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Today's Opinions

  • Use of maiden name confounds historians

    One day while quizzing my dad about the family, he made a comment that has stuck with me over the years: “My grandmother was raised in the home of C.F.W. Walther.”  

    He went on to say that her mother worked as a housekeeper for the Walther family in St. Louis, and this is why his grandmother, Emelia Rau Torbeck, spent several years of her childhood in their home.  

  • There's a lot to do this weekend

    Are you the type of person who looks for something fun and exciting to do on the weekends? If so, you will have a lot of choices this weekend.

    Fayette County’s weekend schedule includes the return of the Grande Levée on the Vandalia Statehouse grounds. The celebration kicks off, as usual, with dinner and old-time music, and gets into full gear on Saturday.

  • The story of Vandalia's 'roaming house'

    My cousin, Connie Torbeck, who works in historic preservation in Pennsylvania, sent a clipping to me from a 1908 Vandalia Union with a question – where is the Henry Gochenour home located?

    “Old Landmark Going,” read the headline.

    “The old building known best by citizens of Vandalia as the Mrs. Slade residence is being torn down and will be replaced by a modern residence at once by Henry Gochenour, who has purchased the property. 

  • Rev. Hart gained fame as movie preacher

    The Dec. 21, 1916, issue of The Vandalia Union proudly announced that former area preacher, the Rev. William S. Hart, was attaining some distinction as a moving picture star.

    Hart, a native of Newburgh, N. Y., had a younger brother who came north when a young man and settled on a farm near Farina. He became quite a ventriloquist, and for several years followed the county fairs with a Punch and Judy show, but later became an evangelist, a Baptist, up to the time of his death.

  • IDOT must hear our concerns

    A month ago in this space, we urged area citizens to provide more input to the Illinois Department of Transportation about the agency’s proposed routes for a western bypass for U.S. Route 51.

    Previous public meetings had drawn only modest participation, and we didn’t feel that IDOT officials were hearing enough from us.

    Last week, however, at a follow-up meeting just for residents of Vandalia’s northern neighborhoods, the highway engineers got an earful.

  • Motown finally admits the obvious

    Though it didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, the CEO of Motown Technology and Sports Facility Inc. this week made it official. He’s not bringing a $300 million sports and entertainment facility to Vandalia.

    After months of giving our community the silent treatment, Motown’s leading man, Kenneth Bardwell, stated the obvious. It’s over.

    We’ve been jilted – jettisoned, we presume, for a newer, more-attractive model.

  • Union Cemetery tied to Decoration Day

    One of my more recent projects has been to research the history of Union Cemetery in Sharon Township. 

    This beautiful burying ground sits atop a hill with a lovely vista overlooking the prairie land to the west.  In the far distance, the smoke stack from the Coffeen power plant is visible.

    Shortly before his death, the Rev. Glenn L. Sharp, wrote a brief history of the Union congregation, telling that the first church, built of logs, was erected about 1835 by the Protestant Methodist congregation.

  • Land speculator's wife writes of her life

    The first column I wrote for this newspaper was published in January 1997. It was written about the life of Christiana Holmes Tillson of Montgomery County.

    Christiana’s husband, John Tillson, came to Illinois in June 1818, as an agent for Eastern land speculators. Christiana wrote of their early life in Illinois in the book, “A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois.”