Benjamin F. and Charles V. McMillan

From the “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin”
Chicago; J. H. Beers & Co. 1895.

BENJAMIN F. McMILLAN. While the enormous lumber interests of the Upper Wisconsin Valley have attracted a vast number of individual enterprises, and have afforded a field for operations conducted on either a small or a large scale, there have been a few enterprises of towering greatness and importance that have built railroad spurs, penetrating the valuable forests for miles, and in various other ways making possible the rapid and thorough prosecution of this industry. In the southwest portion of Marathon county is one of these thriving enterprises. 

In the fall of 1873 Benjamin F. and Charles V. McMillan were tramping through the pine forests of Wisconsin, looking for a desirable site for a mill. They were the sons of an extensive lumberman, and thoroughly understood the business. After some prospecting they selected the location which they still occupy. Commencing with a capital of $5,000, their mills at McMillan, Marathon County, now have a capacity of twelve million feet per annum. Many other great enterprises have been inaugurated and successfully operated by these untiring businessmen in this locality and elsewhere. The mills at McMillan are in charge of Benjamin F. McMillan, who is so practical and thorough in his management that there is no position in the great works, from common laborer to president, that he is not capable of creditably filling. 

Mr. McMillan is a representative of an old and prominent family in American history. He was born at Fort Covington, Franklin Co., N. Y., October in, 1845, son of David S. and Harriet (Barbour) McMillan.

 The father of David S. was David McMillan, a native of Washington county, N. Y., and the latter’s father, also named David, was of Scotch descent, and a native of the North of Ireland, whence he emigrated to America, settling in Washington county, N. Y. David McMillan, father of David S., settled in Fort Covington, N. Y., where he helped to found the Presbyterian Church, and where for many years he followed farming and lumber-manufacturing pursuits. He died in 1847, having survived his wife a number of years. Their six children were Charles, Benjamin, David S., Mary, Eliza and Sarah.  David S. McMillan was born January 1, 1812, on the same farm where his son Benjamin F. first saw the light thirty-three years later. In early life David S. was a farmer, a lumberman and a dealer in wool, buying and selling extensively, but later he bought a mill at Malone, Franklin Co., N. Y., and engaged in manufacturing woolen goods. The mill there still bears his name, and it is an evidence of the good quality of the product that the “McMillan pants” attained a worldwide fame. Mr. McMillan was married, in 1834, to Harriet Barbour, who was born November 22, 1815, at Olney, Vt., a daughter of Joseph and Charlotte (Smith) Barbour. Joseph Barbour, who was of French descent, was born in September 1768, and was by occupation a farmer and wool carder; he lived to the age of ninety-seven years. His wife, Charlotte, born May 19, 1771, was the daughter of Lord MacIlroff, of Ireland; she was adopted by the Smith family, and by them brought to America, where Lord MacIlroff once visited her. He returned to Ireland and died in that country. The children of Joseph and Charlotte Barbour were fifteen in number, their names and dates of birth being as follows: Charlotte, March II, I789; Clarissa, February 11, 1791; Joseph, February 14, 1793; Samuel V., February 13, 1795; Chauncey, lanuary 26, 1797; Altha, November 30, 1799; Lucy, February 5, 1801; Huldah, November 22, 1803; Theron, November 22, 1805; Eliza, February 5, 1807; Albert, February 5, 1809; Volney, February 5, 1811; Sophrona, January 8, 1813; Harriet, November 22, 1815; Mary E., August 20, 1819. Six of these children lived to the age of eighty-nine years. The mother died in 1822. 

After his marriage David S. McMillan continued in business in New York until 1864, when he came west and located at Sharon, Portage county, Wis., here building a mill and manufacturing lumber extensively, shipping the product down the Wisconsin river to his yards at Keokuk, Iowa. In politics he was a Whig, a Know-Nothing and a Republican successively. He was a man of strong personality. Unerring in judgment and well informed on all subjects of the day, his advice was frequently sought by his fellow men. In 1873 he retired from business, and died at Stevens Point, Wis., ten years later; his widow still survives. David S. and Harriet McMillan were the parents of twelve children, of whom only three now survive - Hulda, Mrs. S. B. Powell, who has one son, Dr. John R. Powell, in Chicago; Benjamin F.; and Charles V., of Fond du Lac, Wis.; three children died in infancy. Of the others, Daniel T. was killed at Salem Church, Va., on May 3, 1863, three days before his two-years’ term of enlistment in the Sixteenth N. Y. V. I. would expire (he had served through the Peninsular campaign, and was engaged at Antietam, South Mountain, and many other battles - eleven engagements in all); Mary Jane died at the age of ten years; Henry S. married, and left one daughter, Margaret, now of Malone, N. Y.; Louisa married Mr. Charles, and died without is-sue; Richard H. married, and had one child, Fred S., who now lives with his uncle, Benjamin F. 

Benjamin F. McMillan attended school until he was eighteen years of age, and then assisted in his father’s business until the latter’s retirement in 1873. He came west in 1865, and from 1868 to 1870 had charge of the lumberyards in Keokuk, Iowa. On April 30, 1873, he was married to Ada M. Beebee, who was born at East Constable, N. Y., daughter of Amander and Laura (Bell) Beebee, both natives of New York. Amander Beebee was the son of Simeon Beebee, a farmer, a native of Connecticut, and a soldier in the war of 1812, participating in the battle of Plattsburg. His father emigrated from England, in what year is not known. Simeon Beebee married Sally Russell, of Burlington, Vt., and migrated to Malone, N. Y., and later to East Constable, Franklin county. He had six children: Amander (deceased), Buell S. (deceased), Sidney M. (of Carey, Ohio), Laura (deceased), Nancy (now Mrs. Allen, of Lockport, N. Y.), and Walter (of Needham, Mass.). The father of these died in 1856, the mother in 1880, at Carey, Ohio. Amander Beebee married Laura Bell, daughter of Freeman and Triphena (Hopkins) Bell. Freeman Bell was a native of Connecticut, and migrated to Constable, N. Y., where be built, in July, 1800, an hotel which he kept during the war of 1812, and which his son Seth still occupies. Triphena Hopkins was a distant relative of Millard Fillmore. The four children of Freeman and Triphena Bell were Laura, Seth, Hannah and Sarah. The children of Amander and Laura Beebee were Sheridan F., Edwin H., Ada M., Sheridan, Isabel H., Florence T. and Amander E. Amander Beebee died in New York in 1864; his widow still lives at the old homestead. To Benjamin F. and Ada M. McMillan one child was born, in 1876, Laura Bell, who died in 1877, aged six months. 

After his father’s retirement from active life in 1873 Benjamin F. then twenty-eight years old, embarked extensively in business in his own name. With his brother Charles he located the present site of their extensive plant in 1873 and in the following spring they constructed the mills and cut a small stock of 800,000 feet, which they had purchased the previous year. For five years they hauled the lumber to Manville, then in 1878 they built a railroad spur three and a half miles in length to that station, using their own locomotive in operating the little road. In 1880 or 1881 they added the stave-mill and planer, and the general store in 1888. Securing the Lake Shore railroad in 1890, which established a station near their mills, and named it McMillan, the brothers about that time built a nine-mile logging road, reaching through the township of Eau Plaine, and penetrating their own lumber land. The McMillan brothers also own lands in California. Other industries followed: In 1885 they established a cold and warm storage house at Ashland, Wis., under the firm name of McMillan Bros. & Co., which they managed four years, the last year handling produce to the value of $600,000. In 1890 McMillan Bros. purchased the plant formerly owned by C. J. L. Meyer, at Fond du Lac, Wis., and incorporated it as The Winnebago Furniture Manufacturing Co., with a capital of $200,000, and with C. V. McMillan as president, B. F. McMillan as vice-president, and E. R. Herren as secretary and treasurer. In 1892 the brothers incorporated the village of McMillan, of which Benjamin F. is now president, and during the same year he erected his present palatial residence, one of the finest in the county. In 1889 he began the breeding of fine horses, and now has a valuable stable of thoroughbreds. In politics Mr. McMillan is a Republican, but because of his extensive business interests he has religiously refrained from public life.

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