The United Airship Company
This went on for a number of years, the bridge was declared off-limits after dark by rational folk. Too many people had actually seen the ghost to deny the truth of it's existence. But, in the course of time, the hauntings stopped. It seems that the young lass, Mary Ann Andrews by name we are told, had matured and become pretty. It no longer suited her purposes to frighten young men away. She hung up her gossamer gown, put away her pumpkin carving tools to become our village's first "retired" ghost, choosing the flesh and blood life of a winsome, eligible maiden instead. The headless ghost of Back Road Bridge was no more, at least not for Mary Ann's natural lifetime. She lived to an old, old age, surviving 'til the first days of the 20th Century. After her passing, in more recent times, although the spirit has not reappeared to the eye, and the willows no longer grace the banks of Second River, on dark nights it is said that hysterical laughter can be heard in the precincts of the bridge. It is thought that it is the spirit of Mary Ann reminiscing over her pranks.
For those who demand historical accuracy, I offer this epilogue. An elder historian, Charles Gilbert Hine, author of "Woodside", active at the beginning of the 20th Century, has told this tale with details similar enough to what we have heard from other historians to allow us to conclude that it is the same story, but with one remarkable difference. In Mr. Hine's version, the young lady is Mary Ann Adams, daughter of old Sam Adams. Mr. Hine tells us that he was acquainted with the lady, she, having died, ancient in days, just six years before the publication of his book about Woodside, had confessed her identity to him as the haunting spirit of the old bridge. Now there's a task for a modern historian-detective with a brave heart; track down the true identity, if you dare, of our Back Road Ghost! Perhaps if you stand there by the old bridge on a dark and foggy night, when the mill stream is gurgling it's secret messages and the hoot owls are about, she may come to you and whisper her true name in your ear, that is, if she doesn't hurl a flaming pumpkin at you!
For those who find our village spirit stories a little incredible, perhaps because you have never personally encountered one of our resident specters, may I respectfully suggest that you visit our neighbors at the "State Scare Factory", down on Main Street. They are more than capable of convincing you that Belleville is indeed the Ghost Capital of the East Coast!
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If the reader will take a moment to recollect the largest shopping mall ever visited, consider the variety of merchandise offered, multiply that by five, then one can begin to understand what might be found in those 800 to 900 pages of the catalog. Every kind of kitchenware, fashions, lamps, oriental carpets, books, victrola records, toys, exotic teas and coffee, even drugs were offered. Not that there were no drug stores in Belleville, there were several, but if the buyer were not in urgent need and could wait for delivery, Montgomery Ward, at a discount, would send anything that existed, hundreds upon hundreds of drugs, herbs and patent medicines, from Aspirin to opium, Epsom salts to morphine and even Carter's Little Liver Pills.
A glance at the array of advertising by Belleville merchants which has survived gives us an idea of what we would expect to find on the streets of Down Town Belleville 100 years ago. Although, since we are only able to present surviving ads, it may be misleading, but it does seem that there are at least as many confectionery / candy stores as there are grocery stores. It is almost tempting to think that our town folks had a sweet tooth! ... perhaps.
A peek into the past
Washington Avenue looking North towards Williams Street.
Even this brief survey of merchants who set up shop along our streets and those other recourses available, shows us that our civic ancestors were in want of nothing to be purchased at retail.
There were many others. One might plan a days shopping while sipping coffee at Mougel's Cafe at 5 Washington Avenue. If a camera was on the shopping list, a stop might be made at the Belleville Pharmacy, the prescription drug store whose ad claimed to be "the only store selling Kodaks and Camera Supplies, Rexall Remedies, Huyler's Candies and was the headquarters for postal card views of Belleville". Mr. W.D. Cornish, Ph. G. was the proprietor. If new clothes were on the agenda, Mr. Testa, the custom tailor at 267 Washington Avenue would be accommodating. His ad implores prospective customers to " Try me for that new suit at reasonable prices". He was also available for cleaning and dyeing. Perhaps the pantry needed restocking, in which case a stop at E.R. Plath at 408 Washington Avenue would be in order. Mr. Plath was a "dealer in superior coffees, teas, rice, spices and extracts. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Prompt delivery. Our wagons deliver daily in Belleville. Our coffee is roasted daily".
The list of merchants goes on; John Reilly, Jr. sold "sanitary milk" from his establishment at 100 Oak St.
Jno. Nevin Klien, reliable Drugs only, at 111 Washington Avenue.
H. Kuntz, meats and provisions, first class market, telephone connection 2539-M Washington Avenue.
Washington Market, Otto Groner, Grocer and Butcher, phone 2418-J, 122 Washington Avenue.
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