Henry Oliver Babcock

Henry Oliver Babcock was born in Troy, New York on July 20, 1822, the son of Oliver and Anna Heartt Babcock. His father was to die when he was just five; his mother, when he was ten. Evidently, as the youngest of eight children, he was cared for by his older brothers and sisters. Edward, born in 1805 and Emily, born in 1808, were both married in 1832. However, Elizabeth, born in 1811, stayed home for two years until her marriage in 1834, when Anna, born in 1816, took charge. Anna and her younger sister, Mary, married brothers in a double ceremony in 1837, at which point Henry probably moved to New York City to live with his sister Elizabeth and her husband John Haff.

Henry's obituary stated that he worked for two years as a clerk to a cotton broker in New York, before moving to Texas. He is said to have started in merchandising in Bexar, Texas, but just as his business was beginning to prosper, Comanche Indians attacked the town and stole all his goods. With the help of twenty five citizens, young Henry pursued the robbers and recaptured a portion of the goods. But these had to be shared with the captors, so at this point, Henry decided to sell his portion and go to New Orleans. There he found employment in a large hardware establishment.

Meanwhile, several of Henry's older brothers and sisters had migrated to the Midwest. His sister Mary and her husband, William Edgar, had settled in Michigan. His brother, Elisha had moved to Evansville before travelling to California where he would build a hotel - the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. Henry's oldest sister, Emily, and her husband, Peter Sharpe, also had arrived in Evansville about 1840. For a time Peter and Elisha had a business partnership there. Elizabeth and John Haff came to Evansville from New York perhaps as early as 1839.

On June 8, 1848 he married Mary Elizabeth Houser, the daughter of Christian and Sarah Fisher Houser, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on February 15, 1831. Mary's mother had died when she was a baby, and when she was only eight years old, her father was killed in what her obituary later described as "the historic Natchez cyclone." After this tragic accident, Mary came to Evansville to live with her uncle, Dr. Daniel Morgan, and his wife Matilda Fisher Morgan. The Babcock Genealogy gives Jeffersonville, Indiana as the location of the wedding.

Mary's mother, Sarah Fisher Houser, had been a Quaker from Lynchburg, Virginia. Though Sarah was forced to leave the church when she married a non-Quaker, and she had died when her only child was still a baby, she had a strong influence on that child. It was said of Mary, that she was influenced by Quaker beliefs throughout her life. She was described as a delicate child who was much shielded.

Mary's father, Christian Houser, was a cabinet maker, originally from Fredericktown, Maryland. When Mary was five years old, he made a dresser or bureau for her which had at each end a shallow closet for her dresses and in front, drawers of graduated height for her other possessions. Mary Elizabeth Pyke writes: I was her first great-grandchild, and when I was born in 1908, she decided to send this bureau to me. In a letter written to me when I was only three weeks old, she commented, "I can remember when in the second drawer I kept two dolls -- one in green silk and one in pink covered with lace. I thought them so pretty, and I had a set of dishes that came from a great aunt in Fredericktown, Maryland."

The Babcocks had ten children, six of whom grew to adulthood. The eldest, Anna Heartt, was born in 1849 and lived only until 1851. The second, Henry Houser, was born in 1852, married Annie Maghee in 1877, and died in 1894. The third, Mary Kate was born in 1854, married Harry Veatch in 1875 and died in 1890. Lucy Alice was born in 1856, married James Tyler Walker in 1882, and died in 1929. Elwood Fisher was born in 1858, and died in 1861. Morgan was born in 1860, married Della Beal, and died in 1936. Howard Leigh married Sally DeBruler. Sarah Maud and Agnes Elma were both born in the late sixties and died in childhood. The youngest child, Guilford Carlile, was born March 8, 1874, married Alida May Kelsey on October 17, 1894, and died August 24, 1945.

The firm of Babcock Brothers in which Henry Oliver became involved with his brothers Charles and Elisha took advantage of Evansville's location on the Ohio River to develop a prosperous import and export business. The first hardware and queensware ever imported direct to Evansville was brought by this firm, which also shipped the first corn and wheat ever sent direct from Evansville to Europe via New Orleans. The brothers remained together for twelve years, after which Henry Oliver operated his own hardware company and eventually merged this into a very extensive business in agricultural implements and seeds, which he continued up to the time of his death.

The eldest son, Henry, probably took over the business at his father's death, since the youngest son, Guilford Carlile is said to have worked for his father's company, The Babcock Produce Company, when he left college in 1894.

Henry Oliver Babcock died in Evansville on September 10, 1879, and Mary Elizabeth Babcock lived on until February 17, 1911 in the family home at 500 Riverside Avenue, Evansville. They are buried with several of their children in Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville.