Wayne County Biographies

Part of the Indiana Biographies Project

Rev. Arthur A. Curme

It gives us great pleasure to be able to present to our readers a sketch of the life of one of whom the state of Indiana may well be proud; one who has filled his daily life with brotherly love and Christian charity, that has been a light guiding many to the better way, while at the same time he has proved himself a financier of no small ability and now stands at the head of the successful business men of to-day. Such a man is the Rev. Arthur A. Curme, of Richmond, Indiana. Widely known both in business and social circles, his life is well worthy of emulation by the young men of his age who are desirous of winning success and at the same time leaving a name that will be loved and honored.

Mr. Curme is a son of Job and Jane S. (Foote) Curme, and was born September 8, 1835, at Cerne-Abbas, Dorset county, England, came to this country when a lad of eleven years, and even at that tender age took up the problems of life to solve. Firmly impressed with religious convictions, he early became a member of the church and has made the teachings of Christ his guide in all the affairs of life. He was industrious by nature, and his steady adherence to the duty in hand soon placed him in an advantageous position, and his rise has been steady and constant until he represents, as the head of the large drug house of Curme & Company, the typical business man.

Job Curme was born in England, in 181 1, and grew to manhood there. In 1834 he was united in marriage with Miss Jane S. Foote, also a native of that country. In 1846 they sailed for America with their family, consisting of Arthur (our subject), Eliza and Amelia. The mother died in Richmond, and the father took a second wife, namely. Miss Mary Horner, now deceased. The father was engaged in the tanning business, both in his native country and that of his adoption, until about 1879, when he purchased a farm near Chester, Wayne county, where he resided until 1895, when became to Richmond, and he now lives with our subject, at the ripe old age of ninety years.

An incident which occurred at the time of their arrival in this country is worthy of mention: The family landed at New Orleans in April, 1846, and were to take a boat to Cincinnati, where they had decided to make their future home. On setting out for the boat the father led the way, first giving a large bundle into the care of Arthur, then about eleven years of age, and expecting him to follow. On arriving at the boat the parents found the steam up and everything in readiness to pull out from the wharf for the voyage; but what was their consternation to find Arthur missing! The captain kindly consented to hold the boat for a time until a search was made for the missing boy,—in fact held it for several hours, while the frantic father searched the city. In the meantime, young Arthur, after receiving his bundle, started after his father, but was so intent in watching the many strange sights to be seen in the city that he was soon left far behind. Not at all concerned at being alone in the large, unknown metropolis, he sauntered along feasting his eyes on all he saw, in no hurry to reach the boat and quite unconscious of the distress his absence was causing. He was walking leisurely, taking in the sights, when discovered by his father, who had abandoned all hope of ever seeing his son again. The boat had started when the father caught Arthur in his arms, ran on a boat near and called to the captain, who swung his boat around so they were able to climb upon the rear end.

Arthur A. Curme was early trained to habits of industry, working during the summer and autumn, and attending school in winter, thus obtaining his education. As he was studious, as well as observant, he acquired a fund of information that was the foundation of a broader education, which has been secured through reading and contact with the world. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to learn the trade of tanner and currier in Cincinnati, Ohio, remaining there four years and a half and becoming thoroughly conversant with all the details of the trade. He then became a salesman in a wholesale leather, saddlery, hardware and carriage-trimming establishment. In 1857 he moved to Richmond, where he began business in a small way by opening a leather store on Pearl street, in partnership with his father, under the firm name of Curme & Son. His only capital at this time was two hundred dollars in money and a reputation for honesty and Christian character which enabled him to obtain credit readily for such goods as he needed in starting him in business. He prospered to such an extent in this store that he soon purchased a lot on the east bank of the Whitewater river and resumed his trade of tanning, beginning with one vat and increasing the number one at a time as he saw it was needed by his steadily increasing business, until it resulted in the large incorporated tannery of Curme, Dunn & Company, with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars.

This large plant, of which he was president, gave employment to fifty hands; and they added a factory for the manufacture of horse collars, in which forty hands were employed. They found a ready market for their goods all over the United States. In 1885 he went to Pittsburg to accept a position in the employ of J. C. Lapp & Son, large harness-leather tanners of that city, with whom he remained two and a half years as traveling salesman. He resigned there and went to Cincinnati to take the management of the tannery of W. C. Kennett, and this he successfully conducted for ten years, when he once more came to Richmond, and, having tired of the tanning business, became connected with the firm of Curme & Company in the drug store, as the head of the firm. Their store is in a commodious, pleasant location on North Eighth street, and the drugs, etc., carried by them are first-class in every respect and merit the large patronage they enjoy.

Arthur A. Curme, as has been previously stated, was of a deeply religious nature, and his youthful mind was much given to dwelling on serious thoughts, and he was a careful Bible student. At the age of fifteen he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, the Salem church, now the Raper chapel, situated on the corner of Elm and Findlay streets in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he was closely identified with the history of these organizations until he moved to Richmond, in 1857, and joined the Pearl Street Methodist church, of Richmond, where he served the Sunday-school first as librarian and later as teacher. He was one of the founders of the Union chapel on Main street and class-leader in the same for a period of five years. Later he was class-leader and superintendent of the Sunday-school at Central church as long as that organization was in existence. After it was discontinued he united with Grace church, corner of Tenth and North A streets. He has also been actively engaged in organizing new societies throughout the surrounding country, and his efforts have been blessed with a religious awakening that must have been highly gratifying. He was connected with Finley chapel, on Clinton street, and when scarcely seventeen was appointed a teacher in the Sunday-school. He had become a speaker of pleasing address, and his remarks met with such favor that the Christian entertainment or picnic was considered incomplete without his name on the program for a speech. This public speaking was an invaluable aid to him in later years, and was the stepping-stone which led to his being licensed to exhort when but eighteen years old. This license was granted by the Rev. Moses Smith and the board of Finley chapel; and about the same time he was made leader of the young men's prayer-meeting. He frequently assisted the ministers in conducting religious services in different parts of the city and acquired a fluency and smoothness of delivery that would have insured his success had he determined upon this as his life's work.

In 1863 he went to the village of Chester, near Richmond, and organized a Sabbath-school, which soon led to the formation of a church, and in one year a small but neat frame church edifice was erected, which still exists. The village of Dover, in the same county (Wayne), can tell of similar ministrations by him; and he has also labored at Beech Grove, Middleboro and Sevastopol, now in the seventh ward of Richmond, sowing seed which has multiplied a thousand-fold. The last mentioned is now called the Third church of Richmond, one of the flourishing churches of the city.

After this he transferred his labors to New Madison, Darke county, Ohio, near Richmond, Indiana. Here he found the Methodist Episcopal church building abandoned and advertised for sale, on account of the heavy debt, being at this time in the hands of the sheriff. At once he reorganized the church and Sunday-school and placed them on a working basis. He canvassed among the citizens of New Madison for means to liquidate the debt; but the greater part of the citizens failed to contribute, owing to former mismanagements. He then considered the novel plan of holding a camp-meeting, which he conducted for several days in the week and on Sunday, charging an admission fee, from which he realized more than enough to pay the entire debt. The church was re-dedicated and the society still remains in a flourishing condition.

Rev. Arthur A. Curme has led a life of great activity in the social realm, as in business and religion. It seems well nigh impossible for one person to achieve so much. In Woodward Lodge, No. 212, I. O. O. F., where he ranks as past grand, he has been one of the most energetic members, being one of the founders of that body and representing it at the grand lodge of Indiana for several years. He was a member of the building committee during the erection of the fine Odd Fellows temple, at the corner of Main and Eighth streets, dedicated to the use of that order, in Richmond. He is a member of the board of control of the lodge, and since its organization, thirty-seven years ago, has held the office either of secretary or president. He was made a member of the Knights of Pythias order on the evening of August 26, 1870, at a special meeting called for that purpose by Coeur de Lion Lodge, No. 8, of Richmond. At that meeting seven members were present where now the membership numbers two hundred. From July 1, 1872, to December, 1882, he served as trustee, and was elected as trustee, and was elected chancellor commander in December, 1870. He entered the grand lodge in 1874 and at once took a prominent part in the proceedings of that august assemblage, attending every session since that time. At the first session he was appointed grand inner guard, and elected to the office of grand prelate, the first man to receive that office, and he held it two terms. At the semi-annual session in 1875 Mr. Curme made a motion to hold the next regular session of the grand lodge in Richmond, and after a warm opposition his motion was carried, by a small majority, much to the pleasure of the home lodge. This was the only time a session of this grand body was ever held outside of Indianapolis. The delegates were entertained in a royal manner and received a lasting impression of the hospitality of their hosts at Richmond. They elected Mr. Curme grand master of the exchequer, and the following year he was re-elected, while a year later he became grand vice chancellor. At the annual session held in 1879 he became the executive head of the order in Indiana, and his administration was attended with awakened interest among the lodges, many new members being added and new lodges organized. In 1883 he was still further honored by being elected supreme representative to the supreme lodge of the world. Knights of Pythias, for four years, an office he filled with credit to himself and the entire satisfaction of the grand lodge of Indiana. His success has been almost phenomenal, and is due to his habits of application and perseverance which have characterized all his operations in life. He still takes an active interest in all the workings of the lodge and finds many ways to advance its interests.

He has been a member of the board of the five Richmond building associations, and president of each of them. For seventeen consecutive years he represented the fifth ward in the city council. He also served on the board of public improvements and on other important committees. He has been closely identified with all the public improvements that have been made in Richmond, and was a most acceptable secretary to the board of trade for the term of one year.

On October 26, 1856, Mr. Curme was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth ]. Nicholas, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the daughter of the Rev. William Nicholas. They have eight exceptionally bright children, who have received their watchful and loving care. They are: Professor George O., a graduate of the Richmond high school, of De Pauw University at Greencastle, and of Michigan University at Ann Arbor, and a post-graduate of a course at Berlin, Germany. He taught two years in Jennings Seminary at Aurora, Illinois; two years at the State University of Washington at Seattle, where he was professor of Latin, Greek and German; eleven years in Cornell College at Mount Vernon, Iowa, teaching German and French; and in 1895 he accepted a chair in the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, where he is professor of German. He is an educator of ability and a successful writer, being the author of a number of well known books. He was selected to read an inscription on the Runic stone discovered in Minnesota in 1898, after all others had failed. He is also a speaker of some pretension, having delivered several well received lectures upon educational and scientific subjects.

The second child, Nellie, married Rev. Frank H. Parris, a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal church. She was a graduate of Jennings Seminary, a lady of many excellent attainments and an earnest church and Sunday school worker, especially interested in the Epworth League. Her husband died in 1893, and she departed this life in 1895, at the age of twenty-seven years. Jennie, a child of much promise, died in her eleventh year. Rosa M. is the wife of David A. Thomas, of this city. Arthur A., Jr., received his education in the Richmond high school and his professional education in the Cincinnati Law School, and was admitted to the bar in Wayne county, Indiana, and at Dighton, Kansas. He is the official stenographer of the Wayne county, Indiana, circuit court, and is recognized as one of the best stenographers in the United States. Lula is a graduate of the Wesleyan Female College at Cincinnati, and of Cornell College, at Mount Vernon, Iowa. She taught in Jennings Seminary, at Aurora, Illinois, and in Taylor University, at Upland, Indiana, and is now the wife of Rev. B. H. Brentnall, pastor of the Methodist church at Preston, Iowa. Maggie is a graduate of Jennings Seminary and the wife of Professor W. A. Wirtz, professor of German and French at Parson College, at Fairfield, Iowa. Bessie, after attending Jennings Seminary and Taylor University, has been a student at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where she will graduate this year, 1899. On the 22d of February, this year, she was married to Percy H. Gray, of that city.

Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Indiana, Volume 1, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1899