Findlay in My Memory, by E. R. James
After listening for years to my reminiscences of early life in Findlay, my children insisted that I write down the story as I remember it. Once I got started, it became fun. Telephone conversations and visits with Findlayites and former residents helped to clarify some of the dates and happenings of early Findlay. I’ve enjoyed writing this and I hope it brings the readers a little knowledge of the history of their town or some joy of remembering way back when.
FIRST STORE. Even if I am about eighty-six years old, I can remember very clearly when the first store was built in Findlay by George Mauzey. The building was located on the corner of Mauzey Avenue and the road running west. (Fred and Sadie Biedert Simmering now live on this corner in the home formerly owned by Fred Watkins.) My father brought my sister Martha and me to this store where I had my first piece of hard candy. It was a special treat to load the entire family in the spring wagon and take them to this new store.
There were only a few buildings here then:
Findlay, Ohio. Michael Bare, an early setter had come from Findlay, Ohio in a covered wagon in 1873. Later his sons Chris, Don and Daret joined him. Enoch Fritter came from Findlay, Ohio and married Ada Mauzey, George’s sister. George Brehm, Daniel Stum and Jacob Sapenfield also came from Ohio. All these people who came from Ohio lived on the road which runs west of town. At this time they called it Ohio Avenue.
These early settlers spent much time in the new store reminiscing about their former home in Findlay, Ohio. Why not call this new town Findlay, Illinois? It was done.
At that time we got our mail at Todd’s Point. A petition for a post office was approved by the government. The post office was located in the Mauzey store. Bally Harper carried the mail on horseback to Brunswick, Yantisville, Prairie Home, Todd’s Point and Findlay.
Mauzey’s business increased and the store building became too small. He moved it one block south, attached it to a two room house (now Mrs. Ramsden’s home) and built on a larger room. In 1889 he sold out to Tom Smith who moved the buildings south just east of the corner on Main Street
O.E. Stump and Peter Francisco built a store south of the U.B. Church. This was later sold to N.F. Keim.
Houses were now being built on the north side of Ohio Ave. Hubert Wright built first. (Now the Robert Bendler location.) Lon Gardner home on the corner one block east of Hube Wright. E.S. Combs east of Lon Gardner. Mr. Henry west of Lon Gardner. (Now Kenneth Graham’s home.)
About this time George Mauzey entered medical college in Louisville, Ky. He graduated in 1889 and started practice. During his first year there was a terrible typhoid fever epidemic and he treated forty cases.
BUSINESSES. The business section of Findlay was now beginning to grow. G.M. and Eva Dixon built a general store where Woodrow Enoch now has his trucking business. Some buildings were built north. One two story building was operated as a hotel by Mother Kooken and her daughters Cora, Bird and Nettie. South of them was a small building used as a shoe shop by a Mr. Robinson.
About this time a Mr. Bridgman built a home later known as the Will Melcher home and operated a butcher shop in the south room.
A Mr. Billy lived in the Dr. Mauzey home and operated a drug store across the street west.
More residences were built in the north part of town. Land north of the main road was the Levi Wright Addition and the land west was the Metzger Addition. Uncle Morg Wright built a home north of Hube Wright. Next, Uncle Dan Wright built across the street. E.K. Swartz built across the street east of Uncle Dan. (This is now the location of the Rhea Funeral Home.)
More Businesses sprang up. S.B. Melcher and sons in 1891 built a building on the corner where the Keilman building now stands. They ran a general store and Will Melcher was undertaker. They also had the telephone business and Art Melcher sold a haberdashery line.
Across the street south E.K. Schwartz and Co. General Store was built. Next to this a barber shop was built by Tom Snapp. Next door was a restaurant building.
At the corner of Mauzey Avenue and Main Street Tom Davis and Abe Gepford built a large two-story building for a general store and photography.
Across the street north on the corner a butcher shop was built which was operated by Bridgeman and Logenbaugh. They later sold out to Louis Brehm and Charles Wright.
One block west a Mr. Hennings built a blacksmith shop. Across the street John Weathers operated a livery stable. Another blacksmith shop was run by Tom Campfield at a location one block north.
The Church of God was built one block north and west on Ohio Avenue. (This was later bought in 1917 by the writer and converted into a bungalow.) The Elmer Earp home was south of this.
Soon several houses began to go up on the west side of town including those of Sam, Jess, and Grandpa Welty.
RAILROAD. In 1890 and 1891 the railroad was built and the town took on new growth. The railroad went to Shelbyville with a turn-around.
Lumber yard. Dad Dunaway and Herman Christman operated a lumber yard where the grain office is now. E.S. Combs bought Christman’s interest. West of the lumber yard James and Jacob Snapp operated a farm implement business in a small building. They sold out to Stump and Earp who moved from this building. Guy Cutler established the Findlay Enterprise in 1892 in this small building. He sold out to Bill Johns who ran the paper for several years before selling out to Thomas Worley. The Worley family printed the Enterprise until the last few years (1947). Bonnie Worley, now news reporter, lives with her husband John Mauzey at this location.
Hotel. One block east of Mauzey Avenue Peter Kooken built a two-story building operated as Central Hotel by Mother Kooken and her daughters. Next to this on the corner a two-story building was erected for Stump and Earp for their implement business. School was in session upstairs until the grade school was built in 1894 two blocks north of Ohio Avenue. Lizzy Dazey was principal and Edith Kapp, Louis and Bertha Brehm, Fonnie Rhea, Emma and Flute Cain, Mary and Billy Shanks, Stella, Erma and Grace Schwartz, and the writer. One of these, on the first day in this school, was putting his work on the board when his grey socks dropped down over his shoes exposing his bare legs. It created fun and everybody laughed. He went home and never went to school after that.
A small house was built in the middle of the block on the south side of Main Street by G.M. and Eva Dickson. Across the street north in 1893 the Dazey Bank was built. Where the barber shop is now, a small building was used as a doctor’s office by Dr. Ed Ames, a dentist. George Kapp had a harness shop and home in 1893 on the corner on the south side of the street. John Davis had a livery barn and home one block north. Across the street north was the Dad Dunaway home.
First Elevator. Gould Bros. From Windsor built the first elevator on the south side of Main Street. Frank Brown was the manager. Later this was taken over by Farmers Grain Co. Later William Fruit built a grain elevator south of it along the railroad tracks. W. B. Wallace built a home on the north side of the street. Mr. Wallace ran an insurance business.
Later Davis Grain Co. Built another elevator. We had three firms buying grains. Tuber Waters built a house one block north which was later the Frank Brown home and now the Herschel Bateman home. Just north of this William Waters built a house now owned by Mike Hartman.
We have now gotten to the railroad. Ann Morgan built a hotel building just east of the railroad tracks (Caryl Yantis razed it a few years ago.) This was known as the Globe Hotel and had heavy patronage from railroad men. Enoch Fritter built a two-story home southeast (now known as the Ed Hendrick’s home.)
The east side of town was growing rapidly and homes were going up in the west side of the Metzger Addition. Oliver Carr built a tile and brick yard in the southwest part of town. Mr. Carr an sons, Will and Scott were carpenters and built several houses on the west side.
Dad Dunaway built a store building at the location where the Yantis Restaurant now is and put in a stock of furniture and hardware.
The Mauzey Family deserves credit for the location of Findlay as they gave the right of way to the C & E I Railroad through their land. In 1898 Dr. Hugh Mauzey graduated from medical college. He practiced medicine in Mode and Findlay before moving to Danville to operate a drugstore. He later returned to Findlay to resume his practice.
About 1895 a large brick building was built west of the bank. E.K. Schwartz business was on the first floor with the Opera House in the second story. Al Terry had a clothing store west. Dr. Pierce had a drug store nearby with offices of Dr. Chester Pogue, a dentist, on the second floor.
E.S. Combs purchased the Dad Dunaway interest in the lumber yard and built a new lumber yard on the south side of Main St. As Findlay was growing rapidly, E. S. Combs furnished lumber for twenty-six houses built by John Courtright in one year.
New business firms were started in 1903. The railroad was built to Pana for the St. Louis route. After that the town took on new life. The population was near one thousand. Several railroad men with large families were living here. We had two freight divisions, Salem and St. Louis.
In 1904 Homer Hott and C.W. Pogue started a farm implement and buggy business. The writer worked for them for two years and bought the business in 1906. The town was still growing and the C & E I Railroad claimed that more freight was unloaded at Findlay, Illinois than at any other town between Salem and Chicago. As an example I unloaded five cars of buggies and four cars of implements and wagons in one year. Most of them were hauled on dray wagons pulled through the mud with four-horse teams. For several years Findlay was located in mud and ponds. Roads approaching each way would get almost impassable, especially the one-fourth mile north of town by the Levi Wright homestead. We had to go through fields with any kind of vehicle. Generally people who came to town in the mud walked or came on horseback.
Chautauquas, Corn Carnivals, and Girlie Shows. The town began to be organized like a big town. Business organizations such as commercial and booster clubs were formed. These brought to town entertainment programs known as Chautauquas. As we were located in one of the best agricultural sections of the country, we became a great grain market and stock shipping center. For several years we had annual “Corn Carnivals” and horse shows. These created a lot of interest. One fall we had twenty-two single drivers shown in the ring. Our corn shows were handled by Coleman Banks, supervisor, and the corn was judged by experts. Much of our entertainment was home talent. The churches helped make these affairs a success. At one of our horse shows and carnivals the writer was in charge of entertainment. We sold exclusive rights to Carl Janett for all shows. When I was out of town, a telegram came for me from a Girlie Show. Merlin Davis treasurer, and Janett signed my name and ordered the show to come on. The next night I was home. Janett walked me down the avenue and said, “We took on another show.” I told him that it was OK and that if he signed for it I imagined it would be a good show. Later Jennie Birkett and some other church people met me on the carnival grounds and said, “Russ, you’ve got a show we can’t use.” I checked on it and it was an old time Hootsy-Koochy. Luckily we had a windstorm that night that blew their tent down. I would not let them set up the next day. I was criticized by some for not letting them continue and by others for allowing them on the grounds.
Religion Spreads with Revival Meetings. In 1908 we had four churches. An evangelist, Rev. Blunt, held a revival for several weeks in an empty building and got 400 conversions. This led to the building of two new churches, the Christian Church and the new Methodist Church.
It was customary at one time in Findlay when you got married to buy a keg of beer. When the writer got married the boys said, “you’ve got to buy two kegs.” I told one of the boys to order them for me. He put off ordering them for several days. Most everybody joined church at the big revival and there was no one left to drink the beer. I settled for cigars.
Our business men were aggressive. Art Melcher was always coming up with advanced ideas for a better town. After he had seen a picture of a road drag, he came to me for my opinion. We had one built of bridge planks and hired “Doc” Cox to drag the muddy roads and streets to the city limits. “Doc” made fun of us at first, but it froze up that night and the road surface was smooth. It went over fine.
Art had another idea. He gave away a Twombly automobile for sales promotion. The winner, Charles Florey, sold it to M.B. Davis. Merlin traded it to m. It was a very narrow sports model but rather long. Fred Price was working for me and I sent him out with a carload of kids from my daughter Dorothy’s birthday party for a ride in the country. He met a string of grain wagons. Alva Alward’s team got scared of the little car and broke the tongue of the wagon. He was very unhappy and called me up and told me to keep that car off the road.
Those days we had occasional excitement that made everyone clear the streets. A team and wagon would be up in the elevator to get corn unloaded. When a train would pass and whistle, the team would often run out of the elevator and up through town. Everyone ran for shelter.
Entertainment. In 1907 we had a race track that attracted a lot of people on Saturday afternoons in summer. It was located on Babe Hendrick’s ground south of town. Gate fee was fifteen cents and the money went for purses to winners. Any boy in the country who had a colt he thought could pace or trot, would come and buy a cart and harness from me and help make up the races. We also had some running races. As several of us had some good horses, we had many exciting races. Two colored boys, Mike and Ike, from Friendship neighborhood had some runnin’ horses and pacers. One horse was an old “ringer” that had to have a drink before he’d race. After pouring a pint down him, it took two men to hitch him to the sulky, but he beat Claude Lofland’s horse in the race.
Findlay had a good band. Their leader was Nick Keim For years they played for weekly concerts and at events over the country. The Dowd Dawdy family had a family orchestra of their own. Dad, Rufus, Hub, Lela and Bus played for several different fairs.
I’ll tell you about another musical event. At one time politics was given a lot of attention. In 1920 when Harding was elected the Republicans had been “up Salt Creek” for eight years. They decided they should have a celebration. One of the boys had made a gallon of grape wine. He spiked it with alcohol which made the songs come. The demonstrators organized a political barbershop quartet, and went to every store in town singing that old popular song, “In Washington City, oh what a pity, there’ll be no Democrats there.” They sang on one Democrat’s porch and he chased them off. They sang in the lobby at the theatre and broke up the show. The demonstrators intended to have a speaker at the town pump at 9:00 p.m. They gave a railroad man, Ed Helm, an audition. His wife was told about the meeting and went down and took him home. Speaking was called due to family affairs. This was an outstanding event in Findlay as they are still talking about it today.
One old landmark one-half mile east of town was Uncle Dan Dawdy’s homestead across from the road from what is now the Findlay Cemetery.
One of the pioneer families was the J.E. Dazey family, Ed, Lizzie and Jennie. I went to school to both of the girls. J.E. gave the right of way southwest through their land to the railroad. They owned the First National Bank. They built a large family home north of Main Street. Ed Dazey liked to play pranks on someone. One of his friends among others had been playing poker. When the Grand Jury was in session as they were afraid of being indicted, the poker players went to see “their Uncle.” Ed had a telegraph operator write out a telegram saying, “Catch Elsa Fench on first sight.” Ed gave it to Elsa. Elsa mounted his horse which was close to the bank and started for the county line. Ed got on his father’s horse to catch him and explain. Elsa thought Ed was the sheriff. They had old Mr. Dazey worried. He was afraid Ed would run his old mare down.
Five Doctors. We had five doctors for a long time. They were Doctors George and Hugh Mauzey, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Askins, Dr. Gregory. Dr. W. Smith was a veterinarian. In time we had several dentists, Dr. Pogue, Dr. Marxmiller, Dr. Ames, Dr. Harshman and Dr. Devlin.
There are only four concerns in business here today that have been here for many years: Bonnie Worley Mauzey, Findlay enterprise. M.B. Davis has the oldest auto sales business in central Illinois. He has been in the business since 1913. Everett Selock Drug Store. Bill Chrisman Barber Shop.
We have several retired business people now living in Findlay: Tom Keim–Keim-Bilyeu Grocery Sula Melcher–Art Melcher Store Paul and Katy Orr–Restaurant Benny Johnson–Clothing Fonnie Rhea–Grocery John Mauzey–Postmaster Edith Atkinson–Atkinson Grocery Sam Parr–Farmer’s State Bank.Melvin Yantis–Grocery Raymond Wilson–Grocery Mabel Spaugh–E.S. Combs Insurance Albert Combs–E.S. Combs Insurance Betty Coventry–Coventry Meat Market Ruth Cribbet–Cribbet’s Grocery Dicy Hendricks–Grocery Burl Shuck–Grocery Cecil Wilson–Auctioneer.
Many names of others who contributed to the growth of Findlay and made it a good town are:Schwartz–Millinery Carrie Fruitt–Millinery Carrie Earp–Millinery Jennie Dunaway–Millinery Mellie Spicer–Millinery Rubin Richard–Bakery Pat French–Bakery W.P. DeBruler–GarageCurt Wilson–Auctioneer Mamie Wilson–Music Teacher Cecil Coventry–Insurance (Now K. Melcher Real Estate and Loan.)
Fires. Findlay has a history of terrible fires. For years there was no fire department, only a bucket brigade. Across the street from the Methodist Church all buildings for a block south were destroyed by fire. All business buildings south were later destroyed by another fire.
All frame buildings on the south side of Main Street from Mauzey Avenue east caught fire. Heat from these caused gas inside the Masonic Temple to explode. Bricks tumbled in and crushed the small building east of it and set it on fire. Benny Johnson’s aunt, Mrs. O’Neal, lived in this small building. They had all gotten out but Al Tipett, who was carrying out an old gas stove from the O’Neal home, he was pinned beneath the bricks inside the house. He was all covered but his head and shoulder. Dr. George Mauzey and Sam Perry chopped down the door to get him but the fire drove them back. I can hear him yet hollering, “Russ, come and get me!” All efforts failed and he was burned to death.
From the corner of Main Street and Mauzey Avenue all the buildings on the east side to the alley were destroyed by fire in 1906. Later in 1929 buildings in the same locations were all burned to the ground. The next day everything east but the bank for half a block was burned.