Clare County Library
Clare Genealogy

Donated Material: Biographies

WALSH, Patrick T. Born 1855, Davenport, Iowa, USA.
BURNS, Mary. Born Co. Clare.

Donated by Cathy Joynt Labath, Iowa, USA.


Source: Downer, Harry E. History of Davenport and Scott County. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1910.

Who does not know and like Patrick T. Walsh? The root of the uniform regard in which he is held is found in his own life, sterling traits of character winning him the confidence and good will of the rich, his kindliness and charity the friendship and gratitude of the poor. Perhaps the real test of a man is found in his relation to his employes. The opportunity of overbearance and for strict and inconsiderate regulations is his as well as the opportunity for the exercise of a spirit of fraternal appreciation and helpfulness. In this Patrick T. Walsh has chosen the better part and no greater loyalty is to be anywhere found than is manifest toward him by his employes from the humblest to the companies operating throughout the entire country on various lines of construction work. Wealth and success have crowned him in his later years, but his early experiences brought him want and hardships. It is this perhaps that has made him sympathetic and helpful toward those who are undergoing a struggle similar to that which he experienced.

Davenport is proud to number him as a citizen and as a native son. He was here born March 17, 1855, his parents being John and Mary (Burns) Walsh, both of whom were natives of County Clare, Ireland. The father came to this city from the old country in 1848, having crossed the Atlantic on a sailing vessel which was six weeks in completing that voyage. He landed at New Orleans and made his way up the Mississippi river to Davenport. Both he and his wife were members of the Catholic church. His death occurred in 1887, when he was seventy-seven years of age. In their family were eight children, of whom only two are now living, the sister Margaret, the wife of John Cody, of Davenport.

The surviving son, Patrick T. Walsh, was educated in Father Pelamorgour's Catholic school and when eleven years of age began work in the French and Davies sawmill, where he spent two summers in packing shingles and later carried water on the big cut in west Davenport for one summer. He next became an apprenticed stonecutter on the Rock Island arsenal. He remained at the arsenal for eleven years and then occurred a circumstance which forced him to seek other employment. It was in the '80s that the stonecutters of Davenport and vicinity determined to make a stand for eight hours per day and Mr. Walsh became a leader among his fellow workmen. The men succeeded at last in winning that for which they were contesting, but Mr. Walsh at the end of the time was lableled as an agitator and was forced to seek other employment. It was this that eventually led him into the construction business. He had not planned to enter the field but, when losing his position at Rock Island, he turned his attention to any work that he could find, doing such minor and unpretentious jobs as digging cellars, running drains, digging sewers and street work generally. Gradually he extended his efforts and in the course of years has built up one of the notable successes of the country. To the opportunity then presented there was supplemented the sterling character of the man of plunk, that quality which scales barriers and wins victories on every field of human endeavor. Gradually his business extended, and it was not long before he had gained a foothold in the construction field. To him was awarded a contract for a "fill" on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad at Galva, Illinois, and since that time he has had many gangs of steam-shovel men at work. It has ever been characteristic of Mr. Walsh that he has promoted his men as they have shown capability and fidelity, and many who entered his service as shovel men have become high-class superintendents and master mechanics. Among the things in which he takes special delight is the substantial advance made by his faithful subordinates. He has awakened unfaltering support by his belief in his men, has constantly spoken to them words of encouragement and appreciation and the men on their part give to him the utmost fidelity and the best service of which they are capable. Possibly it is owing to this factor that the Walsh Construction Company can afford to give better terms than many of its competitors. Zeal and loyalty count in a construction proposition as well as in other walks. The growth of the business has continued year by year until interests are conducted under ten separate corporations, of all of which Mr. Walsh is the president, and every one of the various adjuncts has grown up under his fostering care and careful guidance. The relationship which exists in a well ordered family only adequately reflects the harmony and understanding that dwells in this great organization, which is doubtless the keynote to its big success. At the present these construction companies are engaged in building railroads from coast to coast. Mr. Walsh has been awarded many contracts for the erection of buildings, the one in which he takes special pride being the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral of Davenport, Iowa. There are a few industries of Davenport of any importance that have not felt the stimulus of his cooperation and have benefited by his assistance and councel. He is also connected with the Scott County Bank and three other banking institutions.

On the 1st of June, 1881, Mr. Walsh was married to Miss Catherine Beecher, and they have five living children: Mary, the wife of E. J. Walsh; Thomas, who is with his father in business; Katherine, Gertrude and Edward, at home. He and his family are members of the Catholic church.

It is known that Mr. Walsh favors every project for the public good and cooperates liberally and influentially in support of movements that have been of the utmost benefit to the city. He is of a kindly nature, of genial and jovial disposition, and like many self-made men is easy to approach and displays thoughtful consideration of others. His life experiences have made him a philosopher. A trade magazine comments on this phase of his life in the following words: "He is simple and unaffected in manner yet deep and profound in his conclusions on important topics. Speaking of gaining success in life, he said success can be classified as that quality which prompts the average individual to 'move up' as he enters the crowded street car of life. 'About the entrance the crowd huddles together and the congestion is being gradually added to by the incoming passengers,' said Mr. Walsh. 'Finally some one gets aboard whose disposition and temperament is to "move up" wherethere is more room, and, while he bumps some of the passengers and gets jostled himself, he reaches the place where there is more room and a better atmosphere and really makes it more satisfactory for the crowd he passed on his way to comfort.' How true this is."

The same paper in commenting upon other features in his life history says: "The example set by the Walsh Construction Company in providing so generously for its employes has set a standard which other companies have had approximately to reach, so that a benefit has been conferred upon the whole line of the dirt-moving contingent. Treating men with consideration for their needs and supplying them with the best that is going is a big factor in maintaining efficiency, and with a force working at high pitch results obtained are often a subject of wonderment even to those interested.

"Mr. Walsh has put many a discouraged man on his feet and he has given the hand of recognition to the forlorn which gave them a new start in life. His influence has been shown in encouraging a civic pride in Davenport and many of the city's developments owe a great deal to his timely interest and broad generosity."

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