Picture submitted by Jessika Jones
The town of Raritan takes its name from the Raritan river in New Jersey, from near whose banks came most of the inhabitants that people the town. The river was named for a tribe of Indians who were encamped near it.
While the name of the town has remained the same, the township that now shares the name was originally called Bedford Township.
The village of Raritan was platted by James R. White, county surveyor, on April 16, 1856, and Raritan was built on parts of four sections of land.
The first general store was built in town in the spring of 1856 by Jacques Voorhees. That store also was the first post office in town. Voorhees built the first home in Raritan in 1857. He was the first justice of the peace, and was Raritan's first accredited mail carrier. History recalls that Voorhees, whose route ran between Roseville and Raritan, used his hat in lieu of a mail pouch.
The first blacksmith shop opened in August 1858, a wagon shop was started around 1860 and the first hotel was built in 1863.
White acting as surveyor for the proprietors. The record of its plat and survey may be found recorded in Vol. XII of deeds, p. 255, Henderson county. It is a beautiful and thriving village. Situated in the midst of an undulating, fertile prairie, surrounded by finely improved farms in a high state of cultivation, upon which means have been lavishly expended in the erection of fine buildings, this place presents an attractive appearance. The houses of the town are of a neat and commodious structure, and so neatly kept in all their surroundings that they tell at once the character of its inhabitants.
Although possessing no near railroad or river facilities for shipping, they yet carry on a large trade in merchandise and stock and agricultural products. Roseville and Laharpe stations are their nearest railroad points. One will hardly find in days of travel anywhere a town surrounded by so many natural advantages, and which exhibits such thrift, unaided by artificial means.
Among the enterprising business men of this place I may mention William Tharp and Robert Barnes, but space prevents the naming of others equally enterprising and deserving of mention. Mr. Tharp has an extensive store, filled with a general stock of merchandise, which he purchases in Chicago and eastern cities. Making his own selections and purchasing from first hands when possible, he has been enabled to offer his numerous customers their supplies at such rates as to leave no inducement on their part to go to larger places to make their purchases. By energy and business tact, by fair dealing and unquestioned integrity, he established a business of great magnitude, and won for himself an enviable reputation. He is still a young man, with the ability to grow and advance with the enterprising and thrifty people by whom he is surrounded.
Robert Barnes began business here a few years ago. From small transactions at first his business has increased until at the present his sales are very large. His stock embraces almost every article of necessity or luxury required by the customers with whom. he deals. Besides a general stock of merchandise, a line of agricultural machinery suited to all the wants of the country is carried in large stock. In addition to his mercantile business he is the proprietor, publisher and editor of the "Raritan Bulletin," a weekly newspaper of fair size, which is ably edited and constantly gaining in circulation. It is independent in all things, and deserves the success that has thus far attended it.
The Masons are entitled to the credit of being the pioneers. They established themselves as an organization as early as 1875. The number of its lodge is 727. The preliminary meeting was held November 9. 1874, at which time Eli T. Hinman, R. L. Taylor and J. V. D. Kelley were appointed a committee to draft resolutions. Up to the granting of the charter they worked under a dispensation. Silas D. Parsons, Jacob A. Anderson and Robert L. Taylor were the principal officers, being worshipful master, senior warden and junior warden.
The Independent Order of Odd-Fellows were granted a charter for the purpose of performing mystic rites and for the purpose of practicing the principles of F., L. and T. in their own peculiar manner. Raritan Lodge, No. 616; received its charter June 30, 1866. The charter members were M. M. Field, A. E. Stanley, S. C. Coulson, C. W. Hardesty and L. W. Calhoun. The order did not prosper well, or for some other reason not known to the outside world, moved across the line to Terre Haute in the spring of 1868.
The town contains four churches : Dutch Reformed, Baptist, Methodist, and Roman Catholic. It has two hotels.
History of Mercer and Henderson Counties.
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