Henry Haarstick was my great-great-grandfather on my father’s side who came to America at the age of 13 in 1849. I strongly believe in keeping our family histories alive and so in keeping with that tradition, I named my business Haarstick and my son Henry. Below is a brief bio on Henry Haarstick who sounds like he was a pretty awesome guy.
A Gilded Age entrepreneur whose life reads like a Horatio Alger story, Henry C. Haarstick created an international shipping empire on the banks of the Mississippi River. A razor-sharp financier, he co-founded the Veiled Prophet Ball, at which his great-granddaughter was crowned queen, and established a family that has belonged to the elite St. Louis Country Club for a century. Yet today, few know the Haarstick name, because Henry Haarstick left no male heirs.
The story begins with 13-year-old Heinrich Christian Haarstick. He and his parents left Germany and arrived in St. Louis in 1849. The city was reeling from a cholera epidemic and the great fire that had wiped out the riverfront. But young Haarstick, seized each setback that befell him and bent it into good fortune. In his twenties, he became co-owner of a distillery. It was destroyed by fire shortly thereafter, so he bought out his partners, rebuilt the distillery and sold it, making his first fortune at age 31.
Foreseeing the boom in river traffic, Haarstick next bought the only barge line in St. Louis. As his peers laughed at him, he turned St. Louis & Mississippi Valley Transportation into the largest barge line in America. Barking orders in his thick German accent, he bought out his competitors, opening foreign markets throughout Northern Europe and South America, across the Mediterranean and in the West Indies. No kernel of grain grown in the West went down the Mississippi and out to sea that Henry C. Haarstick did not control. The public accused Haarstick of monopoly, but it was all legal. He went on to make two more fortunes, in a chemical plant and in banking. He and his wife, Elise, were now more than wide-eyed immigrants with newfound wealth; among his papers at the Missouri Historical Society Library is an invitation to dine at the White House.