Charles Stapf was born to German immigrant parents on September 25, 1848, on a farm in North Beaver Township – in what soon became Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. His father Frederick Stapf (1823-1888) and his uncle Andrew Stapf had previously left Wurtemburg, Germany, and came to the United States to start new lives. Together they founded a small cooper (a maker of wooden barrels) business in Mahoningtown, which grew to be a great financial success. Frederick, a founding member of the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Castle, was soon married to a fellow German immigrant named Elizabeth Klinedinst and together they had six children – including oldest son Charles.
After finishing school Charles Stapf worked in his father’s successful shop for about fifteen years or so. He was married in April 1876 to Margaret “Maggie” Buchanan and together they had one child – a son named Clarence. Charles Stapf bought a financial interest in and served as the superintendent of the Wampum Cement Works beginning in 1884. He left the company in 1887 and purchased the Wampum House, a hotel and restaurant previously owned by Jacob Hyle. Stapf was a novice in the hotel business but his new venture was a resounding success. Stapf was also involved in the more lucrative horse breeding business. He owned several fine horses and was well-known in regional horse racing circles. He also purchased the Opera House/IOOF building in Wampum in 1904 and undertook an unsuccessful bid to relocate the Post Office into it. In April 1906 he sold the Wampum House to John H. Conn of Mahoningtown and retired from active business soon after.
Charles Stapf, a Democrat, was well entrenched in Wampum politics and had a host of allies as well as detractors. He was elected as the President of the Wampum Borough Council in the the spring of 1909 and got into a rather nasty dispute afterwards. An anti-Stapf group, led by local Jewish businessman Joseph Stiglitz, accused Stapf of election rigging by providing liquor to key people in exchange for their votes. His son Clarence Stapf, and several associates including James Nicholson and Richard Grinnen, were arrested and made to appear for a hearing on the matter. The New Castle News of April 9, 1909, reported, “The Stapf followers are claiming that it is a case of persecution while the anti-Stapf element say there is no persecution about it. All they want, so they say, is to have the elections conducted in Wampum in strict accordance with the law, which they maintain, was not done at the recent election.” The case was soon heard in court and all charges were soon dropped against the Stapf camp.
In July 1910, during the two devastating fires that struck the town of Wampum, Stapf lost several properties including a horse stable totaling $5,000. He played a big part in the rebuilding of the town. In late 1910 he began construction of a large home on Clyde Street – just west of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) tracks. Tragedy struck in mid-August 1912 when Stapf, at the age of sixty-three, was killed when his automobile was struck by a fast-moving train. His funeral was held at the Stapf home in Wampum on Thursday, August 15, 1912, and attended by a handful of well-known businessmen from throughout the area. I believe – though I’m not certain at this point – that he was laid to rest in Graceland Cemetery in New Castle. His widow Maggie and son Clarence came to an agreement in October 1912 to evenly split his $160,000 fortune – which would equal $3.8 million in modern dollars. His widow Maggie passed away after a lingering illness in April 1928, while his son Clarence, who was married to Lenora Mabel Orris, passed away in December 1933. Clarence’s widow Lenora may have lived in the Stapf home on Clyde Street until her own death in May 1952. Today, the old Staph home houses the residence and office of local dentist John Dukovich.
Charles Stapf built this large home on Clyde Street in 1910-1911. He died a few years later but his family continued to reside here for some time. (c1915) Full Size
The former Stapf home near the intersection of Clyde Street and Route 18. I believe it is currently the home and office of dentist John Dukovich. (May 2014) Full Size
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