Source: The Manchester Republican, February 12, 1874
A Pencil Sketch of the town--The past in contrast with the present--Review of our prominent Business Interests.
Forty years ago, the spirit of enterprise and speculation was as active as now, but the results were not quite so rapid, or abundant, owing in the main, to the lack of ready modes of intercommunication between distant points. Men were very much the same then as now, and undoubtedly, the Pioneer was, A.D. 1835 or '36, animated by nearly the same motives as prompts the speculator in towns of the present day; that is the ends to accomplish, is or were the same.
ORIGIN OF THE TOWN
Forty years ago what is not the beautiful and enterprising village of North Manchester, was an unimproved waste, inhabited only by the wild beasts of the forest, and banks of wandering Red Men. Lordly trees occupied the sites of residences of today, and there was nothing here "per-se" to create or sustain a town, and thus it was in the winter of 1835 and 1836 when Peter Ogan and Jacob Neff found themselves standing upon the banks of Eel River, and while calmly surveying the beauties of natures wild, conceived the idea of laying out a village. Prompted, partly, perhaps by the excellent water power afforded by the river, and furnishing unsurpassed facilities for manufacturing enterprise, and partly by the motive and love of speculation, of which one of the parties at least was richly endowed. Notwithstanding, whatever might have been the motive, true it is, that the project was immediately consummated. And in the month of January 1836, the then future village was surveyed and platted. Herein lies the primal origin of North Manchester; in law a town had been created, in fact, there was naught but the giant monsters of the forest, raising aloft their crests, like the grim sentinels of some mystic realm.
And now, that the town was laid out it became necessary to improve it; and, accordingly Mr. Ogan erected a house and moved his family here. He was soon followed by others, prominent among whom were the following: William Willis, Eby Harter, Richard Helvey who were the first white settlers of Eel River valley of this vicinity. Among those who came here a year or two later were John Shallenberger, Mark Stratton, Michael Knoop, Isaac Ulery, Jacob Cripe, Jacob Metzger, David Ulery, John Ogan, and Henry Strickler. These include all or nearly all of the parties that located here or in the vicinity of the town during the first two or three years after its location. A store was soon started by Asa Beauchamp, and to whom belongs the honor of inaugurating mercantile pursuits in the place. He was soon followed by other parties, by the name of Frame & Thorne, --here was the first competition in trade in North Manchester, and from these two insignificant establishments, have sprung the 40 odd business houses of today. Verily their progeny has been prolific. Peter Ogan kept the first Hotel--it was not one of the modern concerns like those of the present day, where the guest sits down to a dozen courses; but a humble structure, in which the fare was of primitive character, where corn pones and venison formed the staple dish.
The growth of the town was very slow, being situated entirely off all the principal thoroughfares of the country, it lacked much of that enthusiastic feeling of which many of the new towns of that early day were imbued. Many annoyances and inconveniences were to be submitted too. The mails for instance put in an appearance quite infrequently, and were carried on horse back from town to town. The arrival of the postman in those early times was hailed as a gala-day with the inhabitants. There were no milling privileges, and in fact, there were few comforts of any kind to be obtained. But notwithstanding all these drawbacks, the place moved slowly, but surely onward. Churches were organized, the Methodist being first, and these "avant couriers" of "the faith" were followed by others. Merchants were attracted, mechanics, and all the various classes composing the integrals of towns, and North Manchester became headquarters for trade for a considerable distance round. At that time Indians were quite numerous and trade with them constituted no small item in the commercial interests of the town. As the country became more and more developed, mills were erected along the river, and in 1849 a foundry started, which still exists and is one of the most important features of the business interests of the place at the present time. The town however made slow progress until the completion of the railroads, since which time the place has not only assumed a very rapid growth but has improved materially in the way of new and substantial buildings. Better than all however was the fact that North Manchester and the surrounding country contained within themselves sustaining force. Our people were of a hardy and industrious race who had their competencies to acquire and whose daily labor was a labor of love. Every tree that was felled was a step towards prosperity--Every acre in cultivation was a garden of success, and so these noble men and women toiled on creating for the generation of today an inheritance time shall not dim. This then, in rude outline, has been the history of North Manchester. We have not aimed, nor have we time or space to give even fragments of "minutia," we must ignore anecdote and incident those particulars which go to make up the work and woof of history. Nor are the columns of a newspaper the suitable place for their preservation. Our sphere of action as Journalists is vastly different from that of the historian.
NORTH MANCHESTER OF TODAY
But what is North Manchester of today? are we asked; we answer a beautiful and enterprising village of about fifteen hundred inhabitants, a plain people whose appearance has nothing of the speculative or ephemeral, a substantial well built town. Two railroads destined to become, when completed important thoroughfares, pass through the place furnishing an outlet to the outer world, allying our interests to those of our larger and more important cities and towns throughout the State. Situated as it is in the heart of one of the finest agricultural districts in the State, and upon the banks of a stream offering ample facilities for manufacturing enterprises, Manchester can but look forward to a future teeming with wealth and prosperity. The place is regularly laid out the streets crossing each other at right angles--they are of fair width, and with a little improvement in the way of gravel and sidewalks would present a very pleasant appearance. Main street in particular, is very broad, and is susceptible of being made an elegant thoroughfare. Within the past three years the population has doubled, and many fine business houses have superceded the more ancient wooden structure. Our citizens are fully imbued with progressive ideas and the spirit of improvement is manifest upon every hand. A stroll throughout the town discloses the fact that there are very few reminders of the olden time in the way of dilapidated buildings; many of the residences are really elegant, and nearly all are attractive. The streets, stores, churches, and dwellings are all neat, and present an appearance that is quite metropolitan.
The humble Methodist church of more than a third of a century ago must have planted good seed, for as its fruits, we see today three church structures and all of a superior character. We can only name them however: Methodist, United Brethren, and Lutheran. The Methodist church is a new brick structure not yet completed, but which is a beautiful and substantial building, an ornament to the town and a credit to her citizens. The modest district school of long ago, has grown with the passing years, and its score of scholars with their floorless cabin for a school-room has increased to hundreds, and all that is lacking to make our school one of first order, is a building of more modern pretensions--In brief we present a town attractive in itself, and from its surroundings a place equal to any town in the state for business advantages. We have little to remind us of the past, the buildings of that early day are gradually yielding to the gnawing tooth of time. Of the first or original settlers only a few are left, among whom are John Shallenberger, and to whom we are chiefly indebted for items from which the greater portion of this sketch is framed, and to whom we return thanks. Change is written upon everything. Soon nothing but the memory of those early settlers will be left to remind us that they ever existed. But they will have with themselves the consciousness that they have not lived in vain, their efforts and their actions with the efforts of the present generation have made Manchester what it is. Nor have they any reason to feel ashamed at the achievements of a lifetime of labor as it stands today a bright jewel in the diadem of the State.