Friday, December 11, 2015

History of the Bunker Hill IL Post Office

What is known as the Bunker Hill Post Office was established in 1833, under the name of Lincoln.  It was located on a farm one mile south of town, land later occupied by I. A. Smith in 1885.  There is some discrepancy as to who was the first postmaster.  An article in the December 3, 1885 issue of the Bunker Hill Gazette names Anthony Linder as the first postmaster.  Then Centennial edition of the Gazette names John Wilson or John Lunderman.  (See more about the Lincoln Post under blog "True and Tilden's Folly" at )

In 1837, Lincoln failed to materialize as a town, and the office was moved to Bunker Hill, but retained its former name.  Josiah Richards then acted as Postmaster.  In the following year, on petition, the name of the post office was changed to Bunker Hill, and Nathaniel Phillips was appointed its first postmaster.

(Excerpt from the 1911 "History of Macoupin County (pg. 360) states "Anthony Linder was succeeded by a Mr. Cook, , while in 1837, Samuel Buell took charge of the office.  In November of the latter year, the Post Office was transferred to Bunker Hill.  Nathaniel Phillips was the first postmaster appointed after the removal of the office to Bunker Hill.  Josiah Richards then acted as assistant.  In 1837, a post office was also established in Woodburn")

Mr. Phillips served until his death in 1845, when Judge Philander C. Huggins took charge and removed the office from its location on the lot north of the Congregational Church to his store on the side of George Drew's building on Washington Street.

In those days, mail was carried by coaches on the St. Louis and Chicago Stage Line.  The stage arrivals were very irregular and it was no infrequent occurrence for the postmaster to be gotten out at any hour after midnight to change mail.

Judge Philander C. Huggins held the office about two years when Edward H. Davis succeeded him and removed the business to the "Old Tavern".  About a year later, David Wright circulated a petition asking the appointment of Judge Huggins, and the office was moved back into that gentleman's store building.

During the term of office, the Alton and Terre Haute Railroad was built and a better mail service was established.  (See "The Big Four Station" blog post at: and "Lee and Arthur Sutton - Railroad Clerks" - )

In 1856, Judge Philander C. Huggins accepted a legislative nomination and resigned his position.  He was succeeded by Deacon Noah Flanigan, who held the office until the end of Lincoln's administration.

About the close of the Civil War, Mr. Flanigan was succeeded by E. Atchinson, who served until 1868, followed by Edward H. Davis.  As soon as General Grant was elected president, Mr. Atchinson was reinstated in the summer of 1869.

In 1872, Mr. Atchinson resigned and was succeeded by F. Y. Hedley.  In November of 1885, T. J. Carroll was appointed.  The following is a list of postmasters following Mr. Carroll:  
  • F. Y. Hedley - September 28, 1889
  • J. S. Klinefelter - October 20, 1893
  • William P. Dickie - January 20, 1898
  • M. M. Brown - February 1913
  • J. H. Truesdale - February 1922
  • Charles M. Jacobi - June 23, 1932
  • Ed A. Bauser - July 1, 1936 (or June 23, 1936*)
  • Edna A. Bauser (Acting Postmaster) - March 5, 1940*
  • Edna A. Bauser - October 10, 1940* (also see "Bunker Hill's Youngest Postmaster", )
  • M. L. Kohlenberg (Officer-in-Charge) - August 25, 1972*
  • William E. Vaughn, November 25, 1972*
  • David A. Wolf (Officer-in-Charge) - May 27, 1994*
  • David A. Wolf - June 11, 1994*
  • Lisa M. Pierce (Officer-in-Charge) - November 22, 2013*
  • Lisa Pierce - April 5, 2014*
...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, December 10, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Francis Lancaster - A Portrait and Biographical Record

Info provided by Portrait and Biographical Record of Macoupin County, 1891

Mr. Lancaster was among the British-American citizens of Macoupin County.  He was a successful, practical farmer, and progressive stock raiser, who lived on a fine farm in Bunker Hill Township.  The tract was comprised of 800 acres, most of which was in a fine state of improvement.  He had owned and lived on the homestead since 1848, and procured most of the land when it was in its unbroken state.

Mr. Lancaster came to the United States in 1841, voyaging on a three mast sailor, the "Ontario", landing in New York City, March 7.  Three years later, he was able to send for his wife and children, whom he had left at the old home.

Our subject was born August 7, 1813, in Buckinghamshire, England.  His father was Joseph Lancaster, a brick maker and fruit dealer by occupation.  His mother was Harriet (Daveny) Lancaster.  She became the mother of 14 children, and four of her sons came to the United States.

After he became of age, he married Miss Elizabeth Collins, who was born in 1812 in the same shire.  He learned the trade of brick making.  She was the mother of 10 children.  Frank married Miss Caroline Hooker; William married Miss Mary Hovey; Elizabeth married Mr. Henry Wise; Mary married Mr. Asoph Barnes; John married Miss Hannah Parmenter; Matilda married Mr. Joseph Barnes; and Joseph married Miss Mary Parmenter.  Harriet and Albert passed away when young and an infant passed away unnamed.

This valuable family stood high in social and industrial circles of Macoupin County .  Its members did much to develop the resources of the section of the country.

NOTE: Read more info about Francis Lancaster in the story about the Bunker Hill Brick Plant at

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, April 23, 2015

Bunker Hill Tornado - 67th Anniversary

Thursday, March 19, will mark the 67th Anniversary of the Tornado which hit Bunker Hill

March 25, 1948: A terrific disaster descended on Bunker Hill at 6:45 a.m., Friday morning (March 19), when a tornado ripped through this 112 year old city, taking a toll of 19 dead and 126 injured, and left a bumbled mass of wreckage in its wake.  The storm, which rolled over the business and residential areas like a steamroller, smashed brick and frame structures like paper houses, laying 80 percent of the city to waste, and caused damage estimated at one and a half million dollars.

The destructive windstorm also hit North Alton, practically wiped out Fosterburg, a village of 200 inhabitants about 15 miles southwest of Bunker Hill, struck south Gillespie, causing great damage, and wrecked many farm homes along the entire entire article reprint at

From the Bunker Hill Gazette News, April 23, 2015:

Ironically, this was taken after the tornado in 1948.  The man on the left is my late father, Reno "Blackie" DalPozzo, who worked at Bahn's in Bunker Hill.  The morning of the tornado, my dad told the story that he had the truck at home and it was raining.  He forgot his umbrella and raincoat and went back in the house to get them, may have actually saved his life.  The truck stalled out in the bottoms on Bunker Hill Road and he saw the tornado go overhead.  When he got to Bunker Hill and saw the damage, he realized how lucky he was.  Having spent his time in the Army during World War II as a medic, he volunteered to help with the injured.  He never gave any details about that day other than the fact that someone was looking out for him that morning.

He couldn't seem to remember who the man on the right is.  Perhaps your readers will help with that question.  
 ---Photo compliments of Cindy (DalPozzo) Leonard, Staunton.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, March 12, 2015, April 23, 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fire Chief Ed Gerdes

Reprinted from the Gazette-News, January 8, 1970

Ed Gerdes, Chief of the Bunker Hill Fire Protection District, is observing his 88th birthday today.  He is likely doing the thing he does nearly everyday, tending to matters at the firehouse in Bunker Hill. He has been a member of the Bunker Hill Fire Department for nearly 42 years.

Chief Gerdes joined the fire department in 1928, and became chief in 1939.  He was chief when the present fire protection district was formed in 1950.

He is chief of one of the largest fire districts in the state, with boundaries in two counties, from Prairietown and Dorsey on the south to near Wilsonville, Dorchester, and Plainview on the north, and near Brighton on the west.  There are more than 800 farms in the district, as well as communities of Dorsey, Prairietown, and Shipman, each of which has its own fire company with a pumper and firehouse.  The Bunker Hill Company has two pumpers and an emergency truck.

Naturally, he has many memories of fires in the past.  Some are tragic while some incidents were humorous.  He recalls the time the old Reo truck caught fire.  It was at the farm of Jake Mamie.  Jim Jencks was chief then and had the fire truck close to the burning house to pump from a well or cistern.  The wind shifted and the fire was too close.  The hose had to be cut to get the truck away from the building.  Before that was accomplished, the seat had caught fire.

Gerdes was born and reared in St. Louis.  He came to Bunker Hill at the age of 18.  He went to work on the farm of his uncle, George Gerdes until he was 21.  Then he started working at other places.  At the condensery, the Bunker Hill coal mine for 17 years, then worked at the water works for 13 years.  He worked at the Ford garage and also did carpentry and electrical work.

The task that he has been doing since the flagpole was built uptown, and continues to do (except when the Christmas lights are up) is to raise the flag each morning and lower it each evening.  He is the only one who performs this task, except when he is ill.

Behind Ed Gerdes is his wife of 64 years, the former Elizabeth Sneeringer, to whom he was married January 26, 1916 at St. Mary's parsonage.  They moved to Bunker Hill two years after their marriage and have resided on West Warren Street since 1918.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, February 5, 2015.

The Bunker Hill Brick Plant

From the Bunker Hill Gazette, November 30, 1898:

The Bunker Hill Brick Plant stood on the south side of Alton Street adjoining Meehan's Plaza and possibly some ground on the north side.

When Charlotte and Art Thyer bought the property in 1987, there was still part of the old kiln in the basement of the house.  There is a brick basement wall with the date May 26, 1899 and the name John Herbst scratched into it.

A brick in the old carriage house is marked, built in 1910.  The patio is made out of six inch square bricks, one having the date of August 19, 1899.  There are several bricks with the Star of David imprinted on them.  One brick in the sidewalk has the initials J. H..  The carriage house had room for the buggy on one side and on the other side was a place for the horse.  There is a display of bricks from the old Herbst Brick Factory at the museum, donated by Charlotte Thyer.

From the Bunker Hill / Woodburn History Book, March 6, 1889:
Another brick maker in Bunker Hill was Frank Lancaster.  Mr. Lancaster came to this country from England in 1841.  He was the pioneer brick maker in this place, if not in the county.  The first year he was here, he made the bricks for the old Congregational Church.  he then made 50,000 bricks for a massive chimney for the "Old Red Mill".  He also made the bricks for the Bunker Hill Military Academy, and bricks for the stores in the business area.

NOTE: Read more info about Francis Lancaster at

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, August 13, 2015, March 12, 2015.

Remote Tombstone Connected with the History of Goodnight Trail in Texas

When Willis Wolff, Sr. bought his farm southeast of Bunker Hill in 1938, he was aware of a small one grave cemetery on the property, but didn't learn the full significance of the grave in Texas history until later.

The grave holds the remains of Charles Goodnight, Sr., the father of a man, who went on to become one of the richest cattlemen of the Old West, making his mark as a strong minded, demanding but fair dealing man, who was part of this historic Goodnight-Loving Trail.

Charles Goodnight, Sr., and his wife, Charlotte, moved from Kentucky to Madison County, Illinois in 1828 and crossed over into Macoupin County, where he bought a farm.

Charlie Goodnight, Jr. was born March 5, 1838, one of four children born before Charles, Sr. died in 1840.

The weather worn monument of Charles Goodnight Sr. is enclosed in an iron fence, which is in surprisingly good condition in spite of a tall pine tree, and the effect of cattle in the grazing area of the Wolff farm.

Goodnight Sr.'s wife remarried shortly thereafter and the family moved by covered wagon to Milam County, Texas.  Young Charlie was nine years old and made the journey bareback on a white faced mare named Blaze.

Charlotte Goodnight and her second husband divorced not long after that and Charlie and his older brother, Elijah, went to work for a local merchant for $4 a month.

Charlie was initiated into cattle ranching after his mother married Adam Sheek in 1853.  In addition to his expertise in cattle, he became a tracker of hostile Indians.  After serving in the confederate States War, he resumed cattle ranching.

History books state the fact of the Goodnight-Loving Trail, a previously unheard of journey in which Charlie and Oliver Loving and 18 hands attempted to drive 2,000 cattle from Fort Belknap, Texas to Denver, Colorado.  They made it through with enough of the cattle to give them $12,000 in gold to take back to Texas.  Loving was injured by a Comanche Indian attack during the trail ride and died from complications shortly thereafter.

The story of Charlie's survival is interlaced with his accomplishments: he is credited with inventing the side saddle, creating the chuck wagon, developing a bed tarp, and adapting stirrups and ropes and other gear.

In later years, he and his wife, Mary Ann, opened Goodnight College, one of the pioneer educational institutions of west Texas, and they also built two churches.  Mary Ann died in 1926, and a year later, on his 91st birthday, Charlie married Corrine Goodnight, a distant cousin, with whom he lived for three years before dying December 12, 1929.  Charlie is buried next to his first wife, Mary Ann, in the Goodnight Cemetery near Amarillo, Texas.

Little would Charlie Goodnight Sr. have dreamed that his own son would become a a "cattleman, pioneer, cowboy, trailblazer, Indian fighter, and Texan", a man with no children, but one who left a heritage of undeniable importance to historians across the nation.

Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, "Lonesome Dove" is a fictionalized account of Goodnight and Loving's third cattle drive.  Woodrow F. Call represents Goodnight and Augustus McCrae is Loving.  "Lonesome Dove" is the winner of seven Emmy Awards and is one of the highest rated mini-series in television.

Several books, songs, poetry, and the mini-series have been written about Charlie Goodnight:
In 1935, Laura Vernon Hammer published a novelized biography of Charlie, "The No-Gun Man of Texas".
The western novelist Matt Braun's novel "Texas Empire" is based on the life of Goodnight.
The song "The Goodnight-Loving Trail" by Utah Philips.
The songwriter Andy Wilkinson wrote "Charlie Goodnight, His Life in Poetry and Song".
Mari Sandoz's "Old Jules County"
In James A. Michener's book "Centennial, the Skimmerhorn Trail" is based on the actual Goodnight-Loving Trail.
Ralph Compton's novel, "The Goodnight Trail".

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, October 1, 2015.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A History of Bunker Hill Schools

From the Gazette News, September 20, 1973, written by Miss Florence Seim:

Scarcely had Bunker Hill showed signs of becoming a town until the early pioneers turned their thoughts to the education of their children.  These early pioneers, who were determined to develop this new country were advocates of “learning” and wished to have their children, who were to be the men and women of tomorrow, versed in the fundamentals of a workable education.

A combined church and schoolhouse was erected in the fall of 1839 by citizens of Bunker Hill.  It was 18’ x 26’ and was only a few feet from the present Congregational Church.  Most of the material used was produced in this vicinity.  Other material such as grease, oil, putty, locks for doors, pine lumber for seats, etc., were “store purchased”.  The bill footed up less than $100.  It was a very rough, unplastered little room, with blankets and shawls hung around the walls and doors to keep out the cold winds and snow.  This building, primitive and roughly built, was the first church and the first schoolhouse.  In it the early settler worshiped and his children were taught to read.  In later years the old schoolhouse became the property of W. J. Knibb and was used as a barn.  It has been moved many times, its last location being on the southeast corner of Mr. Knibb’s yard just back of the Methodist Church.  In March 1883, the building was torn down and destroyed.

Francis N. Burnham operated the school and was succeeded February 3, 1840 by John A. Pettingill.  In March, the spring term was in charge of Jane Putnam, who afterwards became Mrs. John Huggins.  Dr. John A. Delano taught school here some years later before going into practice with Dr. E. Howell.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, January 24, 2013.

Bunker Hill Concert Band of the "Gay Nineties"

The members of the band were wearing "linen dusters" as a result of having lost their uniforms in the fire of 1893, when the uniforms and instruments burned.  Their instruments are new as are their top hats.

From the Gazette News: L. E. Jansen, a pioneer news dealer, was an expert at the waltz and polka.  In 1884, he organized a Bunker Hill town band.  The band, under his leadership, rendered many Saturday evening concerts from the bandstand located at the intersection of Washington and Warren Streets.  On June 3, 1886, the name "Jansen's Cornet Band" was adopted.

In 1904, the Bunker Hill band, with Jansen as director, went to the St. Louis Worlds Fair to play on "Bunker Hill Day".  There were 16 members at that time.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, January 17, 2013.

The Fires of Bunker Hill

From the Gazette News, September 20, 1893:  On Friday evening, for the third time, fire held a fierce carnival on the west side of Washington Street.  The alarm was given about 6:20 p.m. and within two hours $75,000 worth of the business property in the city had been wiped out.

The fire originated in the immense barn in the rear of the Johnston block.  It was probably due to the pipe of a tramp or bum, or a cigar of card-playing youngsters.  The facts will never be known.  Almost simultaneously, all buildings south of the Johnston block were ablaze so fiercely that little could be done in the way of saving contents.

The local fire company, headed by Chief Speir, did noble work with the fire engine, chemical, and new extinguishers and were nobly seconded by many of our people.  To such effort is due the arrest of the fire at the Johnston block and the saving of the business property on the east side of Washington Street.

As near as can be ascertained, the fire losses are:  buildings, $36,000, stock and personal effects, $38,400, for a total of $74,400.  This includes damage to buildings and stocks not destroyed.

This recent fire was the third which had devastated the same side of the street; the last two, practically covering the same ground.  All occurred on a Friday.[1],[2]

Photo: The Old Bunker Hill Firehouse

Previous Fires

The fire January 23, 1880, originated in Sanford's Grocery Store on the same ground.  The damage on the fire proper footed up $12,000.  The insurance was fair.[3]

December 1, 1882, the ground from Bumann's three story building to Sessel's corner and on Warren Street west to the alley, was burned.  The loss totaled $37,000, nearly equally divided between buildings and stock.  The insurance was about $23,000.[3],[4]

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, January 10, 2013.

[1]Stanton, Carl L. . "Bunker Hill News 1893." In Bunker Hill Revisited, Volume Three, 1892-1900, p. 60-64. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 2000. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

[2]Stanton, Carl L. . "Bunker Hill News 1880." In Bunker Hill Revisited, Volume One, 1866-1881, pp. 209-210. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 2003. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

[3]Stanton, Carl L. . "Bunker Hill News 1880." In Bunker Hill Revisited, Volume Three, 1892-1900, p. 62. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 2000. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

[4]Stanton, Carl L. . "Bunker Hill News 1882." In Bunker Hill Revisited, Volume Two, 1882-1891, pp. 44-46. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 1999. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Man Who Shot Mayor Richards

Photo: Mayor John Richards

Excerpts from the book, "The Man Who Shot Mayor Richards" by Carl L. Stanton.

Probably the most notorious event in Bunker Hill occurred in 1897, when Fenwick Y. Hedley, editor of the Gazette news, shot and killed John R. Richards, the city's mayor.  The story was sensationalized by big-city newspapers and the rival Bunker Hill News.  It was mentioned but briefly in the Gazette issues of 1897 and 1898, as one would suppose.

John R. Richards, Mayor of Bunker Hill was shot by Fenwick Y. Hedley.  The dead man, a bachelor, was 64 years of age. His assailant, who is now in jail at Carlinville, where he was taken at his own request to escape the threatened vengeance of a mob, was 50.

Mr. Hedley was married ten years ago to Miss Sanborne of St. Louis.

A woman was the cause of the tragedy.  Her name is Helen Alice Brown, she is is 26 years old.  She lives with her parents at the Monument House, of which her father is the landlord.  The direct cause of the tragedy was jealousy.

Photo: Fenwick Hedley

For several years, Mr. Hedley was organist of the Bunker Hill Congregational Church.  He was occupying this position when Miss Brown became the soprano.  Both interested in the world of medley, they grew to be interested in one another and a warm attachment was the result.  That this existed is admitted by the prisoner's relatives and friends, by those who where intimate with the Mayor and by the father and mother of the young woman.

Mr. Richards was infatuated with Miss Brown.  He had begged her to marry him, entreated her parents, and then had threatened her.  Richards accused Hedley of preventing the marriage and enmity between the men was the talk of the village.

The assault that had such a tragic ending was the third within six months.  In January, Hedley was knocked down by the jealous lover.  The attack was repeated in May, soon after Richards was elected mayor and yesterday came the third and to the striker the fatal blow, for the editor was prepared.

Shortly before noon yesterday Capt. Hedley, he was a captain in the Civil War, visited the G.A.R. Post in Bunker Hill, and he went there to sign a paper which had been issued at a meeting the night before.  Having done this, he walked downstairs and entered the store for a chat with James McPherson, the proprietor.  While they were talking the noon-day whistle blew.  A young woman came out of the Mayor's office and walked down the street.  She was Helen Alice Brown, who worked there as a stenographer.  She bowed to Mr. Hedley, who at this time was standing on the pavement.  She had gone but half a block when Mr. McPherson caught Hedley by the arm and exclaimed: "Look out, there comes Richards, and he had blood in his eyes."  "I am ready for him now" was all Hedley said.

The Mayor approached walking rapidly.  The editor stood still on the pavement.  The two were within reach of hands when the Mayor said: "Why don't you speak when you meet me on the street, Hedley"?  The reply was not overheard by those nearby.  It was followed by a blow delivered by Richards.

There was a cry from McPherson, "Look out!"  Hedley had a revolver and was taking steady aim.  Richard's hand reached into his hip pocket.  Still the editor did not fire.  The Mayor withdrew the hand empty.  He stooped down and seemed to be reaching for some plow points lying on the sidewalk.

Two shots in quick succession rang out and the Mayor staggered.  With an effort he started after Hedley who was walking rapidly up the street.  He shouted, "Coward, you coward."  Just then a cry was heard.  It was a woman's scream and those who had witnessed the tragedy looked down the street and saw Helen Alice Brown.

They carried the Mayor to his residence and Dr. Bley and Milton were summoned.  The Mayor had left instructions but a month before to telegraph at one a Dr. Mudd in St. Louis if ever he as seriously hurt or ill.

At 2 o'clock, Dr. H. H. Mudd, in St. Louis received the telegram from Bunker Hill urging his attendance, as the Mayor had been shot.  The train arrived at 4 o'clock.  A hasty examination showed the surgeon that the bullet wound was in the right side, just above the hip and had cut some of the vital organs.  The other wound, in the arm, was not of consequence.  An attempt was made to sew up the wound, but it was futile.  Dr. Mudd said nothing could save the patient.

The was the last testimony on the defense and the case was given into the hands of the attorneys.  Stirring and convincing speeches were made by both prosecution and the defense.  Thursday evening at 10:30 o'clock, the case was submitted to the jury.  Returns were brought yesterday morning at the opening of court.  The verdict read not guilty.

After his acquittal, Hedley divorced his wife and he and Miss Brown went to live in St. Louis.

In the Nov. 8, 1898 issue of the Bunker Hill News: "With the Marriage of Fenwick Y. Hedley and Miss Brown, the finishing touches have been added to probably the most romantic as well as one of the most sensational affairs that ever involved men and women in real life."

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, January 3, 2013.

Carl L. Stanton. "Newspaper and personal accounts of the 1897 shooting of Mayor J. R. Richards of Bunker Hill, Illinois by the editor of the local newspaper" In The Man Who Shot Mayor Richards, 2003. Provided by the Bunker Hill IL Historical Society.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bunker Hill Song - Nelson D. Sweeny

Photo: Rev. Nelson D. Sweeny - Bunker Hill Song Author

Verse 1:
We have a splendid city with a good old fashioned name, -
A name which stirs the loyal heart with patriotic flame. -
Old Glory floats above the stand to music by our Legion Band, -
While Lincoln's statue lifts his hand, proclaiming freedom through the land. -
Our shady streets and pretty homes convince the visitor who comes,
A home in this fair city is the thing he'd like to claim. -

Verse 2:
Those stylish suits from Sessel's make you look like millionaires, -
Jacoby furnishes our homes with rugs and easy chairs, -
Gosch fits the feet with shoes so neat, Suedel has goods that can't be beat. -
Emery and Dillard's wares are sweet, Jim Highfill feeds us classy meat. -
First National's a trusty bank,
No wonder Bunker Hill takes rank,
Way up in G for that is the truth, everyone declares. -

Verse 3:
Ed Bauser's coal will warm you, so you will never get "cold feet". -
Our Creamery makes butter that we all delight to eat. -
Welch makes the groc'ry bus'ness spin, Klinefetters bargains bring them in. -
Jacobi's hardware "gets your tin", Gerdt's millinery all does win. -
Van Horn and Best, the place to treat,
Take bitter pills or sundaes sweet,
Come on lets go we have a great old town that can't be beat.

Bunker Hill, in good old Illinois, -
Hear the shouts of happy girls and boys. -
City of homes, churches and schools,
Sorrows depart and happiness rules.
Hooray! For the best old town in the U.S.A.
I'd like to live here forever and a day
If you want to be jolly and see a good show,
Go to the Opera House with William Fahrenkrog.
If rest and quiet is the lot you would choose,
Sit in your big arm chair and read the Gazette News, Bunker Gazette News.

Copyright 1923 by Nelson D. Sweeny, Bunker Hill, Illinois

Nelson Sweeny was born in 1868 and died in 1948.  For a time he was Minister at the Bunker Hill Methodist Church.  He was also an author.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, December 27, 2012.  

Moses True - Bunker Hill's Co-Founder

Photo: Moses True - Bunker Hill's Co-Founder

Moses True was born in Salisbury, NH, August 30, 1805.  He moved to Maine in 1823 where he worked in a grocery store.  In 1828, he secured a position as captain of a canal boat in New York.

On October 11, 1831, in New Hampshire, he married Ursula Pettingill.  During the summer of 1834, Moses and Ursula decided to come west.  They came by prairie schooner from Franklin, New Hampshire to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and portage by boat down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri, where they arrived on December 11, 1835.

Moses went to inspect the land which is now Bunker Hill, on December 25, 1835.  After Moses looked over the property, the following day he and John Tilden went to Edwardsville to the land office and purchased 3,000 acres of land at $2.00 an acre.  At the time, the land here was in the North West Territory and the Land Office in Edwardsville was the only place land could be purchased.  He went back to St. Louis and returned with Ursula on February 20, 1836.

Now that the land was available, True and Tilden put up a building where the weary traveler could get a meal and a nights lodging.  The stage coach route from St. Louis to Springfield, Illinois went past the tavern as it was called (not from the sale of liquor, but from a place to stay) and there was a continual flow of travelers coming and going.

Photo: Moses True Home - South Franklin St.

In 1839, the partners divided the acres purchased.  Moses took the southeast one-fouth, Luke Knowlton, the southwest one-fourth, Tilden, the northwest one-fourth, and Smith, the northeast one-fourth.  Shortly after this division, Moses built the two story brick house on South Franklin Street which had twelve rooms and a three story tower.  Moses sold the land to settlers at $3.50 per acre.

 On August 11, 1842 Ursula died.  On January 9, 1843, Moses went to New Hampshire and brought home another wife, Sarah White, who died in 1845.

In 1846, Moses married Nancy Clark of St. Louis.  From this marriage there was one child, a son, James Clark True.  Nancy True died in October 11, 1875.

In 1876, Moses married Betsy George.  After some discussion, Betsy told Moses that she would marry him if he could send his son to some other location.  James Clark True was 30 years old and Betsy was 38 years old and it seemed to her that they were too close to the same age to be living in the same home.  On February 3, 1877, a daughter, Mary George True was born.  Moses True died on February 22, 1878.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, December 20, 2012.   

A Hard Road Through Bunker Hill

When the first homesteaders came to Bunker Hill, there were no roads as we think of them today.  You would just go out in the direction of your destination and go across country.  Over time, certain paths and trails were more heavily traveled and became the early roads.  There was no organized maintenance of these roads.  In dry weather, the dust was six to eight inches deep and in wet weather getting stuck in the mud was inevitable.  After many years of traveling this way, residents of the community began to complain.

The town council, for the purpose of keeping streets, alleys, and highways in repair, was authorized and empowered to require every able bodied male over twenty-one years of age and under fifty to labor on streets, any number of days not exceeding three in each year.

When the practice of oiling roads started, the neighbors would chip in and oil the roads.  This job was not done mechanically, but was done by manual labor.  In 1923, the city began to oil the streets.  The roads and city streets were very messy and the oil ran off the dust like water.

In 1925, Senator A. Cuthbertson, who was a former merchant and resident of Bunker Hill, initiated the idea of a hard road to the area that would replace the old stage coach road running north and south through town.

The road work started in Bunker Hill in 1927.  One problem that had arisen was that the state wanted to take the Lincoln Statue out when the road was put in, however, popular sentiment won out and the road was built around the statue instead.

Workers who helped on the road used over one hundred mules to haul materials to construct the foundation.  After the foundation was finished, the concrete was poured and smoothed.

In 1928, there was a big celebration to celebrate the opening of the hard road.  The old stage coach that had run the route through here on the Springfield and St. Louis route from 1822-1850 was brought here from Edwardsville for the celebration.

The final touches were made and the new Route 112 was finished in the early 1930's.  A few years after the route was completed, the hard road's name was changed to Route 159.  The highway is still a two-lane road as it has been for eighty plus years, but has been resurfaced and widened to fit present day needs.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, December 13, 2012.   

Wolf Ridge to Bunker Hill

If you had been one of those early settlers back in 1835-1836, the landscape would be very different.  You could stand at the top of the "hill" between what is now the flagpole and the Lincoln Statue, look in any direction, and see nothing but wide open prairie.  There might have been two or three buildings in the town, but the only trees would be far in the distance along the creek banks.

There were those who claimed you could look off to the northeast and not see a tree between here and Bayless Point, which was in the vicinity of Dorchester, just the prairie grass was covering the plains being blown by a breeze giving the appearance of waves on the ocean.

The site of the town of Bunker Hill was once known to the early settlers of Macoupin County as Wolf Ridge.  It was thus named because wolves lived in the area.  Some of their dens were located in the vicinity where United Community Bank and Dr. Belcher's office are - on the SE corner of N. Washington and Fayette Street.

The choice of the name, Bunker Hill, was not due to the existence of any great elevation, but rather to the fact that there is a hill here somewhat like that upon which the famous battle of the Revolution was fought and because those who gave the name came from a section of country in which Bunker Hill was familiar and held in great reverence.

The earliest inhabitants of the community of whom we have any knowledge were the Peoria, Kickapoo, and Winnebago Indians, who established an encampment near North Washington Street and West Morgan Street.  Another location was northeast of Bunker Hill near the Millville School area.

On their wandering north and south, they were accustomed to stopping here near a large spring for water, but with the advent of the white settlers, the red men disappeared and the last of them were seen was in the year 1826 when five wigwams, which stood at the head of the Wood River, were pulled down and they left for the country farther west.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, December 6, 2012.

--Cite this story: Redford, Carol, and Betty Triplett. "Bunker Hill History." In Reflections: A History of the Bunker Hill-Woodburn Area, 5. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 1993. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Wood Cemetery

Gazette News: August 1, 1957:
The Wood Cemetery is one of the oldest places in Bunker Hill Township.  The man who gave the land was David Bush Wood, who was born in 1813, the son of James E. Wood, Sr. and Susannah Renfro Wood, early settlers of Illinois Territory and Bunker Hill Township.

In the year 1842, David B. Wood purchased the farmland of Aksiah Tompkins.  On this land were a number of graves, including David's sisters' grave who was buried in 1823.  Mr. Wood had in transfer of land two deeds made, one for one (1) acre where the graves were, to Bunker Hill Township as a burial ground.  In 1905 or 1906, Alfred C. Wood, on leaving Illinois, deeded one-half acre to this cemetery and it was named in honor of his family and the Wood families he had inherited land from.  

He migrated to South Dakota, then to Nebraska.  He died there at the age of 91 years and nine months.  His remains were brought back here and buried on the land of his childhood.  The two deeds of this land are recorded in the courthouse in Carlinville.

Some of the pioneer families buried there are :Wood, Davis, Coffee, Scott, Heyde, Hook, Kneadeline, Gregg, Thomae, Hill, Hilyard, Ridgley, Saltznear, Schuetz, Johnson, Jacobi, Pyatt, and many others.

This cemetery was cared for by members of some of the families buried there since 1842.  Many of these people were prominent in early Macoupin County history.  Prior to 1955, Dr. Walter Hilyard donated enough to build a new fence and others donated to put the cemetery in nice order.

Some of the people buried there are veterans from early Indian, Revolutionary, French and Indian, Civil and World War I.

Some of the markers are made by hand of sandstone and the markings on some are completely obliterated.  We are endeavoring to place all war veterans on the honor roll of this cemetery and their country. 

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, November 21, 2012.

Coal Mines of Bunker Hill

On Monday afternoon October 31, 1870, Mr. John Naylor and Mr. John McPherson secured the services of the Band which proceeded the first wagon loaded with 30 bushels of coal mined.  The gun squad shot the cannon.  They stopped at the corner of Washington and Warren streets.  Mr. Yancy and Mr. Hayes gave talks.  Mr. Jencks then sold the coal realizing $89.  The coal was purchased in turn by Mr. S. Hale, $20; Joseph Meyers, $10; Mr. W. Cross, $10; Bartels and Brother, $7; Thomas Sanders, $6; W. Dorey, $10; David Morris, $5; Joe Lee, $10; Thomas Sanders, $5; and Mr. Frederickson, $6.  Each purchaser then turned back the coal to be sold again until $89 was realized.

A grand banquet was given underground in the coal mine to which all the prominent people were invited.  Mr. Naylor retired in 1875 and two years later Mr. McPherson retired.  The mine was abandoned in October 1880.  It empoyed 12 men and the production for the nine months of 1880 was 61,029 bushels.  The mine was located along Paddock Creek, east of town and south of the bridge.

William Neil & Co., broke ground for a shaft near the railroad track in the northeast part of town in may 1879, and in September, reached a vein of coal at a depth of 250 feet.  They were producing 600 bushels a day.  The members of this firm were Mr. William Peter, Mr. John Neil and James Monoghan.  This mine burned in 1907 and was rebuilt and worked until 1912 when it was discontinued.

The Wood River Coal Mine, also known as Crow Hollow Mine, west of town, close by the old reservoir, was owned by Judge Huggins and operated by Matt Carroll.  It had an annual output of 45,000 bushels in 1881 and $1800 was paid out in wages.  There was another mine located in that area by the name of Raynor and Lock.  It operated from 1881-1889. 

The Bauser-Truesdale Mine was sunk on the Bauser place.  This was located along Paddock Creek, east of town and north of the bridge.  In 1906 Mr. Ed Bauser took charge until October 1934 when it was leased by the former employees, who ran it as a co-operative.  The first four years the coal was mined by hand.  Some years later, it was electrified and was cut with machines.  This mine operated until 1940.

The Jarden Coal Mine was located off Catholic Springs Road, before the bridge over Paddock Creek.  This mine was operated by Jarden and Lansford in 1903, E. Lansford and Co. 1903-1904, Fritz Jarden 1904-1911 and Abbott Jarden 1911-1913.  It was abandoned in 1914.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, November 14, 2012.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Memorial Flagpole

Gazette News: February 10, 1955
The Legion committee in charge of erecting a memorial flagpole on the main street announced this week they are short of the required amount to complete the job by $261.91.

The bids for the job are all in and a contract for the erection of it was awarded to Joe Briskovich on a bid of $349.  Further cost will include $15 for an 8x12 flag, $597 for the flagpole, $75 for a bronze plaque and $60 for freight.  Total contributions to date are $879.09.

The flagpole itself will be a 35-foot tapered aluminum job with equipoise tilting unit, and 24-inch wingspan gold leaf eagle atop the pole and a copper weathervane.  There will be an aluminum ball bearing a revolving truck for the flag.

This is a final appeal for funds by the committee.  Anyone who has not donated and wishes to may still do so; anyone who cares to donate more than he already has may still do so.  The memorial will be one the city can be proud of.  It will be dedicated to those who served their country in all wars and to those who gave the supreme sacrifice.  Bunker Hill has its full share of both and can be well proud of both.

Gazette News: June 2, 1955
Workman finished the job of installing the memorial flagpole last Thursday afternoon and the flag was flying from the pole on Friday.  Bill Wise, chairman of the committee, informs us that donations are still needed in spite of a total of $1003.09 received.
The bronze plaque reads:

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, November 8, 2012.

The Monument House Hotel

The Monument House
 was located in the northwest block of Fayette and Clinton Streets.

An expanded story about the Monument Hotel is on my latest March 12, 2020 posting which can be read at:

The Monument House was built by Mr. William H. Carroll in 1856, soon after the completion of what was then known as the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad.  Mr. Carroll's original plans were to erect a railroad eating house.  Before the work was completed, he decided to build more extensively and he erected the third story front to which the billiard room was afterward added, Mr. Carroll doing much of the work himself.

The Monument House was opened to the public in September of 1856 and Dr. Delano was the first to inscribe his name upon the register as the first guest.  Dr. Delano named the hotel for Mr. Carroll.

Until 1866 or 1867, the Terre Haute and Alton was the only direct route east out of St. Louis.  Travel was simply enormous, especially during the Civil War and most trains stopped at the Monument House for meals.  Mr. Carroll and his wife were unrivaled caterers and under their management, the Monument House was as famous throughout the country as the famed eating house at Altoona, Pennsylvania on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

After Mr. Carroll's death, the hotel was leased by several parties in succession and was finally purchased in 1871 by Mr. Ben Johnson.

Monument House Burns
Mr. Ben Johnson, owner of Monument House, thought the fire must have caught from the dining room chimney.  He said the building was worth $5,000, and the stock and fixtures worth $300.  The fire which completely destroyed this old landmark was discovered by an engineer on a freight train Sunday morning, December 31, 1884.  Conductors Jackson and Kreppes, with their train crew, did good service at the fire.

Gazette News: January 9, 1884
The Fire company made a brave effort. With the mercury at 15 degrees below zero, the men suffered severely, and then were unable to accomplish what could have been done in more favorable weather.  

The Monument House was located in the northwest block of Fayette and Clinton Streets.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, November 1, 2012.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Rigby Horse RaceTrack

Mr. Thomas S. Rigsby came to Bunker Hill after he served in the Civil War.  He began his business as a dealer in and trainer of horses.  On the outskirts of the city were large barns and a half mile race track.  This track was supposed to be one of the best in the State of Illinois.

From all over Illinois, he received horses which he trained to race.  Many of these horses won premiums at fairs in Illinois and Missouri.

Gazette News June 25, 1885: A trotting match is to take place on the Davis Track next Saturday for a purse of $50.  The entries are: Jencks' "Pacer Boy" and Rigsby's "Jesse James."

Gazette News July 10, 1889: Among the horses entered in the Fourth of July trot at Alton was "Billy Logan" entered and driven by its trainer, Tom Rigby, of Bunker Hill.

Gazette News January 8, 1890: Thomas Rigby has bought from D. E. Pettingill the 20-acre tract west of the Nutter place, and will convert it into one of the best speeding tracks of its size which can be found in the state.

Gazette News August 6, 1890: Encouraged by the success of a fort-night age, our local horsemen have announced a series of trotting and running races on the really excellent Rigsby track west of town on Saturday next.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, October 11, 2012.

Bunker Hill Military Academy

Among the institutions which Bunker Hill once boasted was the Military Academy (in the very early days called the Seminary) and stood on grounds, which is today the American Legion Park.  It opened in 1859.

Its history dates back to December 22, 1857.  On that date, a meeting was held "to take measures looking forward to the establishment of an academic school."  E. Harlan was chairman and W. Hutchinson was secretary.  The following committee was appointed: A. Ellet, P. Huggins, J. Weller, T. Van Dorn.  On the building committee was E. Howell, G. Mack, G. Parmenter, J. Delano, and E. Davis.  Later, Dr. Delano withdrew and H. Hopper was substituted.  On January 26, a constitution was adopted.  The amount of capital stock was fixed at $25,000.  P. Huggins offered to donate a four-acre lot for the building.

The building was brick, three stories high, and considered substantial in every way.  In its original state, it had three rooms on the first floor, five on the second, and the third floor was a large hall.  It was said to have cost about $19,000.

At the first call for volunteers in the Civil War, Professor Smith and 39 of the pupils entered the army.  Others soon followed and it became necessary to close the school.  The building was then loaned to the school district and used a public school for several years, or until the new public school was opened in 1869.

Samuel Stiver became the owner and proprietor of the academy in 1887.  Under his guidance, the institution attracted many young men from other states as well as several foreign countries, who for the most part, lived on the grounds.  Many Bunker Hill young men and women also attended the school.  Much of the success was attributed to a well-organized advertising program.

Cadets at the academy also engaged in the popular sports of the time including baseball, football, gymnastics, tennis and track.  They also had drills and competition in handling of firearms.

Mr. Stiver passed away in 1910 and the academy was taken over by Mr. Marburger.  After failure to operate the school successfully as far as finances were concerned, it was decided to close the school in 1913.

After being threatened with foreclosure, the association decided to sell the property at auction.  James Jencks purchased the academy grounds, the H. Meyer property, T. Mulligan's, and the ballpark ground on October 18, 1916.  He sold some of the buildings and finally tore down the main building.

Jencks later sold the grounds to the Civic League of Bunker Hill and they built a park there, which they maintained until 1948, when all the buildings were destroyed by the tornado.  The grounds were then taken over they the American Legion and they maintain a park there.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, October 24, 2012.

Jacoby Brothers

On October 23, 1883, Casper J. Jacoby moved to Bunker Hill and embarked in the furniture and undertaking business, several years later adding carpets, wallpaper, pianos, organs, and sewing machines, a business which was destined to grow until it established for him a reputation known and respected throughout the surrounding country.  Starting with little capital and practically a stranger, young Jacoby, by that honesty and fair dealing which has always characterized the business methods of the firm, soon established himself as a successful businessman.

In March of 1891, Casper, in order to get suitable employment for the two younger brothers, William C. and Louis C., founded a corporation name of Jacoby Brothers.  The corporation consisted of Phillip W., Henry C., Casper J., and William C. Jacoby.  Rev. Phillip W. Jacoby, the oldest brother, died in St. Louis in 1899.

On April 10, 1899, Casper J. purchased the furniture and undertaking business of Bauer & Co., and August Miller, located in Alton.  Business then conducted in Alton was carried on under the name of C. J. Jacoby & Co.   On Casper J.'s removal to Alton, he sold the Bunker Hill store to Jacoby Bros., Jerseyville, as a branch of same and William C. was made manager of the Bunker Hill store and Louis C., the manager of the Jerseyville store.

The Bunker Hill store was erected in 1893, and was destroyed by fire March 15, 1899, but was rebuilt at once.  The building was 30x100 feet, two story, and basement, with a total floor space of 9,000 feet.  The store was located on the east side of Washington Street.

 ...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, October 18, 2012.