Remembrances of Browning Township 

From the Rushville Times, March-April 1995 

(Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of the history of Browning, IL.  The story is compiled of remembrances of the community by Bob Reno and will be published in installments in the coming weeks. 

By Bob Reno
compiled by: Bette J. Lybarger, November 1983

  Whoever may chance to read this account of the memories I have of the Ridgeville, Browning, and Bader communities, may I say I did not consider myself a historian; my vocabulary is limited, hence it is going to be hard for me to express my motive and purpose in making, this feeble effort to record the memories I have of the home of my ancestry and of the community I lived in the first 71 years of my life before moving to Rushville in June of 1968.
  I was motivated to make the effort due to the interest my grandson apparently has, and the yearning I have had for a written record from my own paternal grandmother, Louisa Thorton Reno, who came to Illinois with her parents from Salina, TN. by ox team in the year 1829 when she was 16 years old.  They settled in section 18 in what became Browning Township.  My grandfather, Jonathon Reno, Jr. and Louisa Reno were pioneer residents of the Ridgeville community.  My great grandfather, Jonathon, Sr. came with his family from Tennessee in the year of 1825.  Grandfather Jonathon, Jr. was then 14 years old. They settled in Bainbridge Township about 70 or 80 rods east of where Route 67 now crosses the Illinois River bottom on this side of Beardstown.

  Great grandfather was given the job of blazing a trail from Beardstown to Rushville.  About two years later he moved to section 16 in Rushville Township near Kinderhook.  A son, Francis, died and was buried northeast of where Kinderhook church now stands.  It is claimed this was the first white settler to die in Schuyler County.

  My grandfather, Jonathon, Jr. and Louisa Thorton were married in 1834 and lived in Section 18 in Browning Township two years before settling permanently in section 22 in 1836.

  My father, Benjamin V. Reno, was born on the Reno homestead farm and spent the entire 73 years of his life there.  When he and Emma Workman, daughter of Joel Workman and Anna (Pendric) Workman were married they established their home on the old Reno homestead farm in section 22.  I was on the old homestead farm November 30, 1896.  I spent the first twenty one years of my life there.  I married Faye Ambroius on December 2, 1917 and we started housekeeping early in 1918 on the Robertson homestead farm and living there ten years.  When my father died, March 1, 1928, we moved back to the Reno homestead farm and spent more years there before moving to Rushville in June, 1968.

  I might add the old Robertson homestead farm where we lived in section 16 is the farm where William Robertson built his cabin in 1826.  He was the first white settler in what afterward became Browning Township.  The house we lived in was within five rods of where Mr. Robertson built his cabin. {1 rod = 16 ½ feet or 5 ½ yards.  5 rods = 82 ½ feet.}

  Grandfather settled in 1836 and spent the remainder of his life on the farm.  My grandmother spent the later years of her life in the home of my parents on the homestead farm.  I was 13 years old when she died at the age of 95 years and 10 months.

  I can remember of her telling the experiences of pioneer days, such as a few experiences with Indians, the year of the deep snow, the time the meteor fell, their trip from Tennessee by ox cart, and crossing the Ohio River at Shawneetown.  There was an abundance of wild honey, wild turkeys, pheasants, prairie chickens, quail, deer and a few bears.  It all appealed to my boyish mind.  She always used the term settlement instead district or community which was, correct for her, because she came before there were township or districts.

  She had a wonderful memory and loved to tell of the early settlements.  My brother, Guy, said he felt that an epoch of early Schuyler County history died when grandmother passed on.

  When her parents settled in section 18 of Browning Township,  she said there were no highways in Browning Township.  They marked trees with an ax from section 18 through the settlement which became Ridgeville to the river landing at Browning.  This was a trail which was used to haul staves and huppoles {another possible spelling - hoop poles} to the landing and to get provisions that came by boat.  This soon became known as Holmes Landing.  When asked why the early settlers selected the rough hill land instead of Rushville prairie I remember grandmother’s answer, It was swampy then".  No doubt there was better timber on the hill land.  There were no wells in virgin territory.  Water  was essential while building a place to live and no doubt springs and flowing streams were more available.  Sugar Creek was used for wells and the mills were run with water power.  The Illinois River was their access to the outside world.  No doubt the timber and its many uses and the other advantages were instrumental in their decision.

  The Holmes Landing, its warehouses and steamboat were undoubtedly instrumental in Browning becoming a town.  I have heard the early settlers tell how staves and huppoles were made and hauled to the river landing and shipped by steamboat is St. Louis.  Much of the provisions, such as sugar, salt and a lot of other produce were shipped in barrels.  The huppoles were split out of wood and dressed down until pliable enough to make wooden hoops for barrels.  The better barrel staves were used for whiskey kegs and barrels.  They were bound with metal hoops.

  The early settlers were most all stock raisers and farmers.  Some were wagon makers, some were coopers and worked at various things that were made out of wood.  You can see she need for quality timber not only for cabins and rails for fencing and pickets after wire was more available.

  The first school built exclusively for school purposes was a log schoolhouse built at Ridgeville in 1835.  It was located in section 16.  Ridgeville became a town in 1835.  On April 19, 1886, Isaac Garret plotted and laid out a town in section 16 and named the town Ridgeville.  It become the first voting place, the first post office in Browning Township.  Ridgeville  at one time could say it had a store, school, post office and church.  However, they held church services in the old log school house and in the homes until Ridgeville’s only church was built in 1874.

  The old church has never been closed to the gospel since it was built.  Some think of it as an old landmark, to others it is a sacred trust.  It was originally built by the Union Baptist and the United Brethren.  The Baptist group was organized in Fulton county in 1847 and Ridgeville was chosen to head the conference.

  After township organization was perfected Ridgeville lost its’ identity as a town site.  Schuyler County was not placed under township organization until 1854.

  Now I want to get back when the first cabin was built where the present town of Browning is now located.  It was built by John Lippencott in 1829.  Peter Holmes built the second cabin one year later in 1830.  Holmes Landing was named after this Peter Holmes.  Browning became a town nine or ten years later.  There is no doubt but Holmes Landing and Warehouse were responsible for Browning becoming a town.  I have heard grandmother and others tell how teams of wagons came from Astoria and Vermont as well as the immediate area for all kinds of provisions that had been shipped by steamboat to the Holmes Warehouse and Landing.  That is how the hill northeast out of Browning became known as the Vermont Hill.

  Browning was surveyed and plotted by Leonidias Horney for an R. Dillworth, May 11, 1848 and was named in honor of the Hon. O. H. Browning of Quincy.

  After the present levee was built and the old warehouse and Holmes Landing burned a new warehouse was built on the down stream side of the present levee.  The old warehouse was up stream a short distance from the present landing.  Browning’s river resources, the steamboat and warehouse finally started its growth.  Note the first cabin was built in 1829, plotted in 1848.  Browning’s first school, a frame building, was built in 1854.  The first school was taught in 1854 by a Miss Dillworth.

  When I was a small boy the old levee, warehouse and steamboats were unloading some cargo and some livestock was being shipped by steamboat to the St. Louis market.

  I can well-remember an incident at the old warehouse landing where the neighbor boys and I heard they were loading stock on Sunday afternoon.  We went down to see the old steamboat land.  It was the first time I can remember seeing a black man.  The deck hands were all colored.  Someone said the old boat captain’s name was Powers.  He stood on the top deck and "cussed the niggers" trying to get them to hurry.  The darkies were carrying something on their shoulders to the warehouse and they struck up a song.  I can remember one line, "I'm so glad that trouble donut last always."  I can hear the old boss voice say "always" yet.  He had it timed when he came to "always" he was ready to throw down his sack.  When the stock was loaded, the old gangplank raised, the old boat headed downstream.  The deckhands waved goodbye to the folks on shore.  Yes, quite a site and quite a memory for us gawky, cornfed, hillbilly kids.

  As I think of the old captain’s abuse and how the darkies brushed it aside with a song, I find myself wondering if Almighty God didn't give just a little extra ear and tone for music and song to the black man in order that he might bear the pain of the auction block and seperation from those he loved.

  Another thrill for the kids and some adults was when the old showboats landed and the old steam calliope began to play.  People came from miles around to see the show.  Some came from Vermont and Astoria on the old Cannonball which came through Browning at 8:45 and returned on the 2:00 going north.  The old "Cotton Blossom" was most people’s favorite.  I can’t recall the names of all, one was called the "Idlewild", French’s sensation.  Another "Sunny South".

  Bill Brown never missed a show.  His daughter was six to eight weeks old and someone met Bill with Wava in his arms.  He and his wife were heading down the levee.  They said "Well, Bill, I see you are going to the show."  Bill said, "Yeah, the dang youngin has been squealin’ all day to go to the show.  We thought we just as well take her."  Bill had the coarsest, gruffest voice of an "youngin’ I ever knew.

  Appeared in the Rushville Times Wednesday, April 5, 1995 

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of the history of Browning, IL.  The story is compiled of remembrances of the community by Bob Reno and will be published in installments in the coming weeks. 

By Bob Reno 
compiled by: Bette J. Lybarger November 1983 

  Browning became a growing thrifty little town in the early 1900’s.  I can remember the stores and their owners and where a lot of people lived when I was four years old. 
Browning had five stores, a blacksmith shop, a doctor, one or two livery stables, one or two barbers two or three teamsters, a post office, an old hotel that was occupied by one or two families, a cane mill, two lunch rooms and a grain elevator.  In the early 1900’s a new bank, a new mill and a new hotel were added.

  The merchants in 1900 were as follows: S. B. Dray, M. H. Shippey, R. O. Carlock, Charley Sherrill, and Uncle Henry Petigrew who only had a small amount of dry goods left on his shelves.  There was a meat market.  I am not sure as to it’s owner.  It was sold to C. H. Stambaugh in the early 1900’s and he stocked it with groceries.  S. B. Dray sold his business to J. H. Kelly in the early 1900’s.  Dray had a good business.  Even though Kelly was a Littleton farmer and this was a new venture, he kept the ball rolling.  He kept this to sell and was there to sell it.  If a duck hunter started to the river before day light and needed a jacket, pair of gloves or a pair of boots or something for his lunch pail, there was someone there to sell it to him.

  M. H. Shippey had another growth business, he sold everything from nuts and candy to fencing.  He also purchased railroad ties, coal props and cardwood {possibly cordwood} and shipped it out by rail.  He was followed by his clerk, J. H. Trone, who lost the business by fire a few years later.

  In a few years he and Henry Fleming started another business in the building adjoining the bank.  The old Dray building burned and was rebuilt by Kelly.  The above mentioned Charley Sherrill may have been a partner with E. A. Stambaugh  in the early 1900’s.

  George Gobel was the barber and Isaac Himmel started in the early 1900’s.  William C. Bolman I think was the first postmaster and has been followed by several postmasters since that time.  Homer Yack was the first cashier of the new bank followed by Bob Fleming and Homer Cox.  Charley Trone was a blacksmith in the late 90’s.  I can’t remember him but I remember where his shop was located.  The old cane mill was run by David Perkins and William Fritch.

  Harry Hierman was Browning’s last blacksmith.  He was a good honest worker and took pride in his work as this littler amusing incident will illustrate.  Harry had made a wagon bolster for a customer.  It looked like a factory job.  Another customer came to the shop and asked what a bolster like that would cost.  Harry said $3.75. He said, "I have an old wagon, what will you charge me to make a bolster for it, you would not have to take so much pains with it."  Harry answered, "$5.00 for a batch job that looks like I did it with a buck saw and ax.  I don’t want to put out that kind of work."  The fellow settled for a good bolster.

  Doctor Blankenship was the doctor in 1900 followed by Dr. Everton, Dr. Rice, Dr. Stainer, Dr. Kincheloe, Dr. Childs, Dr. Wharton, Dr. Corman, a native of Schuyler and Dr. Bates, on old neighbor served the Browning area but neither of them lived in Browning.

  The livery barns were run by Harry and Lewis Smith and Bill Crafton, although Bill hauled some passengers, the major part of his work was a drayman.  Some may question a livery business in Browning.  Salesmen came to Browning by train.  After making the stores in Browning the livery man would take them to Bader, Sheldon’s Grove, Bluff City and back to Browning by train time.  Maybe another route to Pleasant View, Rushville and back to Frederick.

  Many of the doctors depended on the livery for rural call.  Some of the old teamsters were Henry "Rink" Crafton, John Morris, Jim Petigrew and George Mitchell.  Some hauled coal and some ice from Beardstown when the old ice houses played out and in those days there was quite a bit of activity between the river and freight and express to the stores.  The Charley Waters and Frank Dodds fish Markets loaded barrels and boxes of dressed fish upon all the day trains and sometimes the night trains.

  Before I say more about Browning train service I want to mention the hotel that was built by Red Pettigrew in the early 1900’s.  I can’t remember how many times it changed hands after Pettigrew located in Peoria.  Kenneth Robertson and Guy Simpson were the last two to operate it and the lunch room.  Kenneth sold out to Guy Simpson and it burned while he was operating it.  It has 11 rooms on the second floor.  A large restaurant, dining room, kitchen and other small rooms were on the first floor.  Browning, at one time, had a high rated bank.  The above mentioned, Red Pettigrew was their bank leader.  Red was a big, bald headed, good natured fellow.  I can’t recall who it was that could draw the likeness of anything he wanted to draw.

  Anyway, Browning was having open air concerts one night a week during the summer months.  He drew a great big mosquito on top of Red’s bald head.  The big poster read, "Come to our band concert Saturday night.  Good Music and friendly mosquitoes."

  Now back to the resources that helped to make Browning a growing little town.  As stated above the fish business was a healthy income at one time.  The mussel shell business was a boom for Browning for a few years, when they dragged for shells the shells alone made them wages.  Several valuable pearls were found.

  I know of one man who sold $900 worth of pearls at one time and $500 worth of pearls and slugs the second time.

  Heirman addition was added at that time.  When they used to feed ducks I have seen single wagon bed loads of ducks hauled to the depot.  When the hunting and fur business went sour along with fishing and mussel shell and pearl income, it was crippling indeed.  The farms around the area consolidated, reducing the population, of the rural areas.  This was another set back.  When the railroad pulled out, their tax money and the things that were connected with it was another blow.

  Let us review the rail service.  The early morning train went north about 5:00 a. m. and back at 8:45 in the evening.  There were two day passengers, #48 and #49.  One came through going south around noon and the north bound came through at 1:10.  There were two night trains, #51 and #52 but I do not know their exact schedule.  The coal and freights ran day and night.  Browning had an old engine called "Old Maude" that headed out of Browning.  It was used to push coal drags up the grade between Browning and Bader.  When "Old Maude" went through town the ground trembled and the windows rattled.  Note when the railroad left the crews that ran "Old Maude", the coal shute, and the three depot agents, the stockyard where people from rural areas shipped out stock left with the slump in the railroad.

  As we summarize this: the stores are gone, two filling stations are trying to absorb the restaurant and grocery business, elevator, stockyard, bank, barber shop and mills have disappeared.  I hope some way, some how enough people can pull together and open some new doors.  I wonder if some day barge landings and some kind of business could inject some new life into this little river town which had an active part in the growth of the new settlement of our ancestry.

(Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of the history of Browning, IL.  The story is compiled of remembrances of the community by Bob Reno and will be published in installments in the coming weeks. 

By Bob Reno 
compiled by: Bette J. Lybarger November 1983 

  Amos Wilcox, as far as I know, was a native of this section.  He received an eye injury which became malignant and was the lingering kind.  He lost his eye and had to wear a dark patch over it.   There were times he suffered untold agony, but in a few days he would be the same old joker.  His good friend and rival was an old one-eyed Kentuckian who wore a glass eye named Gladwell.  Amos asked Gladwell if his eye ever bothered him.  Gladwell said, "it did at first, I had a rabbit’s eye grafted in, I could see all right, but whenever I saw a darn dog I about ran myself to death.  I had ‘em take it out and put this one in.  It don’t do me any good but it don’t bother me any.
  Someone drove into Browning one day and a mule colt was following it’s mother.  Amos said when I was on the farm one of my mares had a mule colt.  It was the "tormentingest" thing.  I was plowing corn and I let it follow the mare.  I plowed until the middle of the forenoon, I got thirsty, I tied the team to the fence and went to the neighbors who lived close by to get a drink.  The neighbor told me to bring a jug with me after noon and he would give me a jug of sorghum.  After dinner I plows a while and took my jug and went after a drink.  The neighbor filled my jug with sorghum and we stuck a piece of corn cob in the mouth of the jug to keep the dirt out.  I went back to work and set the jug down by the fence and plowed until evening.  I noticed the mule hanging around that end of the field when I went to get my jug of sorghum.  The devilish mule had pulled the corn cob with his teeth and there he was "squattin" and stickin’ his tail in the jug, then lickin’ the sorghum off his tail.  I didn’t get enough sorghum to cover a biscuit.

  When they had a new moon Amos claimed it was a dry moon.  Of course, Gladwell said it was a wet moon.  In about three days there came a good downpour.  Water ran down the streets like a river.  Before it completely quit raining, Gladwell put on his hip boots, raincoat and rainhat.  When he stuck his head inside the store he said, "This is one of Amos’ old dry moons."

  An old fellow from Liverpool came down the river in a cabin boat and landed at Browning.  He was a cripple and had a severe heart ailment.  His name was Frank Gent, everyone call him Scrabble and he had no family.

  Scrabble never wanted charity or public assistance.  He lived with less than anyone in Browning.  He never was happier than when ha had a gang of kids around him telling them stories.  He had no trouble having an audience.  The kids were always wanting him to tell them a ghost story.  People that know him said they never heard Scrabble tell the same story twice.  One night he had a gang of kids around him in the filling station lunch room.  Two duck hunters were talking to someone about how far you could see out West. Scrabble spoke up and said, "you can’t see any farther out there than you can right here in Browning."  They asked him however ho got that kind of notion.  Scrabble said, "I’ve been out there.  I know and I’ll bet you a case of soda pap I can prove it."  They called his hand then they said, "Now just how far can you see here in Browning?"  Scrabble pointed out the window and said, "There is the moon, we can see it from here."

  The hunters said to give him the pop.  Scrabble turned around to the kids and said.  "When I was out there where those fellows were telling about, I looked and here came a prairie fire and a herd of cattle running their best ahead of the fire.  I turned around and started running the same direction they were going and about the time cattle were about to overtake me, I came to a tree.  I jumped and grabbed a limb and the cattle and the fire went under me and I didn't get a scratch."  One little boy said, "Hey, I thought you fellows just said there wasn't any trees out there.  Scrabble said, "There just happened to be one there."

  When we lived in Section 16, Enoch Sayers was my nearest neighbor.  He was a grand old neighbor.  He never told any yarns that harmed anyone.  I think he aimed to make then so ridiculous no one would believe them.  Enoch said he was skating to Beardstown one time, and I was going so fast I couldn't stop.  I saw a big air hole, I made a jump and when I got up over it I saw I wasn't going to make it, so I made another jump and went over.  I was going slower when I came to the next one.  I jumped but I wasn't going fast enough for two jumps so I just whirled around and jumped back and skated off around it.

  The Browning Liars Club sent Enoch a liars license. No one ever heard if Enoch cared or gave it a thought.

  When the old fashioned grocery store with the potbellied stoves disappeared, Browning substituted a box elder tree east of the Shell station as a meeting place in the summer.  It was where government problems were discussed. It had two names, some called it the "Static Tree" and others called it the "Tree of Knowledge."

  In case you have never seen an old fashioned grocery store with a potbellied stove, I will describe one.  Please  remember, I said one.  They were not all this extreme.  There was a frame on the floor that reached around a six or eight inch space around the stove.  This frame was the filled with sawdust and the spitoons sat in the sawdust, so if a tobacco chewer missed a shot the sawdust was the back stop.  They always had a cat to scare the mice away.  The cat usually slept on the end of the counter.  They had a big jug of prunes, one of dried apricots opened and propped up one end of the counter display to remind you they had them for sale.   Remember I said all grocery stores were not the same.  I relate this to remind the housewives of today, who are interested in antiques and the good old days, to appreciate the modern food stores.  They keep the cat and the prunes in a different place.

  Napoleon Bonaparte Lane, everyone called him , "Tie", was a typical old river fisherman.  He was strictly honest and a loyal friend to anyone he liked and would level with him.  He smoked old Hillside.  He said the mosquitoes never bothered him, they didn't like his brand of tobacco.

  Fred Spillers used to get a big laugh when he told this story on poor old "Tie."  Fred was up checking on his nets, traps or something.  He said the lake was frozen over so he could slide a boat on the ice anywhere, the wind was blowing 30 or 40 miles an hour across the lake.  It felt like it was zero but was around 20 degrees.  He looks across the lake, "Tie’s" old coat was laying across the bow of the boat.  There stood old "Tie" with his cap ears down and a red handkerchief around his neck, naked as a jaybird.  The rest of his clothes were down around his shoe tops.  Fred thought maybe the old fellow had gone berserk and he better go see about him.

  By the time he reached him Tie was getting back into his clothes.  Tie laughed and told Fred his problem.  He had a hole in his pants and his wife wanted him to him to take them off so she could patch them to keep the wind out.  Tie was in a hurry, he told her to just set it on the outside, he didn't care how it looked, she could patch them right when he got home. She got his pants sewed to his underwear.  Tie said, "I took some Exlax and I didn't have time to fool around with stitches.  I am sure glad I made it.

  A lot of gags around Browning were engineered this one wasn't.  One time Fred Kelly was down is his back.  East of the old store the walk was high enough to be about right to sit upon and let your feet rest on the ground.  After Kelly, turned around a time or tow he made it down.  He and another fellow or two were sitting, talking.  Dean Winston was full of mischief.  He sat down by Kelly.  He looked back and forth at Kelly and the fellows he was talking to like he was deeply interested in the conversation.  Dean slipped a stink bomb down at his feet and stepped on it.  Kelly forgot his back.  He jumped up and jerked his hat off and began to fan.  Of course, Kelly always had a remark.  He said, "that boy didn't eat that, it just crawled up him and died."  He headed up the walk still fanning.  Trummes Newell clerked for Kelly.  He heard the spectators laughing.  He opened the door to see what was going on.  Kelly said, "Shut that door!  If it gets in we will have to move everything out."

  Bader as it now is called, was surveyed and plotted by deputy surveyor Jerry Stuman, August 5, 1870 for Samuel Fowler.  It was the called Asceola {Osceola}.  It was located  in Section 2 Browning Township.  I remember the old brick store was a great loafing place.  Homer Baum, who is now 96, is the last of the older set living today.  Malcolm Robertson, Seth Stauffer, Jack Venters, Ed McClaren,  John and Inans Bryant, Milt Cassell, Mike Lind and Bill Beck were almost daily visitors to the old store.  Ben Lancaster, Marc Venters and David Royer lived in the area but did not visit the store as often.

  Mike Lind and Bill Beck used to have their arguments.  One day several of the loafers had a piece of the daily paper, reading.  The ones who were not reading were discussing the disappearance of the wild game and how some of it disappeared.  Mike Lind spoke up just as Bill Beck came in the door and said, "I wonder what became of the buffalo?" Mile said, "You danged old fool the carp ate them."

  I can't neglect  the northwest corner of the township and my old friend Asa Trone and Delno.  I doubt if Asa and Delno had heard much about "ecology" when they were kids, but they tried to do their bit to correct air pollution.  The Stroops and The Trone families did not live very far apart.  The barns were in plain view of one another.  Permeaneaus, a bachelor, stayed at the Stroops place.  An old fashion rail fence was around the Stroops barn lot.  Permeaneaus' "restroom" was a rail across the  fence corner.  The boys slipped over and sawed  the rail almost in half on the underneath side.  They hid in the Trone barn the next morning to check the results of their experiment.  Permeaneaus had to go to the house for a change of clothes then headed across the field to Sugar Creek for a bath and to wash clothes.  So the first gesture to correct air pollution really started in Section 7.

  Alex Robertson had old mare he called Old Fashion.  They had been through good times and rough times together.  One morning he turned Old Fashion loose to go down a little hill to the spring for water.  She had been in the habit of coming back up the hill alone.  This time she got a drink and turned around and fell over dead.  Alex had a lisp when he talked.  He looked at her a little bit then said, "What you 'spose made Old Fashion do that way?  She never done that way before Alex was converted in a revival in Ridgeville.

  One Sunday after Sunday School, they had a meeting to discuss having
a baptizing.  Someone suggested damming up the brook over north of the church and having it there.  A young lady had the idea she wanted to be baptized in a flowing stream.  Before she thought how to express herself, she jumped up and said, "I don't want to be baptized in any damned branch."  Alex got up and said, "The rest of you can be baptized wherever you please, I purpose to be baptized in "Thugar Trick".  They agrees on Sugar Creek over by the Lipton Bridge.  The date was set.  It turned cold and there came snow, but they went ahead.  They cut a hole in the ice and Alex was baptized first.  He threw his overcoat around his shoulders and stood on  the ice in his sock feet and watched them baptize the others.  Arrangements had been made for them to go up to Nancy Ebbert’s place to change clothes.  They tried to get Alex to go as soon as he was baptized.  He said,  "I guess I'll know if it gits cold."  When the baptizing was over, he got in his sled and rode home before he changed clothes.  It never hurt him.  He was the old pioneer stock.  His father was the William Robertson, who settled in the township in 1826.

(Continued Next Week)

(Editor's Note) This is the last Article in a  series of the history of Browning.  The Story is compiled of remembrances of the community by Bob Reno.)

by BOB RENO
copied by: Betty J. LYBARGER  NOVEMBER 1983

  I do not want to neglect to mention our old neighbors, the John Bates family.  They had a family of ten children, all of which are gone except Lucille Bates of Rushville (passed away April 1980).  Mr. and Mrs. Bates raised the family, on the old Columbus Bates homestead farm which was another place neighbor kids use to go for a good time.  I wonder how many bandages and first aid services Mrs. Bates took care of for her own and others.  As I think of the old barn on the Bates homestead, I would say it is a Ridgeville landmark.  It was built around 1840, making around 130-131 years old.  The frame of it and the frame of the old barn that burned in 1906 on the Reno homestead were hued timber, and the timber of both frames was from what is now known as the Babcock Forty, which at one time was owned my grandfather.  They were built within a year or two of each other and the frames were put together with wooden pins.
  This reminds me of hearing grandmother telling about the settlement barn raising, log rollings and husking Bees.

  I doubt if I would have understood much about barn raising, had I not attended one with my father when I was a kid.

  It was down Frew hollow on the old Henry Frew farm.  Mike Lind of Bader was the carpenter.  He had the sides and ends morticed and pinned together, including braces, already to raise. There were enough men to raise a side at a time. They raised one aide first and the men held it while Mike and his men plumed it and put up temporary braces, then the same procedure with the other side. When the ends were raised and pinned to the sides, the frame was up and I do not think there was a nail in the entire frame except the ones in the temporary races.

  Picture the amount of drifting and number of wooden pins - no electric drill  then.  I do not know where the siding came from on the old Bates form barn. I don't think it had more  than two coats of point in 70 years and  I marvel at do quality of the siding yet,  I talked to a carpenter about this.  He said in his opinion it  was shipped up the Illinois river by steamboat.  He said he had seen some of that kind of lumber.  It is not the same pine we know today.

  Barn and carpenter work makes me remember Hallie Belleville when he went to school.  It was Buzzy VanOrmer who told the youngsters to build a birdhouse and try to make it represent the kind of bird they were building it for.  Hallie played around until  almost school time.  Before he thought of what he was requested to do, he picked up a hand saw and ran out to an apple tree and sowed off a limb, then sawed a block of the limb and handed it in with the other kids'  birdhouses.    Buzzy asked, What kind of bird  house was that supposed to be?"  Hallie said, 'that is a woodpecker  house."  Buzzy says "Where is the hole?  Buzzy gave him a box and made him stay after school and build a bird house.  Hallie declares to this day that is the only carpenter work he ever did in his life.

  It would be too time consuming to tell you about Lee Winston, Buck Campbell and all the funny happenings around Ridgeville and the Halloweens that were observed around Browning.  I think you have an overall picture of the townships and that boys are boys.  However, I do not want anyone to get the idea life is all laughter.  In 74 years I have seen  heartaches, disappointments and tragedies.  I will mention, it was the Hester fire, when six people lost their lives.  It happened in early morning before people were up.  An early morning freight train went through Browning and the firemen on board saw the  fire and gave a distress signal by blowing the train whistle continuously.  When Mr. and Mrs. Hester woke, they had to wrap bedclothes around themselves and go through the flames to escape.  The  first to see them said they were lying on the ground trying to put out the fire on one another.  They had  a boy who was almost 13 or 14 years old, an old playmate of mine.  He jumped out a window apparently unharmed, but when he saw his sister and little children were missing he ran back to try and rescue them.  His sister was staying with her parents expecting a baby.  He husband was working away from home.  This cast a gloom over the whole area that was hard for anyone to erase from their minds.

  I want to say this for the people when trouble or tragedy strikes, they are there to help in any way they can. I heard a Browning lady say when she was in the hospital, even those you thought were your enemies, are nice and thoughtful when you are sick.

  I thought about writing a chapter about neighbors I had direct contact with in the Ridgeville community during the 71 years I lived  there.  I  decided against it, I was afraid my motive and purpose might be misunderstood by their loved ones, especially if the eulogies of some exceeded that of others.

  I cherish the memories of them all and I find there are very few people we can't like if we really try to get to know them.

Bob Reno



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