Oliver S. Westover
Oliver Sisco Westover was born in Cornersville, Fayette County, Indiana, October 11, 1832, the son of Minerva Campbell and Hiram Alonzo Westover. Oliver was the third oldest of seven children, which included Margaret (born ca. 1827), Daniel (born ca. 1829), Charles W. (ca. 1835), Hiram, Jr. (ca. 1838), Minerva (ca. 1841) and Fleming (ca. 1844).
The family left Indiana and settled in Acton, Union County, Iowa in 1859. There he taught a subscription school while enduring all of the discomforts of "boarding round." He taught a singing school in Union County, and was elected a Justice of the Peace, serving for one term (Guinn 1902, p. 519).
Oliver married (1) Lucinda Lewis in Iowa, and together they had three children: Dora (?), Willie (Lee?), and Cynthia (Sytha) May. He then married (2) Isabelle Cornelius, with whom he had three more children: Grace Berdetta, Walter Ritchie, and Maude.
According to Oliver's obituary in the Los Angeles Evening Express (January 7, 1913), "During the Gold Rush for Pikes Peak, Colorado [1858-1861] Mr. Westover removed to Denver. He prospected for four years and became a student of geology and mineralogy, acquiring a comprehensive and practical knowledge of these subjects." So clearly it was during his residence in Colorado that Oliver began to collect minerals.
In 1861, Oliver's brother Daniel traveled alone to Colorado and tried his hand at various activities. He returned a year later to Iowa to gather up his family and move permanently to live in Colorado with Oliver and his family plus Jasper W. Young and his family and the unmarried Samuel R. Huffsmith. Daniel and Oliver worked as miners in Central City, Black Hawk, Russell's Gulch (till at least the end of 1865) and Lake City. Charles Westover, another brother, seems to have traveled separately to Colorado but was also working in Central City by 1864.
In 1867, Oliver Westover formed a partnership with his brother David and opened a shop on Larimer street between 14th and 15th Avenues. The store dealt in rare minerals and stones, choice furs, and taxidermy supplies. Daniel traveled the state collecting specimens for the business while Oliver managed the store. In 1871, Daniel sold out his interest to Oliver and bought 17 acres of farmland along the South Platte River bottom lands (Chapman Publishing Company, 1898).
After Daniel's departure, Oliver ran the business by himself, both collecting, buying and selling the curios. The editor of the Denver Daily Times (August 1872) wrote:
"O. S. Westover, with his residence on Lawrence street, makes fancy boxes covered with Colorado geological and mineral specimens, took advantage of our suggestion to make an office inkstand in the same manner [similar to the products H. H. Tammen & Co. of Denver], and brought one in this morning. It is a very handsome production, and contains specimens of [Colorado] amethyst, [smoky] topaz, agate, petrifications and fifty different lodes [metallic ores]."
In February 1873, the Denver Daily Times gave Westover additional free advertising, saying:
"We saw a handsome ‘specimen cabinet' this morning, made by Mr. O. S. Westover, Lawrence street, which is the finest we have noticed. The mineral and geological specimens are large and nicely selected, there being 28 varieties, representing in a beautiful manner what our Colorado mountains contain. This cabinet was made by Mr. Westover for E. W. Johnstone, Esq., and by the latter will be presented to H. Beckurts, the German consul at Louisville. The latter will send it to Germany to be deposited in a celebrated museum. Each mineral specimens are [sic] numbered and a key to their character placed inside. The work reflects much credit upon Mr. Westover's skill, and Mr. Johnstone's present to the German Consul is certainly in good taste."
In June 1877, Oliver Westover moved his store to 245 16th Street. Summer business must have been good since Westover in August told the Denver Daily Times that "trade in Colorado Specimens and curiosities this year has been unprecedentedly large."
The Denver Daily Times noted on opening day of the Denver Fair on October 2, 1877, that "The mineral department [of the Fair] makes a start with over 500 specimens from all parts of the State, by O. S. Westover, including some very rare and rich from San Juan." On April 24, 1879, the Fairplay Flume observed that Westover the Denver mineralogist was "doing" Park and Lake counties, collecting minerals and other material to sell.
By July 1880, Westover had moved his store again. The Colorado Antelope noted: "O. S. Westover, collector and dealer in Minerals and Geological specimens, No. 344 Larimer street, Denver. Special attention given to arranging cabinets for colleges, schools, Etc. Also a full collection of stereoscopic views always on hand. Tourists and people going home to the older states and to Europe, should visit the display of natural specimens at Mr. Westover's establishment."
Oliver was still operating his store in May of 1882 while his brother Charles was visiting in Aspen. In August 1882, Westover was advertising as "Westover & Turner, collectors and dealers in Geological and Mineral Specimens, 259 17th Street, Denver, Colo. Ornamental work a specialty."
Westover's December 24, 1883 ad in the Denver Queen Bee stated: "There is nothing nicer for a Christmas present to friends at a distance than the natural curiosities to be obtained in the land from whence the present comes. Colorado abounds in beautiful petrifications and specimens of all kinds. Mr. O. S. Westover at 440 Larimer Street, has almost anything a person would fancy in the way of rare curiosities. Give him a call."
Westover seems to have moved sometime after January 1884 but prior to 1890 from Denver to Ogden and then Salt Lake City where he opened curio stores. In Salt Lake City, he worked at creating a display of geological specimens and curios for the future Chicago World's Fair of 1893 (Salt Lake Times 1890).
In 1892, Oliver Westover moved to Santa Monica, California, and opened a curio store. The building was located adjacent to the beach, whereas his home was on Third Avenue, near Arizona Street. In addition to his business in Santa Monica he opened curio store at Ocean Park and in Pasadena and Los Angeles (Guinn 1902, p. 519).
Oliver S. Westover died January 6, 1913 at the age of 81 in Santa Monica, California, as a result of injuries suffered about 10 days earlier when he was struck by an automobile while crossing the street.
[The above sketch was compiled by Mark Jacobson.]
Chapman Publishing Company (1898) Portrait and Biographical Record of Denver and Vicinity, Colorado. Chicago: 1306 p. p. 869-870 biography of Daniel Westover.
Colorado Antelope (1880) Westover store on 344 Larimer street. July 1, 1880, p. 6 col. 2.
Colorado Antelope (1880) Westover store on Larimer street. Colorado Antelope, December 1, 1880, p.11, col. 3
Colorado Antelope (1882) Museum listing on 344 Larimer street. Colorado Antelope, February, 1, 1882, p.1, col. 2.
Denver Daily Times (1872) Westover makes fancy mineral boxes. Denver Daily Times, August 31,1872, p. 4, col 3.
Denver Daily Times (1873) A Gem. Denver Daily Times, February 14,1873, p. 4, col 1.
Denver Daily Times (1877) The Fair. Denver Daily Times, October 2, 1877, p. 4, col 3.
GUINN, J. M. (1902) Historical and biographical record of southern California; containing a history of southern California from its earliest settlement to the opening year of the twentieth century. Chicago, Chapman Publishing Co., vol 1, 1295 p. Westover biography on p. 519.
The Household Journal (1913) Mr. O. S. Westover's Death. March, v. 6, no. 3, p. 19-20.
The Denver Queen Bee (1883) O. S. Westover store. December 12, 1883, p. 4, col 1.
Salt Lake Times (1890) Real Estate Notes. October 16, 1890, p. 8, col 2.
U. S. Federal Census 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1910.
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