Thursday, July 16, 2020

Bunker Hill's 8 o'clock Whistle Tradition

Pictured: Bunker Hill Lighting Plant

February 6, 1903: 
We, the undersigned, merchants of Bunker Hill, do hereby agree that we will close our respective places of business at seven o'clock p.m. each day with the exception of Saturday evening, for the period commencing with Monday, February 9, 1903, and ending with April 30, 1903.  Two medium blasts of the lighting plant whistle will give notice of the closing of the stores.

February 20, 1903:  The early closing problem, so mythically solved by some of our businessmen, has become rudely intricate after a brief existence of one week.  There was apparently no peace in such an arrangement from the beginning, and it was not uncommon each evening to see some of our good merchants standing in the by-ways and alleys, or peering around the corner to ascertain whether or not the other fellow had really closed up.  One evening, an unfaithful brother was spied selling a pair of shoes after the hour for closing, and then the dander was up.  Two or three others threw open their doors and declared they would keep open until midnight.  This led more to lay themselves liable to breach of promise, and the whole thing, it seems, has been thrown up.  We suppose our merchants think it is soon enough to shut up when the sheriff comes around.

By special arrangement the hour of closing of the stores in Bunker Hill has been changed from 7 to 8 o'clock.  The curfew blast of the lighting plant whistle at 8 o'clock will give notice of the closing of stores.  All merchants who signed the former agreement have pledged their word of honor to stand by this agreement, which became effective last evening.

That began the tradition of the 8 o'clock whistle.  For years, the children of Bunker Hill, mine included, knew when they heard the 8 o'clock whistle, it was time to be in their own yards.  The whistle is a 117 year old tradition.  I suppose today's children don't hear the 8 o'clock whistle because they are in their houses on their electronic devices.  Depending on where you live in town, and depending on the direction of the wind in the evening, you many not hear the whistle.  This is a tradition unique to our town.

...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, July 16, 2020.  

Stanton, Carl L. . "Bunker Hill News 1903." In Bunker Hill Revisited, Volume Four, 1901-1910, pp. 37, 39-40 Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 2003. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The First Bunker Hill-Woodburn July 4th Celebration

Pictured: The Bunker Hill Band (circa 1905).  Left to right (Back row): Henry Cardell, Honas Fahrenkrog, Sam Lee, Pet Neil, Charles Hendricks, William Cardell, Joe Lee, Lute Jansen;
(Front Row): L. Pates, W. Wood, Albert Goodwin, Lemuel B. Smith.

    In 1839, the whole community turned out, some 60 people in all, for the town's first 4th of July celebration.  A liberty pole (flag pole) was raised, the Declaration of Independence was read, toasts were made, and much good food eaten.  This celebration took place on the ground in the area now occupied by United Community Bank.  On that same holiday in 1842, over 400 people participated in the celebration and listened to the Upper Alton Band.  On July 4th, 1844, 350 citizens, headed by the Bunker Hill Band, went to Woodburn, and there met the Alton Band.

Pictured: The Bunker Hill Drum Corps around 1900 at the Hotel (probably Monument House). Note McKinley's Picture at left.

    The paper below dated June 16, 1840, was found by carpenters when Dr. Hess remodeled his office in 1951.  The article was in preparation of the upcoming July 4th celebration.  June 16, 1840: There was said to be a crowd of 600 to 700 people in attendance.

Pictured: Bunker Hill - Woodburn July 4 Celebration Letter dated 1840 found in Dr. Hess's Office during remodeling in 1951.

    We, the citizens of Bunker Hill and vicinity, feeling desirous to join our friends of Woodburn in the celebration of the birthday of our national independence, do cordially, freely, and willing, contribute such sums or articles as are attached to each of our respective names, for the purpose of providing a dinner suitable for the occasion:

  • James Phillips, $1.00
  •  Francis W. Burham, $1.00
  • Alexander Nys, .50
  • C. Washburn, .50
  • John C. ?
  • Luke Knowlton, $1.00
  • H.V. Hopper, $1.50
  • Samuel B. ?, $1.00
  • ? Squires, $1.00
  • Moses True, $3.00
  • Larkin Stark, eight dozen eggs, eight pounds of butter, 10 loaves of bread, and $1.75
  • James Wood, one pig, $1.00
  • Franklin Vaughn, one pig, $1.00
  • Joseph Burton, cake, six chickens, $1.00
  • Edward Burton, $1.00
  • J.W. Richards, one pig, six chickens, $2.00
  • Wm. Squires, six pounds of butter, bread, $1.50
  • James Hamilton, six pies, five loaves bread, two punds of butter, cake, $1.50
  • A. Chruch, provisins, $1.00
  • Solomon Davis, $2.00
  • Ebenezer Howell, $2.00
  • G. Parmenter, $1.00
  • A.W. Cummings, $1.00
The original document is on display at the museum.  Workers found the document in the wall at Dr. Hess's office in 1951 while they were remodeling.

...Read 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, July 9, 2020.