Albion Interactive History / People / Augustus Gale

Albion Interactive History

Albion Interactive History / People

Augustus J. Gale, 1834
School Board and Industrialist
Village Council President, 1877

    Died 1912

Progress has always centered in the towns and cities and civilization has been advanced, not by the individual, but by the concerted efforts of many, directed by the mind of one who possesses keen sagacity and appreciative understanding of possibilities and an adaptability that enables him to utilize the means at hand and to combine forces so as to produce new possibilities. It is along such lines that all business acitivty has been secured and it has been through the direction of the labors of others that Augustus J. Gale has built up business enterprises that have been of marked benefit to the community in which they are located, as well as a source of wealth and profit to himself. He is a proinent capitalist of Albion, Michigan, where for many years he was the leading representative of manufacturing interests. He has now largely retired from the manufcaturing world, giving his supervision merely to his invested interests, but as long as Albion stands it will be a monument to the enterprise, business capacity and keen discernment of Mr. Gale.

A native of Vermont, Augustus J. Gale was born in Barry, January 21, 1834, his parents being Goerge and Harriet (Stone) Gale. The father was born and reared in the Green Mountain state and there married Miss Stone, who was a native of the same locality. While in Vermont he engaged in the manufacture of fanning mills and was also connected with the iron industry, but in 1836 disposed of his interests in New England and came to Michigan, settling in Moscow, Hillsdale county, where he established the first furnance west of Detroit or Monroe. He then carried on the foundry business until 1854 and developed a very extensvie plant for that time. He engaged in the manufacture of plows, harrows, and drays and also did machinist work, having brought the first iron lathe with him from Vermont. In 1854 he disposed of his interest in this business and went to CAlifornia, where he was engaged in mining for two years. While there he purchased one of the giant trees of that land. The tree was one hundred and three feet in circumference and the bark was removed to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet. This was shipped in numbered sections to NEw York city, there being over five hundred cords of the bark, which was properly set up and put on exhibition in the first crystal palace ever built in the eastern metropolis. It was on exhibition there for a year and was then sent to the crystal palace in London, where it was destroyed by fire when the palace was burned in 1863. When he made the shipment from California to the east he also went to NEw York city and spent much of his time there in superintending the enterprise, although he ever regarded Albion as his home. Here he purchased an interest in the hardware business of A.P. Gardner; and since that time some of his family have been continually connected with the enterprise. HE had managed his store for two years, when the building in which his stock was located collapsed because of an excavation that had been made on one side of it for the building of another store. Mr. Gale then sold his stock to his son, who now carries on the business in the same location. He afterward lived retired until his death, which occurred in 1871, while his wife passed away only fourteen days later. They left eight living children, while one had departed this life. The family are Universalists in religious faith and Mr. Gale was a staunch Whig in politics in his early manhood, while later he became an earnest REpublcian. He served as a member of the city council for many years and exercized his official prereogatives in support of measures that proved of marked value to the city, and yet he never aspired to office, prefering that his efforts should be directed into business channels.

Augustus J. Gale acquired his education in the schools of Moscow, Mighigan, and there learned the foundry and machinist’s trade with his father. He embarked in business with his brother under the firm name of Gale Brothers at Jonesville, Michigan, and they conducted a general iron manufacturing enterprise, making a specialty of agricultural implements. LAte rMr. Gale purchased his brother’s interest and continued alone in business until 1866, when he disposed of his plant in Jonesville and removed to Albion. Here he purchased the plant and business of Lane & Porter, then a small enterprise situated in the center of the city. In connection with this industry he established a hardware store and became a member of the firm of Charles Gale & Company, a relation that was maintained for five or six years. The business was then incorporated under the name of the Gale Manufacturing Company, and from the beginning Mr Gale of this review was the manager of the plant. At about the time of the incorporation the business was removed from the original site to the west side, where extensive buildings were erected and thoroughly equipped with the latest improved machinery needed in their line. When twelve or fifteeny ears had passed there it was again found that their facilities were entirely inadequate to meet the growing demands of the trade and a new site was sought and the present plant of the Gale Manufacturing Company was built. This covers several acres, and the plant now has a capacity exceeding any in the United States for the manufacture of agricultural implements. Various kinds of farming machinery are constructed, and the capacity is such as will permit of the employment of five hundred men. When the company was incorporated the capital stock was one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, but as the business grew this was increased and until there is now a paid up capital of five hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Gale was actively conencted with the development of thsi great industry as general manager and director until 1887, when he disposed of his interest, at which time his brothers also sold their interest. Their product has been exhibited in the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876, and there medals were received upon plows and rakes. They also exhibited at the World’s Fair at Paris in 1878, where they received a grand gold medal on the field trial and also a reward and the highest medal in the buildings, obtaining two different awards. Augustus J. Gale had charge of the exhibit in Paris, and while there made sales to Brazil and other foreign countries. He also placed on exhibition the manufactured product of the company at various state fairs and exhibitions and has received many other medals.

A man of resourceful business ability, his success may be attributed in part, at least, to his ready recognition of opportunities, his understanding of the public needs and his ability to meet these. Whatever he has undertaken in his business career has been carried forward to successful completion along lines of activity that command the highest respect and confidence of the public. His methods have ever borne the closest investigation and scrutiny, and while splendid success has attended his labors, he owes his properity to traits of character that all might envy. In addition to to the splendid iron industries which he built up he was engaged in the manufacture of buggies for a number of years and became one of the founders of what is now known as the Albion Buggy Company, of which he is still a director and the president. No enterprise of importance in Albion has ever been instituted and put in successful operation without the assistance of Mr. Gale. He was one of the first to take stock in the Albion Malleable Iron Works, and it was due to him and his brother that this enterprise became one of the business interests of Albion instead of another city. He is now a director of the Electric Light plant, the State Bank, the National Bank and is also interested in the Prouty Company. He also owned the Albion Gas plant from 1898 until 1902 and many other enterprises of the city have profited by hsi co-operation and his sound business judgment. In fact, to give a detailed account of his life work would be to give an extended history of the business development and industrial and commercial achievements of Albion.

Mr. Gale has always regarded it as a duty, as well as a privelege, ot support enterprises that would benefit his adopted city, and has taken pleasure in its advancement and upbuilding. In politics he has ever been a REpublican and served as mayor of the city in 1878, giving a strong business administration. He has been a member of the city [note: village] council for eleven years and during that time has exercised his official prerogatives for the welfare of Albion along many lines of substantial improvement. In 1901 he circulated the petition for paving and secured more than the needed number of names. His work is now evident in the finely paved streets of the city. He has cared nothing for office save as it has given him greater opportunity to benefit the city. Fraternally he is a prominent Mason, belonging to the Murat lodge, F. & A. M.; Albion Chapter, R.A.M.; Albion Council, R. & S.M.; Marshall Commandery, K.T., and Saladin Temple of the Mystic Shrine of Grand Rapids. He was one of the incorporators of the Leisure Hour club, one of the finest clubs to be found in a town of this size in the entire country.

Mr. Gale was united in marriage in 1857 to Miss Anna Moreley, of Sodus Point, New York. They have four children: Clara, the wife of Frank Nowlin, of Albion; Mabel, the wife of Herbert Mann, of this city; Georgia, the widow of Charles McClellan, who was professor of Albion College, and Albert A., who is now in Seattle, Washington, being musical director in the State University there. Mrs. Gale is a member of the Episcopal church and Mr. Gale has served as one of its vestrymen for forty-five years. In analyzing his history to find the secret of his success it is evident that Mr. Gale has always done with his full power whatever his hand has found to do. He has not looked to the opportunites of the future, but to the possibilities of the present and has exemplified in his life the truth of two of the old axioms that “There is no excellence without labor” and that “Honesty is the best policy.” While he has achieved wealth it has ever been gained along business lines that command respect and admiration and without individious distinction he might well be called the foremost citizen of Albion.

Source: Hobart and Mather. Biographical Review of Calhoun County, MI. April 1904.

Augustus J. Gale was a local industrialist, being one of the owners of the Gale ManufacturingCompany, a major Albion employer. He was active in community affairs, and served on Albion’s first fire department, the Alert. Gale also served as Albionvillage president in 1877. F7

Source: Frank Passic. A History of the Albion Public Schools. Albion, Michigan: E. Weil Publishing Services. 1991.

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