VICKSBURG FACTS: An orphaned boy to a self-made millionaire

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 18, 2023

By Vera Ann Fedell | The Vicksburg Post

Eugene Zimmerman was the son of an Ohio native, Solomon Zimmerman. His father moved the family to Vicksburg to obtain some property that he inherited. After the move to Vicksburg, Zimmerman was born. He grew up in the family factory business and at the age of 13, he was orphaned. Zimmerman was sent to Cincinnati in 1859 to attend Farmers’ College and Gambier Academy, according to the Harrisburg Daily Independent, Jan. 7, 1915 edition. 

In the 1860s, Zimmerman intended to continue his studies however, he volunteered to serve in the Civil War. According to The Vicksburg Herald’s June 4, 1905, edition, “Zimmerman served through the Civil War in the navy, participating in numerous notable engagements, including the bombardment of Vicksburg.”

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By 1863, Zimmerman was “placed in command of the United States steamship Ouachita, which he held until the end of the war,” according to The Vicksburg Herald.

The factory business that he inherited from his father was completely destroyed after the Civil War, so he enlisted back in the Union Navy and decided to start investing. Zimmerman was able to invest wisely and had holdings in oil. He then decided to sell it to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. 

This gave Zimmerman an advantage and he was able to build a substantial block of stock and get a seat on the oil company’s board according to the Cincinnati Magazine article by Greg Hand. Zimmerman then started working in railroads and was able to run a successful railroad company.

He became the president of the Cincinnati Hamilton and Dayton railroad. According to the Oxford Eagle, Dec. 24, 1914, edition, “Zimmerman was active in bringing about the union of the two railroads and was prominent in the sale of the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton.”  

When asked about what got him to his great success he stated, “Largely to my training and general experience as an officer in the United States Navy,” according to The Vicksburg Herald’s June 4, 1905 edition.

Zimmerman was also the father to his only child, Helena Zimmerman, who became the Duchess of Manchester. By the time of her marriage, Zimmerman was worth $10 million, according to the Cincinnati Magazine. However, his daughter’s marriage to a duke to was not a success. The duke was struggling financially, causing Zimmerman to help pay for the couple’s needs. Eventually, the couple split and remarried. 

On Dec. 20, 1914, Zimmerman died suddenly at a club from a hemorrhage of the lungs according to the Oxford Eagle’s Dec. 24, 1914, edition.