The Pioneer Fire-Proof Construction Company, of Ottawa, one of the largest industries of the kind in the United States, if not in the world, has for its local general manager and superintendent B. B. Holland, a gentleman well equipped by years of experience for so important and responsible a position. A brief description of this valuable plant may prove of interest to the general public.
Organized in 1880, under its present title, the Pioneer Fire-Proof Construction Company rapidly rose to prominence and now occupies a distinctive place in the world of business. The officers are Colonel G. M. Moulton, president; C. F. Eiker, treasurer, and W. A. Moulton, secretary. The company owns large fire-clay banks, a mile and a half distant from the works, and connected therewith by their own private electric railway, and, including said clay banks, the property in possession of the concern here amounts to about two hundred and fifty acres. The output of the works, exclusive of fire-brick, paving and sidewalk brick, is estimated at about fifty thousand tons per annum. The chief product is hollow tile, now so extensively used in the construction of fire-proof buildings, and particularly in the noted "sky-scrapers," or tall office buildings, where a skeleton of steel framework carries the entire weight of the walls and flooring. In such modern structures the floors and partition-walls are made of the hollow fire-proof tile. The immense volume of business transacted by the company of which we are writing may be inferred when it is stated that two-thirds of the numerous great office buildings of Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Omaha, and all the cities of the Mississippi valley region and the northwest have been built of fire-proof tiling furnished by them. The plant in which this important product is manufactured is a fine, large, well equipped establishment, and within the various departments of the business employment is given to upwards of two hundred and fifty hands. One of the main buildings, designated as A, is a square, U-shaped structure, one hundred and seventy-five feet wide and two hundred feet deep; the left wing seventy-five and the right wing fifty feet wide. Building B, with three drying floors and a basement, is two hundred feet long and forty feet deep. The principal motor is water, and it requires the steam of six boilers of three hundred and fifty horse-power to run two steam presses, to heat the buildings and furnish steam for the dry floors. In the yards there are twenty-six kilns, seven of which are twenty feet in diameter, eighteen are twenty-two feet, and one is thirty feet, inside measurement. To fill the last mentioned it requires six men working for two days. About fifty or sixty thousand fire brick can be turned out by the two steam presses a day. From the above statements, some idea of the difficulty of properly managing such an extensive establishment may be gathered. Certain it is that during the eleven or twelve years of Mr. Holland's connection with the company he has always had great responsibility upon his shoulders and has faithfully met every requirement of his office.
We now proceed to give a brief personal sketch of our subject, his ancestry, etc. John Holland was born in England in 1777, and came to America, locating in Brooks county, Virginia, in 1806, where John W., the father of our subject, was born, October 23, 1810. In 1816 they moved to Brookville, Franklin county, Indiana, where they remained until 1829, then removing to Lawrenceburg, same state, and in 1830 to Indianapolis, where John W. Holland was united in marriage, in 1846, to Eliza J. Roll, a daughter of Solomon Roll, a native of Ohio. In 1847 John W. Holland established the first wholesale grocery in Indianapolis, remaining in that business continuously until 1877, when he retired from business. He died in May, 1884, and his wife passed away June 30, 1894. They were the parents of three children: Pamelia H., Benjamin B. and William G., all of whom are living.
Benjamin B. was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, March 29, 1852, and received a good education, being a student at the Indianapolis high school. When the state-house was being erected, he was made the superintendent of the Spencer quarry, which furnished building stone for the building, and later was made the superintendent of construction, having charge of the erection of the building for the contractors, and at the same time was associated with Mr. Rush S. Denig in supplying ties to the Nickel Plate Railroad at the time of its construction. In this capacity he remained until 1887, in which year he came to Ottawa. Few men have been more enterprising and energetic, and few citizens of Ottawa are more highly esteemed than he. As a Republican, he has taken great interest in the prosperity of his party.
July 12, 1871, Mr. Holland was married, in his native city, to Miss Laura F. Jordon, a daughter of John Jordon, a prominent merchant of Indianapolis. Edith, the eldest child of our subject and wife, married C. W. McGuire, the auditor of the Evansville & Louisville Railroad at Evansville. Lillie E. is the wife of E. C. Walters, the cashier of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad at Ottawa. Mary D. is living with her parents at home. The family are members of the Baptist church and are identified with various enterprises calculated to benefit humanity. Mr. Holland is genial, frank and warm-hearted by nature, and possesses the friendship of a host of acquaintances.
Extracted by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois published in 1900, volume 1, pages 66-68.