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.
It looks like a children’s book with its colorful illustrations; it reads like a children’s book with its rhyming couplets. But look closer. It is obvious that Brent Bohlen’s The Parable of the Peacock: A Read-Aloud Picture Book for 2020 Voters is for adults. The blurb on the jacket says it’s “a satirical look at the state of American politics as we approach the critical 2020 presidential election.”
The book is clever, hilarious and gutsy, and offers a too-true look at current political events. It promises, “to serve up ridicule to deserving parties, but it saves a heaping plateful for the Mocker-in-Chief.”
Springfield author Kenneth C. Mitchell in The Little Village that Could – the Untold Story of Devereux Heights, calls this section of north Springfield “a rare jewel of a community.” His book showcases people and events of Devereux Heights that he says is “about as ordinary a community as there is. Every one of the families who has ever lived there has remarkable stories to tell. And I love to bring them to light.”
The book will no doubt inspire its readers to take a drive to see some of the places Mitchell describes. Devereux Heights comprises 15 streets north of Sangamon Avenue (take Piper Road) and west of Dirksen (take Mayden). The area is named for Henry Devereux, who started a mine in the vicinity in 1904.
On May 22, New Salem will celebrate the 100th anniversary of an event that occurred on the same date in 1919, many long years after Lincoln had lived in the village, from 1831 to 1837.
It was on May 22 in 1919 that the site was conveyed to the people of Illinois by the owner, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst, a congressman from New York and a wealthy newspaper owner, had purchased the 62-acre site in 1906. The story of how Illinois now has New Salem, that in 2018 was voted the most popular historic site in Illinois, shows that fate can work in interesting ways.