From the Richmond Times, 9/8/1892, p. 5, c. 1

His Connection With the Tredegar Works. His Great Ability as a Man of Business – Interest in Political Affairs.

News reached the city yesterday that General Joseph R. Anderson, who had for several days been at the point of death, had passed away at 8:30 in the morning at the Isle of Shoals, on the coast of Maine, to which place he had gone with his wife and his son, Colonel Archer Anderson, in the hope that the sea air would restore his health, which had been seriously impaired for several months. Previous to going to the Isla of Shoals he had spent several weeks at the White Sulphur Springs, and on his return to the city it was hoped that his condition, which had improved very much, would be still further improved by a sojourn at the North. His strength was sufficient to allow him to be removed, but from the time of his arrival at the Isle of Shoals it gradually declined, until death supervened. In his last hours he was surrounded by all of his surviving children. Previous to his last illness General Anderson had during the course of a long life enjoyed exceptionally fine health, being a man of a naturally strong constitution, which he had preserved unimpaired by a life of perfect habits. Up to June, when his decline began, he was the picture of a hale and vigorous old age, which often excited remark. His interest in passing events was as lively as it was twenty years ago, and there was not the slightest forewarning of the early termination of his career. He died without having suffered from any organic disease, but simply from the general breaking down of his system.


Joseph R. Anderson was born on the 6th of February, 1813, at Walnut Hill, the seat of his father, William Anderson, near Fincastle, in Botetourt county. He was one of six children, his brothers being the late Dr. William Anderson, the late Judge Frank Anderson, of the court of appeals, and the late John T. Anderson, all men of the highest standing for character and usefulness. The mother of General Anderson was a Miss Thomas, a member of the family to which the late brilliant Governor Francis Thomas, of Maryland, belonged. The early life of the General was passed in Botetourt county, where he received his education previous to his appointment as a cadet at West Point. His career as a student in the Military Academy was one of the highest distinction. He graduated as second in a class of sixty-eight. He was at once appointed to the engineer corps, and was stationed for a short time at Fortress Monroe. From this point, he was sent to Charleston, but returned in the same year, 1837, to Fortress Monroe. While stationed there before, he had met Miss Sallie Archer, daughter of Dr. Robert Archer, surgeon of the Post, and one of the most distinguished members of his profession in the United States Army. Miss Archer was as lovely in character as she was beautiful in person. In 1837, Lieutenant Anderson and herself were marries. In the succeeding year he was detailed to assist Colonel Crozet in important internal improvements, in which that well-known engineer was engaged by the direction of the State of Virginia. It was at this time that General Anderson surveyed and superintended the general construction of the great turnpike, which was long the only highway between Staunton and the lower valley, and which remains to-day a monument of engineering skill. About 1838, he resigned from the army, and took up his residence in this city. For a short time he was engaged in the commission business, and it was while in this business that he first formed the connection, which was to open up to him his distinguished career in the branches of iron manufacture, which he followed.


At this time, the Tredegar Works was owned by the firm of Dean & Cunningham, and were run on a small scale, there being only one bar mill, a guide mill, a foundry and puddle mill. General Anderson became the commercial agent of this firm. Recognizing the great possibilities which lay in the business, he leased the works for five years, beginning in 1843. In this step he was associated with several members of his wife’s family. His next step was to buy out the whole interest of the old firm, the company then formed being known as Anderson, Morris & Co. This was subsequently changed to J. R. Anderson & Co., which included the General himself, Dr. Robert S. Archer, Major Robert S. Archer, and the father of Colonel William E. Tanner. This firm entered into the manufacture of general foundry products and various forms of rolled iron. A large proportion of the machinery for the sugar mills of Louisiana was manufactured by the firm, and a vast quantity of Government ordnance, projectiles and cable iron for Government ships. The Tredegar Works had now grown to be one of the most important of its kind in the United States, and under the direction of General Anderson was constantly assuming larger proportions. The Armory Iron Company, which had been started by Dr. Robert S. Archer, was consolidated with the Tredegar before the war came on, enlarging its capacity and increasing the variety of its work. When the war began General Anderson was commissioned a brigadier-general by the Confederate authorities, but with the distinct understanding on the part of Congress that he should be recalled from the field whenever the interests of the Confederacy required that he should give a personal supervision to the Government material in the process of manufacture at the Tredegar. Under this commission he took part in the terrible battle at Gaines’ Mill.


About a year ago there appeared in these columns a letter from a valued correspondent of The Times, who now resides in Essex county, giving a graphic account of the impressions which the writer had formed of the splendid gallantry of General Anderson in one of the most bloody episodes of that awful conflict. The Government’s dependence upon the Tredegar Works for supplies of ordnance becoming greater as the war went on, General Anderson, in opposition to his own wishes, was ordered to take personal charge of the works again. As its executive head his services to the Confederacy were of the very highest value, and no man in the South contributed more in the sphere in which he operated to the success of the Confederate arms. During the great contest he enjoyed the entire confidence of the members of the Government, and his judgment was very much relied on. His intimacy with Mr. Davis, begun during the war, was continued until the death of that great man. It was only in the course of the last twelve months that General Anderson entertained Mrs. and Miss Davis as guests for several weeks at his home. When the war closed the Federal authorities took possession of the Tredegar Works as Government property on account of its connection with the old armory, but this appropriation lasted only for a short while.


In 1867 the Tredegar Company, capitalized at a million dollars, was formed with General Anderson as president, and with a corps of unusually able and experienced assistants. The works was placed on a more efficient basis than ever, and its scope of operation was further enlarged. It had manufactured spikes before the war, but now the capacity for turning out all kinds of railroad product was very much increased. After a period of great prosperity, when works in 1873, owing to the general collapse in business, which followed that year, and which crippled many of the most important of the railroad corporations dealing with the Tredegar, it became involved, and three years later passed into the hands of a receiver, General Anderson being appointed to that position. In 1878, the original company was restored, and from that time to the present day has enjoyed a steady prosperity. It ranks today as one of the three most important works of its kind in the United States. It is no reflection on those who have been associated with General Anderson in the management of this great establishment for so many years to say that he has always been the leading and controlling spirit, and that it is chiefly due to his extraordinary business capacity that the Tredegar has attained its present proportions. It is doubtful whether an abler business man than General Anderson ever lived in this State. With an astonishing capacity for details, he joined a power of combination, a clearness of foresight, a readiness of comprehension, a quickness to adapt himself to new business conditions that would have made him a distinguished man in the greatest business communities of the world.


No man was more conservative in forming his conclusions in a business transaction, but when once formed he never looked back, but acted with a vigor and a pertinacity that forced success where it could not otherwise have been won. The Tredegar Works will always be a monument to his sagacity and enterprise. In expanding these works he justly entitled himself to the grateful remembrance of the people of this city. General Anderson was not so much absorbed by his own private business as to feel only a passing interest in the general affairs of the community. No man was more public spirited than he was; no man more ready to devote his time, abilities and fortune to purposes which were calculated to promote the general welfare of the city. He had always taken a warm interest in the prosperity of the Chamber of Commerce, and in 1874 he was unanimously elected president of that body, to which office he was re-elected October 19, 1875. He resigned the presidency of the City Council.

During the whole course of his connection with the Chamber of Commerce he was one of the most active and indefatigable members, and for a number of years served as one of its directors, in which capacity his experience and ability were invaluable. In recognition of his great usefulness a meeting of Chamber will be held this evening at 6 o’clock to take suitable action upon his death.


General Anderson was always distinguished for the warm interest which he took in political affairs. In 1857 he was elected to the House of Delegates. He again represented the city in the House 1873-74 and 74-75. The South had then just commenced to recover from the disastrous effects of the war and the reconstruction measures, scarcely less disastrous than the war itself. We were living under a reconstruction constitution recently imposed upon us by the Federal Government. Novel and grave questions, perhaps the most important which had arisen since the revolution which had made us independent of Great Britain, were constantly presenting themselves for consideration and action. Although a man of large and varied business affairs, General Anderson devoted himself strictly to the duties of his representative office. He was consistent in attendance at committee meetings and the sessions of the House.

When an important question concerning the interests of the Commonwealth, or when any question affecting the welfare of Richmond was under consideration his seat was never vacant, his voice was never silent. His views were delivered with an energy that forced attention and evident honesty of purpose that went straight to the hearts of his hearers and a logical clearness that carried conviction. His fine presence, his personal magnetism, his broad liberality, his well-known honesty of purpose, acquired for him an influence and a following amongst his fellow-members which greatly redounded to his own credit and to the advantage of his constituents.

Happy the people who could always have such men for legislators and representatives.


General Anderson was never a candidate for the highest political offices, but there is little reason to doubt that if he had permitted himself to be drawn into the more conspicuous political sphere of national politics that he would have attained to a position of national influence and distinction. His extensive political information, his remarkable knowledge of men, his tact and skill in managing them, his ripe experience, his great national sagacity, all associated with a power of expressing his opinions forcibly and convincingly when on his feet, would have given him a strong hold upon the attention of any legislative body, however large or however able, of which he might have been a member.

Few men who have ever resided in the city have been more earnest in promoting the interests of the church than General Anderson. From the foundation of St. Paul’s he was an active member of its vestry, and at the time of his death the senior warden. While devoted to his own denomination, he did not allow that fact to restrict his religious sympathies and feelings. He was as liberal and generous here as he was in all the relations of life.


In 1883, General Anderson lost his first wife. The fruits of this marriage were twelve children, of whom only five now survive, namely, Colonel Archer Anderson, Joseph R. Anderson, Jr., John F. T. Anderson, Mrs. E. L. Hobson and Mrs. T. Seddon Bruce. Two daughters, Mrs. David Watson and Mrs. William A. Anderson, first wife of the late member of the House of Delegates from Rockbridge county, died many years ago. A few years ago, General Anderson married Miss Mary Pegram, daughter of the late General James Pegram, of this city, and the sister of the gallant Pegram brothers, so celebrated in the late war, a lady who in character and accomplishments was eminently worthy to be the wife of so able and distinguished a man.


We have now given a brief record of a noble life in every department. A “kindly man moving among his kind,” a true citizen, a brave soldier, a sound statesman and able man of business, “rich in saving common sense,” a firm and consistent friend, a Christian whose heart lay open in sincerity and humility before his God. Such was the man whom we deplore. As the labor parade marched along Franklin street last Monday the Tredegar Works was well represented, and it was the first time perhaps that they had ever failed to salute in passing his house “that good, gray head which all men knew,” which even then lay waiting the approach of death.

Many a stout heart among the sons of toil feels to-day the loss that falls alike on the rich and poor. Unknown and unnumbered were the daily kindnesses that fell from his hands, and his heart lay open as the day to melting charity.

Every generous act was sweetened by a courtesy that never failed, and embraced even the little children who entered his gracious presence. His capacity for friendship was simply unlimited. It is safe to say that he rarely penned a business letter without some affectionate expression, which made the recipient feel that the writer was his friend, while to those with whom he was really united by ties of love or kindred, his many ways of showing affection were inexpressibly touching and graceful. He was ever too noble for affectation and simple in manner, as only the truly wise and good can be.

It was hard for him to believe in the baseness of a fellow creature. His was a soul too great to harbor contempt, and even his scorn of what was mean was mingled with such mild regret that no sting was conveyed in his reproof.


The influence of such a man upon society is invaluable for good. His public spirit, which led him to take an active part in all that concerned the Commonwealth, his firm conservative tendencies and the practical wisdom which gave weight to his opinions, made him a leader in every public question; while is earnest support of all that was just and right, and his immediate perception of whatever was unsound or untrue, made him a tower of strength in any doubtful issue.

An account of General Anderson’s life would be incomplete which omitted the cordial and all-abounding hospitality which formed so large a part of his life and made his home a social centre. His roof has been graced by the presence of every stranger of note who has visited the city during his residence in it.

A visitor’s book of that beautiful mansion would be a most interesting record of our social life. But it was not alone distinguished guests to whom this welcome was extended. He never asked whether the visitor had been or might possibly be useful or agreeable to him. It was sufficient that he was a stranger in the city and required attention. And what a welcome it was! How free and warm, and with what grace it was tendered. His was –

The delicacy and tenderness that marked his family life is sacred ground, on which we forbear to tread, nor may we invade the vet more sacred relation which binds the soul to its Maker. We may but offer our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved who miss the strong hand and sheltering love that have guided them so long, while from heaven’s pure heights comes the assurance: Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Enter thus into the joy of thy Lord!

“The graceful tact, the Christian art that joined
Each office of the social hour
To noble manners, as the flower
And native growth of noble mind.”

It is not yet known when the body of General Anderson will arrive in the city. The active pall-bearers have already been selected, and will be eight of his grandsons. No additional arrangements have yet been made for the funeral. The interment, however, will be in the family section in Hollywood.

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