Thomas T. Tasker (1799-1892) – Engineer, Industrialist, Inventor, Millionaire, and Pastor

Courtesy of the New Castle Historical Society

Born: May 12, 1799

Died: January 27, 1892

Plot: Section 130, Lot 1

Thomas T. Tasker, Sr. was born in Yorkshire, England of humble beginnings and grew throughout his life to be a very wealthy man, greatly respected by the cities of Philadelphia and New Castle, DE, and the country.  His father, William was a land surveyor and teacher.  His mother, Mary was a homemaker.  His father’s background afforded Thomas more than an ordinary English education. At the age of 13 he began seven years apprenticeship in the copper and ironsmith trades. He sailed for America in 1819 landing in Philadelphia on June 4.

For a brief period he was employed in stove manufacturing. In 1820 he established a coppersmith and iron company in West Chester PA. In 1824 he left that company and moved to Philadelphia and entered the establishment of Steven P. Morris, which manufactured stoves and grates. Thomas was considered a genius in mechanical engineering and was soon put in charge of the mechanical department and rapidly moved up in the business to become a partner and owner.  This company grew rapidly expanding into the manufacture of tubes for gas, water, steam locomotives and boilers.

The company’s name changed several times between 1836 and the end of the 19th century as the Tasker and Morris families supplied sons and brothers to the ownership while the elders retired. The original S.P. Morris & Co. would become Morris, Tasker & Morris, then Pascal Iron Works, then Morris, Tasker & Co, & finally Delaware Iron Works. In 1858 Thomas Tasker, Sr retired and the head of the company was eventually left to one of his sons, Stephen P M Tasker.  In 1872 there were 2 plants in Philadelphia; one at 3rd and Walnut Street, the other at 5th and Tasker.  The demand for their products grew and business greatly increased in size, employing over 2,000 men. It became necessary for better efficiency to connect the two plants which were approx. 1 ½ miles apart. They petitioned the city of Philadelphia to allow a rail line to be laid to make the connection, but the city rejected the idea.

The company then looked elsewhere to build a new plant and settled on New Castle, DE. A new plant was built on thirty-five acres directly on the Delaware River bounded by Fifth, Taylor and Johnson Streets.  The company continued to grow until 1899 when it was merged into a much larger company called National Tube. In 1901 US Steel bought National and 9 other companies and manufacturing was consolidated in McKeesport, PA. This incorporation marked history’s first billion dollar company with authorized capital of $1.4 billion. In 1904 they began dismantling and removing all equipment in New Castle This location is now a public park called the New Castle Battery Park.  The only structures that remain are about one hundred two story brick row houses build for the workers and families in a complex called Dobbinsville.

Tasker was married to Elizabeth Hickman on February 24, 1829.  She was the daughter of Joseph Hickman of New Castle.  They had 9 children, 6 of which survived. The Taskers lived most of the late 1800s at 1502 S. 5th Street in Phila. Mrs. Tasker died in 1877 and is interred with Thomas at Mount Moriah.

Following his retirement in 1858 Tasker purchased 400 acres in various locations in Ridley Township PA (just south of Philadelphia).  As a hobby he raised breeds of cattle beginning with Durham cattle, and later, Ayrshires and Guernseys.

When the Civil War started in 1861 Tasker sided with the Union and throughout the war he was one of its most enthusiastic supporters. He was one of the founders and president of the Citizens Volunteer Hospital located at Broad and Washington in Philadelphia. Under his administration it was operated in a broad and humane basis, treating both Union and Confederate soldiers equally. It treated over 200,000 soldiers. The entire expense was covered by voluntary contributions, mostly from Philadelphians. When the war ended in 1865 and the hospital closed, the remaining funds ($4,000) were given to the Soldiers’ Orphan Asylum in D.C.

When Lincoln was assassinated in April,1865 the funeral train (called the Lincoln Special) route was organized to symbolically retrace Lincoln’s journey from Springfield, IL to Washington, DC with stops along the way. Following the viewing in the Capitol, the train’s third stop was in Philadelphia (there were eleven stops in all).  Thomas Tasker had the honor of being asked to be a pall bearer at the Philadelphia stop. The train arrived at Broad Street Station at 4:30 PM April 22, 1865.  The hearse carried the coffin to the Assembly Room in the east wing of Independence Hall.  The next day, lines began forming at 5:00 AM and over 300,000 mourners viewed the body.  Some waited 5 hours to view Lincoln.  The train left Philadelphia’s Kensington Station for New York City the next day.

Tasker was a Methodist clergymen although it seems that he was a guest preacher rather than having his own church.  He was very instrumental in donating money and land for the establishment of new churches. Tasker donated the land on which Kedron Methodist was built in 1860. He also was instrumental in starting the nearby Methodist church of Prospect Park, PA.  In 1863 he gave financial support to build the New Castle Methodist Episcopal Church.  The church is located at 510 Delaware Street, New Castle, DE. Its current name is United Methodist Church and the red brick church can visually be viewed on Google via satellite.

Tasker was issued a patent in 1842 for a water hydrant; and another in 1866 for a self-regulating hot water apparatus for private dwellings, school retorts and coal gas works.  Tasker founded the Gas Works in New Castle which manufactured gas and delivered the gas for cooking, heating and lighting underground through pipes manufactured by his company to dwellings and businesses in New Castle.  He also founded the Water Works in New Castle which delivered water underground to dwellings and businesses.  Shortly after 1868 he built a flour mill which he sold in 1872 to William Lea & Sons.

He died in 1892 and is interred in Mount Moriah, Section 130, Plot 1 with his wife. There are nine other Taskers also interred in Sect 130.

Iron Works. Courtesy of the New Castle Historical Society

 

Photos Courtesy of the New Castle Historical Society

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