In every branch of professional or business life we find men who are representative of their particular department of labor. The merchant is a conspicuous figure in every community, and much depends upon him in the matter of educating the public, especially in the more inland towns. Upon questions of modern improvement and progress, the enterprising merchant, with his visits to the city for the purchase of goods keeps in touch with the march of progress and carries in stock and introduces through his trade the new creations of modern science and invention for the inspection and adoption of his patrons. One of the most progressive and enterprising representatives of commercialism in Abilene is Charles Edwin Welch, a dealer in harness and saddlery and manufacturer of various kinds of leather goods. He is a native of Madison county, Illinois, born on the 11th of October, 1856. His parents, John H. and Julia Ann (Rundle) Welch, were also natives of that state. The former, a harness maker by trade, left Illinois for Texas in 1870 and settled in Bonham, where he now makes his home. He opened up a business there, in which he continued until about five years ago, but at the present time is enjoying a well earned rest—the fitting reward of earnest labor in former years. His family at one time numbered six children, four sons and two daughters, of whom three sons are now living. The Welch family had been harness makers for three generations back of the father, and it seems that natural predilection and inherited tendency led to the choice of an occupation by the subject of this review.
Charles Edwin Welch learned the harness making trade with his father in Bonham but after completing his apprenticeship he dropped the business for a time and took to the range as a cowboy, thus riding over a great portion of the western country. At one time he had herds of cattle grazing on land where Abilene now stands. There were periods in which he left the range and followed other pursuits, and early settlers of Abilene will remember him as a mail carrier between Albany and Fort Phantom Hill and also mail carrier between this place and Buffalo Gap in Taylor county. About the time that Abilene was making pretentions to being a town of some size. Mr. Welch began freighting from this point to San Angelo. He was frequently seen at Fort Worth Griffin, then a lively stirring little place, and on one occasion was made a deputy by the sheriff of the county and as his assistant maintained order, keeping in subjection the ruffians and outlaws who infested that part of the country. Such a task was often a hazardous undertaking, for the district was largely unsettled and the desperadoes could range almost at will over the broad prairies. So wild was the country that large herds of buffaloes were frequently seen but they are now a thing of the past.
Mr. Welch was married in Albany, Shackelford county, Texas, May 25, 1885, to Miss Edna Wolf, a native of Tennessee, but at that time a resident of Albany. Following his marriage he returned to Bonham, where he remained for thirteen months, but he had been so long in the west and became so imbued with its spirit of freedom that he returned to Albany, where he embarked in the harness making business there for four years. In 1894 he removed to Abilene and opened his store at the present location on Chestnut street. He carries a full line of harness, saddles and all kindred merchandise and is a manufacturer of and wholesale and retail dealer in leather goods. He has built up a large and lucrative business, which extends throughout the adjacent territory and as far as Arizona and New Mexico.
The home of Mr. and Mrs. Welch has been blessed with three children, a son and two daughters: Beula, Maude and Howard Lee. Mr. Welch has been a consistent member of the Christian church for about fourteen years, and for the past eight years has served on the official board of the church in Abilene. He is also an Odd Fellow, belonging to Abilene Lodge, No. 274, since 1899, and he is likewise affiliated with the encampment. He stands today as one of the progressive business men of the city and is a typical resident of Texas, familiar with its history and its development through the era of pioneer progress as well as of modern civilization of growth.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, p. 421.