The Legacy of Augustus Stouder of Stouder Hospital in Troy
By Judy Deeter
TROY - Troy would be a much different place if weren't for the life and legacy of Augustus G. Stouder — a man who started the Troy Foundation, paid for the first hospital in the city and operated some of the most successful businesses in the city's history.
On Jan. 3, 1929, Stouder passed away at the age of 79. He was a millionaire and well-loved in the community. The next day, his death was the headline story in the Troy Daily News, which recounted the highlights of his life - telling of his family and business career, how he invested his money and the long illness he endured prior to his death. What could not be written in 1929 was what Stouder had done in the 1920s and how this would benefit the people of Troy in the 21st century. This is because the writers of the article at the time did not know what Stouder's legacy would be years down the road.
Stouder’s life story is a “rags to riches” tale. He was born in Delaware County, Indiana in August 1850 to David and Sarah (Ribble) Stouder. He was the youngest of seven children. (He had five brothers and a sister.) When he was about six-years-old, the family moved to Page County, Iowa. His mother died there in 1861 and he was sent to Ohio to live with relatives.
His biographies say he attended school in Indiana, Iowa and Ohio, but there is no mention of a college education or any sort of higher educational degree.
As a young man, Stouder had several jobs — often moving from place to place. The moves sometimes occurred because the building where he worked either burned down or was badly damaged by fire. A fire even damaged a business he had started.
One biography says that in his early business career he traveled extensively throughout the United States. His first job was at the Pennypacker Company in Middleport, Ohio. It was a company that made staves and barrels. At some point he went to Louisville, Kentucky to work as a supervisor at a knitting mill. (Stories differ regarding the time periods he worked at the various companies.) He is known to have founded a company in Troy that manufactured burlap, and he also returned to work a second time at the Pennypacker Company in Middleport. In the meantime, Stouder’s sister Laura, who lived at Tippecanoe City (Tipp City), married Dr. Wilbur Thompson. Thompson came to Troy in 1879. (He had previously practiced in Vandalia.)
Stouder Memorial Hospital opened to the public on Feb. 3, 1928. Stouder (pictured at right) gave $200,000 of his own money to build Troy's first hospital.
(Photos from the Troy Historical Society)
Stouder eventually came to Troy to be with his sister and brother-in-law. In fact, he lived with the Thompsons for much of his life, and was known as “Uncle Gus” - not only by the Thompson children but by people throughout Troy. He never married or had children.
By the late 1880s, Stouder had saved $300 to buy his own company. It is believed that through his brother-in-law, he met a Vandalia minister who had obtained patents and manufactured umbrellas for wagons. Around 1887, Stouder bought the minister’s patents. He moved the company to Troy, and with a partner, H.F. Douglas, founded what they named the Troy Carriage Sunshade Company to manufacture umbrellas. Stouder soon bought out Douglas and incorporated the firm.
At first, the company operated at a building on South Market Street. Then it was moved to the Wasserman building on East Main Street. Stouder and his brother H.C. Stouder of Chicago, who at some point also invested in the company, sold their interests back to Douglas in about 1900. This was the beginning of the Troy Sunshade Company, which would become one of Troy’s most important businesses — manufacturing a wide variety of products. The company still exists in Greenville!
In 1903, Stouder led a group of investors in a buyout of C.C. Hobart’s factory, the Hobart Electric Manufacturing Company. In January 1904, Stouder became the company president. He was in his early 50s at the time. For the next 25 years — until his death — he would head the company.
Under Stouder’s leadership, the Hobart Manufacturing Company grew tremendously (along with Stouder’s personal wealth.) His obituary states, “It was a small plant at that time (when Stouder and his partners took over), but during the last 25 years under the able direction of Mr. Stouder and his associates, it has expanded rapidly until it is the leading factor in its field and the largest plant in this city, employing nearly 1,000 persons.”
Stouder was loved by employees. The March 1920 edition of the Hobart Manufacturing Company publication “The Hobartizer” refers to him as “The Salesman’s Friend.” The magazine states: “Mr. Stouder takes and active personal interest in every Hobart Representative he meets — first, because he is unusually human — and second, because each Hobart Salesman is a spoke in the gigantic wheel which drives the factory he helped found.”
Stouder sat on several boards and had many other investments. He was a director of the First National Bank & Trust Company for more than 20 years, a director of the Miami Trailer & Scraper Company and was a stockholder in several companies outside of Troy.
Near the end of his life, he made some investments that would become his legacy in Troy. He gave two great gifts to the people of Troy. His obituary says that he had long confided to friends that he wanted to do something substantial “for the city where he had made his success in life.”
One of the people that Stouder shared his wish with was John K. DeFrees, of The First National Bank & Trust Company. Through DeFrees, Stouder learned how to set up a foundation to help the community on a long-term basis. This was the start of The Troy Foundation. According to an old Troy Foundation report, “They patterned the philanthropic endeavor after the Cleveland Foundation, the first such organization nationwide.” Bank directors adopted a resolution to create The Troy Foundation on April 15, 1924. Stouder organized the foundation, but did not live to see the first bequest, which was made by the estate of Nancy DeBra Kendall in March 1929. In 1930, The Troy Foundation received a gift from Stouder’s estate in the amount of $151,641. Troy residents and organizations continue to support the Foundation and receive grant money from it. Stouder’s wish to benefit the people of Troy continues.
It is said that the people of Troy “were startled” when in May 1926, Stouder announced that he would offer $200,000 to build a hospital. At the time, Troy had no public hospital. His gift was conditioned on the stipulation that the city should establish a fund to pay half the cost of construction. The city did its part and the hospital was built. Stouder Memorial Hospital opened to the public on Feb. 3, 1928. Just prior to his death, Stouder donated another $40,000 to build a nurses’ home.
Stouder died at the hospital named in his honor. For nearly 70 years after his death, Stouder Hospital was a place of healing and hope. It was the place where life started for many, and where other lives were restored to good health. The hospital closed in 1998. The hospital building, however, has been re-purposed as an office building.
As we look back at the life of Mr. Stouder from the early 21st century, we see a young orphan boy who used his talent for business and hard work to become a millionaire. We find a man who not only helped people while he lived, but through his investments for nearly nine decades after his death (and there is no end in sight). He was one person who made a difference in Troy. This is his legacy.
Mr. Stouder is enshrined in the Troy Hall of Fame.