Sesquicentennial Highlights

Sesquicentennial Highlights Excerpts from the Plain Talk By Cleo Erickson July 4, 1918 THE STORY OF THE LEE & PRENTIS STORE OUR OLDEST FIRM IS DISSOLVED Andrew E. Lee Retires From the Mercantile Firm of the Lee-Prentis Co.—C. E. Prentis Now Sole Owner Through a deal which was concluded last Saturday, Andrew E. Lee, after an association with C. E. Prentis for a period of forty-nine years in the mercantile business in Vermillion, has severed his connection with the firm, and henceforth Mr. Prentis will go it alone.  The announcement will no doubt come as a surprise to everyone.  The climax to a long and very successful partnership career between these two gentlemen came last week, when Mr. Prentis proposed to either sell his interest in the store or buy that of Mr. Lee.  The latter decided to let loose of his holdings. In the summer of 1869 A. E. Lee was a clerk in a store in Madison, Wis., and C. E. Prentis was a book-keeper there also.  In July Mr. Lee started out to look up a location.  He reached Iowa, but not being satisfied there, came to the little town of Vermillion, then under the hill.  Things looked favorable here, and Mr. Prentis was advised to come at once.  In a short time afterwards the firm of Lee & Prentis was announced.  That was forty-nine years ago.  The firm enjoyed a nice business from the start, and gradually these young men who had dared to challenge the early day hardships began to make money.  Little did they realize then that they were entering on a business career that would hold them together for nearly half a century.  Today the firm of the Lee-Prentis Co., is known in every household in Clay County, and is recognized as one of the most substantial mercantile houses in the northwest.  All of the big manufacturers and wholesalers are acquainted with Lee & Prentis. Up to 1912 the firm continued as a unit in both store and real estate possessions.  Then came a division of portion of the real estate holdings, Mr. Lee taking the ranch in Riverside Township, and Mr. Prentis the large farm and ranch just north of Vermillion.  Later the firm name was changed from Lee & Prentis to the Lee-Prentis Co.  Now Mr. Prentis relinquishes his interest in the large ranch near O'Neill, Neb., and becomes sole proprietor in the store. The retiring member has been a prominent factor in building up the business.  He has been an indefatigable worker, morning, noon and night.  He never seemed to weary of the duties that fell to his lot, and his friends have often remarked that they could not see how it were possible for a man to keep going all the time.  He was honored with various offices, and in the days gone by was a tower of strength in political affairs of this county.  And when his friend urged him to become a candidate for governor he accepted the nomination.  He was elected for two terms in a state that prior to that time had been overwhelmingly republican.  Mr. Lee is justly entitled to a vacation, if he desires it, but we venture to say that he will always find something to do. In taking the sole management of the store upon his own shoulders, Mr. Prentis does it with the knowledge that it will be quite different than heretofore.  But he is well acquainted with every detail of general merchandising, and with a competent force of assistants and department heads we venture to state that the same courteous treatment and honest dealings will characterize the store on the corner in the future.  Mr. Prentis is a thorough business man, and has a wide acquaintance.  He has done his full share in his own quiet way to build up the Lee-Prentis store in the last forty-nine years, and in the coming years we believe he will continue to serve all patrons in a satisfactory manner. Here's our best wishes for the pioneer merchant who is retiring and for the other pioneer who is to continue the business.  During the eight years that the writer has been in charge of the Plain Talk, our business relations with this firm have been very acceptable, and we sincerely appreciate the many favors of the past. It looked good to see the Vermillion Band in uniform.  There is nothing like a good band for a city of this size. There have been several arrests in the city and the officers propose to keep going with the good work.  There are too many violations of the city ordinance covering speeding and we hope that no guilty one will be spared. Every auto driver is acquainted with the speed laws, and there is no excuse for the speed maniacs.  And hereafter the ordinance with reference to cut-outs will be enforced.  Get a muffler. The Canning Kitchen opened last week at the high school and is being used especially for the canning of vegetables. Vermillion people should try and finish up their shopping at the stores on Saturday afternoon.  Saturday nights should be set aside for the rural residents, who flock to the city by the thousands to do their shopping after the supper hour.  If the city folks will practice this rule they will materially relieve the congested condition of the mercantile establishments on Saturday nights. The electric lights will be shut off at 12:00 each night and will not be turned on until the next morning.  This is necessary because an engineer cannot be secured to take charge of the night shift.  J. E. Ballard is the only regular engineer and is putting in twelve hours each day.

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