Wehrle B. Geary

Wehrle B. Geary


If 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

Geary, 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".

Geary District


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.
Geary 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 B. Geary

Wehrle Geary

Geary Obit


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
Geary Building
The building today would be on Washington Street near Margaret St.

Edward Geary

Burial in the Koontz Cemetery, Clendenin WV


You 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.



I 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 page.

Diamond Dept Store

When speaking of the success of the Diamond Department Store, we cant leave out

 A.W Cox

AW Cox

Artemus 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.  

He 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 landmarks today.

AW Cox

It was A.W. Cox who purchased the property
of what would become the state's largest store.

A.W. Cox

Died Sept 6, 1964

A.W. Cox

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