Myers brothers build trade empire

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Part Two

When Francis Enoch Myers was 25 years old, he married Alavesta Savilla Hohenshil. She was a neighbor, four years younger, whose father was a tinsmith in Wayne County, Ohio, before moving to Rowsburg, where the family opened a hardware store.

It was 1872 when the young couple made their home close to the Myers’ family farm near Rowsburg. It wasn’t until 1875 that life seemed about to change.

The Ashland Machine Company went bankrupt. This was the main supplier for the young salesman and its bankruptcy appeared to be a big setback for F.E., who now had a wife and two children to care for. With $4,500 in saved money and a strong customer base in the region, F.E. decided to open his own farm equipment business in Ashland. It wasn’t long until his new shop was opened on Center Street, and he was back on the road as a sales representative for Bucher and Gibbs and the Imperial Plow Company, both of Canton, Ohio.

Incredible team. It was also at this time that F.E. talked his brother, Philip Andrew, in to coming to work for him. He was to be paid $20 a month to run the office while his older brother traveled and drummed up business.

In a few short years, the brothers were doing more than $125,000 in annual sales. The two proved to be an incredible team. Was it simple luck that prompted F.E. to ask P.A. to join him in this business venture?

P.A. was four years younger, and had always been said to be the inventive one of the Myers family’s nine children. He once had rigged up a mechanism that would automatically close gates on the farm, and it is said that as just a young boy he had once hitched a calf to the butter churn, putting the calf’s energy to work to turn the churn.

Together, with F.E.’s strong sales ability and P.A.’s inventive nature, the two brothers began seeing great success. In 1878, after the birth of a fourth child, F.E. and Alavesta moved into a beautiful home he’d built in Ashland on Center Street. Both the house and barn were quite ornate, and the Swiss and Italian architecture drew much attention. To this home, two more daughters were welcomed.

While F.E. traveled, his younger brother not only tended the store with great success, but tinkered with the farm tools and implements their store carried, making modifications to improve upon them.

“Of particular interest to P.A. were water pumps. Not every farm needed a new plow, but every home, in the city and on the farm, required a sufficient supply of water,” wrote Howard E. Covington, Jr., in Living the American Dream.

“In 1878, P.A. produced a variation on the double-action force pumps that would provide a steady stream of water as a farmer or housewife worked the handle, rather than bursts of water that rose from the well with each pump of the handle. On May 25, 1880, he secured a patent for his improvements to a basic design,” he wrote.

There were more than 200 patents for pumps at that time, but P.A. continued to work at perfecting what he had started. Within two years, he had designed a glass valve seat that wouldn’t corrode or leak, providing steady pressure and even flow. He also patented the idea for a pump no larger than three inches in diameter to be inserted into drilled wells.

(Next week: Expanding to hay tools and machines.)

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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