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Columns

  • Jack Ruby spent time in Fayette County

    I can remember this so clearly," Gene Etchason said. "My dad was reclining in his easy chair, while mom was in the kitchen getting dinner ready. We were watching the mid-day news, when, all of a sudden, dad sat up straight and said 'Jack Ruby!'

    "On the television screen was the scene where (Lee Harvey) Oswald was being taken from the Dallas jail when a dark-haired man holding a gun stepped forward.

    Within 15 minutes, there was a banging on the front door. There stood Wilson Hill, and he rushed in the room saying, Ruby! Jack Ruby!

  • Photographic plates a real steal at auction

    Several years ago, I attended an auction in Ramsey for the late Lois Stoddard.

    Among the treasures I carried home that day were three shoeboxes of photographic glass plates. As my bid was accepted, a man over my shoulder said, "You probably just got the best deal of the day." I had to agree.

    Lucky for me, Judy Stoddard Lampkin of Chicago was attending the auction. BJ Mueller introduced us, for which Im grateful, because Judy knew a lot about the plates. She told me they were most probably those of Frances Willis Mattes, who had been dead for many years.

  • Burtschis founded title company in 1890

    Burtschi Brothers Title Co. had its beginning on Aug. 5, 1890, when Julius Louis Burtschi acted as the go-between on a $700 loan from William Sonnemann to Katy Mayz.

    The next year, Julius opened an office on the second floor of a new Gallatin Street building, on the site of his birthplace. This second year, he made seven loans and built the first of 800 houses that he would build during his lifetime.

  • Christmas memories of a one-room school

    Nearly 20 years ago, I struck up a correspondence with a lady named Ruby Hearn from San Antonio, Texas.

    Ruby was the daughter of Selby and Laura Grandfield Hunter, and was born and raised in Fayette County. She lived away for most of her adult life, and always spoke of her old home with affection. She often told me she would like to return to Vandalia to live some day.

  • Old Johnson Store a Pittsburg landmark

    Named for William M. Pitt, Pittsburg is a crossroads community located at the junction of sections 16, 17, 20 and 21 in Seminary Township. Originally spelled Pittsburgh, the "h" was dropped from the spelling in 1889 when the post office was established.

    In a letter to the editor from Walter H. Evans, published in the Jan. 31, 1974, edition of The Vandalia Leader, Evans wrote that his earliest recollections began about 1890, when he was four years old.

  • Fight at party results in shooting, trial

    Hurricane Township, in the northwestern corner of Fayette County, was a hotbed of Southern sympathy during the Civil War.

    There was a great deal of unrest throughout the county because a group of outlaws, numbering in the hundreds, roamed throughout a five-county area, including Bond, Montgomery and Fayette counties, terrorizing the inhabitants, murdering, thieving and burning bridges.

  • Vandalia films from 1930s now on DVD

    Earlier this spring, I was standing with my husband, Dale, and Gary Carroll in front of the Liberty Theatre in downtown Vandalia. We were watching Eldon Brackenbush maneuver the cherrypicker lift as he applied new paint to the Liberty marquee sign.

    As we stood there, Dale asked Gary if any type of memorabilia had been left in the old movie house when he bought it. Gary laughed and said that very little had been left behind. He had found one silk movie advertisement rolled up and stored up on a high shelf, along with two reels of an old Vandalia movie from 1936.

  • Let's talk turkey about presidential pardons

    On the news this past week was the clip of President Bush issuing an official pardon to the presidential turkey during a photo op at the White House.

    Wishing to know a little more about the presidential pardons offered these birds, and how long it had been going on, I booted up my computer and Googled the phrase, "presidential turkey."

    Among the top four choices was a news story about "Biscuits," the 2007 presidential bird, whose pardon made headline news.

  • Memories of Thanksgiving on the farm

    One of my favorite childhood memories is of our family gatherings at my grandparents' farm to celebrate Thanksgiving.

    It was the one holiday when our entire family (on my mother's side, anyway) would get together. There must've been more than 50 of us on most Thanksgivings.

    In addition to mountains of great food, we had all kinds of other attractions on my grandparents' farm.

  • Remington family had Vandalia connection

    While not a common name among Vandalia citizens, Henry J. Remington, "closely related to the Remingtons of firearm fame," chose Vandalia as the place to live out his last years.

    Henry J. Remington was born on June 8, 1839, in Savoy, Berkshire County, Mass., the son of Aaron Remington, a veteran of the War of 1812. Both of Henrys grandfathers served in the Revolutionary War.

    He was an interesting enough fellow that the editors of the "Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Fayette County," published in 1910, included him in their volume.