Means, deceased, a distinguished citizen of Peru, LaSalle county, for many
years past, will long be remembered with gratitude and affection by the
people of this community as a friend of the working man and the promoter of
institutions which tended to elevate and upbuild the municipality. Shrewd
and sagacious, he was at once an excellent financier and a kind employer,
gaining the earnest support and co-operation of those in his employ to
advance the interest of the institution for which he labored.
He was born in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, March 31, 1833, and traced his ancestry back to county Tyrone, Ireland, where his grandfather was born, in 1750. In 1787 the attractions of the New World enticed him to America, causing him to settle in the state of Pennsylvania, where the father, William Means, was born September 15, 1803. William Means removed to Steubenville, Ohio, in 1836, and was engaged in the foundry business at that place for fourteen years. Abandoning that employment he gave his attention to agriculture until his death, which occurred in his sixty-eighth year. He was married in Allegheny county to Miss Nancy Dawson, February 11, 1832, and through her Mr. Means traced his family tree as far back as 1656, when one Garret von Swearinger, a native of Holland, emigrated to America and located in New Castle, Delaware, and in 1664 moved to Maryland. Nancy Dawson was the immediate descendant of Nicholas and Verlinda (Blackmore) Dawson, her grandfather, Samuel Blackmore, Jr., having come from his native land, England, and settled on a tract of land in Maryland which had been granted to his father by Lord Baltimore. This tract included the grounds on which stands the national capitol at Washington. The lives of these early settlers were filled with toil and privation; and the suffering and hardships endured by them in the wild, unbroken country, as they labored perseveringly in the wilderness to build their rude log huts and rear their families to lives of independence and industry, made possible the grand heritage of a free and independent nation, — America.
To such antecedents Archibald Means owed his origin, and it is but natural that he should have inherited many of the predominant traits of their character. We will take a brief glance at his life from childhood. When a child of three years his parents moved to Steubenville, Ohio, where he grew to man's estate. He was given an academic education, but close application to study had undermined his health, never robust, and it was deemed advisable to try country air to perfect a cure. At the age of eighteen he engaged in farm work and continued it three years, until he reached his twenty-first birthday. He then went to Ashland, Kentucky, in 1854, remaining there until 1861, employed in the bank of Thomas W. Means. This gentleman, although of the same name, was in no way related to our subject.
His first presidential vote was cast for the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan, but his sympathies were soon enlisted in the cause of freedom and he became a strong supporter of the Republican party. He was one of five men in the precinct, and of eleven in his county, who cast their vote in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln. During those troublous times it was dangerous for a man to express his allegiance to the federal government, as many of the southern states, among them Kentucky, counted it basest treason; and an opposition to slavery was often expressed at the expense of the life of the bold speaker. Mr. Means was known as a man who had the courage to fearlessly stand by any view he considered right, and he was a strong opposer of the laws of slavery, expressing himself freely on the subject. As soon as hostilities began Mr. Means tendered his services to the cause of the nation, and in June, 1861, began to recruit a company of Union soldiers from his district, which was known as Company E, Fourteenth Kentucky Infantry. Of this company he was elected, and afterward commissioned, captain, and at once he went with it to the front, where he served under General, then Colonel, Garfield against Humphrey Marshall, on the Big Sandy river, in January, 1862. His company was one of a number which formed the nucleus of what afterward became the East Tennessee troops, and consisted of seven regiments. While activey engaged in service at the battle of Cumberland Gap, Captain Means was taken seriously ill, granted a furlough and sent home to die, as his friends regretfully believed. However, under the tender nursing of a devoted mother he slowly recuperated and was able to return to the front of battle, where he was assigned to the staff of General A. J. Smith and given charge of the pontoon bridge at Cincinnati. His health again failing, with much regret he was obliged to tender his resignation, in October, 1862.
After restoring his shattered health in some degree, Captain Means moved to Pittsburg, where he engaged in the iron business and later in the pottery manufacture in Manchester, Ohio. In 1871 he came to Peru in order to close out the zinc works here in the interest of the stockholders. The plant was then a small affair, which had never been conducted on a paying basis, and it had been thought useless to try to continue it. After looking it over Mr. Means decided that it could be made a paying investment and at once set about putting his plans in operation. The Illinois Zinc Company was formed and Mr. Means, one of the stockholders, was made vice-president and manager. He at once began to add improvements, doing this in a cautious manner, and increased the works, having the supreme satisfaction of seeing his plans materialize in financial success for the investors. This plant has assumed large proportions and is one which contributes in no small way to the prosperity of Peru, giving employment, as it does, to hundreds of workmen. As the promoter and successful manipulator of the scheme, Mr. Means proved himself a benefactor to the entire community, while his general bearing and conduct since he became a resident of the city placed him in an enviable position among the business men and he was universally esteemed.
Captain Means was married three times, his first matrimonial alliance being with Isabella, daughter of Thomas W. Means, who was born in Lawrence county, Ohio, and moved to Ashland, Kentucky. This marriage was contracted June 2, 1858, and five years later, on January 20, she died without issue. Three years passed when, on April 26, 1866, he led to the altar Sarah Jane, daughter of William Ellison, near Hanging Rock, Ohio. This union resulted in the birth of five children: Annie, who died in childhood; William E. ; Archibald L., who died in August, 1898; Robert W., who was drowned; and Sara. January 24, 1880, the mother of these children was called to her reward and Captain Means was once more left a widower. August 16, 1881, he joined his lot with Miss Jennie Schleich, a daughter of General Newton S. Schleich of Lancaster, Ohio, and to them one child was born, Alan Hay Means.
Our subject was an active worker in the E. N. Kirk Post, G. A. R., and served as commander of the same, and was also a member of the Illinois Commandery Military Order of the Loyal Legion, While president of the school board he made many opportunities to advance the cause of education, and indeed was always interested in the growth and welfare of the city. Although a Presbyterian in faith, he contributed to the support of the Congregational denomination in a most liberal manner, there being no Presbyterian church in Peru. He was benevolent when a worthy object was presented to his notice, although intolerant of shams. Industrious and progressive, with keen, sound judgment, and alert to wise suggestions, he was a rare acquisition to the commercial circles and a strong addition to what was best in society; and it is no wonder that his death, which occurred in Chicago May 22, 1898, while there for medical treatment, was felt a great loss by the community and by an endearing family.
Extracted 22 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Biographical and Genealogical Record of LaSalle County, Illinois, published in 1900, volume 2, pages 540-543.