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Life in Bluffton in 1880s

Oil lamps were street lights; hogs roamed at large on Main Street; in rainy weather, the road was axle deep

By Fred Steiner

Back in the days before electric lights, running water, concrete sidewalks, pavements and other modern improvements, Bluffton presented an appearance much different than it does today. 

In rainy weather, the road was axle deep on Main Street and transportation was as much of a problem as in the country.

Places of business had board walks built in front of the stories, and these for  some reason or other had an overshoot from the roof over the pavement. 

Most of the buildings were one story affairs and many of them had “false fronts” above the roofs to lend the appearance of an upper story. On these false fronts were usually the names of the proprietors of the store.

It was not until the late 1880s that the town got oil lamps on the Main Streets. A lamp lighter was hired by the town council for the purpose of lighting the lamps at dusk, and this individual carrying a ladder about on the round of his duties was much a part of the scene as in the England of “Pomander Walk” fame.


Swine rooting in the mire
One of the greatest problems of the council in those days was to take effective measures against the swine rooting around in the mire of Main Street. This became so much of a nuisance that at least in the early 1870s an ordinance was passed making it unlawful for the owners to leave their swine at large.

A fine was placed and many were arrested whose “hawgs” were “caught out.”  In event the fine should be refused, the town was supposed to confiscate the offending creatures and in due time sell them in open market.

A line of hitching posts in front of the business section located farther towards the Riley Creek than at present was the setting Bluffton as well as in numerous other towns of the times, but it is still bragged about among the older generation that the quality of “horse flesh” that was found along these hitching posts in Bluffton was of a superior quality due to the pride and interest of the surrounding rural dwellers in their horses.

All these old institutions have passed (for the hitching post was an institution in those days), and modern civilization has brought forth the automobile, and other mechanical inventions supposed to lighten living in this “vale of tears.” 

The growth of the town, due to the railroads and the expansion of the countryside, and the mechanical inventions dove-tailed between 1895 and 1900, and in these years Bluffton changed more than in any five years in its history.

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