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Biography: A. J. Sweeney

Founder of Wheeling Electric, Mayor of Wheeling

-- from History of West Virginia. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1923 (v.2, p.26-27)

ANDREW J. SWEENEY. The family of which the late A. J. Sweeney was in some repsects the most conspicuous representative has for nearly a century been identified with the manufacturing, industrial, civic and cultural affairs of the Upper Ohio Valley.

Thomas Sweeney, father of Andrew J., came to Wheeling from Pittsburgh in 1830. Thomas Sweeney was native of Ireland. He married Rosanna Mathews of Pittsburgh, who was the mother of the following children: Andrew J., Rebecca, Thomas Campbell and Robert H. At Wheeling he bought the shops and property of the North Wheeling Manufacturing Company, and with his brothers and sons he continued this industry until about 1874, being succeeded by his son A. J. Sweeney. This industrial enterprise during a period of half a century manufactured a large and varied line, consisting of engines, mill machinery, foundry castings, and also steamboats. Andrew J. Sweeney was admitted to a partnership in the firm in 1858. He in turn, in 1874, took in his son, John M. Sweeney. The industry was greatly broadened after the accession of Andrew J. Sweeney to full control in 1875, extending to the manufacture of rolling mill, steamboat and other machinery and also agricultural machinery and implements.

Andrew J. Sweeney was born at Pittsburgh, January 1, 1827, and died February 14, 1893. He was not only an unusually vigorous and successful industrial leader, but one of Wheeling's most devoted citizens, and held the office of mayor for a longer time than any other one man. He was first appointed to full an unexpired term in 1855. He was elected in the years 1861, 1862, 1865, 1867 and 1875, and served from the latter year until 1881. He was a colonel of militia during the Civil war, in addition to being head of the municipal government. In 1876 President Grant appointed him commissioner for West Virginia to the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia. He was also appointed in 1873, by President Grant, as a commissioner to the Vienna Exposition and in 1878 to the French Exposition at Paris. He was prominent in all the Masonic bodies at Wheeling.

Two quotations from Wheeling papers at the time of his death will indicate some of the other qualities in this man of genius. "Colonel Sweeney was an inventor of no small renown, a number of valuable patents having been granted him and his intimacy with all forms of machinery and his knowledge of applied mechanics was second to no man in this community. A proverbial hard warker, it was almost his invariable custom to close a day of toil as grimy as the humblest man in his employ and it was conceded that even at his age few men could stand more hours of labor than he. For a generation he was intimately connected with all that went to benefit his community, and all such improvements as to street railway, the electric lighting company, the paid fire department, the fire alarm telegraph, and many new bridges and shipping facilities found in Colonel Sweeney a stanch and powerful friend.

"In his career Mr. Sweeney saw many vicissitudes, politically, in the country's history and in a business way , and no man was ever more equal to an emergency than he. Some of his official acts will long be remembered to his credit, as they showed promptness, courage and intelligence as well as independence. Many people yet remember the stormy scenes one night in 1879 when he was mayor of the city and the Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky RailroadCompany was granted the right of way for its Benwood extension. The Baltimore & Ohio Company opposed, and, realizing that increased facilities were for the city's good, Mr. Sweeney with customary decision of character threw the whole force of his authority in favor of carrying out the rights granted by the city and personally supervised the all night work of laying the 'Pewky' track."

In 1848 Andrew J. Sweeney married Mary R. Moore. Her father was John Moore, for many years superintendent of the city waterworks and at one time head of the machine shop of John Moore & Company, an industry that became amalgamated with the industrial interests of the Sweeneys. Mrs. Mary Sweeney died in 1860, at the age of thirty years. She was the mother of four children. The oldest, John M., for a number of years associated with his father as a steamboat builder, also interested in the Wheeling Electric Company and associated with the building and operation of Wheeling's first electric street car, has long had a long and prominent career as a mechanical engineer, lived for many years in Chicago, was an expert engineer for the Government during the World war, located at Pensacola, Florida, and is now living retired at Los Angeles. He married Miss Julia Garden, a sister of John B. Garden of Wheeling. The second child, Nellie B., had a wide reputation as a vocalist in concert work, and died at Washington City, widow of David Palmer. Miss Rose M. Sweeney, the third child, also cultivated the family gift for music to a degree of high excellence, was a student abroad at London and Paris, was at one time dean of the College for Women at Richmond, Virginia, and later assistant dean at Lindenwood College at St. Charles, Missouri, and at West Virginia University at Morgantown. The youngest child of Andrew J. Sweeney's first marriage was the late Andrew Thomas Sweeney, who died September 18, 1918, shortly after completing four years of consecutive service as sheriff of Ohio County. He had also been mayor of Wheeling six years, married Kate B. Lukens, who with their one daughter, Eleanor M., survives.

In 1861 Col. A. J. Sweeney married Maria E. Hanna, who died at Wheeling October 8, 1909. She was born at Cadiz, Ohio, in 1838, daughter of Rev. Thomas Hanna, a prominent miniester and for many years pastor of the United Presbyterian Church at Cadiz. Mrs. Sweeney was a devoted member of the same faith, and at the time of her death was active in the Second Church at Wheeling and had served as president of the Women's Missionary Society of the Wheeling Presbytery. Her mother was a daughter of Robert Patterson and a descendant of the historic Van Meter family which made the first settlement near West Liberty, West Virginia, about 1763, building Fort Van Meter four miles from West Liberty.

Mrs. Maria Elizabeth Sweeney was the mother of nine children, and six of them survive her. The oldest is Mary R., who is Mrs. John B. Garden of Wheeling (See J. B. Garden's sketch on other pages.) Sarah Patterson, who has gained distinction in musical circles, is the wife of Charles O. Roemer of Cumberland, Maryland. They have two children, Andrew S. and Dorothy D. Wililam H. Sweeney, who is a graduate of Washington and Jefferson College and Virginia University, is associated with the Duquesne Light and Power Company of Pittsburgh and is a director of an orchestra in that city. He married Miss Mullen of Wisconsin, and has four children, Frank M., Marian E., Mary A. and Virginia M. Frank B. Sweeney is in the telephone business in Los Angeles, California. He married Elizabeth Vorhees, of New Jersey. Col. Walter C. Sweeney is the military figure of the family, served in the Spanish American war, in the Philippines and in the Regular Army, was an American officer in France, was decorated by both the French and American governments, received special mention by the British Government, and is now stationed at Boston. He married Anne E. McConnell, a daughter of N. W. McConnell, of Helena Montana. Mr. and Mrs. Sweeney have three children, Elizabeth J., Anice E. and Walter C. The youngest of the family is James Edgar Sweeney, who is chief clerk of the Laughlin plant of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Company. He lives at Wheeling, and married Stella, daughter of Capt. John H. Crawford. They have one daughter,

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