Business of DeWitt: Dry Goods

From the end of January, 1880, until June, the Clinton County Advertiser ran a section called “Business of DeWitt” in which they tell quite a bit about the local businesses.

Ever since the days of Mother Eve, when the dry goods business was at its lowest ebb, up to the present time, when every spindle throughout the world is running on full time to meet the wants of the present denizens, the dry goods trade has been steadily on the increase, and yet when we think of the bickerings and heart-burnings which rankle in the average female breast of to-day as the daughter of some “mud sill,” who has struck a bonanza, flaunts her silks in her face or flashes her diamonds before her eyes, we have to believe that our good first mother was happier in her blissful ignorance and scanty garb than are any of her furblowed or beflounced daughters of the present day.

As a type of the general increase in the business we introduce to our readers the popular dry goods house of

CHARDAVOYNE, DREW & CO., which was established here in the spring of 1859, in a room now occupied as the dining hall of the Gates House, and noted for the choice viands set out there. The proprietors were John Vandegriff, Jr., R. E. Edsall and W. H. Chardavoyne, Mr. Edsall residing in New Jersey. The business of the house soon grew to such proportions that the firm moved to its present location, corner of Jefferson and Chambers streets, and have from time to time added to its domain, until it now occupies a store ninety feet in depth, twenty-two feet wide, with a room in the second story of nearly the same size. In the winter of 59-60 Mr. Chardavoyne returned to New Jersey, and being near the large markets of the east took advantage of them to make purchases for the house here. Since then he has spent a few months of the busy season here yearly, or as the occasion required.

On the first of April, 1860, David Drew, now manager partner of the house, came here from New Jersey, a mere youth, under a contract to remain three years. Promptly at the expiration of the time he returned to the classic shade of Pochuck, where a “vague unrest” seized him about the heart as he thought of “the girl he left behind him” in the person of Miss Sarah Lee. Upon the death of the lamented Mr. Vandegriff in Sept 1863, Mr. Drew returned to DeWitt, and to the employ of the same firm, which was continued about a year after the death of the senior partner, at which time a new partnership was formed under the name of Chardavoyne, Drew & Co. In 1864 Mr. Drew married the lady of his choice, and about the same time Uncle Sam politely invited him into the army. Mr. D. concluded to do his soldiering by proxy, while he attended to building up the large trade for which his house is noted.

While the front part of this store is devoted to the sale of dry goods and notions in general, including finer goods than are usually kept in towns of this size, the rear part is given up to the ready made clothing, boots and shoes, hats and caps and underwear, indeed the sterner sex can find anything they want in the way of clothing at this house. The upper rooms are used for storing their surplus stock, and also for their carpet department, the business of which has grown rapidly of late years. All goods are bought for cash, making a great saving, of which the purchaser gets the benefit. It has always been the aim of this firm to deal honorably with its patrons, and to this, together with its facilities for doing business, has been the means of holding a large trade.

Among the successful business men who have graduated from this house, and are now doing business for themselves, are T. Lawrence, Jr., of Belle Plaine, A. W. Jack, of Jefferson, and W. T. Anderson, of Hamburg, New Jersey.

The present assistants of this house are W. E. Beard, who has had considerable experience as a salesman, both for this firm formerly, and at other places, and who returned in 1878, to take the place of the lamented Z. T. Bourne, now deceased, and Will Lee, who as a novice accepted a position as a salesman in 1878, and who fitted the business as well as the best fits he ever gives in the clothing department. They both have an eye out for the interests of their employers.

We trust that this firm will advertise more liberally through the ADVERTISER in the future. A whole column would fit their measure very well.

WALLACE BROS. Our earliest recollection of the constituent parts of this firm is that of the senior partner, Geo. W. Wallace, then a chunk of a lad, as he drove up to our warehouse with one pair of horses and a wagon, the low wheels of which indicated that it once done duty for a threshing machine or something of that sort. Even then his full ruddy cheeks and large brown eyes bore the stamp of business. Two years later, in 1860, the junior partner, Albert G. Wallace, had not attained sufficient size to withstand an Iowa gust, yeleped tornado, but was whirled through the air at a lively rate and in due time re-landed upon mother earth.

Brought up as they were in this community, who should know better how to cater to its wants than they? The present firm dates from March 12th, 1878, when Geo. W. Wallace bought an interest with his brother, A. G. Their store is ninety feet in length, twenty-two feet wide and is fourteen feet high, making it the best lighted store in town. The energetic proprietors spare no pains to please their customers, and the result is a large increase of their trade during the two years they have been together. The carry a full stock of staple and fancy dry goods, and their store has become a favorite resort for the fair sex. And it is not the ladies alone who are attracted here, for the high piles of clothing, boots and shoes, hats and caps, and gentlemen’s wear, bring the lords of creation here in goodly numbers.

This firm is agent for the celebrated furs manufactured by Skinner & Son, of Clinton, and which have an excellent reputation hereabouts.

Wallace Brothers inform us that they are anticipating a large spring business, for which they will make due preparations. They have a large German trade, and invite that class in their own language to come and trade with them.

Their assistants are W. P. Dennison, who has an extensive acquaintance here, and the ladies say is always affable, and is able to find among the large stock just what is wanted; and Harry Beach, late of Tipton, who looks as “smart as a whip.”

This firm is a liberal patron of the ADVERTISER, and acknowledge it as a valuable assistant in getting in trade. It should have a yearly advertisement in these columns.

T. F. BUTTERFIELD is the pioneer dry goods man of DeWitt. In 1844 he came here with his young wife and little cub, now known as Dennis G. Butterfield, and brought an assorted stock of goods which he opened out in what was a part of the Exchange Hotel, on the north-east corner of the public square. This varied stock was bought in Boston and hauled from Chicago by teams. This store was the resort of settlers far and wide who came to make purchases, and the proprietor thereof jumped into popularity, and has been at various times honored by the town and county by an election to sundry offices. His store was afterwards moved to the south side of the square, and from thence to a room the proprietor had put up adjoining his dwelling on the north side of the square.

Mr. Butterfield early foresaw the value of Iowa lands, and continued to invest his profits in broad acres, until he became by far the largest land owner in the county, which position he holds undisputed to-day. As business moved down town, he moved thither occupying various places, until we now find him where he has been for some years, in the south half of Bairley Block, one of the best locations in town. There he keeps a full and complete assortment of dry goods together with hats and caps, boots and shoes, groceries, and also here makes the headquarters for the transaction of other branches of business which will be noticed hereafter. He is assisted by his son, Chas. A. Butterfield, a thorough-going business young man, good-looking and polite, and of course a favorite with the ladies. If their customers prefer to buy in the German language Charlie will sprechen it. We suggest to this house the use of a little more printer’s ink.

J. C. REED & CO. This firm dates from September, 1869, when J. C. Reed bought an interest in a stock of goods owned by J. M. Norris. After a time the firm was changed to Homer Reed & Co., then to Reed & Young, and in 1876 to J. C. Reed & Co., the “Co.” being Mr. Wm. Reed, the father of J. C. With ample capital, which has given this firm advantages in the purchase of goods, they have bought at the lowest prices and have given their customers the advantage thereof in the way of low rates. They handle extensively the celebrated Jamestown mohairs and alpaccas, and also the popular Springfield and Davenport woolen goods. They keep a well selected stock of staple and fancy dry good and in addition carry a good stock of groceries. Ready made clothing forms an important branch of the business of this house, and the proprietors inform us that trade is rapidly increasing in that department. We have seen some good bargains in clothing bought of this firm, but we have to give the proprietors a gentle reminder that they keep such important news too much from the general public; or in other words, do not advertise enough for their own good. This is one of the best houses in town to make purchases of, and the fact should be more generally known. Just at this time this firm has no assistants, although Mrs. J. C. Reed is a valuable helpmeet in times of need, and proves an excellent sales-woman.

THE FARMERS’ STORE was started in 1874 by an association of farmers, and was, in fact, an offshoot of the Grange movement. It is a corporate body, being incorporated under the general laws of the State. The Store bought out the stock of H. Cleaveland, who was one of the early merchants of DeWitt. The original capital was only $2,000, but by good management has increased so that after paying liberal dividends to the stockholders, and appropriating the remainder to the increase of its capital, it is now ample. The first officers were, President, S. Saddoris; Sec’y A. S. Allison; Trustees, L. P. Lambertson, B. F. Gove and H. N. Hahn. The first manager was E. P. Hubbard, who declined a re-election at the termination of the year, on account of impaired health, and H. Cleaveland, who had been assistant manager, was promoted to the first position, which he has held to this time and has just been elected for still another year. The large acquaintance of Mr. Cleveland, his thorough knowledge of the business and of the wants of the patrons of that establishment, together with his rare administrative talents, rendered him a valuable head of the institution, which the trustees were not slow to recognize. Many institutions of this kind have sprung up over the country from time to time, only to be closed out after a brief existence, with loss to their proprietors; but this one, under the able management of Mr. C. has attained a popularity we think unequaled in any store of the kind.

First assistant manager, Mr. E. Sweeting, is an old resident of DeWitt and as early as 1857 commenced to supply its wants in the way of groceries. Thoroughly conversant with the wants of the people, he has proved a valuable assistant at the “Farmers’,” and has many warm friends. The jovial Sid Pruyn is a host in himself, and ropes in all the customers he can. He goes at his German patrons boldly in that language, but has to weaken sometimes when they retaliate too strong in kind. The bookkeeper is F. A. Hobbs, who fitted himself for the position at the Davenport commercial college, and does his work neatly and correctly. He too, has a smattering of German which helps him out a good deal.

The present officers of the institution are L. S. Harrington, President and ex-officio Treas.; A. S. Allison, Sec’y, having held that office from the start; S. Saddoris, H. N. Hahn, and B. F. Gove, Trustees. The sales of this store for the past year amounted to thirty-six thousand dollars. They out to advertise largely in the ADVERTISER.

E. E. JACOBS. Whether J. M. Jacobs, who has the supervision of this establishment, was born in a dry goods store, with a yard stick in his hand, history saith not. At an early age he was a cash boy in Cleveland, Ohio, and rose rapidly to first salesman, which position he held till he was 25 years of age, when he accepted a similar place at the popular house of Rice Bros., Lyons, where he remained about three years. In 1863 he came to DeWitt, and at once entered upon a prosperous career. He established branches in Rochelle, Ill., Maquoketa, Wheatlan and Stanwood, all of which did a large business. Looking for a more extended field of operations, he bought out a stock of goods in Chicago and closed out his business here and at the several branches. Owing to the rapid decline in values, his venture was unsuccessful and he returned to DeWitt in 1875, since which time he has been manager of a dry good house here.

F. A. Jacobs, who was recently owner of the store here of which J. M. was manager, has now opened two stores in Battle Creek, Iowa, where, in either one or the other, can be found almost anything a person can ask for. Mrs. E. E. Jacobs has recently bought out the store here, and will put in a new and complete stock as soon as spring opens. Mr. J. M. Jacobs doing the purchasing for the stores here and at Battle Creek, and dividing his time between them.

Mr. J is known as a bold yet judicious purchaser. Oftentimes when he has struck a good lead, he buys in quantities that would appall most merchants, yet at prices that with a fair profit added, soon effect their own sale. In addition to a complete stock of dry goods, Mrs. Jacobs has a millinery department which is complete throughout, and is a favorite resort for our lady readers. A good stock of ladies’ shoes will be added. At the proper time, we doubt not, she will be heard from through our advertising columns.