Wehrle B. Geary
you've spent any time at all on this website, you probably noticed that
I dont spend a lot of time on the typical movers and shakers of our
area. This is because most famous people have been written about
ad-nauseum. But this man, Mr Wehrle B. Geary is somewhat
different. He brought about two of the most famous businesses in this
area: The Diamond Dept Store and the Daniel Boone Hotel, and yet
little is known about him outside of personal friends and family. Yes,
he's been written-up many times over the years in the newspaper,
but ask yourself this: Where did he come from? How did he
get started? And where was he buried?|
Wehrle B. Geary was born in Roane County
grandson of an Irish immigrant weaver, was born near Amma WV in what is
known as Geary District. His family were early settlers obviously
because the district was called "Geary".|
was the main reason that Capitol Street became the city's business
district. Back in Geary's day, Kanawha Street (now Kanawha
Blvd) was the main site of commerce. Geary opened his first store
away from the others and went further North on Capitol Street each time
a new store opened. He felt the business district would run all the way
to Washington Street. At that time, this would have been unthinkable.
opened the Diamond Shoe Store in 1906. This became the Diamond Shoe and
Garment Co. in 1912 and reached full department store status in 1917,
moving farther up Capitol Street each time.
Wehrle Geary had 6 brothers, one of which was Edward Geary
who owned the grocery store on Lovell Street and Truslow.
The building up for sale in 1918
The building today would be on Washington Street near Margaret St.
Burial in the Koontz Cemetery, Clendenin WV
would think the the tall monument in the cemetery is Wehrle B. Geary's,
but it's not. The small stone below is. The large stone is
the family plot marker, mostly to honor Wehrle's mother and father.
I also find it interesting that the Geary family is buried in
Clendenin instead of the Geary cemetery near Amma. |
A MULTIMILLIONAIRE'S HEADSTONE
When speaking of the success of the Diamond Department Store, we cant leave out
find this man interesting because even with all his accumulated wealth,
he seemed to be very low key. This is obvious in the simple gravestone
above. He never flaunted his money like
many high profile businessmen did. He came from the country,
and through very hard work established two of the most famous
buildings this state will ever see... now and forever in my humble
opinion. Two Roane County country boys off the farm made the
Charleston business district famous to the point that people will talk
about it for generations. |
When you think of the Diamond's
Christmas window for instance, you can thank the two men on this
Ward Cox was another Roane County boy. He hated his name so much that even his wife called him A.W. How interesting that
these two men were both from almost the same area. Cox was from
the Harper District. Gandeeville is in that District for
instance, but Cox was born at Red Knob. What's really
interesting about Cox is that not only did he have many "A.W.
Cox" stores in the state, but also was Vice President and partner
with Wehrle B. Geary at The Diamond, and actually purchased the property where the Diamond would be built.|
Geary and Cox had merged their resources in 1926.
operated a sawmill at age 17 owned by his schoolteacher father. After a
few years, ‘‘A. W.,’’ as he was known, passed the state teacher’s
examination and began a teaching career in Mingo County and later in
Clendenin, Kanawha County.
While working part-time in a
Clendenin store, A. W. decided to make retailing his life’s work. He
went into business with C. M. Morrison. In 1914, Cox moved to
Charleston and bought the George Ort Department Store on Capitol
Street. That store became the first in a chain of 21 A. W. Cox stores in West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky.
With Wehrle B. Geary, he founded The Diamond, which became one of West
Virginia’s finest department stores, and the nearby Daniel Boone Hotel,
the city’s foremost hostelry. Both ventures were important in the
development of downtown Charleston, and the buildings remain city
|It was A.W. Cox who purchased the property |
of what would become the state's largest store.
Died Sept 6, 1964
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