Friday, October 7, 2016

Adventures in the Auction Business

During the 1930s, Clint and Mary Troutman's children were venturing out on their own. Carl married and started farming, Neville and Virginia became teachers, and James (Jim) worked in farming and an auctioneer business with Verne.

After Verne's study at the Reppert School of Auctioneering and his World’s Fair adventures in 1934, he went back home to the farm at Winside. In August, he received a letter from a Reppert classmate, W. H. Heldenbrand, an established business man from Wichita, Kansas, offering to advise and assist him in his auctioneer business and enclosing a contract to manage Heldenbrand’s furniture auction.1

A few months later, Verne received another offer in the mail. The agricultural agent at the University of Nebraska, College of Agriculture, S. H. Liggett, asked him to assist with the organization of Baby Beef clubs in Wayne County and offered him a “Wesleyan Scholarship of $37.50 per semester for four years” at the university. He adds, “This is ample to pay all tuition.”2 Verne  declined both offers. He had other ideas.

First, he and his Winside buddy, Ruben Strate, who went to Reppert with him, started a partnership auction business, two enterprising young 20-year-olds.

Note the small print below the owner's name.
Verne even called a few auctions on his own, and he saved lots of sale bills or parts of them. Maybe he wanted to remember the names of his clients.

Note the small print below the owner's name.

Later, he taught his brother Jim all that he had learned about auctioning, and they started an auction business together, Troutman Brothers Auctioneers. This receipt shows their earnings from a livestock auction in 1935.

Then in September of 1936 a letter arrived from their horse trader Uncle Jim in Virginia:

“J. H. Troutman
General Merchandise
Saltville, Virginia

“Sept 23 – 36
“Dear Verne
            “Rec your letter yesterday and will say to you[,] you all do what you think best of course horses will be much better here in spring and if you all send a load or bring a load rather do so as soon as you can before the snow begins to fall as you said if a man never risks nothing he never does nothing[. . . .] they will sell good if they are mares and it looks like the mare you spoke of cost you 117.00 would bring 200 here as Arthur Campbell one day this week bought a 2 year old Perchern [sic] mare wt. 1300 and paid 200.00 for her but he had a match for her.

“Verne there is stock pens at Marion where they have had some horse sales [. . .] no weekly sales there but there is weekly sales [. . .] at Wythville, 28 mi. east of Marion and at Abingdon 28 mi. west of Marion and if you all come we mite sell some privately or thought could have a sale any that did not do so good could hold them and get a truck and try the stock markets at Wytheville and Abingdon.

“I am geting [sic] my 2 year olds ready for the Fair tomorrow in 1 mi[.] of my store this will seem funny to Clint but we have a good Smyth Co. Community fair at Riverside each year and have had for several years I expect there will be around 100 horse there tomorrow moustly [sic] saddle horses I don’t like that kind.

“Now Verne if you come make Clint come to if he thinks he can stand it will be a hard trip here guess he can get off all ok as he has no corn and listen if you come get started soon as you can if not and can hold them until Mar. the 1st come then you know how I feel I would like for you to come but don’t want to advise you or persuade you for fear you mite not be satisfied but if you all bring some good heavy kind of good colts and horses not branded I do think they will sell good so do as you want to and I’ll sure help you dispose of the horses as I am some horse trader to and sure can tell a old on from a young one.

“So if you come come at once as you C it will be 2 weeks or more from the time you leave until we can have a sale.

“Your Uncle Jim”[3]

This letter changed the course of Verne’s life.

First page of Uncle Jim's letter to Verne, 1936.

1 W. H. Heldenbrand, Wichita, Kansas, to Verne C. Troutman, letter, 17 August 1934, offering assistance in Verne’s auction business ventures, Assorted Letters, Memorabilia, and Other Papers from the Collection of Verne and Lois Troutman, binder, privately held, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Anderson, Indiana.
2 S. H. Liggett, Wayne, Ne., to Verne Troutman, letter, 10 Dec. 1934, offering a job and a scholarship, Assorted Letters.
3 J. H. Troutman, Saltville, Va., to Verne Troutman, letter, 28 Sept. 1936, telling Verne about opportunities to sell horses in Virginia, Assorted Letters.

© 2016, Z. T. Noble

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