Posted on July 23, 2021 at 9:27 AM by Melissa Dalton
The last highlight of our series on the men that made Allison & Townsley are the Allison brothers, James and Samuel. Although James Allison started the business, it was Samuel who took over after his death, and became quite the entrepreneur.
James Allison was born around 1816 in Pennsylvania to Samuel and Mary Allison. The family moved to Ohio in 1820 and originally settled in Warren County. A couple years later, they moved to Beavercreek Township in Greene County. Around 1834, the Allison family moved to Shelby County, but James, then about 18 years old, remained in Greene County.
James married Ann B. Corry on February 4, 1840 in Greene County (Fig 1). James and Ann had two children, Matthew and Martha (Fig 2). Within a few years of marriage, James established Allison & Townsley with Thomas Townsley, in 1846. James was the senior member of the business, and he hired his younger brother, Samuel, to work as a clerk in 1851. However, James’s life was cut short, and he died after a short illness on August 22, 1864 at the age of 47.
Fig 1. Marriage record of James Allison and Ann B. Corry, 1840 (Greene County Archives)
Fig 2. 1860 Census with James Allison and family at top (Ancestry.com)
Samuel was born in 1836 in Shelby County and spent his early life on the family farm (Fig 3). When Samuel was a boy, his father died, leaving him and his siblings to help care for the family. That was about the time he went to work for James in Xenia. Samuel worked hard and became very knowledgeable of the business, and in 1857, he was made a partner in the business. After James’s death, Samuel became the head of the business, a position he retained until the business dissolved in 1889.
Fig 3. 1850 Census with Samuel Allison, Sr. and family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)
Samuel married Julia Myers in May 1868 in Xenia, Ohio (Fig 4). The couple had four children – Louis, Kate, Albert, and Janette (birth record says Julia). All the children were born in Greene County, although I was unable to locate a birth record for Kate (Fig 5).
Fig 4. Marriage record of Samuel Allison and Julia Myers, 1868 (Greene County Archives)
Fig 5. 1880 Census with Samuel Allison and family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)
Samuel had his hands in various businesses even before Allison & Townsley closed. He became interested in the cordage industry, a business venture that made him a prominent man in the area. He was an organizer of the Xenia Twine & Cordage Company and took over operation of the Xenia Mill on Cincinnati Avenue. After a few years, he sold his interest and, along with Joseph Field, opened the Field Cordage Company in Xenia. In 1890, the factory was leased to the National Cordage Company for $45,000 a year for a five-year contract period. Additionally, Allison was paid $6,000 a year as a non-compete. However, in 1891, National Cordage bought Field Cordage for $245,000. At that time, Allison joined Hooven & Gamble Company, acting as president of the company from its inception in 1892 until 1900.
In 1892, Julia passed away and in 1893, he lost his daughter, Kate (Fig 6). Samuel remarried in 1894, marrying his sister-in-law, Mary “Louie” Myers in St. Paul (Fig 7).
Fig 6. Obituary of Katie Allison, Xenia Daily Gazette, 25 May 1893 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 7. Marriage of Samuel Allison and Mary “Louie” Myers, The St. Paul Globe, 26 Jan 1894 (Newspapers.com)
In 1892, he also assisted in organizing the Northwestern Cordage Company in St. Paul, Minnesota, acting as president and general manager. The business faced many setbacks, and in 1895, Allison applied for a receivership, which was denied. As such, he sold the property to Northwestern Grass Twine Company, and much of the machinery went to Hooven & Allison in Xenia.
Allison moved his family back to Xenia around 1895, purchasing three cordage mills (and selling two of them almost immediately). He started up the Field Twine & Cordage Company in the third mill around 1898, which he ran until his death. Samuel Allison died in 1900 at the age of 64 (Figs 8 & 9).
Fig 8. Obituary of Samuel Allison, Xenia Daily Gazette, 5 Sep 1900 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 9. Death record of Samuel Allison (Greene County Archives)
We hope you enjoyed learning about the entrepreneurs that started a Xenia dry-goods store.
Until Next Time!
Greene County Archives
Posted on July 15, 2021 at 10:17 AM by Melissa Dalton
After learning about the business of Allison & Townsley, I was interested in learning about the men behind the company. This week, we take a look at that life of Thomas P. Townsley, and explore how he became a successful businessman.
Like many quests into the records of the early 1800s, it can get a bit murky due to several generations recycling names. The Townsley family was no exception. Thomas Townsley’s grandfather (also named Thomas) was one of the earliest white settlers of Cedarville Township in Greene County, and almost every generation has a Thomas, George, John, and/or James. To fully delve into the family would take a bit of time, but we were able to flesh out the highlights of his life!
Thomas P. Townsley was born to George and Mary (Lowry) Townsley on May 27, 1817 in Xenia, Ohio. Thomas attended school in Xenia, and continued his education at Miami University in Oxford, graduating in 1836 (Fig 1). After graduation, Townsley returned to Xenia to pursue a business career.
Fig 1. Miami University Student Catalog, 1858 (Ancestry.com)
Townsley’s early career was with the railroad company, but he also was a teacher for a period of time. However, he was keenly interested in investing in his own business, and spent close to a decade saving his earnings to have enough capital to follow his career goals. In 1847, Townsley went into business with James Allison, and opened a dry-goods business, Allison & Townsley (Fig 2).
Fig 2. Xenia City Directory, 1870 (Ancestry.com)
Townsley married Agnes Paull of Pennsylvania in 1850. The couple had several children, but only two, George L. and James B., lived to adulthood (Fig 3).
Fig 3. 1850 U.S. Census with Townsley family outlined in red (Ancestry.com)
Townsley had other business ventures outside of the dry-good business (read last week’s blog to learn about the Allison & Townsley business). He was an organizer of the Second National Bank (along with his business partner), and was president from 1864 until his health forced him to resign his post. He also was involved in the establishment of the Field Cordage Company (another business venture with Allison).
Of interesting note, Townsley attended the William Henry Harrison convention of 1840 (who was part of the Whig Party), and later was selected to attend the constitutional convention in 1873-1874 as a representative of his district (Fig 4). Townsley was highly honored by this election, and did his duty to ensure he represented the district well.
Fig 4. Article about Harrison convention participants, Xenia Daily Gazette, 25 Nov 1896 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
The Townsleys were members of the Presbyterian Church, and were highly respected members of the church, as well as the community at large. In 1896, Agnes Townsley died and was buried in Woodland Cemetery. Two years later, in 1898, Thomas Townsley died at the age of 81. He was buried with his wife in Woodland Cemetery (Fig 5).
Fig 5. Death Record of Agnes Townsley & Thomas Townsley (Greene County Archives)
Next week we will explore the life of James Allison, and where his business pursuits took him throughout his life!
Posted on July 9, 2021 at 3:45 PM by Melissa Dalton
Looking at old advertisements is a fun way to learn about your community, and the people that made. Even in a smaller town like Xenia, there were many shops and general stores where residents could find the latest fashion apparel, necessary staples, or any other goods they may desire. The advertisement that provoked this blog is one for Allison & Townsley for the holiday season of 1881 (Fig 1).
Fig 1. Allison & Townsley Holiday Goods, December 1881 (Greene County Archives)
Allison & Townsley, located on East Main Street, was established by James Allison and Thomas P. Townsley on March 1, 1847 (Fig 2). It started out as a dry goods store, with the occasional textile being a luxury item. However, over the years, the store evolved, and they began selling ready-made clothing, more fabrics, undergarments, hats, toiletries, linens, curtains, boots, shoes, books, stationery, and more (Figs 3 & 4).
Fig 2. 1874 Greene County Atlas with location circled (Greene County Archives)
Fig 3. Notice regarding Allison & Townsley, Xenia Daily Gazette, 1 Mar 1883 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 4. Advertisement in Xenia Daily Gazette for Allison & Townsley, 5 Dec 1885 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
In 1851, Samuel Allison, James’s younger brother, joined the business, learning a great deal about buying merchandise to sell in the store (Fig 5). He became a partner with James and Thomas in 1857, and when James passed away in 1864, Samuel became the primary partner.
Fig 5. Notice of S. Allison traveling to purchase merchandise for store, Xenia Daily Gazette, 6 Mar 1883 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
In 1887, there was an economic crisis, and Allison & Townsley was not immune to the financial difficulties this recession placed on many businesses. In 1889, Allison & Townsley was forced to request the assignment of a receiver to help clear debts (Fig 6).
Fig 6. Allison & Townsley receivership/closing, Xenia Daily Gazette, 15 & 17 Jan 1889 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
After the assignment of a receiver, there were several court cases filed for monies owed to various people. The Court Report section of the Xenia Daily Gazette, and the local court records, clearly indicate that many creditors/vendors were hoping to collect on balances due to them (Fig 7). A quick glance through the docket shows that most plaintiffs were awarded the payment of the claimed debt.
Fig 7. Common Pleas Court Appearance Docket, No. 25, Index (Greene County Archives) / Xenia Daily Gazette, 11 Mar 1889 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
In April 1889, the store building was sold to James McCann, John Little, and Charles Spencer for $11,350, which is about $330,000 today (Fig 8). The receivership allowed the store to clear debts, but it wasn’t enough to keep it in business. In March 1890, Allison & Townsley permanently closed (Fig 9). However, the building gained new life just a few months later when another dry goods business – Jobe, Hardy & Co. - took over the building and renovated it to create a space to fit their needs.
Fig 8. Notice of closing of Allison & Townsley, Xenia Daily Gazette, 27 Mar 1890 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Fig 9. A Handsome Place, Xenia Daily Gazette, 1 May 1890 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
The closing of Allison & Townsley did not mean the end of business ventures for either men. Follow us over the next couple of weeks while we explore the lives of the individual men that made up Allison & Townsley.