LIMA — On Aug. 23, 1931, with the country mired in the Great Depression, Lima’s city Manager Fred C. Becker issued a plea for donations of wood to a municipal wood pile “in order that fuel-less families next winter may obtain stove wood free of cost.”
“Mack P. Colt contributed an old barn near Faurot Park and Green & Sawyer Co. notified Manager Becker that they will deliver all of their cuttings to the woodpile,” The Lima News wrote.
The Lewis Brothers, who operated a lumber business on the southwest corner of Pearl and Union streets, pitched in with a key donation — the loan of what the News described as a “portable sawing outfit” to cut all that wood into a length that would fit into stoves.
The Lewis brothers — Otis G., Samuel J. and Earl C. — were key member of Lima’s business community for four decades during the first half of the 20th century.
When Earl C. Lewis, the youngest and last surviving of the three brothers, died at the age of 77 at his home near Waynesfield in January 1955, the News wrote that he was “president and general manager of the former Lewis and Copeland Road Construction Co. for 20 years and was associated with the Lewis Brothers Lumber Co. for more than 50 years.”
The Lewis brothers were born to Civil War Veteran George W. Lewis and his wife, Amelia Tryphenia Lewis, in Hardin County. The eldest son, Otis G. Lewis, was born in 1868, followed by Samuel J. Lewis in 1872 and Earl C. Lewis in 1877. A fourth son, Walter R., who was in business with his brothers early on, was born in 1879. In addition to the four sons, three girls were born to the Lewises, Ola M., Laura L. and Edna M.
Walter R. Lewis settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he was a member of the contracting firm of Lewis and Frysinger. He died in Ann Arbor at the age of 48 in 1927 after being run over by a truck.
The brothers started a lumber business in Rockford in 1900. “The yard was moved to Lima in 1914 and established at 142 E. Pearl St., present location of the Lewis Brothers Co.,” the News noted on the death of 66-year-old Samuel Lewis in February 1939. “Samuel was the middle member of the three brothers’ partnership, which includes O.G. of 506 W. North St., senior member, and Earl of 625 W. Elm St., junior member.”
In addition to his partnerships with his brothers in the lumber company, Earl Lewis also was a partner with Jonathan Copeland in the Lewis & Copeland Construction Co., which was involved in many road projects in the area and throughout Ohio.
“Lewis & Copeland, Lima contractors were awarded contracts for the construction of two roads in Auglaize County by the state highway department at Columbus,” the News noted in July 1922. Those road projects included paving the Dixie Highway from Sidney to Wapakoneta and from Wapakoneta north to the Allen County Line.
The lumber company, meanwhile, offered many services. A May 1919 ad in the News touted the company’s oak flooring and door and window screens. In October 1922, the firm submitted a successful bid for millwork and painting and varnishing the wall decorations at “the old assembly hall at the courthouse,” the News reported.
The firm also was involved in housing construction. “In the extreme eastern part of the city,” the News reported in May 1925, “Lewis Brothers are completing a bungalow for the general market. This is of frame construction and faces on the Harding Highway just beyond Lost Creek in the Lost Creek country club district.”
As evidenced by their contribution to the Depression-era community wood pile, the Lewis Brothers were willing participants in civic projects. “After it was decided that Walt DeWeese was to do the scenery (for a play by the Lima Community Players), the problem of finding a space large enough to do the work was finally settled by Otis Lewis of Lewis Bros. Co. They kindly arranged a space in their warehouse large enough to construct and paint the settings,” the News wrote in April 1926.
Later in 1926, the brothers constructed a display for an exhibit on Lima-made products. During the September 1931 celebration of the county’s centennial, the firm’s parade float was honored.
On an individual basis, Samuel Lewis, who, the News noted, “had a life-long interest in the preservation of relics of the past,” was a member of the Allen County Historical Society, which honored him on his death in 1939. “The society recognized in Lewis one of its most ardent and zealous members and to his indefatigable interest and to his many interesting and education gifts, this society owes to him in great measure its position in the life of this community,” the memorial resolution read.
In July 1945, Otis Lewis, the oldest brother died at the age of 76.
The Lima Armature Works purchased the Lewis Brothers’ site on East Pearl Street in March of 1948, and the lumber company moved to Harrod where it was operated by J. Truman Lewis, the son of Earl Lewis. A story in the Jan. 1, 1963, edition of the News noted the Lewis Brothers hardware and lumber yard had been sold. J. Truman Lewis died in May 1974.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.