OLIVER J. TAYLOR a representative business man of Sidney, O., where he is a leading hardware merchant, founded his present establishment on June 1, 1854, and is now in his fifty-ninth business year in his native city, where he was born September 26, 1830, and is a son of Jason and Sarah C. (Skillen) Taylor.
The Taylors were pioneers in Shelby county. Samuel Taylor, the grandfather, was born in England, coming to near Harper's Ferry, Va., and from there moved to Ohio and settled first near West Liberty, O., subsequently removing to Shelby county, where he entered land in what is now Salem township. He built a log cabin on a hill on a suitable part of his 100-acre purchase and there remained through a long and industrious life and is still recalled as one of the county's well-known pioneers.
Jason Taylor, father of Oliver J., was a boy when his parents moved to Shelby county and settled in Salem township. He married early, before he was twenty-one years of age, and with wife and a capital of $28.50, came to Sidney, where he began business life as a shoemaker. He prospered at his trade, and started.a,small general store and when he could spare the sum of $37.00 invested it in land, and the time came when that same lot of land was sold for $10,000. For many years he continued, as a merchant at Sidney and then went into the jobbing business in New York City, where he remained for about eighteen years. Failing health induced him to close out his interests there and to return to Sidney, where his death occurred two years later. He married Sarah C. Skillen, who was of Irish parentage but was born in Pennsylvania and came to Ohio in girlhood.
Oliver J. Taylor had very limited educational opportunities in his boyhood and remained with his parents until his eighteenth year, when he began the study of civil engineering and spent several years on the Big Four and Pan Handle railroads. Finding that his heart, was not in that line of industry, Mr. Taylor turned his attention to the hardware business, and, as noted above, established his store at Sidney at so early a date that be can justly claim to be one of the oldest men in the hardware line, not only in this city, but in Ohio. He had a capital of $800 to start with, the same having been earned and providently saved while on the railroad, and he bought his first stock up to this amount, of the firm of Norton, Jewett & Busby of New York City, and the goods, were shipped to him by way of Buffalo and Toledo, and then transferred to a warehouse.
Learning that this warehouse was destroyed by fire on that night, Mr. Taylor presumed his goods had been destroyed and duplicated his order, with the rather disturbing result of receiving both orders and having only money enough to pay for one. His business shrewdness extricated him and soon he found he needed not only both orders, of goods but that it became desirable for him to make annual trips to eastern markets and make his own selections. Still later he found his best market to be Pittsburg, later Cincinnati, and despite slow and exasperating delivery, he did a fine business.
The first commercial traveler to visit him was John Williams, representing the Wheeler, Madden & Clenson Works, saw manufacturers, of Middletown. N. Y., this mark of growing importance being shown him in 1859. It is interesting to learn of Mr. Taylor's business methods as they proved so successful. It was his early habit to open his store at about 6 A. M. and probably close about 10 P. M. He has made it a point to buy with cash and to owe no one a dollar, although his purchasers very often did not follow the same honest line, buying largely on credit and having no definite time for settlement.
Mr. Taylor remembers the advent of the wire nail, the family washing machines, the glass lantern that has succeeded the old tin cone pierced with holes. In his first stock of goods the cleaver was the only meat cutter and his padlocks that he then had to sell for perhaps fifty cents he can improve on for ten cents. He recalls his first door locks which were made to open with a lever instead of a knob; the old Spear & Jackson English saws were used and Mr. Taylor remembers that he had some trouble in convincing his customers that the Henry Disston saws were superior. His first American pocket cutlery he bought at Northfield, Conn., and for forty years he has handled the same goods. In every other line he notes progress and improvement and has always been open to conviction himself and anxious to provide the very best goods on the market. In 1874 Mr. Taylor moved into the building he now occupies and there are few business men of Sidney who are more prompt in their daily activities or more active in attending to customers than is Mr. Taylor, at the age of eighty-two years.
On June 7, 1855, Mr. Taylor was married to Miss Sarah Harrison, who died suddenly July 30, 1887, the mother of seven children, four of -whom survive: Harry J., who is the owner of the Sidney Hardware Company, of Sidney; Jennie A., who is the wife of J. C. Cummings, cashier of the First National Exchange Bank of Sidney; Willis B., who is buyer for O. J. Taylor; and Charles J., who is a traveling salesman, representing the Chicago Hardware Company, with his home at Kansas City, Mo. Mrs. May Belle Lyon died leaving three children. Oliver Earl, the fifth born is deceased, and Edwin, the sixth child in order of birth, died at the age of eight months.
Mr. Taylor's second marriage was to Miss Helen C. Search, who is a sister of Prof. P. W. Search, the well-known lecturer. Mr. Taylor has been creditably interested in many of the industries of Sidney and has been called the father of the Sidney fire department, and, in association with the late George Burnell, organized the present paid fire department. For almost his lifetime he has been a member of the Presbyterian church and until recently, when he retired voluntarily from the office, for many years has been an elder in the church. His long life of persevering industry has brought him financial independence and his probity and business integrity have earned him the confidence and respect of his fellow citizens.