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The Lumber King of Pennsylvania, Part 2

At the age of 63, John DuBois started developing his property in Clearfield County. He had returned in 1871 to George Shaffer, but discovered that Shaffer had died and a man named John Rumbarger was living in Shaffer's home. Rumbarger, seeing that John was going to be establishing his business and bringing in a large potential for different types of work, he started to sell off the lots he owned. The decision was fortuitous because the population soon swelled to well over the 16 families who were residents in 1873.

The town grew rapidly and rivalry existed for many years between the coal miners and their families living in Rumbarger and the lumbermen and woodsmen residing on the DuBois side of the community. The village of Rumbarger was soon outdistanced by rapid building on the the DuBois side of town, so the entire community soon became know as DuBois. (This is the town where relative Thomas Olin Oberrender, Jr. was born. Refer to the "Dutch" and the Juneau post).

John first built a small mill with one circular saw before building dams, clearing land, making roads, building houses and other improvements. Soon afterwards he contracted for the machinery and outfit and laying the foundations of his immense mills and lumber establishments at DuBois. His enterprise in developing this new region and the opening of the Low Grade Division of the Allegheny Valley Railroad soon attracted a numerous colony of hardy and industrious workmen with their families, as well as many merchants, mechanics and professional men, whose homes and places of business now constitute the borough of DuBois, having increased from three houses in 1872, to a population of about seven thousand in 1886. The building of his three steam mills, box factory, machine shop, store and hotel, tannery (in which latter enterprises the Van Tassel Brothers were associated as partners), the clearing and improvement of a twelve hundred acre farm, and the erection of more than one hundred good comfortable dwelling houses for his employees, occupied the last years of his life, and all these improvements proceeded under his personal supervision.

Through all his busy and useful career several peculiar traits and characteristics were especially prominent. As a business man, those who knew him best have remarked his strict sense of justice in all his dealings, and his utter detestation of all trickery and knavish practices. Prompt to defend his own rights when invaded, he never exacted from others more than he was morally as well as legally entitled to, and notwithstanding in the course of such a protracted career of business, involving many millions of dollars, he was frequently compelled either to defend or prosecute a suit at law, he dreaded and avoided such contests, so far as he considered the safety of his business would permit, and particularly in his later years, effected many settlements by a compromise, conceding often his just rights rather than resort to litigation.

His great mechanical ingenuity, in construction devices and appliances for the saving of expense and labor, was continually displayed in all departments of his business, and scarcely a year passed by without an addition to his list of patents, many of which are still in use. Up to the latest months of his life, his mental power was seldom too much exhausted for active exercise in the direction of mechanical devices. His aim seemed always to contemplate increased production at diminished cost, and to discover the best and cheapest mode of accomplishing every part of the work he laid out, and in this mechanical ability, aided and directed by his strong native good sense, lay a very important element of his greatest success.

In 1875 John built his home, a mansion with extensive grounds and a formal garden. It was remodeled in 1902 by his nephew, John Ezekiel DuBois, into a Tudor country estate, with half-timbering, lancet arch windows, cinquefoil designs, and finials. It was one of several changes the building would undergo during its lifetime. Following John E. DuBois’ death in 1934, the Mansion was vested with the DuBois Campus of Penn State University and the DuBois Education Foundation. The building was used for many years by the campus for classroom space and other uses. The interior of the building was badly damaged by flooding resulting from a frozen water pipe which burst. Efforts to raise money to restore the building fell well short of the goal and in 1978 the mansion was demolished.

John died on 5 May 1886. He had requested to be buried on the hill with his face toward the town. The funeral procession was large, numbering over 1,500, with nearly 1,000 gathering at the grave site, and 250 people attending the burial service. The site was renamed Monument Hill and contains the single burial plot, which then looked down upon the DuBois Mansion. Later a monument spire was erected over the grave. Newspaper reports from the time reported the casket was encased in an underground tomb of brick and cement. The interest of the public in the area declined over the years. Early in the 21st Century the hillside was cleared and the memorial is now visible again. It stands as a monument to the man who gave DuBois its name.

After his death, his nephew John Ezekiel DuBois, the son of John's brother Ezekiel (1809-1875) and Clarissa (nee Badger) Dubois, took over the businesses since his uncle had no children. John E. had initially come to DuBois, PA in the employ of his uncle in 1883. He continued the extensive lumber business and also became interested in many other local enterprises, among them the DuBois Iron Works and the DuBois Lumber yard. He was one of the organizers of the DuBois National Bank and became its president.

John Ezekiel DuBois, Sr. (1861-1934)
Willie Gamble DuBois (1870-1935)

In 1897, he married Willie F. Gamble, a daughter of James M. Gamble of Roanoke, VA. They had five children (John, Lewis, Caroline, David, and Sarah). He continued his uncle's legacy until his death in November 1934.


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