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Capt. Watson D. Crocker, Page 628
CAPT. WATSON D. CROCKER, President of the Crocker Chair Company, was one of the first to start the manufacture of chairs in Sheboygan. Largely through his business ability and push has been built up one of the most important manufacturing industries of the State, thus adding to the growth and importance of the Chair City. Mr. Crocker was born February 10, 1841, at Crown Point, N. Y. When thirteen years of age, he accompanied his parents, Silas R. and Minerva H. Crocker, to this county. (See sketch of Silas R. Crocker on another page.)
Mr. Crocker received his education in the common schools of his native State, and of Sheboygan County. Soon after Ft. Sumpter was fired upon, fired with the impulsive patriotism of youth, he enlisted, at Milwaukee, in Company B, First Wisconsin Infantry. The date of enlistment was May 17, 1861, he being but little past twenty years of age. Having served three months, the full term of his enlistment, he was discharged August 21, 1861. On the 14th of October, of the same year, he re-enlisted, and January 1, 1862, was made Junior First Lieutenant of the Ninth Light Battery, Wisconsin Volunteers. The first engagement in which he participated was at Falling Waters, Va., while in the three-months service. The batter to which he belonged operated in Kansas and the West. On the 1st of April, 1865, Mr. Crocker was mustered out as First Lieutenant, and thereupon was chosen Captain of his Battery. He was finally discharged, at Madison, Wis., September 30, 1865, after a total service of four years, four months and thirteen days.
Again returning to Sheboygan, Mr. Crocker ran a planing-mill for a time, and in 1868, in company with the Beemis brothers, began the manufacture of chairs in a small way, under the firm name of Beemis Bros. & Crocker. This co-partnership lasted a year, when, in the year 1869, the firm of Crocker & Bliss was established, and the capacity of the plant was greatly increased. When the business was begun, only two hands, besides the members of the firm, were employed, while the new firm gave employment to some thirty-five or forty. In 1874 the old Crocker & Bliss factory was destroyed by fire, being a total loss. The firm was dissolved, and in 1875 Mr. Crocker became the Superintendent of the Phoenix Chair Company, with which he remained until 1880. Not discouraged by his losses, Mr. Crocker decided to organize a new company. As a result, the Crocker Chair Company was incorporated in 1880, with a capital stock of $30,000, which was increased in 1885 to $60,000, and again increased in 1887 to $100,000. The officers of the company were J. H. Mead, President; J. D. Stearns, Secretary; W. J. Rietow, Treasurer; and W. D. Crocker, Superintendent and manager. The present officers are W. D. Crocker, President; A. D. Crocker, Vice-President; J. D. Stearns, Secretary; and W. J. Rietow, Treasurer. The company has two large factories in Sheboygan, known as factory "A" and factory "B." The aggregate output of the two is three thousand chairs or finished pieces of furniture per day of ten hours' work. The plant covers an area of about seventeen acres. In addition to this, the company has a factory and sawmill at Antigo, Wis., for getting out chair stock. In carrying on this vast industry, some nine hundred hands are employed. The success of the enterprise is due, in no small degree, to the capability of the company's President.
Politically, Mr. Crocker is a Republican, taking a lively interest in the success of his party, though he has never sought or accepted official recognition. On the 1st of October, 1868, he was united in marriage, in Sheboygan, to Miss Sarah A., a daughter of James H. Gibbs, one of the early settlers of this county. Of this marriage have been born two children; Marion, who has charge of the home, and Anna, who is pursuing a collegiate course. The mother of this family is deceased, her death having occurred April 18, 1890.
Capt. Crocker is a member of the Loyal Legion of Milwaukee; of Gustav Wintermeyer Post No. 187, of Sheboygan; and of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. In his business affairs he has met with phenomenal success. It is no flattery to say that he ranks among the leading business men of Sheboygan, or that whatever he has achieved is the reward of persistent and well-directed effort.
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