"Character and personal force are the only investments worth anything." - Walt Whitman
Every person's character reflects the sum of his experiences. The character of a community reflects the sum experiences of its residents. From 1885 to 1944, the will, force and financial savvy of Glenwood Springs were demonstrated through the actions of her resident personal banker. That banker was George Edinger.
George Edinger was born Jan. 11, 1861, in Jefferson County, Mo. His parents, Jacob and Mary Magdalena Kendt Edinger, were of German heritage.
With both parents succumbing to typhoid fever by 1874, George was orphaned. He chose his uncle, Joseph Yerger, as his guardian. Yerger was a successful dry goods merchant.
Undoubtedly Edinger received an advanced business education from his popular uncle. However, in 1882 Yerger was murdered and his business burned by Mack Marsden during Marsden's Jefferson County crime spree.
In 1883, Edinger married Emma Severin. With Edinger suffering from a throat condition, the two sought the dryer climate of Colorado. They initially settled near Golden, where Edinger became associated with E. Adams, a successful dry goods merchant and postmaster of Morrison. Edinger also clerked for Denver attorney Thomas Early.
In 1884, tragedy came to the Edinger household with the death of their infant son soon after his birth.
On July 10, 1885, George Edinger arrived by horseback in Glenwood Springs. He possessed uncanny analytical abilities and rapidly separated fraudulent economic schemes from solid investments.
He saw in Glenwood Springs limitless business opportunity. He sold his horse and sent for Emma. He then established a general store. His fair dealings won the respect and trust of the community.
Edinger's strength lay in finance. He abandoned retail and founded a personal loan business, securing the loans with the borrower's personal collateral. He brokered real estate transactions and sold insurance. He also sold stocks.
Much of his personal wealth was made by purchasing properties for back taxes. These purchases at one time made him the largest taxpayer in Garfield County.
Wealth and success create envy, and Edinger was not without his critics.
As assistant postmaster, he was accused twice of financial abuses. Both charges were without merit. He also purchased mass quantities of railroad passenger tickets, and in return sold them at a profit. This garnered him the scorn of the railroads.
His straightforward and rigid nature and his apparent singular focus on finance also made him the butt of many jokes. One article noted that if someone ran into Edinger's office at 721 Grand Ave. proclaiming a nickel was lying on the Grand Avenue Bridge, Edinger would drop everything to retrieve the nickel.
It would be easy to classify George Edinger as a man who did not embrace charity and sought to profit in any way possible from his fellow citizens. However, character and reputation are worth more that the sum of one's personal assets.
As the 1920s closed, Edinger saw storm clouds on the nation's economic horizon. He could have turned a blind eye to the impending disaster, but to do so would be a disservice to his community.
Envisioning a stock market crash, he advised his clients to sell their stocks and move their funds to safer investments. His assessments turned out to be true. Those who heeded his counsel were spared financial ruin.
Emma Edinger died in 1923, and George lived with his daughter, Stella, and her husband, Churchill Shumate, in Edinger's residence at 1001 Colorado Ave. until his death in 1944. His estate was worth over $198,000 - what would be $2.6 million in today's currency.
In turn, Stella and Churchill Shumate, who embraced the history of Glenwood Springs, bequeathed the house and its contents to the Frontier Historical Society in 1971. The Edinger house today is the home of the Frontier Historical Society, a museum and repository of local history.
Even though he did not practice charity in life, George Edinger's hard work and financial savvy produced a gift to the community that has lasted decades.
- Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. "Frontier Diary," which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Fall, winter and spring hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.