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Bevins Tales - BT14 - 1894 Howard and Myrtle Faced New Challenges

Updated on August 30, 2018
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Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

They opened a Bike Shop in Oak Springs

A Bike of the 1890s
A Bike of the 1890s

New Coal Distributor and Bike Shop in Town

New technology was being introduced every year, it seemed, to Howard and Myrtle. They were still able to heat their home and do their cooking with wood, but they noticed more and more of their friends were switching to coal for heat, and even cooking. Coal oil and kerosene were now regularly used for lighting. Folks in Oak Springs were actively considering how to get electricity in the community.

Steve Bricker brought a new business to town as a distributor of coal, coal oil, oil based on petroleum and kerosene. Steve, a widower, along with his 18-year-old son, Gary, also opened a Bike Shop in the south end of the distribution warehouse they built on the northwest corner of Patton Street and 2nd Ave. East. They built their residence on the lot to the north, across the street from the Alfred Weston residence. Both Steve and Gary were avid cyclists and were even experimenting with mounting small internal combustion engines on bikes to create motor bikes. They were also experimenting with ‘motorizing’ carriages, based on their reading of what others were doing around the world. Some folks, Myrtle heard, hoped they stayed in their corner of town with their wild ideas.

Steve soon began advertising in the Oak Springs Enterprise for delivery of products to homes in Oak Springs, especially coal, on a regular basis. Along with the coal, he could deliver other of this products, as well, to the same addresses. He was also arranging to supply some of his products to local stores as a wholesaler, for them to sell as retailers to their customers. He bought in bulk, of course, shipped in by wagon on a regular basis. Weston Transportation Company wagons arrived at his warehouse about every other day, it seemed.

They talked of new things coming but many stuck to the old ways

A mule team working the land on the farm
A mule team working the land on the farm

The Town Council in Oak Springs Considered Electric Power Options

The current Town Council consisted of Jacobi Inman, Ivan Toll, Fred Powell, Darrell Nagle, and Augustus Ward.There had been more turnover in recent years that in earlier years. Each year it seemed they discussed Electric Power options but each year, also, they kicked the decision down the road. There did not yet seem to be a real ground swell of strong support from the community for the Town to take on that added expense. No private party had yet given serious consideration to running power lines into this rural, remote location or building an electric generating plant. Every year it seemed one community or another was wanting to sell Oak Spring used equipment, but always at too high a cost for what they were offering.

Darrell Nagle ran for a new three-year-term on the Town Council in August. This issue was never seriously debated, and he was re-elected with no opposition. The Council took from the election results that they were following the wish of the people by taking no further action, yet. The arrival of Steve Bricker earlier in 1894 had generated related discussion, however, and he was offering to order new equipment that was fueled by the different energy products he offered. Some around town suggested that this might be the spur to ‘get things going.’

In September, Bricker installed a small electric generator he had constructed in a shed outside his warehouse. He said it was powered by a new fuel he called ‘gasoline,’ a petroleum product that he had only recently started to carry. It was very crude, but it worked. Over the next couple of months, he had installed electric lights in the warehouse, in the Bike Shop, and even in their residence. By December, nothing had either caught fire nor blown up. It appeared that a number of townspeople regularly found reasons to walk or ride past these facilities to stare, look in wonder, or just admire what he had wrought.

They talked about the life style in the Oak Creek valley

A rural landscape of corn and clouds
A rural landscape of corn and clouds

Lewis and Caroline Had Another Discussion With Howard and Myrtle

From his vantage point at the State Legislature, Lewis was especially careful to keep his family informed about things he learned about the world outside of Oak Springs and the Oak Creek valley. Russell Nixon did a pretty good job of that in the weekly newspaper, as well, of course, in a general way. Lewis, however, did pick up much more personalized information at the State Capital that didn’t make it into the general news.

One recent national topic of discussion was being called the Panic of 1893. Around the country, international monetary factors along with over speculation had caused many major railroads, then banks, to fail. The stock market was affected, of course. It was very serious as a national issue. The question locally was what would be the affect here. Some commodity prices were reduced and some costs of production were increased. Lewis, however, felt from his discussions with folks usually ‘in the know’ that the affect would fade in a couple of years unless some further issue made things worse. This is what he wanted to share with Howard and Myrtle. They were already all being conservative in all their planning. Now was the time to continue that, even tighten a little more, perhaps.

They then talked about the new equipment and technology that was being introduced, almost by the month it seemed. They agreed it was good to collect information, to keep informed, but to not be the first ones, and not the second or third ones, to jump on these new ‘bandwagons.’ If the products were good, they would be around and available over time, and improve in the process. If they were of the ‘flash in a pan’ variety, they would go away, taking ‘other folks’ money with them. Not ours. They decided to kind of make this a new project for the four of them to talk about. Check things out. Ask questions. Become informed. But do not get caught up in each new fad. Howard and Myrtle thought that was a great idea. They said they were also going to teach this approach to Ora B. He was already at an age where he was ‘wanting’ new things. This would be a good opportunity to learn and teach at the same time. They all knew that ‘tomorrow’ was going to be better. They wanted to be better themselves, in order to be able to enjoy it even more.

In other community news, word was received from the Presbyterian Church authorities that a pastor on a one-year appointment would be coming to Oak Springs in response to their call. He would arrive no later than July 1, 1895.

Note by the author

This set of stories picked up in Oak Springs in 1882 when the Bevins family arrived in Oak Springs including young Howard Bevins, the 14-year-old about to become a High School Freshman. He was in the same class as Myrtle Truesdale. This is their story. After they married, they became a part of the larger community, of course.

The stories of the "American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1875)" collection of historical fiction family saga short stories lay the background for the stories of Oak Springs and the Oak Creek Valley. They

have also been published on "The Homeplace Saga" blog (thehomeplaceseries dot blogspot dot com).

“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      10 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Bill. We watched about the first three seasons... enjoyed it, and especially the characters, a lot!! More inspiration! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know if you watch much television, but there is a wonderful series from Canada called "When Calls the Heart," and it is set in these times, right around the turn of the century. It is a pretty accurate and fascinating depiction of the challenges and excitement of living back then.


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