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Bloomington History

Source: History of Grant County, Wisconsin (1881); submitted by Mary Saggio


CHAPTER XIV.

TOWN OF BLOOMINGTON.

EARLY SETTLEMENTTOWN OFFICERS VILLAGE OFFICERSSCHOOLS AND CHURCHESTHE PRESSBLOOMINGTON BANKI. O. O. F. I. O. G. T.BLAKES PRAIRIE AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.


EARLY SETTLEMENT

This township is bounded on the north by Wyalusing and Patch Grove, on the east by Little Grant and Beetown, on the south by Beetown and Glen Haven and on the west extends to the Mississippi River, being in form one of the most irregular townships in the county. It contains within its limits 24,787 acres of land, something over one-half of which are under cultivation. The population of the township consists of many different nationalities, including Americans, English, Germans, Norwegians, French, Swedes and Irish.

The lands of the township are mostly high uplands, interspersed irregularly by “hollows,” in one of which the village of Bloomington is located. In the north portion of the township the prairie predominates, and, as a consequence, these portions are highly arable, producing an ample variety of crops, including wheat, oats, corn, rye, barley, flax, hops and potatoes.

The first person to settle in this section, and from whom the broad plateau took its name, was Page Blake, who came about 1831, or possibly a year earlier, and built his cabin on what is now Section 17, Township 5, Range 5. From him the country about took the name of “Blake’s Prairie,” which appellation it has in a measure retained until the present day.

The first settler on the site of the present village was Mr. Enos P. Finn, who built a cabin on the land afterward covered by the waters of the mill-pond, in 1841. About the same time, a settler named Philemlee located over the brow of the hill in the east part of the present village. A little further to the east, Amos Franklin located and built a cabin in the next year. The first grain raised in this immediate section was undoubtedly the crop of Indian corn raised by Mr. Finn the year after his arrival. Four or five acres was planted “upon the sod,” and a bountiful yield was the result. Mr. Finn was a carpenter by trade, and being obliged to be away much of the time, thus leaving Mrs. Finn without companion or company in his absence, they removed after a short residence here to the vicinity of Patch Grove. Both Philemlee and Franklin also left “the hollow,” and from this time until the advent of D. W. Taft, in 1850, it remained silent and deserted. The land occupied by the present village was entered by Richard J. Shipley in 1850, consisting of the southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 26, Town 5, Range 5 west. Mr. Finn had previously entered, in 1841, the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter. Shipley soon after sold his entry to Messrs. Taft and Schuyler. The last-named party sold his interest to his partner, D. W. Taft, who immediately commenced the erection of a flouring mill. The first building to be erected was a board shanty which stood north of the present hotel, and was used as a boarding-house for the mechanics at work upon the mill. The presiding genius over this commissary department was a man named Mackintosh. In 1852, the house standing west of the mill, and now occupied by Mrs. Strong, was erected and used as a boarding and dwelling house by Mr. Taft, Mackintosh still remaining in charge of the boarding department. The contemplated improvements, of which the mill was evidently only the advance guard, quickly attracted settlers to the new place, and, in 1852, Ira Stockwell, the first village blacksmith, built a house on the corner of what is now Canal and Congress streets. Stockwell’s shop was built soon after, and stood in the rear of his dwelling, on Congress street. Mr. Jesse Brooks, present Town Clerk, assisted at the baptism of the new town by doing the mason work or plastering of the “mill house.” The mill was finished and ready for operation by the summer of 1853, William C. Warwick being the first miller. During the following year, the mill received a new set of buhrs, when it was spoken of as “one of the best equipped merchant and custom mills in the West.” In 1854, also, the first store was opened by Benham & Glines, in a one-story-and-a-half frame structure that was erected on the corner now occupied by the Bloomington House. The building remained standing until it was retired to make room for the hotel. The village was platted and surveyed in the year following, C. W. Hayden being the surveyor.

The presence of the mill, furnishing as it did a ready market for the grain raised in the country adjoining, pushed the new village along with rapid strides when compared with the tortoise growth which usually was the characteristic of towns dependent solely upon the products of the soil for support. In 1859, William H. Brown moved his store from Patch Grove to its newly-fledged rival. The store was first located on Congress street, north of Canal street, about two blocks; Mr. Brown’s brother was associated with him in business soon afterward, and, in course of time, the building was removed to its present location on Canal street. Previous to Mr. Brown’s arrival, F. A. Savage had started a store in the building just north of the mill, placing it in charge of his brother, Mr. Harry Savage. The settlers up to 1856, as related in a sketch of the town published some years ago, were D. W. Taft, P. C. Schuyler, J. L. Benham, Albert Glines, E. Mount, E. P. Finn, Mr. Mackintosh, Ira Stockwell, J. W. Brackett, John Collier, J. C. Trainer, Dr. Brooks, Dr. Allen, Prof. Allen, Smith Brown, L. Osborne, Orrin Wilson and a few others.

In this same year, Prof. M. T. Allen, by birth a South Carolinian, commenced the agitation of a project that in after-times did more than anything else to build up and further the growth of the new town. The scheme shortly afterward blossomed out into the “Tafton Collegiate Seminary,” but was first opened in January, 1857, by Prof. Allen, as the “Blake’s Prairie Institute.” About this time, Mr. Cole moved his store from Beetown to the village, and located on Congress street, above Canal, but did not open any stock, using the upper portion of the building for a dwelling. Many residences had also been built – Elijah Mount’s, still standing, one by E. W. Bowers, still standing on Canal street; C. Trainer had also opened a second blacksmith-shop and built himself a dwelling; Elder Lewis also had a residence further up on the hill north of the present business portion. A Mr. Northup also had a boarding-house on the present site of Mr. L. S. Osborne’s residence. Elder Lewis’ modest dwelling was located on the site now occupied by the handsome residence of Mr. James Ballentine. Up to this time, the new town had remained in Patch Grove Township. In 1859, by the action of the County Board, it was detached from that township, and the present township formed under the name of Lander. This name which was bestowed on the town by Henry Patch, was changed almost immediately to Tafton, by which name it was known until 1867, when the name of the township was again changed to Bloomington by an act of the Legislature, which has remained its distinctive title up to the present time.

The first election and town meeting was ordered to be held at the “red schoolhouse;” and here, in the spring of 1860, the following officers were elected: Supervisors, B. F. Hilton, Chairman, William Whellan and Horace J. Lord; Town Clerk, Dr. R. Brooks; Treasurer, Isaac L. Benham; Assessor, A. C. Stiles; Town Superintendent of Schools, Cyrus Sargeant; Justices, Samuel Tracy, Robert A. Lumpkin, William Halford; Constables, Sargent Brasee, Jeff. Handy, Albert Francis.

The growth of the village continued to be steady, even if at times somewhat slow. The mill property had passed into the hands of Cyrus Sargeant, and through him under the management of Woodhouse & Thomas. Under the charge of these gentlemen, it became a valuable adjunct to the growth of the village by making a ready market for the large amount of grain then being grown in the township. Trade naturally flowed into this direction, and new business houses sprang up one after another, nearly all of which remain till the present time.

Of accidents or visits from the scourges that had made such havoc in other section, Bloomington, or Tafton, as it was then known, was comparatively free. Of the former class, there had been two examples in the early days of the town. The first, which started the steady-going citizens, came near having a disastrous ending. The firm of Benham & Glines had been succeeded by Benham & Osborne, the senior partner of which one winter’s day was called upon for some machine oil. This, unfortunately, was contained in a can similar in size and shape to the can which held powder, the store being, as was customary in those days, one of those all-embracing affairs where anything, from a needle to a horse and dray, was to be had. Mr. Benham seized, as he supposed, the oil can, but finding the oil would not run, sat it upon the stove in the store to warm. Taking it up in a few moments, he turned the can up to see if the oil would run, when there poured forth a stream of powder, followed by a blinding flash and a loud report, which brought those in the vicinity quickly to the scene. A strange sight met their eyes; the front of the store was shattered and torn as if it had been the target for a heavy bombardment; the force of the concussion had lifted the plates which supported the rafters, and displaced them several inches, besides raising the studding from the floor, while the innocent cause of the disaster lay blinded and senseless on the floor. He was carried to his home, where it was found that the sight of one eye would be permanently destroyed, but from other effects of the explosion he soon recovered.

The second affair of the kind followed only a short time later, at a donation party given to Elder Lewis, in the “mill-house.” While all were assembled on the upper floor, engaged in conversation and the harmless sports characteristic of these gatherings in early days, the floor suddenly gave way in the center, forming a gigantic mill-hopper, down which the assembled throng were thrown helter-skelter to the floor below. The tables that had been in preparation for the coming meal saved the victims of the accident from anything worse than a few contusions and a bad scare. The oyster soup was also placed hors du combat by the introduction of a foreign substance, but aside from a few trifles of this nature, the damages were merely nominal, and the incident was afterward productive of more mirth than grief.

During the years of the war, the town seemed to show no signs of standing still, but, on the contrary, appeared to put on new life. In the years succeeding the war, when the prices of farm products began to decline, bringing as it did disastrous consequences to those who had not been wise enough to foresee the inevitable result, and so trim their sails as to not feel the full effects of the blow, Bloomington, for the first time since its first settlement, showed signs of going backward. With the re-adjustment of values, prosperity again shone bright and fair upon the village, which once more resumed its growth, which has been steady and without incident up to the present time.

As regards this steady progress, with hardly a perceptible drawback, the history of Bloomington is somewhat peculiar. Probably no town in the southwestern portion of the State can show so spontaneous a growth. This is due in a great measure to the fertile country that surrounds it on every side, possessed of a soil which will rank in productiveness with that of any portion of the State. Bloomington is in the center of a gold mine, but the precious metal lies on the top of the ground, and not underneath. Bloomington at present contains four general merchandise stores, one co-operative store, formerly a grange store, one drug-store, two hardware stores, two butcher-shops, three shoemakers, two saddler-shops, three blacksmith-shops, one wagon-shop, one confectionery store, six milliners’ shops, four saloons, one bank, one paper, the Bloomington Record, one machine-shop.

Up to the year 1880, Bloomington had remained unincorporated. In the fall of that year, a meeting was held in the Record office, for the purpose of considering the question of incorporating the village. Mr. Samuel Woodhouse was chosen Chairman, and Mr. Jesse Brooks Secretary. After some desultory talk, a committee of five was appointed to take the initiatory steps toward incorporation. A petition was prepared and forwarded to Judge Cothern, Judge of the District, and a charter was granted by him. The first election was held under this charter November 22, 1880. Below is given a list of town and village officers, from the organization of the town to the present time:

1860 – Supervisors, B. F. Hilton, Chairman, William, Whellan, Horace Lord; Clerk, Roswell Brooks; Treasurer, J. L. Benham; Assessor, A. C. Stiles; Superintendent of Schools, Cyrus Sargeant; Justices of the Peace, Samuel Tracy, P. A. Simpkin, William Holford, Isaac Lander; Constables, S. Breeze, Jeff. Handy, A. Frances, J. W. Brackett.

1861 – Supervisors, J. L. Murphy, Chairman, H. Lord, William Whellan; Clerk, R. Brooks; Treasurer, J. W. Brackett; Assessor, George Hazard; Superintendent of Schools, C. C. Tobie; Justices of the Peace, William Holford, S. A. Taylor, I. C. Lander, to fill a vacancy; Constables, S. Breeze, James Wellware, George Wellware.

1862 – Supervisors, J. T. Murphy, Chairman, G. W. Harger, G. W. Fennel; Clerk, S. A. Campbell; Treasurer, A. Francis; Assessor, Henry Lord; Justices of the Peace, William Whellans, A. C. Stiles, G. H. Chambers, to fill vacancy; Constables, A. Breeze, J. Burton, G. Batie.

1863 – Supervisors, William Whellans, Chairman, G. W. Fennel, I. C. Turner; Clerk, S. A. Campbell; Treasurer, A. Francis; Assessor, Samuel Tracy; Justices of the Peace, G. H. Chambers, George Engle; Constables, T. Osborne, G. Balie, J. Handy.

1864 – Supervisors, J. T. Murphy, Chairman, Henry Ford, M. Woods; Clerk, G. H. Chambers; Treasurer, George Engle; Assessor, A. C. Stiles; Justices of the Peace, George Engle, G. H. Chambers; Constables, T. Osborne, William Johnston, J. Handy.

1865 – Supervisors, J. L. Murphy, chairman, H. Ford, M. Woods; Clerk, G. H. Chambers; Treasurer, George Engle; Assessor, A. C. Stiles; Justices of the Peace, George Engle, G. H. Chambers; Constables, T. Osborne, William Johnston, J. Handy.

1866 – Supervisors, G. Harger, Chairman, A. Francis, W. B. Slocum; Clerk, L. Brown; Treasurer, J. Woodhouse; Assessor, A. C. Stiles; Justices of the Peace, G. W. Chambers, L. R. Bingham (A. C. Stiles, to fill vacancy); Constables, T. Osborne, A. Green, J. Burton.

1867 – Supervisors, J. T. Murphy, Chairman, H. Lord, A. Francis; Clerk, Levi Brown; Treasurer, James Woodhouse; Assessor, A. C. Stiles; Justices of the Peace, George Chambers, D. E. Wilson, George Fennel; Constables, T. Osborne, J. Handy, George Lee.

1868 – Supervisors, Henry Lord, Chairman, George Fennel, A. Francis; Clerk, Jesse Brooks; Treasurer, James Woodhouse; Assessor, George Harger; Justices of the Peace, Horace Lord, J. C. Orr; Constables, T. Osborne, J. Burton, E. Briggs.

1869 – Supervisors, Henry Lord, Chairman, A. Francis, George Fennel; Clerk, A. S. Osborne; Treasurer, D. F. Brown; Assessor, J. W. Brackett; Justices of the Peace, Jesse Brooks, James Kenyon; Constables, J. Batie, D. R. Allen, J. Stone.

1870 – Supervisors, G. H. Chambers, Chairman, W. H. Harvey; Clerk, A. C. Morse; Treasurer, George Nevins; Assessor, George Hazard; Justices of the Peace, G. H. Chambers, J. T. Murphy; Constables, B. Ellidge, James Burton.

1871 – Supervisors, Henry Lord, Chairman, Charles Thomas, James Kenyon; Clerk, A. C. Morse; Treasurer, D. D. Brown; Assessor, George A. Hazard; Justices of the Peace, Jesse Brooks, James Kenyon (George Fennel, to fill vacancy); Constables, B. Ellidge, G. Lumpkins, E. Merrill, A. M. Cilley.

1872 – Supervisors, Henry Lord, Chairman, George H. Greer, George Fennel; Clerk, A. C. Morse; Treasurer, D. F. Brown; Assessor, George Hazard; Justices of the Peace, J. W. Brackett, Homer Beardsley (J. T. Murphy, to fill vacancy); Constables, L. Sawyer, William Bennetts, William Peck.

1873 – Supervisors, D. F. Brown, Chairman, A. Handy, James Kenyon; Clerk, C. M. Morse; Treasurer, F. L. Green; Assessor, J. W. Brackett; Justices of the Peace, Jesse Brooks, J. F. Murphy; Constables, L. Sawyer, T. Osborne, M. Scott, W. Peck.

1874 – Supervisors, D. F. Brown, Chairman, James Kenyon, A. Handy; Clerk, C. N. Holford; Treasurer, F. Greer; Justices of the Peace, E. S. Tubbs, L. D. Holford; Constables, J. R. Carroll, J. Dodge, William Peck, Charles Stone.

1875 – Supervisors, G. W. Fennel, Chairman, William Howard, James Kenyon; Clerk, Jesse Brooks; Treasurer, A. Johnston; Assessor, J. C. Orr; Justices of the Peace, William Batie, J. W. Graves; Constables, M. V. Bennetts, J. R. Carroll, C. J. Woodan, William Peck.

1876 – Supervisors, W. B. Clark, Chairman, James Kenyon, J. Schreiner; Clerk, Jesse Brooks; Treasurer, L. Woodhouse; Assessor, A. Osborne; Justices of the Peace, Jesse Brooks, C. J. Wood, two years; E. J. Tubbs, James Kenyon, one year; Constables, L. Sawyer, F. Murphy, J. R. Carroll.

1877 – Supervisors, W. B. Clark, Chairman, William Whellan, Charles W. Wheeler; Clerk, Jesse Brooks; Treasurer, L. Woodhouse; Assessor, Henry Lord; Justices of the Peace, F. Vanderhoff, A. C. Tubbs; Constables, J. R. Carroll, F. Handy, E. P. Finney.

1878 – Supervisors, W. B. Clark, Chairman, James Kenyon, Henry Lord; Clerk, Jesse Brooks, Treasurer, L. Woodhouse; Assessor, John Brackett; Justices of the Peace, Jesse Brooks, C. J. Wood (John Beely, to fill vacancy); Constables, L. Sawyer, J. R. Carroll, F. Handy.

1879 – Supervisors, W. B. Clark, Chairman, Henry Lord, James Kenyon; Clerk, Jesse Brooks, Treasurer, L. Woodhouse; Assessor, George A. Hazard; Justices of the Peace, F. Vanderhoff, George W. Fennel; Constables, F. Hill, J. R. Carroll, L. Sawyer.

1880 – Supervisors, W. B. Clark, Chairman, James Kenyon, Henry Lord; Clark, Jesse Brooks, long term, Charles Stone, E. D. Orr, short term; Constables, J. R. Carroll, L. G. Sawyer, W. Lee.

1881 – Supervisors, George W. Fennel, Chairman, Henry Lord, James Kenyon; Clerk, Jesse Brooks; Treasurer, W. E. Brown; Assessor, J. P. Jenkins; Justices of the Peace, C. W. Stone, George Miller; Constables, D. Meuer, L. Sawyer, J. R. Carroll.


VILLAGE OFFICERS.

Officers elected November 22, 1880 – President, William Batie; Trustees, C. M. Morse, U. F. Briggs, George Mount, L. Hoskins, D. F. Brown, F. Greer; Treasurer, Herman Enke; Clerk, G. B. Sprague; Police Justice, C. J. Woodward; Justice of the Peace, George Chambers; Marshal, J. Sawyer; Constable, Henry Heiner; Supervisor, W. B. Clark.

1881 – President, William Batie; Trustees, D. F. Brown, Linn Hoskins, George Chambers, U. F. Briggs, G. N. Nevins, George Hazard; Clerk, George Sprague; Treasurer, Herman Enke; Police Justice, C. J. Woodward; Justice of the Peace, Otis Weld; Marshal James Sprague; Constable, Charles Briggs; Supervisor, P. Bartley.


SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES.

The first school district in what is now the township of Bloomington was organized in the year 1844. The first schoolhouse built in the township was built in District No. 4, and was a log structure. The building at this point was afterward known, and is yet, as the “old red schoolhouse,” and could its old walls speak they would have many a weird tale to pass in slow procession before the astonished listener. The first teacher to hold rule on the wooden throne and deal out “birchings” and learning with impartial hand was D. Angerlist. The schoolhouse first used by the children of the young village was located about three-fourths of a mile west of the village, but, in 1857, it was moved into town and placed on the site of the present one, where it remained until outgrown by the rapidly advancing tide of emigration flowing into the new town, where the present building – a plain stone structure, two stories in height with accommodations for one hundred and fifty pupils – was erected at a cost of between $6.000 and $7,000. The number of children of school age in the township is 433, of which number, 208, or nearly one-half, reside within the confines of D strict No. 1. The present school is classed as a graded school, employing three teachers. A portion of the old schoolhouse still remains, serving as the rear portion of Mr. Max Kolb’s residence.

Tafton Collegiate Seminary. – As has been seen, the higher institution of learning at Bloomington was Blake’s Prairie Institute, opened by Rev. M. T. Allen, M. A., in the early part of January, 1857. The school afterward passed under the charge of Prof. Parsons and Mrs. Parsons, both of whom had achieved a high reputation as educators. The school was first held in the Cole Building, on Congress street. The Trustees of the school, however, did not allow it to remain here for any great length of time, but, recognizing the advantages that would undoubtedly accrue to the village by the establishment of such a seat of learning as was plainly possible with Prof. Parsons, as its guiding spirit, commenced the erection of a two-story frame structure that was afterward, for many years, known as the academy. Upon its completion, the school was removed to this location, and had soon established a reputation that was much more than local. Students flocked in from every quarter, the academy having at one time an attendance of over two hundred. This added in attracting attention to the village. The English branches, mathematics and languages were taught at the academy, employing several teachers in addition to Mr. Parsons and wife. Unfortunately, just at the time the institution was at its zenith of excellence, differences broke out between the Professor and his supporters, which resulted in the former retiring from the Principalship. Mrs. Parsons continued in charge for a short time, when she in turn retired. Prof. Parsons afterward left Bloomington and took charge of the schools at Dubuque, going from there to Freeport, where he remained for some time, being at present engaged in the insurance business at Detroit, Mich. After Mrs. Parsons, came a succession of teachers who taught for a short period each, including Messrs. Lukens, Brooks and others. The building remained standing on the original site until 1878, when it was purchased by the Congregational society and remodeled for church purposes. It now serves as the abiding-place of the First Congregational society of Bloomington.

First Congregational Church – This church was organized on the 10th of April, 1847, at Patch Grove, in the house of Hugh Garside, consisting of fourteen members. The organizers were the Revs. O. Littlefield and J. D. Stevens. Mr. Littlefield became the first Pastor, preaching half the time in Beetown. He remained until February, 1849. During the months next following, the church was without a Pastor, but in November the church extended an invitation to Rev. C. W. Monroe, of Boston, a young man in the ministry; December 25, he was ordained. A parsonage was in process of construction, but the building went so slow that Mr. Monroe took it into his own hands and held it as his own property. Rev. Mr. Monroe left in 1850, and for about a year the church was without a Pastor. During this interval, the Rev. S. W. Eaton, of Lancaster, looked after the spiritual needs of the little flock. In October, 1851, Rev. Ira Tracy became Pastor at a salary of $400. Mr. Tracy first preached at Patch Grove and the “Red Schoolhouse” alternately, but afterward changed so as to include other points. In 1855, the question of erecting a church building was taken up and a site selected a mile and a half south of the present village of Bloomington. The congregation was aided by private subscriptions and supplies from the Congregational Building Fund, the cost of the building being $1,400. April, 1856, Rev. Mr. Tracy took his departure, going to Spring Valley, Minn., where he remained until his health failed. August of the same year Rev. A. M. Dixon commenced his pastorate, the church membership at this time being about fifty. During the nine years of Mr. Dixon’s stay, this membership was doubled. Following Rev. Mr. Dixon came Revs. George Smith, William A. Lyman, Julian Dixon and A. E. Tracy. Nine members of the church entered the army; seven returned; two, Charles Bingham and Ira Tracy, Jr., remained behind awaiting the great reveille. Rev. Mr. Dixon’s efforts were heartily seconded by faithful workers, and during his pastorate, Sabbath schools were established at Beetown, Patch Grove and Glen Haven.

During the winter of 1865-66, the church extended a call to Rev. C. T. Melvin, which was accepted. About this time, the congregation was strengthened by the addition of several members previously connected with the Scotch Presbyterian Church of Canada. In June, 1866, Rev. A. A. Young became the Pastor of the church remaining five years. He was aided during the past part of his ministry by the Rev. W. H. Marble.

At its first organization, the church had been called the First Presbyterian, but this name had soon after been changed to Blake’s Prairie Congregational Church. During the pastorate of Mr. Young, the name was again changed to the First Congregational Church of Tafton. Rev. Mr. Young closed his labors May 20, 1871, and the church was without a Pastor for a little over a year. In June, 1872, the Rev. David Wirt received a unanimous call, which was accepted, and the reverend gentleman remained one year as Pastor. During this year, it was determined that the well-being of the church demanded that it should have one organized center at Bloomington and another on the prairie. The old academy was purchased and remodeled and improved at a cost of $1,160, and at the same time another church edifice was erected on the prairie; the Bloomington Church was dedicated August 24, 1873; at that time there was a deficit of $600, but of this amount $512 was pledged at this time. The second church was dedicated October 12, 1873. During this same year, Rev. Charles Willey came to the pastorate and remained as Pastor for two years, during which time, twenty were received into the church. The first Sabbath in November, 1875, Rev. Smith Norton occupied the pulpit in both churches, and the week following the Rev. Ira Tracy, former Pastor, passed on to the shore beyond.

Mr. Norton remained six months, during which time ten members joined the church. In June, 1876, Rev. R. L. Cheney came and was ordained in the October following, and has since remained in the pastorate of this church. The present officiary of the church is as follows: Pastor, Rev. R. L. Cheney; Deacons, J. A. Kilbourn, L. C. Newcomb, J. W. Stone, William R. Newcomb, S. McIvor, B. Beardsley, M. Scott; Clerk, C. R. Newcomb.

Baptist Church. – As the Beetown and Bloomington Baptist Churches are one and the same, the early history of the church and its beginning will be found in another place connected with the Beetown history. This organization was effected June 21, 1845, and it continued as a branch church until January 2, 1847, when a council was convened at Beetown, of which Elder J. P. Parsons was Moderator, and Elder William Stillwell was Clerk. The church organized as a separate church, with Elder Chapin as Pastor. Elder Chapin continued to divide his time between Beetown and Lancaster until November 30, 1850, when he accepted a call to devote his whole labor to the newer organization. He remained until the close of the following year, when he tendered his resignation, which was accepted with much regret. During his pastorate, meetings had been held alternately between Beetown and the “Red Schoolhouse.” In 1852, Rev. D. Matlock preached alternately at Lancaster and at Beetown, and at the close of his labors Elder Miles preached for the church six months. He was followed by Rev. William Wallace. In May, 1855, Rev. E. M. Lewis was called to preach one-half the time. Previous to this, a revival added seventeen to the church. An attempt was made during this year to erect a church but the project came to naught. In the spring of 1857, a series of meetings was held at Tafton, then a rising village, and the church removed to that place. In 1858, Elder Lewis severed his connection with the church. The congregation remained without a Pastor until April, 1859, when F. G. Thearle, a licentiate of the Darlington Church, assumed pastoral care in accordance with a call that had been extended to him. He devoted a portion of his time to the church at Wyalusing, but in October was ordained as Pastor. The name of the church was changed in this year from Beetown Baptist Church to Tafton Baptist Church, and work was commenced on a new church building, and completed some time after in 1863. Elder Thearle remained until 1864, when he was succeeded by Elder B. Law, who remained until April, 1867. The church was again without a Pastor until 1869, when Elder W. T. Hill took charge of the congregation, devoting a portion of his time to Wyalusing. Elder Hill resigned in August, 1870, his resignation was not acted upon until March, 1871, and in May he closed his labors. April, 1872, Rev. G. F. Strong was called to the pastorate, and, accepting, began his labors in May; they were cut short by his untimely death in September of the same year. In November, J. C. Webb preached for a few Sabbaths, and was asked to continue six months, and, in December, was asked to continue one year, he having been ordained in October by a council called for the purpose. Elder Webb closed his work in June, 1874, and the same month an invitation was extended to Elder G. D. Stevens, who accepted the invitation, and has continued as Pastor up to the present time.

The present officers of the church are as follows: Pastor, G. D. Stevens; Deacons, James L. Woodruff, Homer Beardsley, Peter N. Thornton; Clerk, Homer Beardsley. The Deacons also act as Trustees of the Church.

Methodist Episcopal Church. – The first Methodist class was organized in the fall of 1857, and consisted of H. K. Wells, Mrs. Wells, Jeremiah Gee, Mrs. Gee, Mr. and Mrs. L. S. Osborne, Miss Annette Wilson, Miss Minnie Gordon, Mrs. N. Wilder, Luke Parsons and William Crosley. H. K. Wells was class leader. Service was held every two weeks, the new organization being attached to Patch Grove. The ministers having the little flock under their care were the Rev. W. F. DeLapp and Rev. Knibbs, who were associated together on the circuit. Mr. De Lapp was followed by Rev. C. Cook in the spring of 1859, who had associated with him Rev. Alfred Brunson, followed in the fall of the same year by Rev. C. P. Hackney. In the fall of 1860, Rev. R. R. Wood succeeded Rev. Mr. Cook, and was, in 1862, followed by Rev. W. F. De Lapp, who returned for a second time. He remained two years, and was succeeded, in 1864, by Rev. E. S. Bunce. In 1866, Z. S. Hurd came to the circuit, remaining one year, when he was succeeded by Rev. W. H. Kellogg. Rev. C. Bushby took charge of the circuit in 1868. Up to this time, the congregation had been without a church. The first meetings had been held in the old schoolhouse, and, after the erection of the Baptist Church, service had been held there for a few times, and afterward Brown’s Hall had been leased for the use of the church. In 1868, however, the present church building was erected, and the congregation, after numerous vicissitudes, at last was vouchsafed a permanent abiding-place. Rev. Mr. Bushby remained three years, and was followed, in 1871, by the Rev. J. D. Brothers, who also served a term of three years. In 1874, Rev. E. M. McGinely came to the charge, followed, in 1875, by Rev. D. L. Hubbard. In 1876, the church, expressing a desire for the services of Rev. R. Hoskins, then at Bloomington, with the permission of Rev. Mr. Hubbard and the Presiding Elder of the district, Mr. Hoskins took charge of the church, being the first resident Pastor. The church was, in 1877, separated from Patch Grove and organized as a distinct body, Rev. James Ward being appointed to the new charge. Rev. Mr. Hoskins afterward sailed for India as a missionary. Rev. Mr. Ward was followed in the fall of 1878 by Rev. A. Charles, who remained as Pastor until 1880, when he was succeeded by Rev. J. C. Lawson. Previous to his coming, Mr. Lawson had announced himself as willing to serve as missionary to the far-off east, and soon after his arrival at Bloomington notice was received by him that his offer had been accepted, which necessitated his severing his connection with his charge, leaving the church for the present without a Pastor. The present officers of the church are: Trustees, L. S. Osborne and J. D. Clayton; a vacancy exists caused by the death of Mr. Milo Higgins, who formed the third member of the board; Secretary, L. S. Osborne.


THE PRESS.

Bloomington Record. – The initial number of the Record was printed July 15, 1880, Mr. C. J. Glasier being the editor and proprietor. The paper was issued as an eight-column folio, which size it has since retained. Mr. Glasier has served his time at the “case,” and for a time, with his sister, had charge of the Richland Observer. By perseverance and good management, he has placed the Record upon a stable footing, and, although a comparatively new venture, it has evidently “come to stay.” The Record is conservatively Republican in politics, and furnishes for the citizens of Blake’s Prairie just what they need in the shape of a bright local paper.

In conjunction with the Bloomington press must be mentioned the West Grant Advocate, which was started at Bloomington some years ago, and then transferred to Lancaster, where it ended its existence with the new year of 1877. The type and other material, after many changes and vicissitudes, now assist in heralding the news to Bloomingtonians through the columns of the Record.


BLOOMINGTON BANK.

This institution first opened its doors as a financial agency for the people of Bloomington and surrounding country in 1871. The bank was then located over Greer’s store, in the building now occupied by Mr. Stanley. Humphrey & Clark, William Humphrey and W. B. Clark, were the incorporators. In 1873, a more suitable and commodious building was erected on Canal street, into which the bank was moved the same year. In this building it has since remained. A simple private banking business is all that the proprietors aspire to at present, and in the line chosen they have been eminently successful, commanding the respect and confidence of all their numerous patrons.


I. O. O. F.

Bloomington Lodge, No. 159, I. O. O. F. – Was instituted December 9, 1868. The charter members were T. J. Brooks, E. Mount, Jesse Brooks, F. F. Grant, George W. Nevins and Alonzo Wilson. The lodge was instituted by D. D. G. M. H. Favor, of Boscobel. The first initiates were Brothers S. Woodhouse, D. L. Riley, I. McWilliams, G. W. Harger, C. R. Thomas, Robert Hicks and L. Hoskins. As ancients, Alfred Green, John Woodhouse, H. N. Johnson, M. Hadley and J. H. Sneelode. Of the first elective officers, T. J. Brooks has ceased to be a member. Brother Mount has long since slept the sleep that knows no waking. Brother F. F. Grant remains and also Mr. Jesse Brooks. Of the first initiates three have ceased to be members, but all are living. Of those who first joined as A. O., Brother John Woodhouse has joined that lodge whose Master’s rulings have no mistakes. Brothers Grant, Kidd and Nevins were the first on whom degrees were conferred; Brothers Grant, Hadley and Riley constituted the first committee to draft a constitution and by-laws. The second elective officers were Brothers Mount, N. G.; M. Hadley, V. C.; C. R. Thomas, R. G.; and R. Hicks, Treasurer. The Secretaries, with rare exceptions, have succeeded to the V. G.’s Chair, and, with more rare exceptions, the V. G.’s to the N. G.’s Chair. The receipts of the lodge for the first term amounted to $468.12, and the expenditures to $372.23.

One of the most pleasant and profitable features of the institution has been the Rebecca meetings. The tact and taste of the Daughters of Rebecca in the management of these social gatherings, together with the intellectual treats occasionally given by them, will long be remembered by those present.

Thus, from small beginning, has Lodge No. 159 raised itself to a commanding position morally, socially, numerically and pecuniarily. The lodge has at present sixty-two members in good standing, and the Rebeccas twenty-six members.


I. O. G. T.

The first lodge of Good Templars was organized in Bloomington, or Tafton, as it was then known, December 9, 1859. During the continuance of the “Academy,” the lodge prospered and flourished, having a strong membership, and exerted a powerful influence for good. Upon the downfall of the institution of learning, the lodge also felt the blighting influences, and about ten years after its first organization, yielded up the ghost. An effort was made some time after to resuscitate it, and for nearly a year the lodge struggled on, but the powers that were proved in the end too strong, and it was numbered among the things of the past. A lodge of the Sons of Temperance followed in course of time, but it had no stable foundation, and in turn succumbed. The present lodge was organized August 29, 1879, when the following officers were installed: R. W. C., Rev. Alfred Charles; W. V., E. J. M. Newcomb; W. C., Rev. R. L. Cheney; F. S., Mary Halford; Rec. Sec., L. S. Osborne; Asst., W. L. Osborne; Treas., Mrs. Mary Clayton; W. M., Harry Grant; J. G., Nellie Osborne; Sent., Thomas Smith; Lodge Deputy, William Burnetts. At the same date, a lodge of Juvenile Templars was started, with a goodly membership. The present officers of the lodge (May, 1881) are R. W. C., Rev. R. L. Cheney; W. V., Mrs. Mary Clayton; W. C., Mrs. Grant; Sec., M. M. Osborne; F. Sec., J. D. Clayton; Marshal, Minor Perrin; J. G., Mrs. Sabin; Lodge Deputy, L. S. Osborne.


BLAKE’S PRAIRIE AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY.

August 1, 1868, a meeting was held at Brown’s Hall, to consider the advisibility of organizing a fair association. Mr. George Ballentine was chosen Chairman, and Mr. Jesse Brooks, Secretary. After appointing a committee to draft a constitution and by-laws, the meeting adjourned to August 15, at the same place. At this adjourned meeting, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved, That we deem it advisable to organize an agricultural society, and to hold an industrial fair the coming fall; to open books for membership at one dollar annually, or ten dollars for life, and that the name thereof be called “The Blake’s Prairie Agricultural Society,” the first fair to be held in the village of Bloomington, on the 16th and 17th days of September.

Officers were then elected as follows: President, William Humphrey; Vice Presidents, James Milner, John Batie; Treasurer, D. F. Brown; Cor. Secretary, Jesse Brooks; Executive Committee, J. M. Hickok, R. Glenn, R. Newman, L. M. Okey, A. A. Bennett. The society, since its organization, has held an annual fair, having leased a tract of ground immediately adjacent to the village. The present officers are: president, James Kenyon; Vice Presidents, N. Austin, J. A. Davis; Secretary, F. Greer; Treasurer, G. Sprague; Executive Committee, P. Thornton, W. Howard, J. M. Kilborn, George Whiteside, J. Honefal, J. S. Moore, A. M. Cilley, R. A. Welsh, A. B. Gates, H. F. Young.