Robert P. Richardson Jr. (1857 – 1922)

“North Carolina, who traced their respective lineage to prominent English and Scotch origin.  The Richardson family are of English descent, and they trace their ancestry in the country back to the early settlers on the James River in Virginia.  The parents of Robert P. Richardson, Sr., and therefore the grandparents of Robert P. Richardson, Jr., were James Richardson and Anne Payne Ware.  This lady, the grandmother of Robert P. Richardson, Jr., was the daughter of William Ware and Susan Payne, and the name ‘Payne’ has been perpetuated in this branch of the Richardson family from  her day until the present time.  A sister of Susan Payne, whose name was Agnes, married Marmaduke Williams of Caswell County, North Carolina, a man of prominence and great influence in North Carolina from 1802 to 1810, when removed to Alabama, where he continued his career of usefulness until his death…

Anne Payne Ware, the grandmother of Robert P. Richardson , Jr., was a second cousin to Dorothy Payne Todd-Madison, known to fame as Dolly Madison,’ and is said to have been a most remarkable woman.  She was noted for her great strength of character, her untiring energy, indomitable will and persistent industry.  She died, at an advanced age, on a railroad car while going to Mississippi to visit her son.  She was married twice: first to James Richardson, by whom she had seven children–William, James, Edmund, Robert P., Susan, Mary,and Elizabeth; and again the Stephen Sergeant, by whom she had two daughters–Margaret and Agnes–who married, respectively, General James K. Lea and Dr. Joseph Stanfield.  Her son Edmund Richardson, a brother of Robert P. Richardson, Sr., accumulated a large fortune in Mississippi and Louisiana, and at one time he was reputed to be the very largest cotton planter in the world.  Her son Robert P. Richardson, Sr., was also twice married: first to Elizabeth N. Wright, by whom he has three daughters, two of whom,  Sallie and Belle married Colonel A.J. Boyd, and the third, Bettie, married Captain A.E. Walters of Virginia, and by the second marriage, to Miss Watlington, there were four children– Robert Payne, subject of this sketch; Edmund E., Anna J., who married E.M.Redd and Marion Scott, who married W.P. Watt.

Robert P. Richardson, Jr., like his father and his grandmother has also been twice married: first to Miss Bettie Watt, by whom he has one son , Pinkney Watt Richardson: and again to Miss Margaret M. Watt, by whom he has two living children– Robert Payne, the third and Margaret Elizabeth, and one dead, the eldest Sarah Dillard.  He was married to his first wife October 30, 1887, and she died August 30, 1882.  He was married to his second wife December 20, 1892, and she still lives to bless his household.  Both of these ladies have been noted for their personal beauty, culture and refined womanly qualities.

The childhood of Mr. Richardson was spent at the quiet old homestead, under the watchful eyes of devoted parents, and in attending the best schools in the neighborhood and Reidsville then afforded.  In after years he attended the high schools at Wentworth, North Carolina, the Rock House Academy and at Melville, North Carolina, under the renowned teacher of the day, Dr. Alexander Wilson; and in 1872 he was student in the famous Bingham School at Mebaneville, North Carolina.

In 1873 Mr. Richardson began his business career as a clerk in his father’s store and as a partner in the business.  His father at the time was a manufacturer, a merchant and a farmer, and it was characteristic of him to be very strict in his requirements of his son, an in a large degree to dominate the entire business.  He required all who were about him to conform in a large measure to his own personal ideas and rules, and this characteristic applied to Sunday as well as Monday, for on Sunday he was always found promptly at the Presbyterian Church, and he strictly required his family to be there, ‘rain or shine,’ and this rule is still adhered to by him personally in his old age.

But the son inherited the same independent spirit and desire to be his own master, and rebelled against the confinement and limitations on his business freedom which were necessary in connection with his father’s  store, consequently he withdrew from this mercantile association, and spent a short time in the South in connection with his father’s tobacco business.

Returning in 1877, he engaged in the manufacture of smoking tobacco, adopting as the nucleus of his business the ‘Old North State’ brand, which his father had originated and put upon the market in the year 1873, but at this time had decided to abandon.The business has continued, under the style of “R.P. Richardson, Jr. & Co.,’ with, from time to time, slight changes in the personnel of the firm, but at all times dominated in its policy and management by Mr. Richardson, with a constant growth in volume, until at present time it has assumed large portions, and has made ‘Old North State’  brand of smoking tobacco famous throughout the South.

Mr. Richardson began his as a smoking tobacco manufacturer under conditions difficult to overcome and such as were calculated to discourage a man lacking in patient perseverance and persistent determination to win success.  While Reidsville’s tobacco manufacturers had won more or less popularity for the town as a source of various  manufactured forms of chewing tobacco, he was its pioneer in the line of smoking tobacco.  It was a very difficult matter attract the attention of a smoker to any brand of smoking tobacco which did not emanate from Durham, North Carolina, which then, as now, was perhaps the most widely advertised town in existence in relation to any one article of commerce.  This advertisement has its origin largely at the close of the Civil War, when and where two armies were disbanded, and, returning to their homes, they sang the praises of the tobacco manufactured at Durham throughout the whole country.  Afterward the very name ‘Durham’ became practically a synonym for smoking tobacco.  The consequent prejudice which had to be met and overcome is difficult to conceive or believe.

Mr. Richardson was a young man scarcely past his majority, with but little and imperfect business training and less personal acquaintance with the commercial  world.  He possessed very limited means of his won, and his father having suffered heavily in the panic of 1873 and the succeeding years of business depression, was so embarrassed financially as precluded his rendering him such assistance as he would otherwise have willingly given.

At this time, and for some years later, there was no bank in Reidsville, nor in his county, and it was necessary for Mr. Richardson to accommodate himself and his business to such banking facilities as he could command in towns more or less remote.  The factory and equipment employed in manufacturing his product was necessarily of the rudest and cheapest construction.  Undaunted by these conditions, Mr. Richardson put his hands to the plow, with confidence in the principles declared by him in response to the question, ‘From your own experience and observation, will you offer any suggestions to young Americans as to the principles, methods and habits which you believe will contribute most to the strengthening of sound ideals in our American life, and will most help young people attain true success in life?’

He answered, ‘I cannot offer better advice to young men than a quote from the Great Counsellor’s Sermon on the Mount, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”  I know of no safer rule, either from experience or from observation, for the guidance of men to really successful achievement than that of strict adherence to those fundamental principles of conduct evolved from a proper realization, appreciation and acknowledgment to one’s personal obligation to God.  The blush of diffidence with which this advice is submitted arises not from a doubt of the wisdom or efficacy of the precept, but from a consciousness of my own grievous short commings in it exemplification.’  By the daily and persistent application of these principles in business method and purposes, he slowly but steadily overcame the prejudice which decreed that Reidsville could not offer as good smoking tobacco as Durham or any other market to such extent that now every tobacco manufacturing establishment in Reidsville not only has one or more brands of smoking tobacco, but regards it as of so much importance as to make this branch a leading specialty in its business, and Reidsville now claims to rank second only to Durham in the quantity of its output of high-grade smoking tobacco.  He has, by strict business integrity and careful promptness in meeting his business’ obligations, created, aside from the competence he has accumulated, a financial credit ample to meet the requirements of any reasonable enterprise he might undertake.

The factory in which he began his career has long since given place to a beautiful structure, massive and symmetrical, equipped throughout with the most modern and approved machinery.  Mr. Richardson is a gentleman endowed with splendid physique and mental powers.  He is quiet, modest and temperate in his manner and habits, and makes no pretensions to public speaking, but he understands and knows men.  He has justly won the reputation of a ‘man of mark’ in North Carolina, not only because he has built up a large business from a small beginning, but because of the means ans principles through which he did it, which means and principles must ever be recognized as the true secret of success, and which are well worthy of imitation…

… In politics Mr. Richardson is a Democrat of the ‘Cleveland’ type and he exerts a quiet but a large political influence in the community and county in which he lives.  He was deeply interested in the great money question which agitated the county a few years ago, and, being an ardent advocate for the ‘Gold Standard,’ he voted the ‘Palmer and Buckner’ ticket in the Presidential election of 1896.

In religion Mr. Richardson is a staunch Presbyterian, and is a ruling elder in the Reidsville Presbyterian Church.  His kind deeds and liberal gifts to all causes of charity and benevolence are well known, and he enjoys the confidence and esteem of all who know him.

His fine intellectual gifts, his high ideals of true manhood, his strict integrity and purity of life, his constant attention to his business, his persistent and patient industry, his generous and forgiving nature, his faith in God, mark him not only as a successful business man, but as a ‘man among men,’ and as one who has learned the the true secret of success.”

Source:  Biographical History of North Carolina, Vol. 2, Editors Samuel A. Ashe, Stephen B. Weeks, Charles L. Van Noppen, C.L. Van Noppen Publisher, Greensboro, N.C., 1905, pages 375-80


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