rancis M. Roots . No compendium such as the province of this work defines in its essential limitations can serve to offer fit memorial to the life and labors of Francis Marion Roots, who through almost forty years was closely associated with the upbuilding and development of Connersville. His business enterprises were the most potent factor in the growth and prosperity of the town through that period.
Francis M. Roots was born in Oxford, Ohio, on the 28th of October, 1824, a son of Alanson and Sylvia (Yale) Roots, and a representative of one of the early families of New England. The probability is that the Roots at one time belonged to the French Hugenots, who, forced to flee from their own country to escape religious persecution, sought refuge in England, whence their descendants crossed the Atlantic to America. Josiah Rootes, as the name was then spelled, was the first of that name to brave the dangers of an ocean voyage, in the early part of the seventeenth century, in order to establish a home in the New World. He sailed on the Hercules and arrived on the rugged shores of New England in 1634. Lands were granted him at Salem and he was one of the founders of the church at Beverly, Massachusetts. He had three brothers who arrived in America about the same time and settled in the same part of New England. His wife Susanna, after his death in 1683, suffered from a suspicion of witchcraft, but there is no record showing how the proceedings ended and she was probably released when the strange delusion had somewhat abated.
John Rootes, a son of Josiah and one of six children, was born at Beverly in 1646 and removed first to Fairfield, Connecticut, whence he went to Woodbury, there possessing much valuable property. He died there in 1723. His son John, the next in the line of direct descent to our subject, was born at Woodbury, in 1693, and died there in 1757, leaving a son, Benajah Roots, who was born in 1725. He seems to have been a man of much intellectual power and became an eminent minister. He united with the Congregational Church, at Woodbury, Connecticut, at the age of fifteen, was graduated at Princeton College in 1754, and the same year, having studied theology, was licensed to preach. Three years later he married Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Gaunsey or Guernsey, of Litchfield South Farms. In 1756 he became pastor of the First Congregational Society, in Simsbury, Connecticut, and in 1774 accepted the pastorate of the newly organized church of his denomination in Rutland Center, Vermont. It is probable that during the last years of his life he occupied no pulpit regularly, but often supplied the place of an absent pastor. Princeton, Yale and Dartmouth Colleges each conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts, and he passed away on the 15th of March, 1787, at the age of sixty-one years, leaving a widow and six children.
The eldest, Benajah Guernsey Roots, was born amid the rugged hills of New England and at the time of his father's death was already laying the foundations of an excellent temporal prosperity. He became the owner of an extensive sheep farm near Charlotte, Vermont, and raised certain fine breeds of sheep usually not then found on this side of the Atlantic. He found that a profitable venture. About the time of his father's death he married Louisa Higley, of Castleton, Vermont, and their homestead in the Green Mountain State was honored with seven children, the eldest of whom was Alanson, the father of Francis M. Roots. Alanson Roots was the first to advance the plan of seeking a home in the then sparsely settled region of Ohio, where pasturage was cheap and manufacturers scarce. In 1808 he married Sylvia Hale, and in 1824 immigrated to the Buckeye State, accompanied by his wife and four sons, Guernsey Yale, Franklin Wright, Philander Higley and Alanson Kirby. They settled at Oxford, Ohio, and there, in October, another son was added to the family, to whom was given the name of Francis Marion. The father established a woolen-goods manufactory there and in its operation was assisted by his three older sons; and as the years passed our subject also became familiar with the business, working in the factory through the summer months, while in the winter season he pursued his studies in the common schools.
Such in brief is the history of the American ancestry of Francis M. Roots. Different biographers have mentioned the leading characteristics of those who have worn the name, these including active connection with the social, political and moral welfare of the communities with which they have been identified. Said one: "They were proverbial for honesty, and distinguished for a grave, dignified, reserved, yet courteous demeanor; they were ever ready to respond to any demand for their services to protect the injured or relieve the distressed; they have always been characterized by a great amount of energy and perseverance, and great mechanical power; they were naturally ambitious and self-reliant; they have always despised parsimony and made a generous and hospitable use of their means; and have not been less distinguished as lovers of home and social joys, pre-eminently fond of domestic scenes, and partial to those pleasures which are most permanent and elevating." These strong family traits were all manifest in Francis M. Roots, and their development through exercise led to a noble manhood. He spent his youth with his parents; and his mother and sister Mary, four years his junior, were always the object of his tenderest solicitude. He always gladly acknowledges his indebtedness to his mother for her kindly teachings and for her ennobling influence. He spent much time in reading, and also mastered the business in which his father and brother were engaged. At the age of sixteen he entered the Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, and there pursued a special scientific course, being unable, by the press of his duties at the factory, to take the regular course. He applied himself diligently, however, and accomplished as much in the time of his attendance as most students did in the period of a regular course.
The woolen mill at Oxford was an extensive industry for that time, and did a large business in the manufacture of cassimeres, flannels and blankets. About 1845 it was deemed necessary to send some one out upon the road in order to sell the goods in the sparsely settled districts of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, and Francis M. Roots, then twenty-one years of age, was chosen for this responsible task, his duties not only including the sale of the manufactures but also the work of collecting from widely separated debtors of the house. The following year a new project was undertaken by the father and two brothers, Philander and Francis, who were then the only ones engaged in the manufacture of woolen goods, Guernsey having removed to Cincinnati, where he was engaged in the commission business, while Alanson was practicing medicine in Fletcher, Ohio, and Franklin had died several years before. It was found that very excellent water power could be economically secured at Connersville, Indiana, and that the surrounding country was admirably adapted for sheep-raising. A piece of ground was accordingly secured on the west side of Whitewater Canal at the corner of what is now Sixth Street, and a large four-story frame factory was erected and equipped with the best machinery procurable. The factory at Oxford was not given up for some time afterward, but nearly all the work was done at the new factory. Mr. Roots' earliest efforts at mechanical invention were exhibited in the machinery of the woolen mill and the improvements of it from time to time, a great many of which were the fruit of his own thought. His father and his brother made frequent trips between Connersville and Oxford, but he did not go to the new factory for some time. The breaking of the old home times at Oxford and the extension of the business at Connersville marked a new epoch in his life, for about that same time his mother died, causing a sorrow which time never effaced; and he also met, at that period of his life, the lady who was to be to him a loved and faithful companion on the remaining distance of the journey to the better land. This was Miss Esther E. Pumphrey, at whose home his father and brother boarded before the permanent location of the family was made at Connersville.
Mr. Roots continued in active connection with the factory in this city until the early winter of 1848-49, when news was received of the gold discoveries in California. Business at that time was progressing steadily, but slowly, and it was likely that many years must elapse before his financial condition would enable him to win the lady to whom in the meantime he had become betrothed. This led him to desire to seek his fortune on the Pacific coast, and after much earnest consideration of the subject he started on the long and perilous journey across the plains. It was with the greatest sadness that he bade adieu to his father, now well advanced in years, his family and his promised bride, and in a letter written from Cincinnati, where he was making his final preparations, he said: "I have left the home of my youth --- perhaps forever. Had I known all before, I do not believe I could have resolved to try so severely those strong affections and ties that lay slumbering almost unconsciously in my bosom. I felt before that a year or so was but a short time, and would soon pass. But, oh! I knew not the partings; I had not thought of that sad morning when I was to bid a long farewell."
On the 10th of April, 1849, he left Cincinnati, and on the 14th of August, 1849, reached the gold diggings. After a time he made his way to Sacramento, mined near there through the season and then spent the winter in San Francisco. In the early spring of 1850, in company with a few energetic companions, he found and began working what proved to be a most remunerative claim at a place called Scorpion Gulch, and so successful was he that in May of the same year he started home with a considerable quantity of the precious metal. After an absence of fifteen months he arrived in Oxford, Ohio, where he was welcomed by his venerable father, who shortly afterward was called to the home beyond this life.
On the 8th of October, 1850, was celebrated his marriage to Miss Esther E. Pumphrey, who had but recently completed her education in Dayton, Ohio, and after a wedding journey to the Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, they began their domestic life in the old family homestead at Oxford, where their first child was born. Not long afterward they removed to Connersville, for the business there had grown to such proportions as to demand the attention of both brothers. For a year they lived with Philander Roots, who had married and settled in Connersville a few years previously, and then for the first time began housekeeping alone on Eastern Avenue. In 1856 they removed to "Rose Cottage" on Eighth Street, where they continued to reside for twenty-four years, while their children grew up around them in this lovely home. Until the death of Philander Roots the brothers continued together in business and their relations were of the most intimate and pleasant character. Seldom does one see two persons work together in such perfect harmony. The mill was operated very successfully and good financial returns were received. Francis Roots was always of a mechanical turn of mind and his improvements of the looms and other machinery of the mill from time to time had been productive of the most excellent results, both in producing better grades of goods and in the lightening of the labor necessary to produce them. It was about 1860 that the attention of the two brothers became engaged in devising an improved form of water-wheel to take the place of the old one with which their Connersville mill was operated. They worked at it for a long while, and finally experimented with it at an old mill near the town. The wheel was not a success, however, and its failure turned their thoughts into a new channel, suggested in part by the mechanical principles involved in their wheel. The result was an invention which has made their names known through the mechanical world.
As the water-wheel did not work, the brothers decided to try it as a blast-blower for the cupola of the foundry, and here it was so successful that they resolved to turn their invention into a blast-blower, the result being the Roots' rotary blower, which is now in use throughout the civilized world. The first patent covering any part of the blower was granted September 25, 1860, and was for an improved form of piston. Another was taken out in November, 1864, for an improvement in the shape of the case, and from the latter date until 1886 fifteen other patents were taken out, the most important probably being the rotary pump, operating on the same principle as the blower. It was patented in 1865 and was afterward adopted by the municipality of Connersville for their water-works. About 1864 they purchased the old foundry at which the first experiment had been tried, and immediately entered upon a career of activity and prosperity. During Philander's lifetime the patents were all taken out either in his name or that of the firm; after his death, in 1879, all patents were taken out in the name of F. M. Roots. It was the testimony of the latter that the original blower was the joint invention of himself and his brother, and that it was impossible for him to designate specifically just what part embodied his invention and what part that of Philander. The greatest modifications, however, were made by Francis, after his brother's death, and the present perfection of the machine is thus directly due to him. As the years passed the business of manufacturing the blowers grew in volume and importance until it had assumed very extensive proportions, being one of the largest industrial concerns in this section of Indiana. A large brick foundry was erected on the old site at Connersville, equipped with the best improved machinery, and the output has been sent into every civilized land on the globe. Of course all this was a work of time. No invention has ever been put upon the market but what has been met by opposition; but if it has merit it will eventually win its way to public favor. The brothers made several European trips to superintend the introduction of the blower in the old world, going first in 1869, and before their return, in October of that year, they had succeeded in establishing their invention on a firm footing both in England and on the continent.
Besides his valuable contributions to the world's mechanical progress, which include a number of minor inventions, Mr. Roots, whose name heads this review, was largely interested also in several other enterprises. In the year 1873, in connection with his brothers Philander and Guernsey and his friends Charles Mount and William Huston, he bought up the stock of the First National Bank, of Connersville. Philander Roots served as president for six years or until his death, when Francis succeeded to the presidency, holding the office throughout the remainder of his life. During his administration the bank's affairs were uniformly prosperous, and in 1888 the present handsome bank building, at the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street, was erected. He was also president for seven years of the Connersville Furniture Company, which was organized in March, 1882, for the manufacture of bedroom furniture, and is today one of the largest manufacturing concerns of the kind. Besides these enterprises he was half owner of the stock of the Connersville Hydraulic Company, and for several years served as its president. He possesses superior business qualifications, mechanical as well as executive ability, keen discrimination and a judgment rarely at fault, and his indefatigable industry won for him a handsome competence.
Yet the heavy demands of his business never interfered with his devotion to his family. Home was the center of his universe, and his greatest duty and greatest pleasure lay in ministering to the happiness and comfort of his family. No enjoyment was to him complete unless it was shared by his loved ones. His love of nature was very strong, and while he enjoyed to a high degree the beauties and wonders which he saw upon his trips abroad and in this country, not even the fascinations of a different world could keep his thought away from his family, or prevent a constant recurrence of the expression, "Oh! If my dear ones were only here to enjoy it with me." A great sorrow fell upon the household in 1852, in the death of their baby boy, "little Hal," and a few years later a little daughter, Sylvia Yale, was called away from the sorrowing parents. In the meantime another son, Albert Judson, was born to them, November 6, 1853, and another, Daniel Tenney, October 22, 1859, was a welcome visitor to Rose Cottage. Near the close of the war there arrived another little one, a blue-eyed, fair-haired daughter, to whom the name of Lewis was given, and on a bleak December day of 1866 there came a little brown-eyed daughter, Essie Mary. Eighteen years later, on her birthday, he sketched for her that December night, in words of tenderness and pathos, such expressions as are well worth transcribing among the choicest gems of his pen:
As I sat down in my chair at my desk (he wrote) I fell into a reverie, and in a way became unconscious of things about me, and in a dream-like way my mind traveled back over the years past until it was fixed and riveted on a scene that stood out of the surrounding darkness with almost startling vividness and beauty. And this was what I saw: It was a dark and stormy night just eighteen years ago. It was a low, rambling cottage, situated in a large lot, almost hidden in embowering trees, and ornamented with shrubberies and flower-beds, as could be seen by the occasional flashes of lightning. But from the windows of a large lower room a strong light was shining, and an unwarrantable curiosity made me step up and look in, and the beautiful scene I saw will never leave my memory while memory continues. There were one or two women moving about the room, one man with a bald-head, but with a benignant countenance. It was easy to see he was a doctor. Upon a bed lay a rather small woman, her face a trifle pale; but upon it was, oh, such a happy, joyful, tender look! And though the look spoke of so much happiness within there was a tear in her eye. And that face has haunted me ever since; though eighteen years have passed since then, I remember it as well as though it had only been last night; it was a good face, a true face, a loving face, that would do to tie to and happy the man to whom she would give the wealth of her true heart! But what is she looking at so earnestly? It seems as though her soul was going out in that look. What is it that every one in that room is looking at so earnestly? It seems to be a common center that fixes every eye. On a low chair sits a pleasant-faced woman, and resting in her lap is the object that so fixes the gaze and attention of every one. It is a dainty little mite of humanity, just dressed in its little white clothes and dainty ruffles and frills. And then a rather small, stout man with a rather consequential air and with an assumption of a good deal of authority, said its name should be Essie Mary. She was a well-spring of joy in every heart. We thought we loved her all we could then, but as she grew and with each year developed new sweetness, new graces and new loveliness, first beginning to smile, then to laugh and coo, and then prattle and toddle about, and then play and romp, and then grew to be a school girl, and then today --- shall I say it? --- a young lady, and with each stage showing something new and beautiful, some new and winning ways, some lovely characteristics, some good and noble principles, till now, on this her birthday, we love her a hundred times more than we did eighteen years ago.
In April, 1872, Mr. Roots, accompanied by his wife and several friends, left Chicago for a pleasure trip to California, the Yosemite and Yellowstone Park, and while on the trip visited Scorpion Gulch, where twenty-two years ago he had acquired the capital that enabled him to realize his hopes and wed the wife who was then by his side. His ever present love for his children was shown in words which he wrote on that journey:
"My dear boy, Albert! I have a letter from him today, and I was so glad to get it. Oh, may he grow up a good man, fearing God and fitting himself to help his father! And if I seem strict with him at times, it is only because I love him so and want him to be a useful, noble man."
Only a little more than a year elapsed when that young life, just developing into manhood, was brought to an untimely close. In October of the following year, 1874, while abroad on a business trip, he wrote, on Saturday: "Oh, if I could only spend Sunday at home with my dear wife and children and get back here Monday morning again! I do want to see them so much! My darling wife, I love you so much, and I want to be with you tonight and talk over so many things. And our dear children -- Dannie, my only living son; and precious Louie, with her warm heart and open nature; and darling little Essie, with the deep silent undercurrent of feeling that can suffer deepest anguish without showing it on the surface."
In the autumn of 1875 Mr. and Mrs. Roots celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary by making again the trip to the Mammoth Cave, this time, however, being accompanied by their three children. In 1881 the parents sailed for Europe, and in the spring of 1884 Mr. Roots found it possible to realize a hope that he had long cherished, of going abroad with his family, the daughters, Lewis and Essie, being with the father and mother as they journeyed through foreign lands. The son Daniel, however, had been married, in the winter of 1883, to Miss Jessie Foster, of Cincinnati. On the 8th of October, 1885, the Connersville mansion was the scene of wedding festivities, when Lewis gave her hand in marriage to Edgar Dwight Johnston, a young professor in the Cincinnati College of Music and organist of a church in Dayton, Ohio, but now president and manager of the P. H. & F. M. Roots Blower Company, of Connersville. Just sixteen months later the other daughter became the wife of E. F. Shrively, a leading young attorney of the Keystone State. Some years before this the family had left Rose Cottage and taken up their abode in the handsome residence on North Central Avenue, which Mr. Roots had presented to his wife on one of her quadrennial birthdays.
Throughout his life the career of Mr. Roots was permeated by earnest Christian principles. When nineteen years of age he united with the Presbyterian Church, in Oxford, Ohio, and was ever afterward most zealous in his Christian work. On removing to Connersville he identified himself with the work there, and in 1856, when the Presbyterian Church was erected at the corner of Seventh Street and Central Avenue, he contributed most liberally thereto, and with his own hands worked upon the walls and to finish the interior. He always held one or more positions of responsibility in the church which he so dearly loved, and in the early years he organized and conducted mission Sunday schools, sometimes in small buildings or houses, sometimes in the woods, and thus instructed a rather rough lot of half-grown boys. His religion was a part of his daily life; it permeated his business and colored all his relations with his fellow men. It was his support through all the years of activity, and in his last days, when his body was racked with pain, he felt its sustaining power as never before, and could say with the Psalmist of old, "Yea, though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." The final summons came October 25, 1889, and he passed peacefully away to join the loved ones gone before. A noble life work was ended, and upon his monument might fittingly be inscribed the words of Shakespeare:
"He was a man. Take him for all in all I shall not look upon his like again."