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…bringing our past into the future

Businesses in Rochester & Freedom


Feb 28, 2014

By: Don Fraser

The People’s Electric Street Railroad Company was organized in 1891, and on Augusta 13, 1891, a charter was applied for the following: Dan H Stone, J P Stone, J C Whital, H W Reeves, C H Simpson, and Hon. H P Brown. Henry M Camp later succeeded John Conway. Work on the track was begun May 5, 1892.
On April 4, 1930, the company was almost forced to close down on account of improvements that were needed for Third Avenue. Freedom Courts ordered the Traction Company to suspend operations. However, the traction company and Borough officials entered into an agreement whereby the street was operated until the contractor for the repaving was ready to start work.
The Traction Company asked permission to operate trackless trolleys. It was refused. Later, the Public Service Commission authorized the Traction Company to abandon the streetcar line and to operate business between Rochester and Ambridge. On March 14 of that year (1934), the last streetcars were operated over the lines of Beaver Valley Traction Company on Third Avenue, Freedom, where trolley services of Beaver Valley Traction Company were available for Conway, Baden, and Ambridge, with coach service available at that point for travelers to Sewickley.

It was in 1885 that Mr. William A Hartzel opened the first of two stores, which have made Hartzel Brothers leaders in the furniture business in this section of the Beaver Valley. Mr. W A Hartzel conducted the business alone until 1891, when the present firm was formed by the admission of his brother, Mr. Henry Hartzel. They have two stores, one on Adams Street Rochester, opposite the post office, the other at Third Avenue and Ninth street, Freedom. The former occupies a handsome two-story building, with a frontage of 38 feet and a depth of 100 feet, the latter 60 feet and a depth of 70 feet, dived into two departments, one devoted to furniture, the other to fine china, crockery and table ware. In both stores everything that goes to make up the modern home is carried. In addition Messrs. Hartzel Bros. are leading undertakers and funeral directors. They carry a full line of funeral goods. The firm consists of Messrs. W A Hartzel and Henry Hartzel, both of whom are prominent in commercial and financial circles


The highest standard in quality and the lowest in prices, is the rule prevailing at Blackmore’s sterling establishment on Third avenue, Freedom, and the strict adherence to this has made this mercantile house the leading men’s outfitters in this borough. This store was founded about five years ago by Mr. C L Blackmore and has a fine frontage of 25 feet and a depth of 70 feet. Mr. Blackmore is the leading outfitter in Freedom. In gent’s furnishings he carries a full line of the finest makes of dress and negligee shirts, fine neckwear, hosiery in prevailing colors and gloves of favorite shades. The line of silk, stiff and soft hats and caps cannot be surpassed. This store is conducted on a strictly cash basis, and this gives Mr. Blackmore the opportunity to offer unusual advantages to his customers. He is one of Freedom’s best know merchants, enterprising, progressive and up-to-date, substantial and successful, public spirited and loyal to his town.


Freedom is the home of the oldest and most powerful of the independent companies of the United States engaged in the refining of petroleum and the manufacture of fine machinery and illuminating oils. The Freedom Oil Works Company, as this immense organization is know, was established in 1879. Its vast plant covers about six acres, and employs an army of men in its several departments. There are more than a thousand storage tanks, a vast refining plant, and a private pipe line connecting with the wells. The highest grade Pennsylvania petroleum is used exclusively and the illuminating and machine oils, gasoline, naphtha products are sold all over this country and extensively exported. The officers of this company are gentlemen prominent in commercial and financial circles of the Beaver Valley, and closely identified with the best interests of Freedom. Mr. Joseph W Craig, the president is president of the Freedom National Bank; Mr. A J. Minke, vice-president, is vice president of the Freedom National Bank and director of the Mutual Building and Loan Association; Mr. W H. Baker, the secretary and treasure is prominent in business circles of the valley. Mr. Minke is the general manger of the plant and to his ability and thorough knowledge of the business the success which has been achieved and the substantial position the company holds as an independent organization is largely due. This is an institution of which Freedom and the entire Valley is justly proud.


Freedom is noted in commercial circles the country over as the home of one of the largest concerns in this country, devoted to the manufacture of fine funeral furniture and undertaker’s supplies. The Freedom Casket Company is the successor of the Craig Manufacturing Company, which for more than a quarter of a century carried on this business. The present company was incorporated about three years ago. They occupy a magnificent plant at the east end of Eight Street, consisting of a vast three-story brick building 50 feet front by 200 feet depth and fitted with the most modern machinery. Thirty experienced workmen are employed. Spacious storage sheds, drying kilns and yards are connected with the factory. The Freedom Casket Company manufactures every style casket, burial suits and gowns, all kinds of fine funeral furniture and every description of undertakers supplies. The officers of this company are Mr. D C Harvey, president, Mr. James A. Harvey, vice-president, is director of the Freedom National Bank, and was a member of the Merril Dam Opening Celebration Association, and served on the Amusement Committee; Mr. Earl Y. Clark, secretary and treasure, is a director of the Mutual Building and Loan Association. He is also general manger of this plant and to his ability and practical business methods the success of the company is largely due.


The value of a perfect fitting, stylish appearing shoe lies not alone in its appearance, but also in the comfort it gives the wearer, Among the swellest dressers in Freedom the handsome establishment know as the City Shoe Store and Repair Shop is headquarters. Messrs. Andrew and Herman Goedeker founded this in 1900, the firm being know as Goedeker Brothers. They have one of the most attractive stores in the borough, having a frontage of 20 feet and a depth of 70 feet.


Among the important industries that contribute to the commercial wealth of Freedom is that of Mr. William T Mohler, dealer in rough and dressed lumber and builders materials. This concern has been in existence for more than 18 years and controls a large business through the Valley. The firm was originally W. T. Mohler & Co., but about five years ago Mr. Mohler bough all the interests and has since conducted the business in his own name. The plant, located on Eighth Street, has a frontage of 120 feet and a depth of 200 feet, and embraces a well-equipped planing mill, fitted with the most modern machinery. Mr. Mohler manufactures doors, sash, moldings and all kinds of finished material. Mr. Mohler is one of Freedom’s potential businessmen. He is a member of the Borough Council and honored president of that body. He is a member of Freedom Savings and Trust Company. In the movement to improve the channel of the Ohio River he has always taken an interest and was a member of the Merrill Dam Opening Celebration Association.


A history of the industries of Beaver Valley and the concerns and men who are potential factors in her commercial wealth would not be complete without more than passing mention being made of Mr. A. Blatt, who, for more than three decades, has been closely identified with her industries and is today one of her large property owners, a lading dealer in realty and one of the best know and most popular underwriters. Mr. Blatt was for more than 30 years engaged in the shoe business in Freedom, but about three years ago sold his business and has since been engaged in the real estate business. He makes a specialty of acting as agent for home and out of town owners. He occupies a fine office in Fifth Street and does a large business in writing insurance, and acts as broker for a number of soundest and most reliable companies in the world. Mr. Blatt is a thoroughly practical businessman prominent in the lines in which he is engaged. He is also secretary of the Mutual Building and Loan Association.


The largest and by far the most important tumbler works in the world was located at Rochester and was owned and operated by the Rochester Tumbler Company whose factories extended along the river for half a mile. The plant was located in Rochester Township, now East Rochester Borough, just outside of the borough limits. Henry C. Fry was the president of the company and J Howard Fry, secretary. The company was organized in the spring of 1872. The company commenced the manufacture of glass with one ten-pot furnace and ninety employees, making tumblers a specialty. The capacity was then 1,200 per week. At the height of its operations it gave employment to 1,100 people, had a capacity of 75,000 dozen per week, or 150,000 tumblers a day. The works covered seven acres of ground and constituted the largest factory of the kind in the world. The Rochester Tumbler Company was succeeded by the H. C. Fry Glass Company which was organized in 1901.


The Olive Stove Works, Ltd., originally was established by Captain Daniel Fitch and Harrington Brothers in 1872. On September 1, 1879, the plant was purchased and incorporated under the above name, with a board of seven managers elected. John Conway was made president, and John R. Eakin, secretary-treasure. The works at that time were located at the corner of New York Avenue and Sycamore Street. In 1882, on account of increase in business, it was decided to enlarge the works and the site now occupied by the Aide Soap Company was purchased and suitable buildings erected thereon.
The plant’s productions were confined to manufacturing cooking and heating stoves and ranges, and castings for commercial use. The plant unfortunately hit upon the economic shoals of the late depression going into receivership and failing to recover. Jos. M. Eakin was made president and treasurer in 1907 and served until the firm was dissolved.


William Miller came to Rochester in 1855 and in 1870 established with A. P. Dobson and Jacob Trax, the firm of Miller, Dobson, and Trax. In 1875 the firm of Miller, Dobson and Trax was succeeded by William Miller and in 1884, the firm of William Miller and Sons succeeded William Miller. When, in 1898, William Miller retired, the firm still was William Miller and Sons. The plant and lumber yard of William Miller and Sons were located between the railroad and the river. The plant handled all kinds of lumber, their specialty being hardwood, and interior bank and office fixtures, etc. This firm furnished the interiors for some of the most prominent buildings in the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding towns. It went out of business in 1912.


Henry Karcher and John Karcher were the proprietors of the Rochester Roller Flour Mills. The firm was organized in 1883 under the title of Karcher Brothers who erected a flouring mill on Railroad Street. This was burned in December of 1890 together with several other buildings located in that part of town. The mill was rebuilt during the summer of 1891 and had a daily capacity of 125 barrels of flour. The company ceased operations in 1914.


The Keystone Tumbler Company was organized in February, 1897. Its directors were John Conway, August Heller, John Moulds, James Conlan, and Charles Bentel. The capital stock was $75,800. Thirty-five pots were the working equipment of the plant and 360 people were employed. One of the improvements for the making of glass employed by the Keystone Tumbler Company was a twelve ton continuous tank, this being the first company in the United States that had successfully made tank glass. There were made at this factory pressed tumblers, jellies, beer mugs. This company passed out of existence in 1905.


The Fry Glass Company had its plant located at North Rochester and established in 1901 by Henry C. Fry, who also built the Beaver Valley Glass Plant, a subsidiary of the Fry Company. The original Fry interest was organized in 1872, and the plant was know at that time as the Rochester Tumbler Company which has been mentioned heretofore. For many years it was one of the most modern and best equipped glass factories in the world and produced oven glass, cut glass, etched ware, blanks for cutting. This plant was a great asset to the Borough of Rochester and vicinity, employed about 1,000 people and it was a sad blow when it encountered finical difficulties in 1925 and went into receivership. The company was carried on that way until 1933 when it was reorganized. However, in 1934, it closed its operations. Original officers: H. C. Fry, president; Howard Fry, secretary and treasurer.

The Reliance Insurance and Reality Company, whose offices are located on Brighton Avenue Rochester, was established in 1862 by Charles B Hunt. The Present agency was founded in 1903 by Mr John Moulds and Mr. James W Doncaster. They do a large realty business in all its branches excepting renting, and always carry a large list of most desirable and valuable properties in town and country. They also do a large business in insurance, representing a number of soundest and best know companies in the world. The Reliance Insurance and Reality Company is one of the enterprising business houses of Rochester. Both of the gentlemen comprising it are young, progressive and hustlers in every sense of the word, public spirited and liberal. Mr. Moulds served in the Borough Council for seven years and many of the improvements of which Rochester is proud were due to his efforts. Mr. Doncaster is the able and honored Burgess of Rochester and as Chief Executive enjoys the respect and esteem of every citizen


One of the nationally know manufactures of county was the Guarantee Liquid Measure Company, which was located in North Rochester, and manufactured the Fry visible Gasoline and oil dispenser. The glass globes used in the dispensers were manufactured by the H.C. Fry Glass Company. The company started in business in the year 1918 in a small way and ultimately gained prominence second to none in its line. The officers at its inception consisted of Robert F. Bane, president; Frank Woodruff, vice president; A. M. Jenkinson, secretary; and George D. Campbell, treasurer. Soon after, H. C. Fry was attracted to the company sensing the wonderful opportunities to build a new and useful product. Mr. Fry assumed the presidency in 1919. In August of 1920, Mr. W S. Townsend, then of Washington, D. C., became vice president and general manger. During the years following 1920, the company made great progress. It introduced new models of equipment to the then existing line and ever increasing efficiency to the original models. The visible gasoline pump in 1918 was practically an unheard of commodity, but a short time later it was seen in every wayside service station. Later the company built a new plant at the present site of Hydril Company and subsequently sold its interest to the Wayne Pump Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Wayne Pump Company operated the plant for a short time and then later consolidated its operations with the Fort Wayne Plant, and the North Rochester plant was closed.


The Marshall and Granite Works, probably the oldest business in Rochester, was started by William H Marshall in 1858. Originally located on Water Street, it was moved in 1860 to Main Avenue, the present location. The business is chiefly interested with the retail selling of granite used in the manufacture of monuments and memorials. The business is now conducted by W. H. Marshall, K. C. Marshall, and George G. Marshall.

Mecklem Brothers are located at North Rochester being a partnership whose officers are Lester O. Mecklem, Paul H. Mecklem and Howard L. Mecklem. The company has been in existence for thirty-seven years, employing twenty people at the present time. Mecklem Brothers are general contractors as well as suppliers of retail lumber and builders’ supplies.

The Meier Glass Company, a corporation, was established in July, 1946, as successor to Michale Meier Glass Company which was established in 1925. The officers of the corporation are president, William A Meier; vice-president, Hugo Miller; and secretary, Erna E. Meier. The corporation employs about fifty people and has been at its present loaction for approximately three years. The Meier Glass Company, a hand decorating plant, specializes in glassware for the home use. Its beautiful work is in much demand as it has a nation-wide market.

Elmer Otto is the owner of Otto Cement Products Company, located at Virginia Avenue, Rochester Township. The Company was established in 1919 and has been at its present location for ten years. It employs seven persons and manufactures laundry trays, septic tanks, burial vaults, and kinder products.

The Midwest Abrasive Company, successor to Pittsburgh Grinding Wheel Company, has been in operation in North Rochester for thirteen years. It is a corporation, and its president is J. T. Jackson, its secretary is A. C. Reppenhagen, while the plant manger is J. A. Elmore. The home offices and main plant of the company are located in Owosso, Michigan, where sand paper, abrasive belts and disks, super finishing stones, and all other abrasive products in addition to grinding wheels are manufactured. The principal product of the plant at North Rochester is abrasive wheels, and thirty people are employed by the company.

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