Robert A. Holekamp, president of the Holekamp Lumber Company and a dominant factor in the industrial development of St. Louis and the state, was born at Nordstemmen, in the province of Hanover, Germany, May 4, 1848, his parents being the Rev. Frederick F. and Amelia (Koch) Holekamp, who lived and died in Hanover. The father was a Lutheran minister, devoting his entire life to the work of the church. Robert A. Holekamp was reared and educated in his native country, acquiring his early education under his father’s personal instruction. When fourteen years of age he was sent away to Hildesheim to attend college and there remained for several years. Later he entered upon an apprenticeship to the mercantile business and in 1868 be joined the German army as a yearly volunteer. He served for one year, leaving the army as a non-commissioned officer and having his certificate with the privilege of a commission in the army. In 1870, however, he came to the United States, settling in St. Louis where he found employment in the hardware and implement house of Henry Kuhlemann, with whom he continued for three and a half years. He next accepted the position of teller in The Bank of the West, a small bank on Third and Market streets, which two years later closed out its business. For a brief period thereafter Mr. Holekamp occupied a clerkship in a vinegar factory and then became manager for the firm of James Gray & Son, wholesale manufacturers and dealers in sash and doors. Three years later James Gray passed away, and his son and Mr. Holekamp then purchased the business and organized the firm of Gray & Holekamp, which company continued active in the trade until 1885, when Mr. Holekamp purchased the interest of his partner and continued to conduct the business independently for about a year. On account of failing health he then sold to the Huttig Sash & Door Company and retired at the age of thirty-eight years with a substantial competence. He went to the Ozarks for the benefit of his health, settling in the woods seven miles west of Annapolis, where he purchased a sawmill, which he operated for about five years. Liking the outdoor life, he retained his farm, which he cleared, and there he and his family spent their vacations when school was out.
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Mr. Holekamp met with prosperity in the operation of his sawmill and in fact he has prospered in every business venture that he has undertaken. In 19111 he returned to St. Louis and purchased a surgical instrument business at Ninth and Olive streets, which he carried on for six or seven years and then sold. About that time he took up the study of bee culture and is today well known throughout the country as an apiarist. About 1908 he was instrumental in having a bill passed by the legislature, creating the office of bee inspector, for the purpose of preventing disease among the bees, which frequently depopulates the hives. On a number of occasions Mr. Holekamp has been before the state board on questions pertaining to the raising and protection of the bees. He has acted as judge at the State Fair of Missouri for several years and in 1920 he was chosen as superintendent of the bee exhibit at the Oklahoma State Fair. He served for several years as a member of the board of directors of the National Beekeepers Association of the United States and Canada and he is vice president of the Missouri State Beekeepers Association. One of the elements of his success is the thoroughness with which he studies every project or proposition which he undertakes. His plans are always carefully formulated and promptly executed and his enterprise has constituted a forceful factor in the successful conduct of many interests.
In 1878 Mr. Holekamp was united in marriage to Miss Jennie Henckler, of St. Louis, and to them have been born six children: Julius R.: Carl H.: Richard E.; Fred W.; Amelia, who is the widow of Herman Engelsmann, of St. Louis: and Else, the wife of A. R. Evans. The four sons and the son-in-law, Mr Evans, are identified with the Holekamp Lumber Company, which has been steadily developed until there are now six yards in successful operation by this corporation, of which Robert A. Holekamp is the president.