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Columns

  • The Way We Were

    15 Years Ago

    1995 – The auditor for the city of Vandalia, Dale Timmermann, told the Vandalia City Council that it should consider hiking water rates, citing water and sewer deficits.
    The signing of a new operating agreement between Fayette County Hospital and CH Allied Services was scheduled for Sept. 7, and a groundbreaking ceremony for a hospital addition was set for Sept. 8.
    Charles and Yvette Hall of Mulberry Grove were planning to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

  • Early visitors to Vandalia give impressions

    In the past, I have written about a German visitor, Frederick Gustorf, who visited Vandalia in 1835. He traveled the National Road and found Vandalia, with a population of 800, “unchanged since it was founded 15 years ago.”
    He continued: “One can see about five or six big frame buildings containing stores.  The statehouse is a common brick building.  A solitary bank, a wooden church, with a small tower, and two or three state offices complete the community of Vandalia.

  • John Wakefield an early force in county

    Early this fall I attended a garage sale at Rob and Doris Wehrle’s on U.S. Route 51. While Rob took my husband to the back shed to show him some records he had for sale, I looked everything over pretty well, and settled on a box of back-issue Country Living and Colonial Home magazines.

    Happy with my purchase, we trotted off home and I spent the next several days leafing through the mostly 1999 and 2002 issues.

  • Vandalia a stop on the Underground Railroad

    The busiest time of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) was between the years l840 and 1860. Untold thousands of slaves were ushered between “stations” on this most secret of roads.

    The main points of entry into Illinois were Chester, Alton and Quincy. It is believed that five separate lines started at Quincy, which had one of the largest organized cells of the Underground Railroad in the entire state.

    For Fayette County, proof of the Underground Railroad has been a little long in coming.

  • Civil War soldier tells of his experiences

    A few weeks ago, my husband, Dale, and I were shopping in a neighboring town when we ran into Vandalians Jeanne and Ivan Witbracht.

    As we paused to talk, Jeanne told me of a document written by her Civil War great-grandfather, Sgt. J.K. Francis, that she thought I might find interesting. She told me it was a description of all the battles he had taken part in, and it included a list of the officers in his infantry regiment.

    She cautioned me that her great-grandfather was not a native of Fayette County, although there might be county men listed in the papers.

  • Company has 1968 aerial photos of area

    Ed Miller of State Aerial Farm Statistics Inc., telephoned the other day to tell me he was in the area. Ed and I have played phone tag during the past year, because he has something that I, as a historian, am interested in.

    Back in 1968, when I was a high school junior, this firm took photographs of Fayette County’s farms and towns. Once this was done, salespeople visited the farms and businesses to see if the owner would like to purchase the image painted on canvas.

  • Airplane crash in 1951 remembered

    On the morning of Aug. 27, 1951, folks in Vandalia were shaken up when sounds of a small airplane in distress filled the morning sky.

    Witnesses told The Vandalia Leader that the airplane was observed making three or more spirals through the clouds, and next they observed its rapid angular descent with throttle wide open, virtually skimming treetops.

    The four-passenger Bonanza Beechcraft airplane made a nose-dive into Carl Boggs’ car, which was parked along Sixth Street near the Old Capitol Monument Works, where he was employed at the time.

  • Christiana Tillson recorded pioneer life

    Born Christiana Holmes at Kingston, Mass., she suffered culture shock when she moved with her new husband, John Tillson, to the backwoods of Montgomery County, Ill., in October 1822.

    Last week, I referred to Christiana’s book, "A Woman’s Story Of Pioneer Illinois," written two years before her death in 1872. The book was privately printed in Massachusetts, and intended for family and close friends.

  • Early church services long and colorful

    Lately, the book that has sat on my bedside table for nightly reading has been the "1882 History of Bond and Montgomery County, Illinois." W. H. Perrin was the editor, and he gathered together an excellent array of writers for this book.

    Perrin’s writers traveled about both counties and interviewed old settlers, thereby preserving the earliest memories of when the white men first settled in this territory.

  • Samuel D. Davis had local connection

    “Father told us children that when he was about 16 years old he was living in York County, Pa. When the war came, his father, Joseph, was drafted, but did not want to enter the service of his country, and asked my father’s oldest brother if he would go in his stead. My uncle had a premonition that if he went to war, he would be killed.

    “Father, who was a few months past 16, said he would go to the front if they would accept him. Well, to make a long story short, father reported to the recruiting station and made inquiry if he would be accepted.