Wednesday Aug 03 2011
Pub's story starts way back
By: Nancy Hagman, Special to the Colfax Record
HUNTING FOR HEAVY METAL IN COLFAX
In historic downtown Colfax, juts past the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, stands the Pastime Club. Located at 10 N. Main St., it is one of only four buildings in the historic town that has housed the same genre of business since construction. The others are Colfax market, Marson’s clothing and the theatre – only two are still in operation. The story begins with a miner named “Barnie.” Born Bernard Murphy in Ireland, c. 1929, he joined the gold rush and earned enough to turn to the more sustaining trade of “mining the miners.” His first move, in 1862, was to purchase and operate a saloon in Iowa Hill. In 1864, he sold his half-share of the Mountain Gate Mining Company in Damascus and moved to Colfax. By the time the railroad reached town, Murphy’s Saloon was in full swing, complete with billiard table. The next 15 years were obviously successful for Murphy, the value of his property rose and he acquired other lots in town. A partner, or perhaps a creditor, by the name of Joseph Byrne is listed in the transactions of the 1870s. Murphy seems to have escaped the first fire of 1874 only to get caught, with no insurance, in the big fire of 1879. He hung on for a couple of years, with the help of Byrne, but filed for insolvency in 1883 due to losses in a fire. The main creditor, Thomas Kingston, acquired the property through public auction in exchange for a loan of $2,200 to Murphy. The property remained in the Kingston family for the next 70 years. Descendants Adelaide and Ruth Sloan (sisters) sold to Matthew Kelcher and John Horan in 1954. The Kelcher half-share went to his nephew, Wallace Dill, then to Dill’s son Donald. Finally, Harry Bianchi and his second wife, Elvira, purchased the property in 1973 from Dill and Horan. No history seems complete without its mysteries. When dealing with business properties it is sometimes difficult to discern between property ownership and business operations through tenements. Lot 10 of block 3 in Colfax is no exception. Sometime after the Kingston acquisition, William Goldsworthy and his son-in-law Joseph Werry began operating the saloon. Werry’s two sons took over after him; the Werry name was on the masthead for approximately 38 years. During prohibition – 1920 through 1933 – Henry Pucci owned the business for some unknown number of years. In 1933, according to a Colfax Record article, M.C. Kelcher and F.B. Ahern sold soft drinks and confections. Something harder was probably dispensed out the back door. They were raided by “g-men” on numerous occasions. It was called the Pastime Pool Hall. The 21st amendment was ratified in December of that year and bartenders went back to work. A photograph, in the Colfax Heritage Museum collection, dated 1937 shows the Pastime Club sign that is still there today. The final part of the mystery is to determine what year Harry Bianchi took over the operation. Word about town says it was well before he and his wife became the property owners. Some of these answers could come from Elvira Bianchi, who ran the place after her husband’s death. Living just north of town her help is needed to fill in some gaps; otherwise, it will take many hours in the archives.