Many historians would agree with state Sen. Joe Getty, a local historian, who wrote, "Researching local business histories is difficult and challenging. Sources for such information are generally scarce and incomplete…"
Fortunately, as a result of research conducted many years ago for the Historical Society of Carroll County by Getty, we have some insight into the life and times and accomplishments of Milton Schaeffer, a former mayor of Westminster who died on Sept.16, 1902.
Schaeffer was also the owner of the Westminster Hardware Co., a business that was the subject of an article in the Oct. 18, 1912, edition of the American Sentinel newspaper, "The Merchants of Westminster —- The Westminster Hardware Company."
According to the article, "The Westminster Hardware Company, of this city, was incorporated Dec. 10, 1898, for the purpose of continuing the business which had been founded by the late Milton Schaeffer, because the latter knew that, by reason of his health, he would, sooner or later, be forced to quit the business. He had built up a good paying business and was reluctant to see it destroyed.
"Mr. Milton Schaeffer was the son of the late George Schaeffer and Catherine Diehl Schaeffer, of near Westminster, and was born on his parents farm, situated a short distance from Krider's Church, in the year 1853…
"In 1877 he came to Westminster and, with the aid of friends, embarked in the hardware business in one of the rooms of the John T. Orendorff building, the other part of the building being occupied by the late John Thomas Orendorff, who was engaged in the dry goods and notion business."
In an Eagle Archives article about the Westminster Hardware Store a number of years ago, it was noted that the Westminster Hardware Company and Orendorff building, 18 West Main Street, has long since left the prominent position it held downtown. That spot, in what is now a parking lot in front of Don's TV, was essentially destroyed after a four-alarm fire on Dec. 16, 1981.
According to a Dec. 17, 1981 Carroll County Evening Sun front-page article, written by Donna Boller, Westminster Fire Department assistant chief Donald Spangler reported that the early morning fire was fought by 11 fire companies from Carroll and Baltimore counties before it was finally brought under control.
Meanwhile, according to the 1912 newspaper article, "Mr. Schaeffer's business kept increasing in volume and his popularity with the people kept pace with it. In 1886 he was elected Mayor of Westminster and reelected in 1887 and 1888, and again in 1895.
"He served as a member of the school board of the county during a part of the administration of Governor Lowndes and on September 1st, 1898 he became postmaster of Westminster under President McKinley. It was while filling the latter office that the dread disease diabetes began to manifest itself in Mr. Schaeffer's system and his friends, whom he numbered by the score, realized that his days on this earth were numbered."
He died from complications of diabetes at the age of 49.