Harmon.
     The last named was brought to this country when but an infant and passed the days of his boyhood and youth upon the home farm. He early assisted in the work of cultivating the fields and caring for the stock, and thus not only learned much concerning agricultural work, but was also trained in habits of industry. He attended a subscription school, as that was before the days of public schools, and remembers well the crude equipment of the schoolhouse. The seats were slabs resting on pegs driven into the wall, the building itself was of logs and the curriculum was very limited. When about nineteen years of age he began working at the carpenter’s trade, which he followed for three or four years, and during that time he carefully saved his money, as he had determined to continue his education. He became a student in an academy at Pawpaw, Illinois, after attending there for three terms passed an examination covering the work completed in that time. For three years he engaged in clerking in a store at Pleasant Green and at the end of that time bought out the business, which he continued until 1869. He then removed his stock of merchandise to Bradford, establishing a general store there in partnership with his cousin, Charles W. Phenix. In 1874 he sold his interest to his partner and engaged in the hardware and implement business until 1881, when he sold out to Deyo Brothers and again became associated in business with Charles W. Phenix, establishing a bank. This partnership was maintained until 1888, when Mr. Phenix of this review became sole owner of the business, which he conducted alone until 1895. In that year he admitted his son, Daniel J., his nephew, Bardwell D. Phenix, and his brother, Daniel B. Phenix, to a partnership, forming the Phenix Banking Company, of which he is president; D. B. Phenix, vice president; D. J. Phenix, cashier; and B. D. Phenix, assistant cashier. This company has gained an enviable prestige throughout the county which is well deserved, as its policy has conformed to high commercial standards and its business has at all times been based upon sound principles. The company owns a great deal of valuable land in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri, and its affairs are in a most satisfactory condition. Our subject still owns personally about two hundred and forty acres in this county. He had no unusual advantages in his youth, but he possessed great energy and determination, and these qualities, together with his good judgment and keen insight, have been the most important factors in his success.
     On the 7th of March, 1864, Mr. Phenix was united in marriage to Miss Emma L. Libby, who was born and reared in Canada. She passed away on the 4th of October, 1912, in the faith of the First Baptist church, leaving five children to mourn her loss: Oscar H., at home; Lillian C., who is the widow of Edwin Plummer and resides with her father; Nancy, the wife of Otto C. Boyd, of Bradford; Daniel J., who is associated with his father in business; and Elbert H., who is conducting a bakery and confectionery store.
     Many representatives of the Phenix family have been actively identified with the teacher’s profession, including our subject and his mother, Lydia A. Phenix, who taught school for some time. His wife, Mrs. Emma (Libby) Phenix, was also a teacher and two of their children, Lillian C. and Daniel J., taught in the public schools. Two of his grandchildren are preparing for college teachers, these being R. Bonita Plummer, who is a third-year student at Knox College, Galesburg, and Emily Plummer, who is a senior student in the Bradford high school.
     Mr. Phenix gives his political allegiance to the democratic party and for many years he was a member of the village board and school board, his long retention in those offices proving the acceptability of his services. He also held other offices in the township. He belongs to the Methodist Episcopal church and the principles which govern his life are found in the teachings of that organization and in the tenets of the Masonic fraternity. He was made a Mason in Toulon Lodge, No. 95, A. F. & A. M., in 1862, and became a charter member of Bradford Lodge, No. 514, A. F. & A. M., of which he was the first junior warden and of which he served as master for many years. He was formerly also identified with the Wyoming chapter, R. A. M., but has demitted on account of his age. He is now eighty-two years old but he is still quite active, still looks after his business interests, and in mind and body is as vigorous as most men of seventy. He has not only gained a considerable measure of wealth but he has also won and retained the sincere respect and warm regard of those who have been associated with him.


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