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Nels L. Thoe


Posted By: Peter Gausmann (email)
Date: 2/7/2010 at 07:17:38


Nels L. Thoe occupies an important place in commercial circles of Lake Mills as president of the Union department store, whose large and varied stock makes literally true the company's slogan, "Everything to Eat and Wear." He is a native son of Iowa as his birth occurred in Center township, Winnebago county, on the 19th of January, 1871, and the pioneer conditions which then prevailed in that section are indicated in the fact that his birthplace was a log house with a sod roof. A sketch of his parents, Lars and Inger (Moen) Thoe, appears above.

Until he reached the age of sixteen years Nels L. Thoe attended the public schools and from that time until he attained his majority he assisted his father with the work of the home farm, save for two winters spent in study at the Breckenridge Business College of Decorah. When twenty-one years old he became clerk in a general store conducted by Olson & Wadsworth at Lake Mills and remained with them for five years, at the end of which time he and his father established a store in one of the rooms now occupied by the Union department store. The father and son engaged in business together for five years, after which they sold out, Lars Thoe retiring from active business at that time. The Union department store was organized and Nels L. Thoe was connected therewith for five years as an employee. At length he purchased stock in the business and has from time to time increased his holdings. He is president of the company, Ed Thoe is secretary and Karl Hylbak, treasurer, while the board of directors is composed of the officers and L. N. Thoe, and Irvin L. Thoe. The company was incorporated in 1902 and occupies both the first and second floors of the Union block, which was built in 1897 by L. N. Thoe, the firm of Jessen & Due and P. M. Joice. The slogan of the company is, "Everything to Eat and Wear," and the store is divided into five departments, in which are carried complete and up-to-date lines of dry goods, ready-to-wear clothing, groceries, tinware and crockery. The buying is done with the actual needs and preferences of their customers in mind; the stock is displayed to the best advantage and a sale is never considered complete until the customer is satisfied. As would be expected, their trade has grown steadily and rapidly and their annual volume of business has reached a large figure.

In 1894 Mr. Thoe was united in marriage to Miss Carrie Brakke, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ingebrit Brakke, who were born in Norway but were married in the United States. They were early settlers of Norway township, Winnebago county, Iowa, and are buried in the Lime Creek Church cemetery, or, as it is sometimes known, Ostby's Church cemetery. Mr. and Mrs. Thoe's children are four in number: Irvin L., who is associated with his father in business; and Irene, Laurette and Margaret, all at home.

Mr. Thoe supports the prohibition party at the polls, is a member of the Norwegian Methodist Episcopal church and can at all times be counted upon to aid in every way possible movements calculated to promote the moral advancement of his community. The sterling principles to which he rigidly adheres, his initiative and his fine business ability have all aided him in gaining a high place in public esteem.

Source: History of Winnebago County and Hancock County, Iowa: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Vol. II. Pioneer Publishing Company (Chicago), 1917. pp. 100-101.


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