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Fayette County, Iowa
Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910
Author: G. Blessin
B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana
Vol. I, Biographical Sketches
The firm of John H. Biddinger & Son, of Oelwein, Iowa, is one of the best known harness establishments in this part of the state and by judicious management it has gradually extended its prestige until an excellent patronage is enjoyed, which reaches far beyond the borders of Fayette county. The senior member of the firm and one of the city's leading business men is John Henry Biddinger, who was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, September 25, 1845. He is the son of Andrew and Sarah (HARR) Biddinger, each representing old families of the Keystone state. Their son, John H., of this review, moved with his parents to Auburn, Fayette county, Iowa, when seven or eight years old. His father was a tailor and very successful in his line. During the Civil war, young John H. began learning the harness maker's trade, which he became very skilled in, and in 1872 he started a harness shop at Auburn and was building up a good trade when, in 1880, he moved to Oelwein; thus for nearly half a century he has been known as a harness maker and leather dealer in this locality and abundant success has crowned his long years of persistent and careful endeavor.
Mr. Biddinger was married in 1869 to Almeda Lewis, daughter of Samuel and Sarah Lewis, natives of Dane county, Wisconsin, and this union resulted in the birth of two children, Ernest Elmo, born in 1872, married May Knapp, daughter of Edward and Emma (Cleveland) Knapp, of McGregor, Iowa, and they are the parents of two children, Homer and Ralph. Ada Biddinger was born in 1877, married Will Tout, son of William and Minnie (Moore) Tout, of Toronto, Canada, and they are the parents of three children, Kenneth, Florence and another daughter. Mr. Tout is a foreman in the shops of the Chicago Great Western railway.
Fraternally the subject is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, both encampment and subordinate.
John H. Biddinger continued in the harness business in Oelwein until 1892, when his son Ernest bought a half interest in the business. In 1902 he bought the other half from his father, the latter retiring, but after some time spent in recreation and in an effort to regain his health, the elder Biddinger returned to the shop, where he still takes and active part in the work, not caring to be idle, for he has always been a very industrious man. When he first came to Oelwein he bought the John Wilson harness shop, which was located in a small frame building at the northwest corner of East Charles street and First avenue. In 1897 he built a substantial and convenient brick building at No. 21 West Charles street. It is a two-story business block in which both store and shop are located, the upper part being residence flats. The store is well arranged and an up-to-date line of harness is always carried and the shop is equipped with the latest pattern machinery, so that high grade work is always done. Other harness shops have been started in Oelwein at various times, but, as a rule, they did not remain long, but because of superior workmanship, better knowledge of the trade and an honest system in dealing with customers, the Biddinger shop has continued, now being the only one in Oelwein.
~Transcribed for Fayette Co. IAGenWeb by Richard Smith
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