James A Gault

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JAMES A. GAULT, banker and merchant, residing at Kittanning, Pa., was born at New Wilmington, Lawrence Co., Pa., Dec. 14, 1838, son of William C. and Elizabeth (Banks) Gault, and grandson of Maj. James Gault.

Maj. James Gault was of Scotch-Irish ancestry and possibly was born either in Scotland or Ireland. It is positively known that he was one of the very first settlers in Lawrence (then Mercer) county, Pa., probably coming directly after the close of the war of 1812, in which he served as a soldier, being major of his regiment. He became one of the prosperous agriculturists of Lawrence county, and died there at the age of seventy-six years. He and his wife had the following children: John, Benjamin, William C., Elizabeth, Polly, Sarah Jane and Lavina.

William C. Gault was born and reared in Lawrence county and followed the tanning business at New Wilmington, where his death occurred in 1852. He married Elizabeth Banks, who died in 1854, and they had six children: James A., Benjamin C., Mary Ann, Margaret Jane, Rebecca and Elizabeth.

James A. Gault attended the public schools of New Wilmington preparatory to entering Westminster College there, in which institution he was one of the first students. Great changes have come about since then when even the first of the many stately edifices of this educational center was yet unfinished and it was necessary for the classes to be held in the Seceder Church building. This school then, as now, was under the jurisdiction of the United Presbyterian body. Mr. Gault continued at school until he was fourteen years of age and then became clerk in the store at New Wilmington, in which capacity he has had his first business training, and two years later went to New Castle, Pa., where he worked as a clerk in a mercantile establishment for three more years. About 1857 he went from New Castle to Allegheny City, Pa., where he became a partner in the general mercantile firm of Dunlap, Luker & Co., Mr. Gault being the company. He sold his interest prior to 1864, when he came to Kittanning in order to establish himself in the mercantile business at this place. He was prudent in his first outlay and was judicious in the selection of his site, the present one, at the corner of Jefferson and Market streets, and prospered from the first. To Mr. Gault is largely due the credit of reorganizing the methods of business in his line in this city. He found Kittanning considerable of a trading point, but a large amount of business done was on a credit basis, this frequently causing dissatisfaction and embarrassment to both buyer and seller. He adopted the cash plan, paying cash at the time of purchase for all his goods, whether dry goods or produce, and asking the same safe system from his customers. No new method meets with universal favor at the beginning, but it was not long before the wisdom and effectiveness of this plan became recognized and his competitors adopted the same, and ere long every one was satisfied. He was the father of this admirable business method at Kittanning, one that now prevails in all the leading business houses of the borough.

Although Mr. Gault is numbered with the successful business men of the place, he has, at times, met with serious losses. In 1878 his buildings and stock were burned. In the same year, he rebuilt, erecting a fine three-story brick structure, 33 by 100 feet in dimensions, adding two warehouses, and then branched out more extensively, expanding the scope of his activities until almost every line of merchandise was covered, establishing the first complete department store at Kittanning. He has kept up with the times and has trade connections which enable him to secure goods of every land and offer them at prices and in variety to satisfy every would-be purchaser.

Mr. Gault has additional interests. He has been a heavy dealer in grain and feed for a number of years and owns a large elevator here. In 1884, when the Farmers' National Bank of Kittanning was organized, he became a member of its board of directors and its vice president, and upon the death of John A. Colwell succeeded to the presidency. He is a careful, conservative business man and is well equipped for the position of head of this large financial institution. He is now, in point of years of business service, the oldest merchant in Kittanning, all his earlier associates having passed away or withdrawn from active life. His business prominence, however, is only second to his personal distinction, his many years of residence and his unselfish interest in everything conductive to the welfare of his fellow citizens, his public spirit and benevolence, all causing him to be held in high esteem by his fellow citizens of Armstrong county.

Mr. Gault was married Feb. 27, 1862, to Emma H. Rutan, daughter of Hezekiah Rutan, of Allegheny county, Pa., and they have three children, namely: Harry R., who is associated with his father in the mercantile business, married Retta C. Titzell, and they have three children, James A., Margaret and Harry; May Banks is the wife of Floy C. Jones, an attorney at Kittanning; Laura is the wife of Harry McKenna.

Mr. Gault is a thirty-second-degree Mason, belonging to Blue Lodge, No. 244, Chapter No. 247, Kittanning, Tancred Commandery, Pittsburgh and Consistory at Pittsburgh.

Source: Pages 587-588, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed January 1999 by Connie Mateer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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