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Jersey County Page     Jerseyville History

Jerseyville History

Thirty-five Years Ago

Recollections of Jerseyville as She Appeared in 1852

Now, when our booming city can exhibit so many new and handsome store, and so many more are in prospect, when we have two railroads, several large and well-stocked livery stables, many mechanic shops, hundreds of pleasant homes, several fine churches, a good graded public school building and a first-class public school, an efficient fire department, with a city hall and electric light plant nearly completed, and an opera house, water-works and street car line under discussion, it may be interesting to old and young readers of the REPUBLICAN EXAMINER to glance back thirty-five years and view Jerseyville as she is remembered by a visitor of that time. The number of towns and villages in this part of the state numbered then but a fraction of what they now do, and as to cities the writer can only remember Springfield, Jacksonville and Alton, as so dignified. The nearest railroad station was Brighton, on the “Alton and Sangamon,” now the main line of the Chicago and Alton railroad, then just completed from Alton to Springfield. This and one between Springfield and Jacksonville, now a part of the Wabash, are the only two railroads of Central or Southern Illinois which the writer recollects as then in operation. A daily stage coach each way between Alton and Jacksonville brought the mails and furnished the only public conveyance by which Jerseyville could be reached.

It was from one of these stage-coaches, coming from Alton, and about the first of November, A. D., 1852, that the writer had his first glimpse of the town, and from this vehicle he alighted at what is now known as the “National hotel” corner. For over three years thereafter he lived in or near the town and his observations during that period furnish the following recollections:

Mercantile business was confined to State street, and with three exceptions to the opposite blocks between Pearl and Exchange streets. Beginning at the south end and on the east side of the street, Alexander B Morean had a general store in the frame building which is now Z. Vogel’s cigar factory. An annex south contained the drug department and post-office, Mr. Morean being postmaster under the last Whig administration – that of Millard Fillmore. Crossing Pearl street was the “Croton House,” kept by Peter Goff, the building afterwards called the “National Hotel.” Farther north was F. Bertman’s clothing store, now the grocery store of Messrs. Smith & Son. Still farther north was a frame building owned by Dr Hutchinson, in which was his office but how otherwise used is not remembered. It is now occupied by Messrs. Brandt & Son, tobacconists, and Fred Bayer, barber. Next were the small grocery store of a Mr. Bacon, the drug store of Drs. Perry & Hamilton, and finally the “old red corner,” of Mr. C. H. Roberts. The last named was a well-known character of that time, who combined in himself the various professions of merchant, lawyer, physician, justice of the peace, and politician. He also had a little stock of printing material and did his own job printing – after a fashion. His clerk, then aged about seventeen years, John E VanPelt, has since achieved distinction both in Jerseyville and Chicago. The building remodeled still stands, but is no longer red. This brings us to Exchange street and to the limit of trade and commerce on this side of State street.

Crossing diagonally to the north-west corner was found the general store of David Bonnel. This building still stands as does the ‘Jersey House,’ north of it, in the same block, then kept by Mrs. Van Dyke, and fairly dividing with the ‘Croton House,’ the patronage of the traveling public. Crossing Exchange street south-west was the grocery store of Mr. Clendennin, on the corner now occupied by Messrs. Warren & Co. The next store south, in the same block, this is, now remembered, was that of Blackburn & McGill, who shortly after sold out to J. N Squier & Co., and engaged in the milling business. Father [sic] along on the site of Dr VanHorne’s building, was the old ‘Bat house,” so called because it was constructed of brickbats. It was said to have been the first brick building erected in the town. The occupancy at the time is not remembered. D. G. Wyckoff, the veteran merchant of Jerseyville and Jersey county, had his store on the site of that now occupied by Messrs Scheffer & Son’s shoe store. Still farther south was ‘Mechanics Row’ four small two story buildings, which the REP-EX readers will remember as burned in the fire of January, 1886. There were then occupied by Wright Casey’s stove and tin store, J H Maupin’s saddler shop and J C Tack’s tailor shop, the fourth being an annex to Col C H Knapp’s store at the corner. ‘Mechanics’ Row’ was then just completed, and with the exception of the ‘Bat House,’ comprised the only brick business houses in the place. Col Knapp’s general store, a one story frame building on the present site of the First National Bank comes next. On the opposite corner, south, and also opposite the Morean corner, first mentioned, was a large two story frame building standing about twenty feet back from State street, of which only a portion remains and with an addition front, is the boot and shoe store of Scott Holmes. It was the general store of Messrs. Howe & Bagley. The remainder was the large boarding house of P. Silloway. There were no stores farther south.

The writer is aware that there were a few business houses in the blocks mentioned not remembered by him. Those, with some dwellings and vacant spaces filled up the intervals which his enumeration has not covered.

Jerseyville had then but few mechanics, but they were deservedly known for skill and reliability. On the east side of State, south of Arch street, were the shops of Messrs Daniel McFain, blacksmith; John Vinson, plowstocker; James McGannon, blacksmith; and Lorance, wagon maker. Farther south was the undertaking and furniture shop of Wm. Keith, which greatly enlarged, still occupies the old stand. Still farther south at the junction of State street and Jersey Landing road, and facing north, was the blacksmith and wagon shop of George Wharton. On the west side, south of Arch street, was the cooper shop of Louis Thuston. On the east side, south of Exchange street were the blacksmith shop of Wm. Pitman; the wagon shop of the Nevius Brothers; and the carpenter shop of Alfred and Aaron Rue and Uriah Howell.

The products of the Jerseyville mills had a reputation, not only in the markets of Alton and St Louis, but in those of Boston and other eastern cities. The mills at the time spoken of were operated by French & Adams, and Schaff & Son, the former on Arch street, a block east of State street, and the latter, on the ground now occupied by the old spoke factory, recently purchased for a creamery.

It was generally acknowledged that the only public school house was entirely unworthy of the town and the people. It was a small one story frame building, enclosed with oak clap-boards and covered with oak shingles. The building itslef and its furnishings were far inferior to many of the country school houses. Here Penuel Corbett, a graduate of an eastern college, presided, as he had several years before, and continue to do several years afterwards. A number of our citizens past middle age were his pupils, as were many others who have ceased to be residents of Jerseyville. This old school house stood on the south-west corner of what is now Capt John Smith’s residence property. It was subsequently sold, removed to State street, near the Messrs Rue’s carpenter shop, and a few years ago was torn down.

The Misses Corbett, daughters of the preceptor just mentioned, conducted a young ladies’ seminary which was in high repute, in the well-known building owned by Miss Mary Farley, at the corner of Pleasant and Exchange streets.

A boy’s academy was opened in the first story of the ‘Sons hall’ (which building is still a well known-feature of the town) in the autumn of 1852, Prof Peter Fenity (now Dr Fenity of Kane) was the first teacher. His scholars testify to the thoroughness of the instruction they received from him.

There were three churches. The Methodist Episcopal was a frame building standing were the present handsome brick edifice does. The pastor was Rev S H Culver. We understand that the old building was torn down to make room for the new one. The Baptists owned and worshipped in the old brick building at Washington and Exchange streets, opposite the court house, which subsequently became the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and is now partly occupied by R T Brock’s abstract office. Rev Justus Bulkely, D D, was the pastor. The Presbyterian church building is now the carriage shop of the Egelhoff Manufacturing Company. It stood on the site of the present church building, and the pastor was the Rev Lemuel Grosvenor.

The old court house burned in 1884, stood in the center of the public square a plain brick building, front and rear additions without the balcony subsequently added, and contained the clerk’s office, which some years later were removed to the fire proof quarters in which they are now. The principal officers were as follows: Judge D M Woodson, of Carrollton; states’ attorney, Cyrus Epler of Jacksonville; circuit clerk, and recorder, T L McGill; master in chancery, Robert L Hill; sheriff, Murry Cheney; county judge, George E warren; associate justice, James Kinney and Jacob Lurton; county clerk, Geo W Lowder; county assessor and treasurer, Solomon Calhoun; county school commissioner, Hiram Bridges. The resident practicing [remainder of sentence is not readable].

Physicians were Drs James C Perry & Joseph O Hamilton, Augustus R & C A Knapp, E A D’Arcy, E A Casey, W T Hutchison, R D Freeman and __ Freeman. Dr Farley was a homoepathic and Dr Farley and eclectic physician. Dr J H Buffington had charge of the Morean drug store and also practiced dentistry, and Dr H H Hood had charge of Drs Perry & Hamilton’s drug store one year ending in may, 1853, at which time he resumed the practice of medicine in Montgomery county.

There was no lumber yard in the town and no livery stable as the writer recollects, though one was started a year or two later. Although the town was not on a railroad it was on a telegraph line, one running from St Louis to Jacksonville, the office of which was over Morean’s drug store and the operator John C Darby. By means of it the people learned the morning after the presidential election in November, 1852, that the old veteran, Winfield Scott, had been overwhelmingly defeated by the obscure Franklin Pierce. This wire was taken down the next year, being superseded by one on the Chicago & Alton railroad line, and Jerseyville had no telegraphic line thereafter until it got its first railroad, twelve years later.

Jerseyville was known in those days as one of the most prosperous and enterprising towns in the state, a model village for sobriety and general good order, and excelled nowhere for pleasant home and good society. As to whether the city of Jerseyville has held its own in all these respects, the writer will not venture to express an opinion. In giving his recollections he makes no claim to absolute facts, though he believes he gives them in the main. He will be glad to be corrected in any point in which he has erred. — H.

From an undated newspaper clipping from the scrapbook of James L. Hutchinson (1846-1910), former resident of Jerseyville, Illinois. The scrapbook is now held by Hutchinson’s descendants in Australia.

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