Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: The Milliners

hatMatson Insurance is partnering with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look in Jefferson County’s past. Today “The Milliners” article is being showcased.

(Pictured above: A favorite photograph of the curator, the woman is unknown, but the hat probably originated in the shop of one of the many milliners who had shops on Main Street.)


Between 1830 when Brookville was established and 1860 at least three milliners worked to keep the town’s women fashionable.

We know only their names: the Misses Ann Guffey, Ellen Butler, and S. A. McKillep. The milliner we know most about is Amelia F. Melchoir, the daughter of a German couple who arrived in Brookville in 1852. Amelia was twenty-five in 1868 when she took over Ellen Butler’s millinery shop. She relocated several times and in 1874 married Civil War veteran John Wilson Henderson. Two years later her Main Street shop burned in the great fire.

In 1882 the Hendersons bought the brick building at 160 Main Street, built by Robert Barr. As was common, the Hendersons resided in this building, too. Amelia operated her “millinery and fancy goods” shops for more than fifty years. McCracken wrote in 1920 that she “has the distinction of having the oldest business concern now trading in town.” Amelia died in 1923.

The “home news” and “home happenings” columns of local newspapers made a point of mentioning when local milliners traveled to Buffalo and Philadelphia to view the latest in fashions and to buy the materials needed to create hats for the coming season. Mrs. Henderson often took her assistant. Other milliners mentioned in newspapers and old directories include Mrs. Smith, Lena Jackson, Emma Paine Henry (Mrs. W. A.), and Mrs. Carroll. In fact, in the 1905-1906 directory it appears that four milliners had shops very near each other: the Aaron sisters at 140 W. Main; Amelia at 142 W. Main (the present state store renumbered as 160); Lena, an aunt of Addie Edelblute Pearsall, at 152 W. Main, now the History Center Shop and re-numbered as 172; and Mrs. Shofstahl at 166 W. Main, most likely where the Area Agency on Aging is now located.

Hats were important accessories well into the twentieth century. Women went to club meetings and charity organization events wearing dresses, hats, gloves, heels, and carrying a handbag. Not so, today!

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.


Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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