Biography of Thomas Henderson Read

With no special training for the conduct of important financial interests Thomas Henderson Read is now acting as president of the First National Bank of Shenandoah and has been since its organization and in the control of its affairs he has given proof of his ability to solve the more difficult financial and economical problems. The subjective and objective forces of life are in him well balanced, making him cognizant of his own capabilities and powers, while at the same time he thoroughly understands his opportunities and his obligations. He was born in Huntsville, Schuyler county, Illinois, March 3, 1841, and is a son of Amasa and Jane B. (Henderson) Read, natives of Massachusetts and Ohio respectively. The father was twice married, his second wife being the mother of our subject. For some years Amasa Read operated a woolen mill in Oldtown, Ohio, and in 1837 removed westward to Schuyler county, Illinois, where he engaged in farming, continuing in agricultural life there until 1843, when he was called to his final rest.

Thomas H. Read was but two years old at the time of his father’s death. He remained at home until his twenty-ninth year, but in 1870 sold his interests in Illinois and with a team started west on a tour of inspection. Arriving in Page county he was so pleased with the country and its prospects that he determined to locate here and during the succeeding two years was engaged in the cattle business. In the fall of 1872 he opened a bank in Clarinda, which was conducted under the firm name of Read & Farnum. For three years the firm conducted that institution, at the end of which time Mr. Read purchased the bank of Moore & Webster in Shenandoah, then the only bank in this city. He arrived in Shenandoah on the 12th of June 1875, the night before the grasshoppers came-a plague memorable in the history of this part of the country, the insects descending in swarms upon the entire countryside and within a few hours destroying every vestige of vegetation. Mr. Read entered upon his banking interest in this city under the firm style of Read, Farnum & Company. Soon afterward a second bank was organized under the name of Cole, Swain & Company. The competition was then so strong that an effort was made to consolidate the two banks with a third party in Clarinda but Mr. Read found that he was to be frozen out when the papers for consolidation were all signed. Coming to an understanding of the situation, he started out to organize the First National Bank of Shenandoah and in one night had forty-four thousand dollars subscribed out of the fifty thousand dollars necessary. He and Mr. Farnum bought out the remaining member of the old firm and completed the organization of the First National Bank. This bank today does the largest banking business in the county and since its organization has paid twenty per cent on its capital. It was organized on a safe, conservative yet progressive basis and the business methods pursued have ever been such as to awaken unqualified confidence and gain a liberal patronage. In all of his business affairs Mr. Read has been thoroughly reliable and straightforward, seeking success along the legitimate lines of business and his path has never been strewn with the wreck of other men’s fortunes. He has made steady progress by reason of his persistency of purpose, keen discrimination and sound judgment, and although he had no training for the work when he entered banking circles he has become recognized as one of the strong and prominent representatives of banking interests in southwestern Iowa. He has organized other banks, including the First National Bank of Farragut, of which he is president; the First National Bank at Coin; and the First National Bank at Imogene, all of which are highly prosperous. For many years he has been the oldest banker in active service in Page and Fremont counties.

Mr. Read was married in 1873 to Miss Ermina J. Allphin, of Huntsville, Illinois, and unto them have been born four children: Elbert, who is cashier of the bank; Thomas H., who is a graduate of the law department of the University of Michigan and is now acting as assistant cashier of the First National Bank of Shenandoah; Della, the wife of Edson R. Sunderland, a professor of the law department of the Michigan University; and Luella J., who has won a degree at Tabor College in Iowa and Michigan University and has now passed her examination for a Doctor’s degree.

Mr. Read and his family attend the Congregational church in which he holds membership. He is serving as treasurer of the church, contributes generously to its support and does all in his power to promote its interests. He was a leading factor in the erection of the library building in 1904, conducting the correspondence whereby a donation from Andrew Carnegie was secured. He was also president of its first board of directors and was chairman of the building committee. He has never let personal interests or ambition dwarf his public spirit or public activities and his feelings and views concerning public questions have ever found expression in prompt action. Without any special advantages at the outset of his career he has developed powers of mind and habit which have established him as one of the valued and representative citizens of this part of the state and his success is the merited reward of persistent, earnest and honorable labor.



Kershaw, W. L. History of Page County, Iowa: also biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co. 1909.

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