OLIVER M. FRAIM. A man of enterprise and progressive ideas who has done much to develop the interests of Johnson county, especially in the line of reclaiming farming lands from the swamp and timber, Oliver M. Fraim, of Belknap, Illinois, has associated himself with ventures of an extensive nature and is now considered one of the leading business men of his community. As the promoter of various enterprises he has done much to develop the best resources of this section, and for a number of years he has been identified with railroad contract work and the automobile industry, while his present large general merchandise house has grown from a small beginning into one of the leading stores of its kind in this part of the county. Mr. Fraim was born April 14, 1864, in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, and is a son of Elvis Linch and Margaret (Meek) Fraim.
Elvis Linch Fraim was born in Indiana, whence his father, a native of the East, had come at an early day and engaged in the packing business. Elvis L. as a young man interested himself in flat-boating from Indiana points to New Orleans, and when the Civil war broke out he enlisted and served until its close in the Union army. On his return he engaged in farming near the town of Flora, Illinois, where he died in December, 1911. He married Margaret Meek, daughter of Isaac Meek, a cabinetmaker who was city clerk of Kinmundy, Illinois, up to the time he was eighty-two years old, and they had a family of six children, namely: Emma, Mattie, Lula, Maggie, Oliver M. and William E.
Oliver M. Fraim was educated in the schools of Loogootee, Indiana, and when sixteen years of age became a clerk in a store owned by Daniel A. Goodman, who was engaged in the timber business in Southern Illinois, with headquarters at Indianapolis, Indiana. In April, 1893, Mr. Fraim was made a flattering offer by a South Bend concern, but his employers refused to release him, and in August of the same year, when they asked him to take a lay-off, he decided to branch out on his own account. He had traveled extensively over the south in the interests of his firm, and had filled important contracts for the railroads of Southern Illinois, and is still an extensive tie and timber buyer, furnishing the ties for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. On his return from Indianapolis, in 1893, he located in Belknap, where he
opened a restaurant, and also engaged in the buying and selling of wheel spokes for Eastern firms in Ohio, Indiana and Eastern Pennsylvania. He soon built up a big store trade, which has grown into the present large general merchandise business, with an investment of ten thousand dollars. Also, during this time, he contracted with the Big Four Railway Company to furnish their piling and timber for extensions, and with the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad for their piling at Joppa and their inclines. From the beginning of the automobile industry until September, 1907, when he retired from the field, Mr. Fraim furnished seventy-five per cent of all the spokes that were put into automobile construction throughout the United States. Mr. Fraim is also an agriculturist, and was the pioneer in the development of bottom or swamp land. He would buy farms considered practically worthless, for a few hundred dollars, would cut the timber, drain the swamps, and sell the same property for around three thousand or thirty-five hundred dollars. Quick to see and grasp an opportunity, Mr. Fraim's operations have covered a wide field and have brought him into contact with a number of the leading business men of his section. Although he is shrewd and keen in his dealings, he has always respected the rights of others, and his business standing wherever he has operated is high. As mayor of Belknap he gave the city an admirable business administration, during which many needed reforms were introduced. Fraternally he is popular as a member of the Belknap Lodge, A. F. & A. M., and he and his family are members of the Belknap Methodist Episcopal church, of which he has served as a trustee for the past ten years.
In 1883 Mr. Fraim was married to Miss Mattie West, of Belknap, daughter of Lemuel West, a native of Ohio, and they have had a family of seven children, namely: Eric, a minister at Port Sanilac, Michigan, who is married and has four children, Beatrice, Irene, Elden Morton and Virgil Ray; Floyd, in the timber business in Louisiana, is married and has two children, Elizabeth and Harvey Oliver; Grace, the wife of S. D. Martin, a barber of Belknap, has one child, Hazel; Fred; Mrs. Hazel Matheny; Ray McKinley and Mabel reside at home with their parents.