Business & Industry

Smith family in Fairfield, IA.

Fairfield lawyer and real-estate dealer E. R. Smith and family in front of their house at 103 South B Street, ca. 1903-1909.

Edgar Russell Smith was born on August 25, 1869 in Birmingham, Van Buren County, Iowa, the older of the two surviving children of James Nelson Smith, a livery and feed-store keeper from Jefferson County, and his wife Isabella Taylor, a native of Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Before Edgar was ten his family moved just north to Fairfield, where his father raised and sold livestock. His younger brother Harry Ernest followed in their father’s footsteps as a stock dealer, but Edgar graduated from Parsons College with a B.S. degree in 1891, from the University of Iowa with an LL.B. degree with the class of 1895, and then returned to Fairfield to practice law – now usually calling himself by his middle name, or simply by his initials, E. R. The Fairfield Weekly Journal for January 5, 1898, page 4, advertised that “E. R. Smith, Attorney and Counsellor at Law” did a general law business and wrote deeds, mortgages, leases, etc., as well as collecting debts, offering real-estate loans, and settling estates. His office was on the north side of the Park, over Davis’s store: perhaps at 53 East Broadway, where W. H. Davis had sold groceries until at least the early 1890s. (http://iagenweb.org/jefferson/Weekly_Journal/1898_Journal/Jan_5.html)

On September 28, 1898 Russell married Susan Wilson Blair (1869-1955), a daughter of Mary J. (Wilson) and homeopathic physician Dr. George H. Blair, and a niece of Fairfield’s famous Senator James F. Wilson. Two of Russell and Susan’s first three children — Eloise Blair (1900-1982), Harry Booker (1902-1983), and Mary Alyce (1908-1985) – probably appear on their parents’ laps in this photograph of the family in front of their house at 103 South B Street; if they are the older two, the picture may have been taken as early as 1903, and the elderly gentleman on the porch behind Mrs. Smith may be Russel’s father, who died in March 1904. The woman seated to the right of Mrs. Smith might be her older sister Alice, widow of Fairfield clothier Harry F. Booker. Mrs. Smith had lived with Harry and Alice Booker as a girl after her father died in the early 1880s. The couple at the far right may be Mrs. Smith’s oldest sister Mary and her husband Charles M. Junkin.

Probably not present in the photograph was the Smiths’ live-in servant, Lizzie Bucker, listed as 18 years old in the 1910 U.S. Census. Russell and Sue’s fourth child, Edgar Russell Smith, Jr., was born in 1911, the year his proud father appeared in their National Year Book as member 22514 of the Sons of the American Revolution, tracing his descent from his great-great grandfather, Orderly Sergeant John Hall of the Third North Carolina Regiment.

In 1918 E. R. Smith bought the Gaines building on the east corner of the north side of the Square (61 E. Broadway, 100-104 N. Main), which he occupied as president of the Jefferson County Abstract and Loan Co. – a company he had headed since 1911 or earlier. The building’s original owner was tinsmith Richard Gaines, whose niece Ada Black Smith was E. R. Smith’s sister-in-law. Around 1890 W. M. Black’s insurance, real estate and loan agency occupied the rear of this building, shown in a photograph here: https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=25692&id=105927739452255#!/photo.php?fbid=147185585326470&set=a.147182405326788.25692.105927739452255&theater.
After Russell’s son Harry Booker Smith also became a lawyer in 1925, he joined his father here in the law-firm of Smith & Smith. E. R. Smith retained this building until 1937, after which it has continuously held a barber shop: first that of “Red” Barton, who cut hair here for nearly 30 years, succeeded by Larry’s Barber Shop for about the last 40 years.

By 1920, real-estate dealer Russell and his family had moved to 206 S. Main, just north across Adams Street from where the Fairfield Public Library has replaced the old Slagle house. He was there still with his wife and two younger children in 1930, working as a lawyer with a general practice, and the Fairfield Directory still listed E. R. and Sue B. Smith there in 1937. (For a picture of the house at 206 S. Main, see https://www.facebook.com/fairfieldhistory#!/photo.php?fbid=179977365380625&set=a.154454417932920.27826.105927739452255&theater.)

E. R. Smith died on September 25, 1949 in Des Moines; his wife Sue followed him on November 29, 1955.

Fairfield Iowa in the Ice Age.

“Fairfield Iowa in the Ice Age” was written on the back of this postcard of the entrance to the White Brothers’ Tea Store, known as the “White T Store,” in the early 1900s.

The brothers Louis D. and Loren H. White sold tea and coffee at 107 West Broadway before moving in 1914 to the north side of the Square at 53 West Broadway, where they remained for the next thirty years. Loren’s son Paul White bought his uncle Louis’ share of the store in October 1943, and Paul’s brother Wallace bought his father Loren’s share on February 1, 1946. Paul and Wallace remodeled both the exterior and the interior in 1948, and finally left the Square for a modern store at Burlington and 6th in 1954, where they remained in the 1960s.

The White Brothers’ original store at 107 W. Broadway is now occupied by Walker’s Computer Center; their next store at 53 West Broadway is now From the Heart Scrapbooking and Custom Framing Shoppe, while their store at 507 W. Burlington was occupied in the 1970s by King’s IGA and in the 1980s by Jim’s Jack & Jill, and is now the site of the Hy-Vee Drugstore.

Sarah Arabella ("Bella") Huntzinger, wife of Fairfield IA grocer Gus Unkrich.

Sarah Arabella (“Bella”) Huntzinger (1850-1927), wife of Fairfield Iowa grocer Gus Unkrich. Captioned “Bella Huntzinger Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “To Frank & Ella, Happy New Year.” No photographer, no date, but taken after 1881, when Bella’s brother Frank married Ella Sheward. Paper blindstamped B. F. K. Rives along upper left margin.

The fourth of Sarah (Rudy) and Franklin B. Huntzinger’s eight children, Bella was born on September 16, 1850 in Pennsylvania. Her parents brought the family in 1856 to Fairfield Iowa, where her father built and operated flour-mills and helped found the local Lutheran Church.

Bella married Fairfield grocer Gustave Adolph Unkrich in about 1870, and over the next 15 years the couple had four children: Maggie Maude, who married Hurse E. Wisecarver; Charles Rudy, who married Sarah E. McKay; Clarence Adolph, and Charlotte Louisa, both of whom died in childhood.

Bella died on April 25, 1927, some eight months after her husband, and was buried with him in the Old Fairfield Cemetery. Visit the Find A Grave Memorial to Sarah Arabella Huntzinger Unkrich.

………………………………

Gus and Sarah's daughter.

Charlotte Louise (or Louisa) Unkrich (1885-1889), daughter of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Charlotte Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. No photographer, no date, but ca. 1888.

The youngest of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, Charlotte was born on March 24, 1885 in Fairfield, Iowa. She died on October 25, 1889. The Fairfield Ledger commented, “A sad affliction has fallen upon the family of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Unkrich of this city in the death of their youngest daughter, Charlotte Louise, which occurred Friday. She was a bright little child in the fifth year of her age, and her death resulted after an illness of two weeks from diphtheria. The funeral occurred Saturday afternoon, services being conducted by Rev. Chatham, pastor of the Lutheran church. (Fairfield Ledger, Oct. 30, 1889, p. 3, col. 3; in vol. 4 of Jefferson County Records.)

Charlotte was buried in the Old Fairfield City Cemetery; her Find A Grave Memorial is here.

………………………………

Sarah and Gus Unkrich's daughter.

Maggie Maude Unkrich (1871-1942), daughter of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Maude Unkrich Wisecarver” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “[To] Aunt Ella.” No photographer, no date, but ca. 1895.

Maude was born on September 2, 1871 in Fairfield, Iowa, the oldest of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, On September 6, 1893, four days after her twenty-second birthday, she married Fairfield clothier Hurse (also spelled Hirsh) E. Wisecarver. In about 1903 Hurse partnered with William H. Mohr in the firm of Wisecarver & Mohr, selling clothes on the west side of the Square at 54 North Main St. until about 1916. Hurse then became a real-estate agent upstairs at 60 South Main St., while Mohr continued tailoring at the old location with Harry O. Crow, who later carried on the business there by himself.

Maggie and Hurse had two children: Ruth (born July 1894), who evidently married Walter H. Johnson, and Harold E. (born September 5, 1907), who married Elsie C. Schulz in 1939. Maggie, Hurse and Harold lived at 202 West Madison during the 1920s and 1930s.

Maude died on June 27, 1942, and was buried in the Old Fairfield Cemetery. Her Find A Grave Memorial is here. Hurse died in 1952, and was buried with Maude.

………………………………

son of Gua and Sarah Unkrich of Fairfield Iowa.

Charles Rudy Unkrich (1874-1949), son of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Rudy Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “C. R. Unkrich age 15 years.” No photographer, no date, but ca. 1889-1890.

The second of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, Rudy was born on May 1, 1874 in Fairfield, Iowa. He spent three years at the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the Hahnemannian Literary Society, and became a homeopathic doctor after graduating from the Hering Medical College in Chicago in 1899.

Rudy then moved to Delavan in Walworth County, Wisconsin, where he practiced medicine and boarded with Harriet M. Folts, her son William, and her granddaughter Sarah Elizabeth McKay, a dry-goods saleswoman whom Rudy married on October 10, 1900. “The happy couple will be at home after November 1st, 1900, Delavan, where the doctor has a splendid practice….” (Wilson A. Smith, ed., “The Medical Visitor,” Chicago: Halsey Bros., 1900, Vol. 16, p. 684.) Rudy and Sarah’s son Donald McKay Unkrich was born in Iowa around October of 1905.

By January 1906, Rudy and his family had moved to Monmouth, Warren Co., Illinois, where Rudy specialized in diseases of the eye, ear, nose, and throat, treating patients at his office at No. 87, south side of the public square, and living at 317 N. 3rd St. Their daughter Sarah E. was born in Illinois about 1910.

Around 1919 Rudy and his family moved to Whitewater, Walworth Co., Wisconsin, where Rudy remained for the rest of his life. He died in the Lakeland Hospital in Elkhorn on Nov. 29, 1949, aged 75, of uremia, fracture of the left hip due to a fall and arteriosclerosis.

………………………………

son of Gus and Sarah Unkrich of Fairfield IA.

Clarence Adolph Unkrich (1877-1896), son of Gustave A. and Sarah Arabella (Huntzinger) Unkrich. Captioned “Clarence Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. Photograph inscribed on back, “[To?] Ralph.” Photographed by J. B. Myers, Fairfield. No date, but Jesse B. Myers was active in Fairfield 1892-1896; photo taken ca. 1894.

The third of the four children of Fairfield grocer Gus A. Unkrich and his wife Bella, Clarence was born on April 17, 1877 in Fairfield, Iowa. He died on February 2, 1896, evidently of “La Grippe,” now known as influenza or the flu. Clarence was buried in the Old Fairfield Cemetery; his Find A Grave Memorial is here.

Gustave Adolph Unkrich, prominent Fairfield Iowa grocer.

Gustave Adolph Unkrich (1845-1926), prominent Fairfield grocer. Captioned “G. A. Unkrich” in Huntzinger album. No photographer, no date.

Born in Germany on April 21, 1845 to John H. and Fredericka L. (Gerson) Unkrich, Gus immigrated with his parents to the U.S. in 1859. His father was a government officer in Europe who came to America for his health, but died in Round Prairie Township the following year. Gus was living in Albia, Iowa in 1864 when he enlisted in the Civil War and served for 100 days in Co. G of the 46th Iowa Infantry. After the war he moved to Fairfield and opened a grocery store on the west side of the Park. His stock of “Family Groceries” included coffee, tea, sugar, molasses, candies, cheese, crackers, spices, soaps, tobacco, cigars, pipes, oysters, sardines and other fish, and fruit both canned and dried.

Gus moved his assortment of groceries, wooden and earthen ware, tobacco and fruit into J. W. Gilchrist’s new store at 56 S. Main in 1867; two years later he bought the property on the south side of the Square at 54 W. Burlington, where he remained for some 20 years.

Around 1870 Gus married Sarah Arabella (“Bella”) Huntzinger, a daughter of Sarah and Franklin B. Huntzinger, and Gus sold his miller father-in-law’s flour at his store. Over the next 15 years Gus and Bella had four children: Maggie Maude, Charles Rudy, Clarence Adolph, and Charlotte Louisa. Maggie Maude married Hurse E. Wisecarver and Charles Rudy married Sarah E. McKay; the younger two children died in childhood.

The 1870s were evidently creative years for Gus, who played Festus in the cantata “Belshazzar” when it premiered in 1875 at Semon’s beautiful new Opera House, built that year at 50-52 W. Burlington, right next door to Gus’s grocery. The inventive grocer also patented an oil-cabinet in 1876 and an improved ventilator in 1877.

In 1876 Bella’s next-younger sister Elizabeth Katherine married Frank A. Jones, who then went into business with Gus until 1880. Jones succeeded Robert Rudy Huntzinger, Sarah and Elizabeth’s younger brother, who had partnered with Gus until June 1876. His health ever precarious. R. R. Huntzinger died in January 1884 at the age of 29.

Here is a photo of Gus Unrich’s grocery store on the south side of the Square in 1876, together with an advertisement of his from 1888.

Gus was a prominent member of Jefferson Lodge No. 4, I.O.O.F., and was on the Odd Fellows’ building committee which in 1882 planned to build a three-story brick block and lodge at 51 E. Broadway. Finally deciding that the block would be too expensive, they purchased Semon’s Opera House at 50-52 W. Burlington the following year and rebuilt it for their lodge upstairs, next door east of Gus’s grocery.

Gus, his wife Belle, and their children Maud, Rudy and Clarence were living at the west end of “2nd South St,” now Washington St., in the 1885 Iowa State Census. In 1886, Gus circulated a subscription paper to raise money for a new bandstand in the Park. Octagonal in shape and measuring 16 x 20 feet, the new bandstand was dedicated that August with a memorable concert by the C. B. & Q. Band.

On November 20, 1888 the Fairfield Ledger praised Gus thus: “To successfully conduct a first-class grocery establishment requires not only ability and energy, and a knowledge of the varying influences that affect the trade, but also the faculty of anticipating the ever changing tastes in food products in the community… Mr. Unkrich’s stock is … one of the most complete and extensive in the city, and his business methods are such as to entice trade from less liberal dealers. Personally Mr. Unkrich is an affable and pleasant gentleman, with whom it is a pleasure to do business…[He enjoys] wide popularity and yearly increasing prosperity[, is] prominent alike in business and social circles, and highly esteemed by all classes of citizens.”

Sometime between 1900 and 1910 Gus and his wife moved to Des Moines, where Gus again sold groceries, but by 1920 they had returned to Fairfield, where they resided at 204 S. Main St. Gus died on August 17, 1926; Bella died eight months later. The couple are buried together in the Old Cemetery in Fairfield.

Find A Grave Memorial to Gustave A. Unkrich…

Louis Thomas, Thoma building in Fairfield IA.

Louis Thoma (1861-1940)
Pharmacist, Proprietor and Manager of the Grand Opera House, Fairfield, Iowa.

A man who built several landmark buildings around the square, one of which still carries his name atop all its original splendor; a man whose stately Italianate brick house still stands well-preserved at the northeast corner of Washington and B Streets; a man who was a respected druggist, paint and wallpaper dealer, and the last owner of the Grand Opera House – in short, a man who was a prominent member of Fairfield’s turn-of-the-century notables, was Louis Thoma.

Louis was born in Atchinson, Kansas to German immigrants David and Theresa (Irrer) Thoma on April 23, 1861, while his father was fighting in the Third Kansas Cavalry in the Civil War. After the war David moved his family to Fairfield, and though he was primarily a stonecutter, in 1867 he purchased Henry Semon’s property at 54 West Burlington and briefly opened a grocery store where Goddard & Pratt had formerly kept a meat market. This property was purchased by fellow-grocer and fellow-German Gustave A. Unkrich in 1869.

David’s son Louis attended the local schools; at sixteen he went to work at the drugstore of Drs. Rollin H. Hufford & Augustus C. D. Bradshaw, and on March 1, 1882, when not yet twenty-one, he became their partner in the new firm of Hufford, Bradshaw & Thoma. For five years the trio sold drugs and sodas in Dr. Hufford’s building at 52 East Burlington. Select here for a picture of the Hufford Building in 1876. (Dr. Hufford had come from Washington, Pennsylvania to Fairfield, where he married Bernhart Henn’s daughter Mary Josephine.)

On September 24, 1884, Louis married Antoinette Petzinger of Des Moines County, Iowa; over the next five years they had three sons: Roscoe Petzinger, Leo David, and Clifford Irrer Thoma, all born in Fairfield.

Augustus C. D. Bradshaw and Louis Thoma left Dr. Hufford’s firm in 1887, when they went into business for themselves and built the Bradshaw & Thoma building at 58 South Main. Select here for a picture of their new building in 1888.
Here Bradshaw & Thoma sold drugs, medicines, books, stationery, perfumery, toilet and fancy articles, paints, oils, and wallpaper for about ten years. The partners leased their drugstore at 58 South Main to John D. McDowell in 1897, to A. C. D. Bradshaw and Fred W. Jericho by 1904, and to F. W. Jericho and Percy J. Easton by 1910. The Benteco Kash Store sold groceries here in 1922, followed by the F. W. Woolworth Co. from 1925 to 1940.

In 1893 Louis built the Thoma Building, still standing in all its Victorian exuberance at 104-106 W. Burlington. The east half of the lot had been vacant, while the west half had been the site of the notorious Green Shade saloon. After first leasing the building to a grocer and a restaurateur, from around 1905 Louis occupied it with his son Clifford as Thoma & Son, selling wholesale paint, glass, and wallpaper at No. 104 and keeping their pharmacy in No. 106. Here is a picture of the Thoma Building, ca. 1906.

Dr. Bradshaw and Louis Thoma bought the five-year-old Fairfield Opera House in 1895; Louis bought Dr. Bradshaw’s half in 1902, when he also bought out Dr. Bradshaw’s share of the drugstore at 58 South Main, and a harness shop at 107-111 West Burlington which the pair had purchased the previous year. Louis Thoma called the Opera House “the goose that laid the golden egg,” as it helped pay for the Harvard educations of his sons Roscoe and Leo, both of whom became lawyers after graduating in 1910 — the year after the Opera House burned down in an electrical fire. Louis reportedly said the only thing he saved from the fire was the key to the front door. Select here for a picture of the Grand Opera House.

In 1910 Louis and his son Clifford Thoma bought Dr. Hufford’s old building at 52 East Burlington, which was then being leased as a drugstore to Leland Stanford Bradshaw, A. C. D. Bradshaw’s son. After they graduated from Harvard, Leo and Roscoe Thoma had their first law-offices upstairs in this building. By 1917 L. S. Bradshaw had joined the firm of Thoma & Son at 104-106 W. Burlington, selling paint, glass, and wallpaper, and Gaumer Brothers (G.W., O. Cleveland, and Harvey E.) were offering drugs, jewelry, paint, glass and wallpaper here at 52 East Burlington. When Gaumer Brothers moved to West Broadway by the early 1920s, Oliver & Anderson sold paints here, followed by Brown’s Meat Market from the later 1920s into the 1940s.

Louis died in Fairfield on the last day of November 1940, following his wife Antoinette, who had predeceased him in 1924 at their home on South B. Street.

Gus Unkrich's Grocery at 54 W. Burlington Ave., Fairfield, IA.

Gus Unkrich’s Grocery at 54 W. Burlington in 1876, with advertisement from the Fairfield Weekly Journal, 1888 (advertisement courtesy of Janet Roberts). For about 20 years Gus sold groceries, including his father-in-law’s flour, at this spot. Select here for a photo and brief bio of Gus Unkrich.
Select here to meet Gus Unkrich’s brother-in-law, Frank Huntzinger and family and see a video of the south side.

The Louden Machinery Company, world-renowned manufacturer of barn equipment, remains Fairfield, Iowa’s most famous success story. William Louden was born on October 16, 1841 in Cassville, Huntingdon Co., Pennsylvania. His parents Andrew and Jane (Speer) Louden had recently immigrated from Ireland, having married on January 6, 1840 in Belfast. William’s older brother John had died as a baby in Ireland, leaving William the oldest of eight more children, the only one not born in Iowa. In the spring of 1842, when William was six months old, the Loudens moved to Jefferson County, Iowa, where Andrew worked at a sawmill on Cedar Creek before purchasing a farm in Cedar Township the following spring.

Growing up frail and sickly, William could not pitch hay as well as his father and younger brothers, and so set his genius to making farm-work easier. By 1867 he had obtained the first two of his more than 100 patents: one for hay-stacking, and one for hay-carrying. On January 2, 1868 he married his neighbor, Mary Jane Pattison, and began manufacturing his “universal hay pitcher” in his father-in-law’s barn. In 1870 he built a fifty-by-fifty-foot brick three-story factory near the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad tracks for $7,000. Then known as Louden Manufacturing Works, his factory stood on the north side of West Stone Street, between North Sixth and North Seventh Streets, where Fairfield Glove and Mitten Co. stands now.

But hard times came; the business failed in 1876, and William Louden was even charged with forgery and over-issuing his bonds the following year. In 1879 the Louden shops were still unoccupied, and the townspeople tried unsuccessfully to get Joel Turney & Co. builders of Charter Oaks Wagons, to move from Henry County to Fairfield and occupy the works. (Turney later did relocate to Fairfield, but constructed his own factory on Depot Street.) That October Ward Lamson bought the Louden buildings, and in August 1880 the Fairfield Manufacturing Company was incorporated with Moses A. McCoid as President, Samuel C. Farmer Jr. as Secretary and Treasurer, W. H. Bartels as General Manager, and Gus Vote. They leased the Louden Works from Ward Lamson before buying them in May 1881, and did a flourishing business making and selling furniture before the old Louden building burned completely in January 1884.

Meanwhile, the indebted but determined William Louden had bought an old wagon and two horses on credit and traveled the country for seven years, constructing hay carriers and other equipment in the barns of his farmer friends. He then concentrated again on manufacturing, first only with his wife and then in 1889 with his youngest brother, Robert Bruce Louden. Three years later J. C. Fulton acquired an interest in the firm, which was then organized and incorporated as the Louden Machinery Company with R. B. Louden as president, William Louden as vice president, and J. C. Fulton as secretary and treasurer. Buying four lots in 1892 at 605-607 West Broadway near the C. R. I. & P. Railroad depot, the Louden Machinery Company built a 6,000-square-foot factory and grew to become one of the world leaders in barn construction and farm equipment.

William Louden purchased the double lot at 501-503 West Washington Avenue, and rebuilt the house on it in 1881-1882. He rebuilt it again in 1896-1897, and it remains outwardly nearly unchanged today, though it now houses five families. His brother R. B. Louden owned and remodeled the white brick house several blocks east at 107 West Washington; it too remains essentially unchanged today.