Bridgeton Indiana - History
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In 1809 the Indians sold some of their prized land, which included a part of Parke County, to the U.S. Government. This treaty created the boundary line which came to be known as the Ten O'Clock Line, so called because it was explained to the Indians as following a shadow cast at 10:00 o'clock. The land south of the line was to be opened for settlement; however, it was delayed by a Shawnee chief named Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet who were angered by the treaty. Their hopes for uniting the tribes into one big confederacy were shattered after the Battle of Tippecanoe and the death of Tecumseh in 1813 while fighting with the British in the War of 1812. The first settlers came to Raccoon Township in 1816.
The village of Bridgeton had its beginnings with the building of a sawmill on the banks of Big Raccoon creek south of the Ten O'Clock Line about 1823. Later a buhrstone was added for grinding corn and then wheat. Flour for making bread wasn't readily available to most people in Raccoon Township in the early years. Corn was the staple in their diet and they used corn meal to make such breads as hoe cake, corn dodger and Indian Pone. Hog and Hominy was a favorite dish and in the words of one old timer, "When rightly prepared it was no mean dish either." The mill was a central point where people gathered to catch up on the news. Whiskey was sold there for 25 cents a gallon. Originally called LOCKWOOD MILLS, the place became known as SODOM because of all the drinking and fighting. It was named BRIDGETON after a post office was established and a crude open bridge built in 1849. The covered bridge was built in 1868 and the present mill, in 1870. Corn meal and flour are still ground today with the old fashioned buhrstone.
Like a sentinel the old Masonic Lodge building has been standing across from the mill since 1869. The 3rd story was removed in 1913. It has the distinction of being the oldest building in town.
Bridgeton Masonic Lodge is one of the last Masonic Moon lodges left in the country. Meetings were held on the night of a full moon so that lodge members would be able to find their way home by the light of the moon. Today the lodge still maintains the old tradition by holding their meetings on the night of a bright moon.
In 1878 Ralph Sprague, who had purchased the Bridgeton Mill in 1862, built a fine residence on Main Street. In 1882 he sold the mill lot, which included the house, to Daniel Webster. Mr. Webster, who was described by the editor of the Rockville Republican as "one of your fat, jolly old fellows you like to meet," installed the roller process at the mill in 1886. James H. Kerr purchased the house in 1899. It set empty for a number of years after his death and was eventually owned by Charles Peffley.
The Crooks drugstore was built in 1878 after the previous building was destroyed by fire. Also destroyed were Mrs. Foos' millinery and Dan Duree's grocery and the post office. Dr. Crooks had a bear named "Cuff" which he had mounted on an apple tree stub after its death and it presented an imposing picture in front of his drugstore back in the 1890's. Unfortunately this building, which was one of Bridgeton's historic treasures, was torn down in 1999.
George C. Belt built his blacksmith shop in 1874 and it was remodeled for a town hall by the K of P Lodge in 1909. The bullet hole in the ceiling put there by an intoxicated citizen in the 1930's is still visible. He thought when the Moonlight Waltz was played and the lights dimmed it was time to rough-house!
George and James Kerr, sons of James H. Kerr, opened Kerr Brothers general store in 1901. Charles Peffley took it over in 1944 and it was named Peffley's Market. He was also the postmaster so the post office was kept there for many years. It was later named the Bridgeton Country Store.
The K of P Lodge (Knights of Pythias) building was erected in 1904 at a cost of $1,780. It was estimated that 1000 people attended the dedication. The upstairs room was used for many social events over the years. The K of P is probably best remembered for providing Bridgeton with a town hall.
It was a great day for Bridgeton when the railroad came in 1891. Unfortunately the various railway companies who acquired it were never quite able to overcome the financial and management difficulties that beset it from the start. The Central Indiana, "Midland," operated with secondhand locomotives and the tracks were not well maintained. Trains were often late and there were many wrecks. Nevertheless the people mourned its passing when it was abandoned in 1929. The Depot is no longer standing.
The Mitchell Auto Co. was formed in 1919. In 1921 Floyd Mitchell made cement blocks to build his garage. He sold Ford cars and later John Deere implements. In 1924 Glen Chapman's Ford coupe was stolen. Glen was happy to get it back but the thief was also a chicken thief and the car had a coating of mud and feathers.
Paul and Donald Hopper erected a hollow brick store building in 1932. Harold and Ruby Overpeck purchased it in 1934. Charles "Brownie" Brown worked for them and he purchased the store in 1948 and opened Brownie's Market.
The covered bridge, after 99 years of faithful service, was retired in 1967 when the concrete bridge was built, but it still serves as the gateway to Bridgeton. In the early days "Cross this bridge at a walk" was painted on both ends of the bridge. This was so the rhythmic trotting of the horses wouldn't damage it. If you listen closely, you just might hear the clippety-clop of the horses' hoofs from bygone days echoing through the bridge. The sound of the water rushing over the dam is music to the ears and the peacefulness one finds communing with nature on the banks of Big Raccoon creek is soothing to mind and spirit.
Take a leisurely stroll down Main Street, using your mind's eye to enjoy the sights and sounds of times past. In 1873 Major Kalley wanted cows off the sidewalks on dark Sunday evenings. We promise there will be no cows (or pigs or chickens) on the sidewalks--but maybe a friendly dog or cat. The animals did roam the streets in the early years. That's why the houses had fences. But sometimes the gates were broken or left open.
The following paragraph appeared in the Rockville Republican on December 10th, 1883
the hog, the beautiful hog,
Curling his tail as he watches the dog;
Defying the law for his bread and meat,
Roaming at large over every street;
Hunting, grunting, nosing around,
Till the open gate is sure to be found,
With its hinges broken and ruined quite,
By the lovers who hung there last night.
It won't stay shut, it won't hang level,
It tempts the hog and he raises the--very
mischief with flower beds and gardens,
And will turn away undaunted
From the door of Dr. Crooks 'kitchen.
Such was life in Bridgeton!
The town is much the same as it was in the early years although some buildings are no longer standing due to fire or demolition, and there have been some changes in those that are still standing. Times have changed; but Bridgeton has been able to change with the times, while still managing to retain the qualities that make the town so popular with so many people--ever changing yet ever the same.
Bridgeton's heritage is preserved in the bridge, the mill, and the old buildings erected 1869-1932. It is also preserved in "The Story of Bridgeton" by Marilyn Mitchell Payton, the town historian, and in the Bridgeton Museum located at The Mitchell House.
The Story of Bridgeton is for sale at Fred's Place, the Bridgeton 1878 House and the Bridgeton Mill. Hard Cover is $19.95 and Soft Cover is $13.95. The books are available by mail, add $4.38 for taxes and shipping for Hard Cover and $3.63 for Soft Cover. For just $2.00 you can take A TOUR OF BRIDGETON, which is the last chapter of the big book.
To order you may write Marilyn Payton at:
P.O. Box 191
Rosedale, IN 47874-0191
Or you may E-Mail Marilyn (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call her at (765) 548-2163. She will be glad to send you a copy of her book and chat with you about the history of Bridgeton.