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Bothwell Pulford

Bot and dog
Bothwell Pulford and his dog, Gloomy. 

Bothwell was one of the highly respected native sons of Savanna, was born here November 17, 1852, being a son of the pioneers Charles and Sarah (Bothwell) Pulford.

Charles Pulford was born in England, August 10, 1818, while his wife was born in Ireland, May 10, 1814. He and a brother came to America about 1840, and walked from Chicago to Savanna to join an elder brother living here. Mrs. Pulford came here about the same year. At first, Mr. Pulford went to work in a stave mill, but later took up butchering, he having learned the trade in England, continuing in it until his health failed, when he retired.

He was a progressive man and assisted materially in the development of Savanna. About 1850, he built a large stone house on the site of the present public library, quarrying the rock himself, as well as hewing all the timber used in the construction of his home. He was a hard-working man who never spared himself, and was noted for his business judgment and ability, and accumulated considerable property. Fraternally, he belonged to the Odd Fellows. Mr. and Mrs. Pulford became the parents of five children, of whom James “Bot.” was the youngest. Two survive: Elizabeth, Mrs. Dr. G. W. Johnson, of Savanna; and Samuel Pulford, of Chicago. Charles Pulford died October 2, 1887, while his wife died March 24, 1867.

Bot was educated in the public schools of Savanna, and being very ambitious, when a boy of twelve years he began work ferrying hay and wood across Plum River, using a horse as motive power.

Two years later, he entered a drug store as clerk and apprentice, and at sixteen bought out the stock and conducted this store until his death. He built up a very extensive business, and carried a large stock of drugs, paints, oils, wall paper, pianos and musical instruments, jewelry, silverware and similar articles.

In 1881 he built his corner store that housed his drug store and by 1892 had competed the Pulford Opera House as well a three-story building on the south side of the opera house.

Puford Store
Wagons for sale in front of Pulford's Drug Store. Bothwell is at the far left of the photo.

He was also connected with other business ventures, and at one time served as president of the Commercial State Bank, holding that office at the time of his death. Mr. Pulford bought the first electric light plant built in the city, later installed a larger plant in the opera house building, and still later erected another plant, which he owned individually when he died.

At the time of his suicide, Bot owned the entire 300 block of east Main Street which his opera house was located. In addition he owned and rented 47 of the “best residencies” in Savanna.

One anecdote said Bothwell never kept a single book account. He carried all of the details in his head “and never making a mistake.” He was also known as a philanthropic man and one of the most popular men in Carroll County.

A further description of Bot describes him as “slender, wiry, shrewd, kindly, with a heart in him as big as an ox.” He never was in Chicago and never ventured further from Savanna than to Galena. He attended a country school and people said “all he knew was how to make money.”

Many stories were told of his business methods. He kept large sums of money hidden about the shelves of his drug store behind jars. If a man owed him a nickel, he never forgot.

Sheriff Dave Doty owed him $2.35 for 10 years. Sheriff Doty had moved away from Savanna. He was a busy man and the debt had slipped his mind. When he returned to savanna, he went to Pulford and said. “Bot, I believe I owe you some money but I have forgotten how much. “Its $2.35 Dave,” replied Bot after 10 years.

He belonged to the city council for a number of years, and was also on the school board. Politically, he was a staunch Republican. Like his father, he was an Odd Fellow, and also belonged to the Modern Woodmen. In early life he was an active church member. About 1892 he built the present Pulford residence, which was one of the finest in Savanna.

On January 5, 1884 he was married to Lucinda Wiel, born in Hanover, on August 22, 1861, the daughter of Philip and Margaret (Nicodemas) Wiel, natives of Nassau, Germany. The Wiels came to America and located in Madison, Wisconsin, and later, they went to Galena, Ill. In Germany, Mr. Wiel was a carriage maker, but established a vinegar factory at Madison, moving it to Galena later on. Some time later he sold it, moving to Hanover, being one of the first to locate there. Mr. Wiel enlisted in the army during the Civil War, and died at Memphis, Tenn., having contracted smallpox in the service. Mrs. Wiel died at the home of her daughter in 1895. Mrs. Pulford was the youngest of eleven children.

Mr. and Mrs. Pulford became the parents of two children: Pearl B., and Hazel Nell.

Pearl was  born January 9, 1886 and was married three times. Her first marriage was to Charles Gillette and they had one daughter, Mildred (1905-2003). After his death she married Allen Shaw on Oct. 28, 1907 in Cook County, he died in 1919. They had one daughter, Hazel Shaw O’Leary (1912-2001). She then married Harold McCall before her death in 1954.

Hazel was born November 29, 1887, and married Robert Miner in 1907. They moved to Seattle and she died suddenly of a heart failure on January 21, 1909.

Pulford Home
Located on the corner of Third and Madison streets, was Bothwell Pulford's residence. Pictured from left are this wife, Lucinda; daughter Pearl; Bothwell; and daughter, Hazel.

In the spring of 1905 the City of Savanna was rocked and shocked by the murder of lawyer D.S. Berry and the following suicide of Bot Pulford. The Opera House Murder.

The following are from the Savanna Daily Journal:

“The funeral of the late Bothwell Pulford, who committed suicide Thursday, was held from his late residence yesterday afternoon and was the most largely attended ever held in Carroll County. Three thousand persons gathered in the blocks surrounding the home. The services were conducted by Rev. F. Y. Nichols of the Presbyterian church, who chose for his text, "I Know in Whom I Have Believed." The procession to the grave was headed by the Woodmen, Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows lodges and business men. Nearly 400 men were in line. Three hundred carriages took the people to the cemetery. The floral tributes were many and elaborate.”

From his obit in the Savanna Daily Journal “Mr. Pulford died May 25, 1905. Few men were more active than he in Carroll county, and none are more kindly remembered, for his all too short life was filled with deeds of kindness, and he was always public-spirited to the highest degree. It is such men as he who build up a community and advance its best interests.”

Pulford Opera House
Decorated for a celebration, the Pulford Opera House housed Pulford's Drug Store on the north side and Heller's Clothing Store on the south side when it opened in 1892.