Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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UPCHURCH, John Jorden, mechanic, born in Franklin county, North Carolina, 26 March, 1822; died in Steelville, Mo, 18 January, 1887. His education was acquired in a country school previous to his thirteenth year. He was alternately clerk in a court-try store and a farmer until 1841, when he married, and opened a hotel in Raleigh. Trying to keep a temperance hotel, he failed, and was for thirteen years master-mechanic on the Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven railroad. In 1864 he tried the oil business and lost all his savings. For four years he drifted about, and in 1868 secured a situation in the machine-shops of the Atlantic and Great Western railroad at Meadville, Pennsylvania Here he prepared the first ritual and organized the first lodge of the Ancient order of united workmen, to which his principal reputation is due. The lodge was organized on 27 October, 1868, with fourteen mere-bets. It has since spread into every state and territory of the Union, has more than 150,000 mere-bets, and pays out about $2,000,000 annually in benefits to the families of deceased members. The plan that was devised and used by the society for disbursing sums of money to beneficiaries was so original and proved so popular as practically to revolutionize the life-insurance business. Other societies followed, with many variations on the plan, until the amount of life insurance that is now carried by the various fraternal beneficiary societies is many times greater than that carried by all " the stock-company societies in the country. Father Upchurch, as he was called, subsequently removed to Steelville, Missouri He travelled much in the later years of his life, in the interest of the society that he had founded.
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