Memories of ‘The Little Town of Florence’

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Editor’s Note: The following article about memories of the town of Florence was written by Irene Smalley and Shirley Gregory, and appeared in the Vevay Newspapers on August 28th, 1997 – The year of the town’s 180th birthday.

As the community prepares for its bicentennial celebration on Saturday, October 14th, Vevay Media Group reaches back to again allow these Florence ladies to share their memories.

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Florence was first called Little York.

Bradbury Robinson was my grandfather. He was born in 1810. He was in the boat building business. He helped build a distillery and hotel in Florence.

My father, Albert Robinson, enlisted in the Civil War at age 17 in Company E. 54th Indiana Infantry. He was born in Florence in 1844 and died May 7th, 1927. He and his wife Lizzie had two children, Irene and Albert; one granddaughter Beverly; one great-grandson Wayne Davis; and two great-great-grandson, Cliff and Kyle.

He bought the old mill property on November 17th, 1881, form John and Nancy Higham. At that time there were three stories and a big cellar. Later one middle story was removed. This old mill was at one time a distillery, flour mill, and used of “prizing” tobacco. The mill was close to the river. When I was growing up my friends and I would go to the top story to watch river traffic. The mill was torn down in 1975.

There was no trucking in early years. Merchandise, etc., was brought by boat and put off at the Florence wharf. My father and brother hauled boxes by horse and wagon to the various stores and businesses. I don’t know for how many years they did this but my brother Albert remembered he was age 4. The boat would make a stop every day.

Florence was a nice sized community but many houses have been taken away by floods. Many weren’t rebuilt. The flooding river would come into houses sometimes three or four times, usually the spring of the year.

There were three churches at one time - St. John Reform, Methodist and Christian (now Church of Christ). The members of the Christian Church used these two churches for their services. They bought the old school house which was on the same plot where the Church of Christ is now. They had church in the schoolhouse until the Christian Church was built in 1908 and dedicated on August 28, 1910. Albert Robinson, St., was the first elder. A Sunday School was organized December 25th, 1881 by L. Bledsoe and A. Robinson.

I remember my father telling me about the times the young people would want him to go to the church for prayer meeting (even though it wasn’t their regular prayer meeting night). He would go with them and open the church for the meeting. I’m sure the youngsters wanted a place to go but I know they received some good from it. My father, I know, received a blessing.

One highlight of the summer was the lawn parties. Some made money for the church for paint, roof, insurance, etc. For many years there was a community lawn party to make money to keep Florence Cemetery mowed. Another highlight of the summer was the two-ring circus with trapeze performers, clowns, many animals, and always a parade.

Another big event was the showboats. We always looked forward to the Cotton Queen. Goldenrod and Billy Bryant’s showboat. Harold and Charley Patterson were performers on the Bryant boat. As soon as we would hear the calliope we would make a trip to the wharf landing to get our tickets for the show that night.

Florence had a band, and one of the rooms at the old Florence School was used for weekly practices. They played at social functions and always at the East Enterprise Fair every year. On Memorial Day the citizens of Florence and other places would gather at the Christian Church and march with the band leading to the Florence Cemetery for Memorial Day services. I remember some of the members of the band. They were: William Brameier, Charles Brameier, Charley Langhorst, Eddie Langhorst, Henry Langhorst, Matt Hardin, Nin Hardin, Al English, Everett English, Edgar Siebethal, Ernest Siebenthal and A.L. Duplan.

Florence had a good baseball team. They would have a game every Sunday at Florence or nearby towns. Always a crowd followed the teams.

During the summer months on Saturday and Sunday Annie and Hack Marshall opened a confectionery store. They would have homemade ice cream, milk shakes, etc. This was a special treat for children and grownups alike. Ice cream cones were 5 cents, big dish of ice cream was 10 cents, and Coke was 5 cents.

Dr. Langsdale had a drug store for many years. At one time there were six general stores: A.L. Duplan, formerly Schrumph and Told, William Brameier, formerly W.F. Krutz, Augustus Bladen, Peak and Thompson, Stanley and Jasper Brown – many other store operators but these were the sic at one particular time.

Saturday night was a big night in Florence. People who lived ion the country would make their weekly trip and bring their eggs and do their weekly grocery shopping. They would visit with one another all evening. Most everything came in barrels such as flour, sugar, tea, coffee and other commodities such as barrels of delicious New Orleans molasses.

In the 20’s Aaron Scott brought country children to Florence School in a sort of covered wagon (not the old west type) pulled by two beautiful horses. The children would keep warm by a kerosene heater placed in the center of the sago.

There have been several doctors. Among them were Dr. Ross, Dr. Told, and a Dr. Graves. Charles Burke was the shoe cobbler. After his death his brother Jack operated the shop. Jack Burke was a Spanish-American War veteran. Richard Carver had a blacksmith Shop. Later he installed gas pumps out front.

There were three cream stations at one time – Kibbe Bliss, Mrs. Turner and Nannie Moore. Lulu Reeder and Leona Kelly operated cream stations at other times.

Barber shops were owned by Fred Story, Louis Stewart and Phillip Courtney.

Omer Scott and Arthur Dunn had garages, Arthur Dunn having one for the longest time – 35 years.

Florence has been fortunate to hold on to their post office. The postmasters I remember: William Brameier, Charlie Hardin, Peak and Thompson, and Catherine Sheldon.

Fred Moore had square dances every Saturday night.

Florence Deposit bank was in the first floor of the Masonic Building. W. F. Krutz was president. Percy Dugan and Virginia Carver worked in the bank. There was an attempted robbery in 1933. the combination of the vault was wrecked by a charge of nitroglycerine but no money was taken. The bank was liquidated in the mid 30’s.

Anna Carver had a millinery shop. Later Fanny Scott had a millinery and variety store. Mrs. Bryon Hardin had a malt shop later in the same building. There was a cooper shop that made barrels for the distillery. Marshall’s had a livery stable.

Several lodges have come and gone – only the Masonic Lodge remains. There was the Eastern Star, 100F Odd Fellows, Rebekah, Juniors, Grange and Daughters of America.

Ira Patterson was broommaker. David Wharton had the telephone exchange. I worked there when I was a teenager. There were 30 lines on the switchboard, usually 10 to 12 on one line.

Billy Brameier had the coal yard. It was on the point across from the Turtle Creek boat harbor. Children would go see the coal car going up the track from the boats dumping the coal in the coal yard. The children loved it but the mothers weren’t thrilled.

Mr. Omer Scott made two trips daily to Warsaw, Kentucky, taking outgoing mail and picking up mail coming to Florence. He used no motor boat, just a skiff and oars in all kinds of weather.

Helen and Everett Scudder had a meat market at one time. Stanley Brown and Jack McAllister each had a pool room There were several saloons in Florence many years ago.

A very nice eating place called “The Pines” was owned by Hattie Land and Faye and Roy Shelton. It was formerly the home of Thomas Land, I’m assuming it was called “The Pines” because of so many pine trees in the big yard. Delicious chicken dinners were served country style. People came from far and near to enjoy those delicious meals. Thomas Land was a wharf boat master and produce dealer in Florence. He and his father George had a mill on Log Lick Creek and at Florence.

Arthur Dunn, Frank Bittle and George Bromwell and a trucking service. They would haul produce and livestock to Cincinnati and brig back groceries for the merchants. Arhur Dunn also sold appliances – stoves, refrigerators and later TV’s. Frank Biddle sold fertilizer, feeds, lime, cement, plaster, fencing, etc.

Charlie Patterson had a drive-in movie. He would put a screen up in the school yard. Each week night he went to different towns.

Later Beverly Jackson had a beauty shop (which we all mis).

Sharon Lauderbaugh had one for a while.

– That’s what we remember about the little town of Florence!