Herbert worked at E.L. Bonner Mercantile in Deer Lodge

Herbert worked at E.L. Bonner Mercantile in Deer Lodge

So far, we don't know the year that Herbert Stetson and his family relocated from Iowa to Montana, other than it was after 1901, when he was still listed in a 1901 Waterloo, Iowa, business directory with the occupation of "county auditor," and before 1910, when the family appears in the U.S. census residing at 32 Fourth St. in Deer Lodge, Montana.

Herbert was listed in the census as "bookkeeper" for a "mercantile company." We learn from the 1924 newspaper report of his death that he held "a responsible official position with the Bonner Mercantile company, one of the oldest mercantile firms in Montana."

Presumably, it was the job opportunity with Bonner Mercantile that motivated Herbert and Hattie to pick up stakes with their five children and resettle in a remote western mining town. This seems to have been an ambitious life adventure to take on for a man already in his fifties. 

We'll dig for any insights we can find concerning the family's relocation decision. For this post, here is some research about E.L. Bonner Merchantile. 

Edward L. Bonner got his start at the original New York City store of Lord & Taylor, having been raised in upstate New York. He went in 1857 to Oregon where he engaged in cattle ranching and served as agent for the Oregon Steam Navigation Co., at Lewiston, Idaho.

When gold was discovered in western Montana in 1862, followed by subsequent booms in copper and other minerals, Bonner was well positioned to begin supplying provisions to the mining camps and towns springing up throughout the region. 

In 1866, he brought a stock of goods from Lewiston to Missoula and Deer Lodge, Mont., and opened stores in the two locales. The flagship was in Missoula, first called Bonner & Welch and later renamed as Missoula Mercantile Co., described in a later article as "the largest and most influential house of wholesale and retail grocers in the Northwest."

The Deer Lodge store operated under the name E.L. Bonner Mercantile Co. A third store in Butte was called E.L. Bonner & Co.  

But Bonner's interests ran much wider than just dry goods. Over time, he had interests in ranching, timber, railroads and real estate. He turned over the day-to-day management of the stores to a succession of clerks, several of whom would become partners in the operation. 

Thus Bonner's original partner Daniel Welch was supplanted by Richard Eddy, and then Eddy turned things over to Andrew B. Hammond. Hammond expanded operations and completed construction of permanent store buildings before he too turned his attention to other interests. 

In 1880, Herb L. McLoed came in as the general manager of Missoula Mercantile, with oversight of the other Bonner-Hammond operations throughout the region. If McLoed continued in that position for the next 25 years, it could have been he who offered a job to Herbert Stetson to come to Montana and oversee finances for the Deer Lodge store..

The image of the parade above shows the store in the background all decked out in bunting for the 1912 Pioneer Day celebration.