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freight depot to the Court House square, and also, in 1878, in assisting the city in the pavement of Washington street.
The whole policy of the company, under the management of President Blackstone and Manager McMullin, has been liberal, one evidence of which is seen in the share the company is taking in the great work of underdraining the farms of Central Illinois. This tile-drainage improvement marks a new era in the development of this country almost equal to the invention of the harvester, and this railroad has been carrying tile for farmers' drains at the simple cost of carriage, or at less than cost, thus being willing to perform its share in one of the most important of our modern agricultural improvements.
The Chicago & Alton Railroad Company ranks among the foremost corporations in the country in its care of its rolling-stock, and has been one of the readiest to adopt new improvements. Could the full history of these shops be written, as at some future time we hope it will be, we should all be astonished at the record of valuable inventions that would be presented. We might mention Reniff & Buttolph's Patent Ventilator, President Blackstone's Car-coupler, and many others, but must leave this subject with one more reference—that of the Pullman Palace-Car. In 1859, George M. Pullman arranged berths in two cars for the use of this company, and, in 1863, he manufactured here the first two palace cars ever made. They cost $18,000 each. It is said that the frame-work of the first sleeping-car Pullman ever made is now lying by the side of the railroad in Bloomington.
We might add that the total cost of these magnificent shops is in the neighborhood of $1,000,000, and that they are owned by one of the wealthiest corporations in the Northwest. The Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad now owns or leases 876 miles of road, having built, in the year 1878, 162 miles, giving it a completed line from Chicago to Kansas City. The repairs of this immense road, with its several branches, being mostly concentrated at this one point, demand an amount of labor that will be more likely to increase than diminish.
The agricultural development of this region has received great benefit from the railroad, the reaper and the plow the last being an implement of more importance than the present generation can realize possible. The railroad and the reaper are understood by all, but the advantages of our modern self-polishing plows are imperfectly realized, except by our old settlers. The new-comers, down to about 1845, brought plows with them, and various styles were in use, but none of them would work well in our fine prairie soil, and the cultivation of the land was toilsome and imperfect. It was impossible to plow but a few rods without a stop for the purpose of clearing the implement from the accumulation of soil. Cast iron, wrought iron or wood were almost alike-worthless —and for many years our farmers despaired of ever seeing the right plow for this soil.
Lewis Bunn was one of the first blacksmiths here, and made plows as early as the year 1833. He tried to make the best plow that could be devised. In the year 1838, he made a lot of the “Sprouse” pattern, which had a boiler-iron mold-board, placed at such an angle, that the heavy friction of the soil would “scour" them better than any previously in use. These plows had the handles and wood-work much like a “shovel” plow, and did not run steady-were "jerky" and severe on a team. The next year they were improved by a different attachment of the beam. Mr. Abraham Brokaw made the wood-work of these plows for several years. In 1840, Mr. Bunn
made the “Rathbone" plow—an improvement—the mold-board was still boiler-iron, but the implement was more steady. The mold-board was ground smooth, and in some soils these would scour well. Oliver Ellsworth was Mr. Bunn's partner at this time, and together they made 300 of these Rathbone plows-quite a manufacturing business for the times.
In 1842, the firm made the “ Tobey & Anderson,” or “Peoria,” plow, of which the mold-board was common steel, ground, but not polished. This gave great satisfaction—was further improved—and by the year 1844 and 1845 they were in great demand. Farmers came long distances for these celebrated plows, and at one time the firm rented a large pasture in which teams were kept while waiting their turns. At this time, it was fully demonstrated that plows could be made that would work freely in any soil, and the result was a very decided improvement in the cultivation of prairies. Bloomington's mechanics-Bunn, Ellsworth and Brokaw—contributed largely to the result. About the year 1859, these three men went into partnership together, and continued several years.
It was not till 1857 that these steel mold-boards were polished perfectly, and since that date the improvements in plows have been of comparatively little importance. About the year 1845, is the date when practicable plows first came into general use, so as to be found upon all our farms, as near as we have been able to ascertain.
The plow-shops of Abraham Brokaw, at the corner of Main and Market, are among the oldest in Central Illinois. Mr. B. has been in the business nearly forty years, and has acquired a splendid reputation. He employs from twenty to forty men. John T. Walton, who started in business in 1857, employs over twenty men in the busy season, and makes a large variety of the different plows and cultivators required by the Western and Southern trade. His business is carried on in the fine block fronting on Washington street, just west of the People's Bank.
There are smaller plow-shops in the city, the several repair and general shops to be found in a town like Bloomington, with machinists, boiler-makers and other iron-workers, who employ a large number of men.
There are several large wood-working establishments, of which some of the most important are those of J. W. Evans, and the wagon and carriage factories of L. Ferre, L. Matern, S. Hayes, and others.
One of the most important manufactories in Bloomington is Dr. C. Wakefield & Co.'s medicine factory, as well as one of the most interesting. Dr. Wakefield spent two years in this place as early as 1837, having been a school-teacher in the Orendorff district. He then lived in De Witt County until 1850, when he made his home here. His brother, Dr. Zera Wakefield, who died in 1848, had remarkable success in treating the malarial diseases of this country, having been in demand over a large territory radiating from his home in De Witt County. His remedies were so good that before his death, in 1848, many packages were sold, and a demand grew up, to supply which, in 1850, Dr. C. Wakefield moved from De Witt County and started a factory in Bloomington
His business was pushed with great energy, and soon became well established and profitable. Dr. W. built the first three-story brick store in Bloomington, which, with his factory and drug store, was burned in the great fire of October 16, 1855. His large factory on East Washington street, built about the year 1856, has grown with his business, until it is now a large and very convenient establishment. Here he manufactures a variety of medicines, mostly fever and ague specifics, balsams, cough-sirups, pills, etc., in all, about ten different remedies, and a number of essences and other preparations. In their preparation, great care is taken to secure the purest and best ingredients, and the result is that his medicines rank with the best that are offered to the public. They are sold largely in the States of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, while there is a good demand in all the Western and Southwestern States. He has a team, with a fine wagon, in six of these States, and thus keeps a watch over the territory through salaried agents, while he has over six thousand local agents, mostly druggists and dealers, who sell his medicines on commission. He employs from twenty-five to fifty hands, according to the season. He has four printing-presses, run by steampower, by which he prepares his advertising matter. In 1860, he got up 100,000 almanacs for his agents to circulate, and he now sends out 1,500,000 annually. He consumes nearly fifty tons of printing-paper each year. " Wakefield's Almanac" is thus one of the best known of
any of Bloomington's publications. At the present time, this carries the name and fame of Bloomington over a wider area than any other medium. It is printed in the English, German, Nörwegian and Swedish languages.
This business is conducted in a straightforward, honorable manner, and is one of the instrumentalities by which our city is always favorably spoken of abroad. Such men as Dr. Wakefield are the ones who have built up the reputation of Bloomington ; and we are glad to see they are honored at home. He has always been one of our most liberal citizens, being among the foremost in all public enterprises. The amount of capital employed in the business, including the building, presses, engine, the stock of medicines on hand here, and the very large amount in the stores of his 6,000 agents is over $150,000.
There are several manufactures of light articles such as brushes and overalls, and there are the usual variety of miscellaneous artificers to be found in our best Western cities. It is probable that, in the line of these light manufactures, Bloomington will in time become quite an important point.
In past times, our distilling interest was quite important, but the building, which stood on the bank of Sugar Creek, west of the fair ground, was destroyed by fire several years ago and has not been rebuilt.
The Bloomington Pork-Packing Company, now consisting of Van Schoick, Winslow & Tryner, have been established since 1872. During the past season, they have packed over 13,000 hogs, and given employment to over forty men. They have very materially advanced the interests of Bloomington. This establishment is one of the most important in Central Illinois.
We should also mention our breweries, which employ a large number of men. The tile-factory of N. B. Heafer & Co., situated in Bloomington Township, a mile southeast of the city, is one of our most important manufactories, and is rapidly extending its business. It is one of the very few in the West with first-class facilities for drying tile in the winter.
Besides the establishments enumerated above, there are a large number equally deserving of mention, but space forbids. There are also a very large number of small shops and establishments that employ in the aggregate many men, including the usual variety of industries to be found in any city situated like this in a fine agricultural district. Taken altogether, we have quite large manufacturing interests in Bloomington, which seem likely to grow with the growth of the West. Our coal is as cheap as can be found, water is easily obtained, and we possess an industrious and energetic people. Several of our manufacturing establishments are spoken of in our chapter entitled — "Incorporated Companies."
The first mills in this locality were the old horse-mills, “corn-crackers" as they were called, followed or accompanied by the “nigger-head” horse-mills, for grinding wheat coarsely, which, when sifted, made a kind of flour, the “best to be had,” and accepted as cheerfully as possible. Good flour was made only at distant water-mills, and Mr. James Allin and his associates in the new town of Bloomington, as late as 1832 and 1833, longed for a good steam flour-mill. A wind-mill, owned by Gridley & Covel, located near the corner of Oak and Market, is mentioned as among the early institutions of Bloomington. Steam saw-mills were built here as early as 1835, several of which went the way of all saw-mills, upward in smoke. Steam grist-mills were not much more fortunate, several being burned from first to last. Among those burned, we will mention Myers' mill, on South Main street, and one owned by E. Rogers, which burned in 1864, situated just east of the Illinois Central Depot. Bloomington can now boast as fine mills as any in the West. The total capacity of all our flour-mills is about three hundred and fifty barrels per day.
October 16, 1855, occurred a large fire, where Phoenix Block and other buildings now stand.
It swept over nearly the whole square bounded by Front, Main, Washington and Center streets. The loss was estimated at from $80,000 to $120,000. The McLean County Bank and the building adjoining, subsequently used by Dietrich & Bradner as a hardware store, both nearly new buildings at that time, were the only ones of importance that escaped. The four-story building now called Phenix Block arose from the ashes very speedily. September 8, 1856, a fire occurred on Front street, which destroyed property to the value of $50,000. In September, 1871, a large fire consumed buildings on the east side of Main street, north of North street, destroying property to the value of $60,000. October 31, 1867, the Chicago & Alton Railroad Shops burned, a loss to the Company of at least $100,000. During the year 1877, the city's entire loss by fire was only $9,885; insured for $9,305.
The following is an approximate statement of the debt of Bloomington:
120,000 Township, I., B. & W. Bonds, about...
100,000 Township, Lafayette, B. & M., about..
94,000 Township, Jacksonville Branch, about..
..$451,500 From this there should be deducted a certain sum- -whose value is unknown being the amount of back taxes that will actually be paid, which will be large enough to justify the statement that the net debt of Bloomington, city, city school, and township, does not much exceed $400,000, a sum that is large enough to be somewhat burdensome, but not so large as a “larger debt,” to use Abraham Lincoln's homely illustration. May 1, 1867, the actual debt of Bloomington, exclusive of school debt, was only $6,497, but the votes for railroad aid taken in 1867, of themselves, added over $200,000 to the township and city debt in that year.
When Bloomington was laid out, the low ground now known as the North Slough was properly named, it being wet and marshy, as was also the South Slough, now called Pone Hollow; but these were at the time, so far from the village plat as to be thought valuable for drainage, and were considered a long distance out of town. But the city spread itself in all directions, soon overleaped these obstacles, and then went back and occupied the low land, now become dry ground, through which meandered a little stream, with a deep bed and high banks. These water-courses have cut so deep that they have been sufficient to carry off the water without overflow, ever since the wet season of 1858. The land adjacent has been closely occupied by residences and manufactories for many years. The city has now commenced to build a sewer through each of these tracts. The northern one is now completed from Main street, nearly to its western outlet at the main branch, and the southern one has been commenced. When these are finished, our whole city will be of equal value for building purposes.
PUBLIC BUILDINGS. The Court House will be spoken of in the history of the county, and we will merely mention here that it is one of the best in the State, was commenced in 1868, and cost entire, furniture, sewer, heating apparatus, iron-fence, sidewalk and all, in the neighborhood of $400,000. Prices were then very high, and it is probable the same would now cost about $250,000. The Jail is at the corner of Market and Center streets, and was erected in 1857. It should at once be replaced by a more suitable structure. The city owns two steam fire-engine houses, which answer all purposes, but are not particularly ornamental. During the year 1878, the new City Hall was erected at the corner of North and East streets ; total cost, building and lot, was about $14,000. It is a fine-looking structure, considering its small cost, and will be used as a City Hall and City Prison. The public school-buildings will be described elsewhere. They are the most important of the public buildings owned by the city. The Wesleyan University, which may be considered as a public building, is really the most beautiful structure in Bloomington.
INCORPORATED COMPANIES, Bloomington has never organized as large a number of incorporated companies as many Western towns have done in the past. There have been several failures, and there are several companies now in existence; but, as a rule, our citizens have not depended
by-laws” and “ charters " for aid. There was a Bloomington Fire Insurance Company, which comprised our best citizens, and was honorably and fairly conducted; but, after doing business from 1867 down to 1870, it honorably withdrew from the field. We ought to mention the Bloomington & Normal Railroad Company, which has been of great benefit to the two cities connected, but never a paying venture to the company. The line was built in 1867, and its total cost has been about $60,000.
The Bloomington Manufacturing Company, which purchased Flagg's factory in 1865, after a successful general business, was succeeded in August, 1873, by the