Amboy Illinois

Main Street in Amboy - contributed by Karen Holt

Probably no better illustation of the importance of a community newspaper to the community it serves can be found than in the story of Amboy and its newspaper - the weekly Amboy News. Only a few years younger than its daily neighbor in Dixon (the first newspaper was founded in Amboy in 1854), the News joins all other members of the great journalistic fraternity in extending hearty congratulations to Mrs. Eustace E. Shaw, her sons and all members of her staff on the 100th birthday of a truly great newspaper, the Dixon Evening Telegraph.

Searching into the back files and early history of journalism in Amboy, the interesting fact is disclosed that a pioneer newspaper served the community in 1854, before the city iteself was organized. Amboy, second largest city in Lee County and located near the geographical center of the county, was incorporated Feb. 16, 1857.

Amboy sprang into existence as a village in the romantic energetic fashion of many railroad communities. It is true that old settlers had come up in Amboy township gradually after 1837, and settled near the communities of Shelburn and Rockyford and Binghampton to the east of here. When this new community began, a newspaper was soon considered necessary, and the first Amboy Times was printed at Pawpaw in 1854. That first edition seems to have been lost in the various moves and consolidations of Amboy's several newspapers, but there are in existence bound files reaching back to 1856 and complete files from the 1880's to the present date. Carefully preserved by each succeeding publisher, these volumes are the only complete printed history of a typically American "grass-roots" city and community.

One of the memorable facts in the history of Amboy journalism is that the first regular local paper here was edited by Augustus Noel Dickens, brother of Charles Dickens, the famous English author. According to local authorities on early history, the first Amboy editor was a "remittance man" receiving a regular allowance from his family in England. At various times he was a yard goods peddler from house to house, a farmer and an editor. Although he did not remain on the paper long, and the family moved later to Chicago many recall his children, two of his daughters being buried in Prairie repose cemetery here. Little is known of his career after he left Amboy, but in recent years, metropolitan feature writers have disclosed the fact that he is buried in a Chicago cemetery, his grave unmarked by any memorial.

In May or June, 1855, "The Amboy Printing Association" was formed, which secured the printing of "The Lee County Times" (soon changed to the Amboy Times) which was also related to the ancestry of the present Lee County Times, published now in Paw Paw. A.N. Dickens was the first editor. Stockholders, as far as can be learned, were A. Kinyon, W.E. Ives, John L. Skinner, John B. Wyman, H.B. Judkins and W.B. Stuart.

Volume one, No. 42, APril 10, 1856, is in the Amboy News files and from then on the files are comparatively complete. H.G. Pratt was editor of that newspaper - The Amboy Times, Pratt and Cottrell served Amboy with a newspaper for the next 10 years, Goff and Shaw appear as publishers in the Feb. 8, 1866 file, having acquired the paper after a succession of other publishing combinations had engaged in the business.

The Joruanl later was adopted as the name of Amboy's newspaper, Burrington and Shaw published the Lee County Journal, however, from February 1867 to December 1867, when the files show a notice that they would suspend the issue of the paper for two weeks because of the want of payments and patronage. From Jan. 16, to Dec. 24, 1868, B.F. Shaw was editor and proprietor - the same B.F. Shaw whose name is honored throughout the columns of this great centennial edition.

Stimson and Corbus, William Parker and W.H. Haskell appear as publisher in the intervening years to late 1879, when the latter sold the newspaper and plant to E.W. Faxon and Company. On Feb. 1, 1881, Dr. C.E. Loomis of Lee Center, purchased it and was himself the editor.

In 1878, the Amboy News came into being. O.L. Deming started this, a second paper in the city and competitor to Haskell's journal. With William Geddes, a former Journal printer then in Paw Paw, Deming began The News in a little shop in rooms above what is now the Main Street market of Howard Leffelman. Later Deming became editor of a trade publication in Chicago and sold his interests to Henry Adams of Binghampton and Geddes.

Following the editorial administration of Adams, the name of James H. Prestn is the next News' editor in the archives. He took over in 1887, and upon his death in 1898, Mrs. Preston became the publisher and Charles H. Eby was editor and manager. A few months later he purchased Mrs. Preston's interests. It is interesting to note that Eby published The News as a daily during the month of April, 1899.

While this evolution was taking place on the News, Dr. Loomis continued as editor of the Journal until Jan. 2, 1889, when he sold out to George A. Lyman who took over as editor-publisher and continued in that capacity until Oct. 10, 1913.

In 1900 E.E. Chase owned and operated The News which appears to have had a checkered career since Mr. Preston's death From 1900 until 1909 the names of Henry F. Gehant, Riley J. Whitney, A.E. DaFoe, B.L. Vaughn and E.O. Trickey appeared on the News' masthead.

Several leading citizens, among them Mayor J.P. Johnson, W.B. Beresford and W.J. Edwards, were concerned over the stormy career of the News and backed George L. Carpenter, who had been a printer in the Adventist publishing house in Mendota and was at the time working in Badger's general store. Mr. Carpenter took charge of The News on July 10, 1903. By dilligent reorganization and hard work, Carpenter brought the publishing plant back to a thriving basis and on Oct. 10, 1913, he and his associates bought out the Journal from Lyman. The News-Journal Company gave the community a much better paper than either newspaper had been before. Both had been hand set but soon after the consolidation new equipment was installed - a new press, automatic volder and in 1914, the city's first linotype.

Carpenter was elected to the Illinois legislature from the 35th district in November 1916 and served two years under the Lowden administration. W.A. Green and Miss Mary Burnham combined efforts in the editorial work during Carpenter's trips to Springfield.

On Nov. 8, 1924, John H. Millar, Chicago journalist and publisher, and Stewart Pettigrew founded The Home News publishing Company by buying The Amboy News. Pettigrew was editor until August, 1931, when Wm. C. Wenninger took over. The Home News Company expanded with the purchase of sister-publications in Mendota, Sandwich, Rochelle, Lacon, Farmer City, Marengo and Lake Geneva Wis. All were eventually sold, The Amboy News being purchased early October 1933 by John J. Wagner, former publisher of The Tri-County Press in Polo. It has since been published by him with Gene Strouss serving as editor.

One delving into local history has come up with the explanation that Amboy was named after Amboy, N.J. It is an Indian word signifying "A Bowl." A Frenchman named Filamalee is said to have been the first white settler here in Amboy township but whether that was in 1837 or 1838 is not quite clear. The town site was surveyed in March, 1854.

Amboy's history and the story of the Illinois Central railroad, now celebrating its 100 years as the main line of mid-Americaa, are inseparable. At the time the I.C.R.R. was projected in 1850, Amboy had a population of 16. The railroad was opened from Mendota to Amboy Nov. 27, 1854 and from Amboy to Freeport on Jan. 15, 1855.

A thriving railroad center for many years, Amboy was a division point and busy shops were located here. As changes came in the railroad business, Amboy became increasingly less important to the I.C. until in the late 1920's the shops were closed and the terminal later discontinued. The shops have been torn down. The large roundhouse was rebuilt on a much smaller scale some years ago and, when its use was discontinued, the building was sold to John Boss of Western Springs. With the aid of local investors he remodeled it and moved his rug manufacturing business here. The midwest Rug Mills, INc., thus became a part of the city's industrial life.

Carson Pirie, Scott & Co., one of Chicago's largest retail establishments now located on the worlds' busiest corner, State and Madison, was founded in Amboy as a dry goods business by Samuel Carson and John T. Pirie in 1855. When the firm observed its 80th anniversary in the fall of 1934, officials of the company ame back to Amboy for a one-day homecoming celebration which brought the city one of its largest crowds. Henry Horner, then governor of Illinois, dedicated a cut stone drinking fountain, birthday gift of the firm to the city that had beens its first home.

Ever mindful of the need for adequate fire protection - Amboy's history records more than a half dozen really disastrous conflagrations - the community a few years ago established the Amboy Fire Protection district. An efficient, well equiped company of volunteer firemen serves the district which is governed by a board of three trustees, appointed by the Lee County court.

Church membership in Amboy is large with five churches serving the spiritual needs of the citizens. They are St. Patrick Catholic ... First Congregational and Immanuel Lutheran churches.

Excellent educational opportunities are afforded the youth of the community through the schools operated by Amboy Community Unit School district No. 272, organized in 1949. It includes most of the territory formerly contained in the Amboy Township high school district and operates a fully accredited four-year high school as well as the Amboy Centrao grade school attendance center and several other grade attendance centers including Sublette, Maytown and Eldena in addition to some of the the original rural district schools. Additions are now being built to the high school and Central buildings to modernize them and to aid in the development of a well rounded educational program. St. Patrick Catholic parish also operates an eight grade parochial school in Amboy.

J.W. Pankhurst, public spirited citizen who died in 1930, gave the city its fine library - the Pankhurst Memorial -westablihedhich was built in 1928.

One of the community's beauty spots is Green River City park, located at the east end of Main street. A poplar picnic spot equipped with a playground, the park is situated in a pretty wooded area near Green River. It is the site of Amboy's annual Fall festival.

Introducing dairying to many farms int he community, the Amboy Milk Products Company was established well over a quarter of a century ago. It is one of the largest independent plants of its kind in the nation and provides an excellent market for the milk produced over a wide area. Evaporated milk manufactured in its plant has carried the name of Amboy into the far corners of the world. Many of Amboy's World War II servicemen mailed home labels from "Amboy Milk" cans which appeared on the tables of their mess halls in Newfoundland, the European countries and the islands of the Pacific. In recent months, the company has attracted much attention to the city through its introduction of a new dairy product, Melody Whip, which is meeting hearty acceptance throughout the state of Illinois where it is sold.

An aggressive chamber of commerce is actively engaged in making Amboy a better place in which to live.

Dixon Evening Telegraph 1953