From "Tennessee The Volunteer State", Vol. 3 Pages 42-46, contributed by Michael Paulsen.
The late Harry Scott Probasco of Chattanooga will long be remembered among the business men and civic builders of the last generation. He will be remembered as a man of great accomplishment and, although he was a power in financial and business circles, he was not a seeker of public position or notoriety. He was essentially a modest man in disposition, but he combined with this lovable trait a host of other qualities which combined to make the strong and forceful character he possessed. He commanded not only the formal respect of his fellows but, unlike many others, he inspired genuine affection among those who knew him, both socially and in business. In his relations with others Mr. Probasco was more than merely ethical. The state of being ethical is comprised within the bounds of duty, but he far exceeded these bounds throughout his life. He recognized the brotherhood of man as perhaps few others have done. His charitable impulses were strongly developed. Many young men owe their careers and success to Mr. Probasco's advice or material assistance. To guide a younger man and assist him in obtaining a foothold was one of Mr. Probasco's greatest pleasures and one in which he indulged himself to an even greater extent than his friends ever knew. By nature Mr. Probasco was a typical cultured and well bred gentleman and he wore these qualities not upon occasion, but in every hour of his life. In business matters involving weighty financial questions he acted with quiet assurance and confident judgment. His decisions were quickly formed and were so logical and comprehensive that he became known as a man with whom it was very easy to negotiate, no matter how important the subject under discussion might be.
Harry Scott Probasco was born August 10, 1858, in Harrison, Ohio, and was a son of William and Rachel E. (Morgan) Probasco. The Probasco family originated in Spain, but left that country owing to religious persecution and made their home in Holland, whence members of the family came to the United States. It is a significant fact that for many generations the prominent male members of this family were engaged in the money-lending, or banking, business.
William Probasco, father of Harry S. Probasco, while residing in Ohio, to which state he had come from New Jersey, was engaged in the construction of mills as a contractor. Within a comparatively short time, however, he removed with his family to Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where he established the Peoples Bank, in which his son, Harry S., received his first training as a banker.
Harry S. Probasco received his early education in the public schools of Lawrenceburg, then studied at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, also at Moores Hill College in the Hoosier state. At the age of seventeen years he began work in his father's bank where, in lieu of actual salary, he acquired his fundamental experience in the banking business. He remained in the Peoples Bank at Lawrenceburg for a number of years. In the year 1884 the Ohio river rose and flooded the country around Lawrenceburg. This disaster hastened Mr. Probasco's decision to seek other fields, and accordingly he came to the south. He visited Chattanooga in 1885 and shortly afterward established himself in the brokerage business here. His small office was located in the McConnell block.
Mr. Probasco continued here until 1888. In this year, in partnership with Fred F. Wiehl, he established the banking business of Wiehl, Probasco & Company and removal was made to the ground floor of the McConnell block. This banking firm enjoyed a successful growth and on October 2, 1900, it was chartered as the Bank of Chattanooga, with Mr. Probasco as president, and Z. C. Patten as vice president. Prior to this time removal of the banking quarters had been made to the corner of Sixth and Market, and again to the southeast corner of Eighth and Broad streets. The Fourth National Bank had also liquidated during the panic of 1893 and its business was taken over by the Probasco and Wiehl interests. Then, in October, 1900, as stated before, the Bank of Chattanooga was chartered and continued under this corporate name until 1905, when it was succeeded by the American National Bank, of which Mr. Probasco remained president. On January 2, 1911, the business of the American National Bank was sold outright to the First National Bank and for a period of several months Mr. Probasco retired from participation in active business affairs. This course was chosen by him on account of ill health and the necessity of rest and absence from business responsibilities. Mr. Probasco, after almost a year of foreign travel and recuperation, returned to active business life as president of the American Trust & Banking Company, which was established January 15, 1912. He remained the executive head of this successful institution until his death.
The above brief summary of Mr. Probasco's banking career seems inadequate in describing the wide range of his activities. His participation, wise counsel and material concern in many business affairs forms a subject of engrossing interest. One of the chief offices he held, aside from that of bank president, was as president of the Union Cotton Mills at Lafayette, Georgia. He resigned this position, however, in March, 1919, and was succeeded by his son. Personal fortune came to Harry S. Probasco as a result of his labors, but the acquisition of wealth in no way altered the manifestations of the inner man. He accepted material success with splendid grace and ever remained the charitable, democratic and broad-minded man. The range of his ability is indicated by the fact that he was known as a builder of buildings. He possessed a consummate ability in this respect, which was shown by his work as chairman of the committees which constructed the new University of Chattanooga, the Mountain City Club home, the fine edifice of the First Presbyterian church and other buildings of Chattanooga. Mr. Probasco also served as a trustee of the University of Chattanooga. His religious affiliation was with the church of Dr. J. W. Bachman--the First Presbyterian--and he was one of the most zealous supporters of this institution. In political matters Mr. Probasco never sought publicity but was simply known as a republican. His fraternal or club life was confined to membership in the Mountain City Club and the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club; on the links of the latter organization he found his chief recreation and diversion from business routine.
Those who were so fortunate as to know Harry S. Probasco recognized that the greatest inspiration in his life was his home and family. Home meant to him all that was ideal and a place to be sought in preference to everywhere else. Having the companionship of a faithful and devoted wife, one who was a participant in his every thought and activity, and having seen the son of this union grow to successful young manhood, were perhaps the greatest joys of Mr. Probasco's life. Mrs. Probasco was, before her marriage, Miss Alice Gray Moore of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and she became the wife of Harry S. Probasco on January 10, 1889. Their son, Scott Livingston Probasco, was born September 6, 1890.
The death of Harry Scott Probasco occurred at Chattanooga, April 17, 1919. The effect of his passing upon the city was a tribute to his life and work. The universal affection which was shown at the time of his death carried but a hint of the great place he filled in the hearts of his fellows. Monuments of stone and marble, or the written page, perform the least function in preserving the memory of such a character. The true perpetuation of his life exists in the thoughts of those who lived with him and will live in the tradition they hand down.
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