The History of Girard
Transcribed from The Story of Macoupin County 1829-1979
Submitted by Source #1
The Chicago Alton Company was to build a railroad and it was to come through Girard Township following the Indian Trail. In the spring of 1853, Barnabas Boggess and Charles Fink laid out a town site very much like the first one in 1834. Lots were sold for $20 each and up and they retained the name Girard. The site was recorded November 1854. The town was incorporated on February 14, 1855.
Thomas Lewis and John Way laid out another addition in 1855. In 1866 Barnabas Boggess added another 60 acres. After 1900, two other additions were added: A.S. Harshbarger and the Mary A. Brubaker additions. The first homes were near the square. The first house was brought in from the country in 1853, mounted on logs, and pulled by 19 yoke of oxen owned by Barnabas Boggess. By the fall home had been built including Sam Boggess. His house was the first boarding house. His wife Polly cooked for the carpenters while the other houses were being built.
Girard has a unique land area. Its northeastern area and extending west along the northern edge is part of a high plateau, formed by the Ice Age. The plat for the city of Girard was laid out in 1834 on the south bank of a creek, called Mill Creek. The plat was laid out by Dr. Edwards and Colonel George Mather. West of the town several settlers moved into the wooded lands. A frenchman by the name of Girard built a sawmill around 1830 in the North Otter area. Since the Girard mill was the most prominent place at that time the town was named Girard.
A stage line from Springfield in Sangamon County to the river port at Alton passed through Girard from north to south following an old Indian trail. John Henderson purchased the claim on this trail and established "Henderson's Stand" in 1835.
J.S. Warfield set up a blackmsith shop and built his new home. By 1854, Alfred Mayfield's General Store, W.E. Eastman' s drug and merchandise store and the Boomerang were all being completed. The first postoffice was located at the Boomerang with James Mitchell being the first postmaster. The first hotel built was on the northeast corner of the square and was called the Girard House. This hotel now is an apartment building and is still standing.
The St. Nicholas Hotel was built on the southside of the square in 1870. This building was torn down a few years ago. In 1854, J.W. Woodruff built a warehouse and shipped the first carload of wheat from Girard. Later he built a flour mill. The first flour mill was built on Mill Creek by H.Hall in 1855. This mill burned and was replaced by a woolen mill built by B. Boggess. The blankets made there took first prize at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.
The Factory Store was a wooden building and was torn down in 1951 and the Girard Township Library was built on the site. Walker Miner had a flour mill southeast of the square. William Lancaster, son of an English brick maker, opened a brickyard in 1857 in a clay bank, southwest of the corner of the square. All the early brick homes and businesses were made of this red brick. Some of the buildings are still standing. The brick was manufactured until 1898.
Amos Young planted apples trees and other fruit, built an evaporating house on the west edge of Girard. He also operated the first greenhouse and the first ice house. His brick residence is still standing. The Reinike Mill and Cooperage made high quality barrels and was owned by John C. Beeby .
In 1880, a Lock Factory opened which manufactured Japan locks. It failed but the locks lasted the town for 40 years. A planing mill was opened in the 1880's and operated for 30 years. Deck Drug Store is considered the oldest business in Girard. It was established by Dr. Clark in 1865, who was joined by Lewis Deck in 1884, who soon became sole owner. Lewis Deck passed the business on to his sons, Harry and Wyman. Wyman's son Robert, became manager. Still open but not as a drug store.
Cherry's County Store was established by Harris Cherry. He was born in Girard in 1854 and became a widely known livestock dealer. More hogs, cattle, sheep and mules were shipped from Girard than from any other point in the state. He sold buthcered meats, and his son operated the City Meat Market on the square. In the 1960's they built a supermarket on Route 4.
Another business is the Bowersox Men's Clothing Store. It was established by Baily and Carr in 1867. Jacob Bowersox became a partner of Carrin January 1882. Changes were made in ownship in 1905 and in 1910, young Othel Bowersox and a partner, Bert Finney from Auburn, became owners of this store. Mr. Finney died in 1944, and Bowersox became the sole owner until his death in 1965. The store was then purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Prose, and remained in their posession until 1976.
Daniel Macknett came to Girard in 1854, and established a lumberyard which he owned until 1893. It was then purchased by G.G. Garrettson who still owned the business at the time of the Girard Centennial in 1955. His establishment was the oldest building on the square at that time. His son Gordon took over the buiness, it was sold then to Herbert and Shirley Leach.
F.W. Ring, born on the Rhine in Germany, came to the United States in 1855 and was a well-educated and accomplished musician in orchestra then came to Girard in 1867 and opened a bakery and restaurant. He organized and trained a band in Girard which became the best in all Central Illinois. This band traveled by train to every major celebration of any kind to furnish entertainment, and was later continued by the leadership of the Rathgebers who were also German and local businessmen. Although the band later lost its glory it was faithfully kep alive many years by Lonnie Griffeths.
G.A. Donaldson came to Girard in 1880, 20 years old, and with only borrowed money in his pocket. He opened a watch repair business and soon added jewlry, al in the corner of C.C. Armstrong's Drug Store. Soon he purchased a small building, which stood on the site of the present Girard Township Library, and was in the same business there for 30 years. He moved to a larger location just a few doors down the street where he carried the best of everything in the jewelry and silverware line, as well as fine china and elegant gifts. He retired in 1940. He married the daughter of Daniel Macknett, the lumber dealer.
The Dohm brothers came to Girard in 1870 and became landowners, dealers in coal, ice, poultry, livestock, grain and hay. They shipped their produce to New York City by athe carload. George Dohm often went with the shipments.
Collins Home Oil Company was established adding fuel for home heating to their line in 1922.
Charles Gibbel, a prominent farmer living northwest of Girard, entered into a partnership with Howard Kime, who owned a blackmsith shop. They took the agency for the Case Tractor, gradually acquiring ownership of quite an area around them. They tore away old buildings and built a large new building with offices, a showroom and machine parts service. This business began in 1929. A new business came into the above location recently, the Fitzgerald Elevator Repair Company.
Everett England operated a drayteam with his great strong horses, who met every train which came through town, picking up the supplies ordered by the merchants and hauling them to their destinations.
Martin Wones was the coal hauler. He delivered coal to homes and businesses.
J.O Burton was the most prominent dry goods merchant for over 50 years. J.N. McElvain also did an active business as a dry goods and ladies wear merchant for many years. In 1937, Mildred and Cecil McCall opened a modern Dry Goods and Ready Wear store at the McElvain location where they remained in busines suntil 1966. That location was then purchased by Elvin Weller, who established a highly succesful TV, Radio and Electric Appliance business.
Through the years there have been many businesses around the square and after World War II, people turned to the cities to shop and small towns suffered for lack of customers and many businesses closed down.
It was only after citizens put forth the funds and time to dig a railroad well, build a side track, that the railroad finally built a station here at Girard. This is a private home now.
Highway & Roads
The first cement highway to raise Illinois out of the mud stage was State Route 4, which passes all the way through Macoupin County from north to south. It was built through Girard and Virden Townships in 1921. Girard then began to work on the streets, first around the square. The square was paved and the other roads were oiled and rocked.
Girard's first editor if a weekly newspaper was A.R. Cribfield, in 1857, who published the Girard Enterprise. Ten different men tried to keep a local weekly paper going until the first Girard Gazette was published January 18, 1879, by George Tipton and Mr. Stuve. The next year George Tipton became the sole owner of the paper. The office became one of the best equipped country printing offices in Macoupin county. In 1904, George Tipton presented the office to his son Fred, who edited the Girard Gazette until his death. It was in 1925 when Norris Goode, of Virden, purchased the paper but retained the name.
The first church in Girard was built in 1855. It was a Union Project and so used until each denominational group grew strong enough to build it own. A Baptist congregation of 14 members was organized in 1855. The next year Rev. M.V. Kitzmiller came from Tennessee. He became the pastor of the Baptist group and held that position for 32 years. They built their own building in 1865.
The Cumberland Presbyterian had a group of 14 also, which organized in 1854, and by 1864 became the sole owners of the Union Building.
The Universalist group organized in 1857 and began building their meeting house at once, but progressed only as they had the cash in hand. This group disorganized in 1937, but the building was sold to The Church of God. This building, was torn down in the summer of 1978. The windows are preserved in the Township Library located in the top arch.
The Methodist Church was organized in 1857. Their present site was a gift to the congregation. They had already built a building on the east side of the railroad but moved to the new site. Their Wesley Education Center was built in 1954.
The Christian Church was organized in 1860 with a membership of 13. Their first building was sold to the Brethren in 1900. The Brethren moved the building to a new location, and the Christian congregation built their present building.
The Primitive Baptist built a house of worship in Girard in 1883.
The Roman Catholics built an "elegant edifice" during the pastorate of a Father O'Reilly. In 1890, their communicants numbered 50 families.
The Lutheran church was built around 1900. After a few years their group became inactive. When it once again became active by gleaning a larger congregation from Virden Township. The small building in Girard would not hold the people. In 1959, they built a house of worship in the country on the Girard side of the township road between Girard and Virden. The old building in Girard was sold to the Church of the Brethren. It was found that the building was decayed past remodeling; therefore, it was torn away and the lot sold for a residence.
The Church of Christ was built in Girard east of the railroad in 1954.
The only country church house in Girard Township in the early days was the Pleasant Hill Meeting House, which is still standing but in disrepair. It is an unusually large building and was built by the Church of the Brethren, then known as the German Baptist Brethren and commonly called "Dunkers". They had moved into the area between Girard and Virden, a colony from Virginia, Ohio and other points south and east to escape the Civil War. They bought up about two-thirds of the farming land in Virden and Girard Townships. The first family came in 1864. In 1867-68, they built the large meeting house. No worship services have been held there since 1912. The older people began to retire in Girard and Virden. The building purchased from the Christian Church in Girard was remodeled and dedicated in 1908.
There are now two active country churches in Girard Township: the Lutheran congregation and The House of Prayer, a congregation under the leadership of Don Cameron of Virden, which had been using the old Universalist Church in Girard. They built a new building on Route 4 north of GIrard, which was completed in 1975.
Dr. Abram Miller was the first doctor in Girard. A Dr. White is also named in the earliest days. In 1865, Dr. Adam Simmons came followed by his son, Dr. Albert Simmons. Dr. R.S. Cowan also practiced for a few years. Dr. R. J. Mitchell came to Girard in 1871, and practiced until his retirement.
Dentists who have practiced in Girard include: Dr. Albright, Dr. Claude Brown and Dr. T.R. McKemie.
Optomestrist's include: Dr. William E. Krueger, who came to Girard in the early 1920's. He was followed by his son, Roland Krueger.
Veterinarians include: Dr. Fletcher and J.C. Hoxey. J.C. Hoxey graduated from the St. Louis Veterinarian Institute and upon his return he built a first class hospital in 1904, which contained 12 box stalls and a carriage house. Dr. Arthur Hammond was also a successful veterinarian.
The Girard Coal Mine was sunk in 1869-1870. It closed in 1922 and was a terrific blow to the economy of Girard.
A new coal mine was sunk, Crown Mine No. 2. The work began in 1975 ans was operating by late 1976. It is located on the Girard side of the township road between Girard and Virden. Its branch railroad crosses the road going into Virden Township to join the C.B. & Q. line.
The State Bank of Girard has been in continuous existence since 1873.
The first school built in Girard Township was in the southwest corner on the line between Girard and North Otter Townships. It was one-half mile south of the lication of Lynchburg in later years. The year was 1843, and Miss Elizabeth McCullough was the teacher. In Girard, the first school was opened in 1853 with Miss Harriet Purdy as teacher. The expense of these early schools was a certain amount per pupil and was paid by the pupil's father. In 1856, the city voted to tax property a small amount to meet the expenses of a public school. Dwelling houses had been used, but a wooden schoolhouse was built in 1858. It burned in 1870. The location was on the same lot where the West Side School now stands.
The new school built in 1870 was of red brick, two stories high, four rooms on the first floor
and four rooms on the second, with long dark halls and a dark stairway. Shutters were at all the windows to protect
them from breakage by mischievous boys. No artifical lighting was allowed in the building until 1912.