William P. Rend

From Ohio History Central

William P. Rend was a prominent businessman in Ohio during the late nineteenth century.

Rend was born in 1840 in Ireland. At a young age, his family migrated to the United States of America. Rend spent most of his youth in Lowell, Massachusetts. With the American Civil War's outbreak, Rend volunteered for duty in the Union Army. He eventually attained the rank of colonel. Upon the war's completion, Rend moved to Chicago, Illinois. Here, he opened a freight business. Eventually his company employed more than two thousand men and included approximately 1,800 freight cars.

By the late 1870s, Rend had diversified his business interests. He came to own or be partial owner of ten different coalmines, including five in western Pennsylvania and five in Ohio. In 1879, Rend and his company, the Ohio Central Coal Company, established Rendville, a small community in Perry County, Ohio. Traditionally, white miners had refused to allow companies to hire African-American miners. Rend hired large numbers of African Americans as well as Europeans. White miners in surrounding communities, especially in Corning, Ohio, feared that African-American miners would drive down wages. To prevent the continued use of African-American miners, in 1880, white miners in Corning and neighboring communities descended upon Rendville, apparently hoping to drive the blacks from the community. In an attempt to mask their true intentions, the white miners smuggled firearms into the community in wagons, with the guns concealed under hay. According to newspaper accounts, no significant violence occurred, although Ohio Governor Charles Foster did dispatch the Ohio National Guard to disburse the mob. In a small skirmish, three or four protestors were injured. This event became known as "the Corning War."

Rend was well known for his kindness to his employees. He actively sought to keep wages high. During the Great Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885, Rend refused to cut wages. He also refused to fire workers who supported the strike.

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