William E. Pinney, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of William E. Pinney

WILLIAM E. PINNEY. The history of American development and progress has been primarily that defining the lives and labors of the pioneers, from the time when the sturdy Pilgrims founded homes in New England, that cradle of so much of our national history, down through the years in which dauntless spirits have followed the star of empire in its westward course and reclaimed to the world a great and noble country whose every son should take pride in claiming the same as his native land. He whose name initiates this review is a scion of families that have played well their part in the history of American progress, as his paternal ancestors were among the earliest settlers in New England, the while in later generations have been found representatives who have shown equal courage and determination in initiating the march of civilization in more western states, including both Ohio and Indiana.

William Esli Pinney takes due satisfaction in claiming the old Hoosier state as the place of his nativity, and his entire life thus far has been passed within the gracious borders of La Porte and Porter counties. He is one of the substantial and representative citizens of the latter county, which has long been his home, and, maintaining his residence in the city of Valparaiso, his status in the community is such that he may well be accorded recognition in this publication on this score alone. Such consideration is the more emphatically due by reason of the fact that he is a member of one of the sterling and honored pioneer families of this favored section of the state.

Born on a farm in Clinton township, LaPorte county, Indiana, the date of Mr. Pinney's nativity was November 10, 1847. He was the fourth in order of birth of the six sons and two daughters of William and Cynthia (Long) Pinney, and of the five now living he is the only one who is a resident of Indiana. Harvey W. is a prosperous agriculturist in the state of South Dakota; Perry G. is a resident of Los Angeles, California; Herman Franklin, who was formerly engaged in mercantile pursuits, resides at Fredonia, Kansas; Lois C. is the widow of Jeduthan D. Clark and maintains her home in Brooklyn, New York.

William Pinney was born in Jackson county, Ohio, on the 16th of July, 1819, and passed the closing years of his life in his attractive home in LaPorte county, Indiana, where he died in 1889. His parents, who were numbered among the pioneers of Ohio, came to Indiana in 1837, at which time he was about eighteen years of age, and his father and brother drove an ox team across the swamps and through the forests, with one of the old-time "prairie schooners" as the vehicle in which the household effects were transported to the new home in the wilds of LaPorte county, a number of cattle having been driven along on the trip, which was made under conditions that would seem impossible to the younger generation of the present day, in view of the conditions that now exist throughout the country thus traversed. William Pinney received his educational discipline in the common schools of Ohio and virtually his entire active career was one of close and successful identification with the great basic industry of agriculture. His independent career as a farmer was initiated when he became associated with his brother Horace in the purchasing of one hundred and sixty acres of wild land in LaPorte county, and as showing his industry, thrift and enterprising spirit it may be stated that he eventually accumulated a valuable landed estate of seven hundred and sixty acres, in LaPorte and Porter counties. In politics he was a thoroughgoing Jacksonian Democrat, and his ability, as coupled with the highest principles of integrity and honor, gave him a position of influence in the community. Both he and his wife were consistent members of the Baptist church.

The genealogy of the Pinney family is traced back to staunch English origin. The original progenitors in America came across the Atlantic in 1630, in the good ship "Mary and John." They settled at Windsor, Connecticut, and thence has sprung the large and worthy family of the name in the generations that have since followed upon the stage of life's activities. The remains of William Pinney and his wife rest in the cemetery at Westville, LaPorte county, and their names merit a place of honor on the perpetual roster of the sterling pioneers of northern Indiana. Mrs. Cynhia (Long) Pinney, a woman of noble character and gentle and gracious personality, was born in West Virginia, in 1820, and her parents were early settlers in Indiana, to which state they removed when she was a child. She was summoned to the life eternal in 1898 and her memory shall ever be revered by those who came within the sphere of her gracious influence.

William E. Pinney, whose name initiates this review, was reared to the sturdy and invigorating discipline of the old homestead farm in LaPorte county and there learned those habits of industry, that appreciation of the dignity of honest toil, that have signally conserved his success in later years. The conditions which compassed his boyhood and youth were those of the pioneer days, and he well recalls the little log schoolhouse which was one of the landmarks of the neighborhood. He had the prescience to place true valuations on educational discipline of specific order, and after availing himself fully of the advantages of the common schools of the locality and period he continued his studies for a time in the old Methodist College in Valparaiso, after which he attended the old Chicago University, on Thirty-first street, for one year, this institution having been the nucleus of the present great University of Chicago. Later he took a short course in the law department of the State University of Indiana, at Bloomington. This technical training has proved of great value to him in the course of a peculiarly successful career as a man of affairs and he is now one of the veteran members of the bar of Porter county. He has never failed in his allegiance to the agricultural and stock-growing industries, through the medium of which much of his substantial fortune has been won, and yet his advancement has been the result of excellent judgment and broad-minded progressiveness; the while his activities have touched divers fields of enterprise.

In 1872 Mr. Pinney was admitted to the bar of his native state, and for a time thereafter he was engaged in the practice of his profession in the city of LaPorte. In 1874 he established his home in Valparaiso and here he has continued in the active general practice of his profession during the long intervening years, his attention having been given principally to real estate law, in which he has long been known as one of the leading representatives of the bar of the county. His activities, as already intimated, have been of varied order and wide scope, and he has done much in a practical way to foster the civic and material progress of this section of the state. In 1889 he and DeForest L. Skinner were the prime factors in effecting the organization of the State Bank of Valparaiso, and of this substantial and well ordered institution Mr. Pinney was president from the time of its incorporation until March 2, 1912, when he resigned the office to give his attention to varied other interests of importance. His conservative and judicious administration in the position of chief executive gave to the State Bank of Valparaiso that place in popular confidence and support to which its distinctive success is due and which has placed it among the representative financial institutions of northern Indiana.

In 1904 Mr. Pinney gave further evidence of his initiative power and financial acumen by bringing about the organization of the Thrift Trust Company of Valparaiso, and he remained president of this institution until his resignation, which occurred at the same time that he retired from the presidency of the State Bank of Valparaiso. Dominating resourcefulness in the handling of financial affairs has marked the career of Mr. Pinney, and he has been a valued force in this important field of enterprise. His desire to retire from the more exacting executive duties that had long engrossed much of his time and attention led to his resignation, simultaneously with his retirement from the presidency of the two institutions mentioned, from the office of president of the Farmers & Traders Bank of Wanatah, LaPorte county, which institution was organized by him in 1907. It is unnecessary to enter into details concerning the operations of Mr. Pinney in the field of practical financial activity, as the various institutions with which he has been identified give perpetual evidence of his ability and of the popular estimate placed upon him. He has accumulated a landed estate of fully four thousand acres, and this property comprises some of the best farm land in Porter, LaPorte and Starke counties.

Prom the foregoing statements it may readily be seen that Mr. Pinney is one of the essentially prominent and influential men of affairs in Porter county, and in the midst of the exactions of his many interests he has not lacked in civic progressiveness, liberality and public spirit, the while his unbending integrity, absolute justice and careful methods have gained to him unequivocal confidence and esteem. He has done the right because it was right, and he has expected of others the rendering of just dues, even as he himself has been insistent in rendering the same in a personal way. He is known as a strict and conscientious business man, and in these days of questionable policies and equivocal methods such an attitude is gratifying to note. That he has been a man of industry is designated more completely by no one fact than that he has produced from a state of unproductiveness more acres of cultivated land than has any other resident of Porter county, -- and this has a wide significance in an objective way. He has given his co-operation in the support of legitimate measures and enterprises projected for the general good of the community, and from charity and benevolence he has not withheld his hand, though to exploit his work along this line would be most distasteful to him. Essentially a business man, Mr. Pinney has had no predilection for the activities of practical politics and in these matters he holds himself independent of partisan dictates, as he gives his support to the men and measures meeting the approval of his judgment.

Mr. Pinney is a charter member of the Mathesis Club, one of the representative social organizations of Valparaiso and one that has maintained the highest ideals in matters of education and general culture, his daughter also holding membership in this club. Appreciative of the finer amenities of social life, Mr. Pinney has further shown this by his identification with the Saturday Evening Club, of which he is a charter member and which likewise is one of the leading organizations of civic order in the metropolis of Porter county.

The domestic chapter in the life history of Mr. Pinney is one to which it is a pleasure to revert, for the home relations were of idyllic order during the life of his gracious and devoted wife and helpmeet, who was summoned to the" land of the leal" on the 28th of May, 1903, and whose memory is revered by all who knew her and who was long a loved figure in the social activities of Valparaiso. On the 18th of November, 1875, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Pinney to Miss Finette Morrison, who, like himself, was born in Clinton township, LaPorte county, Indiana, the date of her nativity having been January 7, 1850. She was a daughter of John McCord Morrison and Susan Courtney (Blair) Morrison. Her father was born in southwestern Ohio -- in either Butler of Hamilton county -- and was reared and educated in his native state. As a young man he came to Indiana, where his marriage was solemnized, and he became one of the representative agriculturists of LaPorte county, where he continued to reside until his death. He was a man of marked business ability and honesty, and uprightness signally characterized his entire career, in which he showed forth the sterling traits of his Scotch forebears. In politics he was an ardent Republican and his religious affiliation was originally with the Presbyterian church, but in the later years of his life he held membership in the Methodist Episcopal church, as this denomination maintained a place of worship nearer his home. His wife, who survived him by several years, was likewise an earnest member of the Methodist church and was loved by all who knew her. Her father, Judge James Blair, was one of the honored pioneers of Porter county and was influential in public affairs in the early days. He served as associate judge of the county court and wvas familiarly known by his judicial title. He was one of the charter members and veritable pillars of the Presbyterian church in Valparaiso and ever commanded secure vantage ground in popular confidence and esteem. His father, William Blair, was a valiant soldier in the Continental line in the war of the Revolution, in which he was with General Washington's forces at Valley Forge, and his father, Alexander Blair, likewise was a patriot soldier in the great struggle for national independence. Mrs. Pinney received excellent educational advantages in her youth and prior to her marriage was a successful and popular teacher in the public schools of LaPorte county. Distinctive culture and refinement marked her personality and her social prestige in her home city was one of generous leadership in all that makes for the higher ideals of life. She was also possessed of exceptional business ability and was closely associated with her husband in many of his practical activities. When she was called from the scene of mortal endeavors her death was a source of deep personal bereavement to a wide circle of friends, and the attitude of the community in its relations to her is shown in the following extract from an appreciative estimate published at the time of her demise: "Mrs. Pinney was a lady of great intelligence and refinement and was exceptionally pleasant and gracious in her manners. She had a host of warm friends and the announcement of her death was received by all with the greatest sorrow. She was prominently active in connection with her business associations and was one of the representative members of the Harriett Beecher Stowe Club and the Mathesis Club. At a meeting of the board of directors of the State Bank of Valparaiso held on the 29th of May, 1903, the following resolutions were adopted, and the same merit perpetuation in this more enduring form:

"Whereas, It has pleased God to take from us the beloved wife of our esteemed fellow member and president of our board of directors, and

"Whereas, The cordial and pleasant relations which for many years she has held with the bank as a stockholder makes it fitting that we should spread upon the record of our feelings of appreciation of her services and regret for her loss,

"Resolved, That the board of directors and stockholders of the State Bank will treasure in grateful remembrance the sterling qualities, the integrity and acumen ever manifested by our late associate.

"Resolved, That we fully and greatly deplore the loss occasioned, not only to ourselves but likewise to the members of her family, and to the public in general.

"Resolved, That we extend our sincere sympathy to the bereaved husband, daughter, relatives and friends of the decedent, and hope that even in the sorrow of their affliction they may find consolation in the knowledge that the worth of her sterling qualities is fully appreciated. None can know the depth of sorrow but those who have drunk of the same cup, and when its fresh poignancy has passed the members of her family will more and more come to feel what a blessed thing it was to have such a woman as wife, mother, friend and guide. Out of the silence she will still speak to them and in ways they can not now see she will continue to comfort and guide.

"Resolved, that a copy of these resolutions be not only spread on the records of the bank but likewise sent to the family of the deceased associate and published in the papers of the city and county."

This tribute to Mrs. Pinney was signed by the following named directors of the bank: John Wark, Stephen P. Corboy, Paul Nuppnau and Leslie R. Skinner.

Mr. and Mrs. Pinney became the parents of one child, Myra Finette, who has been her father's confidante and cherished companion since the death of the loved wife and mother and who is a gracious and popular factor in the social life of Valparaiso, where she makes the paternal home a center of refined hospitality, even as it was under the regime of her mother. She was graduated in Wellesley College, as a member of the class of 1904, and has received the broadening advantages of foreign travel, besides visiting divers sections of her native land. In addition to being identified with the Mathesis Club, Miss Pinney also holds membership in William Henry Harrison Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Source: Lewis Publishing Company. 1912. History of Porter County, Indiana: A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests. Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Company. 881 p.
Page(s) in Source: 431-436

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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