Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A man of wealth and influence..

A couple of months ago, I received a set of interesting photos from a relative who is also researching the Elg family history, Ms Kerstin Abrahamsson. One was a photo of the “Central Drug Store, Louis Elg proprietor”. The photo had been sent to relatives back home, but carried no information about where the photo had been taken.

I knew that Louis was born Lars Erik Elg, on June 9, 1853, at Gravendal, Dalarna, Sweden. His father was Lars Elg (1823 – 1871), a blacksmith at the mill in Gravendal, his mother was Stina Carlsdotter, b abt 1820.

In November 1877 Lars Erik emigrated to the US, destination Iowa. I knew that he had lived in Helena, Lewis and Clark Cy. Montana, and at Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho.

In order to identify the photo I wrote a letter to the Montana Historical Society, who quickly responded:

Dear Mr. Elg,

I searched the Helena City Directories from 1895 through 1905. There is no record of a Louis Elge in Helena. The Directories do list Elges. In 1900, for instance, there is a Francis O. Elge and an Otto. Otto was the Sexton at the Swedish Mission Church in Helena.

However, I did find a Louis Elg in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 Census. He was enumerated in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The 1900 Census reported his wife’s name as Charlotte. He was born in Sweden about 1854. His occupation was listed as “Druggist” in 1900. In 1910 his occupation was “Proprietor”, and in 1920 he was living with a son, Edward, and his occupation was listed as “None”.

I believe the building in the photo must have been in Idaho Falls.

The Bonneville County Historical Society also provided a swift reply:

Dear Mr. Elg:

This is the information we have on Louis Elg: He came to the U.S. in 1874, stopping in Chicago; Boone County, Iowa where he worked in coal mines; and Omaha, Nebraska where he worked as a blacksmith and in a machine shop. In 1879 he was working for the railroad in Rawlins, Wyoming and he went from there to Dillon, Montana, also with the railroad. The first information about him in Idaho Falls was in 1895 when he opened a drug store on the corner of Front Street and Main Street. These streets have since been renamed Park Avenue and Broadway. The photo you sent is probably of this drug store. In 1904 a fire destroyed 20 businesses on the north side of Broadway from Park Ave. to the Snake River three blocks to the west. Central Drug Store would have been in this area. Later he owned another drug store called Eagle Rock Drug. His residence was on Chamberlain Ave. He was a well-known citizen of Idaho Falls, serving on the city council and as mayor of the city from 1910-1911. His wife was Charlotta and they had at least one child, Eddie.

Attached you will find photos of the Chamberlain Street residence, Mr.and Mrs. Louis Elg and Eddie.

Elg family residence on Chamberlain Street, ca 1900

The Elg family

Edward August Elg

With this information I was able to find a biography from “History of Idaho”, published in 1914:

LOUIS ELG. From Sweden have come many of the substantial and representative men of Idaho, some with poor equipments, according to the world’s estimation, and others, like Louis Elg, proprietor of the largest drug business in the state and for eleven successive years mayor of Idaho Falls, after they had secured a fair education , the only capital which their parents could afford them. Like many others from North, South, East and West, Mr Elg’s entrance into Idaho was in a humble capacity, a worker on that greatest of civilizing factors, the railroad, and with this as a stepping stone he entered into other opportunities, took advantage of them, and today is a man of wealth and influence, both won entirely by self-effort.

Mr. Elg was born June 9, 1854, at Dahlena, Sweden, and is the son of Louis and Christina (Peterson) Elg, the former of whom, an iron manufacturer, died at the age of fourty-eight years, in 1869, while the latter, born October 20, 1820, still resides in Sweden. There were ten children in the family, of whom Louis was the sixth in order of birth.Louis Elg was given good educational advantages, attending public school and college in his native land, and graduating from the latter when he was eighteen years of age. In 1873 he decided to try his fortunes in the United States, and accordingly came to this country and spent a short time in Chicago, Illinois, from whence he went to Boone County, Iowa. He remained there but a short interval, however, moving to Omaha, Nebraska, where he worked at various honourable occupations, as he did also at Rollins, Wyoming, to which point he subsequently removed. He was next sent by the Utah and Oregon railway to Utah, working from Harriet, Utah, up to Montana, in the construction department, and continuing in the employment of the railroad for one and one-half years. At the end of that time Mr. Elg came to Idaho, first settling at Eagle Rock, now Idaho Falls, where he secured a position in the railroad shops, and later worked with a construction gang.

On leaving the employ of the railroad, he accepted a position in a liquor business, in which he purchased a one-half interest, and finally became proprietor, continuing to conduct the establishment for several years. On retiring from that line Mr. Elg bought an interest in a drug business, with which he was connected for seven years, then selling out and going back to his native land on a business trip, and after returning to Idaho Falls spent one year in retirement. Having valuable realty interests here, he erected what is known as the Elg Block, a part of which he rented out, while the other part he devoted to a grocery business. Several months later, the parties to whom he had sold the drug business having failed to meet their obligations, he repurchased the business, sold his grocery, and moved the drug stock to its present location, and it has since developed into the largest business of this section.

A man of the highest business ability and integrity, each year has marked a decided advance in the importance of his holdings, and he now has a branch store at Gilmore and large mining interests in Lemhi county, in addition to realty interests in and about Idaho Falls. Mr. Elg’s ample fortune has been accumulated through the exercise of industrious endeavour, backed by the ability to recognize opportunities and further happy faculty of being able to carry his enterprises through to a successful conclusion. His integrity is unquestioned, and among his associates his word of mouth is as valuable as any legal script. In politics a Democrat, he was first elected councilman of Idaho Falls in 1898, and became mayor when E. P. Coleman died in office, having been formerly chairman of the council. During his administration the first sewer system was installed in the city, and his term was also marked by the completion of the electric power plant.

Mr. Elg is a popular and valued member of the Commercial Club, and his fraternal connections are with the Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Order of the Eastern Star and the Yeomen. During the thirty-three years that he has made Idaho his home, he has had ample opportunity to observe and take part in its general development and advance, and his confidence that the future will bring about as great progress may be taken as the opinion of one competent to judge. He has a wide acquaintance throughout the state, among which he numbers numerous friends.On June 8, 1878, at Idaho Falls, Mr. Elg was united in marriage with Miss Charlotta Sellstrom, daughter or Mr. and Mrs. Nels Sellstrom, of Idaho Falls, and she died April 26, 1905, and is buried in this city. To this union was born one sun: Edward August, born November 30, 1892, in Idaho Falls, a graduate of the Idaho Falls High School, who is now in business with his father.
From “History of Idaho”, pp. 1277-1278

The biography mentions “going back to his native land on a business trip“, and Swedish emigrant records confirm that Louis had visited to the old country, 25 years after he emigrated. On Sept 5, 1902, the family – Louis, Charlotta and Edward – left Malmö, Sweden, on their way back to the US. There was also a fourth person travelling with them, an Ida Elg, born abt 1873. Louis’ older brother Carl Johan Elg (1851 – 1941) also emigrated in 1881 and settled in Idaho Falls. His daughter Ida Cecilia was born in Sweden and might have wanted a chance to see the old country. She could also have come along as a nurse for Edward or Mrs Elg who passed away only three years later.

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