Martin Thomas Hildinger, merchant and real estate broker, arrived in Abilene in the fall of 1911 and lived in the Central Hotel. Prior to his arrival, he had been a dry goods merchant in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas for over a decade. He had also been a merchant in Nickerson and Newton, Kansas. In October 1911, the dry goods firm of M. T. Hildinger & Company was created with partner Mr. M. V. Lewis, who acted as general manager. The store was at 308 NW. 2nd Street. The firm opened with a $25,000 stock of dry goods and ladies’ ready to wear garments. Among those employed by the firm was Miss Beatrice Nixon, clerk; and Mr. Raymond R. Weber, shoe department. This firm was short lived with the partnership dissolving on May 27, 1913.
Mr. Hildinger retained the stock and reopened as M. T. Hildinger. Miss Mary Troetschler and Mrs. Edna Graves were dressmaking in Hildinger’s until the spring of 1914. This new firm was closed in January 1915 to have its finances reorganized. The trustees of the reorganization elected to provide a charter to “The Peoples Store Company”, which took over management of the store.
E. Capsey’s real estate office was located over Hildinger’s store and Mr. Hildinger began selling real estate. His real estate experience in Abilene ended quickly when he decided to dispose of his interest in Abilene and move to California with the intention of continuing his career as a merchant.
Mr. Hildinger made his home at 611 NW. 3rd Street. However, his wife and daughters did not follow him to Abilene. They elected to move from Cottonwood Falls to Lawrence, Kansas citing educational opportunities for the move. His daughters would often visit while he lived in Abilene.
Mr. Hildinger was a native of Ohio having been born in Logan County in March 1863. His father, Tobias Gottlob Hildinger, died in 1870 leaving his mother, Caroline Blum, with six children on the farm in Whitley County, Indiana. His mother remarried and brought the family to a farm in Labette County, Kansas. Once again his mother was widowed by 1880. Young Martin spent developed a strong work ethic having been involved in farm work since very young. Martin married Emma Blakesley Risley around 1890. They would have two daughters, Lucile and Pauline. He was a member of the Cottonwood Falls Masonic Lodge. While in Abilene, he purchased shares in the new natatorium (swimming pool), which was built on Cottage Avenue. He was also selected by the Business Men’s Association Select Committee in 1915.
By 1920, Martin was living in Los Angeles, California and remarried to a woman named Minnie. They lived at 838 5th Avenue. In Los Angeles, he sold real estate and was the manager of Hollywoodland real estate development. Martin died on June 4, 1932 at home and is buried in the Inglewood Cemetery.