Following are excerpts from Wells County Historical Society Newsletters, mailed regularly to our members:

Life in Wells County in 1900
Excerpts from 1900 Bluffton Commercial Club booklet

Note: The article is an excellent example of the verbose, flowery style of
writing in vogue at the turn of the century.  Bluffton was The Place to Be.

Bluffton, the county seat of Wells County, enjoys the merited reputation of being the most beautiful inland city of 5,000 human beings in the State of Indiana, if it does not eclipse any city of its numbers in the United States.  Without a millionaire or mendicant, it boasts a veritable paradise combining health, wealth, beauty, comfort, leisure, and pleasure, with not one of its citizens held to long hours of toil or drudgery for the sake of a bare substance.......

Its business men are clever and genial, built on the plan of "live and let live." They are thrifty.  Panics do not affect them, and a failure is almost unknown or a matter of tradition.....

The manufacturing industries are just as notable as are the business and residence portions.  There are the R. C. Marcy Manufacturing Company, who make a fine line of wind mills, pumps, towers, tanks, etc. (later to become the Red Cross Mfg.  Co.) which is sending its products to North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, and the G. W. Grimes foundry and machine shops, where the giant Mascot Pumping Powers are made, Mr. Grimes being the inventor.  These powers are used in the oil fields for operating large oil leases, there being as many as thirty or forty wells coupled to one power.  The Bluffton Manufacturing Company, the oldest concern in the world manufacturing washing machines, etc.  Their wares are a practical necessity in the home, and that they are readily received is attested by the large volume of orders from all parts of the globe.  The Zero Mitten Manufacturing Company, employing nearly a hundred girls, manufacturing mittens and gloves from tick and canton flannel and has a volume of business second to none of its kind.  Their product, ready for shipment, amounts to over fifty thousand daily and are shipped to the West, North-West and the Canada's.  The Bluffton Folding Chair Works, maker of chairs, camp stools, lawn swings, etc. are gathering in liberal orders from all parts of the county.  No less pretentious in their respective lines are the Bluffton Hoop Company, E.P. Adams slack barrel and heading factory, Smith & Bell saw mill, Buck handle factory, S. Tudor Produce Packing Company, 3 flour mills, the Mercer Lumber Company, saw and planning mills and the Bluffton Overall Company.  Bluffton was and is a great place to live!

 School History

    The first high school commencement in Bluffton was in 1883 with a class of 7 boys and two girls.  "They were expected to be philosophers or statesmen with minds as strong as a Livermore or a Willard."   Unfortunately, 8 hunted more fruitful soil for their genius and only one stayed in dear old Bluffton.   By 1891, school superintendent Philemon A. Allen had signed 108 diplomas.  The well-dressed young gentlemen could wear moleskin pants purchased from the Economy department store for 50 cents and the young ladies could wear fine waists from the same emporium costing from 19 to 39 cents, black hose were 4 cents per pair.

    The first school was taught by Jesse McGraw on the farm of Adam Miller.  Most early schools were supported by private subscription, but as funds accumulated, schools were available in all townships, the last being Union township in 1848.   In 1852, Indiana passed the common school law providing public education for all children in the state.

Life in Wells County in 1897

    Local news reporters certainly wished to be incognito as per their bylines.  Prairie Crumbs were reported by the Cyclone.   News from the village of Bly came from Trilby.   Torment wrote the Pugney Pointers while Reiffsburg News was reported  by The Boss.  Craigville News  was gathered by Foxy while news from Ossian was collected by The Novice.   The Governor wrote the Georgetown News  and Blackbird reported on West Jackson.   There were often revealing tidbits.   Perhaps this tongue in cheek treatment was a relief to all the readers.

    The fashionable ladies still wore voluminous skirts which gently sloped outward but were of less weight thanks to the loss of train.   Sleeves were smaller and fitted tightly to the arm six inches above the elbow, exhibiting fullness only at the top and permitting a pleated epaulet.

    Hints of Heloise of 1896 recommended  indulging freely in grapes for leanness and avoiding overheated rooms, which were described as a source of wrinkles.   A hat to shade the face eliminated squinting whuch of course caused crow's feet.   Overdressing children resulted in perspiration which predisposed them to colds, the beginnings of all kinds of diseases.   Brushing hair was better than combing which it was indicated, tears the scalp as well as the hair.

    The new Baptist Church at the corner of Johnson and Cherry streets was dedicated on May 9, 1897.   Dr. Graham from Hannibal, Missouri presided at the first sermon.   George McFarren was the first to make a pledge in the subscription drive in the amount of $1500.   The Ladies Aid Society soon added $1000 followed by many others with a total of $7,577.25 being pledged at the morning service.

    The Buffalo Bill Wild West Show early in July advertised that no "stage redskins" or tobacco store signs would be part of the extravaganza.   Only real Indians from several notable tribes would perform.

    Wells County property was now assessed at twelve million dollars.   The first county telephone line was installed to the home of Jonathon Lowry, a farmer in Chester township.   The oil and gas boom was thriving with oil well taxes at $350 per well.   The Cudahay pipeline was installed at a cost of $740 per mile.   There were five new brick schools constructed and the school enumeration showed 7,757 pupils.   In Bluffton, Main, Market, and Wabash streets were asphalted at an estimated cost of $80,000.   James B. Hale was the new mayor of Bluffton.

Join the Wells County Historical Society
and receive the quarterly newsletter!

Dues are only $10.00 per year, Individual
Family/Couple - $15.00
Patron - $25.00
Life - $150.00
Student - $5.00

Mail to WC Historical Society
PO Box 143
Bluffton, IN  46714-0143


Return to Wells County Historical Society Home Page

  Updated to: 5/11/2002