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Bainbridge name was quite prominent in Marion.

Of the many family names who have influenced Marion and local history, only one stayed strong for over 160 years. When a little village, west of Marion, came into existence at the conjunction of a buffalo trail and an old Indian campsite in Phelps Prairie before our county existed, two sons of the Bainbridge family, Allen and John B. began to rise to prominence.

In 1837, a post office was established in the village and took on the surname of its first postmaster, Allen Bainbridge.

In 1838, Allen Bainbridge became a state representative and along with Willis Allen, carried the petition to form Williamson County to the state legislature in Vandalia. He later became colonel of the first Illinois militia formed in the new county of Williamson. After the platting of Marion in 1839, Allen built the first hotel in the county in 1842 called the Western Exchange Hotel. The building was a two-story brick structure that used to sit where the First Southern Bank now sits on the Tower Square. Allen also operated a business manufacturing tobacco out of a warehouse in the northwest corner of the square.

Allens brother, John B., became the first county clerk of Williamson County and held that position from 1839-1840. John began engaging in the general merchandise business in Marion in 1856 and in 1860, at the age of 23, built a large two-story building on the corner of the Public Square and West Main Street.

John, who had an obvious head for business, was instrumental in forming the Marion Building and Loan Association, and in 1891, the First National Bank, which is the original building now occupied by the First Southern Bank on the square.

John B.s eldest son, born in 1860, was named James A. Bainbridge. James A. trained in the art of watchmaking and jewelry and established a jewelry store in his fathers building on the square. By 1882, the jewelry business was overtaking the general merchandise business of his father and the jeweler expanded into the optician business as well. John B. passed away in 1910.

In 1913, their son, James A. Bainbridge, tried retiring and sold his business to his son, Lawrence, who had attended jewelry school that year. The J.B. Bainbridge building was sold and torn down in 1914 to make way for the First State and Savings Bank building where the Vault restaurant is now located and Lawrence relocated the jewelry business to 800 Public Square.

Retirement didnt work for James so he reopened another jewelry store in the lobby of the new First State and Savings Bank building, temporarily creating two Bainbridge Jewelry stores on the square.

Lawrence, like his grandfather, invested in real estate and was responsible for the platting of the Bainbridge addition to Marion in the late 1940s or early 1950s, creating Bainbridge, Sherry and Charlotte Road, both latter streets being named after his granddaughters Sherry Hudgens and Charlotte Bainbridge Cash.

Lawrences son, Bill, who had grown up in the business, attended jewelry school in 1940 and took over the jewelry business from his father in 1954. When Bill retired, he passed the business on to his daughter, Charlotte Bainbridge Cash. The jewelry store was honored in 1987 by the Marion Chamber of Commerce for having completed 105 years in business. Charlotte operated the business until around 1997 when the building was purchased by the city and demolished to make way for construction of the Marion Civic and Cultural Civic Center.
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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jan 3, 2018
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