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The history of the village St. James

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By Linda Hanabarger

The stories of those who lived through various events and times are referred to as first-person accounts and are my favorite resource for local history.

In 1979, the late Mrs. Lena Lovett compiled a history of not only the village of St. James, but of the churches and schools that once dotted the landscape of Wheatland Township.
St. James history seems to have really started with the building of the railroad by Presley and Benjamin Johnston, of Brownstown, between the years 1893-1895.
As soon as the railroad was completed at what became St. James, Adam Stein Jr. built the first store a short distance east of the tracks. The railroad was named Chicago, Paducah and Memphis. Later, it was changed to Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, and today carries the name Union Pacific.
Adam Stein and his brother, Henderson, ran the store for many years. Then Henderson sold his part to Adam, and the store was run by two of Adam’s sons, Ed and Harvey Stein.
After Henderson Stein sold out his part of the store to Adam Jr., he bought the store just east from H.N. Fristoe. This store had been built by Fristoe’s father-in-law, Harvey Lear. The building originally stood half a mile west of St. James, but was moved when the railroad was built.
When Henderson Stein could no longer run the store on account of his health, he sold it to R.W. Mahon, who operated it for some years. He sold it to Henry Schwarm, who ran it a short time, selling to E.V. Greider, who then sold it to W.A. Miller in 1930.
Mr. Miller operated the store for 28 years, selling groceries, feed, fresh meat and notions a small town needs. He sold it to the late Fred Smith in September 1958.
Smith built a new building beside the old one and tore down the old building. He operated the store for a couple of years, selling to Miss Leona Stein, a granddaughter of Adam Stein Jr. She started in the store Nov. 1, 1960, and ran it until her death Sept. 11, 1974.
There is no store in St. James now.
Adam Stein and his son, Samuel, bought feed, grain and stock. They built a large hay barn east of the railroad for storing hay. They were the first to ship a load of produce to Chicago on the new railroad.
At this time, an old log house stood on the west side of the road where two of the Stein children, Ollie and Charles, lived. Their parents, John and Anna Elizabeth Jockel (Yakel) Stein, built the house where Mr. and Mrs. Ross Stein now live.
The village of St. James was laid out in lots and blocks, and named St. James for the apostle.
Adam Stein Jr. built a house just east of Henderson Stein’s in the second block.
The first post office was in the building just west of the Henderson Stein store (later used as a restaurant) and was operated by Alonzo Lowry. The St. James Post Office was established March 9, 1886, and was in operation until 1931, when the village became R.F.D. Loogootee.
A few years after the first post office was begun, it was moved into R.F. Mahon’s a store and conducted by the proprietor until his death, when it was moved to the home of his widow, Meda. She took care of the duties for several years before it was closed. The first mail carrier was Ira McCollum.
Mr. and Mrs. Al Shab lived just west of the Fristoe store and started the first blacksmith shop, which he operated for several years. He sold it to E.V. Greider, who also ran it for several years. Greider did blacksmith work, and sold buggies, farm implements and feed.
A flour mill was built in the middle of the second block and was operated by Joseph Ragel for a few years.
Then, Jim Ragel and George Fisher operated it for some time before selling it to the McCormick brothers, Charles and Eldon.
A company was formed for the purpose of starting a creamery, which was known as the St. James Creamery. It was built in about 1900 and operated by George Smythe until 1907.
A livery stable was first operated by William Fisher, who sold it to C.B. Calvert. Mr. Calvert drove traveling men (or drummers) to Kinmundy, Farina, St. Peter, Vandalia, St. Elmo and Altamont. C.B. sold it to his brother, Robert, who operated it as long as a livery stable was needed.
Mr. and Mrs. H.N. Fristoe lived west of what is now St. James, across the road southeast of the Lutheran Church. They lived in part of the building and used the rest of it for a general store. They ran the store until Harvey Lear built the store in St. James for them.
The building Mr. Fristoe left was used as a rooming house for a few years and was nicknamed “The Bee Hive.” Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lee operated the rooming house for some time before selling it to Mr. and Mrs. William Lippincott. They had a sorghum mill here for several years.
The Lippincotts moved to a farm a mile west of St. James and continued making sorghum, later selling the mill to William McEndollar.
Ed, Harvey and Samuel Stein ran a poultry house in St. James from 1912-1920. A canning factory was owned by community farmers and run by George Smythe.
The first doctor was Dr. Reeves who, with his wife, lived in a house on the north side of the road where Ross Stine and his family lived.
Another early doctor was Dr. C.C. Owen, who lived with his family west of St. James, where the late Lena Lovett made her home. They had four children: Bertha, James, Hazel and Emma.
Dr. Owen lived here for several years and was a wonderful doctor, on call day or night. He drove a wagon and buggy for many years and later owned a car. He practiced medicine until the death of his wife, when he and a daughter moved to Chicago.
The Lutheran Church was built in 1880 and the Free Methodist Church in 1897. The first schoolhouse was built three-quarters of a mile west of St. James, but was not the first school in the township by a long shot.
The earliest settlers conducted school in log buildings and the first remembered was a subscription school where students paid the fee for day classes or night classes.
It was remembered that at one of these early schools, when the school week ended, students placed their books in the teacher’s desk, so the building could be used for church on the weekend.