C. F. Winter and how I hate initials! – The “City Hall” clock guy and long-time River Falls Jeweler

As I have been researching local history for about 6 years now, one thing I notice that annoys me more than anything is when many people were referred  to in the newspaper only by their initials or as Mrs. John Smith. This is the case with C.F. Winter. The Journal this week has an article on C.F. Winter’s clock and it history up to being moved to city hall. No where in the article is C.F. Winter refereed to by his first name Charles. This was common at least in the newspapers for almost everyone and for sure all business people. Only at the time of their death are some full first names revealed. I am not sure if they were called by their intials in person or not. If any one has any insight on this common practice then let me know! I am glad it is not in favor now.

Anyway a little bit more about Charles F. Winter. Charles Frederick Winter was born November 8, 1858 in Watertown, Jefferson County, Wisconsin to immigrant parents Mathais and Caroline Winter. At the age of 10 months the family moved to Columbus, Wisconsin. His parents came to be in charge of a hotel in Columbus shortly after the Civil War. Chuck grew up in Columbus where he also attended the Lutheran Church there. He got interested in Jewelry in Columbus, but became apprentice at the August Wiggenhorn Jewelry store in Watertown. How long this was is unknown, but he moved to Saint Cloud, Minnesota and started his own jewelry store there in 1881. In 1883, he worked at a jewelry store in Columbus again.  Why he decided to come to River Falls is unknown, but in the spring of 1885, Thomas Yates’s jewelry store was for sale in the Bradshaw Brothers building (118 S. Main Street). A jewelry was first at that location in August 1878 when Henry Cook opened his shop there. The first jewelry store in River Falls was at the Day Daylight store. Egbert Wallace Reed opened a counter there on North Main in the summer of 1871.  Charles Winter opened his store late in July 1885. He did not waste any time settling down here for he married Katherine Gehring November 11, 1885. I think they lived downtown until they built their own home on 4th street in 1894 ( 203 S.). He was active in River Falls being an alderman for the 2nd ward of the city and also a member of the Masons. He was even honored during that run as alderman by having a street named after him. Winter street on the Brooklyn or West side is named after him and not the season, so I have been told. I have never found written proof of this fact though. If anyone has it let me know!

The Winter family had two children Otto L. and Coie Winter. Otto was born December 26, 1888. He became a lieutenant in the first World War. He died of pneumonia during the epidemic on January 2, 1919. Coie married Wilbur Powell Ensign. Wilbur was also in the first World War as a marine. He worked for the Tubbs Medicine Company here in River Falls. After the River Falls Opera House became a ladder factory in 1919, he was in charge of the workers there. When that place burned down, he stayed employed with the same ladder factory and moved to Minneapolis where they had another location. Coie and Wilbur Ensign stayed in Minneapolis for the rest of their lives. Their only child was named Winter Ensign after Charles Winter’s surname.

Winter had a good practice downtown as a jeweler. He mostly worked alone, but I know that George Searle and Arthur Todd both worked there at a time. William Sanderson had an insurance office in the back of the store. They had a bad fire in the store during the spring of 1898. He did reopen shortly after, luckily having insurance for that kind of thing.

In 1900, Sebastian Gehring, Charles Winter’s father in law,  bought 110 S. Main Street. At that time it was a millinery store. When that store left Charles Winter took the opportunity to move to that location, doubling the size of the store. This was in May 1906. Winter’s anniversary sales after this were well advertised as he had been in business many years up to that point. He continued the store until his death on August 5, 1928. The later years he had Herbert Helmer (b. September 13, 1894) as a worthy employee. The store became the Winter-Helmer Jewelry until 1932 when Mrs. Winter relinquished ownership. Helmer would stay in business in River Falls in 1947, even building a new building for himself at 115 S. Main Street in 1947. He sold out to George Neher that year. That address would stay as a Jewelry store in River Falls until 1992, when Richard’s Jewelers closed. Charles Winter himself was the longest proprietor, being in business from 1885 until 1928, 43 years or 36% of that Jewelry store’s lifetime. I guess it is a tribute to what kind of space a jewelry store needs, but Winter’s original location has been Gemini Jewelers at one time and now is the Goldsmith, who is also a jeweler. Anyway, that is a little bit more about C.F. Winter or Charles Frederick Winter and his life in River Falls!

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10 Responses to C. F. Winter and how I hate initials! – The “City Hall” clock guy and long-time River Falls Jeweler

  1. Don Richards says:

    “Richards jewelers”?

    • Dan Geister says:

      I guess technically it was Richard’s Jewelers. Dick Vandelow purchased that Jewelry Store in 1975 and called it Richard’s Jewelers after his first name. I think they also had a location in Hudson, which opened before the River Falls location.

    • David Inlow says:

      Yeah, apparently you never really lived in River Falls. We were here from 1975 to 1993. I remember, I was there. If you need some refrence point, its were Song Garden Chinese Restaraunt is.

      • Avatar of Dan Geister Dan Geister says:

        I have lived in River Falls since 1988 for the most part, but did not pay attention to things like Jewelry stores when I was a teenager or younger. I know where Richard’s Jewelers and the previous jewelry stores were going back to the beginning of the settlement of this area.

  2. Mary Drier says:

    Dan,
    My mother passed away a month ago, and left many albums (including from the 1960s and perhaps before then) of clippings/obituaries of people who had passed. Understand they didn’t take many photos in those days, so the only photo they had of many friends and relatives were the obituary photo. No one seems to be interested in them; was wondering if you would be interested in them. I saw Welsie Bredhalt was one. Your Dad stayed with he and his wife many years. Let me know. It seems such a shame to just throw them away. Is there a Pierce County Historical Society to preserve some of these things?
    Mary Ellen Drier

    • Avatar of Dan Geister Dan Geister says:

      I’d love to see them. I have not been on here much lately. You can also contact the Pierce County Historical Association. I am in the River Falls Phone Book and online White Page listings if you wish to contact me further directly with a phone call.

  3. David Inlow says:

    My parents bought Vanda’s jewelry Store in 1975. They changed the name to Richard’s Jewelers. We ran the jewelry store through hard small town economics through the late seventies and early eighties. River Falls, like a lot of small towns during that period of time changed drastically economically. We moved on eventually. So should you. David Inlow. Inlow Jewelers. Hudson WI

  4. David Inlow says:

    Dan, I remember your Dad, Chuck. He was a really good guy. He loved his guitar! And his metal detector.

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