|Franklin History Book - Business and Industry
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The first homes built in the village were mostly log cabins. The first store building was also made of logs, and in it Manning Mayfield kept a stock of general merchandise. As the town grew and additional settlers came into the county, this primitive affair gave way to a frame building in which A. C. Woods, who came here from Jacksonville, was a merchant for 16 years.
In 1840 Harry Reinbach and Edward S. Heinrichson began business in the first brick building in Franklin. Their store stood on the property now owned by the Ted Harvey family. This partnership lasted until 1851 when Heinrichson retired. His son W. H. Heinrichson, born in Franklin, later became the Secretary of State. Hiram van Winkle became Reinbach's partner for two years, and when he retired from the firm, Reinbach continued with the business until his death in 1878.
By mid century, the milling business was a thriving industry in Franklin. A large grist and sawmill were erected by Joel Lankton who later sold out the firm of McCullogh, Coons, and Kinkade. By 1849, they were turning out fifty barrels of flour daily. These mills stood at the western edge of the village on what is now Mill Street and were busy scenes of activity. In 1855, I. T. And B. M. Mansfield and George Waller erected a woolen mill where the home of Herman and Eleanor Ramsey now stands. They did a flourishing business and had a carding factory for handling the wool produced by local farmers. After a few years, Mr. Waller retired, and the Mansfield Brothers built a large brick building in 1866. New milling machinery was installed--the best machinery available in that day. Their business was known as the "Farmers' Roller Mills."
Another milling operation, the Franklin Mills, did a thriving business during the latter part of the century and was owned by Rev. George Hart. Hart's business provided the services of a grist mill as well as a sawmill. Thousands of barrels of flour were manufactured in Franklin during those years, and countless yards of jean, flannel, and other woolen goods were manufactured at the mill. With improved means of communication and the competition provided by larger enterprises, Franklin's mill business dwindled and was eventually abandoned in the early 1890's.
The first tavern, or innkeeper, in Franklin was Col. "Jack Wright." His hostelry stood on Main Street approximately where the Frank Reagel family lived for many years, and is now the home of the Cecil Walkers. Wright began business in a log house in 1836 and continued for thirty years, improving the hotel's architecture over the years. Another Wright house that long served the community and travelers was the Franklin Hotel, operated by G. M. (Mit) Wright and his wife "Aunt Kate." The meals that "Aunt Kate" set before her patrons made her famous among the traveling salesmen who worked in this part of Illinois.
There was also another hotel in business at this time--the Cottage Hotel. Little information is available concerning this venture. Both the Franklin Hotel and the Cottage Hotel were located near the public square.
Reuben Jones, a native of Tennessee, opened a brick and tile manufacturing firm in the southeast part of the village in 1867. Melchi Hart became associated with Jones in this enterprise which flourished for several years. Then in 1890, James Eador erected several kilns and installed a brick and tile machine in the same part of town, where the present homes of Gertrude Leadill and Howard Gotschall now stand. More than a dozen men were employed here for approximately ten years. As the demand for tile lessened, the factory closed because the brick business alone was not sufficient to make the venture a profitable one.
Another merchant who contributed to the upbuilding of the village during these early years was J. T. Brunk. He was a grocer for many years, and in 1876 he opened the first livery stable in town on the west side of the square. A large general store was constructed in 1866 by Langley and poling. A. J. And B. F. Wright built several business houses in town offering general merchandise, groceries, hardware, drugs, clothing, dry goods, footwear, paint, and notions. A. H. Wright later became a partner with H. G. Keplinger in 1886 when they opened the first bank in Franklin.
Other Franklin businessmen included Otto Buffe, J. M. Coons, George Hart, S. Bittleston, Mendenhall, and Dawson. These men all owned general stores. Wilhite and Foster were clothiers; C. M. Hocking and Robert Lowry were shoemakers; J. M. Cook had the first harness shop; F. H. Bond and Armstrong were druggists; Chambers and Smith, John Haisley, Sharpe and Co. were lumber dealers, and Reinbach and Mulberry were poultry buyers. W. W. Duncan owned a variety store; Misses Jones and Burch owned a millenery; Jacob Dickenson was a tailor; William Cobey and George m. Scott owned livery and feed stables, and the Mayfield brothers, George Harney, Lockerman, and Calhoun were grain and coal dealers. The town blacksmiths were Duncan and McNutt, and Bowland and Graham. R. H. Hocking owned a grocery and confectionery store; Topliff and Duncan sold farm implements, and Melchi Hart was the undertaker.
Among those who established businesses here in the 1880's and 1890's, continuing into the early part of the twentieth century, and remembered by many of today's citizens were George Schaaf, who came to Franklin in 1883, purchased lots on Main Street and built the house that is now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Jewsbury. Schaaf also built a store on the northwest corner of the lot. The store opened in 1884. Thirteen years later it was moved to a downtown location adjacent to the Franklin Times building. Mr. Schaaf sold his home to Dr. Perkins who built his office on the former store site. The store was moved up Main Street by "mule power." Steps from the road up to the door of the store made it possible to continue business as usual during the moving process. In fact, the customers found it quite novel to shop in a moving store.
When Mr. Schaaf's mother died a few years later, the family moved to Waverly to reside with Mr. Schaaf's father who was a merchant there. They remained in Waverly for seven years during which time George commuted back and forth by train and continued to operate the store in Franklin. They later moved back to the village to the home on Hart street, now occupied by Joe Tepen and his family.
Following the move downtown, the store was greatly enlarged, and later a huge warehouse was added. In its heyday, the store boasted ten employees. After George Schaaf died, his brother Warren and his son Kenneth operated the store for many years. In 1945, in conjunction with the purchase of the Franklin Times building, Herman E. Ramsey, publisher, bought the entire Schaaf block, and his sister, Hazel came from Evansville to operate the store. She did go for twenty years until 1965. Mr. Ramsey then sold the property to Reggie Toler. Mr. Toler sold the contents at a Franklin Lions Club consignment sale and demolished the building.
Another firm which was a prominent part of the business community for many years was that of the Olinger Brothers. Located in a large two story brick building, where the home of Mrs. Hattie Smith now stands, a flourishing business was conducted by Charles Olinger who purchased the interest of his brother George, who departed for a northwest state. The upper floor of the structure was used for community affairs such as public entertainments, school graduation exercises, roller skating, Farmers' Institutes, etc. It was known as the Franklin Opera House. Later a movie theater was maintained on the lower floor.
A power plant was installed, and current was provided for Franklin's first electric street lightning system. Then in 1892, H. M. Tulpin came to Franklin and established a harness-making business. He soon relocated to the main floor of the new I. O. O. F. building at the corner of the square and Main Street. He served the community until his death in 1939. This was a very popular gathering place for farmers and men of the village who had a little loafing to do. Many tall tales and practical jokes originated here. It was also the headquarters of the "Liars' Club."
William Whalen, a well-known native, ran a grocery store for many years and was also postmaster. W. C. Calhoun became established in the grain, coal, and wool business in the 1890's, and in a few years was the only local grain, coal, and lumber dealer in town until 1944.
There were at least three saloons in operation in Franklin during the 1890's. They were owned by W. N. Grover, Austin and Beerup, and William Wilson. Income derived by the village from these establishments financed the construction of concrete sidewalks for most of the streets. The walks in the public square were donated by citizens of the community with the names of the donors printed on the blocks.
One of the most important things that ever happened to the community was the coming of the railroad in 1870. Completed from Beardstown to Virden at the time, it was a boon to the farmers, and was called the Farmers' Railroad. Actually, it was the Jacksonville, Northwestern and Southeastern line, and later became the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad. Within a few years it was operating four passenger trains through Franklin each day--two south bound from Beardstown to Herrin, and two heading north. It was possible for local residents to make shopping trips to Jacksonville or Waverly six days a week. George Harney was the first local agent, and in 1907, C. B. Featherstone took over the agency and continued to work as the agent until his death in 1945. Paul Flanagan assumed this position and served until the passenger service was discontinued. Dray loads of merchandise were hauled each day from the local depot to the downtown merchants during the early years by William McDougal and his assistants, and then by Edgar Eador.
From an article published in the Franklin Times in 1893, we quote: "Franklin is a great shipping point and does a greater volume of business than the outer world realizes. One of the grain dealers last year handled $75,000 work of cereals, and the average number of cars of grain shipped is 50. The principal cattle shippers are John B. Burch, John B. Wright, Thomas Wright, John Sevier, and Newton Sargent and a fair estimate of business done is 25 cars per month which means about $175,000 in a year. There is no denying the fact that Franklin is a wide-awake, bustling town with enterprising citizens."
In 1957, the Illinois Commerce Commission authorized the C. B. and A. Railroad to discontinue passenger trains between Jacksonville and Herrin. Good highways and automobiles had brought an end to an era. On April 27, 1957, the last passenger trains through Franklin made their final trips.
On April 27, 1883, there was mild excitement in the village. It was Sunday, and a force of men who had been drilling for coal in Franklin were going ahead regardless of the Sabbath. Just as the religiously inclined citizens were on their way to Sunday School, word was passed around that drillers had just struck the vein of coal which they had patiently sought for many days. Shortly afterwards, George Harney, the local railroad agent, sent the following message to the Jacksonville Courier: "Have struck a vein of coal at 335 feet, which shows a thickness of a full 7 feet of good coal." The drillers continued laboring until another promising vein of coal was located about 100 feet below the first one. Satisfied that a mine would be a profitable venture, the bankers organized a company and a mine was opened just west of the present home of Mrs. Sally Boyer. A tipple was erected, and the mine was in operation for approximately seven years.
The village experienced a slight boom, and a number of new houses were built for the miners. Some forty to fifty men were employed at the mine, but for some reason it was not a financial success. The business folded even though local investors had put up many additional dollars, besides the original capital, to keep it going. Another unsuccessful attempt was made to reopen the mine in 1908. After several thousand gallons of water had been pumped out in order to put the mine back in operation, the promoters were unable to enlist sufficient funds, and the venture was abandoned. Franklin's coal mine became an event in history.
Two events occurred in 1886 which have had a more lasting value to the community than the coal mine. In that year, the first bank was established, and the first issue of a local newspaper made its appearance.
H. G. Keplinger and A. H. Wright established the Franklin Bank on March 20, 1886. Mr. Keplinger was the son of Samuel Keplinger, who came here from Tennessee in 1828 and became a citizen of this community. Mr. Wright was the scion of the Wright family mentioned previously in this history. Under their conservative management, which has always characterized the institution, the bank made headway from its inception. Mr. Wright sold his interest to Mr. Keplinger in 1901. Mr. Keplinger's son, M. B. Keplinger, became a member of the firm after graduating from Illinois College.
From 1893 to 1898, Otto F. Buffe was an officer and stockholder in the firm. He later disposed of his interest, and the Keplingers continued to operate the bank as a private institution, with the elder Mr. Keplinger serving as president and his son as cashier. On December 21, 1920, the bank was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois. On Jan. 1, 1921, it opened for business as the Franklin State Bank.
William L. Wells was employed as the first bookkeeper. He was succeeded by Thomas Whalen who died a few years later. On Feb. 4, 1902, Frank T. Miller was employed in this same capacity. Mr. Miller later served as the assistant cashier, as director, and as vice-president and cashier until the time of his death on March 7, 1942.
J. Lloyd Miller was employed as bookkeeper for several months during 1910 and 1911. On July 17, 1911, Miss Lou Duncan became the bookkeeper and was elected assistant cashier in 1952, in which capacity she served until her retirement in 1954. In July of 1919, J. Miller Keplinger, the son of M. B. Keplinger, entered the services of the bank. He later served as director, assistant cashier, cashier, president, and chairman of the board of directors. He died in 1953 after retiring from his duties at the bank.
H. G. Keplinger died in June of 1921, at which time his son Maurice B. Keplinger assumed the president's position and served in this capacity until his death on April 1, 1937. In June of 1937, Alan M. Keplinger, another son of M. B. Keplinger, was elected as the bank's director. He also served as an assistant cashier, cashier, and executive vice-president until his retirement in 1954.
In 1941, Miss Geraldine Hunt was employed at the bank and served for many years. In August of 1952, Douglas W. Dodds, J. T. Dodds, Jr., and Alber R. Dodds purchased stock in the bank. The number of directors was increased from three to five. Within a few years the Dodds sold their stock, and the bank was reorganized as the Franklin Bank in 1961. The fist stockholders meeting was held on August 22, 1961. Elected directs were Leo J. Bergschneider, Barnard S. Camm, Charles W. Martin, C. Donald Ransdell, and LeRoy T. Smith. Barnard Camm was elected chairman, and Charlie Martin was secretary.
The first officers of the new organization were C. Donald Ransdell, chairman of the board and president; Leo J. Bergschneider, vice-president; Barnard Camm, Charles Martin, LeRoy Smith, directors. Mr. Martin was appointed cashier and served in that office until March 1977. Mr. LeRoy Smith served as director until his death in 1964. Russell Austif was elected to the board of directors at that time and served until 1977. James Adkins was then elected and served until 1982. Mr. Ransdell served as president until his death in 1975. At that time, Barnard S. Camm was elected to fill the position and is still serving in that capacity.
In 1976, the board of directors was increased to seven members. Elected directors were Russell Austif, Leo Bergschneider, Barnard Camm, Reuel Carpenter, Richard Cox, Charles Martin, and Louis Smith. Mr. William N. Rice was appointed executive vice-president and cashier in 1977 and served until he resigned in May 1981. Mr. Lawrence Anderson was appointed loan officer in 1978 and is still serving in that capacity.
By 1979, the bank had grown to the point that the building on Main Street was no longer adequate. A new, spacious, Colonial style building was constructed at the corner of West and Main Streets, which added much to the appearance of Franklin.
Mr. Jack Morris was appointed executive vice-president and cashier on October 19, 1981. Leo Bergschneider served on the board until his death in September 1981.
The present directors are Tom Bergschneider, Barnard Camm, Reuell Carpenter, Jack Morris, James Ranson, Mary Ransdell, and Louis Smith. The officers are Barnard S. Camm, chairman of the board and president; Jack Morris, vice-president of the board, executive vice-president, and cashier; Lawrence Anderson, loan officer; Maryellen Hermes, cashier; Ann Ott, assistant cashier; Shirley Buster, assistant cashier; Patricia Goacher and Susan Smith, bookkeepers.
At one time Franklin had two banks. In 1892, J. B. Birch, A. M. Wright, C. H. Tietsort, and George Harney organized what was known as the Farmers and Merchants Bank. Some years later, control of the business was sold to outside interests who organized the Farmers' State Bank. This bank continued in business for a short time and in 1910, it was purchased and consolidated with the Franklin Bank.