Electricity, a mysterious force, even now but imperfectly understood and only partially available in a practical way, is nevertheless such an important factor in the domestic, commercial and manufacturing economy of every enterprising town that it has engaged the services of the best thought of men of intellectuality and splendid business ability, under whose guidance it is being developed and brought under control and made more and more fully the servant of man. Colonel Douglas Hapeman, secretary and treasurer of the Thomas Electric Light & Power Company, of Ottawa, Illinois, was born in Fulton county, New York, January 15, 1839, a son of John and Margaret (Smith) Hapeman. At the age of five years he was brought by his parents to Illinois. The family located first at Aurora and later at Earlville, where Mr. and Mrs. Hapeman died, leaving three sons and six daughters: Almira, Margaret, Mary, Matilda, Adeline, Elizabeth, John, William and Douglas. The father, who became well known as a bridge builder, lived sixty-two years, and the mother died at the age of fifty-three. They were zealous members of the Methodist Episcopal church.
Douglas Hapeman received his early education in a school which was conducted in a little log school-house not far from Earlville. When thirteen years old he began to work as a printer, and followed the vocation until April, 1861. For some time prior to the war he was a member of the Washington Light Guards, of Ottawa, and on the first call of President Lincoln for volunteers he enlisted in Company H, Eleventh Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and was made second lieutenant. He was recommissioned in the Eleventh Regiment for three years, and took part in the battles of Fort Donelson, Shiloh and Corinth. He was discharged for promotion in August, 1862, and was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the One Hundred and Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry. At Hartsville, Tennessee, he was captured, together with the regiment, and with Major Widmer was a prisoner about five months. He afterward took part in the battles of Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Mission Ridge, Resaca, Kenesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Jonesboro and the memorable experiences of the march to the sea. In the campaign after Hood, north of Atlanta, he commanded a brigade in the First Division, Fourteenth Army Corps, and was mustered out of the army June 22, 1865, having served four years and two months. He then returned to Ottawa and became one of the publishers of the Free Trader, but in 1882 disposed of his interest and was engaged in the book and stationery business until 1895, when he sold out to devote his entire time to his work as secretary and manager of the Thomas Electric Light & Power Company, in which he had been interested since 1884, and of which he is now secretary and treasurer.
The Colonel is a member of the Loyal Legion, Grand Army of the Republic, and the Masonic fraternity. He was married November 6, 1867, to Miss Ella Thomas, daughter of William Thomas, president of the Thomas Electric Light & Power Company. They have a son and a daughter, William T. Hapeman, who is, at the age of twenty-four, a successful lawyer of Chicago, and May E., wife of Dr. J. R. Hoffman, of Chicago.
The Thomas Electric Light & Power Company was organized in 1884, with a capital of fifteen thousand dollars, and Colonel Hapeman was made its secretary and treasurer. Starting out in a limited way, with two arc-light dynamos, capable of running twenty-five lights each, the concern, under the personal supervision of Messrs. Hapeman and Thomas, has made a great stride forward, and now takes rank among the leading institutions of the city. At first the station was on the "side cut," near the Illinois and Michigan canal, but in a few months what is now a part of the present structure was erected between the Victor Mills and the City Mills, and it has since been more than doubled in size. The company now operate three dynamos, with a capacity of ninety arc lights, two incandescent-light machines, with power for three thousand six hundred lamps, and the dynamos which run the city lights, one hundred and thirty-three in number. The company maintains a day circuit, as well as a power circuit, so that the plant is operated continuously. Having the advantage of water power, its customers are supplied with lights and power much cheaper than in almost any other city in the Union. The application of electricity to the purposes of lighting, heating and power is only just beginning to be indicated, and the Thomas Electric Light & Power Company is ever on the lookout for new inventions, or for improvements on existing ones, which will better its service and help it to attain a perfect system of artificial light.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 41-43.