Take a step back in time with the friendly folks at Bridgeton
By: Marilyn Mitchell Payton
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.
Continue to next page >>