Today, we continue our biographical series featuring the people Laura Ingalls Wilder lived with and wrote about. Our focus this time is on Charles H. Tinkham. You may remember him as simply “Mr. Tinkham”, the owner of the furniture store from Little Town on the Prairie. It was upstairs, above Mr. Tinkham’s store, where Laura and her friend, Mary Power went to their first dime sociable. Sadly, it was a bit dull for the girls because it was attended by mostly older ladies. I remember feeling so disappointed for Laura when I first read that chapter.
Click here to see a terrific photo of the real Mr. Tinkham standing inside his furniture store, courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society.
Our series is sourced from Memorial and Biographical Record, published in 1898 by G.A. Ogle. The publication contains a “series of biographical sketches of prominent old settlers and representative citizens of South Dakota with a review of their life work”. Once again, I draw your attention to the advice from our first week’s post.
And with that, I bring you instalment number two – Charles Tinkham.
CHARLES H. TINKHAM is one of the leading merchants of De Smet, Kingsbury County. He operates a large furniture house, dealing also in picture frames, wallpaper, shades, etc., besides having a department devoted entirely to undertaking. Mr. Tinkham was born in Somerset County, Maine, May 28, 1854.
His parents, Orville W. and Clara (Holbrook) Tinkham, are natives respectively of Massachusetts and Maine, and of English and Scotch extraction. Orville Tinkham was born September 14, 1820, and his wife, November 25, 1825. They were married in Maine, and settled in Somerset County, where they still reside, and are the parents of ﬁve children: Frank M., Charles H., [the subject of this sketch], Granville C., [deceased], Orville C., and Emma, [deceased].
Charles spent his early days upon the farm in Maine receiving his education in the district schools, and at the Eaton Family and Day school, of South Norridgewock, Maine. At the age of seventeen, he commenced teaching school, and followed the profession during the winter months for the next seven years, in the summer working in a shoe factory at West Bridgewater and Campello, Massachusetts.
In the spring of 1876, Mr. Tinkham went west to Minnesota, ﬁling on some land in Rock County, that state. Later he accepted a position with Angell & Loomis, dealers in furniture and harness at Luverne, in the same state. He remained there until 1879, when he went back to Massachusetts.
On the 21st of October of that year he was married to Miss Addie L. Jennings, at Cochesett. Mrs. Tinkham was born at Taunton, Massachusetts, November 25, and is the daughter of William H. and Harriet (Lona) Jennings.
In the spring of 1880, Mr. Tinkham came to South Dakota, locating immediately at De Smet. Soon afterward he engaged in his present business upon a small scale. He has been very successful, and has continued year after year to enlarge and put in new lines, until today he has one of the best and most complete stocks of furniture, household wares, undertaker’s goods, etc., to be found in any town of similar size in the state.
Mr. Tinkham is also president and one of the largest stockholders of De Smet Stove Company, incorporated, manufacturers of straw consuming stoves, ranges, etc. This is also a large and flourishing concern.
Mr. Tinkham is prominent among the Odd Fellows, being now a past grand patriot in the fraternity. He is a Republican in politics, and always manifests a keen interest in public affairs. He was one of the ﬁrst trustees of De Smet, having been one of the original village board. In 1884 he was elected treasurer of Kingsbury County, and served one term, giving general satisfaction in the discharge of his duties.
Mr. and Mrs. Tinkham have one son, Harold, who was born October 19, 1882.