Oldest Merchant Tells Of Early Days In Greentown
Days when a saloon was blasted by prohibitionists, gas boomed and only five business establishments were in Greentown are described by John A. Martin, shoe dealer, who has been in business in Greentown longer than any other man.
“I had the only telephone in town, I remember, for the first saloon keeper that ever came here used it. This saloon keeper came from Kokomo to open a place here. As soon as he arrived the church bells rang and he pulled out.
“Then the Dave Jenkins glass factory, which is now in Kokomo, came here and I think we had four saloons at that time. The factory was sold to the National Glass company and later burned down.
“The glass factory came here in the 90’s. I think what was the first saloon in Greentown was blown up about this time. They used dynamite and it tore the whole bar
JOHN A. MARTIN
out one night. It was run by a man named Stillwell, a one-armed fellow. They opened the saloon later and went on operating.
Moved From Russiaville
“I was born in Franklin county and came here from Russiaville when I was thirty-five years old. I’m seventy-five now. They had just finished drilling the gas well before I came and that was the reason I wanted to settle here. I wanted to get in the gas country.
“They didn’t have the town piped with gas when I arrived and I think it was almost three weeks after it was drilled before the well was under control.
“I was in the shoe business then, the same as now. We didn’t have much of a town when I came here. Meridian street was just a little sand spread along for a walk.
Just Five Stores
“There were five of us in business in 1887. Walter Templin had a general store on the east side of Meridian street. He is in Kokomo now. Ross Gray had a drug store, where the bank is now. Jim Henry had a barber shop, but he’s dead now.
“Steve Colescott had a general store on the west side of Meridian street and I was in an old frame building on the same ground where the shoe store is, but I had a grocery then. Boone Seagraves had a bakery on the north side of Main street. We were the only business men in town.” Mr. Martin said.
Going back to the gas boom, Mr. Martin told of the town’s historical explosion and how the town’s greatest natural resource came and gradually died out.
“They had a gas explosion in Bass Willit’s grocery store one night. Natural gas leaked under the building and at about ten o’clock it exploded and piled the building to a heap.
“It was the first brick building in Greentown. The explosion blew the windows out of all the other stores around here.
“The gas lasted about twelve or thirteen years. Then the Chicago gas company piped it to Chicago. The Chicago company leased all of the country east of here. A part of the old buildings of this company are still standing one mile west of here on Superior street pike. They are going to make a nutrition camp there.”
[transcribed by Lisa A. Stout 2008 February 1]
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