George W. Gay

George W. Gay was born in Washington county, New York, March 17, 1837. He lived on his parents’ farm in that county until 1857, when, at the age of twenty-one, he came west and chose Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a place to make his home. With a small capital which he had accumulated he went into the hardware business with P. Goodrich, under the firm name of Goodrich & Gay. The fact that Grand Rapids possessed unusual advantages as a furniture manufacturing center soon made an impression on Mr. Gay’s mind, but he made no move toward what was to be his life’s work until 1866, when he entered upon his first venture in the manufacturing of fine furniture. At that time he purchased half of W. A. Berkey’s interest in Berkey Brothers’ furniture factory and store on Monroe street, the new firm name being Berkey Bros. & Gay. This firm later became incorporated as the Berkey & Gay Furniture Company. It was one of the earliest corporations to be formed in the city, and at a time when there was considerable popular outcry against incorporated institutions. Mr. Gay was elected treasurer of the company, a position which he has constantly held for twenty-six years. In addition he had been general manager of the company for many years and saw its output and its assets doubled many times over since the organization of the company. Mr. Gay had also been president of the Oriel Cabinet Company since its organization in 1880. Also in 1882, Mr. Gay was elected a director of the Fourth National Bank in company with Delos A. Blodgett and I. M. Weston. June 6th of that year he was appointed a member of the first board of police and fire commissioners of Grand Rapids. Mr. Gay was also vice-president of the Grand Rapids Fire Insurance Company of which he was a director since its organization. Mr. Gay was for many years interested in the organization of the Grand Rapids Gypsum Company, of which he was president. In 1861, at the age of twenty four, Mr. Gay married Miss Hovey, daughter of the late William Hovey, of the Eagle plaster mill. They lived on the west side of the river until about the year 1844, when he purchased from William H. McConnell the old Louis Campau homestead, reaching from Fulton to Washington streets east of Prospect. There he moved the old Campau house away and built the fine residence which was afterward his home. After a long illness, Mrs. Gay died in April, 1899. Mr. Gay was a member of the Baptist church and was elected deacon of the Second Baptist Church on the west side and held that position for many years. The distance of the church from his home on East Fulton street, however, caused him to attend the Fountain street church during the latter years of his life. Mr. Gay died September 13, 1899. He was survived by his son, William H. Gay, who died in May, 1920, a brother, S. S. Gay, and his daughter Gertrude, who shortly before her father’s illness married C. W. Carman, of Grand Rapids.

Transcriber: Nancy Lesser
Created: 4 March 2003