Biography: William Spears
▶ Birth: February 3, 1816 - England
▶ Marriage: November 30, 1867 - Wheeling, Ohio, West Virginia
▶ Death: January 9, 1904 - Wheeling, Ohio, West Virginia
▶ Spouse: Elizabeth Isabell Reed
-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 441.
William Spears, the pioneer axle manufacturer of Wheeling, was born in the north of England, February 3, 1816, and came to the United States in 1840. He first settled at Pittsburgh, and from there removed to Cincinnati, whence he came to Wheeling. Here he engaged in the forging industry, and in that line did considerable steamboat and car work, and furnished all the underground work for the Wheeling and Belmont suspension bridge, when that structure was originally built. Conceiving that the manufacture of axles would be profitable, he was the first man in the city to engage in that industry, erecting a factory near the La Belle Iron works, where he carried on a limited but successful business until 1880, when he retired from active life, and was succeeded in business by his son, Ralph R. The senior Spears continued to reside in Wheeling, until 1887, when he removed to his farm on Sand Hill, Marshall county, W. Va., where he now resides. While in England he was married, and on coming to America brought with him his wife and two children. She died at Pittsburgh, but the children, son and daughter, are still living. Subsequently he married at Pittsburgh. Isabel Reed, who died about 1865, leaving five children, four of whom are still living. Ralph W. Spears was born at Wheeling, July, 15, 1859. He attended the common schools of the city until his thirteenth year, and then entered the works of his father, and thoroughly mastered the manufacture of axles. As has been stated he succeeded his father in 1880, and after operating the manufactory for a number of years, he associated with himself T. W. Phinney and A. D. Howe, in 1887, but in the same year became dissatisfied and sold out his interests to those gentlemen. He then organized a stock company, and in January, 1888, began the erection of the present works, on the corner of Main, Water and Twenty-seventh streets, covering an area of 100x200 feet. The buildings are one story in height, and are stocked with the latest and most modern axle machinery. Over fifty men are carried on the pay rolls of the company, and an immense amount of material is turned out which finds a ready sale in all the markets of the west, northwest and south. Of the Spears Axle company, which operates this plant, Mr. Ralph R. Spears is president. He succeeded to the business at twenty-one years of age, but was well equipped, not only in mechanical skill, but in executive ability, and has won a high position among the manufacturers of Wheeling. Mr. Spears was married in 1884 to Jessie B., daughter of Marshall Ferguson, of Wheeling, by whom he as had three children, two of whom survive.
Biographies Index | People of Wheeling Home | Wheeling History Home | OCPL Home