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Friday, Aug. 22, 2014

Gray Matter: The Nagle Story

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

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In a recent section of the Chronicle featuring the town of Marcus, we were brought up to date on the progress of the Marcus Historical Society.  In discussing the Society, we Marcusites often bring up names of people from the past whose memories are certainly to be preserved.  One example is the Nagle family.  Some of the details of their earliest history require additional research, so I will start with the story of Lauretta Fowler Nagle, who married into the family in 1922.   In 1868, a year before the arrival of Marcus' first pioneers, her grandfather, Neville Redmon, of English stock, settled in rural Plymouth County where he built the first frame schoolhouse and became its teacher.  His daughter Bertha, Lauretta's mother, was also  a teacher.  She had met and married Harrison Fowler in Minnesota and they were farming in South Dakota when he died following a farm accident. Left a widow with five children and one on the way, she returned to Le Mars where Lauretta, her eldest, grew up and graduated from high school in 1916.  She, too, was a teacher, first employed near Inwood.  About that time she met the Nagle brothers who convinced her to come to the Marcus area where she taught in several rural schools before marrying Floyd in 1922.

Floyd, always the entrepreneur, was selling Wearever Aluminum at the time.  The popular cookware was marketed through an innovative in-home demonstration system.  Lauretta very effectively assisted in his presentations. If farmers hadn't the cash to purchase the popular ware, they brought eggs and chickens to trade. Ingeniously, the brothers stored this produce in their late father's old livery barn until shipping.  This was the beginning of the Nagle produce business. They soon expanded, built a new warehouse, and became associated with the J.R. Hakes Co., of Laurens.  From wholesaling groceries they next turned to the retail trade.  Acquiring a dilapidated structure centrally located on Main Street, they remodeled it into a fine cash and carry grocery, first in the area.  That building now houses the Hy-Vee Drug Store.

Their retailing interests continued to expand when Floyd started selling men's hats and shoes from a room at the back of the store.  Before long, Lauretta launched the Apparel Shop in the south half of the building, from which area ladies were fashionably outfitted for generations.  Mrs. Nagle retired from its active management in 1979, at the age of 80.

The second Nagle brother, Maurice "Bud", opened a garage and auto dealership, across the alley to the east in the early 40's.  They first dealt only in used vehicles, but following WWII, they obtained the Chevrolet franchise and the business flourished.  In the early 70's Marvin Hesse, purchased the business from the retiring Nagles and changed the name to Hesse Chevrolet.  This successful operation still thrives in the spirit of  those early owners, with  Dave Stephenson as present owner-manager.

 The Nagle story is just one example of  the kind of thing the Marcus Historical Society will be doing, along with other such area organizations, to preserve Cherokee County's past for posterity.

P S:  To the Marcus Historical Society -- Dave Stephenson is a real history buff.  He's good at both seeking it out and  preserving it.  The Society might want to tap into his skills, but don't tell him I mentioned it !