BENJAMIN DREWRY BRACY.
The business career of Benjamin Drewry Bracy in Marion spans nearly a third of a century, and his life furnishes us with an example of success under difficulties that were well nigh overwhelming. The beginning was most unpromising, for he had nothing to help him, no family to stand behind him, not a cent for investment and no professional training. He is now senior partner of one of the largest mercantile firms in Marion, is a large property owner, and has had a hand in the development of several of the most important enterprises ever established in Marion, being director and stockholder in two of the banks and in various corporations. This long step from almost poverty to wealth was not accomplished at one bound, or in several, but by slow degrees, his progress often being interrupted by some adverse conditions. But with the goal always before him, Mr. Bracy kept steadily on, without losing his courage or his bull-dog determination to win out in the end. The young men of his section just beginning life would do well to take a few pages from his experience and emulate his example.
Benjamin Drewry Bracy was born in Robertson county, Tennessee, on the 22nd of February, 1857, coming to Illinois with his father when still a small child. His father, John G. Bracy, was a native of the same county as his son, the year of his birth being 1827. He came of farming stock, his father, Harrison Bracy, having lived on a fine place near Springfield, Tennessee. The mother was a Miss Williams. The children of this family were, Samuel, Thomas, Benjamin, John G., Harrison, and William (who lives near Stuttgart, Arkansas). Thomas and John G. came to Illinois and died here, leaving families who still reside in the state. John G. married Caroline Felts in Robertson county, Tennessee. She was the daughter of Drewry Felts, a farmer in that county. In 1865 Mr. Bracy came to Illinois and settled near the George Cox and Harvil farms, not far from Marion, in Williamson county, and here young Benjamin grew up. In 1877 the mother died, and the father continued to cultivate his farm and educate his children until he saw them well on the road to success. His death occurred in 1895, at the age of sixty-eight
Benjamin D. Bracy received the major part of his education at the “White” school, in the neighborhood where his family lived, later increasing the sum of his knowledge by attending the Marion schools for a season. When his mother passed away much of the charm of his home was taken from him, and he yearned for new scenes and a new and different employment, that he might be able in some measure to forget his sorrow. The business of being a merchant had always interested him, the buying and selling of anything had always had its fascination, so he decided that was what he would make of himself. Taking his Saturday holiday, he left the harvest field and went into Carterville, where he
applied for a clerkship. The bright faced young man readily found a position, and the next Monday morning the opening of the store doors found him ready to begin on his new job. His employers were Henry Price and Brother, and his work for them began in 1878. When he left this place he went to clerk for James T. Powell, and worked for him for some time, saving his earnings and denying himself even the most necessary things that he might get a start. Out of his earnings of fifteen dollars a month and his board he had presently saved enough to enter the business as a modest partner.
After a year had passed in which he was a member of the firm of Powell and Bracy he was forced to leave Carterville because of his wife's health, the loss of her only child having been a serious shock to her nervous system. They took up their residence in Marion, and Mr. Bracy had to begin all over again, almost at the foot of the ladder, taking a clerkship with the pioneer clothier and successful merchant, Manheim Canton, now a retired business man of the city. This was in 1882, and he remained with Mr. Canton for seven years, saving his salary and watching the real estate market, learning in the small investments that were possible for him to make, how to judge the value of land and to prophesy the changes in the market, so that in after life he was able to become a successful operator in this field. Knowing that Mr. Bracy had accumulated some surplus, it was the intention of his employer to make him his successor, as he expected to soon retire, but before he could take the step an offer was presented to Mr. Bracy which he could not refuse. This was to enter the old firm of Spieldoch Brothers, by carrying the interest of one of the brothers. He accepted the offer and the firm of Spieldoch and Bracy, clothiers and furnishers came into existence. After five years of successful business the firm was dissolved and Mr. Bracy opened a house of his own on the east side of the square. He subsequently lost his stock by fire, and unable to find another location where he could continue his business he was forced to build. He erected a brick store on West Main street, on some property he had purchased several years previously, part of which he was using as a lawn for his adjoining resideuce. Here he re-established himself, and here he is doing business today as the senior member of the firm of Bracy and Powell, his partner being the grandson of his old Carterville employer and father-in-law. James T. Powell.
From a modest and trivial beginning Mr. Bracy has come to be one of the largest property owners in Marion. His first investment in the city was a small two-room house, which he bought for a home. The purchase price was three hundred and eighty-five dollars, and he was able to pay the 'eighty-five” only at the Consummation of the deal, expecting to pay the remainder as he could save the money. Property values advanced and he was able to sell this home and buy a larger place elsewhere. This he soon sold at an advance and in this way acquired some of the capital with which to enter business.
His first venture in the building field was the erection of a double store of one story, with an ornamental front, one half of which is now being used by the postoffice. Later he purchased a lot adjoining the West Side Hotel and built a two-story brick store upon it, thus securing a frontage of one hundred and seven and a half feet on West Main street. From time to time he has acquired other business and residence property so that now his real estate interests form a large part of his estate.
In the financial world of Marion Mr. Bracy has always been a prominent figure. His first project was the formation of the Marion State and Savings Bank, of which he is now a director. When the plan of organizing the Herrin State and Savings Bank was being discussed he was
called upon to give his assistance, and he is a member of the directorate of that prosperous institution. In two of the corporations which have done much to build up the city and surrounding country, namely, the Allegheny Coal Company and the El Dorado, Marion and Southwestern Railway Company, he occupies an honored place on the board of directors. He is also a director in the Marion Building and Loan Association.
While ever concerned in the civic well-being of Marion, Mr. Bracy has never felt it incumbent on him to accept a place in its governmental system, prefering to show his loyalty to the Republican party by simply voting that ticket at the polls. In the fraternal world Mr. Bracy has long been a member of the Masonic order. In early life he joined Herrins Prairie Lodge, No. 693, and is now a member in Fellowship Lodge at Marion, No. 89, of Egyptian Chapter No. 100, and of the Marion Court of Honor, No. 66. He also holds a life membership in the Elks. In religious matters Mr. Bracy is a member of the Christian church.
In 1880, at Carterville, he married his first wife. She was Sarah A. Powell, a daughter of James T. and Elizabeth (Perry) Powell, and was born in Williamson county. She was never very strong, and her death occurred in 1905, on the 12th of October. Two children were born of this marriage, Effie Dale, who died at Carterville as a little child, and Lloyd, a student of the Peacock Military Institute in San Antonio, Texas. On the 15th of December, 1907, Mr. Bracy married a second time, this wife being Mrs. Minnie Hall, a daughter of John Cline and a sister of Albert L. and J. M. Cline, who are prominent merchants of Marion and members of one of the pioneer families of Williamson county. Mrs. Cline, the mother of the family, was for a number of years engaged in the hotel business in Marion and is now a hale and energetic woman at the age of eighty-seven years.