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George W. Staver, president and founder of one of the largest mercantile corporations on the Pacific Coast was born in Brush Valley, Center county, Pennsylvania, November 18, 1836. He is of German and Scotch-Irish ancestry and was reared upon a farm. Soon after his birth his parents moved to Sugar Valley, Clinton county, Pennsylvania, and remained on the same farm until 1854, when they came ‘to Illinois, but a year later settled near Monroe, Green county, Wisconsin. Here his father, Frederick Staver, still resides, at the advanced age of eighty-one years.
Our subject received from his father a most thorough knowledge of farming in all its branches, long before the era of the present improved farming implements. His education was such as was received at that day in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin by the average farmer’s boy. Attendance at the district school in winter with three months at the Academy at Warren, Illinois, in 1861, completed his educational advantages; previous to going to the latter institution, however, he taught school for two terms in Green county. He early became interested in and an expert operator of agricultural machinery. He purchased one of the first threshing machines used in Green county, and during the fall and winter followed threshing. He became very proficient in this line of work and before he had reached his majority did quite an extensive business.
While at school at Warren, Illinois, Fort Sumter was fired upon and President Lincoln issued his first call for troops. Young Staver at once enlisted but before his company was ready to enter the service the requisite number of men called for had been secured and its services were not needed. When the second call for troops was issued, in September, 1861, he enlisted for three years in the Fifth Wisconsin Light Artillery. This battery went into camp at Racine, Wisconsin; left for the seat of war in March, 1862, and remained in active service at the front until the close Of the war. Its first service was at New Madrid, Missouri, followed by participation in the siege of Corinth and battle of Farmington. On September 3, 1862, it was transferred to the Army of the Tennessee; took part in the battle of Perryville and the pursuit of the enemy to Crab Orchard, Kentucky. It was also engaged in the battle of Murfreesboro or Stone River, occupying the extreme right, and on December 31, 1862, fired the first gun that ushered in this memorable engagement. During the summer of 1863, it was engaged in the Chattanooga and Chickamauga campaign taking part in the battles at the foot of Lookout Mountain and within the Union fortifications at Chattanooga and Mission Ridge. During this entire period Mr. Staver was in every engagement in which his battery participated. By a general order from the War Department all troops having served two years or more could re-enlist for the period of the war. Under this order Mr. Stave’s battery reenlisted in December, 1863, for three years or during the war. The battery, soon after re-enlistment, took part in the battle of Reseca, and beginning with this battle was engaged almost every day in the Atlanta campaign, until that city was captured, September 6, 1864. In November following, it started with Gen. Sherman’s forces on the memorable march to the sea, ending with the siege and capture of Savannah. From this point it marched through the Carolinas and took part in the battle at Bentonville. After a brief rest at Raleigh, the battery marched to Washington via Richmond and Alexandria, and took its place in the grand review of Sherman’s army. On June 1, 1865, it arrived at Madison, Wisconsin, where it was mustered out of service. Mr. Staver’s record as a soldier was excellent. During the entire period of service he never failed to be ready for duty; was twice promoted and now holds two honorable discharges.
After his return home Mr. Staver purchased a farm in Green County, Wisconsin, and besides engaging in farming, followed threshing for three seasons. In the fall of 1867 he sold his farm, and in the following spring moved to Nashua, Iowa, where he engaged in general merchandizing with S. W. Byers, under the firm name of Byers & Staver. He disposed of his interest in the fall of 1870, and in the spring of 1871, returned to Monroe, Wisconsin, where with his brother, H. C. Staver, he embarked in the agricultural implement business under the firm name of Staver Bros. They soon after bought a half interest in a hardware store with John S. Harper, combining this business with their own under the firm name of Harper & Staver Bros. Two years later H. C. Staver sold out his interest, when the firm became known as Harper & Staver. During these years a very good business was established. They were agents of several large manufactories of farming machinery, among which was the well known J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company. In 1877 Mr. Staver was engaged by the latter Company in expert work connected with the operation of their machines. So valuable did his services prove, that in February, 1878, he entered. their employ as traveling representative, and disposed of his interest at Monroe. In 1879 he came to Oregon as representative of this company to sell a large stock of goods then at Salem. The Company desired to open up trade in this section of the country, and gave Mr. Staver the option of establishing a business, either on a salary or a commission basis. Upon his arrival he was soon convinced that Portland offered the best inducements as a commercial point, and upon his advice this city was selected instead of Salem as the headquarters for commencing operations. The first year he worked upon a salary, but the second year took his pay on a commission basis. In 1881 with W. H. Walker, who had previously been in his employ, he commenced business under the firm name of Staver & Walker. Continued success followed the undertaking, and from the beginning to the present the growth of the business has been most remarkable. At first they handled the agricultural machinery of only one manufacturing company, but at the present time they carry the most complete line of farm, dairy and mill machinery on the Pacific Coast. Their immense warehouse in the New Market block on First Street, extending to Second Street, is one of the largest business blocks in the city, every portion of which is required for exhibiting their large assortment of goods. Branch houses have been established at Walla Walla, Colfax, Spokane Falls, Seattle and Pomeroy, Washington; LaGrande, Oregon, and Moscow, Idaho. A large force of men is employed, and their yearly business reaches the sum of $1,000,000. In 1888 the company was incorporated with a paid up capital of $330,000, at which time the present officers were chosen: George W. Staver, President; W. H. Walker, Vice President and General Manager; Frank L. Brown, Secretary, and G. L. Walker, Treasurer.
The creation of this immense business within a few years has been an incident of rapid growth, conspicuous in the history of the Pacific Northwest. Mr. Staver, with a full knowledge of the requirements of the business, and practical experience in farming and handling farming implements, was perfectly familiar with the needs of an agricultural community, and well adapted to inaugurate the business with which he has been so conspicuously connected. Mr. Staver, however, says that Mr. W. H. Walker, his partner, deserves his full share of credit for the success of this business, and that Frank L. Brown, whom they employed as their office man for years, is entitled to not a little of the honor. Both men are indefatigable workers and of good business sagacity.
Mr. Staver’s time and energy have been almost solely engrossed by the demands of his business, and he has had, up to the present time, but little to do with other enterprises He is, however, a director in the Deep Sea Fishing Company, and stock-holder in the Cyclorama Company. For more than twenty years he has been a member of the Methodist Church, and since his residence in Portland has been connected with the Taylor Street Church, in which he is one of the trustees, and one of the most active church workers. He is a liberal supporter of religious and benevolent institutions, and is President of the Portland Hospital, and the Pacific Christian Advocate. He is also one of the trustees of the Willamette University. He was married in 1858 to Miss Salome Wagner, who died in December, 1860. They had one child, a son, Franklin, who resides in Wisconsin. He was married, January, 1866, to his present wife, Miss Sarah A. Thorp, of Clarno, Green County, Wisconsin, and to them three children have been born.
Mr. Staver is a man of large frame, and of strong and vigorous constitution. He is modest and unostentatious in manner, and one whom prosperity has not changed. He has been a hard worker all his life, and has fairly earned the success which has come to him. In the prosperity of Portland during late years, he has been a valuable factor, and the enterprise which he inaugurated promises to be of still greater benefit to the city in the years to come. He is progressive and public spirited, and begrudges no effort that may contribute to the public good.