Katzky was pioneer businessman

About a month ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of spending a day visiting with Muriel Christen Jones and her husband, Bill. They are an 86-year-old couple from Claremont, Calif., who opted to take an Amtrak tour which led from their home thr...

About a month ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of spending a day visiting with Muriel Christen Jones and her husband, Bill. They are an 86-year-old couple from Claremont, Calif., who opted to take an Amtrak tour which led from their home through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas to Chicago and then to St. Paul. In St. Paul they rented a car and came to Wadena in pursuit of information on Muriel's great-grandfather, Marcus Jerome Katzky.

Katzky was born in 1833 in Germany. Details of his early life are not available until we find him at McGreggor, Iowa, in 1870 with his wife, Yetta, and two children, Fred and Emma. For some unknown reason he moved with his family to Wadena in 1876.

He opened a general store in a building owned by Harry Brintnell in a building adjacent to the Merchants Hotel on Front Street (2009 in the vacant lot behind Lynk's True Value Hardware). He called his store the German Emporium.

In 1878, with a need for more space, he moved to 105 South Jefferson (Time Jewelry 2009). The following year he bought two lots on Third Street (Jefferson 2009) 116 and 118 South Jefferson and built a building on the south lot, which was a two-story building with his family living up stairs.

In 1879, Katzky's German Emporium, appreciating the need for some kind of coin to facilitate trade, along with Meyer & Coon, began to issue merchandise "chips" for the purchase of timber and railroad ties. The "chips" were metal discs in 5, 10, 25, 50 cent and one dollar denominations. The recipient could either purchase merchandise from the store at that time or hold them for future use. Other merchants in town also honored these chips.


In January 1888, disaster struck when fire destroyed his building, along with the rest of the block to the south. His loss was valued at $10,000, stock and building with insurance of $3,500. He immediately planned to rebuild. During the rebuilding he opened a store at 11 Aldrich Avenue SE. When he rebuilt he built on the north lot, again a 25-foot building with a second story for his family.

He prospered in this location and became involved in many civic matters. He, like many others of the early pioneers, did anything that was honorable and that would benefit and advance Wadena and Wadena County.

In 1880, he was one of a committee of three appointed to plan for and advertise for bids to construct a road from Wadena to the Shell River and the Shell Prairies to compete with Verndale to gain a portion of the wheat trade from the Shell Prairie area.

In 1881, the Northern Pacific Farmer newspaper announced that Katzky set out four or five hitching posts in front of his store. The paper said that this was a good idea and one they hoped others would follow.

In 1882, Katzky was one of the incorporators and a director of the Wadena Driving Park Association organized to promote the mechanical and agricultural interests of Wadena and the surrounding territory. This was the forerun of our present day Wadena County Fair.

In 1885, Katzky, as president of the village council, presided over the organization of a fire department.

In 1887, the first creamery was organized in Wadena with Katzky as president. The businessmen of Wadena realized that this would be a great boost for the town and give farmers of the area a source of cash for their produce. However, it proved to be a little premature as there were not enough cattle in the country and most of the farmers did not produce enough milk to have a surplus over their own needs. A number of years later it was again tried and this time proved successful, but Katzky was not involved.

In 1888, Katzky was one of a committee of 10 appointed to confer with the city council in an effort to obtain more protection against fires in the village.


In 1892, Katzky became a director of the Merchant's National bank, a position he held for many years, probably until he retired in 1902.

In 1895, in an effort to capture more business, the merchants of Wadena got together and appointed Katzky as an independent wheat buyer who would appear on Wadena streets offering the best price in the area for the purchase of wheat from the area farmers.

In 1898, the Wadena Masonic Lodge moved into the upstairs of the Katzky building. Katzky was an ardent Mason, becoming affiliated with the lodge when it was established in 1883. In 1898, with the establishment of a higher branch of the Lodge, he became an officer of this branch, the Wadena Chapter 66. In 1911, after a fire damaged the building, the Masonic Lodge purchased the building from Katzky for $3,250.

In 1900, Katzky retired from the mercantile business turning it over to his sons Leo and Otto, who continued the business until 1909 when they sold out to Robert Isherwood. During their period of ownership the brothers incorporated and took George Meilkes, husband of their sister Pansy, as a firm member. In the arrangement with Robert Isherwood for the purchase of the business, Isherwood had the option of two years rental on the building at $40 per month.

In 1902, even though retired Marcus was elected as president of the Wadena Retail Grocer's Association with son Otto on the board of directors.

At that time, the newspaper said that the Katzkys would continue to live in Wadena but that they were looking forward to doing a good bit of traveling.

Yetta and Marcus Katzky had nine children, Fred and Emma born in Iowa and the others, Barney, Otto, William, Leo, Fannie, Hannah and Pansy, born in Wadena.

The one of interest to Mrs. Jones was Emma Katzky, who married a man named Morris (Mose) Davidson who came to Wadena as a cigar maker in 1898. About 1900, he removed to Staples and established a drug store, later buying out the drug store of his brother in law, Barney Katzky in Staples.


The other sister of interest was Hannah who married an attorney in Wadena in 1895 name of Albert G. Broker. Albert was a very successful attorney and town booster. At one time Albert was the mayor of Wadena. They built the beautiful home at 621 South Jefferson currently owned by Keith Hagen.

In 1912, when the city of Wadena purchased the property for the former city hall, (home of Grunst Chiropractic Clinic in 2009) they found that the property wasn't large enough to build an appropriate facility and found that Mrs. Broker owned a 10-by-32 foot strip to the north they had to purchase for $200.

Katzky seemed to be involved in all things good for Wadena and this territory, as were several of the old timers. He had a generous and genial disposition. In the early years he offered credit to many struggling families saving them from bankruptcy and financial ruin.

Katzky moved to Minneapolis in 1909 when the boys sold the business and lived at 2510 Garfield Avenue until his death in 1915 at the age of 82, death being due to old age. He had lost his sight several years before, which probably contributed to his decline.

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