Its Busy Life, with Portraits
of the Men Who
Made and are Making it
A Model City
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Carroll County was named in honor of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The first settlement was in Savanna in 1828. In 1838 the boundaries of Carroll County were fixed by the General Assembly of the state at Vandalia, the then state capital. In 1843 the county seat was located in Mt. Carroll, the name being given the city by the county commissioners. They drove the stake designating the locating of the highest point of ground here, about where the Baptist church now stands and which had often been called “Baby Mountain” by those who traveled over the trail from Elkhorn to Savanna, and christened the place Mt. Carroll.
Mt. Carroll is situated on the main line of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, 128 miles west of Chicago and eleven miles east of Savanna, contains a population of 2,500 people and is one of the Garden of Eden spots in Illinois. Her sidewalks and streets are of the best. About twelve miles of macadamized street work, and over fifteen miles of sidewalk. The streets and walks are shaded by thousands of hard maple trees that stand along the outer edges of the walks, making the streets in summer a shady bower, a paradise of green. Carroll or “Straddle” Creek lazily winds its way along the north and west sides of the city, the mill pond being on the north side and is spanned by a suspension foot bridge which is a source of interest to strangers. County history tells us that the creek derived its name from a pioneer incident. A man named Chambers was one of the first settlers. He was about sixty years old, short and rather corpulent. At one time in the early days he was assisting a party of surveyors, when they came to the banks of the creek up near Badger Springs, its source, where it is small and narrow. It was necessary to cross the stream, but they didn’t exactly know how to do so without wading, when Mr. Chambers remarked that he could straddle it, short as his legs were. Some of the party offered to wager that he could not even jump it. He did not like to take such a banter, and did straddle it, planting one foot on each bank, but he could neither get over nor back. The banks were pretty high and in his struggles to get to one side or the other, he fell into the water, much to the amusement of the party, who at once named it “Straddle Creek.”
A short distance below the bridge above mentioned is the falls, over which rushes the water not used to run the mill then lazily winds its way along various bends to the south, thence west to Plum River and into the Mississippi. The scenery along the creek is magnificent, grand. None finer in the north west, a veritable Switzerland. A maze of evergreens and towering walls of rock.
As its name indicates, Mt. Carroll is a city of hills. The main business thoroughfare, Market Street, is on an inclined plane, at the foot of which stands the old stone mill one of the first buildings ever erected in the city, the old log house on the Sheldon lot or “Stag’s Point” being the first. When the building of the mill was first commenced there were no women in the colony. On one occasion, there being a good violinist among the men, they improvised a dance, in the old log cabin, all of the dancers being of the mail persuasion, and from this dance the now Sheldon property was christened “Stag’s Point.” The Mill is now the property of the J. M. Shirk Co., and is managed by N. H. Halderman whose father was one of the proprietors who built it. It still grinds away and is one of the landmarks of the city.
The residence portion of Mt. Carroll is chiefly noted for being in perfect harmony with all things which nature has lent so generous a hand in beautifying. Our hills are covered with beautiful homes, well kept lawns and gardens, and the everywhere present fruit, shade and ornamental trees. In the pages of this book appear several of the finest residences in the city.
Mt. Carroll has all the modern improvements, water works, electric lights and fire protection. The water works system is owned and operated by the city. An artesian well 2,500 feet deep furnishes an abundance of pure water, lifted from the well by an air pump, which deposits it in a cemented reservoir from which it is pumped into the stand pipe or reservoir built on the highest point of the highest hill, thence into the four miles of mains which gives the downtown district from 60 to 70 pounds fire pressure to the inch. The volunteer fire department is one of the best equipped and most efficient in the state, and to the swiftness of foot of this department of Mt. Carroll, the city owes much of her wide spread reputation, as the Mt. Carroll fire department has sent a hose team to the Illinois State Firemen’s Association Tournaments which now claims the perpetual championship, having three years in succession won the championship race, and medals, until now they are the perpetual property of the company.
The city is lighted by the Mt. Carroll Electric Light Co., a corporation composed of Mt. Carroll capitalists, who own and operate an electric plant costing in the neighborhood of $20,000.
With the best of streets, sidewalks, and water works, the city only has outstanding bonds to the amount of about $15,000.
Our business houses are substantial stores, well stocked. Several cuts of these buildings will be found in the following pages.
Our schools are among the best in the state, our high school being on the accredited list of both the University of Illinois and the Beloit, Wis. College. We have three public school buildings, employing eleven teachers.
The buildings are heated by steam, lighted by electricity, and supplied with city water. A fine large library and a laboratory are among the useful helps to the student. Every room has a musical instrument, and all the branches taught in any public school are taught in ours.
The Frances Shimer Academy of the University of Chicago is one of the features of Mt. Carroll, being almost as old as the town itself. It was on May 11, 1853 that Misses F. A. Wood and C. M. Gregory (afterwards Mrs. F. A. W. Shimer and Mrs. L. L. Lansing) from New York Normal, young and full of courage, opened a private school for boys and girls in the then newly begun village of Mt. Carroll, Ill. It lived, it grew, it stood times of financial panic, it widened its influence, it became Mt. Carroll seminary, and pupils came from various sections of the country. For that reason, and in the carrying out of the idea and attaining towards the ideal, only girls were admitted as pupils.
In 1870 Mrs. Shimer became sole proprietor of the school, and remained its owner, principal and financial manager until its reincorporation under the name of the Frances Shimer Academy of the University of Chicago in 1896.
As the pupils came from far and near, so are the alumnae to be found in every part of our own land, and some in other lands, as homemakers, teachers, and in various professions. Its past is a record of honorable aspiration, attainment and usefulness.
The location is an ideal one. Mt. Carroll is beautiful for situation, is a town of culture, attractive homes, schools and churches, surrounded by a rich farming country, and of easy access to numerous flourishing towns in our own and adjacent states. The buildings are home-like and the grounds are large, well shaded and attractive.
Mrs. Shimer found no shrub or tree of any kind when she came. Now the trees, planted by her own hand, in many instances, make a scene of rare beauty.
In the transfer of property as a gift from Mrs. Shimer to a board of trustees, the school became affiliated with the University of Chicago; the President of the University and five others of its trustees being trustees of the Academy. The appointment of the teachers is made subject to the approval of the University. The examinations are given by the University. Thus the standard of work done is guaranteed, and lectures by professors, books and apparatus of the University are made available at normal expense.
The Academy is exceedingly fortunate in its Board of Trustees, eight of whom are residents of Carroll County, and seven of Chicago. These are their names: Mrs. Vena M. Beede, Miss Joanna J. Claywell, Mrs. W. R. Hostetter, Henry Mackay, Wm. P. McKee, Henry S. Metcalf, Joseph S. Miles, John M. Rinewalt, of Carroll County, also Lathan A. Crandall, Thos. S. Goodspeed, William R. Harper, Frank J. Miller and Henry A. Rust of Chicago. In the way of religious advantages we are now to the fore, and can well be called the city of churches. Five houses for religious worship are located her, the Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, Lutheran, Bethel, or Church of God, and Dunkard Brethren, all of which have regular pastors. The United Brethren denomination is also well represented here, and has long been holding meetings in vacant store rooms. The Christian church, too, has a membership in the city but no minister or house of worship. The Christian Scientists have a reading room where public services are held.
Mt. Carroll is the county seat of Carroll County. The county buildings are situated in the center of the business portion of the city, in a beautiful park filled with shade trees. A three story brick court house was erected in 1858, which was used as sheriff’s residence, court room, for circuit and county court, jury and supervisors rooms, and offices of the county officers. But we outgrew the old building and in 1896, the supervisors caused to be erected a fine fire proof office building in which the records of the county are absolutely safe from fire. In this building are located the offices of county judge, superintendent of schools, county and circuit clerk. The buildings are heated by steam. The old building is now used as circuit court chamber, jury rooms, States Attorney’s office, Sheriff’s residence and office, Judge’s private office and Treasurer’s office.
On the north west corner of the square stands one of the finest soldiers’ monuments in the state, erected to the memory of those soldiers who died for their country, who enlisted from Carroll county. On either side and back of the monument stands a cannon guarding the approach to the shaft, and in the rear is a pyramid of cannon balls.
Two miles south of Mt. Carroll is situated the County Farm, where the poor are provided with comfortable homes. The farm is kept up in splendid shape, the building being modern, built of brick and are large, roomy and airy. To look at it no one would call it a “Poor Farm.”
In the way of Civic Societies, Mt. Carroll is not lacking, as there are several lodges for every night of the week. Among these are:
Long Commandery, No. 60 K. T. Cyrus Lodge, No. 188, A. F. & A. M. Ola Chapter, No. 170, O. E. S. Carroll Lodge, No. 50, I. O. O. F. Precilla Rebekah Lodge, No. 315 Excelsior Camp, No. 8, M. W. A. Carroll Camp, No. 385 Royal Neighbors of America Nase Post, No. 80, G. A. R. L. B. Fisk Garrison, No. 13, K. G. Carroll Court of Honor, No. 156 Washington Camp No. 72, P. O. S. of A. Hill City Tent No. 165 Knights of the Maccabees Knights of the Mystic Workers, No. 30
Aside from these regularly organized lodges, all of which have lodge rooms and regular nights of meeting, there are a number of gentlemen who belong to the Knights of Pythias, Woodmen of the World, Farmers’ Federation, and other secret fraternal and beneficiary organizations.
The social life of the city is at its height in winter, when balls, theatricals, and social and pleasurable home gatherings of various kinds flourish to a high degree. In the summer season, out-door sports, such as trap shooting, bicycling, base and foot ball, lawn tennis, and foot racing prevail. Owning to the training of the champion hose team Mt. Carroll probably has more foot racers than any other city of its size in the country. As a whole, Mt. Carroll is not surpassed in the world in morals, in beauty, in intelligence, in wealth, in grandeur of scenery, in good fellowship, in business, nor as a city.
April 6, 1867, the citizens of Mt. Carroll decided that it was time to throw off their swaddling clothes and organize as a city, and the annual town election by a vote of 228 to 44 it was decided to make the town a city. A special charter was secured from the State of Illinois (which has never been changed) and on April 16, a city election was held, the issue being license and anti-license, as at present. The tickets were:
Nathaniel Halderman, Mayor
O. S. Beardsley, Mayor
John Nycum, Chas. Phillips, S. H. Adair, Jackson Beaver, Aldermen
The anti- license ticket was elected by 33 majority. Not one of the gentlemen composing the first council, elected 31 years ago, is now alive. The Board was inaugurated April 23, and appointed the following officers:
James Shaw, city clerk
Henry A. Mills, city treasurer
Peter Beeler, street commissioner
Charles P. Sutton, city marshall
James Shaw, city attorney
Of these gentlemen Mills and Beeler are dead. Our present council consists of:
Geo. F. Bucher, Mayor.
Dr. H. S. Metcalf, President
Isabelle Hunder, Mrs. Jennie McCully, Ralph Eaton, Enos T. Cole, John C. Gelwicks, Irve Smith, Members.
Prof. J. M. McCallie, Superintendent
CHURCHES AND PASTORS
First Baptist, Rev. J. P. Philips
County Judge, Alva F. Wingert
Supervisor, Wm. E. Nipe
County Judge, Alva F. Wingert
Supervisor, Wm. E. Nipe
Supervisor, Wm. E. Nipe
Member Congress 9th Dist., R. R. Hitt
Following we will endeavor to give a brief outline of the men who have and are making Mt. Carroll a model city by their enterprise and progressiveness.
I urge you to take the scenic route through this series - by clicking on "next" which is below.
But if you are in a really big hurry - I've created an index, which includes the main events, topics and people. (Not all are included)