biography from Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
HARRY L. SPENCER, President of the Oskaloosa National Bank, and the H. L. Spencer Company, wholesale grocers, Oskaboosa, was born at Spencer Station, Guernsey Co., Ohio, Dec. 30, 1842. His birthplace is a station on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and was named for his father, Asa Spencer, a native of Loudoun County, Va., born in the year 1807, first a farmer by occupation, and afterward a merchant, who, though not a wealthy man, lived retired during his later life and died in 1875. The mother of H. L. Spencer was Phoebe E. (Piggott) Spencer. She was born in St. Clairsville, Belmont Co., Ohio, in 1809, and is yet living at the old home in Ohio. Asa and Phoebe Spencer were married in St. Clairsvile, Feb. 2, 1833, and were the parents, of eight children: Ellen P., wife of P. C. Cowgill, a merchant of Spencer Station; Ann, wife of E. V. Shipley, of Barnesville, Ohio; Frank S. is a farmer at the old homestead in Ohio; Harry L.,the subject of this sketch; John P. resides at Oskaloosa; Amos P. is Secretary, and G. N., Treasurer, of the H. L. Spencer Company; Melissa is the wife of J. G. Roberta, a farmer of Cedar County, Iowa. The subject of this sketch was raised on a farm, and received his education in the common schools. Feb. 9, 1863, he enlisted as a private soldier in Co. B 9th Ohio Vol. Cav., was afterward promoted First Sergeant, and detailed on special duty at brigade headquarters, receiving his discharge from service in August, 1865. After the war he entered the employ of an extensive commission house and wholesale queensware store at Zanesville, Ohio, remaining with them for two years, and in the fall of 1867 came to this city and engaged in the wholesale grocery business, associated with F. J. Terry, under the firm name of Terry & Spencer. After a lapse of one year the style of the firm was changed to Terry, Wright & Spencer, Mr. T. T. Wright of Oskaloosa having purchased an interest. A few years later Mr. Terry disposed of his interest, and the business was continued by the remaining partners, under the name and style of Wright & Spencer, for a period of ten years, and until the death of Mr. Wright, in 1874, after which an organization, under the firm name of H. L. Spencer & Co., composed of Harry L., Amos P. and G. N. Spencer, and Joseph R. Hague, was effected, and the business continued under that name and style for three years. Feb. 16, 1883, the present organization, known as the H. L. Spencer Company, was brought about, the three brothers before named constituting the firm. At the date of the organization of the parent firm, Oskaloosa was distant two miles from a railroad station, with no immediate prospect of a road being built through the city, and the idea of wholesaling under such circumstances was looked upon as a business venture of doubtful promise of success. In addition to this the capital of the original firm was of modest proportions and a suitable building for such a business was not to be had. Keokuk, Burlington and Ottumwa, in addition to Chicago and St. Louis, were drumming the territory tributary to this firm continually, and competition in trade was lively. All these apparent discouraging features did not serve to daunt the courage of the youthful firm. They began business, followed it persistently early and late, were cautious in their line of credit, established themselves fully in the confidence of their customers, and as year succeeded year, their business has grown from comparatively insignificant proportions to the now handsome sum of $500,000 yearly. The building of their early business experience has given way to a more imposing brick and stone successor, while on the corner of Main and Washington streets stands an imposing structure, 60x120 feet floorage, with three stories and a full basement, built for them and under their direction, by E. H. Gibbs, Esq., a capitalist of this city. Capacious as is this magnificent structure, it is hardly ample enough for their rapidly increasing trade. Sept. 1, 1885, the H. L. Spencer Company completed negotiations for participation in a well-established wholesale grocery business at Sioux City, Iowa, purchasing the stock of the well-known firm of E. C. Palmer & Co., of that city, the new firm being incorporated under the name and style of the Tolerton & Stetson Company, with an authorized capital of $200,000. Jan. 1, 1886, the Spencer Company purchased an interest in the business of Letta, Fletcher & Co., at Marshalltown, Iowa, and incorporated the business under the name of the Letta Fletcher Company, with an authorized capital of $200,000. The subject of our sketch, Harry L. Spencer, at present occupies the following responsible positions: President of the H. L. Spencer Company, wholesale grocers, of Oskaloosa; President of the Oskaloosa National Bank; President of the Tolerton & Stetson Company, wholesale grocers, of Sioux City, Iowa; Vice President of the Letts Fletcher Company, wholesale grocers, of Marshalltown, Iowa; Treasurer, and member of the Board of Directors of the Oskaloosa Water Company; Director of the Oskaloosa Gas Light Company; Director of the Oskaboosa Power and Land Company. The subject of this sketch, Harry L. Spencer, is unquestionably a self-made man, and the architect and builder of his fortune. The elements which have conduced to his splendid success in life have always existed within himself, being modified or added to as years of experience in business have succeeded the initial venture. In the management of all his business there is the most perfect system and order, simple in all details and working as smoothly and quietly as a well regulated piece of machinery. In personal character he is above and beyond reproach, and in whatever relation of life he may be viewed, whether as husband, father, business man or citizen, there will be found no flaw in his admirable manhood. Mr. Spencer was married in Oskaloosa, Oct. 20, 1869, to Miss Mary E. Paine, a resident of Pawtucket, R. I., but a native of Massachusetts. By this union there have been born three children: Anna E., Nov. 3, 1872; Ida Gertrude, Jan. 25, 1874, and William Windom, Feb. 26, 1881.
Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy