Source: Logansport Pharos Reporter, October 12, 1914


Chester Kilborn, the popular cigar maker, who has worked for Wagner and Johnston making cigars, has gone into business for himself at North Manchester, Ind. He purchased the business of Edward P. Hartman, who manufactured cigars in that city for twenty years. Kilborn's leading cigar is called Hand Made. He has a host of friends here who wish him success in his new undertaking.

 Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 2006

North Manchester Cigar Factory Building

(Based on a presentation by John Knarr at the Historical Society member meeting March 13, 2006).

In 1983 John Knarr purchased the property at 108 E Main Street in order to set up a computer business in North Manchester. Included on the 20 foot strip of land was the old Cigar Factory structure. On the side of this building are faded letters saying "Home of the Blackmore Cigar". This building was solidly built in 1909 by John and Nancy Ridgley. It is a four-story structure with the bottom level an open area used for storage and the whole building may have been used for some period of time for the cigar business. The building contractor was Marion V. Grimm who lived in North Manchester and was known for managing the construction of school houses and other prominent buildings around the state.

An interview with Russell Michael in 1975 gave the information that a "blind man" had built the Cigar Factory. Helms 1884 history of Wabash County states that John Ridgley was blind, having lost his eyesight near the end of the Civil War. Deed research for the 108 E Main St. property shows that Nancy Ridgley purchased it in 1887 and John's blindness may explain why she purchased the property. It was unusual for a woman to make such a purchase in this time period. But Nancy Ridgley was a downtown business woman, too, and ran a millinery shop.

John Ridgley served in the Civil War, beginning as one of the first volunteers. He joined the Ohio 13th regiment soon after Lincoln's proclamation. He later served in an Indiana regiment for three year. The Civil War rosters show that twins, Jonathan and John Ridgley entered the service at 19 years of age.

Research done by John Knarr in the writings of William Billings and Harry Leffel yield a bit more information. Billings was in error when he indicated that the Blackmore Cigar was manufactured sometime about 1915-16. The Blackmore cigar operation actually commenced in late 1920 and lasted until 1922. In a front-page article in the July 29, 1915 newspaper there is a description of the products made in North Manchester to be displayed in the showcase windows on Main Street. Included in the items displayed in the Burdge building windows were tobacco leaves and two brands of cigars: Little Duke 5 cent cigars and Chester W. Kilborn handmade cigars. Just a few days before the Historical Society meeting John Knarr had discovered a Kilborn cigar box which he borrowed from the owner to display at the meeting. The label was embossed, the factory number "239" and the revenue stamp were clear. The box itself was manufactured in Dayton, Ohio. Subsequent research shows that a Blackmore cigar box currently in the possession of Knarr has a different factory number than that of the Kilborn manufactory.

Newspaper research showed that Little Duke and Chester W. Kilborn cigars were advertised twice weekly in each issue of the paper from July 29, 1915 until May l, 1916. They were not advertised in the local competing paper perhaps because they were controversial. On June 12, 1916 Billings published an editorial stating that in the interest of community values, he would no longer advertise tobacco products. In April and June of 1916, the newspaper published advertisements that rooms were available in the Ridgley building.

Research related to Chester W. Kilborn found him in Grant County (Marion) under the name Kilburn in the 1910 census record. He is shown as a cigar factory owner by occupation. After World War I, in 1920 he was listed in Marion business directories.

Billings mentions other cigar-making businesses in our town in this time period, especially three small operations on Walnut Street; Hartman, Ulrey and Rhodes all making cigars.

Today the tall Cigar Factory overlooks the town, staring with windowless openings at its surroundings. It was built solidly, and it has weathered the years but no one finds a useful purpose for it in its old age.