Back in Time: Stillwater druggist Ira E. King

King, Mrs. Ira E. center 1936Web
Mrs. Ira E King, center, is pictured around 1935. (Photo courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society)

Local drugstores are becoming fewer and fewer. In Stillwater the drug stores that we go to now to get prescriptions are stores like Cub Foods, Walmart and Walgreens. At one time Stillwater had many local drugstores downtown and one of the stores that served the public the longest was the King Brothers Drug Store owned by Ira E. King.
King was born July 27, 1865, in Mankato, the son of James T. and Susan D. King. He grew up and attended schools in Mankato.
He first worked as a mason in Mankato until 1885 then moved to Stillwater where he started working for his brother, William D. King, in his drug store. The first winter King was in Stillwater he worked in the woods as the receiver of all supplies for the Bronson & Folsom Company at Hinckley. That spring he returned and joined the drug store and worked his way until he owned the business.
In the early days there were not as many regulations or laws governing pharmacists. There still were tests that had to be passed to conduct business as a drug store in Minnesota in the late 19th century. Ira King was mentioned as passing the State Board of Pharmacy test to obtain a license to make pills in Minnesota in December 1888.
King served as postmaster in Stillwater for four years from 1922 to 1926 and also was elected to the Stillwater City Council. He was the vice president of the Goodrich-Gamble Company at Midway, and he served as president of the St. Croix River Improvement Association.
As president of the St. Croix River Improvement Association, King worked with the United Commercial Travelers for the betterment of the St. Croix River. He was chair of the United Commercial Travelers Committee on River Improvement and told the Stillwater Gazette on August 23, 1923, “The St. Croix River is one of Stillwater’s best bets, and we are putting our best efforts forward to see what can be done to better present conditions.” King wanted to revive the commerce on the river as well as see that a channel was created deep enough to handle pleasure boats traveling north of Stillwater.
On December 16, 1891, he was married to Grace Lee Perkins of Keokuk, Iowa, who was spending the summer and fall with her aunt, Mrs. L.C. Carli, in Stillwater. Together the couple had two sons, Ira P., and Kenneth.
Disaster befell Ira King in February 1900. He was renting a barn on North Fourth Street, Stillwater, from his brother William. The barn caught fire and was destroyed, killing a large number of “fancy” chickens owned by Ira. The barn was insured, but the chickens were not.
After more than a half century in business in Stillwater, King took ill in the early part of 1937. He died on Tuesday March 2, 1937, at the age of 71. He was a member of the Masons, Elks, Samaritans, Woodmen and the United Commercial Travelers.
The Stillwater Gazette said of King in his obituary, “Probably Mr. King was as well and favorably known as any of our business men, as he has catered to those who were ill or suffering for many years, and his passing will be regretted by a large circle of friends and acquaintances, who will extend to Mrs. King and family their most tender sympathy in their sad affliction.”
Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.