In the fall of 1931, what was said to be the oldest business structure in Vincennes, built in 1822, was razed, having been acquired as part of the George Rogers Clark Memorial project. The brick building, which for most of its history housed a hardware store, stood on the southwest corner of Second and Main streets, what is now part of Patrick Henry Square.
The structure was built by David Bonner and was first operated as a general store in partnership with R. S. Reynolds, until the latter’s death in 1832, and then with Robert Carnan. It was acquired by Moses Tyler circa 1852.
Tyler ran a store in the building for many years with his son, Wilson, under the name M. Tyler & Son. The 1860-61 Vincennes City Directory lists them as a general store, also selling sashes, doors, blinds, and building materials. They later transitioned to hardware, agricultural implements, and seed.
Originally a single story, two additional stories were added, along with an extension at the rear, around the time of or just after the Civil War.
Adolph Laue joined the firm in about 1876 and it became M. Tyler Son & Co. Moses Tyler died on March 29, 1881 at the age of 83. Wilson Tyler had also been president of the Vincennes National Bank, which suffered massive losses under his stewardship. The younger Wilson was only 56 when he took his own life on July 5, 1892.
After Wilson Tyler’s death, Archibald Simpson and John W. Emison became partners in the firm under the name Simpson, Emison & Laue. Emison had other business interests and would serve for many years as Vincennes postmaster.
Emison lost both of his partners in the early part of 1898. Adolph Laue died on March 13 at the age of 55, and Archibald Simpson was 62 when he passed away on April 4. Emison then operated the business on his own for nearly three years under the name John W. Emison & Co. On Jan. 21, 1901, he sold William J. Nicholson an interest in the store and it then went by the name Emison & Nicholson.
Besides the three-story building, Emison & Nicholson had three big warehouses for their inventory. In addition to all kinds of hardware, they offered an extensive line of farm implements, including farm wagons, mowers, binders, rakes, plows, cultivators, corn planters, hay loaders, and manure spreaders. They also carried the popular National Cream Separator and the Boss Washing Machine. By about 1910, they had added automobiles to their line.
Seed for farmers, especially clover seed, made up a big part of their inventory, and they owned more than one grain elevator.
Emison again found himself without a partner when William Nicholson died on Nov. 11, 1915 at the age of 64. Emison’s son, Richard, worked with his father for a time as a clerk in the store, but he would take on no more partners. The business was then known as the Emison Hardware Co.
It was a sad time for Emison, having to leave his store after nearly four decades at the same location. After the George Rogers Clark Memorial Commission purchased the property, Emison moved his hardware store to the corner of Ninth and Main streets, reopening at that location on Nov. 5, 1931. Razing of the landmark building began just a few days later.
One of the features that had earlier been removed from the old structure was a self-supporting spiral staircase made of walnut that went to the third floor. The local Masonic Lodge had once held their meetings on that floor.
Six months after moving his store, on May 9, 1932, Emison was badly injured in an automobile accident near Wheatland. The car in which he was an occupant blew a tire and flipped over twice. He was confined to Good Samaritan Hospital where he died at the age of 68 on May 27.
Despite the death of the owner, the Emison Hardware store would remain in operation for a few more years. In December of that same year, it was announced that long-time store employees Frank Foulks, Frank I. Hogue, and Ernest L. Draim would run the store. Foulks, for one, certainly had the experience. He had worked there for 45 years. The business retained the Emison name and continued to sell hardware and agricultural implements. There would later be some changes in partnership.
The store finally closed in 1938.
Brian Spangle can be reached at email@example.com.