The Mysterious Bard of Sangamo includes poetry, Sangamon history, and solving a mystery By Cinda Ackerman Klickna In 1979 John Hallwas was a young professor, doing research about what early Illinois settlers would have read. While scouring through newspapers from … Continued
By Cinda Ackerman Klickna This week the Indian community will be celebrating their new Hindu Temple of Greater Springfield, the Shree MahaLakshmi Temple, located in Chatham. Starting Oct. 13 and lasting through Oct. 17, events will include religious and cultural … Continued
Local author Cinda Klickna has devoted her life to education. After years of working as a teacher she has written a book titled “Out of the Beaks of Birds: Our Crazy, Pesky…Verbs.” She spoke with Community Voices about the inspiration … Continued
By Cinda Ackerman Klickna The truth is rarely pretty or polite. When Colonial Williamsburg historians decided several years ago to add a portrayal of the real story of slaves at Williamsburg, visitors found the reenactments disturbing. Others claimed it was … Continued
Horse-drawn carriages, trolleys, some delivery vans – these were the modes of transportation in the early 1900s in Springfield. Cars were scarce. People walked, hopped the trolley or took the train on Third Street to venture out of the city. Downtown was the site of numerous groceries, drugstores and shops that catered to every need – men’s fashions and hats, women’s clothing, boots and shoes, paints and wallpaper, china and glassware, jewelry, machines, etc. Arches stood on each of the four corners of the Old State Capitol block, and the downtown came alive for a yearly carnival during the state fair, held in late September.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cemeteries were the first public parks. Women strolling with parasols and families spread out on blankets enjoying a picnic would be a common site. The living paid respect to their loved ones and celebrated their own lives. Oak Ridge Cemetery, no doubt, would have been a popular place here in Springfield.
The rolling hills and majestic trees of Oak Ridge Cemetery will be the site of the Sangamon County Historical Society’s “Echoes of Yesteryear: A Walk through Oak Ridge Cemetery,” which will remember and pay respect to seven people from Springfield. Mary Alice Davis, the chair of the event to be held Oct. 6, says, “The walk will provide a glimpse into the history and heritage of Springfield and Sangamon County.”
Once, large, beautiful homes stood all over Springfield and were occupied by citizens who owned key businesses and held important positions within the city. Unfortunately, many of the homes have been demolished. Yet some still stand, thanks to people who have preserved them. Daily, people pass by these grand buildings: the Brinkerhoff House (North Fifth, built in 1869), Governor Yates home (Washington Park – 1904), Hickox House (formerly the site of popular Springfield restaurant Norb Andy’s and now Anchors Away on Capitol – 1839), the Belle Miller Apartments (now the Inn at 835 on Second Street – 1909), and the Booth-Grunendike house (1870), now Obed and Isaac’s, along with the Isaac Lindsay home (1850s), moved to Seventh and Jackson, now William Van’s.
Last year North Point Boulevard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was renamed Morgan Avenue. Readers might not think that noteworthy until they learn that the person honored with a street name was a Springfield native. She was Gertrude Wright Morgan, an African American whose life, and the lives of others in her family, were remarkable evidence that Black lives have mattered throughout history.
Wright was born in Springfield in 1861. She was the first African American to enroll in a high school in Springfield, the first to graduate from high school in Springfield, and it is believed the first to graduate from a high school in Illinois.
There are stark similarities between the coronavirus pandemic and the 1949 beginnings of the polio pandemic in Springfield.
Then, as now, the length of isolation was set at 14 days; people were urged to stay away from others and practice clean hygiene. There was a call for nurses to help with the increase in hospital patients. Some patients had to be given help with breathing, although through an iron lung rather than a ventilator. The polio virus hit hardest among those who lived in poor conditions and poor sanitation — in Springfield the east side of town was affected most. Events were canceled, and the media began offering more programs. Parents had a hard time keeping their children entertained and engaged. And, people hoped there would be a vaccine soon.
What did the Civil War soldiers from Illinois write home about? Enlisting? Camp life? Love? Battles? Sickness? Prostitution? All of these and more.
Mark Flotow of Springfield, an independent researcher, is retired as the director of the Illinois Center for Health Statistics and currently serves as an adjunct anthropology research associate at the Illinois State Museum. He began reading soldiers’ letters, housed at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, due to his interest in the Civil War.