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Columns

  • Landes stood guard over Lincoln's assassin

    Henry Landes (Lan-dus) of Pennsylvania, who mustered into the U.S. Marines during the Civil War, kept a diary.

    This diary became an important piece of evidence when stories surfaced of a man living in Tyler, Texas, named John St. Helen, who claimed to be John Wilkes Booth.

    St. Helen/Booth said he had escaped from the surrounded barn in Bowling Green, Va., and wasnt dead after all.

  • Greathouse descendant shares history

    It has been 12 years now since my first contact with John D. Greathouse of Missoula, Mont.

    A nephew of Vandalias Civil War hero, Col. Lucien Greathouse, he had written looking for additional information on the family. Johns father was Isaac Ridgely Greathouse, son of John Stull Greathouse and his second wife, Catherine Waring, and Luciens younger half-brother.

    It is through John that I was able to share with you photographs of John Stull Greathouse and his son, Col. Lucien Greathouse, in full military dress, in last weeks column.

  • Col. Greathouse was courageous warrior

    As you may know, the Fayette County Genealogical & Historical Society publishes a quarterly magazine under the title of "Fayette Facts." This 60-page book is chock-full of research help on Fayette County families through church and courthouse records and family histories.

    What you might not know is that the society exchanges publications with nearly 40 other genealogical societies around Illinois and beyond. One of these is the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois, which publishes "The Saga of Southern Illinois," covering 28 counties in the southernmost part of Illinois.

  • Governor's cuts for historic sites baffling

    What better time than the celebration of Abraham Lincolns 200th birthday for Vandalia and all other state historic sites to present the communitys ties to the most popular man in history. Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to be greatly hampered in our efforts to do that.

    In what is just the latest of bizarre twists of the Blagojevich administration, Governor Rod has cut $1.4 billion with a B out of the budget for state historic sites.

  • Aunt Frieda's trunk yields mysterious portrait

    Following years of living away from Fayette County, my dads oldest sister, Frieda Torbeck, decided it was time to return to her roots in St. Paul. She had left the area as a teenager, joining a neighborhood friend in a domestic job in northern Illinois.

    Many of the young women who went to the cities to work as housemaids and nursemaids, returned home, married and raised families, their grandchildren now living on the old family farms. But not Frieda.

    She found a position with a family whose mother had died and became housekeeper, looking after two children.

  • Flour milling once a thriving business

    Again this week, we turn to the historical archives found in back issues of The Vandalia Union newspaper. For this weeks column, we are visiting the week of Oct. 13, 1927.

    In that issue, an article titled, "Flour Milling in Fayette County" was published in the paper. Special attention was given to the St. Elmo Milling Co., once the most thriving of its kind in this part of the country.

  • Grandpa's Indian discovery creates stir

    My mother, Cora Rebbe Torbeck, was reared along Flat Creek in Wilberton Township. The firstborn of seven children of Edward and Edna Moeller Rebbe, she was reared within a stone's throw of the home of her grandparents, Chris and Minnie Rebbe.

    One night, while sitting around the supper table, Mom told us of the time her father had unearthed the skeleton of an Indian while plowing a field along Flat Creek. Mom knew that this had happened while her dad was still a teenager, but she didnt know any of the details. The story intrigued me.

  • Paper preserves Pennington story

    Back in 1914, the editor of The Vandalia Union newspaper asked the old settlers to write down what they remembered about the county 50 years before. There were 20 or more replies, and they were published in the newspaper, beginning on April 9, 1914.

    Maranda Pennington was one of the first to respond, and her personal story of the days of 1865 is very interesting.

    She wrote, Editors and readers of the Union I do not remember any certain incidents that transpired in the year 1864, but well do I remember my experiences during 1865.

  • Charles Evans served community in many ways

    With the involvement of the United States in World War I, the nations citizens became well aware that the resources of our allies were nearly exhausted. Eyes turned to America for necessary food, fuel and supplies to continue the conflict.

    In Fayette County, as in other counties throughout the nation, agencies were formed to not only gather clothes for the Belgian war effort, but also to be sure that local residents had enough food and fuel.

  • Flood challenges us to enjoy life's detours

    A week and a half ago, I ventured into the Everglades-like country that – at most times of the year – is the fertile farmland of central Iowa.

    Never, ever, have I seen it like that. Not in all of my growing-up years there have I seen flooding like they experienced in the southeastern part of the state.

    Of course, my first thoughts were for the poor people whose lives have been turned upside down by the flooding. The damage they face is truly devastating, and the cleanup effort will take months – years in some cases.