Wayne's World of History and Genealogy
History as in 1936
|This History of Gillespie written in 1936, has many variations that conflict with other records, newspaper articles and other documents. The text provided here is a transcript of the the original as it was written, except for the correction of some obvious typos.|
Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois|
Centennial Edition, Section 5, Pages 6 & 7
Wednesday, January 15, 1936
|Gillespie Is One of State's Principal Coal Centers|
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First Settled in 1828, Area Booms When Mines Open
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Location, Midway Between Springfield-St. Louis,
Rich Soil Attracted Pioneers to Community
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By Evelyn Yurcessen
GILLESPIE -- The City of Gillespie is located in the southeast part of Macoupin county, half-way between
St. Louis and Springfield, with transportation facilities of the Big Four Railroad and the Illinois Terminal
Railway system, surrounded by rich agricultural lands and in close proximity to four of the largest coal
mines in the world.
The site of the city was surveyed by J. B. Meads from Edwardsville in the spring of 1853 and was located and founded in 1854. The city of Gillespie was named in honor of Judge Joseph Gillespie by the managers of the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad, now the Big Four. Judge Gillespie's influence and efforts made possible the running of this line through the city.
July 4, 1854 marked the celebration of the completion of the line and operation of the first engine over it, under Gillespie as road master. The city is one of the oldest in the county with the largest population 6,015. The village of Gillespie was incorporated as a city March 4, 1907.
Not until 10 years after Illinois was admitted into the Union in 1818 did the hardy pioneers begin to settle in the territory now called Gillespie. From Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolina, Mississippi, and as far east as New Jersey and New Hampshire they emigrated and found in this section a wild and unsettled country with rolling land dotted with fine timber. there was plenty of wild game of deer, turkeys, pheasants, and prairie chicken, now practically extinct, and still somewhat abundant small game of rabbit, squirrel, quail and wild duck. The land, a deep black productive soil was purchased from the governor at $1.25 an acre.
Descendants of these early settlers, who arrived here between 1828 and the early 30's on the north, south, east and west sections of Gillespie, have lived in or near Gillespie over a period of a hundred years.
One of the leading farmers and enterprising citizens was Randall Clark, who, when 20 years old left his home, in south Carolina with his uncle, Arter Taylor Feb 12, 1835. He reached Bloomington, Ill. April 1, 1835, and worked in a grist mill until August 1835 to obtain money to continue his journey to this part, where he had relatives. In Bloomington he worked for John Rice Dodge, of whom a direct descendant is Lawrence E. Dodge, science instructor at Gillespie Community High School for 10 years. After Clark was able to continue his trip and paid his uncle for the horse he bought from him on credit, he sold the horse for $60. With part of the money he bought 20 acres of land southeast of Gillespie which was part of the premption right of his cousin, Marion Taylor.
Arter Taylor, the uncle with whom Randall Clark journeyed to Illinois from South Carolina settled in the central section of Gillespie township. It was Arter Taylor's uncle, Richard Taylor, who was the father of President Taylor.
Giles M. Adams, who was born in Virginia, came as a youth to this territory in 1829. he had married Elizabeth Taylor on April 19, 1809 in Tennessee. she was connected with the Taylor family of which President Taylor was a member. Adams lived on the old stage road, northwwest of the Gillespie city limits, which ran between Bunker Hill and Carlinville. This stage line which began operation in the early part of 1800, ran through the present location of the Liberty Coal Mine section. Adams' son, Francis M. Adams, was the second member of the board of supervisors from Gillespie township.
Capt. James P. Pearson came to the Gillespie section in 1834 with his mother from Clark county in Ohio. Capt. Pearson, who in his later life lived west of Gillespie, is remembered by his present descendants for his part in the Mexican War in 1846, where he served as drum major and then wagon-master. His drum, now more than 90 years old is in the possession of his great grand-daughter, Mrs. Lucius Lockyer. Capt. Pearson was mustered in Company "A" First Illinois Regiment at Alton, July 4, 1848.
Andrew Jackson Rose emigrated from New Jersey in 1835 and settled west of here in what is known as the Red School district. His eldest daughter, Susan Rose, was the wife of James M. Pearson. some of he difficulties experienced by the people of that period can be shown by a bargain made by Rose with his brother-in-law, Andrew Opdycke, a tailor.
In 1838 George Boosinger and family, who had traveled in a covered wagon from Ohio to Missouri to settle in a new home, were on their way back to Ohio because Boosinger was not satisfied in Missouri. On the trip back, stopping to camp east of Gillespie on a grassy knoll by a spring, the family was so delighted with the spot that they settled there, later acquiring tract of 160 acres of government land. henry Rice is the present owner of the piece of land on which the spring is located having inherited it from his mother , Mrs. Christian boosinger Rice.
Edward Shirtcliff Holmes came with his parents in 1831 at the age of 9 from Pontifract, England to near Jacksonville. In 1845 Holmes settled east of here,a t 23, on a government tract of land of 160 acres. There he lived for 65 years. The homestead was left to his son, John Holmes, who in turn willed it to his widow, Mrs. John Holmes. The town of Eagarville, covering 30 acres, was laid out on part of the Holmes estate.
John Carter came from Louisville, and settled northeast of here on the present site of the Horace Drennan farm, in 1858. In the history of Gillepsie, Carter was the only man who possessed a negro slave. Although in neighboring towns a negro race is found, it has never inhabited Gillespie. Carter brought the slave with him from Kentucky.
When the election of the first mayor took place, McDaniels was in favor of filling the creek and his opponent against it. following the election of McDaniels, the first money appropriated for the building up of the city was spent in filling and sewering the creek.
To the south part of the Gillespie territory came Edmund Burton and family from Bedford county, Virginia. three sons, Shotwell, Charles, and George Burton were in the family. The Burton's early land is near the John Crawford farm. Gillespie of the 1860's owes much to Shotwell Burton, who married Margaret Francis, a daughter of early pioneer settlers.
In 1840 Abraham Isaacs and family of Kentucky settled four miles south of Gillespie. The homestead of Abraham Isaacs, sr., has remained in the family until the present. After his death in 1896, a son Abraham Isaacs, jr., remained on the homestead. Here A. A. Isaacs, first city attorney and Macoupin county judge from 1926 to 1934, was born. A. A. Isaacs and two brothers in the west are the present owners of the land. When the family moved into the city in 1916 the property was leased to tenants, the present occupant being Joseph Kirkwood. The log cabin built by Abraham Isaacs, sr., now a room of the present dwelling.
Edward Woodruff and family came from Virginia in 1830 and built one of the first log-cabins in the south section on land which is now owned by the Barbrockes. A Widow Francis and family from Ireland and the Sissens from Virginia settled in that locality about the same time.
One of the first frame houses to be built in the early 1850's was the four-room McCellan house which stood on the present location of the Illinois Central Telephone Co. office. Another landmark was the McGovern house built where the Odd Fellows hall is located.
The first frame building on Main street, which was erected by G. F. Clark in 1853, was made of rough lumber sawed down at the Cahokia Saw-Mill. the floor was used as a store room while the upper story was used as a dwelling.
In the spring of 1856 another small building was built by S. D. Martin and served as the first hotel, known as the National Hotel.
In the year 1855 the village received what is known as Huggins' first addition, which was the North side. Shotwell Burton made the second addition on the South side in the year 1856, at eight dollars an acre.
Early hardware dealers were Llwewilyn Miller, W. M. McDaniels, the first mayor, and G. W. Schmidt. Schmidt, who was a wagon-maker had his shop located on the present corner of Dippold's drug store and his residence was on the present site of the Masonic temple.
Herman Behren's Old National Hotel, which was on the present site of the building of his son, Henry Behrens; and Henry Meniecke's hotel, The Old California House, on the present site of the Novelty Shoe Store were built after 1870 and were in use until 1903.
Early dry-goods and grocery shop keepers were Henry Behrens, John T. Hutton, Peter J. Ahrens, and William McDaniels. The present Ganey Mercantile Company was established in 1890. Still older is S. Lesem and Sons Clothing store, operated by Harry and Benjamin Lesem, and established by their father, Solomon Lesem, in 1876.
A well remembered and well known meat market owner, livestock, and real estate dealer is Edward C. Frederickson, sr., who was born in Bunker Hill and came to Gillespie in 1883 at the age of 16. After working for a butcher named William Love, he opened his own shop. Upon the opening of the Superior Coal Mines, Frederickson extended his trade into the mining camps by means of meat wagons. Frederickson's meat shop was the delight of all the youngsters, who, now grown, still remember his treat of wieners with purchases.
Early farmers sold their surplus grain crops to the first mill built by the settlers, Settlemire, Rankin and Holmes in 1859, four years after the town was founded. A fatal accident occurred on Jan. 14, 1864 when the explosion of the engine killed the engineer, William Robinson, and the miller, Lewis Zinzer.
An incident which occurred in the mills and was later a source of amusement to the old timers was the "almost" hanging of a horse-thief after the Civil War, in 1865. Citizens who captured a horse-thief and who wanted to make him "talk" threatened to hang him. although they had no desire to carry out their threat, in reality they did hang him up in the mill to frighten the information out of him. Somehow the noose became much tighter than desired and the righteous citizens almost had a dead horse thief. It was often remarked by the "old timers" how many shook in their boots at what they almost carried out.
Later proprietors of the mill were Lincoln Francis, George Francis, I. B. Green, Jacob Querbach, and J. Cockrell. Gillespie's mills have always been located on the southeast side of the Big Four Railroad, although the buildings were not always in the same spot.
H. F. Bycroft, who operated the mill as early as 1873, was joined by his son, James E. Bycroft, in 1900. James E. Bycroft sold the mill to the present stock holders of the Gillespie Elevator Co. in the 1920's.
It was H. F. Bycroft who owned the first automobile in Gillespie. He bought the car in 1910 from R. M. Carnahan of Eldorado, Kan., a brother-in-law of Mrs. john N. English, wife of Dr. English. Carnahan, who had been visiting at the English home, left it in their possession for about six months. The second car was owned by a Mr. Meyers.
Dr. W. K. Pembroke, a Dr. Rice of Kentucky, Dr. B. Crawford and Dr. William M. Gross, father of Mrs. Frederick Opie, practiced their profession before and after 1870. Dr. Marvel Thomas, who practiced in the late 1880's is now living in Florida.
Dr. B. Crawford resided in the present home of Dr. and Mrs. N. English of 114½ South Macoupin street for 44 years. The English home and the Patrick S. McPherson residence on 305 East Chestnut street were built about 1865, soon after the Civil War, by two brothers from the south.
The business section of Gillespie was practically destroyed by fire of unknown origin, in the winter of 1903.
The fire broke out in Ganey's store, which was then located where the Cash and Carry Building now stands.
A wind in the northeast swept the flames across all of the east side, then across the west side to the present
site of Lesem's store. The fire started about midnight and everything was burned by morning. The water
brigade was defenseless against it, but several buildings were saved when the wind calmed down.
Families who lived near Main street had begun to pack some household belongings to leave the fire area, the spread was so rapid. Persons who had not learned of the fire during the night came to town in the morning to find the shops in ashes. Gillespie's Main street at that time extended on the east side from the present Henry Behrens' building to the People's State Bank and on the west side from the former Gillespie National Bank building to Dippold's Drug store. After the fire the frame business structures were replaced with modern brick buildings.
In the same year as that fire, 1903, the Superior Coal Company began to open its mines and built the Northwestern Railroad to carry the coal away. Gillespie stopped being a village then and became a booming city. A coal washer was built at s cost of $200,000 east of Gillespie for the purpose of washing the coal produced in the mines. It was closed in 1930.
The Superior Coal Co. of Iowa in 1903 obtained an option on 45,000 acres of coal rights located in Gillespie, Cahokia and Dorchester townships. Mine No. 1, located at Eagarville and Mine No. 2 located Sawyerville, the largest of the four mines, was sunk in Sept 1917.
The company owns approximately 100 acres of lend around each of the four mines. The mines are equipped with modern machinery with a wash house built near each. Mine No. I has one of the most modernly equipped wash-houses in this section of the state. It was completed this fall, replacing one destroyed by fire of an unknown origin last spring. A reservoir located near each mine furnishes all the water needs.
At present the four mines produce a total of 11,000 tons of coal per day and an average of 725,000 tons each in a year.
Twenty-two hundred men are employed at the four mines, and are members of the Progressive Miners of America. Gillespie business dealers receive most of the trade of the families living in the mining camps.
The miners completed underground connections between mines No. 3 and 4, so that underground passages now connect all four mines. D. D. Wilcox, who has been employed since 1903 by the Superior Coal Co. is the present general superintendent of the mines.
Another Gillespie Mine in operation is the Liberty Mine, employing 210 men. It is located on the northern limits of the city, and was sunk in 1919. This mine is electrically equipped, but has a much lower hoisting capacity than the others. It was first owned by home people, but is now in the hands of the West Virginia Coal Co. The coal rights of the Liberty Coal Mine in the beginning were one square mile, and later an additional 320 acres was added.
The same company which opened the Liberty Mine sunk the Henderson Mine northeast of Gillespie in 1921. One hundred men were employed there, but it was closed in 1924. since the demand for coal had begun to slacken at that time.
In the fall of 1905 the Illinois Terminal Railroad System was laid through Gillespie. The right of way was obtained in a section on the northern out-skirts of the city from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which built into this city in the 1880's and operated but one year. This B. & O. R. R. did not run into Gillespie as the Illinois Terminal did, but ran straight in from the north to the old electric light plant.
In 1916 the convenience of the city sewer and paving of Route 4 was begun the city water works was constructed in 1922 at a cost of $239,800. The Gillespie News, a weekly paper was established in 1905 by the present editor, S. P. Preston.
The Gillespie National Bank was originated in 1905, after the opening of the Superior Coal Mines, with a capital of $50,000. The first officers were J. M Rodiner, president, Thomas E. Elliman, vice-president, and Henry W. Rice, cashier. After being established for 26 years, the bank was closed in December 1931, with deposits of one and a half million dollars. To date, four dividends totalling 32 per cent, has been paid to the depositors.
After the panic, a group of Litchfield business men reopened the Bank of Gillespie and later changed the name to the Gillespie Trust and Savings Bank. Later, this bank became the American National Bank of which Richard H. Isaacs was the president, having been a cashier in the second ban, The Gillespie Trust & Savings.
In 1930 The American National Bank merged with the Gillespie National Bank. Bunn's Meat Market is now located in the building formerly occupied by the American National Bank The city's present bank is the People's State Bank organized in 1927 with Richard E. Long sr., as president. He still retains the position. The bank is capitalized at $50,000.
It was kept there until last October, when it was moved to the new building on Went Spruce street constructed at a cost of $35,124. Everett L. Cameron is postmaster, being appointed in August.
The first postoffice was kept in the B F. Clark store in 1854 with the Rev. Thomas Chandler as postmaster. Previous to 1854 it was kept at the home of Giles Adams, north of the city limits in Gillespie township, with Adams as postmaster, because the stage coach line ran near his dwelling. A still earlier postoffice was kept in 1852 at the home of the Rev. Thomas Chandler east of Gillespie on the Washer road, and was known as the Prairie Home postoffice. The mall was carried on horseback and came in once a week from Brighton.
During the 1870's Dr. T. Warren Floyd was postmaster and kept the office in his drug store; after his death in 1876 his widow filled the position until followed by Miss Etta Love, daughter of William Love, in 1883. Andrew MacDonald followed Miss Love, and then J. F. Ahrens became the postmaster in 1888 and held the position until 1913, when Michael J. Bergan was appointed. appointed. Bergan was followed by Even Harris, who was succeeded by the present postmaster, Everett L. Cameron.
The first church built in the city was the Episcopal in 1863. The original frame building is still in use on West Spruce street.
On the corner of South Macoupin and Spruce streets, northwest, where today Eiler's store stands, the first Methodist Church was erected during the year 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. Lumber for the building came from the timber owned by Abraham Isaacs, sr., at whose home the first organized meetings of Methodists were held. In 1909 the church building was removed to the place it now occupies, -- the corner of Madison and Spruce streets. An annex was built and dedicated during 1910. When the town became a city, the church trough the years outgrew the building and equipment.
In 1928 around the old buildings so well constructed, a new building was erected at a cost of $37,000.
The first Methodist parsonage was bought in 1855 for $450, and is still standing on East Chestnut street occupied by the family of George Sawyer. The Rev. C. C. Dawdy, the present pastor of the Methodist Church, has been in that pulpit since 1934.
the Rev. L. Krekeler, who has charge of the Lutheran congregation in Dorchester, as well as here, will observe his fortieth anniversary as pastor of the Lutheran Church this year. There are 457 members in the congregation composing 175 families.
The Christians held their services in he old Lutheran frame edifice until 1915. this building is now Russell's Red & white store. The Christians in 1915 built a frame structure on the east side od South Macoupin street, north of the city cemetery. In 1923 this building was destroyed by fire which started in the cemetery. The present brick building of the Christian Church was built to replace the one destroyed by fire.
In 1920 the Catholic frame edifice was torn down and the present brick building with a seating capacity of 500 was constructed at a cost of #85,000. The church is modified gothic in design.
A parochial school building was commended in 1913 and completed the following spring. The Sisters of Mercy from St. Joseph's Convent of Mercy, Webster Groves, Mo., took charge Sept. 20, 1914. The present church was erected during the pastorate of the Rev. Father John Crosson, who took charge of the parish April 1, 1905. Father Crosson is now pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Alton, being transferred there in June 1935, after 30 years of service here. The Rev. Father J. T. Walsh was transferred from the Catholic Church in Altamont to replace Father Crosson. Father Crosson was the first resident pastor for SS Simon and Jude's Catholic Church and was the first priest to occupy the parsonage, built in 1906.
When the parochial school was built in 1913, a six-room dwelling was also built for the nuns. when it became necessary to increase the number of teachers, the parish decided to build the present two-story brick building containing 14 rooms, completed in May, 1925.
The present frame Baptist Church was built about 25 years ago. The Rev. H. L. Wheeler is the present pastor of the church.
Eighteen eighty eight marked the beginning of the first two-year course of high school work. The principal served as teacher and the high school work was done in the old White School near the mill, now the location of the Gillespie Elevator Co.
In 1909 the board of education found it necessary to remodel the original four-room Big Brick. The addition cost $20,000, increasing the valuation of the Big Brick to $25,000 and enlarging it to a 14 room building. Combined grade and high school work was carried on in the Big Brick School to 1919.
In 1918 the grade schools were over-crowded. Then it was decided to conduct classes in the large frame home of Henry Behrens, built in 1874. After six years of use, the Behrens' home was torn down and the present modern Maple Street School was built about 1924 on about the same location.
Gillespie's grade classes are now conducted in the Big Brick and Little Brick schools, and the Maple Street School.
Until 1918 the Gillespie Community High School was known as the Gillespie High School. The present high school, located on the present west edge of Broadway, was begun in June, 1919, and completed in Sept., 1920, at a cost of $124,000 for construction and $16,000 for furniture and equipment. The high school is located on seven acres of ground in the northwest part of the city and has enrollment of 580. Earl J. McNely has been the principal since 1923. The faculty includes 17 members. The student body takes part in the activities at 17 organized clubs in addition to a Boys and Girls Athletic Association. More than 1100 students have graduated from the school.
In 1928 a gymnasium, valued at $40,000 and considered one of the best equipped in this section of the state, was constructed. Previous to the building of the gymnasium, all the athletic activities were carried on in the cafeteria of the school. Coach George W, Grauel has charge of basketball and Coach Leslie Nicolet, football.
Although some at the early settlers on the site of Gillespie came more than a hundred years ago, there is no mention of the Indians here, as found in history of the immediate area. One of the closest approach to the Indians was the Peoria, Kickapoo and Winnebago grand camping ground near the creamery northeast of Bunker Hill. These Indians, it is thought, might have hunted in the Gillespie section The Indians used the Bunker Hill camping ground only when they made their north and south journeys. They left in 1826 for the west when the white settler began to come.
An incident which occurred in Weaverville, Calif., on Oct. 13, 1888 is connected with Thomas F. Burke of 212 Park avenue. Burke's father, Thomas Burke, who was a citizen of Gillespie before moving to California was murdered by a band of Indians while at work in the field in California. The Indians spared Mrs. Burke when she told them where they could find money in the house, which they plundered and burned to the ground. Mrs. Burke returned to Gillespie with her three small children and lived here until she was 82. Thomas F. Burke of Park avenue was a small child at the time. A sister, Rosa, is now Mrs. John Main of California.
In addition to the organizations of the Gillespie churches, lodges and civic organizations are located here. The Odd Fellows Lodge, oldest in the city, was instituted on Oct. 13, 1857. In the Masonic lodge John Slaughter, 96, Civil War veteran, is the oldest member, having been for 71 years.
A Victory Rebekah Lodge, Gillespie Chapter of the Eastern Star, Lady Douglas Lodge of the Daughters of Scotia, Clan Mackintosh. The Burns Club. Knights of Pythias, Pythian sisters. White Rose Camp of the Royal Neighbors of America. Knights of Columbus, American Legion and Auxiliary, Spanish American War Veterans Association, the L. H. Wilhite, F. L. Hoehn, and Maple Street School Parent-Teacher Associations. Home Bureaus. Gillespie Community Club, Woman's Club, Gillespie Rotary, and Retail Merchants Association are other organizations located here.
The city of Gillespie, which is 81 years old and whose chief industry is mining, has a chance for further development through research work to be continued in the study of coal and many more by-products to be discovered and bettered.
© 2018 Wayne Hinton