Thursday, July 31, 2014

52 Ancestors: #24 Cyrus Ebon Trees, Once the Wealthiest Man in Rush County

Cyrus Trees' birthplace in Manilla, Indiana.  The house was built by his grandfather, Jacob Mull, who was one of the founders of Manilla.  (Photo was taken from the book, In Old Kentucky, a History of My Forbears, written by William DePrez Inlow.)

My great-great-great grandfather Cyrus Ebon Trees was born August 4, 1848 in Rush County, Indiana, the third son of James Whitlow Trees and Catherine Mull.  His father was a physician for a short while, but later became a dry goods merchant.  He received a common education in nearby schools and went on to attend Northwestern University in Illinois.

Cyrus Trees was married to Annie Inlow in Manilla, Indiana on May 4, 1869. They had only one child, Lavanche.  But when their daughter was only six years old, Annie suddenly died of an unknown illness.  Cyrus remained a widower for nearly two years, then he remarried in 1877.  His second wife, Charlotte Macy, was just eleven years older than his young daughter.  Cyrus and Lottie had two children, Lee and Mary Catherine.

Shelbyville Democrat published May 21, 1881
In his early career, Cyrus was unusually prosperous, always thinking of ways to expand and progress. Associated with his father in the grain business,  he built a name for himself and also helped to make Manilla one of the best grain markets in Indiana.  By 1883, he was running his grain elevator night and day.  Cyrus was also a merchant in both the livestock and the lumber trades.  I'm sure his lumber company (Trees and Mohler) used his befitting last name to drum up business.

In addition to all of these business ventures, Cyrus Trees was actively involved in politics.    One Shelbyville, Indiana newspaper described "Cy" as "a red hot Democrat."  He held his beliefs firmly and was slow to change his views.

In the 1880's, Cyrus engaged in land investments in Kansas, and encouraged everyone he knew to do the same.  He became the vice president and director of the Kiowa Land Investment Company.  And if all this wasn't enough,  Cyrus started something completely new; he organized the First Manilla Bank in 1895.  Eventually, the strain of all this responsibility caused serious repercussions and robbed him of his sanity and health.

Land investors in Haskell County, Kansas.
The beginning of his troubles started in the late 1890's.  Cyrus had invested largely in land ($80,000 to be exact) in Haskell County, Kansas.  It appeared to be a great success. New settlers were enticed by the glowing accounts and came in throngs with hopes of becoming successful ranchers.  But with the influx of settlers and the breaking of sod, it soon became apparent that the range would be spoiled.  Adding to the rancher's problems were the discouraging prices and the long drive to market.

Although Haskell County had enjoyed a boom in the 1880's, it suffered an even larger bust in the 90's.  The county's population plummeted, and Cyrus' investments were gone.  When he received the news that the whole enterprise had collapsed, Cyrus underwent a nervous breakdown.  In September of 1899, Cyrus, now seriously ill, was admitted to a sanitarium in Martinsville, Indiana.

The Indianapolis Journal published February 10, 1901
On Christmas Day, 1900, Cyrus Trees was declared of unsound mind and was committed to a private sanitarium in Indianapolis.   The Manilla bank had to be closed for six weeks until someone could take it over.  A relative, John Blessing, was chosen as guardian for the unfortunate ex-banker.  To pay off Cyrus' debts, which amounted to $66,000,  Blessing sold his ward's land in several counties and also sold the Manilla bank.

However, not all of the debts were paid off.  Dr. John D. Green, son-in-law of Cyrus, filed a complaint against Blessing, asking $8,000 for services rendered as a physician to Cyrus and his family.  The doctor stated that, in 1897, his father-in-law had become so ill that he required someone to look after him constantly.  Cyrus proposed that his son-in-law might abandon his practice as a general physician and devote his entire time and attention to himself and his wife and daughter, promising to pay him what his services were reasonably worth.  Dr. Green agreed to the plan, but was not reimbursed.  Cyrus, now a resident of the Richmond Insane Asylum, was powerless to pay him.  A settlement was reached, and the doctor accepted payment of $3,500.

In 1901, Cyrus was transferred for the third time to a sanitarium in Oxford Ohio, his last residence.  He died in the asylum on February 18, 1902, at the age of 53.

"Cy was one of those warm hearted, generous, whole souled persons whom it is always a pleasure to meet, of a most sociable disposition, honest and faithful to his friends.   He was enterprising, shrewd, and progressive.  In his death his family is called upon to mourn the loss of a kind hearted and affectionate husband and companion." (From his obituary in the Shelbyville Democrat)

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