Story by: Tom Lynch
Fortunes lost. The year was 1868 and the American Civil War had been over for three years but there was another big battle raging in the country. Instead of guns and cannons, this war was being waged with picks and shovels as railroad workers (mostly Chinese and Irish immigrants) were excavating dirt, cutting through ridges, filling gorges, and blasting tunnels through mountains. It was .the last great building project to be done mostly by hand. The U.S. government pitted two companies-the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads against each other in building a transcontinental railroad across America. It was a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. The company officers of the Central Pacific Railroad were called the "California Big Four"-Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, and ark Hopkins
Mark Hopkins was part of a wave of immigrants to California due lo the discovery of gold. He joined with 25 other men in New York to fonn the New England Trading and Mining Company. The partners invested $500 each. With the money, they bought supplies and mining equipment that none of them knew anything about or how to use. In January 1849, they set sail for Cape Horn. It was the beginning of a 196 day ordeal being besieged by storms, drinking water shortages, spoiled food, and a manic-driven captain. But they made it. They landed in San Francisco on August 5, 1849. The partners. quarreled and the company soon broke up. Later Hopkins set up a general store in Sacramento next door lo Collis Huntington. Both men lost their investments in an 1852 fire but both immediately rebuilt. Out of shared interests and mutual troubles, they developed an abiding affection for each other. They became partners and switched from general store merchandise to dealing in heavy equipment for farms and mines. It's not clear how they actually met Stanford and Crocker but the four men forn1ed a new company called the Central Pacific Railroad of California on Huntington as vice president, Hopkins as treasurer, and Crocker was one of the directors. Stanford. later to become California governor and U.S. Senator as well as found the prestigious univerasity in his namesake, was the chief lobbyist. Huntington borrowed, hocked, and huskstered funds in New York, Boston, and Washington. Crocker was in charge of construction and Hopkins kept the books.
Conservative capitalists, which were in the majority, would not risk their fortunes and reputations because they felt it was a reckless gamble for high stakes on long odds, and besides there was a civil war going on. Although President Abraham Lincoln "had all he could possibly handle in the conflict, (but he) would try to make any change in the law or give any reasonable aid to insure the building of a transcontinental railroad by private enterprise." The railroads owned Lincoln, and he signed the bill into law on July 2, 1864, after Congress had passed it. The process had been greased from top-to-bottom. Illinois Congressman E. B. Washburne said the bill had fallen into the hands of "Wall Street stock jobbers who are using this great engine for their own private means." He was right. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads were in Washington handing out money and stock in a successful effort to get the Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 signed into law.
Nobody knew how much Huntington and his Union Pacific counterpart, Thomas "Doc" Durant, spent to get the law passed but a lobbyist named Joseph P. Stewart distributed $250,000 in bonds, with $20,000 going to Union General William Sherman's oldest brother, Charles T. Sherman. The new law was the catalyst to get things going although it was still a large gamble to achieve their goal. When the last spike, a gold one, was driven in at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869 as the Union Pacific and Central Pacific tracks were joined, the Big Four were now very wealthy men. Mark Hopkins made two crucial mistakes: he was the first of the Big Four to die, and he didn't leave a will and last testament. The other three lived longer and passed their wealth on. Like Charles Crocker, Hopkins isn't as well known as Stanford and Huntington.
Crocker kept to construction and served as the boss of the Southern Pacific Railroad of California. Crocker died in 1888. Hopkins' fonner partner, Collis Huntington, remained a railroad king as Central Pacific gobbled up every California railroad in sight. Along with Crocker, he brought about the consolidation of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific roads. Huntington then expanded the railroads nationally as he fonned the Southern Pacific Railroad bringing the Central Pacific under its umbrella. Collis Huntington became very powerful and ran the company like a medieval kingdom constantly lobbying Congress for voting against government regulation. The city and the beach are named for him in Huntington Beach, California. He died in 1900. Leland Stanford was elected governor in 1861, and in 1885 the California state legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate where he remained until he died on June 21, 1893. Stanford is known to everybody because he founded Stanford University and named it after his son who died in 1884, just two months before his 16th birthday .
Mark Hopkins died at the age of 64 in 1878. He had a common-law wife and a bastard son. He left no will. Nobody really knows what happened to the money. There was plenty. Hopkins had owned 200,000 acres in what is now the San Francisco and Oakland metropolitan areas. His fortune was estimated at S 15 million at the time of his death but in 1967, the acreage was valued at $67 billion. He is known for the mansion he was building at the rime of his death on the top of San Francisco's Nob Hill. It became the showplace of the city and was said to have cost S 1.5 million. The mansion burned down in 1906 and the prestigious Top of the Mark Hotel was built on the site in 1926. He was an original contributor to John Hopkins University and helped found the Safeway Stores. Mark Hopkins was the first cousin to David Wall's grandmother Annie. She remembered the day Mark and brother Mose left Easley, South Carolina, riding double on a mule at two o'clock in the morning. Rumor had it that brother Mose was leaving town because he was dealing illegally in the slave trade. They settled up in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area, and earned enough seed money to journey to New York. Mark went to work as a store keeper and then a bookkeeper in New York City. By age 35, Hopkins was making good money and seemed pretty well set but then news reached him about gold in California. The rest is history.
The first cousin to Mark Hopkins, David Wall's. grandmother, Annie Elizabeth, married James Garland Wall. He operated a large saw mill operation along North Carolina's Dan River. Wall began to accumulate land along the Dan River and would ultimately own thousands of acres up and down the river. He would own all the land around and including where the towns of Madison, Mayodan, and Pine Hall stand today. Once again the wealth would dissipate from grandmother Annie's people as James Garland Wall decided to put a lot of his assets into Confederate bonds and currency during the Civil War. Having held title to the land after the war, Wall's family lost most of the land after his death because James Garland Wall like his wife's cousin, Mark Hopkins, didn't have a will.
James Garland Wall II was born in 1898. James and his brother now managed their share of what was left of their father's land holdings. It amounted to somewhere between 300 to 400 acres. The Wall brothers had tenant farmers renting and working the land. One of James Garland Wall's siblings forced the sale of the family farm in 1946. The 365 acre fam was sold for $10,000 at auction. Today real estate companies are selling lots for more than $10,000 on what was once their farmland. James Garland Wall II was an enterprising man and worked as a chemical salesman, owned retail stores, and worked in the real estate business. His son, David F. Wall, was born during the Great Depression in 1930. David was the youngest in the family and had three sisters and two brothers. He grew up in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After graduating from high school, David joined the U.S . Marine Corps in 1946 and served for two years mustering out of the Corps in 1948. Then he went 10 work for the Federal Service Finance Corporation in Washington D.C.
It was early Sunday morning, June 25, 1950, the North Korean People's Anny invaded the Republic of Korea (ROK) and cut through the South Korean defenses like a knife through cheese. The North Korean Communist forces thrust came along the Charwan-Uijongbu-Seoul axis route running,hrough a broad valley invaders had used for centuries. The Communists were anned to the teeth: two divisions and a regiment consisting of28,000 men with Russian-made T-34 tanks riding at the head of the invasion column supported by artillery, mortars, and heavy machine guns. All that stood in their way was an ill-equipped South Korean force of 6,000 men. They were chewed up. Another North Korean column souck through the coastal lowlands on the west side of the country. Again the Communists numerical advantage was about the same two divisions and a regiment, with tank support, against one depleted ROK division. These were the two main strikes directed against Seoul. With the logistical grid-highways, railroads, communications-all centered in Seoul, the loss of the capital city would endanger tl1e country's survival. The U.S. sent in troops, but they were raw and green, no match for the highly disciplined and well manned North Koreans, who possessed the second best anny in Asia. (The first was the Soviet Union Anny.) The shock to the U.S. was enormous. The troops of the world's most powerful nation being pushed around by a country most Americans had never heard of before. The U.S. Army in Japan was soft, badly commanded on the regimental and divisional levels, undermanned, and undertrained. Four years of America's demilitarization policy had taken its toll by stripping the U.S. of its defenses. The North Korean People's Anny took Seoul and continued to pound the U.S. Eighth Army down the Korean peninsula to the tip of the peninsula's boot in what became known as the Pusan Perimeter. A bright spot occurred when the I st Marine Brigade sent as an advance party of the I st Marine Division arrived in the seaport city of Pusan, fresh from combat training in the states. They were effective, cohesive units who fought the North Koreans to a standstill. Later General Douglas MacArthur would ask for the I st Marine Divisio_n and get them for his finest hour of the Korean War.
At daybreak on September 15, 1950, the U.S. navy and air force bombarded Inchon and Wolmido where they dumped 2,845 shells on their targets. At 6:30 am, MacArthur sent in the Marines to hit the beaches. It didn't take long. By nightfall, MacArthur had 18,000 troops ashore with tons of supplies and scores of tanks and other vehicles. MacArthur never had a doubt it would work despite tlle reservations of some military people. The Inchon landing was a genius military stroke. The Marines drove inland towards Seoul. Then they drove east across the entire Korean peninsula cutting off the North Korean Anny to the south as the Eighth Anny broke out of Pusan trapping tile Communists between tile two U.S. Forces. With their logistical supply lines cut, the North Koreans were being decimated by tile last week of September. Seoul was recaptured on September 28th. A 21 year old David Wall was called up from the Marine Reserves to active duty in October of 1950. Like many young men in the Soutil, he took it for granted that if there was to be trouble, if the nation was at war, that he would be in it. The tradition of the Civil War was still strong ... and if there was a military duty to perfom1...he )ook that as a perfectly natural part of being an American. Shortly after being called up, Wall reported to the 1st Marine Division in Seoul. When Dave landed in Seoul, the national capital was a fire-blackened shell of masonry, its walls pockmarked with bullet holes. In the words of Wall, "The city was flat, completely flat. There was hardly anything standing."
His name was Brigadier General Lewis 8. (Chesty) Puller, and if you met him, you'd never forget him. The crusty Puller was a legend in the Corps, a bombastic officer who led from the front and was beloved by his men. Colonel Puller had distinguished himself in combat during World War II. In Korea, he led the Marines in the fight for Seoul, and in the defensive action at the Chasin Reservoir in late 1950. I le was promoted to Brigadier General and made assistant division commander of the I st Marine Division in early February of 1951. When Puller came back to tile I st Marine Division as a Brigadier General, David Wall was a communications message center chief. The standard operating procedure for a commanding officer is to lirst check his communications center and then go out in the field to review his different battalions. Wall knew Puller was coming through to inspect the message center so David had the area ready for inspection. They were in a combat zone and when Puller walked in he was surprised to see how sharp things were, it was just like a state-side inspection.
He looked around and asked, "Where are all the girly-girly pictures?" Wall answered, "Sir, there was a division memorandum that all girly pictures and alcoholic beverages were prohibited." Chesty Puller glared back at Wall and said, "If a damn' Marine is old enough to die for his country, he's damn' sure old enough to decide if he wants a drink!" Puller continued, "I don't give a damn how much beer these boys want to buy, I'll fill every damn' order. Understood?" Wall barked, "Yes Sir!" Puller finished with, "I don't know where it'll come from, but I'll get it!" Dave Wall ordered three cases of Japanese Ashai Beer which came in big champagne type bottles with 48 bottles to the case. It cost three dollars a case. Dave said, "It was the best beer I ever tasted in my life!"
On October 9th, 1950, a full United Nations Command (UNC) invasion force crossed the 38th parallel into North Korea. After initial resistance, the North Korean Peoples Army started to fall apart by surrendering in wholesale lots. The North Korean capital city, Pyongyang, fell on October 14th. By October 20th, MacArthur's chief intelligence officer, Major General Charles Willoughby announced the war for all intents and purposes was over. MacArthur decided pull half his army out of battle when the enemy was on the run. The UNC advance was rapid and the North Korean Peoples Army rout so complete that on October 24"'. MacArthur made the Yalu River separating China from North Korea the new objective. He allowed the Marine's X Corps and the Army's Eighth Army to continue operating as separate commands, divided by mountain peaks of up to 7,400 feet in the rugged Taebaek Range, with no communications possible between the two field commands. Now fall was turning into winter, and MacArthur's troops were deep into Asian mountains soon to be gripped by sub-zero temperatures and snow. Unbeknownst to American intelligence, the Chinese had crossed the Yalu into North Korea on October 13th and 14th , and hid in caves and wooded areas by day, marching only at night. Five full field Chinese armies, each with three divisions, nearly 100,000 men, had slipped into position on the southern slopes of the high mountain masses about 50 miles south of the Yalu. The Chinese began maneuvering by setting dozens of forest fires in the mountains stretching south from the Yalu, then using the vast cloud of smoke to avoid detection while moving into battle positions. On the evening of November lst, the Chinese onslaught began with the eerie din of outsize bugles and shrill blasts of whistles, as the Chinese struck from the rear cutting off escape and supply routes, and then sent in frontal human waves to overwhelm UNC positions. MacArthur asked for and got the U.S. Air Force to bomb the bridges over the Yalu River. However, the Chinese field armies never moved by truck or rail; they marched, and they carried their arms and supplies on their backs.
MacArthur was undeterred. He was ready for the final push. In a November 24th communique to his troops, MacArthur announced that seven UNC divisions-three American and four South Korean, plus a British brigade had surrounded the new Red Armies, and in a pincer movement the eastern and western sector forces would move in tandem to close the vise, trapping the enemy. If successful, it would end the war. His army may be home by Christmas culminating a six month campaign. The Marines were apprehensive, Major General Oliver Smith had been receiving intelligence of "heavy, very heavy, tremendous and gigantic troop movements southbound from China. Smith was a Marine and in the past, the Marines had given MacArthur the niclmamc "Dugout Dug" for staying in the rear. The final offensive drive began and the Chinese struck in full force November 25". The ROK divisions were the first to go, dissolving in the face of a merciless attack. Next the U.S. 2"" Army Division felt the brunt of their relentless onslaughts. It began to unravel quickly. The Eighth Army began to fall apart and the ) 9 Marine Division was completely surrounded. Despite overwhelming odds, the Americans fought valiantly with countless heroic efforts of men sacrificing their lives to cover comrades as they fought their way out. Under "Chesty Puller", the X Corps left the "Frozen Chasin Reservoir" but they wiped out the Chinese 9th Army Group in the process. The American lighting men were hungry. They ate cold food. They were wounded and couldn't be evacuated. The Chinese continued to batter the Eighth Army as they pushed south. Seoul was lost and recaptured again. Eighth Army Commander, General Walton Walker, was killed in a traffic accident and replaced by General Matthew Ridgeway. Ridgeway turned around a defeated Eighth Army and his renewed offensive strategy straightened the demarcation line across the waist of Korea. It became an "accordion war" and stagnated irito trench warfare, both sides contenting themselves with patrol probes while consolidating their defensive positions. Eventually MacArthur was relieved of his command on April IO"', 1951, and Ridgway took over command of the American Forces in the Far East. The lighting mired down in a front with thousands of reinforced bunkers connected by a series of communication trenches, resembling a front line from World War I. Young David Wall saw action "all along and around the 381h parallel" with the I w Marine Division. as he served in the connict until early 1953. On July 27th, 1953, an armistice was signed to end hostilities. The Korean War had cost the U.S. 142,091 casualties: 33,629 dead; 103,284 wounded; and 5,178 captured or missing.
David Wall was home. He worked in a variety of roles as funeral director, manager of an American Legion club, and sold welding supplies. Eventually Wall went to work for the Southern Oxygen Company and sold compressed gases. He worked his way up to a district manager's position. The company merged with the Air Products and Chemical Company. Dave stayed with Air Products and Chemical Company for eight years. I le wasn't satisfied working with a big company and felt he could do better by going into business for himself. Dave borrowed $6.300 on his place at High Rock Lake, North Carolina, and this was his seed money for starting the DFW Supply Company in 1963. He knew the welding supply business and started selling product in the Winston-Salem area. Dave had done quite a bit of equipment trading with his previous company and decided to dabble in the used machinery business. The business began to evolve into a used equipment company and away from welding supplies. In the beginning, Dave would buy, sell, trade. or barter any machine that he thought he could make money on. Eventually he decided to specialize in metalworking machinery in a 100 mile radius around Winston-Salem.
As the years passed, more and more industry began to pour into North Carolina., The textile industry was always strong but automobile parts manufacturing began to grow in increasing numbers in the area. Wall began to do a lot of business with the Western Electric Company which had nine plants in the Winston-Salem. Greensboro, Burlington, and Charlotte areas.
The Western Electric Company became a great source of machines for David Wall. Business is built on relationships. Dave Wall had a good source for machine tools and now he was about to establish a long-lasting business relationship which would help make the DFW Supply Company. Enter Jack Shuman. Jack had inherited a fabricating business but he reinvented his father's company. He loved the manufacturing business, and he was good at it. He had a sixth sense about manufacturing, whether or not it would work. He was always alert, genuinely listening, never underestimating (or overestimating) any idea. Shuman was an authority, completely detached, being able to look at a situation with all his own prejudices removed. Logic and a better way of doing things is what counted for Jack Shuman. He patented the plastic vacuum forming process for the sign industry and was considered an authority in the plastic industry. He became an advisor for many auto parts and trailer companies. Shuman was also in the machinery business. He saw that Dave Wall was the kind of man who had been faithful to his beliefs and heritage, and knowing all will right itself with such a man. Shuman saw a young man who felt it inside by embodying all the virtues a businessmen has always respected: hard work, self-sacrifice, decency, and loyalty. A very close business relationship developed between these two men. Shuman became Wall's mentor. He was his advisor, financier, and counselor. They trusted each other and made money together. A revolution was taking place in North Carolina industry, and Shuman and Wall were at the center of it. They were enjoying every minute of it, the excitement, the challenge, the deals. Their relationship seemed perfectly suited for the times. Wall was the outside man who tracked down the opportunities and Shuman was the inside man with the money and expertise. They were both naturals for their ages and they were part of a changing industrial landscape. Things were speeding up, and Shuman and Wall were keeping up. One of David Wall's biggest attributes is his willingness to learn. He has always exhibited an open mind and is in touch with the world at large. I le joined the Machinery Dealers National Association (MONA) and intimates everything that he has done in the last 20 years of business was based on the knowledge he has gained through the association. The DFW Supply Company has developed long-lasting joint venture relationships with other machinery dealers across the country through the MDNA.
David F. Wall, Jr., joined the DFW Supply Company in 1976. David Jr. was a very enterprising youngster at a very early age. He was shining shoes in a local barber shop at the age of 12. During high school, he worked for a Radio Shack store and learned a lot about the basic fundamentals of electronics which would come in handy later on. After graduating from high school, David decided to come to work full time for the family business. He started from the ground up working in the warehouse cleaning machinery, graduated to the service desk, and then into the front office. The Marine, David Wall Sr., knew how to handle men. He loved taking his son on. combating him and his ideas, challenging him, bright wits flashing back and forth between the two men, the ongong education almost an end in itself. Father and son got on well from the start, both were quick and bright, and they seemed to be free of any age difference prejudice. David Sr. knew the business and most importantly he know the difference between theory and practice in business. The son began to sense his father's moves, his whims, his nuances. To an uncommon degree, David Jr. possessed that capacity to sense what others wanted and what they were thinking, and it would serve him well. As David Wall Sr. says today, "David is doing extremely well. He's considered a major authority of machinery in our part of the county." He adds, "People stand around and listen to him explain things, and practically bend closer so they can hear everything that he's saying." The father and son had a continuity between them, they both kept things moving, and were above the petty factional and emotional fights of a large bureaucratic corporation. David Jr. became invaluable to the business, functioning easily, solving problems, he's a man who doesn't want to wait, and he believes in action.
The Wall family has parlayed their business into a solid, regional and national used machinery operation. And while used machine tool dealerships boon and bust with the blowing winds of the economy, it's relatively smooth sailing at the DFW Supply Company with its steady growth. In the early days, David F. Wall, Jr. asked a lot of questions so he could learn as much as he could as fast as he could. It paid off. Dave Jr. has some very definite ideas about his business and the industry. Wall says, "l don't think you'll ever see conventional machine tools completely replaced by CNC machinery. For one thing, there are a lot of shops out there that can't afford CNC." I le continues, "An older standard machine will hold a better percentage of value than any of the CNC equipment.
In fact, you can get more money today for a 1950 lathe than what it originally sold for _back in 1950. On the other hand, there are a lot of CNC's out there over five years old and you can hardly sell them today." In selling their services at the DFW Supply Company, David brings together the right application combination to fit the customer's inpividual needs, and then craft a customized machine for the client.
The DFW Supply Company will scrap your old outdated electric controls and replace them with new controls or update your old electrical controls with new electrics. David helps his customers develop and execute customized manufacturing programs through rebuilding, retrofitting, or updating. David Sr .. admires his son's devotion to his employees and appreciates how he fosters a conducive work environment which, in tum, results in. higher quality workmanship and service. David Sr. is more or less retired but still will pinch hit for his son, when David Jr. is out working with customers or on other company business. His son is always eager, hardworking, and extremely considerate of others, especially the customer. People like his openness, his boundless energy, realistic thinking, and the ability to really understand how metalworking machines work. The essence of a good business is constant re-examination and this is exactly what the DFW Supply Company is all about as they keep abreast of the market to serve their customers oetter. Together this father and son team has built the business into a strong viable company which has served industry try for 56 years and will continue to serve it in the future.