Benjamin Franklin Bush November 6, 1913 - March 4, 1915
Mr. Bush was born at Wellsboro, Pennsylvania on July 5, 1860. He
received his education in the public schools of Wellsboro and at the
State Normal School in Mansfield, Pennsylvania where he took a
course in surveying. He began his railroad career in 1882 as a
rodman on the Northern Pacific. His work attracted the attention of
others and it was only a short time before he was promoted to
locating and division engineer. In 1887 he was made division
engineer in Idaho and Oregon for the Union Pacific, and remained
with that company for about two years. He resigned in 1889 to become
chief engineer and general superintendent of the Oregon Improvement
Company. He was made general manager of the Northwestern Improvement
Company in 1896. This company controlled the coal properties of the
Northern Pacific Railroad. He has, therefore, had a considerable
experience on the coast and in the far west.
His first connection with the Missouri Pacific was in 1903, when he was appointed as a fuel agent for the company, with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri and given jurisdiction over all the Gould coal properties in the west and southwest. His work in that position led to his election in 1907 as president of the Western Maryland. Although his headquarters were changed to Baltimore, Maryland he still retained his connection with the Missouri Pacific coal business in St. Louis. When the Western Maryland went into the hands of a receiver, in 1908, he was selected for that position, and was re-elected president when the receivership was ended. While in control of the Western Maryland he entirely rehabilitated that property, and placed it on a sound footing. During the period of 1907-11 he was appointmented by President Roosevelt, to serve as a member of the Government's advisory board on fuels and structural materials, his specialty being fuel. On May 1, 1911, he was elected president of the Missouri Pacific, with headquarters at St. Louis.
Before the election of Mr. Bush to the presidency of the Missouri Pacific and Iron Mountain in 1911, the lines had suffered in public estimation through absentee management, by the Gould’s in New York, and through political intrigues. When Mr. Bush arrived in St. Louis to take charge of the Missouri Pacific, he announced that he had "cut the wires" between his office and New York. The Business Men's League hosted a dinner for him at which Missouri Governor Hadley and former Governor Francis were chief speakers.
When elected president of the Western Pacific, he succeeded E. T. Jeffery, who had been elected chairman of the board. Mr. Bush had been president of the Missouri Pacific since May 1, 1911, and also of the Denver & Rio Grande since January 4, 1912. The extension of his jurisdiction over the western line, therefore, placed him in direct charge of a system of nearly 11,000 miles, which was about equal to the mileage under the direct charge of Sir Thomas Shaughnessy of the Canadian Pacific, or that under the direct charge of Mr. Ripley of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.
As an operating executive Mr. Bush had been rapidly developing toward such positions ever since he took hold of the Missouri Pacific. He was given at that time one of the most difficult tasks ever imposed on a railroad man, that of rehabilitating a railway that, with the greatest possibilities of success, had been allowed to deteriorate while its neighbors were improving. Under his leadership both roads showed an increase in revenues and a decrease in operating expenses, and a reduction in the net corporate loss, but this marked improvement in operating efficiency was effected while carrying on an extensive program of rehabilitation.
Mr. Bush had previously demonstrated his possession of the qualities which the Missouri Pacific needed in his work on the Western Maryland, in which the same interests that control the Missouri Pacific were dominant, and the ability which he showed in building up that property physically and in developing its traffic led to his election to succeed George J. Gould on the Missouri Pacific. He found the direction of these added lines too great an undertaking, and in 1915 he retired from the Rio Grande and Western Pacific presidencies, to give his whole attention to the Missouri Pacific and Iron Mountain companies.
The Missouri Pacific and Iron Mountain went into a receivership in August, 1915. By request of all interests concerned, bondholders, stockholders and creditors, Mr. Bush was named by the United States Court as sole receiver. He held that position until the lines went out of the receivership June 1, 1917. The name "Iron Mountain" for the Arkansas and Texas lines was then dropped, the entire system was organized under the name of the Missouri Pacific, and Mr. Bush was elected president.
When the United States Government took over the railroads at the beginning of 1918, Mr. Bush was named as regional director of the Southwestern region. In this position, for two years and two months, he had control of all the lines of this section. Upon the restoration of corporate control of the roads, March 1, 1920, he was made president of the Missouri Pacific.
In April, 1923, Mr. Bush was made chairman of the board of directors of the Missouri Pacific, and was succeeded by L. Warrington Baldwin in the office of president. At that time, general railroad consolidation under a regional plan was being discussed by railroad representatives with Government authorities, and Mr. Bush took an active part in the attempt to obtain a favorable allotment of lines to the Missouri Pacific group.
After a year, Mr. Bush retired from the chairmanship of the board, being succeeded by W. H. Williams of New York. He became a vice president of the Boatmen's National Bank, and he gave much time to his model farm, the former Colman place in St. Louis County, Missouri. Colman station, on the Creve Coeur branch of the Missouri Pacific, was renamed Benbush in his honor. Mr. Bush continued to be a member of the Missouri Pacific directorate.
Mr. Bush died at St. Luke's Hospital on July 19, 1927 of cerebral arterio-sclerosis. He was 67 years old and had been in ill health for several months. He was survived by his widow, Mrs. Catherine I. [Hawkins] Bush, a former member of the Board of Education; and a daughter, Mrs. George W. Holmes.