Monday, November 24, 2008

Henry Clay Sexton

(Henry Clay Sexton) was born March 29, 1828, in Wheeling, West Virginia, and died in St. Louis in St. Louis, December 31, 1893. His parents were John and Phoebe Sexton, and the family to which he belonged settled in Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia, his immigrant ancestor having been among the earliest colonists of that region. After graduating from the Wheeling High School, in 1844, Mr. Sexton followed his father's occupation, which was that of contractor and builder, until 1857, the family having in the meantime removed to St. Louis. In 1857 he was made chief of the old volunteer fire department of this city, and in that capacity became widely known throughout the country. He was distinguished for his courage and bravery, good judgment and his kindness at heart. The men who served under him in the fire department were devotedly attached to him, for, although he was a strict disciplinarian, he was always generous and forbearing. After the great Chicago fire of 1871 he was offered a salary of $15,000 a year to take charge of the fire department of that city, but declined the offer, preferring to remain in St. Louis. From 1862 to 1875, in company with his brother, John Sexton, he carried on a large contracting and building business in St. Louis, erecting many of the principal buildings of that era, among which were the Republican Building, the City Hospital, the House of Industry and others. He was collector of water rates in St. Louis during the administration of Mayor King. In 1862 General Schofield removed him from the position of chief of the fire department and confined him in the Gratiot Street Prison as a Southern sympathizer. He was reappointed chief in 1869, and held the office until 1885, when he resigned to become collector of internal revenue, which office he filled during President Cleveland's first administration. In his early life he was a Whig in politics, but later became a Democrat, and continued to affiliate with that party as long as he lived. A member of the Southern Methodist Church, he was a devout Christian, and for many years was superintendent of the Mound Sunday-school. He was a member of the Masonic order, of the Legion of Honor, of the order of Elks, and a Knight of St. Patrick. July 4, 1850, he married Miss Sara Lavania Lyon, at Davenport, Iowa. The surviving children born of this union are Mrs. Jennie McCaw, Mrs. Addue Maxwell, Mrs. Lavania Salter and Henry Clay Sexton.
-From Encyclopedia of the history of St. Louis : a compendium of history and biography for ready reference

Sexton was, for many years, the president of the Empire Club.

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