Joe Abraham


Joe Abraham. Only a little inquiry is needed to establish the fact that Joe Abraham has been first and foremost in all the commercial development at Bristow. He came when the town started, and by shrewd and intelligent management, by faith in his fellow men, by judgment in handling his resources, and by great enterprise and public spirit in supporting everything that would benefit the community, he has risen to such a position as any native American might envy. Mr. Abraham is a Syrian so far as his birthplace is concerned, but there is no more loyal American citizen in the State of Oklahoma. His career would make an interesting story, and his interests and activities reflect the real substantial history of the town which is his home.
In his native City of Beirut, Syria, he lived for about thirty years. His experience there was confined to employment in a silk factory. In 1896 he set out for the New World. He landed in New York City with only $10.50 in his pocket. At the end of a week in that strange and bustling American city he found himself without any money at all. A friend loaned him a few dollars in order to get him to Buffalo, and there another friend stood responsible for $15 worth of merchandise. With this on his back he started peddling through the country, gradually working his way to the West. He lived on the roads, selling to farming people, and practically living among them. He repaid the friend who had advanced him money and sent more back to buy additional stocks of goods. In the course of about eight months he had walked from Cleveland to St. Louis. In that city he made his headquarters for eighteen months, and went out into the country districts of Missouri and continued his work as a peddler. At the end of that time he had saved $200, and this he at once sent back to his father in Syria as return for the passage money which he had borrowed to bring him to the New World.
In 1898 Mr. Abraham again took up his journey westward, and for eighteen months peddled goods along the way until he arrived at Chandler, Oklahoma. Here he established a little store with such goods as he still had on his wagon when he arrived. He was a good salesman and at the end of eleven months in Chandler he had a stock of goods valued at $1,250, practically all of which had been made in those eleven months. At the advice of a friend in Chandler he next steered his course, to Bristow. Bristow was then just beginning, and only three or four buildings were on the town site. His own little store was among the pioneer mercantile establishments, and since then, for a period of about fifteen years, there has been practically no interruption to his business activities in this community. In that time merchants came, set up their stock, and many of them failed for one cause or other. Much of Mr. Abraham’s success has come from the buying up of bankrupt stock. To his own store he added one department after another until he had the largest assortment of general merchandise in the town. Perhaps the most noteworthy fact about his work as a merchant has been his willingness to sell on credit. He sold to negroes, Indians and whites with little distinction among them, and his faith is justified by his collections. It is said that he has lost very little money in spite of the generous credit he has extended to his customers. After a few years land was placed on the market for sale, and Mr. Abraham turned Ins surplus into a new channel, and bought altogether about 30,000 acres, and has ever since continued the buying and selling and handling of lands, acquiring much of the old Indian and Freedmen’s lands. In this likewise he has been prospered.
He also got into the cotton business. He finally bought a cotton gin, and at the present time he has five gins and during the last year he operated twelve different establishments. He ships great quantities of cotton east and abroad and is one of the leading cotton merchants of Eastern Oklahoma. On October 1, 1914, he sold his large mercantile stock to his brother Ed. Mr. Abraham was influential in bringing two of his brothers to this country, Ed, who subsequently was followed by Jusif, who now conducts a store of his own at Bristow.
Mr. Abraham also has four large gas wells, and they supply nearly all the illuminating and heating fuel to Bristow. He has extensive holdings in the oil district and altogether has about 4,200 acres of farming land. He owns the four best business blocks in the town and a number of dwellings. He has been at numerous times identified with the local banks, but has disposed of most of his stock. He has been one of the main promoters in the establishment of the glass factory. In everything he is public spirited and has been distinguished for his readiness to help others who were not so fortunate and he perhaps derives his greatest pleasure and satisfaction from the careers of several men whom he started on the road to success. As a loyal American he believes there is no other country in the world that responds so quickly to the efforts of an honest man as the United States of America. Tor a man whose dealings have been so extensive, and with all classes of people, it is an indication of his judgment and character that he has never had a law suit, dispute or misunderstanding.
Another striking fact about this Syrian business man of Bristow is that he is unable either to read or write the English language, although he speaks it with sufficient fluency to carry on a conversation or transact any business. In former years he sold merchandise valued at between $40,000 and $50,000 a year, largely on credit. He kept a bookkeeper, but seldom relied upon the records of his books. The transactions were all recorded in his keen memory. Without referring to the bookkeeper, he could recall whenever he desired the information just when a note was due, where the man lived who owed the account, and what quantity of goods he had sold him.
Out of his extraordinary prosperity Mr. Abraham some years ago sent back the money and directed its investment in a fine orange and tropical fruit plantation in his native land of Syria. That plantation is now the home of his father and mother, who are spending their declining years in peace and comfort, in the shade of their own vine and fig tree, in a country that has long been the storehouse of biblical and secular history and story. Joe Abraham was born there March 20, 1865. His parents’ names are Abraham Nahra and Jamelia Harb. They have spent all their days in Syria and have never been more than 200 miles from their birthplace. The father is now seventy-six and the mother seventy, and both are well and happy, and take a great deal of pride in the achievements of their son, who took out his citizenship papers and has been an American since 1902. In the family were four sons and six daughters, and as already stated three of the sons are now living at Bristow.
Joe Abraham was reared in the faith of the Catholic Church. In 1900 he married Fannie Lonaker, who was born in the State of Missouri. Their five children are: Louis, Herbert, Frances, Jack and Pauline.
During the last four years Mr. Abraham has spent about $45,000 in his efforts to develop the oil district around Bristow. His endeavors have brought him one small oil well, but in the meantime he has developed 12,000,000 feet of gas. He still continues his investments in this line, and his faith will probably be rewarded by an oil strike of no mean proportions in the near future. Mr. Abraham has his offices in the Bristow National Bank Building, which he owns, and which is a re-enforced concrete building of three stories. In conclusion, the testimony of other citizens of Bristow may be summed up by saying that Joe Abraham has done more than any other citizen for the upbuilding and welfare of his community.