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The Meyer and Coon Mercantile Company

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In 1879, two gentlemen, William Baumbach and Jacob Meyer, who had been in the mercantile business in Lee, Ill., sold their interests there and came to Wadena and established a general store, Baumbach & Meyer at 9 Aldrich Ave. SW.

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In 1880, after a fire destroyed the hotel and real estate office to the east of them, they purchased the corner lot and built a new store building at 1 Aldrich Avenue SW the home of Lynk's True Value in 2011. This building was 24 by 80 feet, 24 feet high and faced toward the railroad tracks on Front Street.

In 1882, they brought Frank B. Coon from Illinois to Wadena and established him in a men's store at 11 Aldrich Avenue SW.

Late in 1884, a notice was published in the Northern Pacific Farmer, a local newspaper, announcing the dissolution of the F. B. Coon & Company composed of F. B. Coon, W. R. Baumbach and Jacob J. Meyer.

Also in that issue the announcement of the dissolution of the firm of Baumbach & Meyer. Thus began the Meyer and Coon Mercantile Company which continued for 40 years until Jake Meyer's death in 1925.

In 1888, a fire consumed the whole block where their store was located, necessitating the construction of a new building. The new building was a brick structure, 75 feet on Front Street (Aldrich Avenue SW) and 90 feet on Third Street (Jefferson South) and one story high. The entrance was on the northeast corner of the building. In the interim while the new building was being constructed, they were housed at 9 Aldrich Avenue SE. In 1890, they moved back into their former spot at 101 Jefferson South.

Their competitor was Henry Burch's department store across the street, but both survived and thrived.

Meyer & Coon sold anything and everything: clothing, hardware, lumber, groceries and notions. They bought butter, cream, poultry, eggs and produce from the local farmers for resale bearing in mind that there were no creameries in Wadena when they started. They also bought cord wood and railroad ties. Coon said that they had to give chips, redeemable at the store, for the ties purchased because money was scarce and the firm had to wait until spring to get paid for the ties by the railroad company.

George Yetter came to work for the firm in 1892 with Andrew Hall coming a couple of years later. In 1903, Eli Gates, a brother-in-law of Frank Coon, came to work for the firm and became the manager of the grocery department until the time of his death in 1915.

A story is told about George Yetter, while waiting on a lady who was purchasing some butter. They found a mouse in it and the lady said to just give her a different one, remove the mouse, and sell it to someone else. She said, "What they don't know won't hurt them." George took it to the basement, removed the mouse and returned handing it to the lady saying, "You are right -- what they don't know won't hurt them."

Just prior to the reorganization of the company in 1915, they purchased the stock of the Guest Clothing Company, a local company that went bankrupt, and moved into the south portion of their building that had been occupied by the Wadena Hardware Company.

Later that year the company was reorganized with J. J. Meyer as president, F. B. Coon as vice president, George Yetter treasurer and A. M. Hall secretary. Jacob Meyer and Frank Coon were partners in almost every facet of their lives. It was a true partnership for a lifetime.

In 1925 on the death of Jacob Meyer, Frank Coon decided it was time to retire and the stock was liquidated and the business closed.

Occupants of the building since then have been the Burg Company, a mini department store, The B & G Company, Bill Ebner and Gust Peterson, a variety store and ending with the purchase of the building by Richard Fossen in 1963 and has since housed the Coast to Coast Hardware Store owned by he and his partner, Dale Lynk and now owned by the Lynk family as Lynk's True Value Hardware. The south portion of the building housed different hardware stores and grocery stores before being again occupied by the Lynk family as it is today.

Jacob Meyer built the home on Bryant Avenue SW in 1886, currently owned by the Bottemiller family. He married a girl by the name of Mary Hochstrasser from Rochelle, Ill. They had no children of their own but brought two Yetter children from Rochelle to live with them. Mrs. Meyer and Mrs. Yetter were sisters and it was on the death of Mr. Yetter that this occurred. Mary Meyer died in 1914 and in 1916 Jacob married Eva Brown, a former employee.

The two children Rose and George grew up and married, Rose to Andrew Hall and George to Maude Coon.

In the summer of 1925 while at his summer home on East Battle Lake, Jacob Meyer died of a heart attack. He was survived by his second wife Eva.

I never knew Andrew Hall who died at an early age of heart trouble, but George Yetter, affectionately known as Grandpa George in later years, had a very cheerful disposition. He was a very good natured person. We were neighbors to Rose Yetter Hall for many years, a truly wonderful lady.

Frank B. Coon was born at Geneva, Ill. in 1852 and married Lydia Gates at Rochelle, Ill. in 1875. His wife died several years prior to his death in 1945. He was an ardent promoter of Wadena and the surrounding area, owning several hundred acres of farm land with Jacob Meyer. He was very active in all branches of the Masonic Fraternity and Eastern Star and an active member of the Congregational Church holding many offices over the years. In 1906, he built a beautiful home at 205 Fourth Street SW, at a cost of approximately $6,000. This is now owned by the Johnson Memorial Home.

They had two daughters, Maude mentioned above and Lulu who married Tony Lee, a banker at Deer Creek, who was killed in a tragic car accident. He and his wife were on their way to a basketball game at Parkers Prairie and stopped along the highway to help a motorist in trouble. Tony Lee was struck and instantly killed by a passing auto.

Frank Coon and Jacob Meyer were both heavily interested in the Merchants National Bank at Wadena and between the two served as its president from 1893 to 1926. They were also involved in starting and operating banks at Henning, Clitherall, Crosby, Ironton, Deerwood, Lincoln, Randall, Tromald, Pequot, Deer Creek and Bertha. They also owned, in a partnership with Isaac Hazlett, the Phoenix block, home of the Boondocks restaurant in 2011, after the fire of 1900.

I would say that the Meyer & Coon store was the 1900 version of a present day big box store in that they handled almost any kind of merchandise for any type of clientele and drew their trade from a large service area.

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