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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Feature Article

JAMES GEISSINGER

Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Express
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe, 2006
2006-12-13

One of the most successful pioneer entrepreneurs of Red Deer, but a man who unfortunately is no longer well remembered is James I. Geissinger.

James Geissinger was born in 1865 in Pennsylvania and later lived in Iowa. He first came up to Red Deer in 1900 to look over the district’s prospects. He was impressed by what he saw and homesteaded with his brother Alonzo in the Hillsdown district east of Red Deer in the fall of 1901.

Once he had secured this farm, he brought his wife and children up from Iowa. About the same time, his mother and father in law, Mr. and Mrs. H.I. Lund, also moved to Red Deer and purchased a farm in the Balmoral district on the east side of the Town.

James and Alonzo became aggressive land investors. With their two 160 acre homesteads as a start, they soon accumulated 1440 acres of land in Hillsdown. This later became known as the E.P. Ranch.

In the spring of 1903, James purchased the Joseph M. Smith livery barn in Red Deer. He also branched out into the lucrative land guiding business, guiding the new settlers, to whom he had rented horses and wagons, to prospective new homesteads.

James accumulated money so quickly that he was soon able to build a impressive new family home on the west end of 56th Street, just south of the Red Deer River.

James loved to grow things and to experiment with new varieties of plants. He tried planting various types of apple trees on his homestead and in Red Deer. He claimed to have had gotten good success with the Whitney 20’s, Wealthy and Duchess varieties, even though Central Alberta was not considered very promising apple growing country.

In September 1904, James was named the local manager of the North Alberta Land Company, which did a booming business selling farms to new settlers. In 1906, he went into partnership with James and Fred Gaetz in the Central Alberta Land Company which also did well in real estate sales and land development.

In 1906, James decided to branch into a very new line of business when he started selling the recently invented automobile. He sold Red Deer’s very first car, a Model M Cadillac, to Albert E. Short, a wealthy Englishman from Pine Lake.

In 1907, he and a group of partners gave the Central Alberta livestock industry a big boost when they direct shipped a large load of live cattle to the Chicago livestock market.

The Geissingers were very active in community affairs as well. Anna Geissinger, James" wife, was the first Worthy Matron of the Venus Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.

In 1908, the Geissingers decided to spend a winter in California. James was smitten with the climate, but more importantly, with the wonderful fruit growing areas of the state.

Over the next few years, the Geissingers spent increasing amounts of time in California. Finally, they decided to move permanently to Santa Monica in 1911.

Their large home on 56th Street was sold to Judge W.A.D. Lees. They sold their extensive real estate holdings in and around Red Deer and the E.P. Ranch at Hillsdown for huge sums of money. James" timing was perfect. The phenomenal Alberta real estate boom was hitting its peak just as he decided it was time to cash out.

The Geissingers lived a comfortable life in California over the succeeding decades. James finally passed away in Los Angeles on December 6, 1945 at the age of 80. He was survived by his wife Anna, two sons and a daughter.

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