William H. Osborn


Obituary from the New York Times
March 5, 1894


William H. Osborn

Funeral services will be held over the body of William H. Osborn, ex-president of the Illinois Central Railroad, at 22 Park Avenue, at 10 o’clock this morning. Immediately after the services a special train will convey the body to Garrisons-on-the-Hudson, where the burial will take place. 

Mr. Osborn, who was one of the most prominent railroad men in this country or England, died last Friday. For many years he was President of the Illinois Central and of the Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans Railroad. When he assumed control of these roads they were verging on bankruptcy. By his great ability as a manager, Mr. Osborn improved these corporations and placed the roads among the most valuable railroad properties in the world. 

During the later years of his life, he was conspicuous in New York for his great philanthropy. In his charitable work, he put to use the invaluable experience he had acquired in his business life. He was specially interested in the New York Society for the Relief of the Ruptured and Crippled, whose hospital building is at Forty-second Street and Lexington Avenue. The success of this great charity is largely due to Mr. Osborn’s personal interest and work in the institution. He also did a great deal for other charities, among them the Training School for Nurses at Bellevue Hospital. 

Mr. Osborn was born at Salem, Mass., in 1821, and received his education there. On entering a business firm in Salem, he quickly distinguished himself for his business ability, integrity, and will power. In 1841 he went out to Manila, East Indies, as junior partner in the firm of Peel, Hubbell and Co. After ten years of prosperous business life at Manila, he returned to the United States. In 1854 he became interested in the Illinois Central Railroad. 

Railroads all over the country were suffering from the effects of what were known as the Schuyler frauds, connected with the New York and New Haven Railroad. The Illinois Central’s affairs were in bad shape. Mr. Osborn at once began the re-organization of the company. Before he left it, thirty years later, he had brought the company’s credit to so high a point that he was able to negotiate its bonds at 3 ¼ per cent, something that had never been accomplished by any railroad in the United States. 

While connected with the Illinois Central, Mr. Osborn became interested in the Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans Railroad. He saw that this road would be a valuable southern outlet for the Illinois Central. Its affairs were in a precarious condition but under Mr. Osborn’s management, from 1875 to 1882, it became one of the best railroad properties in the United States. 

Mr. Osborn retired from active business life in 1882. Throughout his business career, he had been distinguished for his integrity, strong will and keen foresight. 

He was a lover of art, and possessed a gallery of fine paintings. He became interested in Frederic Edwin Church, the will-known painter, and purchased several of his best pictures. He was intimately acquainted with Sir James Caird, Richard Cobden and Sir John Rose. 

In 1839 Mr. Osborn purchased a site at Garrisons-on-the-Hudson, where he built a substantial home. He had not been well for several months previous to his death, which was due to a general decline. His wife and two sons, Henry F. Osborn, Professor of Biology at Columbia College, and William Church Osborn, a lawyer of this city, were with him when he died. Mr. Osborn’s wife was a daughter of Jonathan Sturges. Mrs. Osborn attended the Church of the Covenant. The Rev. Drs. Mullvaine and Duryea will officiate at the funeral this morning.

Note: This obit states 1821 as his birth date, however other sites have Dec. 21, 1820, as does the stone.

Photo at findagrave.com by Steve Basch and Chip Rowe
See his memorial here.

Read the biography for William H. Osborn from the History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company: 1890

Read about him at Wikipedia

Castle Rock in Garrison, N.Y.
This was the home built by William H. Osborn
Read about it here and here.
You can also check it out on Facebook here.

This is their only child, Henry Fairfield Osborn.
Graduation photo from Princeton University in 1877.
He went on to be president of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years.