Copyright©1998 Pat O'Dell
The following is an article written by Mrs. Celesta Smith
and published in The Gravity Independent in the issues of
May 17, 24, and 31, 1934.
SOME EARLY HISTORY OF GRAVITY
In the following article I have written a few facts
that I have remembered in regard to Gravity's "Early
History" together with other information that I have
received. Hoping that it will be of interest to the
readers of the Gravity Independent, I have given it in
The town of Gravity is situated about eight miles
northwest of Bedford. It has grown rapidly both in
population and in business ways. Her business men have
by their sound business methods increased their business
and enlarged their trade. The town was platted in 1881.
The year of the K. & K. R.R. was built through the
The land upon which the town stands was purchased of
a Mr. Eichelberger. S.F. Taylor and Mr. Perkins surveyed
the lots Taylor Bros. sold them. The location for the
new town was first talked of being placed where Ladoga
now stands but it was finally decided to place it
nearer the center of the township so the present
location was decided on.
The new town was named after the Old Gravity Post
Office situated 1 1/2 miles west. It being an old
landmark, having stood there for many years. It was
at this place that Rev. A.E. McKay met with an accident
that caused him to lose his arm. This misfortune
resulted from his arm being caught in the belt of a
threshing machine while at work there.
The town was incorporated in 1883 and T.J. Davis
was the first mayor. Mr. Phalen was the first town
clerk, and also edited the first paper, called the
Gravity Express. Frank Duncan was the first city
marshall. The members of the first city council were:
Frank Johnson, Sam Robinson, William Mellinger and
Howe Penn. The first Postmaster was Frank McColm.
There were no trees in Gravity when the first 4th
of July Celebration was held so a temporary shed was
built up of poles. The top being covered with leafy
branches of trees, which furnished shade for the
occasion. The program included everything necessary
to make the day an enjoyable one. In those days the
"Fourth of July" was eagerly looked forward to. Many
come bringing their dinners and the day was enjoyed
McColm & Davis put in the first stock of drugs.
The store was built on the site where Horace Beemer's
garage now stands. Dr. and Mrs. McColm lived in the
upper front rooms over this store while T.J. Davis
and family lived in the upper rooms at the back part
of the store. This being their first residence in
The land on which the town of Gravity stands was
originally a cornfield and the stocks had to be cut
and the snow scraped off before the foundation for
the drug store could be laid. Mrs. Charles Martin
(formerly Mrs. Frank (Ida) Taylor nee Ida Davis)
says, that when they knew that the R.R. had been
completed up to within a short distance from the
town, and the builders would soon come in view,
that they eagerly watched for the first sight of
them. I will mention that a Mr. Sullivan was fireman
on the R.R. and was later succeeded by Manley Perdew.
Samuel Sampson was the engineer.
Miles Morris was the first banker, he conducted
business for a number of years and upon retiring he
sold to the Bedford Bank. W.E. Crane was President
of the Gravity Bank, with Charles Bailey cashier.
There was also a Farmers and Merchants Savings Bank
of which L.B. Payne was the President and Claude
Thomas was cashier.
Stouder & Sons general merchandise store was
situated a little north of where the W.F. Johnson
store now stands. They carried a large stock of goods.
The building material was hauled from Bedford and
the family lived in the back part of the store.
Taylor Bros. had a large store of general merchandise.
At Frnk Taylors death S.F. Taylor continued the
business for a long time. The store was then
purchased by J.W. Chitty. Jo Faith had a general
merchandise store on the east side of main street
and continued in business for a number of years. His
residence was the property now owned by Mr. J.P.
Taylor. William Mellinger also kept a store of
general merchandise. His family lived in the back
part of the store. This property was located on
the site where Dr. L.T. Reed now has his residence.
Joel Baldwin's grocery store was south of Horace
Beemer's garage. J.H. Brock purchased Taylor Bros.
grocery store after they started their general
merchandise store. The store was where the Telephone
office is now located. The first child born in
Gravity was his son, Otis Taylor Brock was the name,
Taylor being given in honor of the Taylor Bros. There
were other grocery stores later on. Taylor Bros.
general merchandise store was located somewhere near
where Chamberlins Jewelry store stands or where the
Drug store is located and did a thriving buiness.
Fluke Bros. Hardware store was located about where
Clark and Coy now have their barber shop. Robinson
and Tomplinson's Shoe shop was where F.O. Akin Lumber
Co. now stands. J.H. Penn Drug Store was about where
the Manahan store is now located.
Among the pioneers of the town were: Dr. J.T.
McColm, T.J. Davis, J.B. Stouder, Joseph Faith,
Frank and S.F. Taylor, G.L. Brookman and others,
who helped with its advancement. About 1908 L.B.
Payne was mayor, Elmer Brown was clerk, Henry Nott
was marshall, and J.P. Jones was street commissioner.
At that time members of the council were: L.T. Reed,
J.F. Hanna, S.B. Smith, L.G. Blakslee, J.G. Savage
and E.E. Ledgerwood.
Another merchant was R.W. Coan, who came here in
1900. His store was located where Johnson's store is
now. Elmer Chamberlin came to Gravity and engaged in
the Jewelry business in the year 1908. E. Burrows also
one of the early pioneers was engaged in the Harness
James Manahan was at one time postmaster. Scott
Johnson and W.P. Pierson each served in that capacity
for a numer of years, also Sam Robinson was postmaster.
The first doctors were J.T. McColm, J.L. Holland,
Dr Bucholz, Kinney, Anderson, L.T. Reed and O.V. Long.
Dr. V.L. Dunlavy was the Gravity dentist almost from
the time the town was founded. Dr. T.J. Davis was the
Veterinarian. He was here when the town was first
platted and always had all the work he cared to do.
The Wolford Hotel was situated where Ilo Wilson's
Playhouse now stands. Ebenezer Fleming owned a hotel
on or near where Mrs. Vera Eggleston's residence is
located. Later on there were the Veng and Jones Hotels
and others. M.B. Parks kept a boarding house where
Ilo Wilson's residence now stands.
The Gravity cemetery was laid out in 1892. The
first one buried there was Mrs. Carry, the second
was Frank Taylor. The fist undertaker was Mr. Seavey,
followed by L.L. McGregor. Mr. McGregor was proprietor
of a furniture store. He carried a fine stock of
goods and enjoyed a good trade. There was an under-
taking department in connection and he owned a fine
The first Millinery shops were kept by Miss Alice
Peavey, Miss Jennie Brndy (sic), Miss Robinson and
others. The first dressmakers were Mrs. Mary Davis,
Mrs. Julia Sawvel, Mrs. Mary Ellen Dunlavy, Mrs.
Ella Brookman, and others. The first station agent
was Mr. Porter. The first blacksmith shop was run
by Uncle Hane Howard.
Gravity at one time supported more churches than
any other town in the county. The Methodist church
and the Christian church were both being built at
the same time. The Christian church was finished
first and was dedicated in August of the year 1885.
The dedicatory sermon being preached by Rev. J.F.
Lucas. The M.E. Church was finished in December of
the same year and the dedicatory sermon was preached
by Rev. Campbell. The Christian Church was organized
at Cottage Grove Schoolhouse by George Brookman, John
Stouder and others. Rev. W.L. Dunlavy was the first
pastor there and also the first pastor after the
removal to Gravity in 1883. Elder Dunlavy also
served nine years as pastor of the Christian Church
in Gravity. The Presbyterian people were not very
strong numerically, there being about fifty members
but they had one of the neatest church buildings
in the county. (The present Christian Church uses
their building because theirs burned in 1911 and
they moved there in 1914.)
The Baptists had a good church building and an
active working church. It was situated about where
the Albert Parks Gas Station now stands. The Free
Methodists also had an organization of zealous
workers, who carried on all the regular church work.
The Adventists organized a church in 1893 with 40
members. Among the organizers were H. Swander, A.F.
Hopkins and William West.
The first prayer meeting held in Gravity was in
the back part of Souders store. The first Sunday
School was held in the building north of the
Printing Office. George Brookman was the Supt. It
was a Union Sunday School. The M.E. Church services
were held in the temporary school building until
their church was finished.
The first school was taught in the building that
stood on the vacant lot between the Town Hall and
where Raymond Hickabout's garage now stands. The
first teachers were J.C. Aid, John Lemon, Miss Lydia
Stouder, and William Mellinger. Some of the teachers
who taught later were: Misses Lizzie Bennie, Martha
Clark, Luna Johnston, Lizzie Garner, Dora Weaver
and T.F. Armstrong.
Elsie Hopkins, Nettie Lavery, Stacy Steeves,
O.F. Mellinger, Wen Goff, Ed Whitmap, Lena Nellinger,
Artie Ving, Ida Greeley, Daisy Lewellin, and Chas.
Palmer were pupils, who graduated from the tenth
grade course in 1904. Francis Mellinger winning the
scholorship from the first graduating class. W.W.
Palmer was Superintendent and Dr. W.H. Cash, principal.
A school district was organized in 1883 and a
two room building was erected at a cost of $2,000
and in 1900 a four room building costing $5,000.
This building was too small to accomodate the
increased number of pupils so the board was again
called upon to furnish more room. At that time from
the County Superintendent, we learn that there were
143 pupils enrolled in school. They had an apparatus
valued at $500 and had 327 volumes in their library.
That year they paid $1,980 to the teachers. The
curriculum of study in the Gravity schools embraced
but ten grades until the 1904 when two more grades
There were three Rural Mail routes out of Gravity.
Route 1, Albert Dugan; Route 2, Henry Johnson; Route
3, A.O. Shank.
Gravity had quite a number of Fraternal Orders.
The Masons were a strong organization having an
Eastern Star lodge in connection. The Odd Fellows
had about 50 with a Lodge of Daughters of Rebecca
in connection. The Knights of Pythias probably came
second among the lodges in point of numbers. There
was an organization of Rathbone Sisters in connection.
The Woodman had a strong active working camp in
Gravity, as they had in nearly every town in the
county. Their uniformed drill team of Foresters
excited the admiration of all observers. They had an
active sister lodge of Royal Neighbors. Then they
organized a Yeoman Lodge which had a good membership
from the time it was established. Last but not least
are the G.A.R. Post of the Ladies Relief Corps.
There were quite a number of the heroes of 1861-65
living in and near Gravity at that time. The old
veterans of the Civil War were always faithful in
attendance at the lodge meetings. That fellowship
meant much more to him than lodge fellowship does to
the man of later generations. He saw his comrades
fast dropping from the ranks and knew that it could
last but a brief time. The Gravity Post held regular
sessions and the members kept up their Post work
with enthusiasm. The ladies of the Relief Corps
lacked none of the vim of the veterans of the G.A.R.
of which their order is a branch.
Some of the pioneer business men are mentioned
in the beginning of the chapter, and in 1908, Sam
Taylor, one of the first business was still in
business and looked to be good for years yet to come.
He conducted one of the three general stores. J.W.
Chitty, Stewart & Hanna, were proprietors of the
other two stores and carried a large and complete
stock of up-to-date goods and the proprietors were
men of business ability. G. Poston & Son carried
a stock of hardware, also a stock of groceries. B.F.
Chandler and his son, F.M. Chandler, were proprietors
of the lumber yard. They carried a complete line of
lumber, hardware, and also paints and oils. They had
also put in a plant for the manufacture of cement
blocks. In fact everything in the building line. The
firm's name was Chandler Lumber Co. which had been
in business since the early 90's. I might further
add that during his first residence in Gravity, F.M.
was first elected to the office of Mayor, when 22
years of age.
Two livery barns found business in Gravity. There
were two barber shops. Savage & Clark were the
proprietors of one and Richard Johnson the other.
The Clarinda Butter and Egg Company had a station
at Gravity, where they bought eggs, poultry and
Elmer Brown was Justice of the Peace for the
township of Washington, and he was also a Notary
Public. He also looked after collections and
insurance. There were two Real Estate firms, Lewis
Seymour and Ledgerwood, constituted one firm, and
Menogher & Stover the other. J.S. Francis had been
Editor of the Gravity Independent for some time and
was keeping the paper up to the high standard
attained by his predecessor, Stafford. Others also
edited the "Gravity Express" at different times
in the period of the town's "Early History." The
names were R.T. Burrell, Townsend, McColm, and Fleury.
There were two restaurants, one conducted by Joseph
Wisecup, the other by Ledgerwood.
Gravity had no resident attorney at that time.
Artz & Dennis had practiced law in the period of the
town's early history but they had both left Gravity
long ago. R.T. Burwell at one time practiced law here,
but he removed to Bedford, and became a partner of
There were two practicing physicians in Gravity,
Dr. L.T. Reed and Dr. O.V. Long. Dr. Long was for
several years a partner of Dr. J.T. McColm. Both had
a good practice. Dr. L.T. Reed is still the town's
successful practicing physician.