Page 528-529 - Charles Otis Skinner, son of Elias and Gratia Elmena (Brooks) Skinner, was born in Grand Rapids on the 11lth day of December, 1862, in what was known as the Winchester home on Barclay avenue, between Lyon and Crescent streets. Elias and Gratia Elmena Skinner were born and reared in Massachusetts. Both were descendants of the early pioneers of that state, and emigrated to Grand Rapids in the early fifties, where he became associated with the early manufacturers of doors, sashes and blinds, and in 1862 wrote for his brother-in-law, Henry C. Brooks, to come to Grand Rapids where business was good, money plentiful, except small change. They organized with E. E. Ward, another door, sash and blind factory, located on the old canal, later branching out extensively in the manufacture of lumber in Maple Valley, Montcalm county. As their lumber disappeared, they discontinued the manufacture of doors, sashes and blinds and organized a company with others, Wm. S. Emery, Hero Amsden, Orin Ward, George B. Lewis and Charles E. Meeck, to manufacture decorated bedroom furniture, known as the New England Furniture Company. Charles Otis Skinner followed closely the footsteps of his father. Soon after finishing school and a business course, he entered the employ of the New England Furniture Company, spending a year in each department, and five years as one of their traveling salesmen. In 1888 he resigned from the New England Furniture Company and organized a co-partnership with Henry Steenman to manufacture furniture in Howard City, Montcalm county, under the name Skinner & Steenman. This company was one of the first to turn their production to a single article sideboards. During the first five years this company grew from a small beginning to one of the largest manufacturers of sideboards. In 1893 they moved their office and salesroom to Grand Rapids. Here Mr. Skinner remained. This co-partnership was dissolved in 1904. Then Mr. Skinner became interested in furniture exhibition buildings, and together with friends, Wm. C. Grobhiser of Sturgis, Louis Kantz, Sr., of Muskegon, and Henry Schuerman of Carrollton, Kentucky, all prominent manufacturers of furniture, organized a company known as the Manufacturers Building Company, and erected a building at 110 Ionia avenue, known as the Manufacturers building. Mr. Skinner became its secretary, had charge of the renting of space to other furniture manufacturers and allowing them to purchase a certain amount of stock in the building company. This venture proved so successful and popular it became a factor in keeping the furniture market in Grand Rapids. With this in view Mr. Skinner and Mr. Grobhiser bought another site at the corners of Division, Lyon and Ionia avenue, and Mr. Skinner resigned from the Manufacturers Building Company and promoted another exhibition building on this site known as the Furniture Temple. Both these buildings are in use and popular in the market today. Mr. Charles Otis Skinner was married June 20, 1882, to Frances J. Heath at her home in Saugatuck, Allegan county. She was the daughter of George Patterson Heath and Amelia Ross Bigsby, who emigrated with their parents from New York state in the early fifties to the village of Allegan. Her grandfather was Judge James Heath of Allegan, after whom the township of Heath was named. George Patterson Heath was one of the early pioneers in the flour milling business in western Michigan, having erected and operated four mills in Allegan county; the first at Mill Grove, the second at Hamilton, and the third and fourth at Saugatuck. He also built a passenger and freight barge known as the "Geo. P. Heath," which for many years made regular nightly trips between Saugatuck and Chicago. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Otis Skinner have one daughter, Estelle Heath Skinner, who was born in Grand Rapids at the northeast corner of Crescent and Lafayette avenues, who married Edward H. Barnard, ex-prosecuting attorney of Kent county. By this marriage there is another only daughter, Frances Gorton Skinner Barnard, born in Grand Rapids, August 8, 1919, at maternity house, Butterworth Hospital, Crescent and Bostwick avenues.

Transcriber:  Nancy Myers
Created: 13 November 2002