Franklin Bradford Bearce (1847-1906) – Clothing, Shoes, and Home Furnishing Merchant

Franklin Bradford Bearce, son of Zebulon Harlow Bearce and Harriet B. Bradford was born in Turner, Maine on March 4, 1847.  Frank grew up on Turner and by 1881 he was working in Chicago as a wholesale clothing dealer.  In January 1881, Frank and his brother in-law, Lothrop Hedge Faulkner, partnered to open L. H. Faulkner & Company clothing and shoe store in the Opera Block.  In 1882 the business moved to 207 N. Broadway (currently the south 3rd of the USD 435 administrative offices) in the Knox Block.  Mr. Faulkner was the managing partner while Frank stayed in Chicago and served as the buyer.  L. H. Faulkner & Company occupied two store fronts on Broadway Street and carried clothing, shoes, boots, and furnishing goods.  In the summer of 1884, the business leased an adjacent building, connected the spaces with a brick archway, and opened an expanded boot and shoe department.

Frank married Anna Dwight Faulkner, one of his business partner’s sisters, in Plymouth, Massachusetts on December 15, 1886.  The couple moved to Abilene in 1887 from Chicago, Illinois and purchased 904 NW. 3rd Street, which was the home of Dr. J. E. Herbst.  Their home cost $3,000.  The couple was blessed with the birth of their daughter, Nannie, in November 1888.  However, joy quickly turned to tragedy when Anna died at home on December 3, 1888 due to an inability to recover from childbirth.  Anna’s funeral was at the Trinity Lutheran Church and she is buried in the Abilene Cemetery.

Nannie died In Aug of 1889, while visiting family in Fremont, Ohio.  That December, Frank purchased the home of W. G. Cowles on Grand Avenue for $7,000.  Shortly thereafter he married his sister in-law, Elizabeth Cole Faulkner, who was the widow of Charles Amsden.  They were married in Fremont, Ohio at her home on January 9, 1890.  Elizabeth came to Abilene with her two children, Susan Hedge Amsden and William Faulkner Amsden.

AWR 9-25-1890 #2

Abilene Weekly Reflector – September 25, 1890

In September 1890, the company officially changed the name to Faulkner & Bearce.  In 1892, the company purchased the stock of competitor Hazlett & Hynds and sold it at a deep discount.  Among the firm’s employees were William Henry Sunderland, Harold F. Bearce, William H. Hoon, Frank Parker, Harry Binder, Charles Schively, William Shellhaas, Henry Knoder, W. L. Hutchinson, Wesley S. Harley, and Will Seward.  Faulkner & Bearce also had a store in Herington, which they closed in January 1893.  The following year, the stock was condensed from two store fronts to one and the firm was dissolved when Frank purchased Lothrop’s interest.  The new firm was called F. B. Bearce.  In December 1895, the stock was being liquidated to satisfy the mortgagee’s.  Frank retained the business and continued to sell high quality men’s ware and shoes.

ADR 5-16-1894

Abilene Daily Reflector – May 16, 1894

Frank B. Bearce, Clothier moved from 207 N. Broadway to 211 N. Broadway, at the southeast corner of Broadway and NW. 3rd Street. Frank hired Mathias Witt, who was a stone mason by trade, to lay an intricately patterned tile floor at the new location. When the new location opened it features large display windows on 3rd Street, a handsome tin ceiling, new furniture, fitting room, and shoe department, and youth’s department.  Electric lights were added to the store in September 1901.

Bearce at 211 N Broadway

Franklin B. Bearce Clothier Located at 211 (213) N. Broadway Street

Mr. Bearce decided to close the business in April 1902 and began a close out sale.  The stock was for sale by the trustees with William Hoon continuing to sell the stock until December.  Following the closing of the company, Frank moved to St. Joseph, Missouri to become a traveling salesman for the Hirschman Brothers & Company, which was a leading clothing manufacturer based in New York.  The Bearce’s kept their house on Grand Avenue and had a number of renters, including United States Senator Joseph Ralph Burton.

Mr. Bearce was also keen on public matters.  He was a candidate for the school district in 1897 and served on the annual Corn Carnival’s finance committee.  He served as Treasurer at the Trinity Lutheran Church.  He was also involved in the local baseball scene.

Elizabeth died while trying to recover from an appendicitis operation in Fremont, Ohio on February 16, 1904.  She is buried in Fremont in the Oakwood Cemetery.  Frank died on September 28, 1906 in Auburn, Maine.





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Francis M. Whitlaw (1852-1908), Grocer

Francis M. Whitlaw was born in Ireland in March of 1852 and married Medora M. Ames.  Medora was a native of Ohio.  Francis was a farmer and by 1881 owned a farm south of Enterprise, Kansas on Carrie Creek.  He grew corn and wheat.  The couple would have four children: Edward, Zulema, Emmet, and Fosdick.

AWR 1-2-1890

Abilene Weekly Reflector – January 2, 1890

In August of 1883, the Whitlaw’s decided to sell the farm, which encompassed a six room farmhouse and 160 acres.  In October the farm and their household goods were sold at auction.  Following the sale the family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for a year before returning to Dickinson County.  While in Cincinnati, Francis was severely injured in an elevator accident while moving products between floors in a warehouse.  They purchased ground 3 miles east of Abilene and built a new home.  Francis returned to planting corn, wheat, and onions.

In the spring of 1889, the Whitlaw’s purchased the Clyde James McDivitt home at 501 NW. 3rd Street.  They kept the farm east of town.  It was at this point that Francis decided to open a grocery store.  At the time the firm of Hawk & Shelton dry goods was located at 214 N. Cedar Street (current location of Black & Company Realtors) and dissolving.  Francis partnered with H. C. Shelton, who had considerable mercantile experience.  The new firm of H. C. Shelton & F. M. Whitlaw opened on January 1, 1890.  George Loyd was their managing employee.

The Firm of Shelton & Whitlaw was dissolved after 6 months with Francis buying his partner’s interest with the new firm being named

ADR 1-17-1894

Abilene Daily Reflector – January 17, 1894

F. M. Whitlaw and Company.  Mr. Shelton stayed with the firm as a manager and buyer.  George Loyd and John Eagle were also employed by the firm.  Over the next year, the dry goods portion of the business was liquidated.  The Rescue store, which was located at 312 N. Broadway (currently the north half of The Other Jones Store), purchased Whitlaw’s shoe inventory and the remaining dry goods and millinery items were sold at a bankruptcy sale in the spring of 1891.

The firm’s finances were restructured and reincorporated as M. M. Whitlaw, which was strictly a grocery store.  George Loyd continued as the manager and the store remained on Cedar Street.  Francis attended the World’s Fair for three days in 1893 and shortly thereafter elected to do transactions on a cash basis only, so credit was not extended to purchasers.  At this time, Francis was involved in the Abilene Commercial Club, which later became the Abilene Area Chamber of Commerce.

In December 1893, the space at 206 N. Cedar (most recently J & I Ceramics) was being remodeled and the firm moved from 214 N. Cedar to the newly remodeled space the following month.  In late 1895, Jacob Isaac Gish’s meat market moved into the Whitlaw grocery store.  The following year, the grocery store and meat market moved to 211-213 N. Broadway (currently the USD 435 Administrative Offices) and opened on February 25, 1896.  The grocery store was on the corner of NW. 3rd and Broadway (213) and was connected to the butcher shop (211) by an arched opening in the wall.  George Loyd in partnership with Fred Johntz decided to leave the firm and opened a grocery store in the space vacated by Whitlaw’s at 206 N. Cedar.

Several businesses shuffled their locations in early-1898, including Whitlaw’s shop which moved from Broadway Street to 209 N. Cedar Street (currently the south half of Xpressions).  The new location was remodeled prior to the move.  Francis continued to invest in his farming operations with his purchase of the old Cuthbert 100-acre farm, which was located on the Smoky Hill River bottom land two miles east and one mile south of Abilene.

Due to Francis’ poor health, the Whitlaw’s decided to close the grocery store and in the December of 1900 the J. B. Case Company purchased the entire grocery stock.  Herman Hassler purchased the butcher shop and moved it to Enterprise.  Francis continued to farm even though his health was failing.  He traveled to Topeka for medical treatments in 1903.  That same year they decided to sell the farm and their house at 501 NW. 3rd Street.

ADR 9-28-1906

Abilene Daily Reflector – September 29, 1906

The family remained in Abilene until July of 1904 when they moved to Cherryvale, Kansas, where Francis opened a grocery store.  In Cherryvale, they lived at 223 N. Neosho Street.  During this time, Francis decided to invest in a hotel in Kansas City.  He sold his first hotel in Kansas City in 1905 and then purchased the White House hotel at 744 Oak Street in Kansas City.  In 1906, he sold the grocery store in Cherryvale and went to Kansas City to manage the Royal Hotel.  The Royal Hotel was located at 800 E. 12th Street.  Today, the hotel site is a parking lot.

In October 1908, Francis lost his job as the manager of the Royal Hotel.  This loss was devastating to Francis.  On November 22, 1908, Francis committed suicide in his room at the Royal Hotel by ingesting rat poison.  He was discovered in his room and taken to an emergency hospital where he died.  His funeral was held at the Freeman and Marshall Funeral Home at 3015 Main Street in Kansas City.  He is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery in Kansas City.  His widow would continue living in Kansas City and died in December of 1934.  She is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City.



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Charles Christian Shaler (1852-1926) – Druggist

On May 31, 1852, David Shaler and Martha Dwyer of Ankenytown, Ohio, were blessed with the birth of their son, Charles Christian Shaler.  Charles’ mother died when he was six years and at an early age assisted his father with managing the farm.  He grew up in Knox County, Ohio with his father, step mother, and half-siblings.  Around 1877, Charles married Elizabeth K. King, daughter of Wilson N. King and Sarah Mills, who were early residents of Abilene.

Ellsworth Reporter 1880

Ellsworth Reporter, September 25, 1879

Charles and his brother in-law, Millard King, opened a grocery store on Douglas Avenue in Ellsworth, Kansas in the summer of 1879 under the firm Shaler & King.  Prior to opening the store, Charles had been a grocery store clerk for J. Beebe in Ellsworth.  Shaler & King in Ellsworth closed in April 1882 and the gentlemen moved to Abilene.  Millard died at his parent’s home in Abilene the following month.

Charles switched product lines and opened a drug store in Abilene in 1883 in the 200 block of at N. Cedar Street.  The Shaler’s lived on Buckeye Avenue.  The drug store was the scene of a professionally safe cracker in 1884.  It was surmised that the cracksman entered the building through the post office.  The thief drilled a small hole in the safe and set off a powder charge that destroyed the combination mechanism.  The loss was $100 in cash and a gold watch and chain.  The watch had been a gift he received as a fifteen year old boy from his uncle.  The burglar also tried to drill through the post office safe and resorted to a significant amount of powder to blow it open.  The post office lost $2,000 and some valuables.

February 12, 1885, Abilene Weekly Reflector

Abilene Weekly Reflector, February 12, 1885

The drug store moved to the newly completed building at 102 NW. 2nd Street in 1885.  Among the employees of the Shaler Drug Store were Harry Lee, who was with the company for 5 years and D. E. Scanlan.  Mr. Lee sold many items including drugs, patent medicines, toilet articles, and paints.  In those days, it was common for drug stores to carry cigars and other items we today find adverse to good health.  In 1887, Charles applied under a new law to carry liquor, which was granted by the Dickinson County Probate Court.  The legal application of this new law created an uproar in the community that wasn’t ready to go wet, so two weeks later he surrendered the permit he had just received.  However, in 1890 he did receive and retain a permit to sell liquor.

Charles and his father in law, Dr. King, took on a project of great significance to downtown Abilene beginning in November 1885, when they started building the commercial building addressed 305-307 N. Buckeye, which is currently the north half of the RHV store.  Martin and Adams were the builders.  The first tenant in the north half of the block building was R. R. VanSant who operated a confectionery and ice cream parlor (307 N. Buckeye).  Mrs. VanSant had a millinery in the south room of the building (305 N. Buckeye).  Charles and his family moved into the residential space above the VanSant businesses.

The Shaler’s had three children: Maude, Millard, and Ethel.  Charles was civic minded.  He was a member of the Knights of Pythias and served as the Treasurer for the Young Men’s Republican Club.  He was elected to the Board of Education in 1888.  The family moved out of the 2nd floor of the commercial building to the house on Buckeye formerly owned by O. J. Raub and a year later moved to a house on 4th Street, one door east of his in-laws.  Charles also participated in the local baseball scene by playing 3rd base for “The Doctors and Druggist” team.

Charles also purchased and sold businesses.  In December 1888, he exchanged property for the Jackman’s mill site in Chapman and turned over the operation to his brother, E. S. Shaler.  This mill was renamed the “Roller Mill” and was resold in to William Drain in May 1889.  He also purchased the “Gem” drug store in Manchester, Kansas and added to it’s stock.  A year later, Charles purchased a competitor, “The Palace Drug Store”, from H. H. Keel.  He did not consolidate the drug stores.

Abilene Weekly Reflector Shaller-Allen

Abilene Weekly Reflector

The Shaler drug store was sold to Harry C. Allen in October 1890, who opened H. C. Allen & Company and moved the stock to the former First National Bank Building (207 N. Cedar).  Four months later The Place Drug Store stock was packed and shipped to Whatcom, Washington.  Shortly after Mrs. Shaler was taken ill and returned to Abilene to help improve her health.  Charles returned to Abilene and started working for the Gulick Drug Store in 1894, but was once again in Whatcom.

LDJW 4-6-1915

Lawrence Daily Journal-World

In 1896, the Shaler family moved from Whatcom to Lawrence, Kansas where Charles was a traveling drug salesman for a drug manufacturer.  They lived in several homes in Lawrence, with 907 Ohio Street being their longest tenured residence.  Charles decided to purchase the drugstore of Dr. J. A. Hamlin, who was in failing health.  Shaler’s San-Tox Drug Store was housed at 742 Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence.

Charles continued to have an interest in the pacific northwest.  In 1915, he sold the San-Tox Drug Store to Dr. E. R. Hess, who came to Lawrence from Hays.  After the sell, Charles spent a month traveling the west coast looking for an opportunity to open a drug store.  He settled on Portland, Oregon and moved there in March 1916.

The move to Portland was made by Charles, Elizabeth, Maude, and Ethel.  Millard had become a mining engineer and was pursuing what would become a very successful career in that field.  The family lived at 1020 Pacific Street.  Charles would own and operate a drug store in Portland for the next ten years till his death on July 9, 1926.  Elizabeth died on December 3, 1928 in Portland.  They are buried in the King family plot in the Abilene Cemetery.



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James Clinton Holland (1853-1919), Architect

James Clinton Holland

James Clinton Holland

James Clinton Holland was born in a log cabin in Lima, Ohio on April 2, 1853 to Barton Andrew Holland and Lydia Osmon.  He attended public school in Lima, Ohio and as a young man enrolled in the Northern Ohio Normal School (Ohio Northern University) in Ada, Ohio to study architecture.  After two years at the Normal School, James attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York to study architecture for two years.  Upon returning to Ohio from New York, James was offered and accepted a teaching position and the Chairmanship of the Architecture program at the Northern Ohio Normal School.  Later he worked with his brother in-law James M. McKinney, who was a prominent building contractor in Lima.  James worked for a year as an architect for the firm of Rumbaugh & Baco in Toledo, Ohio and in 1877 started a construction firm in Ada.

It was at this time that he married Elizabeth Baker on September 14, 1882.  Elizabeth was the daughter of Anthony and Julie Baker.  Around 1883, James met with a severe accident, which kept him under a physician’s care.  The accident left the family nearly penniless.  In 1885, the family borrowed $110 and set out for Topeka, Kansas with their first child, Barton, being an infant.  James quickly became a partner of Hopkins & Holland an architect firm in Topeka.  This partnership lasted until 1889, when James began his own firm.  He was on his own until 1903 when he partnered with Frank Squires in the firm Holland & Squires.  Later James partnered with son, Barton in the firm Holland & Son.  He served as the State Architect of Kansas from 1895 to 1897, a time period during which the current State Capital Building was being built.  He was also the special projects architect for the Santa Fe Railroad Company in 1897 and 1898.

Clay County KS Courthouse 1

Clay County Courthouse, Clay Center, Kansas

Throop Hotel

Throop Hotel, Topeka, Kansas

James Clinton Holland’s work can be found throughout Kansas.  Most of the public buildings built in Topeka around 1900 were designed by James.   Among these include: the old county jail, the Mills building, the Masonic Temple, Capper Publications building, the Warren M. Crosby building, the Berkson Brothers building, the Central National Bank building, Stormont Vail Hospital, the Throop Hotel, the First Methodist Church, the Central Congregational Church, The Topeka City Auditorium, the Y.M.C.A building, and most of the Topeka Public School buildings.  He designed numerous Kansas county courthouses including: Clay, Geary, Marion, Mitchell, Ness, Osbourne, Rice, Riley, Shawnee, and Thomas.  His greatest residential designs occurred on the “Governor’s Row”, on Buchanan Street in Topeka.  These are the most distinguished homes in Topeka.

James and Lizzie had three children: Barton, Frank, and Lydia.  In 1888, the family lived at 520 Tyler Street and later lived at 1505 W. 15th Street in Topeka.  James died on May 28, 1919 in Topeka, Kansas, at 66 years of age and is buried in the Topeka Cemetery.


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Martin Thomas Hildinger (1862-1932), The Merchant

Martin Thomas Hildinger 3

Martin Thomas Hildinger

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.

AWR 4-25-1912

Hildinger’s Grand Market Day Advertisement – 1912

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.


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