Robert J. McVicker Biography


This biography appears on pages 261-262 in "History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915) and was scanned, OCRed and edited by Maurice Krueger,


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ROBERT J. McVICKER. The general store at Vermilion owned by Robert J. McVicker is considered one of the best in that section of the state. Mr. McVicker is a native of Pennsylvania, born May 4, 1864, of the marriage of Simpson M. and Eliza (Wilson) McVicker. The father was a farmer and in 1865 removed with his family to Illinois, where he resided for six years. A removal was then made to Iowa, where he purchased land and where he also owned what was known as the Hawley stage station, which was soon afterward discontinued. He purchased additional land from time to time and devoted his energies to farming throughout his active life. Both he and his wife died in the Hawkeye State in 1880. They had eight children: Elmer E., a minister of the gospel at Corvallis, Oregon; Robert J.; Ella, the wife of H. C. Tuttle, of Canada; Lizzie J., the wife of Fred Talcot, of Webb City, Iowa, who is principal of the school at Blairsburg, Iowa; Clarence, engaged in the meat business at Clarion, Iowa; Willa, the wife of George Garth, a farmer residing near Webster City; Albert B., who is engaged in farming near Ackley, Iowa; and Ernest A., who lives in Smith Center, Kansas.


Robert J. McVicker was seven years of age when the family removed from Illinois to Iowa and at that early age he assisted his brother Elmer in driving a team from one state to the other, the journey requiring three weeks. He assisted his father with the work of the farm and after the latter's death operated the homestead for two years. As he was compelled by circumstances to devote most of his time to work even when a boy, he received but little training in the schools. When but nine years of age he did a man's work upon the farm and when eighteen years old he entered the employ of a merchant of Webster City, receiving a salary of ten dollars per month and his board. He continued in that connection for two years and then went to Blairsburg, where with money that he had earned and saved he opened a grocery store, in partnership with his former employer, under the firm name of R. J. McVicker & Company. The store was conducted for two years by that firm, which then sold out. Mr. McVicker returned to his former position as clerk, but after a year bought a general store, which was carried on under the name of McVicker & Christman for one year. At the end of that time he bought his partner's interest and continued to conduct the store alone. In the meantime, in order to induce a physician to locate in his little town, he opened a drug store and placed it in charge of him. In 1891 Mr. McVicker commenced a small banking business in his store and after six months organized a stock company which established the Exchange Bank of Blairsburg, of which he was elected cashier. Six months after accepting that position he disposed of his store, exchanging it for a farm. He continued as cashier of the Exchange Bank of Blairsburg until 1893 and then sold his interest in that institution and severed his official connection therewith. He removed to Vermilion, South Dakota, where, on the 9th of March 1894, he entered business circles as a member of the firm of Grange & McVicker, owners of a general merchandise store, the senior partner being J. W. Grange. In 1910 Mr. McVicker sold out to his partner and for about three years conducted stores in different places but during that time maintained his residence in Vermilion. On the 28th of January 1912, he purchased a small stock of groceries in Vermilion and also the Anderson building. A few months later he purchased the adjoining building and increased the business considerably, handling a full line of dry goods, boots, shoes, etc. At the beginning of his venture he hired one clerk but now has eight employed regularly. He owns a fine residence on Main Street in Vermilion, and also holds title to land in North Dakota.


 Mr. McVicker was married the first time to Miss Carrie Grange, a native of Dubuque, Iowa, their wedding occurring in 1892. They became the parents of two children: Hazel G., who is teaching English at Platte, South Dakota; and Carrie N., who is attending the University of South Dakota at Vermilion and preparing herself for kindergarten work.


In January, 1895, the wife and mother died and later Mr. McVicker married Miss Priscilla Grange, a sister of his first wife. To them was born a daughter, Ethlyn, who is now in high school. Mrs. McVicker died in 1905 and in 1909 Mr. McVicker married Miss Edith Spencer, a native of South Dakota. Mr. McVicker is a republican and while living in Iowa was township clerk. He has served as city assessor of Vermilion for one year but has never been a seeker for office He is a trustee of the Methodist Episcopal Church and is devoted to the work of that organization. Fraternally he is a member of the blue lodge, chapter, commandery and Shrine of the Masons and has taken the thirty-second degree in the Scottish Rite. He is likewise a prominent member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, having held all of the chairs in the subordinate lodge and encampment and being a member of the canton. He has gained material prosperity for himself by building up a prosperous general store and in so doing has also contributed to the development and growth of his city along commercial lines. He is esteemed for his upright character as well as for his business ability and is valued resident of Vermilion.