George Yule

As published in
"The City of Kenosha and Kenosha County Wisconsin: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement"
by Frank H. Lyman Vol. 2, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1916.




George Yule may well be termed the "grand old man" in industrial circles in Kenosha as his identification with the Bain Wagon Company covers seventy-three years, indeed a notable record and one which at every point has measured up to the highest standards of efficiency in business and honor in trade transactions. He entered the employ of the company in an humble capacity, untrained and unskilled in mechanical lines and of course without any experience in business management. Step by step he has advanced over the long road that has brought him to the Presidency, which position he has now occupied for eighteen years. To him have come the "blest accompaniments of old age: honor, riches, troops of friends," And again, quoting from Shakespeare it might well be said that "Nature might stand up and say to all the world this is a man." In spanning his life history one must recognize the fact that old age is not necessarily a synonym for weakness, nor need it suggest as a matter of course lack of activity or want of occupation. There is an old age which grows stronger and better mentally and morally as the years go on and gives out of its rich stores of wisdom and experience for the benefit of others. Such is the career of George Yule, who in spirit and interests seems yet in his prime.

It was in Scotland that George Yule first opened his eyes to the light of day on the 31st of August, 1824, his birth place being the village of Rathen, near Fraserburgh, in Aberdeenshire. He is therefore today in his ninety-second year. His parents were Alexander and Margaret (Leeds) Yule, who in pioneer times became early settlers of Somers Township, Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The father secured large tracts of land and extensively engaged in farming. Here he established a family that for four generations has been active and prominent in the life of the community, contributing largely to its material, intellectual, social and moral progress.

Alexander Yule was born in Scotland about 1795 and was twice married, his first wife dying in the land of hills and heather in 1835. They had become the parents of eight children: William, who died in Somers Township, Kenosha County, at the age of seventy-six years; James, who died in Milburn, Illinois at the age of seventy-one; Alexander, who was a professor in Ireland, where he died when a young man; George of this review; Beatrice, the wife of George Smith of Evanston, Illinois; John T., of Kenosha; and Cutes and Mary, both of whom died in infancy.

Mr. Yule was married a second time in Scotland, this union being with Miss Jane Watson, and by this marriage there were also eight children: Mary, the widow of David Heddle, of Somers township, Kenosha County; Joseph, who resides in California; Henry, of Seattle, Washington; Anna, of Somers Township; Thomas, deceased; Frank, who makes his home in Somers Township; Robert, of Chicago; and Edward, of Sergeant Bluff, Iowa.

The reports which reached Alexander Yule concerning the opportunities of the new world led him to the determination to try his fortune on this side of the Atlantic, and about 1840 he sailed for Quebec, whence he made his way at once to Kenosha County, Wisconsin, taking up his abode near what was then the village of Southport. He made investment in two hundred and fifty-seven acres of land in Somers Township, and for a number of years resided upon and developed that farm. After his children attained adult age he sold the property to sons George and William and took up his abode upon a small farm on the same section, which he called Sunnyside, and there living a more quiet and retired life, he spent his remaining days until death called him in 1871, when he was seventy-six years of age. His widow survived him until 1886 and was seventy-eight years old at the time of her demise. The family adhered to the Presbyterian faith.

George Yule, who was born of his father's first marriage, was a youth of sixteen years when the family home was established in America. Previous to that time he had attended school in Scotland, and for three years after his arrival in Kenosha County his time was devoted to work on the old homestead farm. He turned his attention to mechanical pursuits when nineteen years of age, at which time he began learning the wagon maker's trade as an employee of Henry Mitchell of Kenosha, with whom he continued until 1852. In that year the business was purchased by Edward Bain, and Mr. Yule, who in the meantime had largely acquainted himself with the business and had become thoroughly proficient in the work, was made Superintendent, which position he continued to fill through three decades. With the incorporation of the company in 1882 he was chosen Vice President, and in 1900 became President of the Bain Wagon Company, so continuing to the present time, although he is now more than a nongenarian. When he entered the wagon factory all of the work was done by hand and his first duty was sawing plow beams. The output of the plant at that time was from ten to fifteen wagons and a small number of plows annually, although considerable repair work was done. Gradually the business has increased and in every particular the plant has kept pace with the times in all that has been produced through modern invention and business development. When becoming Superintendent, Mr. Yule resolved that no work of inferior grade would go out from the factory, and this policy he has always maintained. A contemporary writer has said of Mr. Yule: "Mr. Yule of late years has spent his winters in California, and is enthusiastic over the climate of that state, but will admit that sometimes they do have unusual weather there. When in Kenosha, however, every day finds him at the office of the Bain Wagon Company, and nearly every day he makes a tour of the great factory, taking a keen interest in watching the operation of making wagons, which was his own occupation for so many years. Many of the workmen now employed in the shops are the sons and grandsons of those who worked at the forge or bench with Mr. Yule, and for them he always has a smile or a cheerful word."

Although the wagon business is Mr. Yule's chief interest, he also finds time for other matters. He is Vice President of the First National Bank and also holds the same office in the Northwestern Loan and Trust Company, both of Kenosha, and as a Director in both takes an active interest in the operation of both institutions.

On the 1st of January 1848 Mr. Yule was married in Kenosha to Miss Katherine Mitchell, a native of Fifeshire, Scotland, and a daughter of William Mitchell. They became the parents of six children: Maria, who died in childhood; Louise, the widow of William Hall; Ada, who passed away in girlhood days; (4) George A., one of the officers of the Bain Wagon Works; William L., also connected with the business; and Harvey, who passed away in his youth. Mr. Yule has long been identified with the Baptist church.

Mr. Yule has given his political allegiance to the republican party since its organization, previous to which time he was an advocate of abolition principles at a period when great courage was required to state one's belief concerning the suppression of slavery. He was the first Republican Alderman of Kenosha elected from the First Ward, but political emoluments have never had any attraction for him. However, in many public connections he has proven his devotion to the general good and his cooperation has always been freely given to plans and projects for the benefit and upbuilding of city and county. He was much interested in the project of establishing a public library in Kenosha and when the public library association was formed in 1896 he made frequent contributions to the library, which in 1900 became the nucleus of the Gilbert M. Simmons library. At that date Kenosha's mayor appointed Mr. Yule a member of the library board and he was chosen Vice President, in which position he still continues. The term "ninety-two years young" may well be applied to Mr. Yule. He has kept in touch with the world's thought and progress, interested in all those questions which are of vital moment, keeping in touch with the trend of the times along many lines which show the changing conditions. He has always been interested in the game of golf and has encouraged his sons and grandsons to become active participants therein. One of his grandsons, William H. Yule, has been state champion of Wisconsin, and another, Gordon Yule, held the title of champion at Yale. He made a donation of what is known as the Yale cup and gold medals, together with an endowment for their perpetuation. This Yale cup is regarded as a very valuable trophy and is contested for at the annual tournament of the Wisconsin Gold Association by five-men teams representing the constituent clubs of the association.

Mr. Yule is perhaps the oldest active business man in Wisconsin. He yet delights in watching the operations of the factory and he is as keen today to maintain the high standards of the Bain Wagon Works as he has been throughout all the intervening years. His is indeed a record that may well serve as an inspiration and source of encouragement to the young. It is a proof of the fact that opportunity is open to all, and that ability and enterprise come to the front. High purpose has actuated him at every point in this career and his course has been characterized ever by constructive effort, so that his path has never been strewn with the wreck of other men's fortunes. With the growth of the business he has tried to keep in close touch with his men, making them feel that he is interested in their welfare and that he appreciates the faithfulness of their service. Work has been emblazoned on his banner and his is the aristocracy of true worth.

Typed by: Michelle Laycock



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