Mrs. Cyrus Hall McCormick
National Cyclopaedia of American Biography
McCORMICK, Mrs. Cyrus Hall (Nancy Maria Fowler), philanthropist, was born at Brownville, Jefferson county, N. Y., Feb. 8, 1835, daughter of Melzar and Clarissa Fowler. She was descended from Dutch and English colonial families, one of her ancestors, William Fowler, having settled at New Haven, Conn., in 1638. Left an orphan before she was eight, Nancy or Nettie, as she was called in later years, made her home with her grandmother at Clayton, N. Y. She attended private schools at Fulton and Troy, and revealed marked musical talent and a charming voice. In June, 1857, while visiting with friends in Chicago, she met Cyrus Hall McCormick, and on January 26 of the following year they were married at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac L. Lyon, of that city. For the next few years the McCormicks lived in Washington, where the husband was engaged in a strenuous controversy with rival inventors and manufacturers over the extension of his patents, and during 1862_64 they traveled in Europe. Mrs. McCormick showed that she had an acute business sense and her husband drafted her into his campaign for foreign business. She attended the Paris expositions of 1867 and 1878 in the McCormick interests. While living in New York city in 1871 word came from her husband, who was in Chicago at the time, that the city had burned, and . with it the McCormick Reaper Works. Mrs. McCormick took the next train for Chicago, was met by her husband with a carriage where the train stopped outside the burned area, and together they went to view the still smoking ruins of the factory. Undecided what course to pursue, for he had acquired a sufficient competence to retire, he turned to his wife for her opinion. Without hesitation she replied: "Rebuild—I do not wish our son to grow up in idleness." Acting upon her advice, Mr. McCormick erected a temporary structure upon the old site and continued the manufacture of his reaper. Mrs. McCormick's brother, Eldridge M. Fowler, who had made a fortune in lumbering, real estate and mining, was for a number of years vice-president of the McCormick Company. Mrs. McCormick was the constant financial adviser of her husband, in particular during his last years, when due to his failing
(81) strength she managed many of his affairs. She exercised a decided influence on the development of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. in the decade immediately following the death of her husband in 1884. Endowed with great physical and mental energy, Mrs. McCormick led an active and varied life. Her interest in missions, churches and schools led her to make a number of gifts to the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, the foreign missions of the Presbyterian Church, the Young Men's Christian Association and Washington and Lee University. She gave funds for several buildings to the Shantung Christian University at Tsinan, Shantung, and to the University of Nanking, both of which are supported by the American Presbyterian Board. These gifts, made during 1906-17, were valued at $95,000. She contributed also to the North China Union University at Pekin, China, and to the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, her various gifts to the latter institution totalling $1,800,000. At the time of her death she left more than $1,000,000 to be divided among various religious, educational and medical institutions. Mrs. McCormick was noted for her social charm, her genius for friendship and for her forceful personality. Mr. and Mrs. McCormick had seven children: Cyrus Hall, Mary Virginia, Robert, Anita (Mrs. Emmons Blaine), Alice, Harold Fowler and Stanley. Robert and Alice died in childhood. Mrs. McCormick's death occurred at Lake Forest, Ill. July 5, 1923.