Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 251-53.

Transcribed by Mary Alice Schwanke and Cyndi Vertrees

Biography of  George Witter

George Witter, whose business activity is now confined to the supervision of his invested interests, was for many years one of the most enterprising and progressive merchants of Storm Lake, and his business affairs contributed in large measure to the upbuilding and prosperity of the city, as well as to his individual success. There are few men who continue in trade for forty years that enjoy so spotless a record of business integrity, and his record may well serve as an example that might profitably be followed. He was born in Dubuque county, Iowa, April 1, 1851. His father, George P. Witter, was a native of Germany and came to the United States in 1846, in which year he located in Dubuque county upon a farm which he entered from the government. He had acquired his education in the schools of his native land and had there learned and followed the weaver's trade but in this country his entire attention was given to general agriculture pursuits. Becoming a naturalized citizen, he gave his political support to the whig party until his death, which occurred in 1852 when he was forty-two years of age. Both he and his wife were consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal church. Mrs. Witter, who bore the maiden name of Elizabeth Peter, was born in Germany and passed away July, 1872, at the age of sixty-one years. They were married ere their emigration to the new world and they became the parents of twelve children, of whom five are yet living: George and Adam, who are residents of Buena Vista county; and three now living in Dubuque county.

George Witter, the youngest of the family, was reared upon the home farm and attended the district schools nearby, also pursuing his studies in a private school in Galena, Illinois. There he learned the carriage-making trade, which he followed for about ten years, on the expiration of which period he removed to Storm Lake in the spring of 1878 and here engaged in the furniture and undertaking business. For thirty years he was a factor in the commercial circles of the city, retiring on the 1st of January, 1908. He has been vice- president of the Commercial National Bank of Storm Lake since its organization. He had been very successful and had developed an enterprise which is second in importance to no establishment of this character in north-western Iowa. His business policy was one well worthy of emulation. His path was never strewn with the wreck of other men's fortunes, nor was he ever known to take advantage of the necessities of another in a commercial transaction. He won his success through close application, enterprising methods, and honorable dealing, and while promoting his individual interests he also contributed to a great extent to the upbuilding of the city. In 1878 he erected a frame building in which to carry on his business and in 1881, in order to meet the growth of the trade, he erected a brick structure twenty-one by one hundred feet. His business still grew, however, and in 1888 he built a two-story L, extending east from the rear and facing on Erie street. This is now occupied by the Vidette office. In 1899 he erected another business block west of and adjoining his original property on Fifth street. It is thirty-five by ninety feet and three stories and basement. It has a pressed brick front and is a modern establishment in all of its appointments and equipments. The block has a frontage of seventy-five feet from the Erie street corner west on Fifth street.

In 1878 Mr. Witter was united in marriage to Miss Kate Bauman, who was born in Dubuque county, Iowa, in 1855, a daughter of John and Mary Bauman, who were natives of Germany, and on coming to this country settled in Dubuque county in the early '50s. Mr. and Mrs. Witter became the parents of five children: Lora, born September 14, 1879 and passed away July 15, 1880; Ella N., whose birth occurred in 1882 and who is supervisor of art in the Muscatine schools; Willard W., born March 8, 1884, who is at home; Florence F., whose natal day was July 7, 1885, also at home; Frances M., born September 12, 18877, who is supervisor of music in the Storm Lake schools.

The parents are members of the German Methodist church, in the work of which they take a most active and helpful interest. As his financial resources have increased Mr. Witter contributed more and more largely to its support and for the past thirty years he has been superintendent of the Sunday school. While he frequently gives his support to the republican party, he is a stanch advocate of temperance and casts an independent local ballot. He has served as member of the school board and no interest of the community along material, intellectual, social or moral lines fails to receive his endorsement and hearty cooperation. In 1902 he erected one of the most handsome residences of Storm Lake and in this he and his family are now comfortably situated. He thoroughly enjoys home life and takes great pleasure in the society of his family and friends. He is always courteous, kindly and affable and those who know him personally have for him warm regard. A man of great natural ability, his success in business from the beginning of his residence in Storm Lake has been uniform and rapid. As had been truly remarked, after all that may be done for a man in the way of giving him early opportunities for obtaining the requirements which are sought in the schools and in books, he must essentially formulate, determine and give shape to his own character, and this is what Mr. Witter has done. He has persevered in the pursuit of a persistent purpose and gained the most satisfactory reward. His life is exemplary in all respects and he has ever supported those interests which are calculated to uplift and benefit humanity, while his own high moral worth is deserving of highest commendation.