A little about one of our early factories and two men who ran it

More than likely told you before some of the ways I choose a subject to concentrate an article on, and today, I got really crazy, just called up a January 1871 Crawfordsville Review (the 14th) and perused ads. The Crawfordsville Plow Manufactory ad caught my eye, so decided I’d see if I could discover anything on the two proprietors, Brower & M’Gillis, no first names, of course.

The Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Manufacturing Company met and a committee was appointed to invoice the factory. The property was valued at $5,500. The Council also adopted a resolution “urging every Grange in the county to appoint a committee to solicit subscriptions of stock from its members.” A Lafayette and Richmond manufacturer spoke at this meeting highly of Crawfordsville as the perfect place for such an establishment and the committee noted that “a manufactory in our midst would add very greatly to the prosperity of our growing city!” Brower had already established himself as an excellent plow manufacturer in quite a short period of time – he knew his stuff!

Along this line, the Crawfordsville Agricultural Works appointed Directors and George S. Brower and W.A. McGillis were among the nine chosen. A committee was also appointed to tally the value of Brower & McGillis.

In 1872, Brower & McGillis had an article in the March 7th Weekly Journal stating, “Why buy worthless imitations when the genuine can be procured? “It is conceded by every intelligent farmer that S. Horney & Co. make the poorest plow for durability sold in this market or anywhere else,” in reference to the manufacturing of the Rover Plow. B&M noted that a few years would measure theirs as good, “As good as the horses which pull them!”

That early spring of 1872 found Hughes Wilson, a Putnam County farmer riding all the way to our city to get one of Brower & McGillis’ plows because he thought they were the very best plow he had ever used. Luckily, there were two left so whew, the trip wasn’t wasted.

SH Gregg (and others) noted throughout the 1870 papers that they sold the Brower & McGillis plows at a low factory price at No 2 & 3 Empire Block.

In 1873, young David Binford had purchased a three-horse plow from Brower & Son on a note for $29. He didn’t pay so the Browers took him to court. It would have been much cheaper for Dave to have paid the original $29 because the Browers were awarded an extra $10 for their attorney fees and other costs totaled $60 for Binford to pay. By 1874, Brower was building a new place alone, still running the older one, and it was to be known as The Brower Plow Factory.

So, who are these guys? George S. Brower was born in 1816 in Ohio, likely in Preble County where he had owned a large farm. He married Sarah Sorber and they were parents of several children, including Matilda, Aaron, Lewis, Louisa, George, and Edwin. In 1850, he is listed in a special Ohio census as a cooper, manufacturing barrels, but in the 1860, he has a large farm. It seems to have been after the Civil War (they lost son Aaron in it who died of an illness not long after he joined the 13th Missouri Infantry and was brought back and buried in Eaton, Preble County) when they arrived in Montgomery County.

Sadly, George passed away suddenly of heart disease on 23 June 1882 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery where many other manufacturers, lawyers, doctors and such rest. Several of their children are buried there but Edwin, the son mentioned above moved to Indianapolis where he passed away at age 75 and is buried in Crown Hill.

W.A. McGillis wasn’t as easy to discover. He did love to join things such as the Emerald Beneficial Association in December of 1874, serving as its first president, organized with 38 members. He also gave a large amount earlier that year to erect the new Catholic Church here. McGillis did contractor work for ditch drainage later on and he and his wife, Mary (Dolan) had one child (Mary) who passed away at age 14. They were both born in Canada and moved to Kankakee County, Illinois where they continued to enjoy church and where he worked until about his death (November 1906), Mary living for another 16 years, after having been married about four decades.

So, there ya’ have a bit about one of our early factories, the times and some on the two men who ran the Brower and McGillis Plow company. I know, you’d like to know more – me, too – such as where did these two meet and get together to run this plow making place? I’d also like to know if Mary McGillis was born here (think she was but …). This one is of course like many I write … many questions yet unanswered! Yet, hope you enjoyed what I did find out!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at [email protected]