Biography: John Frew
-From "History of the upper Ohio Valley: with family history and biographical sketches. A statement of its resources, industrial growth and commercial advantages," Brant & Fuller, 1890, pg 290-292.
It is of a solid, substantial and genuine man we write in this biographical sketch of Mr. John Frew, the senior member of the firm of Frew, Campbell & Hart, proprietors of the Wheeling Daily lntelligencer newspaper and book and job printing establishment. These. are the qualities for which he has been known since his boyhood days in that establishment, for he has been connected with it as employe and employer from his youth up to the present time. Such men are not apt to change places or employments. The material that is in them is discerned early, and they are appreciated and in demand, and all the more in demand because they are not a numerous class. On their part, such men are, as a rule, patient and sagacious, content to “labor and to wait," recognizing that their opportunity will come. “All things come to him who waits." Patience, energy, good judgment, system, punctuality, and reliability, what a world of work they can perform and what a grand measure of personal success they can achieve. And every man and boy who has gone in and out of the Intelligencer establishment for a generation past knows full well that these are the stereotyped qualities of the man who stands at the helm in the business department of that paper. To begin at the beginning of Mr. Frew's life. he was born in a locality in Europe which, according to historian Bancroft, has furnished to this country a class of citizens who have more decidedly and beneficially impressed themselves on its history than any other class'of immigrants. /Vhat there is in the soil or climate of the north of Ireland to produce this type of people may be a matter of speculative opinion, but it is a matter of history that they gave the impulse that resulted in American independence. They formulated in North Carolina the celebrated Mecklenburg declaration that paved the way for the later declaration at Philadephia, on July 4, 1776. Tenacity of purpose, energy, thrift and good citizenship have been among their marked characteristics, as also loyalty and fidelity to all the obligations of life. Tennyson spoke of the “long enduring blood" of a native of that region who made a great name for himself, and perhaps no better phrase could be used to designate the stamina of the north of Ireland people as a class. At all events, it is applicable enough to the subject of this sketch, who whether as employe or employer, has never measured his devotion to the interest entrusted to his charge by the amount of salary, or by the ease and comfort of his personal convenience.
Mr. Frew is pre-eminently a self-made and a self-educated man, and yet few men in business can write a better letter, more pointed and terse, or one spelled more correctly and expressed more grammatically. This results from a naturally correct eye and ear, as well as from the training of his occupation as a compositor and proofreader. He has always had the correct and observing eye of an artist in his business, and no master-printer anywhere excels him as a judge of good work, whether executed in plain black or in any variety of colors. As a man for an exigency, whether by fire or flood, or by reason of a strike, or any other unlooked for event, Mr. Frew never fails to come to the front. There are men who are at their best under stress of circumstances, and he is one of then. Gen. Grant gives this in his book as one of the distinguishing traits of Gen. Sherman. He never once in the war disappointed his expectations. He was always on time just where and when he was expected. This is the genius of a real commander, and we have commanders in peace as well as in war, and in small spheres as well as large ones. Mr. Frew has always filled a sphere of this modest sort, after the faithful and efficient manner of “Old Tecumseh" in war. He never lets down while the emergency exists or the battle is on. He is a “stayer” in all his undertakings. With this much by way of general introductory comment in regard to Mr. Frew's position before the public, we proceed to give the follow ing biographical epitome of his career from boyhood up to the present time: John Frew, son of Alexander Frew (who, though not wealthy, was a well-to-do citizen of his day,) and Esther (Scott) Frew, was born October 17, 1835, near the town of Antrim, county Antrim, Ireland. His parents came with their family to America in 1838, and shortly after their arrival, located at Steubenville, Ohio. John worked the larger portion of two years in a cotton mill, and attended the public and private schools during the summer seasons. The greater part of his education, which, in many respects, is a thorough one, was obtained in the printing office – one of the best schools open to men of good minds and industrious habits. He began the printing business, in 1848, with Wilson & Harper, of the Steubenville Journal, and served his apprenticeship in the Herald office at Steubenville, under the veteran editor and publisher, W. R. Allison. He came to Virginia in 1852, and established himself as a printer in Wheeling, working for a few months in the office of the Argus, which was published by J. K. Dunham. His next employment was one year in the Times office, a newspaper published by E. R. Bartleson. In August, 1853, he began work at $5 a week in the Intelligencer job office. At that time Messrs. Swearingen & Taylor were publishers and proprietors of the Intelligencer. He worked nearly three years in that position, and in April, 1856, was promoted to the position as foreman of the job department of the establishment at a greatly increased salary. He remained in charge of the job office through the proprietorship of J. H. Pendleton & Co., Beatty & Co., and Campbell & McDermot, until January, 1866, when he became one of the proprietors of the Intelligencer, under the firm name of Campbell, Frew & Co. At that time he was made business manager of the establishment, and has continued, without interruption, in that responsible position to the present day. Mr. Frew, during his connection with the Daily Intelligencer, has witnessed the wonderful, yet steady and solid growth of that newspaper. Although for many years it has been one of the well established and leading journals of the Ohio valley, the plant has gone' on growing, and the influence of the paper has constantly widened, until it has reached the value and rank of a metropolitan newspaper. It has all of the modern appliances; issues daily, semi-weekly, and weekly editions; has an extensive book and job department and bindery, and turns out anything and everything from a label to a perfectly bound book. '10 Mr. Frew's good judgment and practical knowledge of every department of the business, the paper's wonderful success is, in a large measure, due. When necessary to do so, he can go into any department of the establishment and turn his hand to anything necessary to be done. The writer has seen him, during a strike, or when some of the mechanical men were sick, working at the case, making up forms, running the presses, and reading proof almost at one and the same time. No wonder a printing establishment proves a financial success with such a business manager as this. Mr. Frew, though an intense republican, has no taste for the ins and outs of political life. He never sought public position. He was several times, however, draughted into the service of his party, and acted as a member of the council from the Seventh ward in 186 and '66; was elected public printer in 1866, and was twice re-elected, continuing in office until the change of administration in March, 1871; and was an active member of the board of commissioners of Ohio county from 1876 to 1880. In 1880 he was a candidate for the legislature from Ohio county, but was defeated along with the balance of the ticket. In January, 1881, he was the candidate of his party for mayor of Whee ing, and was defeated by a strict party vote. He was an elector-at-large for West Virginia on the republican ticket in 1884, and in 1888 he was a delegate-at-large to the national republican convention that nominated Benjamin Harrison for president of the United States. His friends presented his name for postmaster of Wheeling under the Harrison administration, but he withdrew of his own accord before action was taken thereon.
Mr. Frew has been twice married. His first wife was Miss Mary E. Pearce, of Steubenville, Ohio, whom he married May 4, 1858. She died January 7, 1872, leaving two daughters, Mary, who is unmarried, and Ida, who is the wife of James K. all. He married Mrs. Mary .B. Glass, also of Steubenville, July 20, 1876. Mr. Frew is near six feet tall, and is erect and finely proportioned. His countenance is open and kindly, yet commanding and dignified. To his subordinates he is always approachable and sympathetic; and while requiring of them their best efforts, he is ever ready to instruct, aid and counsel. He is the embodiment of honor and reliability in all his dealings, and for years has been connected with many of the leading industries of Wheeling.