Mining not the only game in town, snapshot 1870's

Sandy Vasko

    Of course, when the history of Braidwood and vicinity is talked about, the subject is mining, mining and mining. Yet we know that Braidwood was not a one-trick pony.
    Today we look at the other occupations and businesses that rounded out the community of miners.
    Let's first look at H. W. Blood, manufacturer of soda and mineral water. Blood came to Will County in 1863, farming for two years. He then entered the bottling house of J. D. Page of Joliet, and remained there some 2 years. He then moved to Wilmington where he purchased a half interest in
the manufacturing of mineral water.
    In 1873, he came to Braidwood and started a unique bottling plant. With only a few men and machinery that he invented, he went on to bottle soda pop, mineral water, lager beer, ale, porter, cider and spruce beer.
    His plant was one of the largest buildings in town, being 24x 50-feet and two stories high. He had the capacity to produce 200 cases per day, and he employed three other workers and two two-horse wagons for delivery.
    Among the support businesses for the mines was Irving Barker's foundry. It was established in 1873. When Barker was 2 years old, his family moved to Will County.
    At the age of 17 years old, he learned the blacksmith trade, then after 4 years he entered the foundry business with William McIntosh at Wilmington.
    In 1873, he and his brothers came to Braidwood in December of 1873, and commenced business by erecting a foundry. They specialized in mine supplies, but also made stoves and had a patent on an adjustable lawn mower that would cut grass at any height.
    Most boarding houses and private homes did not have a proper oven in the 1870's, but that's where William Carlisle came in. He owned the bakery. He had learned the trade of baking when he was a young boy in England. In 1862 he emigrated to Canada, then to Braidwood in 1873.
    He had an unfortunate accident in 1877. We read, “A disastrous fire occurred here last Friday night, resulting in the total destruction of 5 stores with their contents, and which, for a time, threatened the whole of Main Street.
    “The origin is unknown, but is believed to have commenced in the bakery of William Carlisle. His losses will reach over $1,500 (about $34,500 today).”
    He was able to rebuild, and was in business for many decades after.
    Not by bread alone could have been the motto of Thomas and William Connors, butchers of Braidwood. They lived a hard life in Ireland. Their father died young. Thomas worked on the railroad, then at Joel Matteson's woolen factory, drove a canal boat and did a little mining. His brother William's early career was about the same.
    Together they managed to purchase land in Reed Township. They raised livestock of all kinds, opening a butcher shop in Braidwood to sell their own meat as well as process the livestock of other farmers.
    They were not ones to let a debt stand, although collecting it could be difficult.
    We find this story from 1879, “On Saturday afternoon, while officer Stewart was attaching some property of Sam Williams', to satisfy a judgment in favor of Connor Bros., Williams made a savage attack. He kicked Stewart and attempted the “Gouge game,” but was finally choked off, and by the combined efforts of four men lodged in the calaboose.”
    Thomas Connor also had his share of personal tragedy. We read on Oct. 20, 1882, “Tommy, a son of Thomas Connors, of this place, died from diphtheria Thursday.”
    And on Nov. 3, “Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Connors lost another child from diphtheria on Tuesday - a fine little boy of about five years. The bereaved are indeed entitled to sympathy.”
    Three years later Thomas was again in court. “Thos. Connors got a verdict for $800 against the Chicago & Alton R. R. this week for damage to his land in over flowage from a ditch along the track. Other suits are to follow.”
    Other business men of Braidwood were John and James Hynds who had a confectionary and stationery store; Robert Huston, general store; Robert James, insurance agent; David Morris, dry goods; Ira Marsh, boots and shoes; and many more.
    These business men were the “support group” that provided the necessary things of life, sometimes on credit, to the hard-working miners of Braidwood.