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Opinion

  • 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.”

  • This  weekend, we have the opportunity to pay tribute to those special men and women who have sacrificed for the rest of us by serving in the military.

    As we observe Memorial Day on Monday, we will be reminded of the ways those courageous individuals have placed our well-being above their own comfort and safety. In some cases, they actually laid down their life as a sacrifice to keep our nation free.

    It's a monumental debt that we owe. But it's one that all too often we forget.

  • In 1987, Dorothy Ridlen became a member of our family.

    Aunt Dorothy had been widowed for a number of years when she met great-uncle Wilbur Meyer at a Primitive Baptist Association meeting.

    Wilbur was 78 at the time, and also widowed. The two hit it off, and a year later they were married.

    Before her retirement, Aunt Dorothy worked as a licensed practical nurse in Granite City. While living there, she became interested in dolls and doll repair. Many china head dolls became display items once again after Aunt Dorothy rebuilt their bodies and sewed new clothes.

  • As area high school seniors prepare to close out their high school days, we offer our congratulations – and we urge them on to even greater accomplishments.

    Graduating from high school is a great thing, a milestone to be celebrated. Along the way, many area students have distinguished themselves in the classroom, as well as by excelling in extracurricular activities and in the athletic arena. Those activities produce learning opportunities that can’t be duplicated in the classroom.

  • The fourth in a series of public meetings about the possible bypass routes of U.S. Route 51 was held last Wednesday in Vandalia.

     Like the previous hearings hosted by the Illinois Department of Transportation, it was only modestly attended, and few questions were asked. We’d like to see more involvement by local residents.

    The potential impact of the bypass on our community is significant, depending on where the final route goes.

  • Nathan Burgess was hanged at half past 1 o’clock on Friday, June 18, 1875.

    The gallows was erected on the front portico of the Effingham County Courthouse for carrying out the sentence because the trial had been moved to Effingham County on a change of venue. 

    Found guilty of the murder of Joseph Robbins, Burgess mounted the 13 steps leading to the gallows platform, accompanied by three clergymen of his choice.

  • Does your garage look like a disaster area? Is every nook and cranny crammed with the carcasses of once-useful items that never will be used again?

    How about the basement? The attic?

    It’s time to take charge. It’s time to drag those treasures to the curb and send them on their way.

    Yes, it’s time for Vandalia’s annual cleanup week. The promotion runs May 10-14.

    Once each year, the city allows city residents to unload all the unwanted items that have accumulated around their homes.

  • There are many cemeteries scattered about Fayette County – more than 230 at last count. 

    Thanks to the work of volunteers from the Fayette County Genealogical & Historical Society, headstone readings from all known county cemeteries have been recorded and published. This leaves about 30 cemeteries that are known to exist, but their location has been lost over the years. 

  •  The young bank clerk yawned and reached for his coat. James Kelley had worked into his supper hour again that evening and was anxious to leave the State Bank building in Vandalia where he worked.

  • It was more than a decade ago that Sandy Leidner, while serving as Vandalia’s mayor, had a vision to improve the community’s downtown business district. On Monday, we will celebrate that vision becoming a reality.

    Leidner, and others, realized that Vandalia’s downtown would never be like it was prior to the introduction of large retail department stores. But she also realized that the downtown would suffer even greater damage by letting the streetscape, and the infrastructure beneath it, continue to age and deteriorate.

  • Unless you’ve been locked away in a cage in recent months, you’ve noticed that virtually every government entity has begun initiating significant budget cuts.

    In this week’s issue alone, we have stories about the city of Vandalia approving furlough days for all of its full-time employees and the Vandalia School District cutting staff and programs.

  •  The 1878 History of Fayette County makes mention of all the “firsts” to occur in each township in the county – the earliest settlers, first birth, first death, first marriage, first mill, first school, first burying ground and, in the case of Pope Township, the first murder.

  • How can you tell that spring has arrived? The sound of mowers and the smell of cut grass. The chirping of birds. An increase in the theft and vandalism of personal and public property.

    Vandalia’s police officers have been kept busy recently handling numerous complaints of criminal damage to property and theft, as well as several reports of the passing of counterfeit bills.

  • Any time a new company comes to town, we're ready to celebrate and welcome them with open arms.

    We ought to welcome growth by existing local firms with the same enthusiasm. After all, both types of growth bring valuable jobs and expanded opportunities to our community. 

    This week, we have reason to celebrate. Rural King's plans to move into the former home of Orgill and significantly expand its business here was given approval by the Vandalia Planning Commission. The issue now goes before the Vandalia City Council for its approval.

  • John J. Brown, who went on to become a well-respected Vandalia attorney, was a boy of 7 when he, along with 26 other boys, including his brother, William, were brought to Fayette County on what was called the "Orphan Train." 

    John J. and William Brown, both born in New York City, were the sons of John and Mary Brown, immigrants from Dublin, Ireland. Following the death of their parents in 1858, the boys were placed with the New York Orphan Asylum.

  • In March 1969, the five-story Evans Hotel in downtown Vandalia was destroyed by fire. More than four years later, the northwest corner of Fourth and Gallatin streets was still filled with rubble.

    That’s what city officials are trying to prevent now, six weeks after a fire destroyed four downtown buildings and caused major damage to a fifth.

    This situation is not unlike any others when fire destroys property; the city has guidelines to follow in requiring property owners to take care of the damage.

  • Nearly two months ago, we urged the city to do whatever it could to get Gallatin Street open. Having been closed to vehicular traffic since October, we felt it was high time that the merchants there were given some relief. At that time, very little work remained to be done, yet the barricades stayed in place.

    Last week, the barricades came down.

  • A little more than a year after workers dug up the first section of Gallatin Street, there’s light at the end of the tunnel or, more specifically, light at the east end of Vandalia’s downtown business district.

    The 400 block of Gallatin Street was opened to traffic on Tuesday afternoon, and city officials say the 300 block – the final block of the downtown enhancement project – could be opened up as early as Friday.

  • All of us can’t depend on someone like Larry Peyton driving by at the right time; therefore, we need to make sure that we have smoke detectors in our homes … and that they’re working.

    Peyton was driving by Washburn Trailer Court at Vandalia Lake early Saturday morning when he noticed smoke coming from one of the mobile homes. As the residents heard Peyton pounding on the door, they noticed that their smoke detector was beeping, giving them time to get outside safely.

  • In 1893, after living on a farm and teaching school for 38 years in Christian County, Thomas N. Lakin purchased The Vandalia Union newspaper. 

    His son, Ira, was only 18 years old when his father sent him to Vandalia, in March 1893, to take over publication of the weekly newspaper.

    Accompanying him in the move to Vandalia were his wife, Rebecca, sons, Jesse and Ira, and daughters, Lulu, Minnie and Ara. A third son, Will, stayed behind in Christian County, where he died in 1914.