Samuel Kyle Harter
June 30, 1898
Samuel Kyle Harter is dead. And thus the pioneer merchant of Miami county has passed off the stage of business activity into the land of peaceful rest.
No man who has lived in this community was more closely identified with its business interests than was S. K. Harter; his death removes the oldest merchant of Troy in years of continuous service to the demands of trade.
Mr. Harter was one of a large family, eleven children in all, and was born on a farm in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio, July 3rd, 1823. Of this family, Mrs. Katie Randolph, of Troy, is the sole survivor.
With the ambition so characteristic of the farmer lads of pioneer days, Mr. Harter grew restless at the uninviting prospect of agricultural labor and at an early age left home to become a teacher of penmanship. In accordance with the rigid rules of that day, Mr. Harter "bought his time" of his father and continued at his chosen vocation until an serious affection of the eyes compelled the abandonment of a calling which demanded exacting visual attention. There are many men now living who were among Mr. Harter's pupils in the early forties.
Mr. Harter's father had formed a business partnership with "Uncle Mack" Hart in the hardware line and Samuel bought his father's interest in the business when he found that his sight had become temporarily impaired. This was in 1845 and the firm name of Hart & Harter remained unchanged until 1865 when "Uncle Mack" retired, leaving S. K. Harter sole proprietor. It is worth of remark that Mr. Harter did business from 1817 until the day of his death in the room now occupied by Harter & Cosley, except that the early store room was of but half the capacity of the present place.
From 1865 to 1873, Mr. Harter conducted the business alone, when L. C. Houser was admitted to a share in the firm, continuing therein until his death in 1885. In 1888, H. A. Cosely was advanced to a partnership in the business to which he had served so long an apprenticeship and remains today a grateful survivor to the kindly man, whom it was always an inspiration to serve.
In 1858, Mr. Harter's brother, M. G. Harter began in Marion, Ind., to manufacture an ague specific and in a small way introduced it among the malaria-plagued districts of the Hooiser state. He met with a considerable measure of success at this work and added shortly other remedies to the specific. Lack of capital brought him to seek a partnership with S. K. Harter, who in 1862 secured for a modest sum a half-interest in the business which was then removed to Troy.
In 1864, the brothers Harter took another member of the family, N. J. Harter, into the business, which had in two years increased to quadruple its value, due, no doubt, to the sagacity and enterprise which shrewd S.K. Harter had brought to its advancement two years before.
A St. Louis gentleman in 1866 desired a share in the business and a sixth of the brothers' enterprise having been sold to him, the concern was moved to the Mound City, where it continued in a career of constantly enlarging scope, until removed to its present quarters in Dayton, Ohio, in 1896.
The foundation for the very considerable fortune which Mr. Harter amassed during his very active life was laid in the hardware business, but early in his association with "Uncle Mack", he became impressed with the value of farm property as a stable investment and continued through life to express his confidence in this form of wealth, being at the time of his death the largest holder of real estate of this sort in the county.
Mr. Harter has served his community faithfully in public life, having been at various times Councilman, Mayor and school board member. It was in this latter capacity, however, in which he shone, for he loved the cause of public education and labored earnestly for the furtherance of its best interests. He served from 1866 to 1878 on the board, twice during that period being its president. He was elected again in 1884 and served for three years, during two years of which time he was again president.
In 1858, he married Miss Olivia Meredith, with whom he passed a serenely companionable life of 45 years. To this union five children came for blessing, Mary, now wife of Wm. H. Hayner, and Sabin, who died in a promising youth in 1875, with three others who died in infancy.
Although he was always a thoughtful, reverent man, Mr. Harter did not become an active Christian until the death of his son, when the awful responsibility of living brought him to see clearly the need of openly espousing the cause of Christ.
The next week after the death of his son, Mr. Harter united with the Mulberry Street M. E. Church and remained a loyal adherent to its faith and practice until his death. During, practically, all of this time he was an office bearer, having been made a first class-leader and then a steward.
While it is not difficult to understand his character, it is hard to rightly estimate the true value of such a man as Samuel Kyle Harter.
It is safe to say in judging his life that the world of business would not be strewn with the hopeless wrecks of dishonored firms and individuals, if the men who have labored in the marts of trade and his fidelity to his duties as a merchant and his unflinching belief that it is immoral to expect something for nothing.
It is common nowadays to speak with ill concealed contempt of old fashioned, conservative men like Mr. Harter, but the finest graces of business honor adorned his life like a cloud of glory, which proud possession is all too-lacking in the modern detractor of the slow-going honest tradesman of the long-ago.
In his treatment of men associated with him in business, Mr. Harter, was kind, considerate, generous, but with all firm and strict. He has trained in this community men in the ways of business honor, who represent in their present positions the highest type of successful, honorable tradesmen, one of who said recently: "I never asked Mr. Harter what my wage should be from the day I entered his employ until now. I knew he was competent to judge what I was worth to him and too just to let me labor for less than I was worth."
The brightest side of Mr. Harter's character was his benevolence. No one but his equally generous wife can tell the mul?orm charities to which he contributed nor the benefactions he almost daily offered to those in need. His was no idle alms giving, no weak and lazy offering to appease an aroused conscience, but a thoughtful, intelligent, helpful lightening of the burdens of others.
No man with a righteous cause met a rebuff at the hands of S. K. Harter. He gave nobly, generously, freely, not always in a manner to please those who sought aid, but ever with a conscientious desire to do right.
He approached the question of giving aid with the alert mind of a trained business man. Those who went to him soliciting for causes or individuals, would certainly be met with close, exacting questions into the quality and merit of the matter in hand and any plea that could not stand close treatment received prompt denial.
In his helping others, Mr. Harter always demanded proof of the worthiness of his proteges in that each must to his utmost help himself. When he was satisfied that a young man or woman was doing his best, his hand and heart were open wide in a helpful ministration.
Mr. Harter gave ever with discrimination, but he also gave with a degree of unostentatiousness amounting almost to secrecy. There will be mourners by the score at his funeral whose helper he has often been, but the helpfulness has ever been in silence.
He was not technically an educated man but always studious of men and books. Wide travel and much reading made him in his later years a delightful companion and an inspiration to his friends as he talked discriminatingly of his large experiences and drew from his store of real learning "wise saws and modern instance."
Mr. Harter was a man of strong convictions. What he knew or believed, he surrendered to no man's more vehement assertion or pretended knowledge and once having been convinced of the rightness of a cause, his allegiance to it was never questioned.
He was temperate in his judgment of men, but notwithstanding this, he brooked no betrayal of his trust. He was seldom deceived in his estimates of men, but when his faith in a man was gone it was as if
"When faith is gone, when honour dies.
The man is dead."
Mr. Harter was not a demonstrative man, but his was a tender, even affectionate nature. He talked little to his friends of his love, but in his presence, while he counseled or reproved or warned, the warmth and glow of his regard made itself unmistakably felt.
A loyal friend, a generous benefactor, an upright business man, a Christian gentleman has gone to his reward. His like are all too few and Troy is far poorer now than day before yesterday, since he is gone.
May the present generation take pattern from him in integrity, in industry, in sobriety, in generosity, in helpful benefaction.
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