April 21, 2014
Leigh Morris
In fear of the Sangamon Bottom PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our Place in History
It was the Illinois, Sangamon and smaller rivers that attracted settlers to this land, but those rivers also filled many with fear – and with good reason.
Cass County’s old Hickory Precinct (originally called Bowen and then Husted) is a case in point. Don’t bother looking for it on a map, unless you happen to have one from the late 1800s or the early 20th century. Hickory Precinct was abolished in early 1924.

 
Success proves fleeting for the Duryea brothers PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our Place in History
As Charles and Frank Duryea would learn, being first is no guarantee of future success.
Following the Duryea Motor Wagon’s 1895 Thanksgiving Day victory in America’s first auto race, the brothers established the Duryea Motor Wagon Co. in Springfield, Mass. Here they built what many believe to be America’s most significant automobile – the 1896 Duryea Runabout.
Not only was the Duryea Motor Wagon Co. the first firm to commercially manufacture and sell automobiles, but the Duryea Runabout was America’s first series produced automobile. In other words, the 13 Runabouts were identical in every respect, a concept that eventually would make it possible to build cars for the masses. Other vehicles of that time were singular examples.

 
Auto pioneers born in nearby Canton PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our Place in History
America’s auto industry was launched on Sept. 21, 1893, when the Duryea brothers’ one-cylinder gasoline engine-powered motorcar ran noisily through the streets of Springfield, Mass.
However, this story begins right here in Central Illinois. Charles Duryea was born up in Canton on Dec. 31, 1861. By the time his brother Frank was born on Oct. 8, 1869, the family had moved to Washburn, 55 miles to the northeast.
Then came another move, one that according to Charles proved to be most fortuitous. The family settled in Stark County, four or so miles east of Wyoming.

 
Charleston Riot: treason or self-defense? PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our place in history
Other than the 1863 New York City Draft Riot, the Charleston Riot of March 28, 1864, resulted in the largest number of casualties of any such civil disturbance during the Civil War.
Of the 50 or so men apprehended in the wake of the Charleston Riot, all but 16 (one of these men died on April 27) were released. Lieutenant Colonel James Oakes, the acting assistant provost marshall for Illinois, was in charge of the prisoners who were being held at Camp Yates in Springfield.

 
Charleston Riot: 9 killed, 12 wounded PDF Print E-mail

A Democratic rally. Angry Copperheads, Judge Charles Constable holding court. Soldiers bent on teaching Copperheads a lesson. And enough whiskey for everyone. The ingredients for a perfect storm.
As the afternoon of March 28, 1864 wore on, a large crowd of civilians and soldiers milled about the Charleston courthouse square. Fueled by whiskey, the mood of the crowd had turned ominous. Democrat Congressman John R. Eden decided it would be unwise to deliver his planned remarks. Eden along with other conservative Democrat leaders urged the crowd to disperse and go home. Eden left town and Circuit Judge Charles Constable opened his court at 3 p.m.

 
Copperheads, the draft, corn whiskey, murder PDF Print E-mail

Following Abraham Lincoln’s election and the subsequent secession of 11 states, there sprang an eclectic amalgam of big city bosses, laborers, immigrant groups, farmers, and others who opposed war. Their slogan, “The Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was,” supported the restoration of the pre-secession balance between the industrial North and the agrarian South.
These anti-war agitators became known as “Copperheads.” Most likely this label originated with an incident that occurred soon after Lincoln’s inauguration. In a post office near the Capitol a box broke open. Inside were two snakes. On April 10, 1861, the New York Times frantically reported Southerners had sent copperhead snakes as “weapons of war.” The story quickly spread across the country amid speculation the box had been sent to the White House in an attempt to assassinate Lincoln.
Seven days later, the Chicago Tribune calmly explained the box actually contained benign scarlet snakes, which are native to the Southern states. The newspaper speculated the box had been addressed to the Smithsonian Institution. Nonetheless, by the summer of 1861, Northern newspapers and Unionists used “Copperhead” to identify anyone who opposed the war or sympathized with the South.

 
Virginia’s perfect day spawns an ugly storm PDF Print E-mail

It had been the perfect Indian Summer, and the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year promised to be the best day of the entire season.
In Virginia, the optimism ushered in by dawn began to change as the warmth of morning gave way to intense afternoon heat accompanied by an exceptionally strong southerly wind. Concern only grew when the wind abruptly stopped.
The eerie silence caused women to leave their kitchens and men to put aside their tools so they could look toward the heavens. The sky was blue, but the heat was oppressive. Instinctively, they knew something was wrong, very wrong.
Small groups gathered at the city’s two railroad depots, hoping the telegraph would bring some news about the strange weather. Nothing.

 
1883 tornado leaves death, destruction in its wake PDF Print E-mail

May 18, 1883, had turned into a day of horror as evidenced by this account in the Jacksonville Journal of May 20:
“No one reading these hastily written lines can conceive, or form but little idea of the desolate and heart-sickening sight that is presented to all who visit the scenes in and about Liter (now called Literberry). Men, women and children standing about, their homes all gone, carried away by the stormy elements, nothing left but the clothing on their backs.

 
A devastating tornado strikes Cass County in 1883 PDF Print E-mail

Though numerous tornadoes visited the land we call Cass County over the centuries, the county’s first verified tornado struck in May of 1845 (like many historical events, the exact date is up for debate).
It was born in Morgan County, where it destroyed a number of barns and fences. Moving into Cass County, the twister smashed a few houses and leveled  the Walnut Grove School near Princeton. Though the storm did considerable property damage, there was no loss of life.

 
Pioneers discover Illinois is tornado country PDF Print E-mail

Few things in nature are more terrifying or sudden, and none more violent than a tornado.
A tornado, which is part of a thunderstorm, consists of a dark funnel-shaped cloud in which rotating winds can reach speeds in excess of 300 mph. About half of all tornadoes are classed as F1 on the Fujita scale with wind speeds of 73 to 112 mph. By comparison, an F5 tornado has wind speeds of 261 to 318 mph.
The first recorded tornado in Illinois history occurred on a Sunday, June 5, 1805, racing through what would later become known as Tornado Alley.

 
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