John M. Gaar’s birthplace in Richmond, Indiana. His later successes enabled him to live in one of the finest homes in this community.
JOHN M. GAAR; It has often been stated and commented upon that the United States has always presented great opportunities to men of industry, ability, honesty and integrity, and as long as men have the aspirations and the determination to improve their conditions of life and earn the success which it is possible to obtain, the theme will never be exhausted. One of the most prominent of Indiana’s business men whose enterprise and sound judgment have not only promoted their individual prosperity but have advanced the public welfare, is John Milton Gaar. As the president of the extensive corporation doing business under the name of Gaar, Scott & Company, he is too well known to need introduction to the readers of this volume, and his fame in this connection is not even confined by the bounds of his native land, but as a business man in other lines of endeavor, as a citizen and as a friend, we would preserve the record of his career among a people who have learned to admire, respect, honor and esteem him.
John M. Gaar, the son of Jonas Gaar, was born in Richmond on the 26th of May, 1823, and is indebted to the subscription schools of the city for the educational privileges which he enjoyed. His early life passed uneventfully, and as his parents were not then wealthy his youth was by no means free from labor. In 1835, by the firm, whose members were Job W. Swain, Abel Thornbury and Jonas Gaar, he was employed to operate a stationary engine, and continued to serve in their employ until 1838, when his employers failed. He afterward worked at anything he could get to do that would yield him an honest living. In 1839 he secured a situation in a brickyard and followed that pursuit until he became an expert brick maker. He was employed in that line until the 6th of November, 1841, when he began working in the blacksmith shop of the Spring foundry, owned by J. M. and J. H. Hutton.
In January, 1845, when he was receiving one dollar per day, he and his brother, Abram, each asked for an advance to a dollar and a quarter per day, but the firm compromised by giving each of them a one fifth interest in the business, their father also having a fifth interest. On the 20th of September, 1849, in connection with their father, Jonas Gaar, and William G. Scott, they purchased the interest of J. M. and J. H. Hutton, and organized the firm of A. Gaar & Company, the partners being Jonas Gaar and his two sons, Abram and John M., and William G. Scott. From the beginning their patronage steadily increased. It was a healthy growth, for their products commanded the commendation of the public, and good goods upon the market, sold at reasonable rates, always secure purchasers. From the beginning John M. Gaar of this review was one of the partners, and he so continued until 1870, when the business was incorporated under the name of Gaar, Scott & Company, at which time he was elected a director and treasurer.
Upon the death of his brother Abram, in 1894, he succeeded to the presidency, and for five years has remained at the head of the most extensive business in this line in the entire country. Their plant has been constantly enlarged to meet the growing demands of the trade until it now covers ten acres of land, and is fitted out with the most modern buildings and improved machinery known to the trade. They are among the most extensive boiler and engine builders in the world, and the products of this great foundry include threshing machines, clover-hullers, boilers, portable and traction engines and sawmills. The trade which the house enjoys is very extensive, their manufactures being shipped to every state in the Union, in addition to which they have a large export trade.
The name of Gaar, Scott & Company upon any piece of machinery is a guaranty of its excellence and a recommendation that is everywhere received, for the reliability of the company is a matter widely recognized throughout the business world. The present officers of the company are: John M. Gaar, president; Joseph B. Craighead, vice-presi dent; S. S. Stratton, Jr., secretary; and Howard Campbell, treasurer and general manager. They employ an army of skilled workmen, each department being under the direction of expert machinists, and every machine sent out from the foundry is made with a degree of perfection unsurpassed up to the present time. The men are paid good wages, and the relation between employers and employees is most harmonious, owing to the justice and consideration on the part of the former, which awakens the good will and respect of the latter.
While John M. Gaar is at the head of one of the leading foundry enterprises of the world, his efforts have been by no means confined to one line of endeavor. It would be difficult to imagine what the business life of Richmond would be without his guiding hand, his wise counsel and his financial assistance. He is now president of the Second National Bank, of the city, president of the F. & N. Lawn Mower Company, and president of the Richmond Natural Gas Company, and has been a most potent factor in the success which has attended these various enterprises. In addition, he has engaged in stock raising on a large scale and has managed an extensive farm. Thus has he been prominently connected with the agricultural, industrial and commercial interests of the city, and is none the less prominent in social circles.
He is a valued member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Masonic fraternity, and his genial, unassuming manner has gained him the sincere friendship of many of the representatives of these lodges. His early political support was given the Democratic party, but on the organization of the Republican party he joined its ranks, and has since been one of the stalwart advocates of its principles.
On the 20th of January, 1845, Mr. Gaar was united in marriage to Miss Hannah A. Rattray, who died June 6, 1849, leaving a daughter, H. A., who is now the wife of Joseph B. Craighead, vice president of the Gaar, Scott & Company’s Works. On the 16th of September, 1S65, Mr. Gaar was again married, his second union being with Helen M. Rattray, who was born March 2, 1840. Three children were born of this union: William W., a resident of Richmond; Jennie, wife of W. B. Leeds, of Chicago, the president of the American Tin Plate Company, of Elwood, Indiana; and John M., Jr., deceased.
For seventy six years Mr. Gaar has been a resident of Wayne county, and has long been accounted one of the most prominent and progressive citizens of Richmond. He may well be termed one of the founders of the city, for he has been the promoter of many of the leading business interests, and the history of Richmond, as of that of all other modern cities, is largely the history of commercial activity. He has earned for himself an enviable reputation as a careful man of business, always known for his prompt and honorable methods of dealing, which have won him the deserved and unbounded confidence of his fellow men.
Source; Wayne, Fayette, Union & Franklin Counties Indiana; Vol 1; Lewis Publishing Co; 1899
J.M. Gaar’s substantial home on North 8th once stood where the parking lot of U.S. Bank is now located, south of the YMCA, across from Smiley’s Pub.
John M. Gaar and his family posed for this photograph, from the side porch of their home.
A view of the J.M. Gaar home c: 1905. John M. Gaar died in August of 1900.
The Richmond Elks Club purchased the home from Mr. Gaar’s widow in 1907. Photo c: 1940s.
The Gaar home is shown on the left side of this YMCA postcard c: 1956. The Elks Club sold the property to the 2nd National Bank in the early 1960s. The bank demolished the home in 1964, creating additional off street parking for their business.
The John Milton Gaar family plot in Earlham Cemetery
The new home (no longer standing) Mrs J.M. Gaar built, after selling her home on North 8th is shown in the center of this photograph. c: 1909.
The Gaar-Scott Works of Richmond, Indiana.
Birdseye view of Gaar-Scott- at this time the firm was the nation’s largest Thresher company, employing over 400 men.
Gaar-Scott Marketing piece
Gaar-Scott Advertisment card
A view of the Gaar-Scott operation. Their office building shown near the center of the photograph, is now the offices of Richmond Baking Company.
John Milton Gaar ~ 1823-1900