My great-great-grandfather, Judge F. E. Gores (1866-1936), had a considerable reputation. A real estate company in Wadena, MN, that he founded is still named The Gores Company, precisely because of his reputation. A considerable portion of his good reputation was earned in the Great Depression, when the stock market crashed and panic caused citizens to run to their banks to try to withdraw their money. At many other financial institutions, people found their savings and investments were gone. Every last person who came to the F. E. Gores Mortgage Company asking for their money, however, had their money fully returned to them.
In addition to being in the Mortgage business, he was a real estate investor, the Mayor of Wadena, a prohibition judge and a probate judge. But before the successes of his later life, Fredrick Eugene (“F. E.”) Gores, the son of central European immigrants, had a very different career path. He was a grocer and a merchant. He ran a business called City Grocery, and he apparently specialized in teas and coffees.
Note: I was given permission to scan the photos featured in this post by the kind folks at the Wadena County Historical Society Museum. The first photo (that of the grocery wagon) is #2285 from the Wadena County Historical Society’s photograph collection. The second photo (of the coffee exhibit) is # 1673 from their photograph collection.
Fredrick E. Gores grew up in a devoutly Catholic home (in fact, his younger sister Rosa became a nun—Sister Bernarda). Fredrick was the second son and a middle child (fourth born of eight children) of Prussian immigrant Francis “Frank” Gores (1826-1899) and Luxembourger immigrant Margretha “Maggie” (Wolf) Gores (1833-1910). His father immigrated to the U.S. in 1855, and his mother immigrated in 1859. They married in 1859, soon after her immigration, and their first child was born in May 1860.
His father, Francis, had been a farmer in New Trier, Dakota County, MN, for two decades, but in 1886, when Fredrick was 20 years old and newly married to Veronika Evertz, his father moved his family to Wadena and opened a general merchandise store. Fredrick and his new wife came to Wadena as well. His father continued as a merchant for about eight years until his retirement in 1894. Fredrick succeeded his father in the mercantile business for a few years and later established a farm mortgage business in 1898.
The photos in today’s post are from the period during which Fredrick was a grocer and a merchant—from about 1886 until the early 1900s, a few years after he began his farm mortgage business.
The first photo is a black and white photograph of an as-yet-unlocated original (I don’t know who has the original, but I’m sure the WCHS has this info in their collections database). This photo shows a young-looking man, who I presume is F. E. Gores, in a grocery wagon with five other people whose identities are as yet unknown to me. According to the WCHS caption on the back of the photo, this is of the F. E. Gores City Grocery parade float. From the signage on the wagon, it appears that he runs a fancy grocery that carries teas and coffees.
The next image is of a cooperative exhibit by the F.E. Gores Company and the Meyer and Coon Merchantile Company, shown at the Wadena County fair. According to the late Bob Zosel, the Meyer & Coon Mercantile Company was one of the earliest Wadena businesses, founded in 1879.
The large boxes of coffee beans, as well as the advertised Phosphates, are products of Griggs, Cooper and Company, which was founded in 1882. The assortment of “Home Brand” products seen here were also made by them (more info here).
I presume the man on the left is F. E. Gores, as he looks very much like the only definitively identified photo I have of him. I originally guessed that he looks about 30–35 in this photo, placing the photo around 1896–1901. A note on the back of the photo reads “Rose Hall—right, 1905”. If this date is correct, F. E. Gores would be 39 years old in this photo, which seems plausible.
I have so far been able to find little else about F. E. Gores’ time as a grocer. I did find one interesting tidbit, however: F. E. Gores apparently issued tokens for his store, as here’s one for one 5¢ glass of soda water: