NEWS ARCHIVES: August 2009-August 2010

(Posted July 29, 2010)

           SIU Med School to Hold Annual Pearson Medical History Lecture

         “Mental Illlness in 19th century America” will be the topic for the 15th annual Emmet F. Pearson Memorial Medical History Lecture at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. The free, public lecture is at 6 p.m. Thursday, August 19, in SIU’s South Auditorium (second floor), 801 N. Rutledge St. in Springfield.
        The event is jointly sponsored by the SIU medical humanities department and Friends of the Pearson Museum. Dr. Pearson, who died  in 1996, and  is memorialized by the lecture, was a Springfield physician and a professor emeritus in the internal medicine and medical humanities departments at SIU who also had a great love of history. Dr. Pearson was a founding member and a past president of the Sangamon County Historical Society. SIU’s medical museum is named in his honor.  
“Committed to Reform: Mrs. Packard’s Attack on the Asylum” will be presented by Linda Carlisle, Ph.D., social sciences librarian, at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard was committed to an Illinois insane asylum by her husband because she disagreed with his religious views and had different ideas about how to raise their children. Three years later she was declared sane and released. Packard spent the remainder of her life working to raise public consciousness about the treatment of asylum inmates and influencing the change to commitment laws in Illinois and other states.
     Carlisle earned her doctorate in history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, her master’s at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her bachelor’s at Blackburn College.
      For more information, call SIU’s medical humanities department, 545-4261 weekdays.

(Posted June 28, 2010)

ANNUAL MEETING FARE: (From top, left: the tram ride; entrance to the Box Car Museum; inside the Box Car Museum. Second row, from left: the Route 66 gas station; dinner in the Municipal Building; part of the Williamsville Library display. Bottom row, from left: Incoming President David Scott presents a certificate of appreciation to immediate past president Nancy Chapin; Curtis Mann, the Society's immediate past secretary-historian and a past president joins Chapin at the podium as the evening's fundraiser host; guest speaker Tim Townsend and one of the graphics he used in is talk on Lincoln. Photos by Donna Catlin.

Capacity Crowd Turns Out For Annual Meeting, Tour of Williamsville, Elections

     Heavy afternoon rain that moved east across the Springfield area toward Decatur didn't dampen the enthusiasm of Society members and the guests who slipped passed the worst of the weather and headed to Williamsville on Tuesday, June 15 for a round of late afternoon activities prior to the start of the Society's annual meeting. Light showers had already past as dozens of participants hopped aboard a tram provided by State representative Ray Poe for a tour of Williamville's historic homes and sites while others toured the community's Box Car Museum, its Route 66 era gas station and exhibits at the Williamsville Public Library, all within walking distance of the Williamsville Municipal Building/Community Center where the annual dinner was held. The events began at 5 p.m., the dinner at 6 p.m. 
     Keynote speaker Tim Townsend, historian at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield and a nationally known authority on Lincoln, provided dinner-goers with insight into the period just prior to and immediately after the election of Lincoln, using slides to illustrate both the public and private reaction to his political success as it played out in Springfield. Townsend served as president of the Society from 1999 to 2000. 
     Other highlights of the evening included a presentation by David Scott of a framed certificate acknowledging the efforts and accomplishments of Nancy L. Chapin who was completing her two-year term as president of the Society. Scott, the incoming president, headed a slate of officers for 2010-2011 that was unanimously elected at the meeting. In addition to Scott, other officers are vice-president Vicki Megginson; secretary Pam VanAlstine, and incumbent treasurer Paul R. Mueller.  Elected to three-year terms on the board with terms expiring in 2013 were Linda Bee, Bruce Beeman, Claire Eberle, Carolyn Oxtoby and Jane Tredwell. Carolyn Moore elected to fill the two years remaining on Megginson’s board position which expires in 2012. In remarks following his election, Scott cited the board's effort to develop a long range plan for the organization in an effort to define its future goals and expand membership.
       Several lucky ticket holders left the dinner with prizes of their choice from a group of more than 20 items donated to the Society for a fundraiser that has become a traditional part of the annual meeting. Among the historical-themed choices were tickets to shows at Sangamon Auditorium and Theatre in the Park, a glass compote dish from the Freeman-Hughes House, autographed books, antique dessert plates, works of art including pottery and framed mixed-media renderings of local historical sites, a personal tour of Iles House, tickets to Lincoln's Ghost Walk, and a professional appraisal of historical books.

     ( posted June 14, 2010)

Elkhart Historical Society Readies Lincoln Themed Events for July 16 and 17

    The Elkhart Historical Society will hold a full weekend of Lincoln-related events in July ranging from lectures to a sale of Lincoln items at a local book shop. Most events require pre-registration. Forms are available at the Society's website,
     Lincoln’s lifestyle as a judicial circuit lawyer will be the topic of a Friday, July 16 talk by Bob McCue, a member of the State Historical Society, Elkhart Historical Society, and a regular tour guide for Lincoln and Elkhart Hill. He is a historical re-enactor and guide at the Abraham Lincoln Neighborhood in Springfield and a tour guide at the Mt. Pulaski 8th Judicial Circuit Courthouse in Lincoln.
     McCue will be joined by his brother, Chuck McCue, who will discuss the "DAR 8th Judicial Circuit Markers." Using the research of Lincoln scholar Guy Fraker of Bloomington and with the help of his wife and brother, Chuck has located the remaining markers along the 400 miles of the circuit and is actively working with the Daughters of the American Revolution to promote the preservation and possible restoration of these monuments.
    The dinner lecture will be held at The Wild Hare Cafe,  104 Governor Oglesby Street, Elkhart. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., with the talks from starting at 7 p.m. Reservations and pre-payment are required, and space is limited. Cost is $17.99. The dinner package price includes the meal, dessert, drink, tax and gratuity. Reservations must be in by Monday, July 12. 
     The dinner will be followed on Saturday, July 17, with two tours of historic Elkhart Hill and two tours of the chapel in the Elkhart Cemetery. The tours will be offered at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. For the Historical Elkhart Hill tour, participants will be riding in the Elkhart Historical Society’s tour wagon. The tour includes Indian, pioneer, historical, and political sites. A stop is planned at the "Looking for Lincoln Wayside Exhibit" located near the Elkhart cemetery. This exhibit covers the Lincoln connection with Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby, who is buried in the cemetery. Reservations are required for all tours. Each outing will last approximately 90 minutes, and tours are limited to 16 people. The cost is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors (60 and over), and $5 for children (12 and under). Registration closes on July 12.
     In addition, tours of the historic St. John the Baptist Chapel on Elkhart Hill will be offered at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The Episcopalian Chapel was built in 1890 and is the only privately owned and operated church in Illinois. Constructed by the Culver Stone and Marble Company of Springfield, it is one of the few remaining Culver buildings in the area. Designed in Gothic Revival style, it houses one of the three oldest working pipe organs in the state (built by Hook and Hasting Company out of Boston). The tour includes a demonstration played on the organ. Beautiful Tiffany-style stained-glass windows grace the interior of this historic chapel. The tour will begin at the chapel. Reservations are not required but are recommended. The cost is $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors (60 and over), and $5 for children (12 and under).
     A special recital on the chapel organ is scheduled for 4 to 5  p.m. on Saturday, July 17. Organist Marcy Brooks, formerly from Broadwell and currently residing in Liberty, Kentucky, will play the historic organ. The recital is by reservation only and space is limited. A tour of the chapel is not included in the recital. The cost is $5 per person. As with the other events, a printable reservation form can be downloaded from the Elkhart Historical Society website.
      Among the other activities tied to the weekend will be a special display of Lincoln resources at the Elkhart Library and the sale of Lincoln items at Birdsong Books and Vintage Shop in Elkhart.
       The Elkhart Historical Society plans to continue its lecture series in the fall, with a presentation on September
September 24 on family history and genealogy and on October 15 on the geology of Elkhart Hill. Future tours in Elkhart for 2010 include Historical Hill Tours on September 25, and a new tour experience, "Elkhart - Little Village, Big Stories" (a tour wagon ride through the  village with humorous folklore about Elkhart's people, places and things) on Saturday, October 16.

 (posted June 14, 2010)

HISTORY TOUR GOERS saw (from upper left), the Alexander J. Jones House, headstones for Christopher and Susannah Newcomer and Isaac Keys, the George Brunk Horse Farm and the remains of the Brunk Home that was destroyed by fire in 2005, and scenes from the Philemon Stout Cemetery stop where costumed actors like Linda Schneider (above, left) portrayed some of the early settlers.

A Trip Back In Time to Sangamon County's First Settlement
(Society Board member Donna Catlin was among those on a jointly sponsored Sangamon County Historical Society-Elijah Iles House Foundation bus tour of the Sugar Creek/Cotton Hill area on June 5. Catlin snapped all the photos and provides some commentary on what the tour-goers saw and learned of a location south of Springfield  that was home to the area’s earliest settlements).   

By Donna Catlin

          When Robert Pulliam came to this area in October, 1817, it was rich with buffalo, groves of sugar maples and an Indian trail known as Edwards Trace.  Over the years as this location became more populated, this part of Sangamon County grew into a lovely scenic jewel which today covers an area in and around Lake Springfield.
          The families who settled in Cotton Hill Precinct were people who migrated from various parts of the country.  These settlers arrived here after traveling great distances to begin their new lives.  They were hard working, lived through many hardships and survived all the while creating local family roots for generations to come.  On the tour we met descendants of some of these early settlers.
           Dick Hart was the tour guide, sharing his great knowledge of this area of Sangamon County.  He and Society president Nancy Chapin expanded our historical knowledge as we passed sites that some of us have never seen. They brought to life the history of many early settlers and their families with names like Zachariah and Nancy Spaulding Peter, William Drennan, John Kelly, Alexander J. Jones, Philemon Stout, Megredy, Hermon, Laughlin, Renn, White, Woozley, Wills, Joshua W. Jones, Jonathan Bozarth Peddicord, Minerva Barnard, Robert and Tabitha Lard Jones, Penelope Anderson Stout, Mahar, Melissa Shoup Stout, Col. Samuel N. Shoup, Dr. Alexander Shields, Elizah Slater, Elijah and Delilah Shoup Bradshaw, David and Maria Shoup Brunk, Jacob Shoup, George Brunk, Nicholas Vachel Lindsay, David and Rosanna Ebey Beam, Christopher and Susannah Sells Newcomer, Mr. Carman, and Isaac Hess Keys.
           We also were fortunate to have R. Lou Barker, Elizabeth Currie Lovegrove and others share personal stories of their ancestors. Elizabeth Lovegrove, a descendent of Alexander J. Jones, lives in the house he built. A nearby barn that he built still stands today.  Alexander J. Jones was born in 1786 in Orange County, North Carolina and eventually ended up migrating to Cotton Hill Precinct with many members of the Jones family.
           Robert W. Jones died September 26, 1833 and is the earliest grave in the Sugar Creek Cemetery (aka. Jones and McGredy Cemetery). While visiting this cemetery,  Dick Hart shared stories with us that Philemon Stout, Jr. had written about the cemetery in his diary in 1874.
          On Stout Drive off of East Lake Shore Drive, we saw a stone marker in the backyard of a descendant of Philemon Stout, Sr.  This stone was erected in honor of Philemon and Penelope Stout.  The Stouts at one time lived with the Jones family.  At the Philemon Stout Cemetery, we were greeted by descendants of the Stout family. In addition, actors Linda and Don Schneider treated us to real life portrayals of Charles Calvin Lafayette Jones (1859-1949) and Cynthia Ann Lard Mahar (circa 1833-1906).
          We also visited the George (Joe) Brunk cemetery established in 1829; Vigal established in 1835; and the David Brunk Cemetery in 1855.  Another highlight of our tour was our stop at the Christopher Newcomer Cemetery which was established in the fall of 1845 as the result of a family tragedy. We learned that Christopher and Susannah Newcomer’s 20 year-old daughter, Armenia, died on September 4, 1845. Six days later, their 19 year-old daughter, Jane, died. Their parents located the cemetery so that it could be viewed from their home. 
     At the Christopher Newcomer Cemetery, portraying Christopher and Susan Newcomer, actors Don and Linda Schneider held a conversation as it might have taken place around 1850.  Other Newcomer neighbors buried here are Isaac Keys and David Beam. David Beam from Pensacola Tavern and Beam’s Mill is an ancestor of Springfield’s former Judge Harvey Beam.
     The George Brunk House was built about 1824, but was destroyed by fire in 2005.  This was one of the first stone houses in Cotton Hill Precinct.  The house site and barn is now the Brunk Morgan Horse Museum.
     This tour was a success. Even a light rain at times did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd attending this event. 

(posted June 5, 2010)

Lincoln Home Historian Timothy Townsend to Keynote Annual Dinner June 15;
Event to Include Tram Ride To See Williamsville's Historic Homes, Exhibits Too

          A ticket to this year's Sangamon County Historical Society annual dinner in Williamsville on Tuesday, June 15 will bring you more than a delicious sit-down supper. 
     In addition to getting some expert insight from nationally-known Lincoln historian Timothy Townsend into a Presidential election that changed history 150 years ago and voting for new directors and board members, you’ll have a chance to win some sensational prizes including signed and framed limited edition mixed-media artworks, tickets to Sangamon Auditorium and New Salem’s Theater in the Park, appraisals of antique books, autographed copies of some popular history books, antiques, Route 66 collectibles, tickets to Lincoln’s ghost walk, and more!
     The fun, in fact, begins even before the 6:30 p.m. dinner. Starting at 5 p.m., you can hop aboard a tram for free guided 15 minute tour of Williamsville’s grand historic homes and sites and then wander through the community’s famous Boxcar Museum filled with local history and Route 66 memorabilia. The Williamsville Library, housed in the former Williamsville railroad station just next door, will have some special exhibits for you to see. 
     Across the street and down the block from the Williamsville Municipal Building/Community Center (where the dinner will be held), you can check out the nostalgic Route 66 gas station, complete with two digit per gallon price signs that should bring back a flood of memories and tears to the eye.
     At 6 p.m., the cash bar will open, giving you time to mix and mingle and get an advanced look at the many prizes that will be raffled off during the evening for benefit of the Society. Raffle tickets will be $5. 
     Dinner tickets are $20 per person for members, $25 for non-member. Call the Society at 522-2500 to check on ticket availability.
    Townsend, (right) historian at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, served as president of the Society from 1999 to 2000. He began his career with the National Park Service in 1991 as a Lincoln Home Park Ranger. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and holds a master of arts degree in history from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Prior to his assignment at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Townsend worked on the curatorial staff at the Rock Island Arsenal Museum and was an interpreter at the U.S. Grant Home, the Vachel Lindsay Home, and the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices. He also assisted with field archeology and research for the Springfield archeological firm of Fever River Research. 
     Williamsville, established in 1853, was originally known as Benton, but the name was changed in 1854 in honor of Colonel John Williams, a local landowner, after residents petitioning for a post office in the community learned there was another Benton in Illinois. 
     The downtown flanks both sides of the railroad and was a stopping point along historic Route 66. Downtown Williamsville is located just east of  I-55, about nine miles north of Springfield at exit 109 (Illinois 23).

 (posted June 5, 2010)

Society Members to Vote on Officers, Directors at June 15 Annual Meeting

     Members attending the Society’s annual meeting on June 15 in Williamsville, will be voting on a new officers and directors for the coming year. 
     The Society’s nominating committee, chaired by Phyllis Eubanks, has recommend a slate that would be headed by David Scott, the current vice-president, who would succeed president Nancy L. Chapin whose term ends this month. Other nominees are: for vice-president Vicki Megginson; for secretary Pam VanAlstine, and for treasurer Paul R. Mueller. Megginson is currently serving the first of a three year term on the board of directors. VanAlstine has served on the Society’s program committee this past year. Mueller is the incumbent treasurer.
     Nominated for three-year terms on the board with terms expiring in 2013 are Linda Bee, Bruce Beeman, Claire Eberle, Carolyn Oxtoby and Jane Tredwell.They will succeed R-Lou Barker, Elaine Birtch, Kim Effrid, Sue Wall and Martha Wolters whose terms also expire this month.
     Carolyn Moore was nominated to fill the two years remaining on Megginson’s board position which expires in 2012.

(posted May 19, 2010)

AUTHOR DRAWS FULL HOUSE: Former St. Louis Post-Dispatch Illinois political columnist and author Taylor Pensoneau (at podium, left)  filled the Lincoln Library's Carnegie Room to the max in Springfield on Tuesday, May 18 when he spoke to the Sangamon County Historical  Society about "Governors and Gangsters." Pensoneau, a former Society president, shared stories and insight into the criminals and politicians he has written about in a series of popular books including former Governors Dan Walker and Richard Ogilvie, the notorious Shelton Gang and most recently, Black Charlie Harris. Later he autographed books for fans (right).                                                                                                              (composite photo)

           (posted May 19, 2010)

                 Tickets Still Available for June 5 Sugar Creek Bus Tour 

     Tickets are still available for a June 5 bus tour of the Cotton Hill District, Sangamon County’s birthplace. The area—in and around Sugar Creek—was home to the first generation of settlers here. The tour is being co-sponsored by the Society and the Elijah Iles House Foundation and is open to members of both organizations and the general public.
     Traveling in a comfortable, air conditioned tour bus, trip takers will hear stories and descriptions of Sangamon’s earliest settlement sites and view over five 19th century farm houses and early family cemeteries. At two of the cemeteries, actors will portray several of the early settles buried there.
      The tour, expected to take about two-and-a half hours, will leave from the Meijer’s parking lot off Veterans Parkway (Route 4), Springfield, at 1 p.m. Sites and history along the route of what used to be the south side of Sugar Creek will be detailed by historian Dick Hart on the way down. He’ll do the same for the north side of Sugar Creek on the way back. 
     The tour is the first of several activities in preparation for John Mack Faragher’s visit to Springfield to help the Society celebrate its 50th anniversary next April. Faragher, author of “Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois Prairie” (Yale University Press), is the Arthur Unobskey Professor of American History at Yale. Faragher teaches the history of the American West and directs Yale’s  Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders
      Tickets for the bus tour, at $40 for members of each organization, and $50 for non-members, can be ordered from the Society. For information call 217-522-2500.


(posted April 30, 2010)

                      Iles House Seeking More Docents For Summer Tourist Season Ahead 
More docents are needed at the historic Elijah Iles House in Springfield to enable the house to be open longer during the summer tourist season.  Because of the layout of the house, there must be two docents in attendance at all times the house is open. Telling visitors about the house and its history is rewarding and fun.  If you think you would be interested in helping out, call Logan McMinn 679-0797.  

(posted April 20, 2010)

Donner Family Talk Draws SRO Crowd At UIS 
There wasn't a seat to spare at the University of Illinois Brookens Library Auditorium Tuesday evening, April 20, as an overflow crowd filled the room to hear Sangamon County Historical Society board member Don Springer talk about the trials and tribulations of the famed Donner Party.
     Springer is the great, great, great, great grandson of George Donner, who was chosen to lead the wagon train over the final 1,000 mile portion of the historic journey in which nearly half the party perished after becoming trapped in a winter blizzard in the Sierra Mountains. George Donner and four other members of the family were among the victims.
     With his brother Bill and other descendents of the Donner family in the audience that topped 220, Springer provided lesser known details about the Donners prior to settling in Springfield. He also reflected on the motivation behind their decision to leave Springfield in 1846, after 30 years of residence in Sangamon County. Springer also provided insight into the hardships the wagon train faced in opting for an alternate route to California that held promise for a shorter route but actually jeopardized the trip. After his talk, audience members (above, left) had a chance to look at some of the documents and artifacts related to the Donner Party. Springer (top left, in photo) and his brother have donated books, reference materials, and memorabilia to the Library in an effort to make it a full resource of Donner history for researchers, students, and others. The Donner materials are usually housed in the Library's Archives and Special Collections Department.
     The free program was co-sponsored with the Friends of Brookens Library and the University's Engaged Citizenship Common Experience program. A reception followed the presentation. If you missed Springer's presentation, you can watch it online by clicking here

(posted April 15, 2010)

 Iles House Draped in Bunting to Mark Mourning Days for Abraham Lincoln

      As was the custom at the time of Lincoln’s death, the front porch of the Elijah Iles House in Springfield has been draped in bunting of black and purple for the mourning period of President Abraham Lincoln’s death, April 15 through May 4. 
     One hundred and forty-five years ago, President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession, after passing the Lincoln Home, proceeded along Cook Street from Eighth to Fourth streets and would have passed on the north side of the Iles House, then the Robert Irwin residence, when it was located at its original site. 
     Elijah Iles served as one of the pall bearers on that day of the burial services. The 69-year-old Iles walked the route to Oak Ridge Cemetery as did the others on what was said to have been a very warm May day.

(posted April 11, 2010)

New Berlin Area Historical Society Hosts April 18 Talk 
by Taylor Pensoneau on "Gangsters of Southern Illinois"

   "Gangsters of Southern Illinois" will be the topic of a Sunday afternoon program of the New Berlin Area Historical Society scheduled for 2 p.m., April 18 at Capone's Hideout, 201 W. Illinois St., New Berlin. The event is free and open to the public.
      Southern Illinois historian and local author Taylor Pensoneau will be speaking about The Shelton Gang and Black Charlie Harris, notorious Pond Creek outlaws who dominated life in rural Wayne County and other parts of the state from the 1920s to the early 1950s. All made headlines throughout the nation, and Harris eventually landed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.
     Pensoneau of New Berlin is the author of six books, including "Brothers Notorious: The Sheltons," " Dapper and Deadly - The True Story of Black Charlie Harris," and "The Summer of '50." These three books will be available for purchase as a fund-raising event for the society.
     The afternoon will provide a fun opportunity for all history and gangster buffs to participate in a "Gangster and Pals Rendezvous." In keeping with the theme, clothing from the Roaring 20s and the 1930s will be worn, and vintage vehicles will be on display. Those attending are encouraged to participate in the fun by dressing in vintage attire. Drinks will be available, and light refreshments will be served.
     Tickets can also be purchased in advance from Capone's Hideout for a murder mystery dinner theatre following the afternoon's event.

(posted March 16, 2010)

"How Illinois Became A State" Talk Draws Full House 

ALL MAPPED OUT: Audience members check their maps during a talk by scholar David Scott on March 16 on "How Illinois Became A State." Scott distributed maps to attendees at the Society’s program meeting at the Lincoln Library, Springfield. At left, Scott, the Society’s vice-president, answers a question from Ed Brooks (right) following the presentation. More than 60 people attended the meeting held in the Library's Carnegie Room. 


(posted February 16,2010) 
February 16 Audience Tops 100! 

Railroad Historian's Power Point Show
Details Rich History of Interurban Here

Railroad Historian Dale Jenkins speaking to the Society on Tuesday, February 16. 

        More than 100 people turned out for a Society-sponsored talk and power point show Tuesday, February 16 that traced the rise and fall of Illinois Traction System, once this area's most popular commuter and freight rail service.  The meeting was held at the Lincoln Public Library in Springfield. 
          In his opening remarks, railroad historian Dale Jenkins--who grew up about a block from the Illinois Traction System’s Springfield terminal off Clear Lake Avenue-- recalled that as a very young child, he enjoyed watching the Interurban trains go by. Then he discovered he could stop an oncoming train "just by sitting on the tracks. " That prompted a visit from a railroad detective, Jenkins said, who issued his mother a stern warning to keep her son away from the rails. 
           It didn't work out that way.
           After high school, Jenkins joined the Illinois Traction System as a rail road police officer, eventually succeeding the very railroad detective who admonished him as a child.
            Throughout the hour-long presentation, the audience sat in rapt attention, occasionally oohing and ahhing as Jenkins projected dozens of historic photos showing the rich interiors of the passenger cars that took commuters back and forth between cities, towns, and small villages across Central Illinois. He also showed photos of passenger terminal buildings and rail lines that ran through Springfield as well as a map of the route of a sister freight line that looped around the outskirts of the city to avoid local regulations that would have otherwise hampered its operations. 
             Passenger service on the  550-mile electric interurban rail line operated here from 1895 through the mid 1950s, bringing back memories for some audience members who, in a question-and-answer session that followed his talk, asked Jenkins about specific sites they remembered seeing as children riding on the Interurban. That prompted Jenkins to show an additional set of then and now photos, including one of a large garden at Starnes, where several rail lines crossed. "They had gardens and walks, even a band," said Jenkins, pointing to the spot now fenced and covered with underbrush that had been remembered by the Interurban traveler. 
           In its heyday, the interurban was the most convenient way to travel and ship freight at at time when Central Illinois had dirt roads that disappeared in winter storms, turned muddy in spring rain, and dusty in summer.  But the growth in automobile ownership and paved roads signaled the end of commuter service, Jenkins explained. By the time it ceased operations in 1981, it had become a completely diesel powered freight-only service.
             Jenkins,  who now lives in Decatur, worked for the line for 40 years, 37 of them as a rail road police officer. He is founder and president of the Illinois Traction Society, a group that is preserving the history of the Illinois Terminal Railroad and its predecessor lines including the Illinois Traction System and has also written a book about the line. He and his wife Judy are volunteers at the Monticello Railway Museum which features displays of rail cars and other equipment as well as steam-powered train rides on weekends and holidays from May through October. Though he normally serves as a conductor, Jenkins and his wife both hold engineer licenses.
           On behalf of the Sangamon County Historical Society, director and program committee member Roger Whitaker presented Jenkins with a year's membership in the organization. 

(posted February 9, 2010)

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train Monument Unveiled February 9

Station Ceremony Draws Crowd, Media, Despite Snow

FROM LEFT: Spindell listens as Mayor Davlin makes his remarks; Mayor Davlin looks at the monument; Spindell gets a close  up  the honor guard fires to the roll of the drums. BELOW: Local media were out in force to cover the event.   

     An unveiling ceremony for the new Lincoln Funeral Train Memorial Monument at Springfield's Amtrak Station, drew a large crowd of onlookers as well as the media Tuesday morning, February 9, despite snow that blanketed the area overnight and continued into the day. 
      The site, on the west side of the stationhouse at Third Street and Washington, marks the spot where the funeral train arrived in Springfield on May 3, 1865, ending a 14-day, 1,700 mile journey from Washington, D.C.
     In a brief ceremony that started inside the building, Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin praised Katie Spindell who drove the effort to have some type of historic marker placed at the  station that would show where the train made its final stop. Spindell thanked the Mayor "for having enough faith in me and saying yes" to the momument project.
        Another speaker, James Cornelius, curator of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, noted the relationship between Lincoln and railroads, on which Lincoln frequently traveled. As a lawyer, Lincoln handled many cases involving Illinois railroads, serving as both a prosecuting and defense attorney, he said. As President, Lincoln recognized the importance of  the railroads to the Northern cause, creating the Military Rail Road in 1862 to support the war effort. By the end of the Civil War, the United States had the largest rail system in the world, he noted. 
      Led by two units of Civil War reenactment groups in full uniform, the ceremony then moved outdoors where Mayor Davlin and Spindell unveiled the monument followed by a ceremonial volley of rifle fire.

                                                                        * * *
     Spindell, a Sangamon County Historical Society member, designed the three foot wide by five foot high black polished granite monument that was assembled by Arnold Monument and includes an etched illustration of the Chicago & Alton rail-road Engine 58 that pulled the funeral car from Union Station in Chicago to Springfield. Engine 58 was draped with flags intertwined with crepe and bunting and other symbols of mourning. Illinois artist Elizabeth Mattingly Thacker hand etched the drawing onto the monument’s granite base.
      Spindell, a member of the board of the city’s International Visitors Commission, had for the past several years provided tourists and dignitaries with information about Springfield. She frequently found herself being asked about the location of the funeral train arrival site at what is now the Amtrak station. "Over the years, thousands--and I do mean thousands--of tourists asked me where the funeral train arrived and were disappointed to discover it wasn’t designated with some type of monument or marker," said Spindell in recent Historico interview.
      The Lincoln Funeral Train attracted some eight to 10 million mourners along its route from Washington D.C. through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and into Illinois. Markers and memorials along the route can be found in every state.
             Spindell, who spent months researching the funeral train’s route, had sought a memorial that she said would be "elegant, simple, dramatic, and somber." The monument was installed at the site in December, awaiting for its unveiling.

           Beaumont, Springer, Catlin Tapped as Directors for Society's Board
      Three area residents have been appointed directors of the Sangamon County Historical Society to fill vacancies on the board. They are James H. Beaumont and Don Springer, both of Springfield, and Donna Catlin of Sherman.
       Beaumont, who retired as vice-president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce in 2002, has long ties to this area. Born and raised in Decatur, his father, James, was born and raised in Springfield in a house on Eighth Street, south of the Lincoln Home.
       A graduate of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, Beaumont earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Illinois at Spring-field. Following graduation from Columbia, Beaumont worked as a reporter for the daily Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, the first of what would be three separate vocations.
       When a family friend’s job offer provided an opportunity for him to move back to Decatur, he took it, even though it meant switching careers and going back to school--to Northwestern--to receive training as a stock-broker. Beaumont began his third career in 1972, this time as an Illinois State Chamber of Commerce exec, moving to Springfield 
with his wife, Mary, and children. Family members of the Society, today the Beaumonts    have two married sons and five grandchildren.
       In 1994, he was named outstanding chamber executive of the year by the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. The award recognized long-term professional career achievements of the candidate including experience, training and education, and service to IACCE and other professional organizations.
A self-admitted history buff, he is particularly interested in the Civil War Era, his desire to learn more piqued by a course he took at UIS taught by the late Phillip S. Paludan, a leading authority on the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln. "I was fortunate to take Dr. Paludan’s course on the Civil War Era as a senior learner at UIS the last time he taught it, and I’m still reading books to follow up on topics raised in that class." 
       Beaumont will serve as a director until 2012, filling what remains of a three year term vacated by Bill Minder.
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       Springer, a descendant of the famed Donner family of Springfield, whose ill-fated journey west 164 years ago, has become an integral part of the history of America’s western migration, has been a Life Member of the Society since 1966, serving on the board from 1998 to 2001.Abraham Lincoln lived across the street from Springer’s great-great grand-father, the Reverend Francis Springer, who founded both Trinity Lutheran and Grace Lutheran churches in Springfield and was the city’s first superintendent of schools. 
       Springer will be discussing the Donner Family’s Trials of the Pioneer Trail, 1846 as guest speaker at the Society’s April 20 program meeting.
       Springer is currently a director of the Center for American Archeology and is a member of Sons of the American Revolution. He is also a member of the American Business Club, the Springfield Film Commission, and the University of Illinois Foundation. He and his wife Karen have two children, a daughter, Paula. and a son, Douglas.
       A financial advisor with Edward Jones, Springfield, he has been in the field for 36 years and is a founder and charter president of the Illinois Securities Industry Association. His hobbies include travel, hunting, and bridge.
       Springer will serve as a director until 2011, filling what remains of a two year term previously held by Jack Nevins.

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       A native of Springfield, Catlin was raised in Sherman, attending local schools there and in Williamsville before marrying in 1961 and moving to Normal, Illinois. 
        Before moving back to Sherman 20 years ago, she and her husband Carl, a career Navy man, traveled extensively around the world and lived in several states. But her love of local and Sangamon County history never left, says Catlin. 
       When she returned home, Catlin began what she describes as "my quest to find what history I could for the growing village of Sherman," a time-consuming project. The community’s village board and mayor have designated Catlin the honorary "Sherman Historian." 
       Catlin will serve until 2012, completing the three year term previously filled by Sarah Thomas.

Society Gives Springfield, Pleasant Plains Schools Funds for History Projects

PROJECTS--ranging from buying books about Illinois and Sangamon County history for students at the Lincoln Magnet School to support their research for the Illinois History Fair to acquiring National Endowment for the Humanities reports on 19th Century Farming that will aid Pleasant Plains Elementary School sixth graders working on projects associated with the Pleasant Plains Historical Society’s restoration of the Clayville and Broadwell Inn--were awarded $250 grants from the Society to support their efforts. Checks were presented to teachers from each school at a special ceremony January 19 at the Chatham Public Library, held prior to the Society’s monthly program meeting. Society treasurer Paul Mueller (left) and Project Committee chair Elaine Birtch (right) share the moment with (from second left), Scott Morey, treasurer of the Pleasant Plains Historical Society, Pleasant Plains Sixth Grade Teacher Debbie Green, and Lincoln Magnet School teacher Jodi Mitts.