Washington County, Illinois

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Out of the Past
Growing up on a family farm (Peithmann)
in Washington County, Hoyleton Township, Illinois, (1913-1934)

Written & Furnished by : Roscoe E. Peithman


    1. The Furlough.       2. The Flu of 1918.       3. A Toy Pistol.      

4. The Shenandoah.       5. Center of the World       6. A Cavalry Sortie



The Furlough

During World War I, James Randell, who married my father's youngest sister, Florence Peithmann, served in the U.S. Army. While in training in a camp in the United States, he was allowed leave to come home to visit Aunt Florence and other family members. We were alerted by telephone that he would soon be arriving at our home.

My mother, my older sisters and I were in the kitchen where the telephone was located. My mother told me that Uncle Jim was arriving home on a furlough and that I should go out in front of the house at the top of the lane to greet him. I was a little older than four years at the time. Not knowing what a furlough was I became very curious since the only animals that we used for transportation were horses and mules. My mind suggested to me that a furlough might be some kind of a donkey or perhaps an animal of which I had never heard.

The lane, which was about 500 yards in length, connected to the county road along which Uncle Jim would be arriving. As I watched intently and with great curiosity, a Model T Ford turned onto the lane from the county road. As it approached I could see that Uncle Jim was driving the car, home on a furlough from the Army.

Roscoe E. Peithman
February 26, 2000


The Flu of 1918

In the year 1918, Edward and Sadie Peithmann decided to build a new house on their Pleasant Hill Grain and Stock Farm. The old house was torn down in November of 1918 except for the kitchen which was to be used until the new house would be completed. A recently built granary building, with four rooms, was to serve as additional living space for the family. There were five children ranging in ages from 12 to 3 at the time, Irvin, Helen, Luella, Roscoe and Wilbur. There were some twenty cows and horses in the barn and about a hundred chickens in a chicken house.

World War I was being waged in Europe in 1918 and over one million U.S. troops were in Europe by the time that the war ended on November 11 of that year. During this year an influenza epidemic killed some 20 million people worldwide, 548,000 in the United States population. In our own rural community I recall attending the funeral of one of our soldiers who had died from influenza in an army camp. The funeral was held in Pleasant Grove Church which was located in the country some three miles south of our farm. The roads were muddy so all of the vehicles involved were buggies and wagons drawn by horses. The casket of the young soldier was borne on a spring wagon.

On our Pleasant Hill Grain and Stock Farm, we were not to escape the epidemic. The kitchen became a wall-to-wall bed room with all except my mother down with the flu. She became the caretaker of six very ill people and all of the livestock on the farm. One night I can recall hearing a knock on a window and there with a lantern held to light his face was Uncle Arthur, my father's brother. He inquired, "Sadie, how are you doing? Do you need help?" My mother never faced a problem that she could not solve so she politely thanked him and said everything was under control. She was caring for six very sick family members, feeding some ten horses, and feeding as many cows, most of which needed to be milked.

I can recall sitting on the porch of the kitchen after getting over my illness. We were coming out of winter with no growing thing visible and the sun felt so very warm. Suddenly I noticed in the earth before me a tiny green shoot emerging, a crocus as I recall. My feelings at that moment were very special and I have always remembered them.

Roscoe E. Peithman
February 26, 2000


A Toy Pistol

One day in the summer of 1924, my father prepared to mow some clover for hay. The mowing machine was one which was pulled by two horses driven by a person seated on the machine. The mower had an horizontally reciprocating sickle about five feet long. The family farm where we lived was about four miles south of Hoyleton, Illinois. The sickle had been taken to a blacksmith in Hoyleton several days earlier for sharpening and I was given the task of going to town with a local trucker to get it.

The previous Christmas I had been given a "cowboy outfit" that my parents had ordered from the Sears and Roebuck catalog. I was eleven years old at the time. I chose to wear the outfit, toy pistol and all, to town for the trip to fetch the sickle. When I arrived at the blacksmith shop it was just past noon and the blacksmith was having dinner at his home nearby. The shop was open so I waited inside for the owner's return. Across the street from the blacksmith shop was a garage where automobiles were repaired. In front of the garage was a gasoline-dispensing pump for obtaining fuel for cars. The garage was closed while the owner was having dinner at his home nearby.

While I was waiting a caravan of five automobiles filled with men stopped at the garage across the street. All of the men were dressed in civilian attire and each carried one or two hand guns in holsters on their belts. Some of the guns were revolvers and some were automatics. The automobiles were touring cars with no side curtains so that I could see rifles and shotguns inside them.The garage being closed, several of the men came over to the blacksmith shop and asked me where the garage owner lived. I directed them and one of them went to get him. The owner came and proceeded to refuel the cars. In the meantime the men used the blacksmith shop as a substitute for a restroom. I was kidded by several of the armed men about my toy pistol and the way I was wearing it.

In the twenties the prohibition on the sale of alcohol led to "bootlegging". Police, and others who were supposed to protect the populace, at times took bribes resulting in the erosion of law and order. Such was true in Williamson County in Southern Illinois. Early in November of 1923 a committee of the Williamson County Law and Order League, made up of members of the Ku Klux Klan and backed by most of the Fundamentalist Protestant Church groups, took the law into their own hands. They hired S. Glenn Young, who had been an agent of the U.S. Treasury Department, to be in charge of "cleaning up" criminal activities in Williamson County.

The day that I was to fetch the sickle was June 26, 1924. This day a hearing was being held in the Clinton County Courthouse, Carlyle, Illinois, about ten miles north of Hoyleton. It involved the shooting attack on S. Glenn Young and his wife in the Okaw River bottoms by the Shelton brothers gang on May 23, 1924. The Shelton brothers were into bootlegging and gambling and resented the interference into their activities by S. Glenn Young. They proceeded to ambush Young and his wife and wounded them both. Since this shooting occurred in Clinton County this county had jurisdiction.

A book by Paul M.Angle, BLOODY WILLIAMSON, Alfred A. Knopf, 1952, describes in some detail the period of time that S. Glenn Young was in charge of the "clean up" in Williamson County. About the hearing held in Carlyle, Illinois, on page 175, he writes "The courtroom was packed and hundreds were turned away. Fifty deputies, each armed with a shotgun, stood guard. Shortly after two o'clock Young arrived, not alone, or with a small escort, but accompanied by thirty auto loads of Klansmen. Most of the cars were decorated by American flags. Many of the Klansmen carried arms, which the sheriff compelled them to leave in his office."

Who were the armed men that I observed at the blacksmith shop and who then drove north towards Carlyle on June 24, 1924? News articles of the time describe them as armed Klansmen headed for the hearing. If S. Glenn Young was among them, he was in a back seat of one of the automobiles immobilized from having been shot in the right knee during the ambush a month earlier. At least I had seen five carloads of Klansmen headed for the hearing and I had learned something about how to wear a pistol.

Roscoe E. Peithman
February 26, 2000


The Shenandoah

The first American-built rigid airship was assembled at the Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey, from parts made at the Naval Aircraft Factory at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The ship was completed in the late summer of 1923 and was inflated with helium. The capacity of the ship was 2,115,000 cubic feet, the length 680 feet and the speed sixty mph. She bore the service designation ZR-1 but was named the Shenandoah.

Soon after making her maiden flight on 4 September she flew from Lakehurst to St. Louis and back in less than two days. I saw the Shenandoah that September as she flew over our farm in Southern Illinois. Although the airship was headed for St. Louis, it moored briefly at Scott Field a lighter-than-air base about 30 miles west of our farm. We had often seen other such craft, balloons, blimps, semi-rigids and rigids but never anything as large as this huge airship. Either in the early morning light or perhaps moonlight, this huge cigar-shaped object appeared not too far above us, engines aroar, headed westward. My father apparently knew about the event from an account in a daily St. Louis paper to which we subscribed. All of us were in bed. He shouted, "Everybody out of bed! The airship is about to fly over us". Needless to say all of us were outside in a moment to witness this great airship pass over us.

The story in the daily newspaper indicated that the Commander of the airship wished to fly over the city during daylight hours. Having arrived before sunrise he tarried a short while at Scott Field just across the river in Illinois before making the flight over St. Louis. The airship may have refueled there as well.

Over the years growing up near Scott Field I remember numerous practice flights involving as many 5 or more blimps, semi-rigids and rigids at a time. One time there was a "race" involving a dozen or so balloons. Some times a balloon would land nearby and one of the men would ask to use a telephone. An Army a truck would soon arrive to pick up the crew and return them to Scott Field. Once we witnessed an attempt to set an altitude record in a balloon. We could see the sand streaming from the basket as the pilot lightened the load. Far below it a biplane circled as its pilot observed the balloon flight. As I remember, a Major Williams was making an altitude attempt from Scott Field and that the altitude he was striving for was about 18,000 ft. In a subsequent attempt at an altitude record he was found dead at the point where he came to earth. Scott Field would sometimes be open to the public for air shows and since it was only about 30 miles from our home we would attend them.

The life of the airship Shenandoah was not long. She took part in one naval exercise with the Scouting Fleet and two operations with the battleship Texas. After being torn from a mast on 16 January 1924 a skeleton crew aboard saved her and after nine hours brought her home to survive the storm. The airship then made a long flight to the West Coast and back covering some 9000 miles. The Shenandoah broke up in a storm over Ohio in 1925. Fourteen of the crew lost their lives but twenty-two survived.

Roscoe E. Peithman
February 26, 2000


Center of the World

Edward Peithmann and Sadie Smith were married December 24, 1903. They moved onto a farm of 160 acres owned by Hermann Peithmann, father of Edward. This was located adjacent to the Heinrich Schnake farm of 80 acres, which by that time was owned and operated by Hermann Peithmann.

Edward and Sadie owned and operated this 160 and additional acres, for a total of about 375 acres, over their life times. With this story I have provided three pictures. The first picture shows the buildings that were on the farm at the time of the wedding of Edward and Sadie in 1903. The house was built of brick and had been damaged by a tornado some years before.



A granary having four "bins" was built in 1917. Except for the large kitchen the house was torn down in 1918. The kitchen was kept for use until a new house could be completed. The bins were to serve as additional bedrooms but that idea although attempted really didn't work. A very wet and cold winter and the "flu" of 1918 prolonged the building process. The new house was not completed until sometime in 1920. My mother was pregnant with my brother Elwood and I remember seeing her walk down the hill to Aunt Lizzie's for the birth, which occurred December 15, 1919. I was aware of the reason for her going although I was only six years of age.

In about 1921 we moved the Smokehouse, a small building used for curing and smoking meat, from the old Heinrich Schnake farm to ours. That farm now had become a part of the Edward and Sadie Peithmann farm and the buildings were vacant. The small structure was placed on skids and pulled by a team of horses to its new location. The butchering and curing of hogs was a yearly event and the Smokehouse filled an important need. Most of our food supply came from the farm.

After the house was completed, the barn which was somewhat in front of the house, was moved so it would be to the rear of the house. This move occurred in about 1924. The new location required a source of water nearby. This source was a "dug" well about four feet in diameter and about 33 feet deep. Because of a sand strata the well could not be any deeper. A windmill, which was first erected in about 1921 over the well near the original location of the barn, was moved to this new location. In dry seasons the two wells did not meet the needs of people and animals. A cistern filled by rains from the roof of the house supplied additional water for the family and a pond did the same for some 25 animals. An attempt to drill a deeper well only resulted in getting into veins of coal and brackish water. Our two wells had very little mineral content and the water was very pleasant to drink; not too unlike the "spring water" we buy in the super market today.

By 1926 the barn had been enlarged and modernized to include spaces for milking some ten cows. A small "milk house" for caring for the milk was also built. At the south end of the barn a silo of ceramic blocks was erected. Each year it was filled with ensilage derived from corn stalks. In 1933 the barn was destroyed by fire and a new barn was erected on the same site. The new barn was some larger than the previous one. The silo although damaged survived for a number of years. One day it could no longer stand the pressure of the ensilage and it "exploded".

The second picture shows the buildings as they appeared in about 1960. At the far left of the picture is a small brooder house that was used to house small chickens shortly after being hatched. The brooder house was built in the early thirties. To the right of the brooder house is the granary built in 1917. There were two grain bins on each side of an inner driveway, which allowed us to load and unload grain from a wagon. The surrey was normally housed in this driveway until the first automobile arrived. It than became the garage for our car. A car occupies the space in the picture. The house was completed in 1920. The barn as shown was completed about 1935. The Smokehouse is the small building to the right in the picture and to the front of the barn. The windmill is behind the tree on the right side of the house. With the exception of the Smokehouse I remember the erection of all of the buildings. They were all framed of oak logged on our woodland. By 1925 I was helping cut the trees and transport them to the local mill. The axe and the two-man crosscut saw were the tools that we used and the loading and transport of a log was done with a team of mules. The mill consisted of a large circular saw powered by the Steam Engine that powered the Separator at wheat threshing time.

The seven children born and raised on this farm all left it to follow other pursuits. At various times they were scattered across these United States, from New Hampshire to California. Sadie spent a short time in a care home and died in 1966. Edward left for a care home in early 1968 and died in 1979. The farm land and timber tracts were sold to a number of bidders at a public land sale in 1980.

The third picture was taken in the spring of 1993. The buildings had just been burned and the ashes and other remains of the buildings were placed in a trench dug by two caterpillar bulldozers. The two bulldozers are evident in the third picture. Today the building site is farmed along with the rest of the land. A family and its activities began on this site, evolved, blossomed and then faded away. From all of this I can only conclude that "nothing is forever."

The three pictures indicate that the farm buildings stood on a hill or knoll. This gave them a look of prominence over the surrounding prairie although the height above it was probably not over 40 feet. When I was very young, perhaps five years of age, I pondered over this elevation of our building site over the surrounding prairie. Since the world around me seemed to me to require a center I reasoned that this knoll might be its center. At that age one's mother is the source of all knowledge so I proceeded to ask her whether it was possible that our home was located at the "center of the world". My Mother answered me in a way that I still remember, "Since the world would seem to have a center somewhere this spot could be it just as well as any other". In my later study of Astronomy I have never found any data that would refute her answer.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  First picture: As the buildings would have looked in 1903 and as I first remembered them.
An itinerant photographer probably took the picture.


  Second picture: Taken in 1963.
Edward and Sadie would still be living there.
Picture taken by Roscoe E. Peithman.


  Third picture: Taken in 1993.
Picture taken by Luella (Peithman) Dickhaut.


Roscoe E. Peithman
February 26, 2007


A Cavalry Sortie

In the 1920's there were a number of Civil War veterans still living in Washington County, Illinois. I remember an old Union soldier by the name of John Brown who lived in a house across the road from the country church that we attended. The church was the Pleasant Grove Methodist Church, located about two miles south of our farm. Brown taught a Sunday school class of young people in the church. He added interest to his teaching with stories of his years serving in the Union Army. There were places with fascinating names such as Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Shiloh and Vicksburg.

One Sunday my father invited a veteran of the Civil War, James P. Courtney, to our home for dinner. After the noon meal we sat on the lawn under a big elm tree and listened to him tell stories of his experiences during the Civil War. Courtney, who lived in Richview, Illinois, was mustered in on February 10, 1862 as a private, in Nashville, Illinois, and was mustered out July 31, 1865 as a sergeant. He served in Company C, 60th Illinois Infantry, Volunteers. Census data provides us with a birth year of 1842 so James would have volunteered for duty at the age of 20 and have been 80 years of age in 1922, about the time of this story-telling event. The 60th Illinois Infantry was involved in numerous actions which included the siege of Corinth and the battle of Chattanooga. In May of 1864 the 60th was a part of the Atlanta Campaign which included the battles of Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Jonesboro and Atlanta. The 60th also took part in the march from Atlanta to Savannah. A short history of the 60th Infantry is included with the published Roster. The history relates, "During the march (we) foraged liberally off the country and captured many mules and horses".

The stories Courtney told us that afternoon in 1922, about his memories of the actions of the 60th Illinois Infantry, sounded much like those in the history books about the civil war. The living off the land and the destruction of buildings, bridges and railroads were a part of Courtney's stories. He told of railroad ties being put into heaps, burned with rails on top of them. While the rails were "red hot", they were wrapped around trees so that they could not easily be used again. While listening to these stories I recall that my mother mentioned that her father served in the Union Army also and that she had heard him tell many similar stories. Her father, Thomas Smith, served in Company I of the 49th Infantry from August 14, 1862 to when he was mustered out on September 9, 1865 as a corporal. He died before I was born so I did not hear his stories.

One of the stories Courtney told to us that afternoon involved foraging for feed for the horses that were used by the Infantry. It was customary for corn to be cut, one stalk at a time, with a corn knife and then stored vertically in a tepee-like "shock" out in the open. This was for feeding live-stock during the winter months. To protect these shocks from roaming cattle and horses, they were often surrounded by a high rail fence. (This was still done this way when I grew up on our family farm.) Courtney and three others were looking for corn to feed the horses used by the Infantry Company. Courtney described his mount as being one that had been the saddle horse of a Southern gentleman while the mounts of his companions were "plow horses." The corn was in shocks surrounded by a high rail fence. The four soldiers had opened the fence at a place not too far from the woods. They were using ropes tied around stocks of corn and attached to their saddles so they could drag them back to their camp. Just before starting back, Johnson's cavalry burst out of the woods on the side of the enclosure nearest the woods. Courtney cut his rope, rode towards the rail fence on the side away from the attackers and spurred his horse. The horse leaped over the fence allowing him to escape. The other three did not return with him. They were either killed or captured. On this march, General William Sherman commanded the Union Army and was opposed by some 55,000 men under the command of General Joseph Johnston. The cavalry referred to was most likely to have been one attached to Johnston's army.

The memories of that afternoon, lounging under the shade of the old elm tree, still linger more than 80 years later. James P. Courtney has long ago passed from the scene as has the lawn, the elm tree and even the farm buildings. It was an interesting experience for a lad of 9, fascinated by the stories of a war that had taken place some 55 years before.



U.S. Census Data, 1870.

Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, Volume IV, 1861-1866, Roster Officers and Enlisted Men from 56th to 77th Regiment. Revised, 1901.

Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois, Volume III, 1861-1866, Roster of Officers and Enlisted Men from 36th to 55th Regiment, Revised 1901.

Roscoe E. Peithman
October 1, 2008


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