Charles Martin Decker
Charles Martin Decker ran a large grocery firm with stores across NJ. Obviously, this would put him directly in competition with the Scheuers... But it seems Decker was the more successful firm. He first bought out his employer in 1871, and ran the business alone until his brother Caton joined with him in 1882. Another brother, Guy, joined in 1889, and the firm became "Charles M. Decker & Bros.". The chain expanded exponentially until Charles died in 1920. Charles was one of the most respected businessmen in all of NJ, as the following contemporary articles demonstrate.
Here is an 1882 article about Charles' grocery before Caton joined.
"C. M. Decker, Wholesale and Retail Grocer, Main Street, corner Washington Place, East Orange. —
One of the largest among the most popular grocery establishments in the Oranges is that of Mr. Charles M. Decker, which occupies the large, brick building three stories in height at the corner of Main Street and Washington Place, at the Brick Church Station, East Orange. The store is one of the finest in the vicinity and complete in all its appointments. In dimension it is 22x110 feet and is provided with windows on both sides and is amply lighted and provided with every comfort and convenience for the patrons of the house, who always find at this establishment just what they want in choice family staple and fancy groceries, including teas, coffees, prime New York butter, and foreign and American delicacies in glass and tin, French, German, and American wines, and. imported and domestic mineral waters. The best brands of family flour are made a specialty. Among them will be found "Minnehaha," " Decker's New Process," "Pillsbury's Best," "Freeman's Superlative," " Golden Vein," "Challenge," etc., which are highly recommended for pastry and bread and biscuit. The general stock in this establishment is one of the largest, finest, and of greater variety and assortment than any found in this section. It has been carefully selected and is being constantly renewed by fresh invoices daily. The business conducted is both wholesale and retail, and Mr. Decker, being a large buyer direct from the leading importers and manufacturers, can always offer unsurpassed inducements to those who favor him with their patronage. He carries on a large business and is prompt in filling orders and delivers them free of charge in any of the Oranges. Mr. Decker conducts his business with zeal and fidelity and is popular with the whole community."
Here's a biography about him, written in 1910, when he was still alive.
"Charles M. Decker, one of the most progressive business men and public-spirited citizens of the Oranges, was born in Wellesburg, Chemung county, New York, in November, 1850. He is descended from both old Holland and old New England stock, which accounts for many of those traits of character which have made him conspicuous as an organizer of large interests and a financier of keen judgment. A foreword of his ancestry is found in the "History of Chemung County," which thus refers to his grandfather and grandmother: "The first white child born in the town of Ashland, of which there is any record, was Eunice Kelsey, her birthday having been March 16, 1789, her father being Abner Kelsey. Eunice grew to womanhood and married Jacob Decker." This Jacob Decker was a native of Orange county, New York, whence he removed to Chemung county. Among the settlers of the town of Montgomery, Orange county, between 1768 and 1778, was Johannes Decker, who is authoritatively believed to -have been a grandson of Abraham Decker, who is known to have come from Holland and settled at Copake, New York, in 1757. Among the six sons and two daughters of Jacob Decker and Eunice Kelsey was Harrison Decker, born in Wellesburg, about 1821. He married Harriet, daughter of Charles Tubbs, a descendant of William Tubbs, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, who was admitted a freeman of the Plymouth Colony in 1637, volunteered against the Pequot Indians in June of same year, and was a member of Captain Miles Standish's famous military company.
Charles M. Decker was born of this marriage. As a boy he was ambitious and self reliant to a noticeable degree. He acquired his early education in the public school of his native town, and at the age of fourteen threw aside his books and started out to see something of the larger world beyond his native environment. He went direct to New York in search of employment, and through the influence of Stephen D. Herman, of Orange, an old friend of his father's, he secured a situation in the grocery house of Benjamin F. Cairnes. In the following year he entered the employ of Mr. Herman, and remained with him and his successors till 1869. After a brief engagement in the butter business in New York he celebrated his majority by returning to Orange, buying the business of his former employer, Mr. Cairnes, and inaugurating an entirely new policy of management. He stocked his store with the best goods the market offered, established a delivery system, then a decided innovation in the Oranges, sold on short credit, and gradually diverted local trade from the New York to a home market. In this venture he was eminently successful from the start, and was soon enabled to establish business connections with all the Oranges and their neighboring communities. In 1890 he erected in Orange one of the handsomest blocks in Essex county, and since that time has increased his business properties by the erection of several handsome buildings in Essex and Union counties. From 1893 to 1903 he was president of the Orange National Bank, one of the soundest financial institutions in eastern New Jersey, and on resigning that office became vice-president. He also became a director of the Savings Investment and Trust Company of East Orange. To both these institutions he gave his ability, enterprise and judgment that had characterized the up-building of his large personal business.
Mr. Decker married a daughter of Alfred and Margaret E. (Peck) Jones, representing two of the oldest families of the locality formerly known as Pecktown, now East Orange. Nine children have been born of this marriage, viz.: Margaret, Harrison, Charles M. Jr., (deceased), Harriet L., Arthur, May, Richard F., Katharyn, and Laraus (deceased).
Mr. Decker is a member of the Essex County and Orange clubs. Personally, he has strong domestic tastes and impresses all who meet him with his claims upon their confidence. To his friends he is ever accessible, cordial and generous; to strangers he is dignified, courteous, affable and winning. He is a man of deliberate, yet positive character, and of marked executive ability, and his life has been both busy and useful."
The most thorough and praising account came in 1921, a year after he died.
"DECKER, Charles Martin,
Man of Affairs.
Standing throughout his life for the best in business relationships in home, civic and community life, Charles Martin Decker was a man whose life was at once an example and an inspiration. A successful business man, he had become head of a great commercial enterprise by foreseeing the changing trend of retail merchandising and by possession of an ability to reorganize, plan and meet these changes with progressive, modern methods and make the changes a benefit to him and those who looked to him for service. He never lowered his standards of business integrity, but raised them higher if possible, and won the confidence and respect of all with whom he had dealings. To his work Mr. Decker gave the best that was in him. After half a century of constructive, successful labor, he was still giving to the great enterprise which bore his name his thorough attention and careful thought. He never shirked a duty and rounded out to the full a life of service. His was a genial, generous nature, happiest amid his beautiful home surroundings, but his keen mind and dominating personality were exerted in behalf of civic and community life, and his interest was keen in the political life of the borough. Madison, New Jersey, was his well-beloved home, and it had no more devoted supporter.
Charles Martin Decker was born in Wellsburg, Chemung county, New York, November 1, 1850, a son of Harrison and Harriet (Tubbs) Decker, of Chemung county, New York, his father a merchant and farmer. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in his native place. He died in Madison, Morris county, New Jersey, August 28, 1920, having been a resident of Madison for twenty-eight years preceding his passing. At the age of fourteen he left home and became a grocer's clerk in New York City, later moving to East Orange, New Jersey. He showed great business adaptability and rose rapidly to the rank of merchant, forming a partnership with Abraham Johnson when barely of legal age. They bought out the store of their employer, at Main and Washington streets, East Orange, in 1871, and operated it for three years. In 1874 Mr. Decker bought his partner's interest, and after becoming sole owner moved to the Washington place corner. That store, established in 1871, was the first of a chain of grocery stores which dot Essex, Union and Morris counties, owned and operated by the Chain Grocery System, Charles M. Decker, president, until his passing away. For nearly half a century, 1871-1920, he catered to the public tastes, and each year saw him in a stronger, more impregnable position in the good will and confidence of the people he served.
Mr. Decker was the sole head of his business until 1882, when he admitted his brother, Caton L. Decker, to a partnership. In 1889 another brother, Guy Decker, was admitted and the chain store idea was first given expression. The first of the chain was a second store located in Orange in 1889, a business which so prospered that in 1892 it was housed in a new building, which remains, a quarter of a century later, one of the handsomest business blocks of Orange. Continued and growing success resulted in the incorporation of Charles M. Decker & Brothers, grocers, and subsequent expansion resulted in many stores in different parts of the three counties above named, some of them, in suburban towns, located in special buildings erected by the corporation. Cooperation was a keynote to the success of Mr. Decker's enterprise, the men who worked with him knowing him not as their employer only, but as their friend and adviser. It is a striking fact that there were men in his employ who had been with him for forty years, others for thirty years, and many for a long but a shorter term than thirty years.
In 1893, Mr. Decker became president of the Orange National Bank and began his career of distinction as a banker. He was president of that bank ten years, 1893-1903; vice-president of the same bank from 1903 until his passing in 1920; a director of the Savings Investment and Trust Company of East Orange, and of the Trust Company of Orange. An ardent Republican, and keenly alive to his responsibilities as a citizen, he never sought nor accepted public office, but as a private citizen worked for party success, and wielded an influence for good in the party. He had no fraternal nor society relations, and but one club, the Essex County Country, of Orange. He was a Presbyterian in religious faith.
Charles M. Decker married, in East Orange, New Jersey, in 1871, Harriet Louise Jones, born in East Orange, in 1848, died in Madison, New Jersey, in 1913, daughter of Alfred and Margaret E. Jones. East Orange was the family home until 1892, when Madison was chosen as the home town, and there the Decker home on Madison avenue became a center of hospitality and social life. Charles M. and Harriet Louise (Jones) Decker were the parents of nine children, as follows: Mrs. Margaret (Decker) Baker, of Madison, New Jersey; Harrison Decker, of Stamford, Connecticut; Mrs. Harriet (Decker) Sears, of Madison, New Jersey; Arthur M. Decker, of Madison, New Jersey; Mrs. May (Decker) Keeler, of Yonkers, New York; Richard F. Decker, of Summit, New Jersey; Katherine, wife of James H. McGraw, Jr., died December 25, 1918; Charles M. Decker, Jr., deceased; and Lawrence Decker, deceased.
(This, to me, is the most telling thing about Charles' character: The entire region's businesses shut down for 5 minutes out of respect for him.)
On the day of Mr. Decker's funeral all the stores of the Decker chain were closed in respect to his memory. The Orange National Bank and the Trust Company of Orange, and all merchants of the Oranges, for a period of five minutes stopped all business activities as a mark of respect to their most successful and respected merchant."
In 1918, when his wife died, Charles paid for a library to be built and maintained in Wellesburg, NY, in memory of her.
A painting of Charles:
A photograph, I believe when he was younger.
Here is a 1917 biography of Caton L. Decker, who died in 1913.
"DECKER, Caton L.,
The death of Caton L. Decker, which occurred at his late home at 117 William Street, East Orange, New Jersey, April 7, 1913, deprived that city of one of its leading business men, who was a merchant and banker for many years, a man of excellent characteristics and manly qualities which endeared him to a wide circle of friends who estimated him at his true worth.
The name of Johannis Decker is mentioned among those who settled in the town of Montgomery, Orange county, New York, between the years 1678 and 1778, and it is practically authenticated that he was either a son or grandson of Abraham Decker, the American progenitor, who came from Holland and settled in Copake, New York, about 1757. Jacob Decker, grandfather of the late Caton L. Decker, was a native of Orange County, New York, from whence he removed to Chemung County, same State, where he married Eunice Kelsey, according to tradition the first white child born in the town of Ashland, Chemung county, New York, born March 16, 17S9, daughter of Abner Kelsey. Among their eight children, six sons and two daughters, was Harrison Decker, father of the late Caton L. Decker, born at Wellsburg, New York, May 5, 1820, died October 10, 1874. He was a well-known operator in the oil fields of Pennsylvania for many years, and a leading man in his community. He married Harriet Tubbs, daughter of Charles Tubbs, who was a lineal descendant of William Tubbs, of Duxbury, Massachusetts, who was made a freeman of Plymouth Colony in 1637, and in June of the same year was one of those who volunteered for service in the expedition against the hostile Pequot Indians who were then committing serious depredations and otherwise proving a menace to the colonists. Mrs. Decker died in 1878. Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Decker, as follows: Charles M., born in 1850, a leading merchant in East Orange; Caton L., of whom further; Frank T., born in 1857; Annie, born in
1860; Guy, born in 1862; J. Frost, born in 1868.
Caton L. Decker was born at Wellsburg, Chemung county, New York, December 16, 1854. He attended the schools of his native town, and being an attentive student acquired an excellent education. At an early age he began to earn his own livelihood, being employed in various occupations. Later, in young manhood, in partnership with his brother, Charles M. Decker, he engaged in the grocery business in New York City, and shortly afterward they purchased a grocery business in East Orange, formerly owned by Benjamin F. Cairnes, and under the style of Charles M. Decker & Brother conducted an extensive and profitable business. Both brothers were men of experience and integrity, and these characteristics, combined with great sagacity and rare judgment, were active factors in the success which crowned their well-directed efforts. In due course of time the business became the largest of its kind in the entire State, they conducting branch stores in various towns, including all the Oranges, Montclair, Bloomfield and Morristown, and enjoying the patronage of the wealthiest and most select residents of that section of New Jersey. Caton L. Decker devoted the greater part of his time to the purchasing of the stock, making a careful study of the numerous articles handled in a first-class grocery establishment, and the success attained was ample proof that his judgment could be relied upon. All of their stores occupied good locations, being in the center of the business area, and their window display attracted immediate attention.
Caton L. Decker was also interested in other enterprises which had for their object the upbuilding of the Oranges. He was one of the founders of the People's National Bank of East Orange, and served as a director from its organization until his death. He took an active interest in the public institutions, schools and libraries, and contributed generously to the support of the North Orange Baptist Church, and of which his wife has been a member since the age of fourteen years. She has been active in the Sunday school and the various societies of the church, serving in the capacity of secretary of the Woman's Benevolent Society for twenty-five years, composed of the women, and her mother and grandmother were constituents of the church. Mrs. Decker has also been an active factor in the charitable societies of her community.
Mr. Decker was of a kind and genial disposition, had a wide circle of close
personal friends and his counsel and advice were often sought. He derived his
greatest enjoyment in his home, surrounded by his family to whom he was
devotedly attached. Mr. Decker married, in 1875, upon attaining his majority, S. Alice Hoyt, born in Orange, New Jersey, daughter of George and Sarah Elizabeth (Taylor) Hoyt, a great-granddaughter of Daniel Hoyt, a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and a descendant of old New England stock in many lines.
Children: 1. Edmund Lockwood, married Margaret Gould; children: Jennette, Edmund, Margaret, Gould Caton. 2. Harriet, died at the age of three weeks. 3. Florence M., wife of Robert Albert Palmer, of New York City: children: Robert Caton and Jean. 4. Harold Caton. 5. Ernest Guy, died at the age of nineteen years. 6. Alice Mable. 7. Blanche. 8.
Reginald Harrison, married Aubrey Von Hoffe. 9. Dorothy. 10. Nelson."
A picture of Caton.
A picture of the firm's first store in East Orange, on Main Street looking west, at the corner of Washington St. The store is at left.
An ad from a book about Orange's history, published on the centennial in 1907. The ad was on the very first page of the book, and obviously takes up the entire page, showing the extent of Decker's business influence.
Lastly, here is the pitiful selection of Decker's items I have... A whiskey fifth and a stenciled jug. I imagine there is a great deal of merchandise out there for me to acquire. This is only the beginning...
A jug I found that sold in a past auction.
Thanks for reading.