HISTORY OF DOUGLAS COUNTY, IL
F.A. BATTEY & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1884.
BY H.C. NILES
REPRODUCED FROM THE ORIGINALS AND CONTRIBUTED
LARRY M. BURMEISTER
“In every age some men carried the torch of progress. Had it not been for such men, we had been naked and uncivilized today.”
outside of the dry detail, the cold and often cruel facts of public record, is generally to be found in the memory of individuals, and experience teaches that much important and interesting matter is modified by the failing memory or modesty of the oldest inhabitant. If any one of them had, about all his Douglas County life, been laboring under even a mild form of the affliction called by the literary doctors, “cacoethes scribendi” (which unfortunately is not catching), he would hail with great satisfaction the sympathy and assistance which he would be sure to receive from a fellow-pilgrim subject to the same disease. “Thus far into the bowels of the land” have we advanced; with the quid pro quo in prospect, it is supposable that one who had industry enough to get thus far has pride enough in his work to covet a modicum of praise for trying. If he has not the capacity or skill to build up all, but nevertheless does what he can in the foundation, he may hereafter be thought worthy to assist in the superstructure, and would it not be a good idea to place in the back of this volume a few blank leaves, as a foundation for an appendix, where notes made for corrections or changes may be referred to upon the margin of the text, thus with combined resources making the future perfect history of the county, which, in the minds of a generous few, is “a consummation most devoutly to be wished?”
Before Douglas County had an existence, the city of Arcola, from which the township derives its name, was called by the railroad company “Okaw,” after the river of that name, which traverses the west part of the county.
“Okaw was a local name only, the true name of the river being Kaskaskia, from the French, and it has been claimed by knowing ones that the word “Okaw” is a corruption of Kaskaskia which, in the vernacular, was “Kawkaw.” (Indian: Crow River?) Thence, by an easy transition, “Okaw.” Col. John Cofer, who had represented the county of Coles in the State Legislature, was Postmaster to accommodate the neighborhood at Rural Retreat (in the southeast quarter of Section 16, Township 14 north, Range 9 east, since abolished, from 1854 to 1858, and upon him, as being the nearest Postmaster, devolved the duty of certifying the necessity of a new post office at Okaw, which had been petitioned for by Judge and Dr. Henry, John Blackwell and others. In due course, Col Cofer sent the papers to Washington, and they were returned, as is usual in such cases, with the information that there was already in the State of Illinois a post office with the same name as the one proposed. This made it necessary that a new name should be selected before the new office could, under the law, be established. Mr. E. Hewitt, the first Illinois Central Railroad agent at this point, after cudgeling his brains to no effect, observing a knot of citizens near, came out of his office at the depot, and in the presence of Judge James Ewing and others asked for suggestions, whereupon James Kearney said “Arcola.” The name took instantly, and was adopted nem. con. It appears to have been selected from its euphony rather than from any illusion or reference to a historical reminiscence, though one of Napoleon’s greatest battles was fought and gained over the Austrians in Italy at a place and bridge of that name, and it appears to be the only and not similar name. Judge Ewing kindly furnished these facts. The name is unquestionably beautiful, as is that of her sister township on the north. Both of the names terminating alike is food for rumination, but all attempts to connect the two as some relation have failed. John Blackwell, Esq., was prominent in all that pertains to good citizenship, and had much to do with the management of affairs. His residence dated from 1857. He was the first magistrate of Arcola, much against his will, but the convenience had to be. He died in January, 1869, leaving a vacancy in the business ranks not easily supplied. John Blackwell was grandson of Col. Jacob Blackwell of Revolutionary fame. The Colonel was the owner of Blackwell’s Island and nearly all the eastern end of Long Island
adjacent to New York, from Astoria to Brooklyn. This tract includes Astoria, Ravenswood, Long Island City, Green Point and Williamsburg. He resided in the old mansion on Webster avenue, where he entertained Gen. Washington, and in the grounds attached thereto repose the bones of the Colonel and his wife. Col. Blackwell was prominently identified with the Revolutionary party, and was a member of the Continental Congress. His door, branded with the letter “R” (rebel, because of his opposition to the British Crown, is still kept as an heirloom by some of his descendants). Samuel Blackwell, son of Col. Jacob, and father of John Blackwell, had sixteen children (eight girls and eight boys), their immediate descendants numbering 141. John Blackwell, son of Samuel Blackwell, had nineteen children, twelve of whom are now living. John Blackwell came by the old Springfield trail in 1834, and purchased property in Tazewell County, going from there to Chicago, traveling in mud knee deep in what is now the heart of the city. He subsequently returned to New York City; from thence he went to Newbern, N. C., where he lived until 1857. At this date he moved to Chicago, and from Chicago to Arcola, arriving in July, 1857. His family came here in December of the same year. His house was framed in Chicago, and shipped with the carpenters to build it, most of whom settled here. He went into the lumber business here, and in company with his son Samuel purchased a considerable quantity of land adjacent to Arcola. He remained in the lumber business until 1863, when he retired. He was a member and one of the founders of the Episcopal Church in Arcola.
At the time of the formation of Douglas County, February, 1859, that portion of its area now known as Arcola Township was called Arcola Precinct. It was bounded on the north by Tuscola Township, but now extends one mile further north. It contained a tier of six sections on the east, which are now included in Bowdre, and it also included eighteen sections of land, all of Township 14 north, Range 7 east, which were, on regular township organization in 1868 handed over to Bourbon. This was an election precinct, and contained an area of about seventyone, which was, in 1868, cut down to fifty-three and eight-tenths square
miles, being exactly, according to the Government survey, 34,643.26 acres. Township organization was voted for in 1867, and the apportionment made in 1868, Dr. Lucius McAllister being one of the Commissioners appointed by the County Board to make the partition. Calvin Jones was Associate County Judge. The special circumstances under which the division was made will be found under its proper head in the general history of the county herewith. The word “township” for these political subdivisions is unfortunately chosen, as, for instance, Arcola City is in Arcola Township, and is also in Township 14 north, of Range 8 east. Arcola is bounded on the north by Tuscola Township, taking in twenty-four sections in Township 15 north, Range 8 east; it contains the north half of Township 14 north, Range 8 east, which takes it to the Coles County line. It has the six west sections of Township 14 north, Range 9 east, and Sections 17, 18, 19, 20, 29, 30, 31, 32 of Township 15 north, Range 9 east; in all fifty-six sections of land, containing on an average 640 acres each. Arcola, as now constituted, was originally essentially all prairie, the only natural timber being in the extreme southwest corner, where the Okaw or Kaskaskia River cuts off a few acres. There are at the present day, however, many beautiful planted groves and orchards — the old-fashioned appearance of flatness in the prairie being about cured by these artificial changes.
Township 15 north, of Range 8 east, the Congressional township lying between Arcola and Tuscola, was surveyed in 1821. The south line was established by John Messinger, Deputy Surveyor, and finished April 5 of this year. The subdividing of the township into sections was finished by A. McK. Hamtranck, a Deputy, June 9, 1821. He gives the variation of the compass at that time as 8 degrees 50 minutes east. The present variation is 3 degrees only. This surveying was done nine years before the first settler struck the county. In this connection it may be as well to inform that no Douglas County Surveyor has ever discovered in the interior of this township a single original Government corner out of the seventy-eight which the Government Surveyor certifies he made, and perpetuated with mounds and stakes. Local surveying was done here first in 1850. The greater part, however, was done in 1859 and since. The absence of the interior corners
gives rise to the suspicion that, from some cause, the surveyor did not survey this township. The exterior lines were set out by another man, as the law requires, and are all right. Local surveyors therefore found the township very difficult to manage up to about 1875, up to which time a large amount of money had been expended in running long lines clear acorss the whole, and the experience of this generation as to the proper situation of things will have to control generally instead of near original corners.
The first entry of land within the present bounds of this township was made December 24, 1832, by James Shaw. He entered several tracts at about the same time in Bourbon Township, and subsequently other lands. His descendants are yet citizens of Bourbon, and one of his sons, W. N. Shaw, represented Bourbon as Supervisor for about six years consecutively, and died in 1882, whilst in office.
The present largest land owner is D. M. Marsh, of Cleveland, who owns about sixteen hundred acres, which have been under the care of Mr. George Fox, since 1870. These lands are lately transferred to C. A. Bogardus. The school sections are one-thirty-sixth part of all Government lands. Section No. 16, in Township 14 north, Range 8 east, was by law devoted to schools, and the title of purchasers is derived from the State. It was surveyed and divided into lots, as the law required, but the subdivision can only be inferred from the various conveyances. The Illinois Central’s 200-foot right of way passed through it and governed the lotting. Lot 1, 77.84 acres, was about the north half of the northeast quarter; Lot 2 is directly west, and on the west side of the railroad, 76 acres; Lot 3, south of the last, 72 acres; Lots 4 and 5 are nearly on the south half of the northeast quarter, the west one, 42 acres, the other 40 acres; Lot 6 is the northeast quarter of the southeast-quarter, and 7 is next to railroad, 46 acres; No. 8 is that part of north half of the southwest quarter, which is west of railroad, and contains about 68 acres; Lot 9 is south of it, 63 3/4 acres; Lot 10 is east of the last, has 50 acres, and No. 11 is the southeast quarter of the southeast quarter, 40 acres.
The other school section in this political township, Section 16, Township 15, Range 8, was evenly divided into 16 lots of 40.28 acres each, and in 1853 was bought by the Geres and Malden Jones and O. B. Ficklin. Many large farms on the prairie were started by men who coming from a hilly or timbered location, seeing the beautiful rolling prairies for the first time, ready for the plow without stump or stone to hinder, coveted the whole expanse, as far as the eye could reach, and nearly every one purchased too much for his capital. Smaller farms mean more people, more real workers, and more real owners. Time and again railroad lands were “taken up” by the whole section, a house and some fencing built, but, after a few years’ experience, the load proved too heavy, and the land was permitted to go back, or perhaps a small portion was paid for, and retained.
The township is traversed by the Chicago branch of the Illinois Central Railroad, running north and south, leaving two-thirds of the area to the east side of the road. The road enters the township near the northwest corner of Section 15, Township 15 north, Range 9 east, and leaves it east of southwest corner of Section 16, Township 14 north, Range 8 east, and is something over seven miles in length in the township. The road is a straight line in the county, and varies from north to south about seven degrees — that is, it bears to the right just about 40 rods to the mile, and has a right of way, or reserve, 200 feet wide, generally inclosed by a substantial fence, which is a statutory requirement. About 24 acres of land are occupied by the road for every mile, making in all, in the township, about 168 acres.
Arcola Township is also traversed from east to west by the Illinois Midland Railway. This road was originally an enterprise of prominent citizens of the city and vicinage, and was first called the Paris & Decatur; upon the extension of the road to Terre Haute, the name of that city was prefixed, and finally it received its present name. The first train passed over this road October 25, 1872.
Arcola and other township bonds were issued by a vote of the people,amounting in the aggregate to $165,000, the amount voted by this township
being $100,000. These bonds were disposed of by the company, and finally found their way into the hands of parties as an investment. The legality of the procedure was made a question, both as to calling the election and voting the bonds, all of which were finally decided adversely; consequently the bonds have not been paid by the township, though the railroad reaped the benefit of them.
The road enters the township at the northwest corner of Section 6, Township 14 north, Range 8 east, runs in a southeasterly direction to the city of Arcola, thence east along the mid line of the north tier of sections, and leaves the township about the northeast corner of Section 5, Township 14 north, Range 9 east, occupying a length of about eight miles. The proposed donation of the township bonds to the railroad was in consequence of a petition which suggested that they should draw ten per cent interest, payable semi-annually, the bonds not to be delivered until one mile of track had been graded and ironed in the township, and to be delivered in no greater amount per mile than $6,000, through the county as far as it was practicable, to influence the other townships through which the road should pass, to similar action, the petitioners suggested that a meeting be held for the purpose on June 24, 1869. At this time D. Hitchcock was the Supervisor and Thomas Todd, Clerk. The petition was signed by C. E. Bosworth, I. G. Bowman, J. W. Douglas, J. B. Ward, H. D. Jenkins, J. R. Smith, John Ray, James Matters, B. H. Burton, P. M. Monahan, J. W. Lauthan, James Beggs and L. C. Rust. The election was held accordingly, and resulted for subscription 324 votes, against it one vote. Carried. August 16, 1870, John Ray was authorized to procure the blank bonds; they were made to bear ten per cent interest from May 1, 1871, payable at the Security Bank in New York. John J. Henry was appointed to act as Trustee to receive, hold and pay out the bonds, and the signing of them was ratified by the Town Auditors on 3d of April, 1871.
This road was projected, managed and put through by three or four residents of Arcola City, who, prior to the beginning of the enterprise, were pursuing the even tenor of their way as quiet and good citizens, not remarkable above their fellows for any more financial ability than the average. They built the road and controlled the franchises until it was consolidated under its present style.
Proposed Railroads — A Toledo & St. Louis Railroad was explored, running in a southwesterly direction from the city. The surveying was done in 1871-72. It was graded for several miles to the southwest at considerable expense, and much of the grade remains good at the present writing. In October, 1871, delegations from both Arcola and Tuscola met in Shelbyville in the interest of this road, and that of their respective towns, and there were other proposed railroads ad libitum.
The proposed Danville & St. Louis Railroad was surveyed in 1883, running southwesterly from the city, and June 28, 1883, the City Council granted it the right of way on the same street (?) occupied by the Illinois Midland Railway, provided the cars ran upon it before January 1, 1885. No special interest seems to have been taken by the citizens of Arcola, though a few conditional notes were given for expenses of securing right of way, etc. The faith of the county in proposed railroads is about exhausted, and one prominent man said he would not “believe in a new road until the cars have been running on it a year.” Railroads made Douglas County as far as she has progressed, and the unrest so plainly manifest in the dozen so-called cities calls for more railroads. The advantages to large shippers were competing roads concentrate are thoroughly appreciated.
North and south through the county is occupied and east and west is thoroughly covered by the iron highway. No man since Douglas County was formed has had the temerity to propose a road running northwest through the county, the objective points not being in the line of demand. This leaves the only practicable route for a new road headed by Danville on the northeast and by St. Louis at the other end; between these two railroad centers a strip of territory of an average width of twenty miles remains open for Douglas County roads. That it has been considered time and again is simply shown by the citizen encouragement of at least seven proposed roads, all tending to the southwest. Railroad engineers have staked out lines southwest from Hume, from Newman, from near Camargo, at Tuscola, at Arcola, near Hindsboro, at Bourbon, at Arthur; in at least seven instances explorations have been made at considerable expense, all tending to occupy the coveted territory. In all of these cases a regular corps of railroad engineers have appeared on the route, which has taken all the preliminary steps without
which no railroad can be built. The expense of such exploration is not less than $30 a day in addition to the value of surveying instruments, which are sometimes bought outright.
This shows that Douglas County is on the line, and that the strip of territory is needed in somebody’s business. It also shows that more than one socalled company aims to acquire a “quasi” right of way, and other franchises which in the course of events may have a market value. Douglas County has had about enough of this, and if a new railroad ever crosses her it must now come in business harness, and silver-mounted at that.
The Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad informs that the elevation of Arcola above the Gulf of Mexico is 699 feet. The relative height of Galton is 675; therefore Arcola is 19 feet higher than Tuscola, and 17 feet lower than Hayes. Galton is 24 feet lower than Arcola, five feet lower than Tuscola, and forty-one feet lower than Hayes. These relative elevations can easily be kept the run of in future railroad surveying out of Arcola.
The drainage of this division of the county is indicated by the dividing ridge, which lies on the west side of the township, in about a north and south direction, the greater part of the surplus water finding its natural course, in an easterly and northeasterly direction, to a branch of the Embarrass River, known as Scattering Fork, the highest point in the township being in the northwest corner — actual measurement shows that the city, in the south center of the township, has an elevation of about forty-three feet, as compared to its lowest point in the northeast corner.
The railroad embankments in this section are not notable for elevated grades, the road being close to the natural surface of the prairie, but the ground near the city is some eighteen feet higher than Tuscola City, according to the survey of the Illinois Central Railroad; it is worth noting, perhaps, that a more or less distinct view of Tuscola can be had from a near point east of Arcola City.
Under the statute, and the care and management of the present energetic Board of Highway Commissioners — Messrs. Daly, Swinehart and McDaniel — a large drainage district has been established, which consists of a main ditch and a multitude of branches, making an aggregate length of twentynine miles.
This district was instituted by petition of land owners in September, 1883, and having been a long while in contemplation, was successfully organized by C. G. Eckart, the attorney for the Commissioners. They also employed H. C. Niles, engineer, who took the elevations every 100 feet, and made regular profiles and maps. The law requires that each land owner through which the drain runs shall have credit for all ditching found upon the route which can be utilized by the Commissioners. In some instances these were so large as to require no improvement, the owner having done all he could on his own land; but, as is usual, the outlet had been neglected, and being a sine qua non, hence these proceedings. These drains are all east of the Illinois Central Railroad, and running east and northeast, and comprising in all very nearly 12,000 acres, at a proposed cost of about $7,000, the comparatively small cost being by reason of the large amount of drainage work already done by private enterprise.
THE SWAMP LANDS
in this neighborhood being such land as can be proven to have been, as to the greater part of each forty acres, swamp or overflowed up to 1860, and not susceptible of cultivation without artificial drainage, have not yet been proven up. For the reason that all of the township lies within the six-mile limit of the Illinois Central Railroad, the Government officials have held that there can be no idemnity for lands within the limit until Congress passes an act for their relief. The gift of the Government value of these lands, by the Government, to the State, and by the State to the various counties in which they are situated, will be found duly explained in the general history of the county. A large amount of so-called swamp and overflowed lands have been selected in the township, but the proofs have not been completed, nor will they be until Congress enacts the requisite laws, which it is confidently expected it will do.
The coal measures in the county show no outcrop. The State geologist says: “It is not probable that any heavy bed of coal will be found here short of 600 to 800 feet of depth.” Mr. F. A. McCarty, in the fall of 1880, made a boring on his farm near the north line of Section 32, Township 15, Range 9, and at a depth of “sixty feet,” reports that he “pierced a coal seam at least four feet in thickness.” It is soft, and appears to be of good quality — equal to Shelbyville coal, in the judgment of Prof. Worthen, to whom a sample was submitted. Mr. McCarty came from New York State in 1876, is an extensive land owner and an alert business man.
Sixty feet! Carboniferous age! why don’t somebody undertake to give us the coveted “news from the interior,” and an “opinion as is an opinion,” as to our resources for business, over and above swapping jack-knives.” A coal bed a foot thick gives 1,000,000 tons to the square mile, and three feet, the smallest that can be worked profitably, three times as much.
In the summer of 1870, upon the farm of Thomas Wyeth, Esq., about ten miles southeast of the city of Arcola, the great natural curiosity, known as the gas well, was discovered in boring in an old well for water. A depth of about 100 feet had been reached, when a withdrawal of the boring apparatus was followed by a violent rush of pungent gas, which suspended work, and on the experiment of lighting, being tried, it was found to be strongly illuminating, furnishing at the same time a large amount of heat. It showed a flame of from six to eight feet in height, which roared and burnt for about one year, when it was measurably stopped by the old well, in which the boring had been made, being gradually filled with water. The heat and the light of this gas were utilized in the dwelling. A second boring was made near by, which showed all the peculiarities of the old well, and is still in burning condition. Whilst at its best, the place was visited by thousands, who almost demanded a hotel near by.
This gas well is not strictly a Douglas County institution, being indeed
just south of the county line. But in Arcola City, a similar well was discovered on Lot 17, northeast quarter of Section 4, Township 14, Range 8, just north of the Midland Railway, the experiences with which were much the same.
CITY OF ARCOLA.
Arcola City occupies all of Section 4, west half of southwest quarter of Section 3, and the north half of northeast quarter of Section 9, all in Township 14, No. 14, north of Range 8, east of Third Principal Meridian. “Okaw,” the original town, was laid off by the Illinois Central Railroad Company, upon its own lands in Section No. 4, and occupied a tract of land lying on the west side of the southeast quarter of the section, about one-half mile long by about one-quarter mile wide, on either side of the railroad track; it was surveyed by John Meadows, Coles County Surveyor, October 22, 1855, so that Arcola antedates the county by about four years. The plat and survey were indorsed by J. N. A. Griswold, President of the company, and they reserved a strip of land 100 feet wide on either side of the center line of the track. North and south, across the whole of said plat, they also reserved the right to lay side tracks in both Chesnut and Oak streets, outside of the 200 feet limit, and for warehouses, and it was specially stated, that “no right of crossing that part marked as reserved for Illinois Central Railroad, at any point between Second South and Second North streets is granted to the public.” This reserve includes a strip of land eighty rods long and 300 feet wide in the heart of the original town. Whether the free and undisputed use of this reserve, as applied, at least, to Chestnut and Oak streets, for twentynine years, have given the public rights here which the railroad company is bound to respect, may be left to the lawyers to decide.
The first town was laid off parallel with and at right angles to the railroad track, and consists of twenty blocks, the lots next to the railroad having a front of forty feet, the back lots being eighty; they all have a uniform depth of 160 feet; the east and west streets are of a width of 70 feet; those running parallel with the railroad alternate with widths of 70 and 40 feet. The direction of the railroad here being about seven degrees to the right of a north and south line, and governing the blocks and streets, necessarily leaves the
streets, lanes and alleys, to use a local expression, not “square with the world,” and made point lots and blocks in subsequent surveys, and the proprietors of the later additions choosing to square up their lines in conformity with the cardinal points, the result is a decided deflection in every street, and the good taste of the original proprietors, in this regard, is, to say the least, questionable.
M’CANN’S FIRST ADDITION.
In April, 1858, John McCann made the first addition, consisting of varied sizes of lots and blocks. It was surveyed by Stephen B. Moore, also a Coles County Surveyor. The law, which in those days made it incumbent upon proprietors to employ the County Surveyor to lay off town lots, has since changed and now any competent surveyor will “fill the bill.” In this subdivision, the plan of the original town, as to direction of streets, was followed. Mr. Moore also surveyed
This addition was made by Dr. F. B. Henry, August 2, 1858. It consists of ten blocks of fifty feet front, being 160 feet deep. Dr. H. caused the streets to be continued as first planned by the railroad.
CHANDLER & BALES’ ADDITIONS.
In July, 1864, Messrs. John Chandler and Caleb Bales laid out their addition on the south and followed in June, 1865, with the second addition, all surveyed by E. C. Siler, the Douglas County Surveyor. These two additions occupy the north half of the northeast quarter of Section 9, Township 14 north, Range 8 east, eighty acres. The blocks are of liberal size, Block 9 being dedicated for a park. These gentlemen saw fit to square up things and run the streets north and south and east and west, thus making a notable bend, or deflection, in every north and south street, beginning at the Springfield road, which is on the section and dividing line.
M’CANN’S SECOND ADDITION.
In July, 1877, Mr. McCann made his second addition, surveyed by Niles, and situated in the southwest quarter of Section 4, Township 14, Range 8. He continued the railroad plan, and kept the streets straight.
SHELDON & JACQUE’S ADDITION
being the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 3, Township 14, Range 8, was surveyed by Issachar Davis, a Douglas County Surveyor, August 6, 1868. These proprietors, like Messrs. Chandler & Bales, abandoned the railroad plan and worked their survey square, as may be readily observed by the notable deflections in all east and west streets, beginning at the Sheldon & Jacques west line.
Dr. Henry had in previous years acquired all the southeast quarter of Section 4, not included in the original town plat, and after instituting his regular addition, sold off the balance, by metes and bounds, in lots and blocks to suit purchasers, preserving, however, the extensions of streets. These transfers resulted in many fractional or anomalous lots, no two of which resembled each other, and when a very particular description of one of them is needed, it generally takes two Arcola lawyers and a competent surveyor to trace it. For the expression S. S5.45, E. 5.07 C., is to the average investigator somewhat cabalistic. The northeast part of Section 4 is divided generally into large lots or blocks, which were for the greater part sold out by metes and bounds by Dr. Henry.
For municipal purposes, the city is at present, 1884, divided into two wards or voting districts. The First Ward consists of all that part of the city which is north of First Street — the Second Ward being south of the same street.
The cemetery of the city and vicinity is situated in Section 10, Township 14, Range 8, in northeast quarter, three and three-fourth acres of land, being designated in a deed from Dr. F. B. Henry made in July, 1866. It appears that the ground had been previously used for burial purposes, which necessitated a quit claim deed from various parties, which was accordingly made with stipulations. The ground is under the control of the City Council, which, as yet, has not had the record of organization perfected. It was first
surveyed in March, 1866, by J. F. Hall, as surveyor, under the direction of Dr. Henry and others, and an addition was subsequently made upon the north. Twenty-five years of burials have made this a veritable city of the dead. This last resting place of the forefathers is whitening with age. Here the turf has been turned over many a moldering heap. The fresh perfumed
breezes of the morning air wake them not,
“For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp the sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.”
No regular systematic plan of thorough drainage has as yet been adopted by the city, as in her sister towns; sluggish ditches slowly absorb the surplus water of streets, refusing relief to numerous ponds, which ornament some thoroughfares. Fishing expeditions have been organized to these, with the usual “fisherman luck,” but the ponds as ponds were pronounced to be as good as could be expected under the circumstances.
The only published map of the city to date, 1884, is that found in Brink & Co.’s atlas, published in 1874, on a scale of 400 feet to the inch. A large manuscript map of the same was made by order of the City Council in 1873, which was a copy of the records; or rather a map made and offered by Niles as a true copy of all the recorded plats properly adjusted, was accepted by the Council of that year.
The first City Council or Board of Trustees was convened in May, 1858; Mahlon Barnhardt was President. The City Clerk was I. S. Taylor. W. T. Sylvester and John J. Henry were of the board. City records prior to 1872 do not seem to be available. June 8, 1872, a meeting was held, Mayor D. Tibbott, presiding, and the Council consisted of James Matters, P. D. Ray, Byron Willis and J. M. Righter. George Klink was Clerk, and it appearing
that the Council had, November 15, 1869, donated Third North street to the Paris & Decatur Railroad, provided said railroad should be built on said street, it was discovered that there was no such street, and the railroad was notified that the former resolution was unauthorized, and the the city would not be held responsible for any right of way upon that street. The road, however, was built along the route of the formerly supposed street and along the south end of some large blocks belonging to individuals, and at least, in the first instance, without so much as “by your leave.”
Liquor license for three months was granted, to terminate October 1, 1872, and in the same year the price of license was fixed at $400 per annum. Saloons ran with varying fortunes until May, 1883, when the election of a temperance Mayor and Council terminated that branch of industry in this city. October, 1872, a minute appears which recites that “no huckster be allowed to sell produce for less than $1 or more than $5.” George Klink, Democrat, was elected Mayor in April, 1873, and re-elected April 17, 1877. In 1873, the first Council consisted of James Jones, J. H. Magner, James E. Morris and H. M. McCrory. W. J. Calhoun was City Clerk.
A petition for incorporation was circulated in June, 1873, signed by 120 citizens. The election was held June 16, same year, and resulted for incorporation under the general law, 244 votes; contra, 11; total, 265, and August 6, 1873, the city was incorporated under the general law for incorporating cities and villages, which was in force July 1, 1872. W. H. Spencer, at or about this time, was made City Attorney, the salary being fixed at $375 per annum. Mr. S. was a member of the Douglas County bar, and removed to Terre Haute. The City Clerk’s wage was, per year, $150. Mr. S. was authorized to proceed to Springfield to endeavor to procure an amendment to the general incorporation law with reference to minority representation. At a city election held April 21, 1874, Mr. Walter Boyd was elected City Attorney, David Tibbott, Treasurer, and J. W. Spencer, City Clerk, for the ensuing year; and in September, 1875, and again in February, 1876, license
to sell liquors was granted to the druggists.
George L. Wicks was elected City Clerk in April, 1877. In 1878, H. C. George was authorized to go to Greencastle and ascertain the cost of twentyfive car loads of stone for the building of streets. S. D. Lloyd was elected Mayor in April, 1879, beating Mr. Klink four votes. J. D. Cunningham was made Clerk, and E. L. Walker, City Attorney. In April, 1881, J. H. Sylvester was placed in the Mayoralty, with B. H. Logan as Clerk. Mr. H. O. Snyder was elected to the Mayoralty in April, 1883, with J. F. Charleston as Clerk. It was in the following month that license to sell liquor was refused to saloonists. December 5, 1881, an attempt was made by vote to authorize the purchase of fire apparatus, to cost $2,500, the affirmative receiving 63 votes, whilst those voting against the scheme deposited 137 votes.
The city has lost much by many destructive fires, one of the more notable having occurred in January, 1874, burning a substantial and ornamental brick block on the north side of First South street, west of the railroad, which had been erected by Samuel Blackwell, at a cost of about $20,000. This fire was by many supposed to be incendiary, but, as the building had been on fire once before, in a drug store, which occupied part of it, this may have been spontaneous in its origin; but if so, exceptional, for the reason that drug stores have of late years been conceded to be not of special extra risk as to natural combustion, but from the multiplicity of fragile stock, is rather risky as to salvage. In the summer of 1861, a large elevator was burnt, and again Bradbury’s mill in the south part of the town; Rust’s large frame dwelling, situated on the west end and north side of First street, was burnt, and Arcola has lost at least three hotels by fire. The fire, par excellence, upon which the enterprising citizens pride themselves as hardly surpassed by that of any rival village in this part of the State, occurred on September 1, 1881, at 2:30 P.M. It was first observed by Mr. H. Tay, in his large furniture store, situated on the south side of First South street, west of the Illinois Central Railroad. The origin of it, though carefully inquired for, has never been ascertained, and will probably remain unknown. The beginning was so sudden in its action that Tay saved very little of his stock of
furniture, and before the active and willing volunteer firemen had fully taken in the situation, adjoining houses were involved to the extent that called attention to the rescue of threatened buildings far removed. The usual number of perfectly cool men who had nothing at stake, calm and self-possessed, stood around and criticised the exhaustive labor of the real firemen, but before the end, even the loafers awoke to the requirements of the case, and made good seconds. The fire, after disposing of its immediate surroundings, started north along the railroad, and took in the Belvidere House on the north side of First South street. This was a good-sized three-story brick, belonging to F. R. Coffin, and occupied as a hotel by A. Sellers, who lost everything. It continued north, using up the Franklin Hotel, and in all about twelve buildings, amongst which was the original depot and freight house of the Illinois Central Railroad, the first building erected in the city, and situated on the west side of the track and north of First South street, a little north of the present new freight house. The loss in this fire calamity was estimated at about $100,000, which is probably within limits. The light of the fire was plainly visible from Tuscola, eight miles north, and the freight train due at Arcola at 9 P.M. was loaded with people anxious to be on the ground from various motives, but the telegraph having informed that the railroad tracks at Arcola were ruined, passage could not be had.
The railroad company at once replaced the original station house with the present handsome brick building, which is situated about opposite to the site of the old house, and is such an immense improvement to Arcola that it almost provokes jealousy in other towns on the road, though they would hardly be willing to make the improvement on the same terms. A fire limit has been established within the bounds of which it is unlawful to erect wooden buildings; but as far as heard from, no other care had been taken to prevent the spread of dangerous fires. The proposition to purchase fire apparatus, December, 1881, as stated, failed. There must have been, unfortunately, some personal feeling involved, and it is also safe to surmise that those who voted adversely were not the men who generally risk clothing, health, and sometimes life at other people’s fires, and being of that ilk have not had sufficient experience to appreciate the fact that organization even without apparatus would save thousands. Something to work
with, however, is due the workers, and this much support ought to suggest itself to all who usually stand idly by and critically observe feats and exposures which they dare not attempt.
In addition to the calamities of fire, the city was visited, May 14, 1858, by a violent tornado from the northwest, straight from Bourbon Village, which was, in its course, and which overturned about sixteen buildings, besides doing other serious damage. Douglas County has had other wind storms, but this is the one we “talked about,” being the most serious ever known in the region, even up to storm-tossed ‘83. Despite these drawbacks, such is the vitality and enterprise of the people, that the city shows no signs of giving up just yet, but pursue their usual active avocations with an earnestness of purpose, the natural results of which furnish much “food for thought’ to rival cities. This storm destroyed the building in which the first dry goods store was conducted by the Henrys. It was located on south side of First South street, east of the railroad.
The finest substantial business building in the city is Metropolitan Block, situated in the north side of First South street, east of Locust street. It was built in 1872 by various owners, at a cost of $30,000. It is an imposing, large two-story brick, covering seven large stores of generous depth, with an aggregate frontage of 160 feet. The upper floors are principally occupied by the handsome lodge rooms of benevolent societies, the chief feature, however, being a fine auditorium or public hall, with a seating capacity of about 800 comfortable seats, a spacious and roomy stage, drop curtain and side scenes, and most of the best appliances of the day, for the convenience and comfort of exhibitors and audiences. Such halls are appreciated by all who make a business of amusing or instructing the public, and that such are not slow to understand the advantages here offered is shown by the fact that good traveling companies rarely miss Arcola. Other permanent buildings of brick are scattered along First South street, which on a busy day is tried to its full capacity.
SAD CASE OF DROWNING.
In July, 1862, a gloom was cast over Arcola by the accidental death by drowning of John Blackwell, a lad of twelve, and a son of John Blackwell. In company with William R. Rust, then also a lad, and a German, Pete Henson, he attempted the old Stoval Ford on the Okaw, in the northeast part of Section 15, Township 15, Range 7, about half a mile west of the old Bourbon Mill, in the township of Bourbon. They were in a buggy drawn by a fine mare belonging to L. C. Rust, of Arcola. The waters were up, and the ford deeper than they supposed in their inexperience. John Blackwell and Henson were drowned, Rust escaping by catching a support — how, he never knew. The mare became entangled in the harness, and was also lost. William R. Rust was long and favorably known as an active young business man in the city, inheriting, as it were, the recognized ability of his father, who was long a leading merchant here. He removed to Colorado. Two more disasters at this ford are mentioned in the Bourbon notes, q. v.
Arcola City is situated in District No. 1, of Township 14 north, Range 8 east, and consists of Sections 3, 4, 9 and 10, that is, four square miles of territory, the latest recorded map being dated in April, 1872. In 1875, the school census was taken by John Gruelle, and showed the number of persons within the school age (i. e., between six and twenty-one) to be 572, and that the children under six years of age numbered 312, making a total of persons under twenty-one in the district of 884. May 19, 1875, L. P. Brigham was elected Principal at a salary of $1,000, the assistant being Miss Dorland. April, 1876, the board consisted of H. C. Kelly, President; J. M. Righter, and A. L. Clarke, who was Clerk; and at this time an election was called for the purpose of by vote levying a tax upon the district of $8,000 to be applied to the building of a schoolhouse, the district to issue bonds payable in one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight years. The election was held April 29, 1876, at which time the location of the building was also voted for, some five or six different places being considered, which resulted in the selection of the site of the present brick in the Sheldon & Jaques Addition. May 27, 1876, Mr. Brigham’s salary was fixed at $125 per month for the time occupied in teaching. In April, 1878, Mr. Allen
PICTURE OF A MODERN SCHOOLHOUSE
Waters was elected Principal, and his salary fixed at $600 for the term. In May, 1879, W. D. Vermillion was employed at $75 per month. The school census was taken by Dr. McAllister, July 5, 1880, when he reported the number of persons of school age to be as follows: Under twenty-one, 769; over six and under twenty-one, 515.
January 14, 1880, F. A. E. Starr was duly elected Principal, and he was succeeded by T. C. Clendenen May 7, 1881. This was under the administration of Messrs. Directors Woodworth, Dorman and Wickes, and the Principal’s salary was fixed at $100 per month for an eight months’ term. The school census of this year shows 647 persons in the district under twentyone years of age; over six and under twenty-one, 520. Mr. Clendenen was re-elected Principal in January, 1882, and re-elected in 1884; his salary fixed at $1,000 per year, and that of the other teachers was from $40 to $50 per month.
In February, 1883, W. P. Boyd was elected Director to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of G. L. Wickes, and April 28 the present board was organized with D. A. Woodland, S. L. Woodworth and W. P. Boyd, the latter being Clerk. In July, 1883, four register furnaces were placed in this schoolhouse at a cost of about $500, and which were purchased in Troy, N. Y.
The course of study here, under the conduct of able teachers, is, like the teachers, what public opinion requires, and includes a demand for all things taught in English and German and Latin and Greek Grammar. The course is divided into grades, and promotions are made by grades at any time when the pupil may be supposed to be benefited; non-resident pupils pay from 30 to 50 cents a week, according to grade.
The present principal schoolhouse, or seminary, is a substantial brick situated in Block No. 5, in Sheldon & Jacque’s Addition, five and twothirds acres. It is of tastefull design, of two stories, of about 35 feet in heigth, and the whole 64x74 feet, costing $10,000.
A two-story frame schoolhouse was lost by fire in October, 1875, which had cost between $5,000 and $6,000. It was supposed to have been purposely fired. Some parties were prosecuted for the crime and acquitted.
Prior to this, another schoolhouse had been designedly burnt by a disreputable painter, who was also, for want of sufficient proof, after being tried, released. The schoolhouse burnt in 1875 was situated directly west of the present site of the Episcopal Church, and was on Lot 5, Block 1, original town. The deed was made by the Illinois Central Railroad to J. J. Henry, A. G. Chapman and James Jones, Township Trustees, August 2, 1876. Consideration, $1.
The west side schoolhouse is situated on the north side of Second South street, west of the railroad, and is continued mainly for the use of pupils in the primary department who reside west of the railroad, and to whom the distance of the Seminary was an inconvenience. In the building, up-stairs, German is taught by Prof. Press.
In our public schools the teachers are what public opinion makes them, and as public opinion has set its mark very high and aims above it, these preceptors, like sensible people, have, by close application and persistent study, been able to meet the ordeal of such examination as school boards in the prevailing fashion demand, and they stand ready to impart all that the average pupil will receive. In this examination they realize how terribly easy it is to ask questions, and in teaching they too often imitate the examiner, becoming auditors instead of instructors. They are too often bound by the iron-clad rules of solution as given in the textbooks to the disgust of quick-brained students who work through God-given intuition.
When insight comes, memory is no longer necessary; somewhere right along here, if ever, will be found the “pons asinorum” of the preceptors.
Arcola has two circles, each in the third year’s course. They were instituted in 1881, being the outgrowth of a literary society which began with the study of Shakespeare some five years before; these contain about twentyfive active and regular members; meet semi-monthly, and have for an objective, progress in literary matters generally, the study of history, the poets and belles lettres. The attendance is good, and the expense for text-books, though not by any means trifling, is not onerous, being within the reach of
persons of limited means, who are welcomed, provided only they have a desire to improve upon the perhaps somewhat scattering education imparted to them in their school days. Mrs. J. C. Morris, Mrs. Tew and Miss Jennie Smith were among the principal ladies to inaugurate the Shakesperean readings. The attendance of gentlemen is, as elsewhere, compared to that of the ladies, not so good; some of them know too much to be benefited, or too little to dare.
This city may be said to be distinguished in this part of the State for the large proportionate number of families with educational advantages. In other parts of the county are found their peers, but not their numbers.
THE ARCOLA SOCIAL LEAGUE.
This League was instituted in January, 1884, for the purpose of affording literary entertainment, to which end, in part, a fortnightly supper is provided, all respectable persons being most cordially welcomed. The proceeds (there being a moderate charge per guest) are devoted to the covering of the expense necessarily attendant upon such of the better class of lectures, concerts and readings which have a tendency toward mental, social and religious improvement, the needs of the young in this respect being a more special care. This noble scheme for improvement, involving as it must a measure of sacrifice upon the part of its active promotors and sustainers, merits, and should, as it doubtless will, receive the sincere compliment of careful imitation. The officers are elected for three months.
Those in present charge, March, 1884, are Mrs. J. L. Polk, President; Mrs. J. Kremer, Vice President; Mrs. G. L. Wicks, Treasurer; Mrs. G. S. Tarbox, Secretary, and the Executive Committee consists of Mesdames R. A. Clisby, J. K. Breeden, Fred Snyder, P. M. Moore, James Beggs, and Miss Betty Rust, with some thirty-five members in all.
The Arcola Record, the first newspaper to appear in the city, was inaugurated under the auspices of the Sellars Brothers of Tuscola in 1866 — the enterprise having been instituted by the subscription of liberal-minded citizens, without regard to political affinities; it was an independent paper until the plant was bought by John M. Gruelle, which occurred soon after it was fairly started. For about seventeen years, Mr. Gruelle conducted it as an
advocate of Republican principles, during which time, by close attention to the business interests of the office, and a due regard for those of his adopted county and city, he merited and received a fair share of success. He died in Arcola on the 23d of October, 1883, in the prime of life, after nearly a year’s illness. The paper is continued under the management of W. B. and J. H. Bassett, lessees, and bids fair to maintain its high character. The Democrat was instituted by H. H. Moore in 1870. In the fall of 1877, he sold out to Thomas Gruelle, who, in the following year, gave it up; it was resumed by Mr. Moore, who conducted it about one year, and parted with it to one N. E. Said, who sold it again, and the material was removed to Farina.
The True Democrat, by C. E. Leek, appeared in 1877, and ran a very short time in the same year.
Mr. Moore, on the 21st of April, 1883, inaugerated the Arcola Herald, which, as a generous rival of its only local contemporary, maintains the principles of the Democratic party, and liberally sustains all propositions for the good of Arcola City and Douglas County. These papers, like all the rest, are co-operative, the insides being generally news and other items culled by experts from the very best sources, offer an hour’s square reading of good matter to subscribers and borrowers.
* * * * * * * *
In these days, all well conducted co-operative country papers weekly give a wide range of interesting matter collated by experts from all possible sources; some of them under the system have been known to print the President’s message twice in one issue, a liberality which is never imitated by more pretentious brethren of the press. The erudition and versatility of the average Douglas County editor, whether a newsmonger or a historial(?), is the admiration of all his readers, as
“Still they gaze and still the wonder grows,
That one small hat can cover all he knows.”
* * * * * * * *
Whether a compositor knows too little or knows too much, it’s all the same, the poor (?) writer, too often misrepresented, should be always permitted to
apologize in advance for the printer’s mistakes, and for his own, when he gets ready, and, accordingly, “If we have said anything here which we are sorry for we are very glad of it.”
EARLY BUSINESS ENTERPRISES.
The first house put up in the city was the Illinois Central station and depot, in the upper part of which E. Hewitt, the first railroad agent, had his residence, and the post office; a very short distance northwest Barney Cunningham erected the first dwelling. Mr. Cunningham was the father of Frank Cunningham, who became Sheriff of the county in 1872, removing to Tuscola, where he died. The freight house was burned in the great fire of 1881.
John Weber, a little, keen, wiry German, kept store here in 1857, first situated in a little shanty south of the southwest corner of First South street and Chestnut street, and afterward at the corner of Ewald’s present location. This corner was twice burned, as a hotel first, and again in the great fire of 1881.
The first dry goods store was instituted by F. B. & J. J. Henry, and was afterward under the name of the latter. The building was located on the south side of First South street, east of the railroad, and was destroyed in the tornado of 1858 (q.v.). Mr. J. J. Henry was Associate Justice of the county in 1865. He died March 11, 1865, and was the father of Joseph P. Henry.
The drug business was started by W. T. Sylvester and Joseph P. Henry, the latter succeeding to the business at the southeast corner of First South and Oak streets, where he had maintained a profitable trade since 1858. His close attention to the requirements of the case and his popularity resulted eventually in ample means. Mr. Henry died July 19, 1883, in the prime of his life and usefulness.
— “his life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up before all the world and say, this was a man.”
The drug store of W. P. Boyd was established in 1867. By the way, the
first officially recorded survey made in Douglas County was for his father, Mr. W. B. Boyd. It was May 21, 1859 — west half of Section 5, Township 14, Range 8, half mile west of city limits. Wilson B. Boyd came to Douglas in 1859, and resided here until the time of his death, March 10, 1867. The insurance business was started here by W. T. Sylvester, 1859, the Hartford, of Hartford, being the first company represented. Mr. S. also afterward had the Home. The premiums for the first year may have amounted to $100. Thirty-four companies are now represented, and the premiums will probably cover $15,000 to $20,000 per annum. The larger portion of the business is conducted by James K. Breeden, who was County Judge from 1877 to 1881, being also a member of the Douglas County bar. Messrs. A. B. Diemond & Co. also conduct insurance for a large number of companies. The balance of the transactions in this line is in the hands of persons engaged in other business.
The first banking house was instituted in March, 1868, by Messrs. Beggs & Clark, which bank, December 9, 1875, became merged into the First National Bank of Arcola; ad interium Wyeth, Cannon & Co., of Tuscola, bought the business, and in August, 1870, Mr. Wickes, their Tuscola bookkeeper, removed to Arcola, taking charge of their interests until they were relinquished; G. L. Wickes, Cashier. Mr. B. has been a resident since 1861. The Justice Bank was instituted by J. C. Justice July 23, 1873, and continues to offer facilities to the neighborhood.
At the first bank of W., C. & Co., at Tuscola, a Pennsylvania Dutchman bought a draft for $69 from Cannon, and taking it home pasted it in with his receipts, and sat down at the stove with the happy consciousness of having done his whole duty. In the course of time he was further dunned by his creditor for a settlement, and pitched into the bank for keeping his money.
The Presbyterians built the first church in the city in 1860, the first pastor being Jos. Allison. A deed from Dr. F. B. Henry to Trustees of the “old school” Presbyterian Church for Lots 15 and 16, in Block 4, of Henry’s Addition, was given August 15, 1860. This includes in its membership a fair sample of Arcola’s best people. 217
The Christian Church was instituted July 10, 1863; the first Trustees being W. T. Sylvester, Joseph Walling, J. M. Lessinger, J. M. Hollandsworth, John Woodall, L. McAllister, who were elected for five years. The church bought Lots 1 and 2, Block 7, of Henry’s Addition to Okaw, October 13, 1864, and built the church the same year.
St. John’s Roman Catholic Church was built on Lot 8, Block 7, Henry’s Addition, in 1874, the deed for the lot being dated January 18, 1871, and first made to the Archbishop of St. Louis, by him to Bishop Alton, and then to St. John’s Roman Catholic Church. The members of this church, though not generally of the wealthier classes, show a devotion to their lessons and modes well worthy of imitation.
The Methodist Church acquired Lot 4, Block 16, in original town, April 13, 1864. The church was built in 1865. This denomination in Arcola was a little late in building. The Methodists generally build about the time the proposed city is laid out.
The Baptists have a church building, erected about 1864. The Lutherans also have a church building.
The Episcopalians. — At a cost of about $1,000 an Episcopal Church was erected on Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4, on the northeast corner of Block 3 in the original town. This situation was on the north line of the town proper, immediately west of the I. C. Railroad. Before it was completed it went down in a wind storm, and was rebuilt in 1866. The location, as the event proved, was unfortunate, or was at least so considered by those who did the attending, and in 1882 the building was removed to its present situation, which is Lot 5, Block 1, in the original town of Okaw. It was deeded to the Bishop of the diocese. Rev. Wells was the first pastor. Amongst those who are supporters of the church, through natural affinity and education, are the descendants of John Blackwell, and the families of J. R. Smith, L. C. Rust, J. C. Justice, Vellum and others. The society has only been able to secure occasional services.
A lodge of Knights of Honor was instituted in April, 1878, under the care and management, amongst others, of Joseph H. Ewing, J. M. Gruelle, J. P. Henry, J. S. Cofer, James K. Breeden and H. M. Toomey, the object of the
organization being mutual aid assistance, and co-operative life insurance of from $1,000 to $2,000, which is optional.
The Arcola Homestead and Loan Association has subscribed 1,485 shares at $100 each. J. P. Henry, R. A. Clisby, Thomas Lyons, F. B. Henry, P. M. Moore, and E. L. Walker and others were of the first prime movers. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows began business in this city October 11, 1860, and therefore have the oldest lodge in the county by about four years (the lodge in Tuscola, No. 346, dating June 6, 1865). The name of this lodge is Arcola No. 289. The charter members were James Ewing, W. T. Sylvester, C. Cooper, L. D. Price and A. G. Wallace, of Tuscola. In October, 1861, W. T. Sylvester, H. C. McAllister and W. Jones instituted Arcola Lodge No. 366, A., F. & A. M.; this was one year after Tuscola Lodge, 332, was established, and they had the cordial assistance of Tuscola Masons, accompanied by the Tuscola Band.
THE ARCOLA BRASS BAND.
This band was instituted in 1865-66, by George Klink, with John Sheed, C. and T. Speelman, L. and B. Hecock, and Evans, Henry and Richard Kerr. It was conducted with varying success until 1880, when it ceased operations up to about the present. It has now a good prospect of revival. The difficulties of keeping up a good band in our smaller Western cities, are only appreciated by those who have tried the experiment. The want of sufficient business to prevent the young men from wandering forth to seek a fortune is a continuous drawback to all volunteer organizations; nevertheless, it is remarkable in this connection that Mr. Klink, of Arcola, and Mr. Davis, of Tuscola, both prominent “wind jammers” of the old “regime,” both became Democratic Mayors of their respective cities. The moral of this is not very clear. It may be that “music hath charms to soothe the savage beast” of the unterrified, or, “Lives of great men all remind us, We can make our lives sublime.”
which is very pretty and very untrue, so we shed no tears because the balance is “lost to eite.”
The Illinois National Guard has a present strength of 4,847 men and officers; of this number 369 are commissioned officers, 828 non-commissioned officers, 114 musicians and 3,576 privates. The troops are well distributed over the State, and are well equipped. A pleasant and creditable feature of the patriotic enterprise of Arcola is that part of the organization known as Company “A,” Eighth Regiment Illinois National Guard, which was instituted in August, 1881, mainly through the spirited exertions of William Armstrong and Frank E. Wright. This company is in a flourishing condition, being fully equipped, and having a present rank and file of fiftyfive, which has been about the average number since its organization. The members furnish their own uniforms, which consist of both helmet and fatigue cap, blue coat with light blue pants, which have a broad stripe on the side, the whole being well and tastefully made and fitted, at an expense to each member of about $20, to which however many liberal-minded Arcolians cheerfully contributed.
The State of Illinois furnishes the arms (which per man are valued at $17); they are receipted for and belong to the State. It also pays the rent of a convenient armory and drill room in Metropolitan Block, at which meeting place the company is mustered on first Wednesdays in March, June, September and December, for business, drill and other instructions. A distance outside of Arcola of four and one-half miles constitutes non-residence, the members being under no restrictions as to a change of abode.
The company was a part of the State Encampment at Indianapolis in the summer of 1882, taking the city of Tuscola en route, at which place the company was drawn up in front of the broad steps of the I., B. & W. Depot, and warmly welcomed in an apt, pertinent and patriotic speech by C. W. Wolverton, Esq., who had been selected by the citizens for the occasion. Their soldierly bearing and perfect equipment and drill, added to their gentlemanly conduct whilst the transient guests of Tuscola, gained universal praise, not a little of which was bestowed by the ladies, who therein had the warm approval of parents and guardians. Company A was also at the encampments at Springfield in 1882-83.
Transportation on such occasions is furnished by the State, and while in camp each member is paid $1 per day. April 26, 1883, the officers and members, in full uniform, assisted in the convocation of the I. O. O. F. at Mattoon, being, of course, a very prominent feature of the parade. The present commissioned officers are J.W. Goudy, Captain; Al Snyder, First Lieutenant, and Frank E. Wright, Second Lieutenant. The officers are elected by the company and commissioned by the Governor.
The company was a prominent feature at the Arcola Soldiers’ Re-union, which was held on the 27th and 28th days of August, 1883, on which occasion from 6,000 to 10,000 visitors were entertained by the citizens, of which number some 600 were old soldiers. The stores, dwellings and street crossings were generally handsomely decorated, which, with an exceptional and large-hearted hospitality, made those days to be remembered by all who took in the celebration. The ample public square was well filled with a good-humored crowd, who thoroughly enjoyed one of Gov. Oglesby’s true American speeches, and that of W.J. Calhoun, of Danville, who had been a resident of Arcola. The Tuscola Glee Club, though late, by accident, were in time to deliver a few of their best numbers, and the whole was interspersed with brass band and martial music, and Arcola’s best selection of
LOCAL MUSICAL TALENT,
in which the city is peculiarly happy, by reason of her ability to command on all public occasions the best singers. Musical talent is here so diffused amongst churches and families, that the most prominent are hard to designate, whilst as a whole it is a very reliable element of the city’s progress.
THE LOCAL DRAMA.
In local theatricals, Arcola has made a creditable showing in the production of a military play known as Altoona, in which Company A was a prominent feature. It was put on the boards February 11, 1882; some of the characters were taken by H.W. Dickson, J.F. Charleton, Oscar Miller and Misses McWilliams and Richards.
PICTURE OF AN ARCOLA PUBLIC SCHOOL BUILDING
PORTRAIT AND LANDSCAPE.
Arcola claims Mr. R.B. Gruelle, who, though a present non-resident, began here a reputation for cultivated genius, which has increased with time. His portraits of well-known ladies and gentlemen of the city show a superior judgment and skill in color, tone, naturalness and finish rarely attained by the young. His full length portrait of Judge Gallagher, of Decatur, is perhaps one of the best known, though many meritorious landscapes are included in his works. Miss Lois Reat, of Tuscola, a lady of exceptional natural skill in still life, has a number of apt pupils in this city.
The broom corn interests of Douglas County center in the city of Arcola. At least twenty-five years ago, Col. John Cofer and Shirley began the cultivation of the crop and the manufacture of brooms, thus introducing the industry to the attention of the farmers of the neighborhood; interest in the matter increased rapidly, the more especially in Arcola Township, on the east side and vicinity, and in the north part of the county, the reason for which is not clear, the soil and other conditions being the same. The dangerous fluctuation of prices makes this crop, in the opinion of many who have devoted some study to the subject, a risky one, it having in 1875 reached bottom, at $40 per ton, whilst the highest notch was in 1865, $300, and in the flush times, when it “hits,” there were several actual instances wherein a purchaser of forty or more acres of land was enabled to pay every dollar of the purchase money out of a single crop of broom corn, and have money left, one case being cited of land bought for $1,200, upon which the first crop realized for the lucky, industrious farmer, $1,600. The average product per acre is about 500 pounds; 900 have been reached as about the greatest amount produced upon an acre of ground. The receipts in Arcola City alone, from the immediate vicinity, within a radius of about eight miles, have reached 6,000 tons per season. The crop is gathered and cured at home, and when the seeds have been removed from the brush, by appropriate machinery, the farmer makes it up into compact bales, weighing about
300 pounds, and generally sells it outright to the city dealers. The fluctuating rates, as is always the case, offer an almost irrestible inducement to hold on for fancy prices, and consequently the crop is very interesting and very risky. The principal buyers in Arcola are Thomas Midwinter and Thomas Lyons, who, after several years of close attention to this branch of business, have become authorities.
Arcola is unfortunately the scene of two murders of the three committed in Douglas County. Joseph Eves, a carpenter, was deliberately killed by a young fellow named Bullock, who was for awhile the agent for some Culbertson land in the vicinity. It appears that Bullock, a large, heavy young man, had repeatedly joked Eves about his supposed intimacy with women, and after repeated rencontres, Eves seems to have been able to retaliate in kind, with interest. Bullock became incensed and shot Eves; he then fled, but was at once pursued by a self-constituted posse, and captured. He was held for murder in the first degree, and, as there was no jail in the county at the time, he was (1861), imprisoned at Champaign, where he quietly broke jail and made good his escape. Eves was a quiet, inoffensive man, and it does not appear that he expected to provoke Bullock to anger.
January 12, 1872, Abrah Houghtelling, a lumber merchant, was sitting in his office writing, when his nephew, Desang, entered, and, within ten or twelve feet distance, discharged the contents of a double-barreled gun loaded with buckshot, the effect of which was the instant death of Mr. Houghtelling. Desang was duly arrested. Upon trial, he was found to be insane, and was committed to the asylum at Elgin, whence he made his escape and returning to Arcola, made threats of violence. He was arrested, and returned to the asylum by Sheriff Cunningham.
In 1883 were established telephone conveniences, which thus far consist of only one “local,” besides the public station. Connection is had with Champaign, Tuscola and Mattoon. The experiment in this busy place must eventually result in a more general use of the wires.
We record the names of all Postmasters of Arcola: E. Hewitt, the railroad agent, was the first (1858), and the office was in the first freight house, where he lived with his family. He afterward removed to Tuscola, and was agent there for many years. Once upon a time a petition was circulated in Tuscola for his removal, but it failed to get a respectable number of signers; the objection was his manner. Judge J.J. Henry succeed Hewitt. Hugh McKinney next. He bought the Shaw farm west. Judge James Ewing then took charge, and yielded the office to P.M. Moore, the present incumbent. Mr. M. is a member of the Douglas County bar. He was elected State’s Attorney in 1876. The post office is now situated on the south side of First South street, third door west of Oak street.
POPULATION AND POLITICS.
The population of the township in 1870, the ninth census, was 2,332, and by 1880, at the tenth enumeration, was 2,999, showing an increase of 667 in the decade; it is therefore in point of numbers the largest political subdivision of the county, exceeding Tuscola by 194. Dr. L. McAllister took the census in June, 1880; 438 votes were polled at the election of November 9, 1870, and in November, 1875, 410. April 1, 1879, John Cofer, Democrat, for Supervisor, received 256 votes, and Isaac Cosler, Republican, 197; total 453; which latter, if a full vote and multiplied by five, would give a population then of about 2,265. The number of personal tax-payers in 1883 was 720, which, increased four times, gives 2,880, the probable present number of inhabitants.
Of the political complexion of the township, Arcola is conceded to be about forty-five Democratic, the last Presidential election showing that majority for Gen. Hancock. The “pros and cons” of the liquor question in the city have for a long time been a disturbing element in politics, nevertheless Mahlon Barnhart, a pronounced Republican, was elected Supervisor for four consecutive years, beginning in 1873. P.D. Ray, in 1880, and Joseph H. Ewing in 1881, both of the same faith, were also sent to the county seat to represent the township, which, if it shows anything, exhibits the liberality of the citizens in choosing good men, without regard to party af
filiations. Frank E. Wright, a leading young Republican, was elected State’s Attorney in 1880, receiving a majority of 5 in the township. April 1, 1879, Arcola Township polled 453 votes, which, compared with the number of inhabitants, as shown by the enumeration of 1880, viz., 2,999, is six and six-tenths persons to every voter. The State estimate of the number of persons to the family is only five and one-third. Tuscola Township, with a population of 2,805 in 1880, and 736 voters, gives only three and eighttenths persons to the voter.
begin, of course, with the first meeting of the township organization, say April 7, 1868. A.T. Whitney was the Supervisor, and G.S. Scales, Town Clerk. The first Highway Commissioners were Jacob R. Moore, Matthias Munsen and A.C. Dickey. The Assessor was James Walling. C.H. Ashworth was the first Collector, and Thomas Todd and B.H. Burton were elected Justices of the Peace. The Constables were J.M. Righter and F. Cunningham. July 5, 1870, we find a minute as follows: At an election held this day, the result was as follows: “For a two-fifths vote to remove county seat, 71 votes; against a two-fifths vote to remove the county seat, 121 votes.”
Citizens of this township have figured largely in the public business of the county. Col. John Cofer, W.T. Sylvester and Joseph H. Ewing have represented the people in the State Legislature. James Ewing was the first County Judge, being elected in 1859, and after township organization Asa T. Whitney was the first Supervisor, 1868; D. Hitchcock served in the same capacity, 1869-70; William Luce, 1871-72; succeeded by Mahlon Barnhart, who was elected in 1873-74-75, and again in 1876; W.W. Monroe was made Superintendent of Schools in 1865, James M. Cox, County Treasurer in 1873, serving until the fall of 1875. Edmund Fish was elected County Surveyor in 1869, and served two years. F.G. Cunningham was elected Sheriff in 1872, and, removing to Tuscola, was re-elected in 1874. N. Rice Gruelle was elected to the same office in 1868. John J. Henry was Associate Justice
of the county in 1865, and resigned. He was succeeded by Calvin Jones in 1867. James M. Cox was Supervisor in 1877, John S. Cofer in 1878-79, and P.D. Ray in 1880, Joseph H. Ewing in 1881, and William P. Boyd, the present officer, was elected in 1883. James K. Breeden was elected County Judge in 1877, who was succeeded by William H. Bassett, the present presiding Judge.
The Assessors’ valuation in the township of personal property for 1883 is $196,854; of lands, $385,335.
The records of a majority of the townships and cities of Douglas have not the neatness and perspiculty which the business interests of an intelligent and wealthy community demand. Now and then a most excellent Clerk is elected, who, with a sincere desire to do good work, finds himself obstructed by the crude ability of his predecessor, to which, in many cases, is added the informality of his immediate superiors; to all of which he naturally adds, in his own mind, his uncertain tenure of office. He can hardly get down to an attempt to do good work, and an honest effort to comprehend what has preceded, as well as his future duties, before he is reminded of the probability of changes at the next election, in which he is pretty sure to get left. The pay is about right for the duties, but the tenure of office is wrong. He should hold on at least four years. The scheme of the politicians to keep the people amused with frequent elections is not near so popular as some of them fondly imagine.
GALTON AND FILSON STATIONS.
Galton is a point on the Illinois Central Railroad, three and a half miles north of the railroad crossing in Arcola, and is situated in the southeast corner of Section 16, Township 15 north, Range 8 east. It had been known
as the Bourbon Switch, or Tie Switch, and was originally located as a point for the reception of cross ties during the construction of the road. It was made a flag station in 1882, and a post office was established about the same time, which accommodates a large and busy neighborhood long known as the “Ohio settlement,” which is comparatively thickly settled, and rapidly becoming the richest community and best improved neighborhood of the county.
Filson is a station and post office situate in the northwest part of Section 5, Township 14, Range 9 east on the line of the Illinois Midland Railway. It has a side track, and is a receiving point for considerable agricultural products. Town lots have not been laid off at either of the above points.
AND SO FORTH.
If, being found correct as far as they go, these minutes prove to be a fair foundation for a history of the townships of Douglas County, the writer will be satisfied, for he believes that, under the circumstances, he has met the requirements from a business point of view, and perhaps is much in the position of an honest expert railroad engineer, who, being employed at a fixed “per diem” to establish a line, brings to bear upon his work every energy he can find in his muscles, brain or nerves to earn the stated price by doing good work for it, takes his pay with commendable alacrity, and leaves the final result to fate.
Let critics be generous, and say, if they can, this is a long step in the right direction, and that we will hereafter give willing assistance in corrections and additions, for
“It will be pleasant hereafter
To remember these things.”
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