Submitted by Norma Jean Huss

Taken from: The Massac Journal-Republican; Volume 51-No. (Section 2) (Pages 9-16) Established 1865. The Illustrated Industrial Edition.
The Massac Journal-Republican, Thursday, August 10, 1916

The following interesting facts concerning Metropolis are taken from the "History of Massac County", published some sixteen years ago. It is authentic and reliable. While this sketch brings the history of Metropolis down to 1900, the illustrations and feature articles in this issue show the progress made since that time.

In the name of Metropolis is wrapt the dream of its founder, William A. McBane, Sr., who was attracted by the inviting and beautiful location for a modern city considered by experienced boat- men as the most beautiful on the Ohio and lower Mississippi. Mr. McBane was also a practical engineer and a New Orleans and Pittsburg merchant, whose business necessitated trips on the river. He reasoned that a railroad bridge must span the Ohio connecting the North and South, and that this was the most natural and the most available crossing. Upon landing from a flat boat of merchandise he found J.H. Wilcox, the owner and occupant of perhaps 1,000 acres of the land which had stricken his fancy, and he immediately purchased with his stock of goods a half interest in the virgin soil, April 18th, 1839. McBane and Wilcox laid out what the former dreamed would become a might city and named it without duplicate in all the world, "Metropolis" (largest city). It was his opinion that railroads would cross the river here, as it represents the best banks and interior roadbed, according to the opinions of official engineers. Fate has decreed his hopes a dream.

The records are very meager and the traditions uncertain; hence the modesty of our account. City lots were sold in 1840. Washington and Franklin Parks, the court house square and a lot to the Christian church were their benefactions to the public.

Near the city lay the historic site of the early French mission and trading post founded as early as 1702 by Jucherau and Father Mermet and called Assumption. The same spot on which the French soldiers afterwards built Fort Massac, over an hundred years ago--a spot as historically sacred and renowned as any in the rich annals of Illinois.

James Hendricks Gains Wilcox owned and occupied the only residence. It was situated on the lot where Joseph G. Brown, his nephew, and an old citizen now lives. Immediately after the birth and christening of the city, Mr. Wilcox erected a splendid brick residence on Front Street. This building was used as a dwelling, a store and later a hotel under different names. When conducted by B.O. Thrift, father of John Thrift, it was called the "Thrift House", and the "Parker House" when operated by John and Thomas Parker.

Traditions relate that the Master Writer, Charles Dickens, occupied one of its apartments while on his way from Nashville to St. Louis. Nothing in his American notes or its rehash, Martin Chuzzlewit, unless it be his reference to :New Thermotylae" as a name for Metropolis. This place was three days journey from Eden while his description of the :barn-like hotel upon the hill and the attendant wooden buildings and shed" was in keeping with Metropolis at that time. This hotel was also conducted by John Cunningham and wife, parents of Mrs. Mary S. Logan, wife of General John A. Logan. Her residence here was during her early years. Petersburg, Missouri, now extinct was her birthplace August 15, 1838. She and the General were married at Shawneetown November 27th, 1855. Along with her husband she became a national character.

Contemporaneous with the Wilcox hotel was another brick dwelling on Front Street between Ferry and Metropolis Street. It was built by Mary familiarly called "Polly" Orr. In the flood and storms of 1884 the winds and waves drove the wharf boat against the Orr building wrecking both of these old landmarks.

W.A. McBane Sr., lived the life of a bachelor in company with his aged mother until her death when he adhered to the life of a recluse. He was an agnostic but possessed of many sterling virtues and was particularly given to acts of charity towards the poor. He sleeps near the boundary of the Masonic cemetery in a neglected grave. As the founder of Metropolis he deserves more at the hands of the public.

One of the founders J.H.G. Wilcox also owned the Metropolis ferry--operated first as a hand and then as a horse ferry. Wm. McBane Sr., uncle of our fellowtownsman W.A. McBane Jr., purchased the ferry interests in the early forties and operated it until 1873. This property was then and long afterwards a valuable franchise because of the vast amount of traveling over what was practically the only available route. Mr. Wilcox moved to a farm a few miles up the river and died there. In 1874 W.A. McBane Jr., bought the ferry franchise of his uncle and built the first steam ferry boat the "W.A. McBane Sr." at a cost of $4000.

Charles P. Farrow a resident of Metropolis purchased the franchise in 1879 and introduced the tug boat "Uncle Tom". Later he built without any aid from the citizens the "Massac" and operated the ferry until 1890 when he sold it to Colonel R.A. Peter who sold the boat to Major L.W. Copland and built the "Nettie". Messrs Joe Grand and W.N. Smith purchased the franchise in 1898 and Grace soon became the sole proprietor. The Nettie was remodeled and named Grace-Smith. Later she was withdrawn from the trade and for a while no ferry was maintained. A sort of flat boat propelled by a gasoline pleasure boat was maintained for some time.

(A splendid ferry is now in service and does a good business. --Editor.)

The streets of Metropolis are noted for their width and, beauty and surface, about seven miles composed of conglomerate gravel have become hard and impervious to water. The homes are built on large lawns, growing beautiful grass, flowers and so many roses that it has been called the "City of Roses."

The public school system comprises a Fourth Ward School, Main High School and First Ward building. The first two are for white pupils and Prof. Clarence Bonnell, principal and Mesdames Rose E. Cutting and Magenta Kennedy as assistants; have charge of the High School. The Misses Mabel Houts, Lottie Johnson, Arminta Armstrong, Nina Slimpert, Laura Nordeman, Mesdames M.A. Dugger, Laura Love, and John Weaver are the grade teachers. The colored schools have four teachers--Mr. G.S. Murray, principal;--Mrs. Lena Phillips, Irene Brown and Mrs. Luella Crouse for the grades.

Prof. Longbons, a graduate of the Southern Illinois Normal, Carbondale, is superintendent of the whole system. He has proved himself thoroughly competent and a four years' course study is maintained which admits the graduate to the State University and Normal Schools.

The Board of Education is composed of C.P. Treat, president; J.M. Elliott, secretary, D.C. Flanagan, Edwin Corlis, M. Smith, Edward Cowling and A.N. Starks.

For several years a small library was maintained by public subscription, Hon. R.W. McCartney, deceased, left rooms and a liberal donation for books when the city should foster the library under the statutory provision. This was done in 1898 and today a popular public reading room is enjoyed by the city. Aside from this the women have a local branch of the Women's Literary Club and several reading circles.

(Today Metropolis has a Modern Carnegie Public Library and is proving a source of great pleasure to our citizens.---Editor.)

The Methodist Episcopal Church has a commodious, well furnished brick building and a regular pastoral, also Congregationalists, The Presbyterians, Christians, Baptists, United Brethren, Baptist colored and A.M.E., each own modern frame churches and maintain regular pastors. The Catholics have a neat frame, the German Lutheran a brick, the Episcopaleans have no house yet each have a service though at intervals.

In the "50's" wild cat banks were organized and chartered for Metropolis and Brookport, one each, but never went into operation, although an office was opened.

About 1869 Manning Mayfield, who had come to Metropolis, induced R.G.B. McKee to build a banking building on Third Street in connection with his business block. A bank was opened under the name of M. Mayfield & Co., and November 1st it was understood that Mayfield's brother, Abraham, was his associate. In 1871 W.R. Brown was admitted as a partner and Mayfield removed to St. Louis. Under the management of W.R. Brown the firm continued until June 12, 1883, as the Mayfield & Co., when the name was changed to that of Brown & Bruner, by the admission of W.P. Bruner. This firm continued in business until June 12, 1895, when an assignment of the bank's assets was made to E.P. Curtis and D.W. Helm assignees.

During the life of the Brown & Bruner bank business growth demanded an additional one, and August 1, 1881, Messrs H. & A. Quante, R.G.B. McKee, A.P. Oakes and J.M. Choate, under the firm name of McKee, Quante & Co., opened a bank on Third street, and May 5, 1884, turned over the company's assets to the First National Bank then organized. R.W. McCartney secured the charter and became its first president, serving until elected circuit judge, when J.F. McCartney succeeded him. After the expiration of the judicial term, R.W. McCartney was again elected president and served until his death. Hiram Quante has been president since then. The capital stock is $50,000. J.M. Choate was cashier from 1881 to 1889; W.H. Armstrong, 1889 to 1897; J.M. Choat 1897 to present. The directors are Messrs H. and A. Quante, D. Arensman, R.H. Austin, W.H. Kraper, Ed J. Cowling and Henry Miller.

Immediately after the failure of the Brown & Bruner bank, J.F. McCartney, who had sold his stock in the First National Bank, promoted the organization of the State Bank of Metropolis, which was chartered and opened its doors for business December 2, 1895, in the new State Block. The directors were J.M. Elliott, D.H.C. Borman, F.M. McGee, G.W. Smith, William Wright, L.W. Copeland and J.F. McCartney, who was elected president and still serves. J.M. Elliott was chosen vice-president and James L. Elliott, cashier. In May 1896, the capital stock was increased to $50,000 from $25,000 and the bank merged into a National Bank under the National Banking laws, with the name of the "National State Bank of Metropolis, Illinois."

To hold the election Messrs Wm. McDowell, J.J. Crittenden and Daniel Bowker were appointed judges and Messrs R. Laughlin and Robert Russel clerks. Ninety votes favored the charter, one opposed and one blank was voted.

In the first city election the judges of the election for the First Ward were J.J. Crittenden, William Cregg and William V. McGee. The clerks were Lewis Lafont and James K. House. In the second ward the judges were: Daniel Bormer, H.S. Lightfoot, Michael Zrandtley; clerks, R. Laughlin and Thomas Davis. In the third ward the judges were: Daniel Bowker, D.H. Diers, and Jason L. Stone; the clerks were John W. Foster and J.T. Stewart. As a result of the election William V. McGee was elected mayor, 162 votes; John B. Hicks, magistrate, 105 votes, William McDowell, 73 votes; J. Dayhuff was chosen marshal at 91 votes, his opponents and votes were: J.H. Tucker, 65; J.W. Hoagland, 5 and G.B. Choat, 16. The aldermen and votes were as follows: First Ward--L.A. Brown, 31, J.R. Gates, 9; J.C. Roberts, 17 and R.S. Rankin, 1. Second Ward--G.W. Bunn, 61; John T. Rennie, 35; W.R. Brown, 26; H.R. Lightfoot, 12; W.H. Scott, 6; Third Ward--John C. Burden, 43; Tilman Roby, 27; J.F. Mears, 15.

The first meeting was held in John B. Hick's office and the first recommendation of the mayor-elect was one in favor of granting liquor license, which at the same meeting was fixed at $200 per year and they prohibited the sale to the intoxicated and boys under eighteen. John Kebler took out the first license. An annual license was placed on ten pin alleys, then popular and it also covered billiard tables. April 22, 1859, C.W. Lusk was authorized to publish the proceedings required by law at one-half his regular rate in _"The Sentinel", April 23rd they returned $10 borrowed by the city of W.H. Green and allowed each alderman 50 cents for each regular and called session. May 18, 1861 a resolution was passed authorizing the city clerk to purchase three kegs of powder, two kegs of buckshot, and one hundred bars of lead for the "Home Guards' to be used in defense of the city form threatened attack by the rebels.

The first mayor was William V. McGee, 1859 to 1860; and until 1901 are as follows: W.H. Scott, 1860-2; elected twice; Abram Bruner, 1862-3; Joseph T. Browne, 1866-7; T.J. Parker, 1867-8; J.C. Burdell, 1868-9; Joseph Walmsley, 1869-70; resigned January 8, 1870, and J.E. Roberts elected protem; J.E. Roberts, 1870-71; J.C. Willis, 1871-72; George W. Corlis, 1872-73; Dr. J.H. Scott, 1873-75; being the first mayor elected for two years under the stature of 1872, and re- elected, 1875-77; Norris, 1879-81; T.S. Stone, 1881-83; Benjamin Rankin, 1883-5; Dr. J. H. Norris, 1885-7; Benjamin Rankin, 1887-9; dying after three months' service, and May 14th, 1888, the council elected Alderman A. Quante to fill out the unexpired term; Dr. J.H. Norris, 1889-91; August Quante, 1892-7; serving three consecutive terms; Frank Adams, 1897-1901, serving two terms.

At that time (1901) the population of Metropolis was about 4500 inhabitants and the city had four wards. Robert K. Burden is city clerk. John H. Guinn, treasurer; and Gus Crouch, marshal. A.J. Peter and John Turnbo aldermen for the First-ward; Dr. J.T. Cummins and W.A. Fitch, second ward; T.S. Stone, and P.R. Finney, Third ward, James H. Jones and W.P. Baynes, Fourth Ward.

[The history of Metropolis from 1901 to date will be found on another page.--Editor.]

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