Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter
In Southern California's history there are few personal records more interesting and colorful than that of the late Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter, merchant and clergyman, whose death occurred on October 6, 1911. Endowed with extraordinary business talents, founder and developer of the oldest dry goods store in Los Angeles, he likewise possessed exalted spiritual qualities and was an outstanding figure in religious circles.
Benjamin F. Coulter was born August 9, 1932, in Trenton, Todd County, Kentucky. While yet a youth he went to Elkton, Kentucky, where he remained until he was nineteen. From Elkton he moved to Louisville, Kentucky, staying there one year. Clarksville, Tennessee, became his home until 1872, when he arrived in Los Angeles, California.
Here he identified himself with business by purchasing a share in the hardware firm of Coulter & Harper, succeeding that of Harper & Long. While he made rapid progress, his ambition was to conduct his own business, with the result that on October 22, 1878, he entered the dry goods field under the name of B. F. Coulter.
A small room, eighteen by twenty feet, in the Downey block at the corner of Temple and Spring streets (present site of the post office and Federal building) constituted Mr. Coulter's first store. At that time it was the only structure available for store purposes in the community. Merchandise for this diminutive room was purchased in New York, the first order amounting to one thousand dollars.
Business grew so rapidly that a year later it became necessary to find more adequate quarters, and the Baker block at 332-34 North Main street, was selected because it offered a larger room—twenty by one hundred and ten feet. Here the store remained until 1885. During this period Mr. Coulter established the Coulter Woolen Mills, located at 439 Figueroa street, where fine blankets were woven and finished, marketed at retail over the counter, and also distributed wholesale in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and elsewhere.
In 1885 and thereabouts the business district of Los Angeles centered about the Old Plaza, extending only a little farther south than First street, so that the third movement of the store was true pioneering. The selection of a room sixty by one hundred and forty feet, in the Hollenbeck Hotel block at Second and Spring, seemed epoch-making; however the move proved amply justified.
In 1892 Mr. Coulter incorporated the store into the Coulter Dry Goods Company; its directors were from the immediate family, under whose management and sole control the business has ever since remained.
The pressing need for more ample space again manifested itself, and in 1898 the company selected a new site on Broadway between Third and Fourth streets—this being the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin building, fronting one hundred and twenty feet on Broadway.
In 1906 the company moved to its own building and into the Bicknell building adjoining, on Broadway between Second and Third streets; now occupying three floors, with one hundred and twenty feet on Broadway. At that time the establishment represented the last word in convenience and beauty of appointments; and here it remained until October, 1917, when the large and beautiful store on the southwest corner of Seventh and Olive streets was opened; where it remains today, catering to a discriminating clientele of the pioneer families of Los Angeles and their descendants.
The store is a monument to the genius and labor of the revered founder, and his fine policies are fostered and observed with diligence by those of the family who followed him.
Rev. Benjamin F. Coulter was an ordained Christian minister, and preached in various Los Angeles churches during the early nineties. He founded six missions in the city and supported them during his lifetime; gave large sums to charitable and philanthropic organizations; founded the Broadway Church of Christ in 1895, and in 1908 presented it with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars' worth of real estate in the city. So it is apparent that in two spheres the honored subject of this brief biography served well the community he loved so devotedly. Memories of those who contributed so generously to the marvelous development of Los Angeles are an inspiration to each succeeding generation, and the written record renders their achievements imperishable.
Rev. Coulter was twice married the first union occurring May 6, 1856, his bride being Isabelle Moore, a native of Kentucky, who passed away December 25, 1875. She was the mother of five children, namely: Frank M., who died October 26, 1915, leaving three children—Mary Isabelle (Mrs. John Posey, Portland, Oregon); Joel Wright, of Los Angeles and Lelia Chase (Mrs. Roland Seeley), also of Los Angeles. Another son of Mr. Coulter's, Charles M., died May 4, 1881, leaving a daughter, Charline Coulter; and the three other children were Benjamin F., Jr., died September 8, 1897; Robert Theodore, who died December 4, 1896, and Mary.
Frank and Benjamin F. Coulter, Jr., assisted their father in the Coulter Dry Goods Company's store; the former being vice president of the company.
Rev. Coulter's second marriage occurred in March, 1880, his bride being Miss Alice Durrett, who also was born in Kentucky. Their daughter, Frances C., is the wife of Dr. Robert Phillips McReynolds, well-known physician and surgeon of Los Angeles and president of the Coulter Dry Goods Company. Dr. and Mrs. McReynolds are the parents of three children—Alice Cornelia, Mrs. Edwin L. Harbach; Robert Coulter, and James Oliver.
-Golden Nuggets, Los Angeles County Biographies, transcribed by Marilyn Pankey, c. 2012;
B. F. Coulter 1832-1911
Alice W. Coulter 1851-1937
B. F. Coulter Jr. 1865-1897
C. M. Coulter 1862-1889
M. B. Coulter 1872-1886
F. C. Coulter 1807-1880
M. B. Moore 1803-1886
R. Theodore Coulter 1870-1896
Robert Phillips McReynolds 1871-1952
Frances Coulter McReynolds 1881-1942
Francis Carrie Bradley Coulter
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