Thursday, December 1, 2016

Wholesale Grocery Pioneer and Pocatello Developer Joseph Young [otd 12/01]

Joseph Young. J. H. Hawley photo.
Western grocery wholesaler Joseph Taylor Young was born December 1, 1880 on a ranch near Logan, Utah. Three years later the family moved to Rexburg, Idaho, where he grew up and went to school. As a teenager, he attended Ricks Academy [blog, Nov 12] before going to work for the St. Anthony Lumber Company.

Joseph next found employment with the Oregon Short Line Railroad, helping upgrade depots and right-of-way fencing in eastern Idaho. He then rose to a position as railway freight agent in Dillon, Montana. From 1904 to 1909, he worked at a wholesale fruit and produce company in Ogden and attained a General Manager’s position. During this period, he also married, fathered a child, and was widowed (in 1908).

In January 1909, Young sold his Utah interests and moved to Pocatello. At some point, he had forged ties with investors in Wichita, Kansas. The group founded the Idaho Wholesale Grocery Company, with its headquarters in Pocatello. For business reasons, the company President remained in Kansas while the Vice President, his brother, lived in Idaho. Joseph acted as company Secretary and General Manager.

According to Hawley’s History, the firm “was the first Idaho corporation to engage in the wholesale distribution of food products in southern Idaho.” Within a decade, they had branch facilities in Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and Burley.

Young also had many other Idaho investments and positions. Among these was his job as President of the first confectionery company to serve the wholesale candy trade in southern Idaho. He was also a Director of the Idaho Loan & Investment Company. The latter enterprise specialized in residential home building in and around Pocatello. Young helped organize the Idaho Fire Insurance Company, and became its first President.

A year after he arrived in the city, Young was elected President of the Pocatello Commercial Club. An enthusiastic promoter, Joseph used his Presidency to boost the town’s economy any way he could. Interviewed for a regional magazine, Young crowed, “We will be the largest city in the state in five years.”
Early Pocatello. Pocatello Downtown Historic District.

Certainly the potential existed: The town had grown from around 500 people in 1892 to around 10 thousand by 1910, and to about 15 thousand for the next census.

At one point, Young tried to promote a Quaker Oats company plant for the city. Under his leadership, locals were able to offer a tract of valuable land near the railroad yards to "sweeten the pot." With this offer, the city seemed assured of getting the plant.

The Idaho Statesman, in Boise, quoted (August 18, 1910) a visiting Pocatello business leader: “There is now hardly any question but that Pocatello will secure the Quaker Oats factory, as the townspeople have offered the concern a site valued at $20,000 and negotiations are practically closed.”

That turned out to be overly optimistic, however. The factory went elsewhere, or was perhaps not built at all.

Young’s involvement with the wholesale grocery business expanded in the 1920s, eventually leading to a position as President of the Western States Wholesale Grocery Company. Despite his enthusiasm for Pocatello, he eventually moved to California to be closer to those large markets. He passed away there in January 1953.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Central Eureka Mine Dispute,” Daily Evening Tribune, Oakland, California (April 18, 1940).
The Western Monthly, “See America First” League, Salt Lake City (December 1909).

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