By Bill Ward
---- — Back in the 1880’s or 90’s a group of individuals decided they wanted to put up a modern, large furniture plant in Rushville. They purchased a lot of land in town around 7th and Oliver for their project. They wanted, and in reality, did make this plant a show case for the industry. It was three story all brick with heavy wooden beams and floors and most modern equipment available. They called their puppy Innis and Pierce Furniture Company.
It was to be something that the city and county would be proud of and would bring a lot of jobs to town. I think they were the impetus behind International Furniture, Park Furniture and Rushville Furniture companies of later years. I believe International came to town in the 30’s and Park and Rushville were here already. Today, none of them are in town any more.
The Innis and Pierce plant was one of beauty and expanse. They had three ponds with fountains in a park like setting in front of the plant itself. They had a brick and wrought iron fence along 7th street and a rail spur in front and back of their beautiful plant. The offices were situated on the east end of the building with two cement coal bins on the west end. They used coal to fuel and power their plant and used a lot of it.
They had a huge drop crane on steel rails that went from the furnace room over the coal bins. It would pick up a clam full of coal take it in the furnace room and dump it in the furnace. They had train cars of coal delivered when needed. The furnace also supplied the steam to power many of the machines they used. It was, I understand, a lot like the old Metzger Lumber Company and the steam would power heavy long rods from one end of the plant to the other. They would then have leather belts run from this column down to the machine and off they would go.
If they wanted to use a machine they would put the belt over the pulley on the drive train and then the machine and they had power. It was new, modern, and wonderful to the eyes of the workers. It was easier than the old way and made for a good paying job and security. And not only the owners, but the workers, were proud of their plant. People would come to town to just look at the gardens and ponds in front of the plant. The many people in town also felt certain pride about the place as well. In the beginning, it was a very profitable and well managed business.
As the business grew and the owners got more money, they plowed a lot back into the business and did well for some time. During the good days, one of the owners went to Florida for a vacation one time. While there, they became very enamored with alligators. In fact, they actually brought one back to Rushville. It was, of course and necessity, small but still an alligator. When he got the darn thing back to Rushville, he had a problem as to what to do with it. He kept it in his home for a time, but it grew as alligators tend to do. So he decided to put it in one of the ponds in front of his plant. He had a steam line run from the furnace room to a small wooden structure built over one part of one pond. That way the alligator could live out his life in comfort and not be subject to the cold and snow of an Indiana winter.
Needless to say having an alligator around did tend to get peoples’ attention. Over time that alligator grew and grew some more. Eventually families in the vicinity of the plant became rather disturbed about having a rather large alligator living quite close to them and their families. The alligator owner also decided that a 12, to I have even heard 14 foot long, alligator was more of a problem than he really wanted. Besides there were many of his workers who became extremely disturbed about sharing their parking space with an alligator. Then the problem is what to do with the alligator? I understand that he found there were few places to send alligators of the size he had, so he ended up scouring the area and finally got the Cincinnati Zoo to come up and take his pet to their facility, much to the relief of his neighbors and workers.