Henry M. Bradley

Henry M. Bradley. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Henry M. Bradley, with several of his sons, had an important part in the historical development of the business and industry of Duluth and this section of the middle northwest. He was a pioneer lumberman both in northern Michigan and northern Minnesota. Successful in business, his career was one of strictest integrity and honor, and his death a few years ago marked the passing of one of the notable figures in Duluth history.

He was a native of Massachusetts, but as a youth accompanied his parents to Licking county, Ohio, where he became the owner of a small saw mill. Shortly after his marriage to Mary E. Cook he moved to Bay City, Michigan. There he built and operated one of the first saw mills and was a pioneer in making Bay City a center of lumber manufacture, a reputation it still bears. He gave up his lumber business at Bay City in 1879, though he kept his home there for several years. In 1880 Mr. Bradley came to Duluth and for two years was engaged in locating vacant Government timber and mineral lands under the old cash entry laws. Soon after January 1, 1882, the Bradley-Hanford Lumber Company was formed at Duluth, its members being Henry M. Bradley, Heber H. Hanford, and Alva W. and Edward L. Bradley, the latter being sons of Henry M. Bradley.

Alva W. Bradley had come to Duluth in March, 1882, while Edward L. followed him in April of the same year, and both brought their families with them. Henry M. Bradley retired from the firm about 1885 and Edward L. about 1887, but the business was continued for several years by the other two members.
Henry M. Bradley was a resident of Duluth for about thirty years.

He was prominently identified with the Methodist Episcopal Church, served for several years as president of the Board of Education, and gave his time and means generously to the promotion of Duluth’s progress. He was a fee owner in two of the iron ore mines at Ely.

The death of this honored business man occurred March 21, 1918.

He survived his wife several years. Of their eight children two died in infancy. One daughter, May, is Mrs. Carl Norpell, of Newark, Ohio, and a son, Frank, died about 1880. All the others came to Duluth: Alva W., Charles H., Edward L., and Alice A., now deceased, who was the widow of Gardis D. Edwards.

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Henry Martin Bradley, for many years a cherished citizen of Duluth, was born May 7, 1824, at Lee, Berkshire county, Mass.

He is a descendant of a staunch old Puritan stock, resident in New England since 1637, in which year one William Bradley came from England and settled in New Haven, Conn. Henry M. is the son of William (a lineal descendant of the original settler) and Lucy Ball Bradley, both of whom were natives of Lee, Mass. They were married in 1816 and became the parents of nine children, of whom Henry M. was the fourth.

In 1835 William Bradley removed with his family to Ohio, locating in Wellington, Lorain county. Here Henry M. Bradley continued the education which he had begun in the schools of Massachusetts. When about 16 he left school, and going to Seville, Ohio, became an apprentice in the carding and cloth-dressing trade. He did not follow the trade as a permanent occupation, however. Previous to 1855, in which year he located in Bay City, Mich., he spent several years in the towns of Litchfield and Sparta, Ohio, being for a considerable portion of this time engaged in the manufacture of hardwood lumber, which business he conducted in a sawmill of his own. In Bay City, where Mr. Bradley resided for thirty-five years, he experienced many phases of success and ill fortune.

During the first three years he lived there he was employed as manager of Frost & Bradley’s mill, which was later known as N. B. Bradley & Sons. In 1860 he bought the Catlin mill, which he ran with uninterrupted prosperity for more than ten years. Then came the panic of 1873 and the years of financial depression which followed he suffered severe losses, and although his business had become very extensive and was apparently secure, Mr. Bradley was compelled, in 1877, to succumb.

He was obliged to surrender his mill, but nothing could deprive him of the practical knowledge gained during his many years of business experience. He first became a dealer in logs, and after a time engaged in the location of timber and mining lands in Minnesota. In the latter line his work was crowned with gratifying success. It was his good fortune to become part owner in fee of that hoard of wealth in the Vermilion Iron Range known as the Chandler Mine, and from his mining interests alone he has accumulated a comfortable fortune.

Mr. Bradley was identified with the development of Bay City from the mere village he found it to the flourishing city he left in 1890 to take up his residence in Duluth. He was the first street commissioner of the Michigan town, and served for several years as chief of the fire department. As a member of the board of education, of which he was for two years president, he did important service to the public schools. He was then, as now, a devoted Methodist, and it was largely through his efforts that the Madison Avenue Methodist-Episcopal church, of Bay City, was organized and its fine edifice erected. He was not only a liberal contributor to the funds necessary for its erection, but he personally superintended the construction, and continued a faithful promoter of the interests of the church, filling at one time or another every office except that of pastor, and rendering valued service as superintendent of the Sunday school. In politics Mr. Bradley has always been a Republican, but has never taken an active part. On January 1, 1846, Mr. Bradley was married to Mary Elizabeth Cook, a daughter of Alva Cook, of Gilford, Ohio. Of this union eight children were born: Alice A., Alva W., Elisha L., Charles H., George M., Frank E., Edward L., and Addie May. Of these Elisha L., George M. and Frank E. are deceased. The years of Mr. Bradley’s life in Duluth have been those of advanced life, but here, as in Bay City, he has entered with youthful zest into the general life, promoting, with both money and effort, numerous worthy enterprises.

For a number of years he was a member of the board of education, and as a trustee and class leader of the First Methodist church he has been an efficient worker. He rendered splendid service as a member of the building committee which supervised the construction, and he and two of his sons, Alva W. and Edward L., were among the largest contributors to the building fund. A few years after the erection of the building, when a campaign was inaugurated for the payment of the indebtedness of $35, 000 on the structure, Mr. Bradley led the movement and contributed about one-third of the sum individually.

He has been called the “poor man’s friend and the young man’s guide,” and his declining years may rightfully be characterized as the best and richest of his life.

Sources:

  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
  • Woodbridge, Dwight and John Pardee, eds. History of Duluth and St. Louis County Past and Present Vols. 1 – 2. C. F. Cooper & Company, Chicago: 1922.
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