|HARRY F. BRAY
Proprietor of the Bray Engineering Company of Mount Vernon, and one of the leaders of industry in Southern Illinois, is an American by birth, but belongs to a distinguished English family, whose history is intimately interwoven with that of the land of his forefathers. Thomas D. Bray, the subject's father, was a seafaring man, who spent many years in the English navy and in due time rose to a position of prominence in that branch of service. By a series of promotions he was gradually advanced until becoming commander of a vessel and for brave and gallant conduct was knighted under the name of Sir Thomas Dyer Bray, by which title he is still known in the naval circles of Great Britain. Captain Bray resigned his commission some time in the sixties and in 1866 came to the United States, locating in Chicago, Illinois, where he remained about fourteen years, removing at the expiration of that time to Southern California, where he spent the, remainder of his days, dying in 1896.
Sir Joseph Lewis Bray, a brother of Thomas Dyer Bray, was also a distinguished officer in the British naval service, and at one time was Governor of the Island Malta, the largest and most im portant naval stations in the world, the position being one of great responsibility and earning for those filling it especial honors as officers of the crown. Sir William Bray, the subjects grandfather, also a seaman by profession, attained to high standing in the navy and at the time of his death, held the rank of Commodore. He was killed about the year 1869 in the life saving service and left to his descendants the memory of a useful life and an honorable name, the luster of which has never been tarnished by the commission of a single unworthy act.
Fannie M. Browning, wife of Capt. Thomas D. Bray, and mother of the subject of this sketch, was a daughter of J. M. Browning, to whom belonged the unique distinction of having been the first white child born south of the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad, then the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. Mrs. Bray, who was one of three children born at the same time grew to maturity at Browning Hill, about five miles west of Benton, Franklin county, Illinois, but spent the greater part of her married life in Chicago and California, dying in the latter state a number of years ago. Captain and Fannie M. Bray were the parents of ten children, five of whom are living, as follows: Walter, of Bowling Green, Ohio; Harold L., of Chicago; Thomas D., also of that city; Mabel E., who lives in Los Angeles, California, and Harry F., the subject of this review.
Harry F. Bray was born in Chicago in the year 1868 and spent the early years of his life in his native city, receiving a practical education in the public schools. Endowed with strong mental powers and a decided taste for mechanical pursuits he yielded to a natural desire when a mere youth by becoming an apprentice to a marine engineer, and after acquiring efficiency and skill as a workmen devoted the ensuing sixteen years to the profession, the greater part of the time on deep water ships, plying the Pacific coast. Resigning his position in the marine service at the expiration of the period indicated, he spent the succeeding three years as a locomotive engineer, but in 1902 severed his connections with the road and returned to Chicago, where during the five years ensuing he was engaged in the heating and plumbing business.
Disposing of his interests in the above city Mr. Bray, in April, 1907, purchased his present site in Mount Vernon and established what has since been known as the Bray Engineering Company, one of the leading industries of the place and an enterprise whose development and growth has fully realized his expectations, as the present wide reputation of the plant and the large and constantly increasing business abundantly attest. In connection with contracting for the erection of various types of engines, Mr. Bray commands a large and lucrative patronage in the lines of plumbing, heating, electrical work and sewage, in all of which his technical training and experience have made his services especially valuable.
In the building up of the large industry of which he is the head and general manager, Mr. Bray has displayed executive ability of a high order and a technical knowledge of every branch of the business which shows him a master of his calling and endowed with capacity to inaugurate and carry forward large and important enterprises. Blessed with a clear brain, analytical mind and sound judgment, with the necessary tact to direct these and other attributes in the right direction, he has moved steadily forward from one achievement to another, overcoming all obstacles calculated to hinder or impede his progress and moulding circumstances to suit his purposes until he now occupies a commanding position in industrial circles with encouraging prospects of still greater success as the years go by. His career, characterized by consecutive effort and continuous advancement, has been eminently creditable, while the evidence of thorough preparation and the laudable ambition to be satisfied with nothing less than the highest attainment render his story of especial value to the young man who contemplates making mechanical pursuits his life work.
Mr. Bray has traveled extensively and mingled much with men, thus adding very materially to his experience and affording the means of obtaining a valuable practical knowledge such as educa tional institutions do not impart. He has sailed every sea and nearly all the great inland waters and visited all the most important parts of the world, besides visiting many places of historic interest on both continents and acquiring a knowledge of the manners and customs of the people of the different countries traversed. His has indeed been a varied and interesting experience and his relations with his fellow men under so many difficult circumstances enables him to take broad views of life and duty and gives him an influence and leadership which only the man of the world can exercise.
"Much depends upon being well born," in which respect Mr. Bray has been fortunate and he has every reason to feel prond of his birthright and to keep untarnished the escutcheon of the honor able family to which he belongs. As stated in preceding paragraphs both his father and his grandfather were knighted for duty bravely and faithfully performed and the high positions to whirl, they rose, in the service of their country were honorably won and worthily held. From those sturdy ancestors Mr. Pray has inherited not a few of the sterling characteristics that have mach loin an influential factor in the business world and a leader among Ills fellow men, but he makes no undue display of these qualities nor Alrodcs the history of his antecedents upon unappreciative ears. With all of his experience, training and success he is one of the most modest and companionable of men. Of a pleasing presence and attractive personality he is easily approachable, being a favorite in the social circle, popular with all classes and conditions of his fellow citizens and one of the strong and forceful factors of the city in which lie resides.
The domestic life of Mr. Bray dates from the pear 1892, when he was happily married to Miss Alice Ward, of Benton. Illinois, daughter of Thomas Ward, one of the early settlers of the city and a pioneer of Franklin county. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Bray has been made bright by the presence of one child, a daughter fry the name of Winifred Estella, whose birth occurred on the 8th of October, 1893, and who is now an interesting young lady in her sixteenth year, a favorite with her companions and the pride of the family circle, of which she is such an important part.
Although well informed on the leading questions of the day and abreast of the times on all matters of public import, Mr. Bray is not a politician nor an office seeker, being essentially a business man and content with the simple title of citizen. Nevertheless he manifests an abiding interest in the material advancement of Mount Vernon and the social and moral progress of the people and to the extent of his ability is ever ready to encourage all laudable means for the common good. He is a Mason of high rank, including among other degrees, that of Sir Knight, and is also a member of the Pythian Brotherhood and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
SOURCE: History of Jefferson County, IL By JohnA. Wall 1909
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