The political campaign of 1896 started on September 5. The managers of the Republician campaign opened with Judge Lansing and Hon.Patrick O’Farrel, who spoke on the issues involved in the Opera House on the above date. On September 26, the Democratic managers had General Watts open the Democratic campaign in the Opera House and followed up with Judge Samuel Woods, of Philippi.
On September 30, the Opera House was packed to suffocation on the occasion of Hon.William Jennings, Bryan’s candidate for president of the United States, second appearance in Grafton. Mr. Bryan, when still quite a young political leader who attained fame as the “boy orator of the Platte,” Made his first appearance in the town in the campaign of 1892. At his appearance on September 30 and while in the midst of his speech an unusual incident occured when a well known citizen of Grafton seated in the front row so carried away by Mr.Bryan’s oratory, left his stepped down in the orchestra pit and leaned far over the footlights and kissed Mr.Bryan’s shoe and with adoration shining in his eyes looked up to him and exclaimed “my savior”. Momentarily embarrassed by by this interruption, Mr.Bryan paused in his speech, but quickly recovered and went on with his talk.
Those who were not in sympathy with Mr.Bryan’s free silver plank in the Democratic platform and organized a political party known as the “Sound Money” club, whose platform advocated the single gold standard as best for the nation and for the people had Henry Adams, a noted fiancier, speak on the question of sound money in the Opera House, October 2, 1896.
On October 16, General J.H. Walker spoke in the interests of Hon. William McKinley for president of the United States on the Republican ticket. General Walker, a convincing orator, who advocated the election of the Republican ticket, cited the record of the party in the past under whose administration the American nation had become the greatest on earth morally, industrially and in education, freedom of its citizens that would continue under Republican management.
Colonel John T. McGraw, Grafton’s own political leader and fluent orator, om September 22, spoke on the issues involved in this campaign and pleaded with his hearers to support both the national and county tickets. Hon.William G. (Junior) Brown, of Kingwood, spoke the following night along the same lines as Colonel McGraw. On the night of October 26, two of the most distinguished men in the nation, Hon.John K. Cowan, president of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, both prominent in the Democratic party for many years but not in accord with the free and unlimited coinage of silver plank in the Democrativ platform, spoke to a great audience in the Opera House on the confusion that would come to the nation if the single gold standard was disturbed by the issuance of unlimited flow of silver in the money markets of the nation.
Hon.George W. Atkinson, of Wheeling, closed the Republician on the night of October 28, 1896, and Colonel John T. McGraw closed for the Democratic party on the night of November 3 with a plea to his fellow citizens to support both national and state tickets.
Miss Etelka Wardell presented a thrilling melo-drama entitled “The Great Diamond Breaker” to a very good audience in the Opera House October 6, 1896. Miss Wardell and her supporting company fited nicely into the parts cast for them and won the favor of those who came to see the play.
One of the largest audiences gathered in the Opera House on the night of October 27, 1896, to witness Harry Martell’s paly of southern life, entitled “The South Brfore the War”. This melodrama, depicting the life of the great plantations and thier aristocratic owners, the habits and customs that prevailed prior to the Civil war was capably portrayed in this stage production by a fine cast that pleased the large audience.
A large crowd of people watched ont of the large water mains give way under Main street at Wehn alley on November 13, 1896, and they got an impression of the terrid=ific force exerted by the water in the mains when the section broke and threw water, mud and bricks high into the air and flooded the stocks of goods in the store of Hiram Gaines on the south side of Main street and down the chimneys of the home of Mrs. Rebecca Giles, some 100 feet below Main street, and did much damage to the household goods and furniture. Council sumoned Millard Carr to the scene of the break and withthe water shut off the break was soon repaired, fortunatly this was the only accident of the kind to happen in the 44 years since the mains were laid. Council settled with Mr.Gaines for the sum of $50 and with Mrs.Giles for $20 for property damaged by water.
The New York Theatre company, under the management of George H.Abbott, presenting Miss Lizzie Wilsom and Mortimer Martini cast for the title roles in a repertoire of popular plays, came to the Opera House for the week of Novemeber 27, 1896, and plaesed a capacity sudience who throughly enjoyed the actoing of Miss Wilson, who made her initial appearance on the local stage the previous season in support of Miss Kittie Rhodes and who won a large place in the affections of her Grafton audience by her clever stage work.
Gilmore’s famous band with Victor Herbert, conductor, came to the Opera House, December 17, 1896, and the fame of this famous band master and composert was know to practically all the people of the nation. The music lovers of the town vame out in full force to hear, perhaps, the grandest musical treat ever heard in the town. The “cello” solo “Spring Song,” played by Herbert, the acknowledged master of this difficult string instrumnet, was a treat in itself, and as the ensemble was composed of the highest trained artistis in all branches of instrumental music it was a feast of harmony still remembered by those who heard this outstanding band of its days.
Taylor’s King Fools, supporting J.H. Taylor and Miss Mary Taylor and a well baanced company of players including that old Grafton favorite comedian, Arthur Blackaller, came to the Opera House for the week of January 4, 1897. The speciality numbers by members of the cast, Miss Olive North Sullivan, Maud, and James Burton, Nellie Manning and Frank J.Baker were all tuneful and new and won the favor of the nightly audiences who turned out in the usual numbers for these low-priced attractions.
The Grafton Drug and Chemical company was organized by J.E.R Sine, George Stone and William B.Stuck, the latter a Grafton citizen. They purchased the drug business of Mr.I.M.Love and company at 17 West Main street, and were granted a license to sell drugs at both retail and wholesale. William B.Stuck was placed in charge of the business. Some years later Messrs, Sine and Stone disposed of thier interests in the business to Frederick B.Watkins and Pual Malone at the completion of the new Dent building on the south side of Main street. At the death of Dr. W.B.Stuck, Watkins and Malone took over his ineterest in the business. In 1930 Mr.Watkins, senior member, withdrew from active interests in the business to accept the nomination of the Democatic ticket for the state legislature and gave his time to the affairs of his county. Dr. Paul Malone took over the management of the Grafton Drug and Chemical company that was organized 42 years before and this and the general merchandise business of B.F. Poe are the oldest business houses in the town conducted by local merchants.