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Thursday, March 18, 1982


PIX #1 - Interior of the Bemisderfer store. He is shown on left, behind the counter. In this store, the coffee bin furnished by Davis & Foster, Fostoria was used.

PIX #2 - George Bemisderfer, standing in front of his general store in McCutchenville many years ago.

PIX #3 - The old coffee bin, the original finish and stenciling still intact. The lid reads - Davis & Foster, Wholesale grocers, Fostoria, Ohio.

All Potluck articles do not develop as the result of a predetermined list of subjects I have.

Many come about after an article has been published, and a reader reports some incident or further information, which leads to another full-length story.

Today's article was developed in a different way. It concerns a coffee bin, once an important item in grocery stores as storage for bulk coffee beans. Back then, coffee was not sold already ground in a container. A hand-turned grinder was used to grind the beans at the time of sale.

Today's story developed around a bin from Fostoria.


Some time ago, the Fostoria Area Historical Society received a letter from Mrs. Robert B. Brown, Marion, Ind., explaining she possessed a coffee bin which came from her grandfather's general store in McCutchenville. She said the bin had the name "Davis & Foster, Wholesale grocers, Fostoria, Ohio" stenciled on the lid of the bin. She wanted to know more about Davis & Foster, and wondered if the society could tell her.

George Gray, president, turned the letter over to Paul Cox, Risingsun, a trustee who recalled that Davis & Foster was a grocery back then. Cox learned the company consisted of Charles Foster, once a governor of Ohio and Secretary of the Treasury, and that the store was on South Main Street from 1883-89.


Cox told Mrs. Brown about this in a letter with a copy of Potluck. Your author "smelled" an interesting story, which accounts for today's article, coming from further correspondence with Mrs. Brown.

Mrs. Brown's grandfather was George Bemisderfer. He and his store and the old coffee bin, plus an old clock which also came from the store, are all shown in the accompanying photo.

The coffee bin was undoubtedly given by Davis & Foster as a promotional item since they were wholesale grocers. "King Bee" must have been a popular coffee which Davis & Foster pushed. That brand of coffee was distributed by Canby, Acit & Canby of Dayton.


According to Mrs. Brown, the bin was in a leaky woodshed, from which it was eventually salvaged. The bin and antique clock now have a prominent place in the Brown home.

Foster's partner in the wholesale grocery business was J.W. Davis, who undoubtedly ran the business at least during the period of 1893-89 when Foster was active in politics. The store was an outgrowth of the original store started by C.W. Foster, the father of Charles, in the log building which was constructed during the earliest days of Rome from which Fostoria grew.

The original store, Rome's first, was turned over to Charles at an early age by his father. That store, stocked with a variety of supplies, helped to keep the inhabitants of the settlement alive during those early days.

When Charles Foster built the "new" Foster building in 1883, now known as the Ash Building, the Davis & Foster store was at 208-210 in that building where Dollar General Store is now.


Mrs. Brown's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Teal, were residents of Fostoria at one time, her father being a teacher in the Fostoria schools, later moving to Lima to become a school principal. Readers from the era of approximately 1910 may recall Mr. Teal as a teacher or neighbor. Mrs. Brown's sister, Janice Eleanor Teal, was born in Fostoria in 1911 and at that time the family lived at 156 Elm St.

So, the old coffee bin once given away by Davis & Foster of Fostoria, then moved to McCutchenville to serve a useful purpose, now reposes in Marion, Ind.

I venture to predict it will be cherished by other descendents of the Bemisderfer clan in years to come, just as a china plate given to Mr. and Mrs. Teal at the time of the birth of Janice by a Miss or Mrs. Williams of Fostoria, has been kept all these years and is now in the possession of Sara Coll, Lynchburg, Va., daughter of Janice.

Such antiques and gifts are priceless.

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