Benjamin M. Davies, a retired capitalist of Topeka, began his independent business career at the age of fifteen in Greenup, Ill. He is a native of Granville, Ohio, where he was born Nov. 13, 1840, and comes of sturdy Welsh ancestry. His parents, John and Mary Davies, were both natives of Great Britain, the former of London and the latter of Wales. John Davies was a hatter by trade, and immigrated to America with his wife about 1828, locating first at Utica, N. Y., where he followed his trade for a number of years. Later he removed with his family to Granville, Ohio, where he and his wife resided until their respective deaths. Their family consisted of six sons and two daughters, of whom Benjamin M. was the fifth in order of birth and is the only one of the family now living. As the father was a man of limited means it devolved upon the sons as each grew up to aid in the support of the family. Therefore Benjamin M. Davies' earliest training was along rigid lines of thrift and industry. He attended the local school for a few months each year until the age of fifteen, when he decided to join an older brother, James M. Davies, a tinner by trade, residing at Greenup, Ill. He landed there with only fifty cents in his pocket, and at once began to learn the tinner's trade under the direction of his brother.
After three years of faithful service with his brother, during which time he had mastered the trade and all the details of the business connected with it, he purchased his brother's interest in the concern, paying $50 down. It was in this his first independent venture that he demonstrated the exceptional ability, tact and judgment that have marked his entire business career, for within twelve months after taking charge he had not only paid his brother in full but had also largely increased his stock and trade. He continued as a tinner until 1864, when he sold out and removed to Urbana, Ill., where he and his brother opened a large hardware and agricultural implement store under the firm name of Davies Brothers, which enterprise they successfully carried on until 1869. Mr. Davies then turned his attention to the lumber business in the same town, taking as a partner C. D. Webster. The firm of Webster, Davies & Company did the largest business in Urbana until they disposed of their yards and holdings in 1877. Two years prior to this Mr. Davies had visited Topeka and found it to be a good location for the lumber business. In June, 1877, he paid his second visit to Topeka to investigate farther the possibilities of the lumber business there and to visit his brother, James M. Davies, who was then a resident of the capital city. The outlook seemed so favorable that in September of that year he and his brother united in purchasing the lumber plant of James Tipton & Company, and for the following ten years the Davies Brothers Lumber Company was regarded as among the largest and most successful lumber dealers in the state. At that time Mr. Davies had the reputation of being one of the most expert lumber buyers in the state and much of the success of the firm was due to his excellent judgment. It might be noted in this connection that Mr. Davies' business engagements prior to coming to Kansas had proved to be very successful from a financial standpoint, and that he had extensively invested in paying properties, both real and personal, which had rapidly increased in value. Among other investments were large holdings in Los Angeles, Cal., purchased at a time when many believed it money thrown away. Therefore, when he took up his residence in Topeka, in 1877, he was quick to perceive that the city had a great future and at once backed his judgment in careful and judicious purchases of realty and properties that have since enhanced in value even beyond his expectations.
During the ten years, from 1877 to 1887, when he was successfully engaged in the lumber business, he was also largely occupied with his other interests, including the Bank of Topeka, of which he had been made vice-president. In 1887 he disposed of his lumber business, and after four years' service as vice-president of the Bank of Topeka he sold his interest in the bank to retire from active business. In 1892 he removed to Chicago, Ill., which was his home until 1901, when he returned to Topeka and purchased the fine residence property at the corner of Harrison street and Sixth avenue, where he has since resided. During his nine years' residence in Chicago he spent much of his time in travel, visiting nearly every city and place of note in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
On Aug. 11, 1861, occurred the marriage of Mr. Davies with Miss Elizabeth Cook of Logan, Ohio. She bore him a son and a daughter who grew to maturity. They are: Charles F. Davies of Chicago, Ill., and Lillian E. Davies, now Mrs. Joseph M. LeRoy of Los Angeles, Cal. Mrs. Davies died in 1899. On Jan. 8, 1901, occurred the second marriage of Mr. Davies, when Miss Minnie Ewan of Des Moines, Iowa, became his wife. Mrs. Davies was born at Newark, Ohio, and was educated in the public schools of that city and in a seminary at Granville, Ohio. Mr. Davies has been a lifelong Republican, and both he and Mrs. Davies are members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Topeka. Mr. Davies began life a poor boy, but before he was out of his "teens" he had secured a business of his own. He feels that much of his success in life has been due to his strict attention to every detail in connection with all his undertakings and that success awaits any honest, industrious young man of today who will adopt those principles. Mr. and Mrs. Davies reside in their commodious home at 320 West Sixth avenue, Topeka. They also own a cottage at Ludington, Mich., on the shore of Lake Michigan, where they usually spend the summer months.Pages 1469-1471 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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