"Ton Jon: A Patent Medicine"

WrWritten by Joy Dun Shoemaker


Grant Whiteside is seen here holding one of his advertisement signs for Ton Jon.

Sabina in the 1930s and '40s had many industrious and hard working families, but none more than Grant and Mamie Whiteside and their children Margaret (called Peggy) and Gilbert (called Gibby or Gib). Grant was an entrepreneur whose philosophy was that there was only one way in this world to succeed, and that was to own your own business.

Grant was a Clinton County native, having been born in the community of Cuba, south of Wilmington. His wife Mamie, who was born Mary Mullins, of Cincinnati, came to Wilmington in childhood because of the tragic and untimely deaths of her parents, who died of tuberculosis. She was Irish Catholic and was taken in to be reared by her Irish Catholic cousins, the Shanahans.

When Grant was a youngster, his father, Albert Jackson, known as A. J., was a telegraph operator for the railroad, but he left that position to go into the chicken and egg business on South South Street in Wilmington. From the time he was old enough to help, Grant worked side by side with his father. A. J. treated his son more as an adult than a child.

By the time Grant was in his teens, his father's chicken and egg business was thriving to the point of receiving out of state orders. To ensure that the shipments of chickens would arrive at their destination in good condition, A. J. would send thirteen year old Grant on the train with the chickens, sometimes as far away as New York City.

When Grant was fifteen, he considered himself a mature man and ready to take charge of his life. He quit school and started a chicken and egg business in competition with his father. Rather than being offended by his son's defiance, A. J. was pleased to see that Grant had the pluck to strike out on his own. After a few months though, Grant closed his business and went back with his father.

In 1929, when the economy was booming, A. J. and Grant invested in a venture that was on its way to making both of them wealthy men. At that time, the government was helping farmers and producers of butter, milk and eggs by putting those products in cold storage to hold until the prices went up on the Commodities Exchange. A. J. and Grant took their eggs to Columbus to be held in a cold storage warehouse. They also began selling on the margin, which allowed them to pay a small amount of money for pre-sold eggs they didn't have. The money on paper kept mounting, but on October 29, the stock market crashed and their venture ended. They lost all the money that would have been theirs prior to the crash.

Even while A. J. was in the chicken and egg business, he was gathering herbs for patent medicines. Adams County was a good source of natural herbs, as there were numerous wooded areas and farmers were familiar with and knew how to find the herbs that A. J. needed for his formulas.

My husband, Floyd Shoemaker, his grandfather and his uncles gathered herbs for A. J. Sassafras, dandelions, ginseng, horsetail grass, may apple and golden seal (called yellow root), were but a few herbs that A. J. bought from them. At Christmas time, the Shoemaker men made pine ropes from boughs and cut pine and cedar trees for A. J. to take back to Wilmington and sell as decorations and Christmas trees.

In 1925, Grant and Mamie's first child, Margaret, was born in A. J.'s and his wife Margaret West Whiteside's home on South South Street. In 1928, when the couple was living on Truesdell Street across from Sugar Grove Cemetery, their son Gilbert was born. They moved from Wilmington to Greenfield and from there to Greenville before moving to a small two-story house on College Street in Sabina. They were still in the chicken and egg business, so to introdue himself to prospective customers, Grant mailed postcards with his business name and address to local farmers.

From the College Street residence, the family moved to a small apartment on East Elm Street, directly behind Cecil's 5 and 10 cent store. Besides the chicken and egg business, Mamie had a creamery business also.

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