March 4, 1896, Julius John Jacob Hechler opened the doors of
his hardware store for its first day of business at 530 Main
Street in Troy, Missouri. No doubt, the town of Troy was busy
as usual. The livery companies were taking their passengers
to and from the train depot on Front Street. Leonard Henry,
Julius' brother-in-law, was preparing his Opera House across
the street for the "Komedy Kompany" that was to arrive
on the afternoon train for the evening's entertainment. The
hotels were probably going to be full that night. The air was
filled with the music of iron answering to iron from the blacksmith
shops nearby. George Kempf, Julius' other brother-in-law, would
soon be loading his wagon with groceries for the first delivery
of the day. Several people were already gathering at the town
spring for a cool drink of water and an exchange of the latest
J. Hechler |
Hechler in front of store
brothers, John and Frank, worked for him in the early years
of the business. Later, John opened his own machine shop in
Troy where the Marble Works now stands. Then, he moved to Vandalia,
Missouri, where he opened a large machine shop for many years.
Frank later opened a hardware store in Warrenton, Missouri.
Eventually, he moved back to Alton, Illinois.
Hechler was the son of German immigrants, Adam and Margaretha
(Hoerner) Hechler. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, July
29, 1863. His family moved to Alton, Illinois, shortly afterward
where his father opened a bootlery, then a grocery store and
finally a hardware store on Second Street. Julius moved to Troy
in 1886, where he was married to Mathilda Kempf. Her parents
were also German immigrants and owned a large hardware store
on Market Street in St. Louis.
and Mathilda became the parents of three children, Ernest, Willie,
and Laura. Willie died when he was only a few months old, and
Mathilda died in one of Troy's typhoid epidemics in 1892. Laura
died when she was 18 of Bright's Disease.
1898, Julius married Elizabeth Klein of Moscow Mills, Missouri.
They had five children, Edith, Fred, Henry, Louise and Edward.
J. Hechler and sons
Ernest and Fred
1904; Julius was in dire financial trouble and almost lost his
business, but Charles Martin, attorney-at-law, bought into the
business, saving it from ruin. The business became known as
Hechler and Martin. Eventually, Julius discontinued his implement
business and became financially secure again. In 1908, Garner
Ellis bought out Charles Martin's share and in 1909, Ernest
Hechler, Julius' son, bought Mr. Ellis' share. The business
became known as J.J. Hechler and Son.
other children, Fred, Henry, Edward, Louise and Edith worked
in the store for many years.
1918 and 1919, Ernest was absent from the business while serving
in World War I. He was a member of the 4th Division 12th Machine
Gun Battalion. He was involved in several well known battles,
including the Battle of St. Mihiel and the Great Battle of the
Argonne in France. After the war, he served with the Army of
Occupation in Germany.
returning from the war, Ernest married Ethel Schaper of rural
Troy. They had five children, Elwyn, Mabel, Ethel, Lucille,
George and Robert. Ethel Lucille died when she was 7 years old
of complications from rheumatic fever.
1929, Julius, who had been suffering from angina, died in the
dentist's chair while having a tooth extracted. It was thought
that the effects of the ether was too much for his heart. Ernest
became full owner of the business at that time.
sons, Elwyn, George and Robert started working at the store
as soon as they were old enough to dust a shelf, wield a broom
or unpack a box.
1951, when Ethel became ill, Ernie took a leave of absence,
staying at her bedside throughout her illness until her death
in October of that year. In 1954, Ernie married Nora Hopkins,
who was a wonderful companion to him.
1966, Ernie sold the business to his son, Robert. He continued
to work for Robert for several years. He had a bad habit of
telling customers that he hadn't carried an item for 50 years
rather than be disturbed from his reading as he sat at his old
roll top desk. Ernie came to the store every day until about
six weeks before he died at the age of 92 in 1980.
or Bob as he is called, married Julia (Judy) Mozier in 1955.
She is the daughter of J.T. and Floy Mozier, who still live
on the family farm north of Troy. The Mozier's operated a dairy
farm and had a milk delivery business in Troy for many years.
Judy, along with her sister, Frances, and brother, John, were
very involved in the venture, so Judy had an affinity for business
before she became part of the hardware family.
and Judy worked hard to make the business strong and able to
compete in today's market. Their main objective is to serve
the people of Lincoln County and provide the personal service
that they and their employees have always given their customers.
Bob continued to install furnaces and air conditioning until
the late 1970's when his health no longer permitted it. He was
a certified Lennox dealer for 46 years. Sadly, he passed away
in November 2003 and will be missed by his family and friends.
and Judy's sons, Dan and Phil (fourth generation), are very
involved in the business. Dan holds a BS degree in Business
Administration, and Phil holds a BS degree in Corporate / Industrial
Communications. They, like their father and grandfather before
them, practically grew up in the hardware store. They have helped
to expand the business and make it competitive in today's world.
was married to Kimberly Williams of Troy in 1980. They have
two children, Ashley and David, who are the fifth generation
in the Hechler Hardware family.
married Natalie Borders of St. Charles in 1989. They have two
boys, Curtis and Clayton, they are also fifth generation.
Hechler Hardware has seen many changes over the past 100 years.
From the old front door, one once saw the muddy streets full
of horses, buggies and wagons. The droves of sheep, hogs and
cattle being driven down the street to the weighing scales directly
opposite the store beside the old Opera House. The huge circus
parades that came in on the trains complete with elephants.
The crowds arriving early for the best seats in the house for
the evening's entertainment at the Opera House. The gathering
of the faithful in 1898 to hear that great Southern preacher,
Sam Jones, speak to crowds of 500 to 600 people each night.
And, at the annual Christmas Ball, sponsored by the young men
of Troy that same year, the town was filled with great excitement
as the people gathered for the social event of the season to
meet Frank James, brother of Jesse James (and ex-bandit) who
was to be the honored guest and doorman at the event! There
were the hardy individuals who arrived in Troy, gathering supplies
and bidding friends farewell as they joined the Gold Rush to
the Klondike. We can't forget the ragtag group of children who,
in 1910, came into Troy on the Orphan Train from eastern cities
being brought to the Opera House with fear in their hearts hoping
to be chosen by a kind family. It was quite a scene in 1914
when 1,400 people marched for Christ during a revival held by
the churches in Troy. And the wonderful fairs, when as many
as 12,000 people came to Troy, mostly by horse and wagon to
see the great horse races, car races, trapeze artists, hot air
balloons and even bicycle races. The footsteps of small children
and tired mothers could be heard going up the steps to the shelter
of the Temperance Benebolent Association, which was above the
store, for their own safety. The hundreds, perhaps thousands,
who climbed the same steps to have their pictures taken at Mr.
Fred Hurd's Photography Studio. There were the beautiful brides,
handsome grooms and new babies, the growing families and fourth
generation pictures. Later, Mr. Arnold Hiler would be taking
pictures of the sweet, sad brides and the dashing grooms in
their uniforms before they left for World War II. Then there
were the sad partings and parades for those departing for the
Spanish American War, World War I and World War II.
Street was eventually paved and became Main Street and Highway
61, then became just Main Street again.
from the old front door, we no longer see horses and buggies,
except during the Youth Fair Parade. People no longer climb
the stairs to have their pictures taken; the old backdrop of
magnificent pillars, drapes and ferns hangs limp and forlorn.
Many automobiles pass each day. We see many familiar faces and
many new ones. We welcome them all.
more things change, the more things stay the same. We still
give the same personal service to our customers that Julius
did over 100 years ago. We still have many of the original fixtures,
the wooden floors in the main building are original, along with
the nail bins and old iron ladder that rolls along the wall.
The beautiful brass National Cash Register that Julius Hechler
bought in 1912 is on display. We're selling wood stoves again
in the newly renovated Opera House across the street. Instead
of the old reel type lawn mower that Grandpa Ernie had so much
trouble selling, we have the latest in lawn and garden equipment.
And the roof still leaks!