Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


The term "Boss" sometimes is given to an individual that is in complete control of a given community. Too often, it refers to a person whose obsession has led him to abuse his power. For example, Boss Tweed controlled a political machine in New York during the 19th century, and we all remember greedy Boss Hogg from the comedy television show of the 1980s, The Dukes of Hazzard. This was not the case of a Bonaparte man who was given this title or distinction because of his many hobbies and interests.

John S. Entler, known locally as "Boss" Entler, was born in Harrisburg Township on January 17, 1852. His interests included bicycling, boxing, baseball, and genealogy. He kept meticulous records and scrapbooks. More than 28 volumes were constructed over a period of 25 years that contained obituaries, marriage announcements, births, descriptions of residents, advertisements, and newspaper articles.

On April 20, 1868 Boss Entler and his brother began a stove dealership operation in Bonaparte. He carried a large inventory of gasoline and oil stoves, heaters, steel cooking ranges, and house furnishings. He carried tin, sheet iron, copper and granite ware, brass kettles, and grindstones. He also carried bicycles of the best quality that could be purchased, and engaged in bicycle repair.

Boss Entler carried a full line of medium-priced cookstoves and ranges, the "Princess" and "Royal Princess" heaters made of Russian iron and cast bodies. He carried the best stoves for using coal, gasoline, oil, and wood. In bicycles, he was a pioneer in Van Buren County and handled the world’s best chain and chainless varieties in Columbia and Crescent models, some of which featured coaster breaks and cushion frames.

This boss man believed in handling the best merchandise possible and giving his customers one hundred cents worth for each dollar spent. Sometimes he sold his goods at cost rather than allow his customers to buy cheap, shoddy merchandise from a catalog or from what he termed "a pasteboard dealer." Thus he earned respect from the entire community and gained a very honorable reputation during the 34 years that he operated the Boss Tin Shop. It was popular for people to come to Boss Entler for advice on many matters.

Since the Bonaparte newspaper office was destroyed by fire in 1910, John Entler’s scrapbooks have become the only source of record for many of the articles he collected. Boss Entler died in 1917 at the age of 65. Among his many assets, he had a splendid sense of humor. When asked, he would say, "I was born at a very early period in my life, in Van Buren County, less than ninety years ago!"

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick