Sunday, March 8, 2009

Of Wheat and Wealth - A Note from Republic

Henry Morrison Flagler
2 January 1830 - 20 May 1930

In 1844, fourteen-year old Henry Flagler left upstate New York and went to live with his mother’s relatives who owned and operated a general store in the tiny Seneca County, Ohio, village of Republic. Once there, Flagler took a job with his uncle, Steven V. Harkness, working for five-dollars a month, which included his board at the general store where, “he slept under the counter, covering himself with wrapping paper” (Havighurst 109-10).
A Gilded-Age Robber Baron Slept Here

While in Republic, Flagler began buying wheat from Republic farmers to sell to the millers in Milan, Ohio. Occasionally, he would sell Republic wheat through a young commission merchant in Cleveland, named John D. Rockefeller. When Rockefeller learned of the discovery of petroleum at Oil Creek, Pennsylvania, it was Flagler who persuaded his uncle, Steven V. Harkness, to use the proceeds from his business operations in Northwest Ohio to silently back a new industry that would change the economic landscape of the world: oil.
In 1867, Flagler signed on as a partner with Rockefeller and Samuel Andrews in what would eventually become the Standard Oil Corporation, an enterprise that would make Harkness, Flagler, Andrews, and Rockefeller wealthy (Chandler 1986). Flagler took his wealth and went on to build the Florida East Coast Railroad, and to develop the Florida resort towns of Palm Beach and Miami.

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