Biography of Eliel T. Binns
Northwestern Ohio Biographies


"Man's sociality of nature," says Carlyle, "evinces itself in spite of all that may be said, by this one trait were there no other, the unspeakable delight which he takes in biography." This is especially the case where a man's own energetic and well directed effort has been the means of his advancement in life, and in the career of this successful merchant, who is one of the leading citizens of Bryan, there is much to instruct as well as interest the reader.

Mr. Binns comes of good old English stock, and both his parents were natives of "the Merrie Isle." His paternal great grandfather, Jonathan Binns, and grandfather, William Binns, were lifelong residents of Bury, England, a town about fifty miles northeast of Liverpool. William Binns was a man of fine mental gifts, and gained an enviable reputation as an actor through his appearance in amateur theatricals on the local stage. In his youth he followed the barber's trade, but in later years he became the official auctioneer of Bury, where his death occurred at the age of seventy six. He had four children, of whom our subject's father, Rev. Samuel Binns, was the eldest. (2) Henry came to the United States about 1840 and died of sea fever two weeks after his arrival at the house of his brother Samuel, who had preceded him. He left a widow and two sons, Henry and Edmund, who were reared by their grandfather Binns, but came to America in 1868. The elder learned the brass molder's trade in England, and now owns and operates a brass and iron foundry at Passaic, New Jersey. The younger served five years in the British army before coming to the United States, and for three years after his arrival worked at the painter's trade, but is now employed by his brother as a bookkeeper. (3) Elizabeth died in England, unmarried. (4) Edmund, a cabinet maker by trade, came to the United States about 1840, and remained about nine months, but returned to Bury, England, where he died in 1880.

Rev. Samuel Binns, our subject's father, came to America in 1838, locating first in New York. City, where he followed the tailor's trade, and was also engaged for a time in taxidermy, in which he was an expert. He prepared many fine collections, and some of the specimens of his skill were secured by P. T. Barnum for his famous museum in New York City. In 1842 Mr. Binns removed to Ohio, settling at Westfield, Medina county, where he followed his trade some fifteen years. As a business man he was fairly successful, acquiring a competence, and wherever he resided he took keen interest in all that concerned the progress and welfare of the community, being public spirited to an eminent degree. He was a thorough American in principle, his adopted country receiving his hearty allegiance. Soon after his removal to Ohio he united with the Methodist Church, and when his attention was once turned to theological questions he began the study of them with characteristic zeal and thoroughness. So earnest was he in the desire to gain an accurate knowledge of the Scriptures and their real meaning, that he mastered the Greek and Latin languages without an instructor, an achievement which demonstrates both his ability and energy. Through his study of the Bible he was led to embrace the Universalist faith, and about 1854 he was ordained as a minister of that Church, in which he remained in active service for thirty five years. His decided character made him a power in the denomination, his whole force being thrown into any work that he might undertake, and he was regarded as one of the most effective debaters in the Church in his day.

Among the charges which he held during his long service in the ministry were the congregations at Amity, Knox county; Newway, Licking county; Belleville, Richland county; Lyons, Fulton county; Fayette, in the same county, and his death occurred at the latter place on June 12, 1889, his remains being interred in the cemetery there. He was married, in 1836, in Bury, England, to Miss Ellen Taylor, who survives him and still (1898) resides at Fayette. Although now in her eighty third year she retains the use of her faculties, being as bright and active as most women of fifty. Of the ten children of this estimable couple only five lived to maturity: (1) Eliza married James Murphy, and died at the age of thirty three, leaving three sons - Eliel, a farmer in Knox county; Clayton, an attorney at Toledo; and Edwin, a farmer in Iowa. (2) William married Miss Lois Ford, and resides near Fayette. (3) Sarah married Otis Ford, of Fayette. (4) Eliel Taylor, our subject, is mentioned more fully below. (5) Ella married James Vail, and resides at Weston, Michigan.

Our subject was born September 16, 1850, at Westfield, Ohio, and was chiefly educated in the district and graded schools of Fayette. At the age of sixteen he began clerking for C. L. Allen in his general store at Fayette, and after three years' experience he went to Bowling Green, Wood county, to take a similar position with C. F. Button. Returning to Fayette seven months later, he spent the winter of 1869-70 in the employ of C. L. Allen, and in the following spring he "went on the road" selling and putting up eave troughs in various places in Hillsdale county, Michigan, in Steuben county, Indiana, and in Williams county, this State. On September 4, 1871, he made his home at Bryan, entering the employ of Walker & Killets, dry goods merchants, and on the dissolution of the firm, three years later, he remained with Mr. Walker four years longer. In the meantime he made some profitable investments in real estate, every available hundred dollars being put to good use, and in 1878, having accumulated sufficient capital, he opened a new dry goods store and embarked in business on his own account. From the first he followed the wise practice of paying cash for his stock, thus securing a good discount, and during his first year his capital was turned five times, his sales amounting to twenty five thousand dollars. As he increased his trade he enlarged his stock, and at times his business has amounted to sixty nine thousand dollars annually. In addition to his dry goods store he is interested in other enterprises, being the founder of the firm of A. L. Shaffer & Co., boot and shoe dealers, at Bryan, a prosperous concern.

He was active as a promoter of the N. & S. R. R., and of the oil and gas company organized to develop the territory adjoining Bryan. His real estate holdings are still extensive, and he now owns eleven buildings and five business rooms at Bryan. His shrewdness and insight into character is shown by the fact that in a credit business extending over a period of seventeen years, in which his outstanding bills have usually amounted to five or six thousand dollars a year, he has collected all but one hundred and seventy three dollars, which may yet be paid, while in all his career as a landlord he was never lost a month's rent from a tenant. He has always been an advocate of public improvements, his influence being given toward securing for his town a good water works system, electric lights, and suitable school buildings, while he was one of the chief workers in the movement for securing the present fine court house at Bryan, and spent some time at Columbus in order to gain legislative approval for the project. In politics he is a pronounced Republican, and he is a stanch friend to the temperance cause.

On September 16, 1879, Mr. Binns was married to Miss Allie N. Walker, who died May 3, 1880. On April 20, 1882, he formed a second matrimonial union, this time with Miss Rhoda E. Lane, by whom he has had two daughters: Laura, now (1898) aged sixteen, and Mildred, aged seven. Mr. Binns and his wife are prominent in the best social circles of Bryan, and he is identified with the Masonic fraternity. He is a leading member of the Universalist Church in his locality, and for a number of years has served as trustee and superintendent of the Sunday school.

Commemorative Biographical Record of Northwestern, Ohio
Including the counties of
Defiance, Henry, Williams and Fulton
Published by: J. H. Beers and Company
Chicago, Illinois

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