Researched and written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
The Winstons were early settlers in the area. John Winston and his wife, Amanda, migrated from New York
to Wisconsin in 1841 with 12 children. The family purchased a farm in Porter township. The federal census
of 1850 lists John as a farmer, 53 years of age. Six of his children, including his sons, Winston, Rueben,
Edwin, John and Egbert were all living at home, as was his daughter Abigail. John was one of the prominent
men of the area. He was appointed to serve as Commissioner of the Poor for Rock County and was one of
the organizers of the First Baptist Church in Union.
Nelson Winston and his partner, Isaac Bennett operated a general store in Oregon from 1849 to 1855 under
the name Winston & Bennett. Then, Bennett moved to Green County and Winston returned to Evansville.
The partnership was renewed in 1861 when the two men paid John and Reuben Winston $1,400 for their
interest in the general store. Nelson Winston and Isaac Bennett also purchased a lumberyard near the
depot. They would continue to invest in businesses in Evansville and help the community grow.
John Winston lived only a few more years after he sold out his store. John and Amanda Winston celebrated
their 50th wedding anniversary on October 8, 1867 and he died the November 20 of that same year. He was
seventy-seven years old. His obituary noted that he was an eyewitness to the prosperity of Rock County.
When he first settled the area, there were only two or three farms within five miles of his home.
Evansville grew considerably, and the Winstons’ participated actively in the business interests of the city.
The business was renamed Winston & Bennett and in a move that indicated the rapid growth of the little
community of Evansville, Nelson's brother, Reuben Winston opened another general store under the name J.
Winston & Sons.
Winston and Bennett worked hard to develop their business into one of the leading dry goods and grocery
businesses in the city. By 1866, the building was too small and an addition was built on the south end of the
store. They moved into the new addition in August of that same year. Nelson Winston made a trip to New
York to purchase merchandise and their fall and winter supply of goods was shipped by rail to Evansville.
Advertisements for the store indicated that the owners paid cash for the goods they bought from wholesalers
and passed their savings on to the customers. The store carried a full line of goods including groceries,
boots and shoes, hardware, crockery, clothing and ready-made clothing. An 1867 news article about the
store indicated that the men had done nearly $50,000 in business that year.
If their ready-made clothing did not please their customers, Winston and Bennett offered the services of their
tailor, Mr. Wm. Little, to make custom-made apparel. Mrs. Elnathan Sawtelle handled the millinery
department with a full line of bonnets, ribbons, hats, laces, flowers and other ornaments to adorn a lady's
In addition to the general store business, Winston & Bennett maintained banking services and bought and
sold on the exchanges at Chicago and other eastern city markets. The men credited the existence of the
railroad for their success in bringing goods and services to their customers.
An outside staircase on the east side of the building allowed other businesses to flourish on the second
floor. The upper story of building has an interesting history and is believed to have been used as a dentist
office, longer than any other building in Rock County. In 1867, it was used for a short period of time by the
Evansville Citizen, the first paper published in Evansville.
Dr. A. H. Robinson came to Evansville in 1866 and located his dentist office over the Winston & Bennett
store. An Evansville Review ad from 1871 informed Robinson's potential patients that they could have a full
set of gum teeth made for $25 and there was no cost for extracting the patient's own teeth. If there was a
problem with decaying teeth, a small gold filing could be put in for $1 and a compound filling for 75 cents.
Robinson kept office hours on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Examinations
and advice were free and for painless dentistry, Dr. Robinson would administer ether or chloroform,
whichever the patient desired. He also advertised that he guaranteed all of his work.
From other news items from the local paper, Robinson spent his free hours supervising his racing horses.
Dr. Robinson loved fast horses and owned a least one trotting horse that he turned over to a Mr. Thurman to
train. The horse was fast enough to be raced at the state fair.
Friendly competitiveness seemed to have been the rule amount Evansville businessmen in the late 1800s.
When Lloyd Pullen opened his general store, he lured away Winston & Bennett's tailor. The three men
served on many community committees, including the Evansville Seminary Board of Directors.
The social activities led the three men to a financial and business partnership joining their financial and
professional talents. Lloyd T. Pullen joined Winston and Bennett as a new partner in 1870. Pullen owned a
general store diagonally across the street, at 2 East Main and he bought one third of the Winston & Bennett
firm. They advertised an "unparalleled decline in prices at the cheap cash store. The "Corner Store" was
declared the best place to buy goods at lower prices than ever before seen in Evansville.
In October of 1870 the three new partners also organized the First National Bank of Evansville. L. T. Pullen
was chosen to be president. While Pullen's brick store was remodeled, the goods from his general store
were moved across the street to the "Corner Store" and bank was temporarily opened at Winston & Bennett's.
With a new lending institution in town, the general store made some policy changes. Early in 1871, the men
announced that the new store would be called, Winston, Pullen & Co. At the store there would be no credit
sales. Merchandise from Pullen's store was transferred to the Winston's store. By uniting the two stores, the
new firm had a large capital base and could buy their goods for cash and pass the savings on to the
customer. Since they would incur no bad debts, their would be less store expenses.
Many in the community did not consider the early 1870s to be an ideal time to stop credit sales. Weather
conditions had caused the failure of crops and business had been slow. The "cash only" sales promotion
was considered risky because other stores in Evansville were still extending credit to their customers
However, the men persisted in their no-credit venture and thrived in their new partnership.
They once again remodeled their store and created a safer working place by making a firewall to separate
their store from the rest of the block. In February 1871 a large pile of stone was brought to the building site
and masons began make a stonewall. Some twenty years later, the building would be saved because of this
The firm of Winston, Pullen and Company changed their bookkeeping system from a single to a double entry
system in February 1872. Their old ledger book is in the historical collection at the Eager Free Public
Library. The company listed its assets as $26,698.26, including the store that was valued at $5,900. The
three men, Nelson Winston, Lloyd Pullen; and Isaac Bennett each held a third share in the business.
Their merchandise included yarn, wicks, oil, sugar, tea, coffee, cloth and sewing notions, boxes of collars,
tobacco, soap, as well as other dry goods and grocery items. The account books indicate that while they
advertised "cash only", the store did grant credit to a select few.
The store also took farm goods in trade. Emery Smith sold the firm 9 dozen eggs and received 97 cents, just
a little more than 10 cents a dozen. Smith took 97 cents of merchandise in return for his eggs.
While the store carried the largest stock of any firm in Evansville in the early 1870s, strong competition from
the new Grange Store opened in 1873 concerned the businessmen. They took out large ads in the local
newspaper. "Attention Patrons of Husbandry! We will sell goods as cheap as any Grange Store". They had
good reason to worry, because they lost a large share of their market when the farmers chose the new
The three men did not stay in business together long. Their interests diverged and some partnership
changes took place in the mid-1870s. Bennett withdrew from the store in 1874 and the store was
The March 25, 1874 issued of the Evansville Review recorded the changes. “Quite a transformation has
been going on in the old store of Winston & Bennett, since the exodus of the junior partner. A window has
been cut through on the Madison street side, emitting light upon Mr. Palmer’s cutting table which has been
removed from the rear end of the store. A large circular and quite ornamental cabinet for crockery and glass
ware, occupies the central portion of the rear; and the portions formerly occupied by Mr. Palmer and ready
made clothing room, is wholly set apart to groceries and heavy goods. The front portion of the store is now
wholly occupied for their extensive dry goods, cloths and domestic goods trade. Their shelves are well filled;
the front portion contains boxes in which are kept their finer goods, hats, caps, etc. represented with neatly
gilt labels. The store is neater in appearance and looks more attractive, by having each class of goods in its
own respective apartment.”
Winston and Bennett also withdrew from the bank in 1875, when the bank changed from a national bank to a
state bank. Pullen and his sons took over management of the bank. Isaac Bennett had developed an
interest in raising live stock, as well as travel with his wife and daughter and he decided to sell his interest in
the general store.
Although Bennett and Pullen no longer had an active interest in the general store, they continued to own the
building in shares with Nelson Winston. Nelson Winston brought his sons into the business and the Winstons
changed the name of the firm once again. This time it was called Nelson Winston & Sons. The new store
announced that its cash only policy would remain in effect.
Nelson Winston’s three sons, Frank, Fred, and George worked with him in the store. Nelson acted as the
senior member of the firm. By 1883, the business had annual sales of $55,000 and advertised as the
"pioneer dealers in general merchandise in Evansville". They also proclaimed that because they purchased
large quantities of merchandise direct from New York and they could offer their customers the best goods
While the general store operated on the first floor, the second floor continued its use as a dentist office. Dr.
A. H. Robinson's office was located over the corner store until 1880, when he decided to move to Madison. It
was announced the Lewis B. Beebe, his apprentice, would be in the office every day to do dentistry and
Robinson would continue to come to Evansville two days a week to maintain his practice.
Lewis Beebe was born in Wisconsin and had served in the Civil War. He apprenticed in Dr. Robinson's office
until 1882 when he became a practicing dentist. By the late 1880s, Beebe was running the business alone
and his advertisements declared in bold letters that he was a dentist. Like Robinson, he assured his
customers that he would administer gas, if his patient desired.
Nelson Winston and his sons operated the store on the first floor of the building until 1885. Nelson decided
to retire from active business life and two of his son headed west. Frank, the oldest son went to New Mexico
where he opened another general store and also operated a ranch. George, the youngest son, migrated to
Frederick, South Dakota and became a farmer and livestock raiser. Fred became the Express Agent at the
Evansville railroad depot.
A new firm, Cummings & Clark, rented the first story of the corner store building at 1 West Main from
Winston, Pullen and Bennett in 1887 and opened their own dry goods store. Clark was from Janesville and
had come to Evansville with Cummings in 1885. They first rented a store in the Magee Theater building,
moving two years later into the corner store. The two newcomers were satisfied that their venture was a
success and they purchased the building on the corner of Main and Madison two years later for $4,000.
During the next few years, Cummings and Clark made several changes to the building. They remodeled the
storefront in 1891 by adding a large plate glass window at the corner of the store. In 1893 they added a tin
roof for fire protection and at the end of 1894 they added more windows to the east side of their store. As
their business continued to grow they needed more room and hired John Winston, a carpenter and son of
the original owner, to build an addition in 1899.
The foresight of the owners who built the firewall in the 1870s and the addition of the tin roof in 1893 saved
the building from a fire that destroyed or damaged every building in the block to the west of the Cummings
and Clark Store.
A few minutes before nine on the evening of September 29, 1896, Charles Brink, the chief of police, was
making his nightly rounds. He discovered a fire in John Broderick's livery stable, located in the middle of the
first block on the south side of West Main Street. The fire appeared to have started from an over-turned
lantern in the loft of the barn.
By the time Brink had run the short way to City Hall to sound the alarm, the fire was out of control. There
were wood frame buildings on each side of the livery and the fire quickly spread east and west, endangering
the entire block. Northwest winds spread cinders to the south, sometimes catching the roofs of the
Methodist Church and City Hall.
Janesville and Madison fire departments were called to aid the local volunteer fire fighters. Both fire
departments dispatched men and equipment by train but they were delayed when regularly scheduled trains
blocked the way of the emergency crews. By the time they arrived, the harried Evansville crews welcomed
their expert assistance and together the men brought the fire under control.
The firewall and the tin roof at the Cummings & Clark store were credited with saving the store and
containing the fire so that it did not destroy the entire block. The fire was stopped once it reached those
barriers allowing the fire fighters to knock down the blaze.
When the fire crews assessed the damage the following day, they were grateful that no lives had been lost
and there were no serious injuries. Plans for rebuilding began immediately. After the fire the City Council
vigorously enforced the ordinance requiring fireproof buildings in the business district. The foresight of the
owners of the corner store had proved a valuable lesson.
Cummings and Clark were able to resume business in their store, while the rest of the block had to be
rebuilt. Elizabeth Antes, sister of Robert M. Antes, of the Evansville Review, assisted the men in the store as
C. E. Cummings sold his interest in the business in 1901 to his partner. W. J. Clark borrowed the money to
buy out his partner from his father-in-law Charles Wilder and Wilder held a mortgage on the property.
Cummings and his son, Joseph, moved to Beloit where they purchased another dry goods store. Though, he
stayed in business for another 20 years, Clark never took in another partner. He was the sole proprietor
from 1901 until the spring of 1922.
Some improvements were made to the building in the early 1900s. Clark put a basement under the store in
the spring of 1903. It was to be used as a storeroom and in the old storeroom he created a larger grocery
Clark's was a typical old general store, carrying clothing, hardware, and groceries. Advertisements in the
local newspapers were used to entice customers, and unusual ads often brought unexpected comments.
When W. J. Clark boldly advertised a special brand of corsets, the editor of the Review joked with the
merchant: "It is presumed these are the kind which will withstand the Sunday evening embrace of American
Clark's business was customer-oriented and he and other merchants of that day offered services not often
found in the modern age. Clark offered home delivery service of his goods and in 1909, he ordered a new
red delivery wagon. "Get the Habit. Trade at Clark's" was emblazed on the shiny new rig.
The second floor of the building was rented for a dentist office, as it had been since the 1860s. Dr. Lewis
Beebe, who had been in the dentistry business at the same location since 1882, advertised in the 1890s that
he had modernized his methods and that he would administer gas for painless extractions of teeth. Beebe
kept offices in the building until the autumn of 1899 when he moved his offices to his home on North Madison
Then, Dr. J. E. Anthony, who had been practicing in Evansville since the 1870s and changing locations every
few years, moved from the Baker Block into the Cummings & Clark building. Anthony took under his wing a
young man who had just completed dental school, Dr. J. W. Ames.
A native of Vermont, Ames was born in 1874. His family moved to Clinton, Wisconsin when he was a child.
After he graduated from Clinton High School, he attended Physicians and Surgeons College in Chicago and
then chose dentistry as his specialty.
The young Ames graduated from the Chicago Dental College in 1901 and came to Evansville. When
Anthony decided to change locations the following year, Ames took over the office in the second story of the
Cummings & Clark building. Ames stayed at that location from 1901 to 1946 when he retired from practice.
After arriving in Evansville, he met his future bride, Myrtle Crow and they were married in 1903. He became
very active in community affairs, and was cited by the national Boy Scouts organization for his activities in
working with the Evansville Boy Scouts. He was also a member of the Isaac Walton league, a conservation
club; the Evansville Lions Club; the Masonic lodge and the Eastern Star.
Ames advertised in the local paper that he specialized in crown and bridgework. He called his work, teeth
without plates. The artificial teeth were made of rubber and cast by Dr. Ames in his office. Those who
wanted gold fillings had to sit in the dentist chair and have the gold pounded into the cavities and then wait
until the mixture hardened. Ames would see many changes in the practice of dentistry as techniques
improved over the 45 years he was in practice.
The dentist also found time for many interesting hobbies, including growing ginseng. He and his brother-in-
law, Frank Crow, a local pharmacist, had a ginseng patch on Garfield that they tended each summer. It was
a successful moneymaking venture and Ames used the extra income to purchase expensive automobiles.
At the age of 59, W. J. Clark had decided to retire from an active business life, but he continued to own the
building at 1 West Main. Dr. Ames was a very stable renter on the second story, having been there since
1901 and Clark hoped to find a suitable renter for the first floor.
In 1922, Clark sold his business to Arthur Cain. After his retirement, Clark was active in many areas of city
government, serving as second ward alderman, president of the Water and Light commission, and a member
of the Park Board. He also served on the Eager Free Public Library board. Clark died in November 1932
but his wife continued to own the building at 1 West Main.
After the Carr brothers rented the building from W. J. Clark, their advertisements indicated they carried a full
line of groceries. The Carrs hired local people to staff the store, including Charles Shelby who managed the
store for the Carrs in the late 1930s.
After operating the business for sixteen years, the Carr Bros announced in January 1946 that they had sold
their store at 1 West Main to the Kroger Grocery & Baking Company. All stock and fixtures of the store were
included in the sale. Having experienced the retail side of the grocery business the Carr brothers had
decided that they wanted to enter the wholesale grocery and produce business. Their new offices would be
The Carrs assured the local people that their former employees would continue as Kroger personnel.
Krogers had been in Evansville for a number of years, located in the old Economy Store building on East
Main Street and after they took over the Carr store, their first ads indicated they operated at two locations for
a time. Their first ads appear in January 1946 and list the stores at 3 East Main and 1 West Main.
In 1946, Dr. Ames decided to retire and sold his dentistry practice as well as all of his equipment to Dr. Ore
Glidden Libby. In an interview with the Evansville Review reporter, Dr. Ames noted the changes that had
occurred in dentistry during his years of practice. When he started only gold, silver and cement were used
for fillings. By the time of Ames retired, porcelain fillings were more popular. Another change the dentist
noted was that specialists in Madison and Milwaukee made the acrylic plates. Ames thought the new
techniques were great improvements over the plates he had manufactured of rubber in his own office in the
Dr. O. G. Libby had been practicing in Evansville since he graduated from Marquette University School of
Dentistry in 1924. He left briefly during World War II when he entered the U.S. Army Dental Corps from 1943
to 1946. He returned to Evansville just as Dr Ames was retiring from his dental practice.
Libby did not stay in the office at 1 1/2 West Main very long. Within four years, he sold his dental practice to
Dr. Robert G. Heimerl. The new dentist arrived in June to refinish and redecorate the old office. On July
20,1950, Heimerl's first ad appeared in the Evansville Review, noting his office hours as 9 to 5 at 1 1/2 West
The Kroger Store continued to operate on the first floor of Clark's building. The Evansville store was part of
the Madison branch operation of the national firm. Local managers of the store during its stay in Evansville
included Ed Hallmark and Bernard Kovars.
The Kroger chain decided to move out of the city in November 1958 and it was announced that Wilson
Wilbur, from Lake Geneva, and Edward A. Reich, of Lake Delton, had rented the corner store. Operating
under the name "E & W Clover Farm Store" the new business moved into the Clark building. Hyne Realty
company was credited with filling a vacant store front and bringing the new store to Evansville.
Wilburs operated the store at 1 West Main for nine years. In 1967, a new grocery store was built on South
Madison Street and Wilburs moved into their new store in August.
The building at 1 West Main was owned by the Clark family. The building had been allowed to deteriorate
and Clark's descendents were unable to sell the building in 1968 for its assessed value. In September 1969,
it was sold to Clara Schneider, who later married, changing her name to Clara Hull. The purchase price was
$8,000. Mrs. Hull remodeled the first floor in 1971. For a short time in the 1970s, a delicatessen was located
in that building.
A 1974 news report of a car accident showed a picture of the front of the store pushed in as the result of a
car accident. It seems that Vinton Long lost control of his car as he was trying to park and rammed into the
building. Before it stopped the delicatessen’s cheese counter was broke. Fortunately there were no
customers in the store and Long was not injured.
In 1975 the building was sold to Vladimer and Dagmar Jurco. They rented the building to Randy Krause for a
flower shop. He stocked the building with colorful arrangements and fresh flowers.
In the last few years the building has been used as the Century 21 Real Estate office, a craft store, Vaage
Flooring, and restaurants.
Dr. Charles Nelson was the last dentist to occupy the second floor of the old corner store. Nelson, a young
dentist recently graduated from Marquette University dental school came to Evansville in 1958.
When Dr. Heimrl moved out of the office at 1 1/2 West Main, Dr. Nelson, took over the second floor office. In
1974, Nelson built a new office at the corner of Church and First Streets. The use of the second story for a
dentist office ended when Dr. Nelson moved. The second story of the building was remodeled into
apartments. More than 100 years of recorded use by dentists, gave the building a unique part of Evansville
and Rock County history.
At the southwest corner of the intersection
of Main and Madison Streets, stands one
of the oldest commercial buildings in the
city of Evansville. After the village was
platted in 1855, Hiram Spencer sold the
corner lot to John Winston and his sons,
Nelson and Reuben for $150.
A small store was built on the lot and the
general store opened under the name J.
Winston & Sons. One of their customers
was Levi Leonard, Evansville's first school
teacher. In 1857, Leonard's diary
indicates the variety of merchandise that
was offered by the store. Leonard
purchased cloth, clotheslines, paint, and a
coat and vest from Winston & Sons.
Clark rented the first floor of the building to Arthur Cain in March 1921 and in November Clark
remodeled the building adding larger windows along the east side and a new glass front. The old wood
building was covered with a material called Kelley-stone, a form of stucco. This new siding material was
considered to be one of the finest improvements. Several Evansville homes and the Central House
Hotel also used this material to cover old wood siding.
Arthur Cain no longer wanted to run the business as Clark had and decided to specialize in groceries,
rather than the variety of materials carried by the old general store. It was difficult for small general
stores to compete with the buying power of the larger Grange and Economy department stores
operating in Evansville.
Arthur Cain was from Cainville, south of Evansville, and had worked in the Grange grocery and its
hardware department before opening his own store in the Clark building. He operated the store at
Clarks for nine years and then decided to build a new grocery store on a lot near his residence on
South Madison Street. Clark then rented the store at 1 West Main to the Carr Brothers of Janesville in
The Carr brothers, James, Adolph and Peter operated stores at the five points in Janesville, and
another at Beloit. They advertised as Rock County's largest independent grocers. There was
competition from at least six other grocers and butchers in Evansville including Cain, Days, George
Smith & Son, the Universal Store, The Grange and The Economy.
West Main Street 1924