Gustav Schmelzer Shoes and Boots
With thanks to Gustav’s Great Grandson, Robert for sharing information and photos of Gustav and some of his tools and wooden travel chest.
Gustav A. Schmelzer was a prominent and respected merchant and tradesman in Spartansburg for 37 years. He was born in Bavaria (at that time it was separate from Germany) and had 3 brothers. Gustav served his country and was wounded in the Franco-Prussian War, after which he came to America. Two of his brothers, Emil and Franz also came to the US and settled in Buffalo and Erie respectively.
He had just begun business, working in a building on the north side when the 1878 fire destroyed all of the business district on both sides of Main Street. As many of the other businesses, his was rebuilt on Main.
Gust, as he was known, continued to make, repair and sell shoes and boots and to be an ever more involved citizen. He had married in 1874 and he and his wife Beulah (Smith) had a daughter, Mabell who died at age 12, a son Carl, and a daughter, Sarah (Sadie). He was very active in civic activities, and especially supportive of music.
In 1898, his store was once again attacked by fire. He was able to save some of his inventory in that fire. He re-located to the south side of Main Street and continued in business there until the 1905 fire that burned the south side of Main Street. Once again, he managed to salvage some of his stock and tools.
Gustav was truly a man of strength and optimism because he, once again, rebuilt his store. Since the town had passed an ordinance requiring all business district buildings to be of fireproof materials, the new store was made of brick. It had an apartment upstairs where the Schmelzers lived. Later, in 1909, an adjacent one-story brick home was added and he and Beulah moved there.
The new store was not only functional but it was also attractive.
Business continued in this location until late in 1927. He was the oldest business man in Spartansburg in age as well as years in business.
G. Schmelzer appears in the Crawford County Business Directory in 1879, 1899 and 1914.
Gust served as Treasurer of the School Board, was on Borough Council and was involved in civic organizations.
The property on the north side of Main Street had been vacant since the 1898 fire, and in 1907 it was put to good use by the addition of a band stand.
At the age of 79, following 50 years at his trade, Gustav had a final sale and closed his store.
In March of 1928, the building was purchased by the Tauber Woolen Mills to be used as offices and storefront following the fire at the Tauber Mill.
The Schmelzers went to Oil City to visit and stay with their son, Carl and his family. Sadly, less than 2 weeks after the sale, Gustav passed away in Oil City.
Beulah Schmelzer stayed with family for a while following his death, but returned to Spartansburg to the home adjacent to their former business. The home had not been included in the sale to Taubers. Then, in September of 1928, she sold the home to Dr. CT Waggoner and his son Dr. George Waggoner to use as office and some living space. After the sale, she lived with her son in Oil City and her daughter, Sadie (Wescott) in Buffalo, New York.
Sadie passed away in March of 1931 and Beulah returned to Spartansburg, living in a room at the Spartansburg (Central) Hotel for a time. She said of her return that she thought she would be “more contented” in the “Old Home Town”. While she was here, the news articles told of many get-togethers and visits hosted by Beulah.
As she aged, she returned to live with her son and died in his home in December of 1943 at the age of 92.
Gustav and Beulah, as well as their children, are buried at Rose Hill in Spartansburg.
In later years, the storefront built by the Schmelzers served other businesses and, lastly as a home for the Gospel Tabernacle (Christian and Missionary Alliance) Church.
It has since been demolished and the current fire department building is on the site. The adjacent building continued to be used as offices for doctors for several years, but was also torn down and the site now houses the fire department as well.