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FredQuest Genealogy

Bradfield Store

Joseph Bradfield
Historical & Pictorial Barnesville

Bradfield Store 1867 Image      Bradfield Store 1890 Image

History of the Bradfield Store Pamplet Cover ImageThe age or progress of a town is marked, not so much by the number of years which have passed over its head, but by the growth of its industries, the completeness of its equipment to carry on with ease the daily round of necessities.  A town is pronounced “dead” or “alive” according to the moderness of its inhabitants, and the up-to-dateness of its stores.  Is it not something remarkable to be able to claim for one firm, such a mixture of conservatism and progressiveness as is combined in the Bradfield store?  Conservatism, because for ninety-nine years the dry goods business has been carried on in that one spot.  Progressiveness, because step by step they have kept pace with the advance in the larger world of cities, leading the people forward with them, until today these people demand the same service, the same satisfaction as found in places many times the size of Barnesville.

As you know so well, James Barnes laid out the town, then a region almost entirely in forests and reserved one block on Chestnut Street, fronting on Main and Chestnut, for his own family.  What you may not know so well is the fact that in 1809 he caused to be erected on Lot No. 18, i.e., at the North East corner of what is now Main and Chestnut Street, a frame store-room and dwelling under one roof.  James Barnes himself did not live in the town, so he gave the management of this wee beginning into the hands of William Philpot, who lived in the dwelling and thus exercised a constant supervision over the small store.  Thus early in its history did that far-sighted founder of this village recognize its future commercial activity.  William Philpot managed the store until 1812, when James Barnes himself moved to the town bearing his name, and then it came more under his personal supervision.  However, the owner was a man of wide interests; he was bent upon the business prominence of the little village, and the little store, always profitable, was used to this end.  The entire business was carried on in trade, a cash payment being a thing almost unknown, a silver dollar a thing of curiosity.  This state of affairs lasted well into the memory of the people now living.  James Barnes was much interested in the gathering of ginseng, and to encourage it, built a house for clarifying this root.  He sometimes shipped as much as thirty thousand pounds a year, and gave in exchange full value from the stock of merchandise or groceries in the store, which carried everything from a paper of pins and a spool of the thread to a keg of molasses, or an iron plow.  The ginseng crop was gathered in the latter part of August of first of September, and its delivery to the Barnes house marked a gala period to the hard worked pioneer.  The little store, when the trade was finished, became a club, where “Greek met Greek,” exchanged the gossip of months from their particular neighborhood, bought their necessary supplies, and started home to regale wife or daughter with the latest news, then began to anticipate future meetings.  “Hewing a home out of the wilderness” was no easy task; the farmers joys were few, his means of communication with his neighbor were fewer, and therefore such opportunities were more intensely enjoyed.  We can echo with others that cry, “if walls could talk, what wonderful things they could reveal to us, what charming tales they could tell.”

James Barnes’ zeal for the business improvement of Barnesville, overreached itself; he was unfortunate investments and was forced into bankruptcy.  The little store, which had grown with the town and was now a brick building of considerable size, was put upon the market for sale, together with other property.  In 1827 John Bradfield, at the age of fourteen had come from England to the United States, with his father.  He worked on the home farm three miles north of town until 1838, when he first engaged in the raising, buying and shipping of tobacco.  For three years he carried this on, with unvarying success, packing his tobacco in a frame house east of the homestead.  Then equipped with funds to the amount of $1700, and his ambition stimulated by the vision of enlarged opportunities, he conceived the idea of buying out the large firm of James Barnes & Sons, general merchants.  Thus in 1841, he entered into a contract with Mr. Barnes by which the entire stock of the store came into his possession, and Mr. Barnes, his family, and all his employees agreed to deal out the amount of the purchase.  The contract was in fact a due bill of large proportions.  The brick building was bough at Sheriff’s sale.  Immediate possession was given, and John Bradfield was fully launched upon that business career, which was to carry him far, and enable him to leave his mark upon his home town.  Mr. Bradfield had a though business talent, willing to give it an infinite amount of time upon its details.  Other men could make the store their loafing place, could gather round the red-hot stove in winter, or the shaded steps in summer, and discuss and settle the affairs of the nation, but John Bradfield had little time for idling; he was ever busy, waiting on customers, buying goods, taking account of stock, or overseeing some of the numerous details of his business.  As might be expected such attention was rewarded.  His affairs prospered.  In 1843, he married Eliza Anna Shannon, daughter of Thomas Shannon.  They took up their life together in the house which was part of the store building. 

It is not given everyone to prosper all the time, and reverses came to John Bradfield in 1846, that terrible year when the tobacco crop was immense, but worthless, and tobacco dealers all over the country failed by the dozens.  The tobacco business of Mr. Bradfield was closely associated with his general store and his entire business suffered from the depression.  Money was high, and creditors pressed in all directions, when his wife undertook to ride to St. Clairsville to obtain her Uncle Wilson Shannon’s endorsement to her husband’s note.  The house of J. Bradfield, through her fine courage, weathered the financial store in safety, and sailed merrily on its widening path in increasing prominence. 

Through the “ups and downs” of daily life the firm progressed, steadily increasing its trade and obtaining a stronger and stronger hold upon the interests of the people.  To keep pace with this growth of both town and trade, in the fall of 1856, Mr. Bradfield began an addition of twenty feet to the original brick building, and the door which opened on Chestnut street was closed up.  The dwelling part of the building was enlarged one room, and the family still occupied the second floor front of the store room.

About ten years later, in 1866, the old building was again torn up to make way for new improvements; a a second addition of another twenty feet was added, the floor was lowered to the level of street and the front was changed, but the dwelling was left undisturbed.  During theses alterations, which were not finished until the spring of 1867, the firm occupied the room just across Chestnut Street, the H.T. Barnes corner.  The very next year marked another change in the history of the firm.  John Bradfield took his eldest son, Thomas Shannon, into partnership and the firm became J. Bradfield & Son, under this double management the store prospered rapidly.

The town developed, new industries sprang up, the population increased and prosperity grew likewise.  Mr. Bradfield decided on another change in the firm life, and in 1874, took into partnership his third son, John William, the name of the store becoming, J. Br4adfield & Sons.  With the competent help of his two sons, the firm kept step with the town’s development, indeed, it did nore than this, the name “Bradfield & Sons” was always to be found at the head of the list in all the new enterprises, and their liberal subscription did much to aid in the growth of these industries.

During these years a gradual change in the character of the store became manifest, the general store, which marked the infancy of the village, was gradually disappearing, the stock of groceries and hardware was closed out article at a time, until 1884 marked the time when the entire attention of the firm was devoted to dry goods, carpets, clothing and such it has been from that day to this.  At the same time the character of the store was altering, a change was taking place in the business methods; the firm began to establish their business on more of a cash basis.  They permitted a few short time accounts and extended credit to some of their old time customers, many of whom had been dealing with the firm for forty or fifty years.

The firm stood thus for five or six years until 1889 brought many radical changes.  Mr. Bradfield retired, selling out his interest to his sons, Thomas S. Bradfield, and John W. Bradfield, and the present firm of T. & J. Bradfield was established.  The business far exceeded its narrow quarters and the determination was made to combine with the First National Bank and build upon the site of the old house and store a building worthy of the name of Bradfield.  The idea was carried out with the result of one of the finish business blocks to be found in a city of equal size in the state.  Housing, as it does the bank, of which John Bradfield was chief promoter, and the firm of which he was the head for almost fifty years, the building stands a noble monument to his public spirit, wisdom and business generosity.  During the erection of this splendid home the firm of T. & J. Bradfield moved into the room now occupied by T.J. Graham.  In 1890 they moved back to the old site, but into splendid quarters, and have continued there ever since.  Every available foot of space, 13000 square feet, about double the floor space of any other business house in town, and also one of the largest in Belmont County, is used to accommodate the large trade of this store, and everything has been done to make this handsome building as convenient and comfortable for the trade as possible.  The building, finished from top to bottom in quarter-sawed oak, is a delight to the artistic eye, is equipped with steam heat, electric light, water-power elevator, cash carrier system, everything to make the service easy and rapid.

Mr. John Bradfield died in 1893, but he left the invaluable heritage of his business methods and foresight to his sons, along with his name, which is indelibly associated with that corner of Chestnut and Main Streets now occupied by the Bradfield Block.

The Bradfield firm was not only known through their large dry goods business, but also known as the largest buyers of leaf tobacco and wool in Eastern Ohio.  The house started buying leaf tobacco in the year 1838 and have continued to the present times, their purchases frequently running from 600 to 1000 hogshead a year.  Four large tobacco houses were required to take care of the tobacco purchased.  The handling of this tobacco gives employment ot from thirty to fifty people during the winter months.  In the spring the tobacco is packed in hogsheads and shipped to Eastern markets or exported to Europe.  Their wool purchases were also on the extensive scale.  For over forty years they bought a large percent of the wool in this end of the county, buying annually 200,000 to 400,000 pounds.  Thus, dealing in these two principal commodities, brought the firm into close personal relationship with the farmer, and while large transactions were consummated, many strong and last friendships were formed.

Buying largely of the produced of the country naturally brought much trade to the store.  A strong feature in the upbuilding of the store has been the firm’s reputation for handling reliable, honest made goods.  This, coupled with the fact of always having the most efficient corps of salespeople, has assisted very much in the growth of their trade.

In 1900 the firm was further strengthened by taking into it George Shannon Bradfield, the oldest son of the senior partner, Thomas S. Bradfield.

The little village, centered so closely around that frame store has become the flourishing, wide awake up-to-date town, spread to all four corners of Warren Township.  That little wooded building of James Barnes, the nucleus of the growth of the town, has grown like a mighty oak, in the prominent firm of T. & J. Bradfield, still doing business at the old corner, and still the center of the dry goods business for Barnesville and vicinity, leading the people on by example to expect better and better things of local trade.

History of the Bradfield Store, Barnesville Ohio
Centennial Souvenir 1808-1908