Reuben H. Gulvin, chief of the fire department of Geneva, Ontario county, New York, is a fine example of a self-made man, in the truest sense of the word, rising entirely by his own unaided efforts from a position of dependence in England to that of the proprietor of the finest jewelry store in Geneva and its vicinity, and to a foremost position in the community in which he resides.
Reuben H. Gulvin was born in Kent county, England, November 20, 1869, son of George Gulvin, who is still living in his native county, and is considered an expert in the manipulation of a threshing machine and in the thatching of houses. The mother of Mr. Gulvin died when he was but six years of age, and he has one brother, who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and who came to this country through the assistance of Reuben H. Gulvin.
Mr. Gulvin’s school education was a very limited one, but he has supplemented it amply by study in later years, utilizing all his spare time for this purpose, and he is of a keenly observant nature, thus making tip for his lack of advantages in his early youth. At the age of nine years he was obliged to spend all the time not taken up with school and its tasks in following the threshing machine, making the wimble or straw rope, which is termed straw bands in England. When he was eleven years of age he was compelled to leave school altogether and devote his entire time to this business, continuing in it until he had attained the age of eighteen years. He then continued faithfully at his labors until one Saturday evening, when he decided that the time had come for him to attempt to better his condition. The following morning, Sunday, he borrowed sufficient money to serve his purpose and left his native town in order to sail for America. After a voyage of eleven days he was landed in New York City, and immediately left for Petersborough, Canada. He stayed there but three weeks and then came to Geneva, New York, where he has resided since that time.
For three years he worked as a farm hand, but his ambition would not allow him to remain satisfied with this class of work. The second winter he did chores as an equivalent for his board, and became a regular attendant at the Sand Hill district school. At the end of three years he entered the employ of Dr. Covert, driving for him and taking care of the horses for two years. By this time he was entering his twenty-fourth year, and he determined to learn a trade. He accordingly formed a connection with Edwin Harris to learn the jewelry and watchmaking business, commencing with a salary of three dollars per week. His spare time he employed in doing miscellaneous chores, and in this manner earned sufficient money to pay his board. Six years passed in this manner, and the connection was severed by the death of Mr. Harris. Mrs. Harris, the widow, engaged the services of Mr. Gulvin as a manager of the business for her, and at the end of one year he borrowed a sufficient sum of money to enable him to purchase the business outright. His able conduct of it put it in a very flourishing condition, and at the end of three years he increased his business capacity by borrowing sufficient funds from the Geneva National Bank to purchase the business of M. C. Haight, who had been the pioneer jeweler of Geneva. The combination of these two interests has given Mr. Gulvin the finest jewelry store in Geneva and that section of the country, and his customers come from far and wide. He is thoroughly conversant with all the details of his business and energetic in all his commercial transactions. Honorable and high-minded as he is in all phases of life, he has earned and deserves the confidence of all with whom he has business or private dealings. He constantly carries a large stock, and his store is fitted up with an artistic beauty which is not often met with. His reliable business methods make it a foregone conclusion that his trade must steadily increase, and he has five people in his employ who are kept busy continually.
In addition to these interests Mr. Gulvin is active in all matters concerning the town in which he resides. As above stated, he is a member of the fire department; he has participated actively in the work of the department for at least twenty years, having passed the civil service examination with a high rate of standing. His political support is given to the Republican party and while he has never held public office, he has always been keenly alive to the events of interest in his town, state and country. He is a member of the Methodist church, and his fraternal affiliations are of a high order. For many years he has been connected with Freemasonry, having held offices in the Blue Lodge, and in all the intermediate lodge grades up to and including the Shrine; he is a charter member of Lodge No. 1054, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and served as its treasurer for a number of years; at present he is a member of the house committee, also a member of the Maccabees. For some years he was a member of the cemetery commission.