During or following a visit in the 1960s with members of the Shelbyville, Illinois Bolinger family I was provided with an unsigned, undated, nine-page, double-spaced, typed account of the history of the Shelbyville Bolingers. I do not recall who gave it to me but I may be able to find the person’s name in my files. The last date mentioned in it is 1944, so it must have been compiled some time after that and it appears to have been drawn from newspaper accounts about the events cited. I have reproduced its content below, attempting to make it as true to the original as possible, the only changes being the addition of side headings with the names of each of the children of George Washington Bolinger and Margaret Staley Bolinger. Be sure to see the page on this website about the period when the Bolinger family lived in Sharpsburg, Maryland. –Bruce Bolinger, webmaster
George Washington Bolinger
George Washington Bolinger was born January 22, 1839 at Sharpsburg, Maryland. By the death of his Mother he was thrown upon his own resources at the early age of ten years, and the struggle of these boyhood days planted in his nature that something which in after years made him a sturdy, successful business man. On October 4, 1860 he married Margaret S. Staley of Hagerstown, Maryland. The family moved to Springfield, Illinois in April 1861 and Mr. Bolinger followed the mercantile business for twenty-four years.
In February 1885 the family moved to Shelbyville, Illinois where Mr. Bolinger worked as partner for three years for Uncle Jo Fraker in a store now occupied by Bolinger Clothing Store. His progressive spirit and keen business foresight made him believe there was room for another mercantile house in Shelbyville, and on February 16, 1889, exactly eleven years to the day, before his death, with his sons, all salesmen, around him, he opened up a small stock of Dry Goods, shoes. etc. His splendid management and progressive methods soon started the tide of business his way, and from that time until now the Bolinger’s Store “Pay-as-you-go” has gradually expanded until the establishment includes four great stores in one, perhaps as large a business as any in Central Illinois.
Mr. Bolinger was a great believer in advertising and has spent from one to three thousand dollars a year in Printers’ Ink. He personally knew every detail of his business and it may be said of him that he never left unsaid his word of appreciation when an employee was deserving of it. On the street, in his home or at his place of business he had a smile and a hearty handshake for any and all–rich or poor, great or small. When he sold a spool of thread to a child it was done with as much grace as a fifty dollar dress to the wife of a millionaire. He was always generous and did many charitable daily deeds – which no one knew about until afterwards.
George Curns Bolinger was born July 5, 1868 at Springfield, Illinois. He was the son of George W. and Margaret Staley Bolinger who came to Illinois from Hagerstown, Maryland.
When he was 17 years old – he moved to Shelbyville with his family and worked for Fraker’s Store, then in 1889, together with his father and brothers founded Bolinger’s General Store. For fifty years it was Shelby County’s leading dry goods and clothing center.
Mr. Bolinger had many successful business years in the Clothing Store, then in 1919 he became President of the STA-RITE Hair Pin Company. With his guidance the STA-RITE company rose to its present successful standing.
In 1928 Mr. Bolinger became active in the management of the Shelby County State Bank – becoming its Vice-President and on the Board of Directors. He was at the time of his death – Vice-President of the First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Shelbyville.
For many years he had been an active and faithful member of the Christian Science Society.
George C. Bolinger was married to Cora Foster Wheeler in 1891 and she died April 10, 1898. He then married Grace D. Odenbaugh on Ju1y 23, 1899 and to this union three children were born. Boy – April, 1900; George Noel – February 27, 1903; and Katherine Frances – May 8, 1909.
Noel has three children – George, Joan, and Robert. Katherine has – Barbara Ann.
It was almost as much of a surprise to the Bolinger family when they received a letter from George yesterday afternoon telling of his marriage, as it was to the many friends of these people, when the fact became generally know.
Without intimating to a soul their intentions, George and Miss Odenbaugh drove up to Arthur Birketts Sunday morning. He told one of the firm Saturday evening that if he did not return by Monday morning not to be alarmed. Accordingly, they thought nothing of it when Monday morning found George absent from his desk.
But the afternoon’s mail told the story of the marriage of George Bolinger and Miss Grace Odenbaugh at Sullivan Sunday afternoon.
Both parties to the contract are well and favorably known to nearly all of Shelbyville.
Mr. Bolinger is a member of the big Bolinger firm, in which he had a good share of the management – is one of the best business men in the County, and a man who carries an honorable name and is popular with his fellow men.
Miss Odenbaugh is a handsome and accomplished young lady, a sister of Mrs. Charles Ward. She has scores of friends who wish her well in her new role.
Charles Emra Bolinger
Charles Emra Bolinger was the second son of George Washington Bolinger, born February 5, 1871 at Springfield, Illinois.
For forty years, Mr. Bolinger was prominent in business and civic life of Shelbyville where he was in business with his father, the late George W. Bolinger until the latter’s death in 1904. When he and his three brothers, George, Frank and Jesse entered into business partnership in a large Department Store under the firm name of G. W. Bolinger’s Sons.
Mr. Bolinger was formerly president of the Lithia Springs Chautauqua Association, director of the Shelby County State Bank, and the Shelbyville Chamber of Commerce for many years. He was instrumental with others in securing Sparks Business College for Shelbyville. He was one of the Founders of the Shelbyville Rotary Club and was proud of an unbroken attendance record at one time of over twenty years. He was a life-long member of the Baptist Church and prior to leaving Shelbyville served continuously for some twenty-five years as superintendent of the Sunday School.
The commodious mansion of Mr. S. W. Conn on Main Street was the scene of a large and happy gathering and pretty wedding at 9:30 this forenoon. Mr. Charles E. Bolinger, one of Shelbyville’s most enterprising, capable and popular young business men, a member of the mercantile firm of Bolinger & Sons and Miss Eva, the charming and accomplished daughter of Mr. and Mrs. S. W. Conn, were the contracting parties.
At 9:30 the handsome couple, supported by Messrs. Wallace Steward, Jesse Bolinger, Charles Homrighous and the three Misses Conn, and Miss May Cones, took their positions in the Northwest parlor of the elegant home and in the presence of about seventy-five guests, Rev. L. H. Williams, pastor of the Baptist Church, impressively performed the beautiful ring ceremony and pronounced the young couple Mr. and Mrs. Bolinger. The wedding march was nicely rendered with Mrs. L. E. Fech at the piano.
Immediately following the ceremony a bounteous breakfast was served in delicate style after which the newly wedded pair departed on the 10:59 limited for French Lick Springs, Indiana where they will remain for a season, returning to their home in this city in one season. It was a beautiful wedding ideally consummated.
Few indeed are the young couples who launch their barque on the sea of matrimony mid more auspicious surroundings with brighter prospect for future happiness and prosperity than Mr. and Mrs. Emra Bolinger. No one more deserving and more highly esteemed. Their future is bright for a long, happy and useful life. May their future be all that the present promises, is the sincere wish of their friends – all who knew them.
In 1931 he moved with his wife Eva, daughter of the late S. W. Conn of Shelbyville, to California. He became West-Coast Sales Representative of the STA-RITE Ginnie Lou Hair Pin Company of Shelbyville, which position he held until the time of his death.
On June 14th last – his sixty-sixth Wedding Anniversary – the Ralph Edwards Television Organization of Hollywood gave him and Mrs. Bolinger a plane trip to Panama with all expenses paid, for a two week visit with their grandson, William E. Eddy, Director of the Pan-American Institute, and his family.
On his return Mr. Bolinger continued his work for the STA-RITE Company throughout a very hot summer in Los Angeles. On September 14th he was stricken with a cerebral hemorrhage from which he did not recover.
He was a life-long church worker and Christian gentleman and was active on the Board of Deacons and as a Bible Class teacher of the Fountain Avenue Baptist Church of Hollywood for the last third of his life.
Jesse Warfield Bolinger
Jesse Warfield Bolinger was the third son of George Washington Bolinger, born January 12, 1873 at Springfield, Illinois. He came to Shelbyville, Illinois with his parents in 1886 receiving his education in the schools of our city. He was engaged in business with his father and was associated with his brothers in the business his father established and took an active part in the management of the stores until his death on September 29, 1909.
Mr. Bolinger worked in the clothing department of the store and was the buyer for awhile. After his health failed he bought an interest in a hat manufacturing company and traveled for this company in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Mr. Bolinger was a member of the Presbyterian Church of this city. He also was a member of the Elks Lodge, Kaskaskia Club and an extensive stockholder in Century Coal Mine of Tower Hill, being secretary of the Company.
Jesse W. Bolinger was married on Thursday October 29, 1904 to Miss Grace Lucinda Baker at eight o’clock in the Reformed Church in Irving Park, Chicago, Illinois. There was a reception after the ceremony held at the bride’s parents, 2490 North 42nd Avenue, Irving Park. They had a wedding trip East and then returned to Shelbyville and are living at the residence of his Mother Mrs. Margaret Bolinger on West Main Street. The groom is one of the popular young substantial business men of the city. His bride is said to be a young lady of charming personality and rare qualities of mind and heart.
Frank Cronice Bolinger
Frank Cronice Bolinger was the fourth son of George Washington Bolinger, born on July 1, 1883 in Springfield, Illinois. When he was two years old he and his family moved to Shelbyville and established the G. W. Bolinger’s Sons Department Store which was the leading store in the community for many years. For forty-five years Mr. Bolinger was associated with his family in the store and later was employed by the STA-RITE factory for thirteen years. For the past four years he was employed at the Lidster Hotel.
On May 21, 1907 he was united in marriage to Miss Cora Ruff, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Ruff on North First Street. The wedding took place at the bride’s parents at 7 o’clock Tuesday evening by Rev. J. F. Nichols, pastor of St. Johns’ Lutheran Church. The bride, Alice Cora Ruff is numbered among Shelbyville’s most popular young ladies. Her sunny and amiable disposition has endeared her to a host of friends who wish her much joy and happiness in her new station in life.
The groom is an energetic and enterprising business man. He is the youngest member of the firm of G. W. Bolinger’s Sons of this City. He possesses many excellent traits of character and is very popular among his associates.
On their wedding trip they went to Norfolk, Virginia to visit the Jamestown Exposition also visiting New York City, Washington, D. C., Niagara Falls and other points of interest. When they return to Shelbyville they will live with Mrs. Margaret Bolinger, his Mother on West Main Street.
Two daughters were born to them – Ruth, Mrs. Earl Lantz, and Frances Margaret who died September 21, 1921.
Cora Bolinger died May 10, 1944 and Frank continued to live in the family home on North Chestnut Street and his sister-in-law Rosetta Ruff kept house for him.
Frank Bolinger died on Friday evening at 6:45 at Shelby County Memorial Hospital. He had been in poor health for some time but had been in the hospital only a few days. Frank had been an active member of the First Presbyterian Church for over fifty years having served as stated clerk of the session for many years. He will be remembered by his many friends as a kind Christian Gentleman. He leaves his daughter Ruth and four grandchildren, Nancy Kollman of Watseka, Illinois, Linda a student at College, Bradley and Scott at home. A great grand-daughter, Kimberly Sue Kollman.
May Edna Bolinger
May Edna Bolinger was born June 20, 1865 in Springfield, Illinois – the daughter of George Washington and Margaret Staley Bolinger.
May Bolinger attended school in Springfield, Illinois until her family moved to Shelbyville where she was interested in music, painting and literature and was accomplished in the art.
May was married to W. O. Wallace on October 8 – Monday evening – at the home of her parents on Main Street. Rev. J.H. Noble performed the marriage rites in the presence of a large gathering of friends and relatives. Mr. Wallace is one of the rising young lawyers of our city and owns a farm which he knows how to manage in eastern Shelby County. He is a graduate of the best law school in the West, Ann Arbor and is building up a good practice. Mr. Wallace is working for the law firm of Townsend & Wallace. They will go to housekeeping in their own neat property on South First Street.
May Bolinger Wallace and W. O. Wallace had five children. Margaret, Lew, Ogden, Bertram and Vaughn. They lived on North Broadway and they all attended school here. After her family was grown Mrs. Wallace worked in the Bolinger Department Store and later moved to Evanston, Illinois, where she could be close to Ogden who was in the Veterans hospital. He had contracted a disease during World War I.