The City Of Chester.
work was resumed. By extraordinary exertions he overcame the most distressing discouragements and re-established the foundry. There came out once more the indomitable spirit of the man. Business men generally recognized the fact that nothing could crush John Roach, and from that time his credit was good anywhere, and his word was as good as his bond. Pluck and patience and persistency will powerfully tell. All men honor the man who makes himself the master of misfortunes.
With the profits of the business in eight years Mr. Roach built an establishment having facilities to construct larger marine-engines than any yet built in this country. He was bound that nothing in his line should be done anywhere in the world that he could not do. He sent an agent to Europe to examine the greatest establishments there, and thus was able to avail himself of all the advantages in selection and arrangement of machinery. Some of the tools introduced were the largest in the country. Where other works were unimproved he was constantly making advance in facilities. He stimulated the inventive genius of his workmen, and was quick to adopt a good thing when he found it. Having gone through every branch of his business, and understanding every detail, his eye was swift to see and his judgment was rarely at fault. Nothing escaped his personal attention. His capacity for work was wonderful. His pay-lists enrolled from nine hundred to fifteen hundred men. Two immense engines were built by him in these works for the iron-clad "Dunderberg,'' and the engines for the double-end gunboat "Winooski," the steam frigate "Neshaming," the great sound steamers "Bristol" and "Providence," and other large vessels. No work was too great or too difficult for him to do, and do at its best, and no unsatisfactory work went out of his establishment. His superior facilities enabled him to do work in shortest time and at lowest price. In 1858 he took into partnership one of his sons, and the firm became, as at present, John Roach & Son.
But Mr. Roach's ambition was not yet satisfied. The Etna Works, large and complete as they were, lay distant from the river-front and lacked other advantages. In 1867 he bought the Morgan Iron-Works, an immense establishment at the foot of Ninth Street, on the East River. These works were built in 1838 by T. F. Secor & Co., and in 1850 were bought by George W. Quintard, who conducted them until 1867. The engines for a large number of first-class merchant and war vessels were constructed in them. They consist of various buildings, - foundries and shops, - occupying six city blocks, giving a water-front of three hundred feet. Great alterations were made and the establishment was brought to the highest point of capacity and perfection. For the construction of marine-engines of the old style there was no superior plant in the world.
But when the works were brought to this condition another discouraging train of circumstances came on which threatened to make establishment and experience useless and the property of little value, except as real estate.
During the civil war our shipping was driven from the sea, and England embraced the opportunity to get possession of the carrying trade formerly ours. For years a revolution had been going on in ship-building, in the change not only from wood to iron, from sail to steam, but from the wooden side-wheeler to the iron propeller, and from the ordinary to the compound engine. No compound engine had at that time been built in this country. Our iron interest had not been developed. And at this time, when England was in possession of the carrying trade, and when everything that entered into the construction of a ship was taxed, the free-ship cry was raised in Congress. This utterly discouraged capital invested in the iron business, and nearly all the great iron-works in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston were closed up. Mr. Roach held on. He looked over the whole subject, - saw the need of this great country for ships and its danger without the power to build them, - and had faith to believe that the people would demand a revival of the American carrying trade. He proved his faith by investing all he had in the ship-yard and engine-works at Chester, an establishment which covers some twenty-five acres and thirty branches of skilled labor, and has in many respects no equal in the world, and where a finished ship, from the ore up, can be produced. Over three thousand men are in his employ, and nowhere are to be found superior facilities or superior ships. Nearly one hundred splendid iron steamships have been launched by him, and no unsatisfactory work has he ever done. It is a remarkable fact that in his business career of over forty years Mr. Roach has never been sued, nor has he ever brought suit against any man with whom he has had dealings. His ability to manage men is as marked as his executive powers. Strikes have been markedly absent from his work-shops, and his men have ever been treated with kindness and consideration. He is a model employer.
By his persistency in advocating an American policy of protection not only for American ships, but for all American industries, Mr. Roach has done more than any other one man to stem the tide of foreign influence in favor of free trade, which means the pauperization of American labor in favor of foreign labor. By his powerful arguments before Congressional committees, arguments which proved unanswerable, he has, year after year, fought and defeated the bills for free ships and free trade introduced into Congress; his opponents have conceded that they owe defeat to him alone. This will secure him high honor at the hands of the American people when our history shall be written, and when, free from prejudice, men shall be able to see how much the country and its industries owe to the firm stand taken and maintained with consummate ability by Mr. Roach.