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Historical Bluffton

December 7, 1941 recollections by Charles Hilty

The following article is provided by, a project of Bluffton Icon founder and former editor Fred Steiner.

By Charles Hilty

December 7, 2011 - Seventy years ago this afternoon my life changed.......just as it changed dramatically for every American.

Every Pearl Harbor Day I recall where I was and how I heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. I can remember places and faces and even the things that were said.

And as I get older, I learn new things about the questions that this 7-year-old boy was asking his parents in the kitchen of that little white wooden cottage on Spring Street, one block behind the old Victorian grade school where I was getting my education. My education in the life of the larger world began that afternoon when our family first heard the news about the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

We'd had a Sunday lunch after church there at the little home of my recently-married cousin, Margie Neeper, and her young husband, Vyrl.

What was the mystery animal of 1956?

In late November 1956 – actually this week 66 years ago, the major topic of residents of  the LaFayette and Bluffton area was of a mysterious animal that “cried like a baby and screamed like a woman.”

A front page story in the Bluffton New described the circumstances surrounding this mystery. 

Before you read about the 1956 mystery animal remember to watch Bluffton Forever next week for a story from 1958 about another mystery animal that appeared in the Bluffton rural community. 

The story from the Nov. 29, 1956, Bluffton News follows: 

What’s the story about the curve on Bentley Road north of Bluffton?

By Fred Steiner

Why is there a “curve” on Bentley Road just north of Bluffton where the road crosses Riley Creek?

There’s also a curve on Tom Fett Road and on Phillips Road at about the same location.

On Phillips Road it's a serious twist, instead of being just a curve in the road. That’s because the Tom Fett and Bentley “jogs” have been modernized. Phillips remains the same at it was when it was originally laid out.

11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

By Fred Steiner

The following article posted on Bluffton Forever was written by the late Rolland Stratton. It is also a chapter in the book “A Good Place To Miss: Bluffton Stories."

I was a 7-year-old boy in November of 1918. We lived at 118 East Elm Street, where I was born. On November 11, I remember coming out of the house and every bell in town was ringing and the fire whistle at the light plant was blowing. 

People came out on the street and learned that the war had ended. A neighbor, Mrs. Frank Herrmann, came running out and wanted to know what was going on. She cried when we told her that the war was over. 

I can still see her wiping her tears with her apron. She had several sons in the army, and her son, Sylvan, returned home badly wounded. 

Several businessmen and some other residents formed an im- promptu parade. My guess is that there were over 100 adults and perhaps 20 or so children involved. Many of the men, probably a dozen, shot guns during the parade. 
(End of p. 1; continues below)

Demolished mill's history is well documented

Two earlier structures burned; safe blowers ignited a 1901 fire

By Fred Steiner

A piece of Bluffton history disappeared this week with the demolition of the former Bluffton Farmers’ Grain mill.

The mill was among one of the longest continually operated businesses here. Joseph Deford, Shannon founder, operated a lime kiln and a grist mill in the 1830s. At the same time the Siddall family started a saw mill.

Both those businesses were operated thanks to the flowing water power of Riley Creek.

Here’s a history of the Bluffton Farmers Grain mill, roughly connected to that 1830s Deford enterprise. This history’s focus covers the business from 1886 until a 1934 fire.

Grist mill
The Bluffton grist mill, one of the successors of Deford’s grist mill, was purchased by Siddall and Son, and later purchased by the Steiner Brothers in 1870.

When Beavers battled with cattle

By Fred Steiner

Many viewers are familiar with the large open area on the Bluffton University campus below the library. It’s where disc golf games take place today.

Some viewers may not be aware that the field was originally the official Bluffton Beavers’ baseball diamond. 

We’ve discovered a story from the March 30, 1950, Bluffton News, written by Harriett Burkhart. Today she is Harriet Moyer, resident of Maple Crest.