Eli C. Suter

ELI C. SUTER. The ancestors of the late Eli C. Suter, of Suterville, had their original home in Germany, whence they emigrated to this country. He was a son of Henry- and Susan (Waltz) Suter, and was born July 14, 1819, at Ruffsdale.

At a very early age he left home and began to work his own way. The only education he had was acquired by attending school for a short time while he worked for a farmer for the princely salary of three dollars a month. Colonel Israel Painter, of Westmoreland county, was attracted by the sturdy boy and gave him a chance to work on the old turnpike leading from Mount Pleasant to Monongahela City. He took this work by contract, working at first with pick and shovel. So straightened were his circumstances and so carefully did he look after his financial affairs that he has often related how he wore his only pair of shoes to the scene of his daily labors, and when he arrived there took them off and worked barefooted in order to save the shoe leather. By his digging he earned enough to buy a blind horse, and thus added to the remuneration he gained by his work on the turnpike ditches. In this position he gradually accumulated enough to procure help, and his work was enlarged by taking contracts to repair the road. In this way he became possessed of sixteen hundred dollars which his friend, Colonel Painter, kept for him, and then turned his attention to milling, in the different departments of which he engaged during the remainder of his life. He first bought a flour mill known locally as "Waltz's grist-mill," and after operating it for several years sold it and moved to Millvale, where he purchased another flour mill. The product of this he hauled to the Youghiogheny river and floated down to Cincinnati, bringing back with him a cargo of merchandise. The business proved lucrative, and he was enabled to acquire one hundred and sixty acres of timber land. He also entered into the lumber business, erecting a saw mill which he operated by water power. The situation not being equal to the requirements of his trade he sold it, and in 1849 moved to the neighborhood of what is now Suterville, on the Youghiogheny river, where he spent the greater part of his life. He there operated a saw and a planing mill, managed a ferry and cultivated a farm. At one time he built coal boat bottoms and a steamboat. By all these means, aided by his industry and good management, he gradually built up a business which has become noted throughout western Pennsylvania. In the same manner, buying piece by piece, he became the owner of extensive lands. He surrounded himself with a body of competent men whom he attached to him by ties of personal friendship. R. D. Brown, now seventy-two years old, worked and lived with "the Colonel," as he was familiarly known among his friends, no fewer than fifty-five years. and was with him in his last hours.

Mr. Suter was one of the foremost men in the slack water river navigation movement, and a strenuous advocate of navigation on the Youghiogheny river. He was largely interested in getting an appropriation of five thousand dollars from the legislature for this purpose. He laid out the town of Suterville, sold the entire plan of lots, cut the timber and built houses, vet never oppressed any of his purchasers when in financial straits, and was never known to press a man beyond his ability to pay, or to use to the injury of another the power conferred on him by his position. In religion he was a Lutheran, gave free sites to all the churches of that denomination in his neighborhood, and was a liberal contributor to all church and charitable work. Mr. Suter was thrice married, one of his wives being Mary A. Cowan, by whom he was the father of four children, two of whom survive: Charles, who lives at home; and C. M., who is engaged in the lumber business in Suterville. Mr. Suter's rugged constitution and well-knit frame enabled him to endure all kinds of hardship, and he retained his strength until near the time of his death. He was a striking example of what may be accomplished by pluck and ambition and by a determination to conquer adversity. His genial disposition won friends for him in every calling in life, and he maintained always his habit of self-reliance and his independent spirit.  

Source: Page(s) 252-253, History of Westmoreland County, Volume II, Pennsylvania by John N Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906.
Transcribed August 2008 by Nathan Zipfel for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)

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