By Pauline Ali
A century and a half, four building and six generations have contributed to the success of E. T. and H. K. Ide, Inc. in St. Johnsbury whose owners celebrate the 150th anniversary of the company Dec. 22.
Richard Ide, present owner of the business, said as far as he knew, this is the only business in Vermont that has remained in a family for so long a period and one of the few businesses in New England with this distinction.
Timothy Ide purchased the grist mill at Passumpsic, Dec. 22, 1813 after selling his farm in Lyndon. He conducted the business until his death in 1839 when it was purchased by his son, Jacob.
Jacob was a station master, school master, store keeper and farmer. He made several improvements in the mill equipment and was the first to import “buhr” stones for grinding. He also installed the first elevator in this section of the country.
Elmore, Jacob’s oldest son, took charge of the business in 1861. The mill building and machinery were improved and put on a more efficient operating basis. At the close of the Civil War a new flour appeared on the market from the mid-west. “York” flour was purer-looking and whiter but not as sweet and nutritious as the native flour. This almost destroyed the St. Johnsbury business but Elmore went to Crawfordsville, Ind. Where he worked as a miller and mill wright to learn western methods of making flour and see the new equipment. He put his new-found knowledge to work and as local wheat farming died out, he imported wheat from the western states.
In 1866 the business was taken over by Elmore Timothy and Horace Knights and the partnership of E. T. & H. K. Ide was formed.
A branch store was opened in St. Johnsbury in 1869 in the Ward Block and later moved to 20-22 Eastern Ave. Horace managed the store for several years until failing health necessitated his retirement. The store did a business in grain and groceries and a few years later expanded to include coal. The headquarters of the business was established in St. Johnsbury in 1879.
Fire destroyed the mill in Passumpsic in 1883 and business for the Ides almost came to a standstill. But in the summer of the same year an up-to-date new corn mill was built on the same site.
Horace died in New York in 1897 in his way home from Florida. His death ended the partnership and the business was incorporated under the same name with all capital stock owned by E. T. Ide and members of his family.
Just before the turn of the century, Elmore purchased three acres of land on the east side of the railroad tracks in St. Johnsbury, just north of the railroad station. The land was a swamp and could be reached by traffic only by constructing and underpass beneath the railroad tracks. Fill for the swamp was hauled in by horses, the underpass was constructed and the street laid. The plant was built and since 1900 the main plant and offices have been located on Bay Street.
The mill in Passumpsic again burned in 1904 and an old mill was purchased in Lyndon. It also burned in the same year.
The mill site and water power works in Passumpsic were sold to the St. Johnsbury Electric Company for $15,000. The fourth mill was built in 1905 in St. Johnsbury at its present location.
Elmore died in 1923 after 62 years in the grain business and was succeeded by his son, William.
In 1927 a new storehouse was built. That was the year of the great flood and water damage was severe to the new un-insured business.
Richard, son of William, joined the staff in 1932 and in 1957 upon the death of his father, took over the business which he is still conducting.
Practically all of the grain is imported from the mid-west and the coal is sipped in from Pennsylvania. Although most homes have converted to other sources of heat, Richard says the company is still doing a good business in coal.
Grain is now ground steel and trucks pull up to the building to be loaded with bulk grain where once it was sold only in bags. In the late 1940’s the Ide company packaged grain in flowered or printed bags that could be used by the farmer’s wifes for curtains, dresses or ither items. This became a nuisance. The women would come into the plant and want to match the material, and the bag was often at the bottom of a huge pile.
Three months ago, John, the oldest son of Richard, became a member of the family business. The Ide family lives in Danville Green. Other members of the family include Mrs. Ide, William, Mary and Robert.
Many of the farmers now doing business with the grain mill are sons or grandsons of the first men to become business associates of the Ide family.
Branch stores have opened through the years in Fairlee, Passumpsic, West Barnet, Danville and North Danville. Of the 27 persons employed by E. T. & H. K. Ide Inc. 20 of them have over five years of service with the firm.
Employees and years worked are Alexander Berube, 45; Frederick Johnson, 41; Raymond Locke, Sr., 35; Dewey Nichols, 35; Richard Ide, 31, his father was there for 52 years; Fred Wright, 28; Frank Lapoint, Jr., 27, his father retired after 52 years; William Mackay, 22; Samuel Eastman, 21; Benjamin Stanton, 21; Maitland Bean, 20; Everett W. Kenneson, 18; Phillip Langmaid, 17; Kenneth Robinson, 16; Bert Allen, Jr., 13, his father served the Ides for 34 years; Henry Bumps, 11; Merwin Simonds, 10; Melville Moulton, 9; Clayton Rose, 8; Murray Lyons, 6; Carroll Bean, 3; Mrs. B. F. Allen, 2; Ronald Bishop, 2; Maitland Mackay, 2; Arthur Bresse, 2; Blanche Daniels, 1 and John T. Ide, three months.
An article from the Caledonian-Record on December 21, 1963 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of E. T. & H. K. Ide. This edition is not available online, fortunately I have five yellowed copies to choose from.