Supporting small business

Published 6:11 am Saturday, December 22, 2018

As mentioned last week, Austin’s early 1900s downtown retailers embraced the growing commercial nature of the Christmas season. Reuben Hall and Charles West operated the thriving Hall and West Dry Goods Store marketing items like clothing, carpet, and gifts. Supporting these men were two very involved women who contributed to Austin’s progress in a variety of ways.

Reuben Hall married Alice Gertrude Harvey in 1897 in Woodstock, Vermont, following the death of his first wife. The wedding announcement from the Woodstock Standard said “the bride is a lady of fine musical talent, well cultivated, and her intellectual and social qualities have won much esteem for her in the community.” Reuben had six children from his first marriage, and he and Alice had two more.

Mrs. Hall quickly became involved in Austin’s civic community. In 1909, she served as the President of the Women’s Auxiliary at Christ Episcopal Church and in 1910, was listed as Secretary. Mrs. Hall was active in the Art and Travel Club, and in 1913, gave a presentation about the ancestry of modern Egyptians. Mr. and Mrs. Hall lived at 301 Maple (now 1st Ave. NW).

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Charles West had been married to Charlotte Hall, Reuben Hall’s daughter. She passed away in 1901. Two years later, Charles married Minnie VanBlarcum, who was a teacher in Mankato, and the new Mrs. West immersed herself in the community despite being new to town. The couple’s wedding announcement gave a glowing description of Minnie.

“The bride is spoken of as a very accomplished lady, most highly esteemed in a large circle of friends.”

Minnie’s cousin, Mrs. S.S. Washburn, lived in Austin, so she was likely the connection between the Austin businessman and the Mankato teacher.

Mrs. West served as secretary of the Ladies of the Mower County Fair Association in 1907 and on the executive committee of the Anti-Tuberculosis Association in 1910. She was involved in organizing the 1914 Minnesota State Art Exhibit that came through Austin from May 23 to June 1 that year.  Mrs. West was involved in the direction of stage shows including The Chimes of Normandy for the Methodist Episcopal Ladies Aid group in 1913.

The Wests lived at 611 N. Greenwich (Second St. NW), but the house was turned to face north toward Nassau St. (now Sixth Pl. NW) in 1954. The house no longer stands.

In 1906 both of these motivated ladies were involved in the organization of the YWCA in Austin, which is an organization important to the legacy of the Hormel Historic Home.

What’s happening at the HHH

History Happy Hour: Wedding Fashions and Customs from 1900-1960

  • 5:30 p.m. social, 6 p.m. presentation
  • Monday, Jan. 14
  • Presented by Jaimie Timm and featuring clothing from the Mower County Historical Society collection. Free for members of the HHH, Mower County Hist. Soc, and Friends of the Library.

Austin Wedding & Event Showcase

  • Noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20
  • $5 per person