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By Bob Kostoff

Movie actor Franchot Tone captured the lurid headlines for his wild ways, but his father, Frank J. Tone, industrialist and history buff, won widespread admiration for his modesty.

Franchot's exploits were admirably captured in the intriguing book "Niagara Falls Confidential" by Mike and Rebecca Hudson, and need not be repeated here (buy the book), but the achievements of his father bear some illumination.

The late Niagara Historian Edward T. Williams waxed glowingly of the elder Tone in a July 31, 1944 article shortly after the industrialist's death. Williams was lavish in his admiration of Frank J. Tone, as can be noted in this statement: "Mr. Tone contributed to a major extent to making the city of Niagara Falls a great industrial city and at the same time to the benefit of mankind throughout the civilized world." Despite his many accomplishments, Williams said, Tone was modest "to the point of shyness."

Tone was born in Bergen, N.Y., was graduated from Cornell University and started working for the Carborundum Company when it was founded in 1892 by Dr. Edward G. Acheson in Monongahela, Pa.

Cheap and available hydroelectric power drew Acheson and his Carborundum Company to the Falls in 1895. The first company to make wide industrial use of the falls' power in August of 1895 was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, later named the Aluminum Company of America. Carborundum started up here a few weeks later. Incidentally, the Reporter office is in the old executive offices of Carborundum on Buffalo Avenue.

Williams, a journalist and politician as well as a historian, was a close associate of Tone. He wrote, "We honor the names of Porter, Schoellkopf, Rankine and Adams in the story of Niagara power while in the forefront of the leaders of industrial Niagara is the name of Frank J. Tone. It is closely interlocked with the name of his mentor, Dr. Edward G. Acheson."

Carborundum, he said, started here in 1895 with 35 employees, and by 1944 had employment exceeding 6,000.

Williams said an indication of Tone's modesty came when the company reached its 50th anniversary, and the historian suggested that Tone, since he was with the company from the beginning, celebrate his accomplishments. Tone had been works manager for many years, then became president in 1919, succeeding Frank W. Haskell. He later retired from the presidency and was chairman of the board when Williams had his conversation with him about the 50th anniversary.

Tone, he said, "passed over the succession of a recognition of his accomplishments on to a discussion of genealogy in which he was much interested and thereby hangs a tale."

Tone's great granduncle, Andrew J. Tone, had lived in Somerset and was buried in the cemetery there close to Lake Road. Williams noted the grave was only a few yards from the grave of his mother. The Tone grave had only a small marker with the initials A.J.T.

Williams wrote, "And yet, while all of my relatives, mother, father, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. are buried in that cemetery, and I have known personally or by name all residents of the town of Somerset for 75 years, I had never known of anyone by the name of Tone residing in the town of Somerset."

Williams said that Tone had erected a larger monument at the site of his relative's grave with this inscription: "Andrew Tone, baptized Old Tenement Church, New Jersey, February 17, 1743. Died Somerset, N.Y. about 1820. Revolutionary soldier."

Tone, a member of the Old Fort Niagara Association, also had a hand in preserving the Old Stone Chimney, relic of Fort Schlosser, that now is wasting away unnoticed in Porter Park. Williams called it "the oldest piece of masonry west of the Hudson River, except the Old Castle at Fort Niagara."

When Peter A. Porter sold his farm to the Niagara Falls Power Company, then site of the chimney, it was agreed the chimney should be preserved. The Carborundum Company, when Tone was president, purchased that land from the power company. At that time Tone agreed that if the chimney had to be moved, the cost would be split between Carborundum and the power company.

Williams wrote, "On account of the expansion of the plant of the Carborundum Company last year (1943) it gave notice that it desired to use the site and when the Niagara Falls Historical Society selected a permanent site for the Old Stone Chimney in Porter Park, it was taken apart piece by piece and set up again near its original location as part of Fort Schlosser in accordance with the agreement made by Frank J. Tone."

Tone was upset that Franchot chose acting rather than taking a position with Carborundum, but another son, Jerome, did not disappoint and became a Carborundum official. Williams said Jerome bought a home on Buffalo Avenue built by Augustus S. Porter, oldest son of Judge Augustus Porter.

Bob Kostoff has been reporting on the Niagara Frontier for four decades. He is a recognized authority on local history and is the author of several books. E-mail him at RKost1@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Feb. 26 2008