Benjamin G. Appleby
Before his thirtieth year his name was already among the prominent men of Michigan. Portraits of him about this time, reflect a handsome young man, with a confident and pleasant countenance. Benjamin G. Appleby of Saginaw, Michigan, a son of Thomas D. and Mary Jane was destined to achieve a successful life for himself, at the same time benefiting among others, the State of Michigan, with his diversified business interests.
Benjamin Appleby was born in Milltown, (now known as Milton), Ontario, Canada, on January 11th, 1874. He was third in a family of six children. His parents moved the family from Milltown to Saginaw in 1888. Ben completed his schooling and began working as a cub reporter on the Saginaw Globe News.
Several years with Michigan newspapers in Detroit and Saginaw ended just before the turn of the century, when Ben recognized the need to the business world for rural mail directories. This endeavor proved so successful it was expanded to include Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. In 1904, he was President and Treasurer of the Rural Route Directory Company, but earlier, in 1902, his business acumen had already led him into Real Estate.
By 1912, Benjamin Appleby, through real estate sales, home building farm investments and improvements, and a insurance and loan business, did much to develop the Saginaw Valley area. He was known as an honest and fair businessman. If a client or customer needed advice regarding their purchase of a business or farm, Ben provided them the free services of a specialized advisor, even to suggesting the best methods of farming in that particular section of Michigan. Agents represented his firm throughout Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Three years later, in March 1915, Ben Appleby formed a partnership with Ralph Wagner of Grand Rapids and within the year had organized the Washington Gas Company and a complete gas plant was built at Johnson City, Tennessee. This modern development, in bringing the conveniences of gas and lighting to towns and rural areas. replaced kerosene lamps and wood-burning stoves. As company president, Benjamin Appleby expanded the operations to include Michigan, Georgia and Iowa.
In overlapping and subsequent years, Benjamin became a Director of the American Cash Register Company in it's early developments, a Director of the Saginaw Motor Car Company, President of the Erd Motors Corporation, a Director on the Saginaw Board of Trade and served on the Board of Directors of several banks and the Saginaw Valley Trust Company, the Young Men's Christian Association.
In 1911, then-Governor Osborn appointed Ben to the board of advisors to select a suitable site for the permanent camp of the Michigan State National Guards. His "indomitable will and force of character", his honesty and known good judgment were so respected by the citizens of Michigan, no one doubted his ability to succeed with selecting and obtaining the land. Ben did succeed in obtaining twelve thousand acres near Grayling, without any cost to the State.
There was a personal and social side to this profound business phenomenon and it included Benjamin's marriage to Grace A. Purdy, a daughter of George W. and
Augusta Allen Purdy, on June 28, 1899. Their residence at 1624 North Michigan Avenue became home to t5heir four children, Elizabeth G., born 1901; Ruth E. (Mrs.
Charles Sommers, born 1903; Esther G., born 1906; and Benjamin G. jr., born January 10, 1917.
Mr. Appleby was affiliated with the Masons, the Knights of Pythias, the Elks, and several civic organizations. He was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church. Mrs. Appleby, a musician, helped in developing the community's interest in music. She was the Organist for St. Paul's Church in Saginaw. After an illness of several months, Benjamin G. Appleby, forty-nine years of age, died 14th August 1923 in Saginaw, Michigan. His wife, children, mother, brothers and sisters survived him. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
An article titled, "Thomas D. Appleby - Timber Operator in Michigan" gives the lineage of Benjamin G. Appleby. The link to Thomas D., may be found in the Newsletters Index.
revised: 10 May 2001
reviewed: 05 March 2005