September 2, 2014

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Leigh Morris
Wow! Electric interurbans in Cass County PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our place in history
Our story begins in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 2, 1888 – the day Frank Sprague’s electrified city streetcar system went into operation.
An immediate success, Sprague’s creation spawned a public transportation revolution from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In just seven years, a total of 900 electric street railways were operating on nearly 11,000 miles of track.

 
‘One flag, one land, one nation evermore’ PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our place in history
Perhaps Beardstown’s most significant Memorial Day observance took place in 1891.
A monument “in memory of our deceased soldiers and sailors of the War of the Rebellion” had been erected in Oak Grove Cemetery the previous September. This fine monolith was crowned by the statue of a Civil War soldier and stood surrounded by the graves of those who died in that grim war.

 
America was built on a foundation of tobacco PDF Print E-mail

By Leigh Morris
Our Place in History
It is no exaggeration to say that to a great extent America was built on a foundation of tobacco. Native to the Americas and a relative of the potato, it is estimated that people in the Andes began cultivating tobacco as a crop 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. Most likely, people first used tobacco by chewing green leaves. In time, they learned to cure the leaves to prepare a product akin to today’s smokeless tobacco. At some point, cured tobacco was ground into a powder and taken into the nose through a special pipe. This was known as a snuffing.

 
Reavis and Lippincott leave their marks on Hickory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leigh Morris   

By Leigh Morris
Our Place in History
Despite the privations of pioneer life, education was a priority among the early settlers of the Sangamon Bottom.
Since the concept of “free” schools was still in the future, Hickory Precinct education began with a subscription school established in 1834. It was housed in an unused log cabin situated on land owned by pioneer settler David Carr. The teacher was an individual by the name of B.F. Nelson. He has been described as a man of “prepossessing appearance, a scholar and a gentleman” – until, at least, the folks in Hickory got to know him a little bit better.

 
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.

 
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