THE BLUE RIDGE STORY

Published in the Bethany Republican-Clipper February 21, 2007
Written by Phil Conger
Reprinted with permission of Phil Conger, Owner & Editor, Bethany Republican-Clipper

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Blue Ridge Story

Blue Ridge Once Was A Thriving Community In The Last Century

The Blue Ridge Community, located on Highway 146 north of Gilman City, was a thriving community back in the early part of the last centry with a school, four churches and several businesses including two hotels.

Bob Taggart, who lives on a farm just east of the community, recalls that Blue Ridge was a pretty bustling town when he was growing up.

"There were homes and businesses on both sides of the street," he remembers.

Blue Ridge had two hotels, 32 homes and three grocery stores in those days. Wooden sidewalks fronted all the stores in the business district.

"In the winter the kids would go up there and ice skate on the pond," he recalls.

Alice England of Bethany, who attended the old Blue Ridge School, south of town, said Blue Ridge was founded in 1858. In the early days, it went by the name "Kedron", and then "Scratch Out" before it got its present name from the blue stem grass that grew in abundance there.

Blue Ridge had four churches during the early days, England said. They were the Baptist, Methodist, Catholic and Nazarene Churches. The 1917 plat of Blue Ridge shows the Christian Union Church at the south edge of the original town.

Several of the earliest settlers were Union veterans of the Civil War, according to Taggart.

Some of the most prominent business owners from the late 1890s were Marion Hill, who owned the general store; Joe Bogue and Alfred Thomas, blacksmiths; North Brown, harness shop; John Keown, restaurant; Sammy Bussle, hardware; Bob Frazee, barbershop; Lush Culp, hotel; Frank Towns, general store justice of the peace; Dee Field, hack; Dr Sutton, M.D.; Pete Thomas, general store; Simon Martin, drug store; Lizzie Secrest, millinery shop; and Fowler Caster, carpenter.

The Blue Ridge School opened in 1892, about a quarter mile south of town, on land purchased for $75 from L. L. Sigler.

A school fair was held there during the spring. Among schools taking part in the fair were the Cypress, Lincoln, Sherman Center, Spring Hill, Metcalf and Dell schools.

"When I went to school there were 41 students," recalls Mrs England, who attended Blue Ridge in the early 1940s.

When the school closed in 1946, the district paid tuition to send their children to the Gilman City or Bethany schools. Some of the elementary children were sent to the Lincoln School.

Blue Ridge's decline came after the railroad was rerouted to Gilman City, prompting several residents and businesses to relocate in Gilman City.

The Watts Grocery Store continued to operate a general store in Blue Ridge, but that store closed in the early 1980s. The Blue Ridge Church continues to be a growing institution in the community, drawing members from several area counties. The church has expanded several times in recent years, building a new gymnasium and kitchen under the latest renovation project. The church also plans to add even more space under an upcoming project. All the work has been done by volunteers.

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