Early Tuscola events
The first house which appeared in Tuscola was a part of the present dwelling of Thomas S. Sluss, at the northwest corner of Main and Daggy streets. It was placed there by William Chandler, who hauled it from the close neighborhood of Bourbon. He occupied it awhile and sold it, building subsequently the dwelling now standing directly east.
The first house built was the store at the railroad, on the north side of Sale street, long since gone. Simon G. Bassett, brother of Dr. H.J. Bassett, of Tuscola, was the first Postmaster as well as express and freight agent.
The second house built was erected on Parke street, east side, near the present brick, south of Sale street; it was put up by A.L.Otis and was later removed to the south side of Sale street, east of Main street and is now the present residence of Dr. Bassett.
The third house built was the residence of Thomas Woody, erected on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Main Street, whence it was removed. It occupied the site of the present brick on that corner. Thomas Woody was the father of A.M. Woody, who served as May of the city for the four years ending in April, 1883. Thomas Woody, an active Methodist, and before the day of churches, he and his wife with A.G. Wallace and wife, associated with Mrs. Dr. Bassett and Mrs. Kuhn were the only church people in the place who had any aptitude for conducting religious exercises. Class and prayer meetings were held in Mr. Woody’s house for several years after Mr. Woody’s arrival. He died in November 1883 full of honors.
The first child born in the place was Miss May Wallace, daughter of A.G. Wallace. Mrs. Has. Moore, daughter of William Chandler, moved here from Bourbon at the age of six years and was consequently the first baby in Tuscola.
The first store was a grocery, built on the north side of the court house square by B.F. Lewis now a farmer, who farmer on the northwest of town.
The next store was probably the drug store of Dr. J.W. Wright, which was located in the present one and a half story dwelling, now standing directly east of the old court house. These two proprietors were compelled to yield to the logic of events, both eventually pulling up states and moving down town or up town as the case may be. The Lewis store was removed bodily to Sale Street. The stock was bought by J.M. Ephlin and A.M. Woody, and was the foundation of the large Woody & Russell grocery store. Dr. Wright built a store and dwelling combined on the southwest corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, where he had sole control of the drug business until 1865. He finally went to California, being succeeded in his business by Dr. J.A. Field, who occupied the old stand for a while, and afterward removed to his brick at the southeast corner of Parke and Sale streets, which he built in 1882. H.C. Niles, who had been born to the drug trade, opened a new drug store, in 1865 at the southeast corner of Avenue and Main streets in company with E.C. Siler. The latter sold out to Niles, who joined C.A. Davis on the north side of Sale Street, in a building which was destroyed in one of the great fires, which occurred in October, 1881. The house stood the second door directly west of Goff’s Marble Works, which is the first establishment of the kind permanently located at this city.
Mr. R. Gruelle was in the drug business for a few years; also E.L. Smith, who sold out to Benton and he to Foster, who is was later in the business. E.L. Smith after leaving the drug business began the practice of law, and in 1878, he “shuffled off this mortal coil” by cutting his throat in his office, up stairs at the southeast corner of Parke and Sale streets. He was a man of talent in some respects, and could and did make most excellent stump speeches on occasion. The real causes of his self “taking off” were never known.
It is not the intention of this history to give a list of all the business houses in Tuscola, but an attempt is made to show how business started. Niles returned to the southeast corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, and then removed to J.M. Smith’s building, corner of Avenue and Washington streets, and joined, as a partner, W.B. Dryer. They were finally succeeded by James D. Higgins, the present druggist on that corner.
The first boarding house or hotel was kept by A.G. Wallace. This building was a large “story-and one-half-house, situated just about where the bank now stands on the Avenue. Mr. Wallace had arrived in the county in 1841, and stopped at a place then widely known as the “Wallace stand,” west of Hickory Grove, in the southeast part of the county. He removed to Camargo in 1854, and in 1858 to Tuscola, where he kept hotel as above for about two years. He was deeply interested in and was one of the most active workers for the formation of the new county.
He was the first Justice of the Peace elected in Tuscola, 1858, and in 1859 was elected the first Circuit Clerk and Recorder. He was continuously re-elected until he had several four consecutive terms of four years each. Upon retiring from the office, he conducted for several years a real estate and loan office, and was always an active and leading member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Wallace died on the 27th of July 1879.
The Central House
The Central House was originally erected by Younger, but the business did not appear to suit him and he was succeeded by the Thayers. It is situated on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Main Street, and is a favorite resort of all the country round. Mine host, Archbald, jolly fat and bearded, has the confidence and good will of his guests. This house caught fire one day, but the boys were too smart for it, and didn’t have any fun.
Had the Illinois Central Railroad Depot been located as first intended, all the business of the city, and all of the business improvements would now be grouped about the court house, where they ought to be and Sale street and Central avenue, the present business centers, would have been as bare of business houses as are now the adjoining blocks in the neighborhood of the court house. The blocks and lots north south east and west of the court house would have been solidly built up, at least as much so as Central and Sale streets are today; but they began to build close to the depot, and no one had the courage to make his improvement so far out of town; and indeed it would have taken courage, for at that time the site of the present court house was a howling wilderness; and even after the first court house, the old light two-story frame yet standing north of the court house had been erected, it stood solitary and alone for years; there was not a building, in 1861, between it and the present residence of Dr. J.L. Reat.
The present court house square had been fenced in with common boards and was the “fair ground’ of the first Douglas County Fair. The old court house was used for a “Floral Hall,” as it were and a band and speakers stand had been erected in the north side of the square. E. McCarty, Caleb Garett and Ira J. Halstead, secretary were the managers. The first dance was held in the room over northeast corner of Parke and Sale Streets, where Mrs. John Madison danced the first set with Joseph G. Cannon. This old court house was, on its completion, hailed with joy by all who believed in wholesale sociability.