The first hotel and fires in Tuscola
The first hotel was the one on the site now occupied by the so-called Stanley House. It was the Tuscola house. It caught fire at 7:30 o’clock one morning in ’64, and was the first chance we had to recognize the firemen of the town. We all did pretty well. Even old Cole Bright had a hole burned in his back and thought Tom Macoughtry did it on purpose. Vanduren spread himself on this occasion and undertook to tell Niles how to put out a house a fire, though he had served his time at the business. Niles and Chappel stayed upstairs just because they could, and tore out bedsteads, smashed looking glasses and pitched furniture out of windows with a vengeance. Most of the furniture was saved but the house went out.
Same way at the Beach House, same site as present location. We got there too late to save the house. Griswold’s store burnt where his place now is; got the alarm when it was about over. Again Alf Thayer’s stable on Main Street burned. By George! That soared us! It was in close proximity to the north row on Sale Street. If we just hadn’t worked like fury, the whole north side of Sale Street would have gone
Luckily water was plenty. We kept everything wet in the vicinity, including the firemen. Niles had just gone into partnership with Davis in the drug business, within 160 feet of the blazing barn, and not a cent of insurance. Perhaps everybody worked hard to keep the fire from Sale Street. Niles had a “posish” on the roof nearest the fire.
Dryer, that’s Walt, the druggist that was, was navigating between the comb of the roof and a place where Niles and himself crossed each other in getting a supply of water, for the fellows that took the hot places were allowed to hold them and every time Walt came down from the roof his feet slipped and he slid V-shaped on his broadest part in time carefully calculated to knock the other man’s feet from under him at the intersection of their beats. So they both went off the roof together and fell about 40 times, 12 feet in the mud below.
Dryer said this was nothing to what he used to do in Rochester and Penfield, so the other man said it was alright, though, at first he thought it was done on purpose. Ike Jewell said he slid off the roof of that two story building which now stands opposite the Union block, and saved himself by catching with his hands the eaves through; hung there awhile till he got rested, and then drew himself up again. Most any other man would have dropped 40 feet to the ground and killed himself.
The fire cost Alf Thayer 14 head of horses and other property, but it was such a relief to save Sale Street that we fear his great loss was almost forgotten in our great gain. And again, in February 1870, W.H., Lamb’s dwelling where L.J. Whyeth now lives, caught fire. Here to use the expression of an insurance man, we literally “clawed it out.” We also stopped a fire in Hull’s two-story house near the M.E. church.
Newlin’s house burned in 1870. We saved most of it. Van Meter’s property on Wilson Street quietly burned out without any fuss. These fires, however, sink into comparative insignificance when compared with the fire we talk about. It was the fire “par excellence” so to speak. It began at 10 o’clock at night on the 11th of March “73 in a grocery in Block A, on Parke Street. The place is vacant now, and is nearly opposite the brick barber shop where David Smith holds forth. The Caricos had a large party at the dwelling where Major Conover now lives, and the first sound to persons at a distance was a loud explosion of gunpowder, and then we went to the fire.
The west side of Parke Street was well under way; the heat soon making it impossible to pass the street. We worked very hard on the building opposite, until fairly cooked out. Well she came across the street; we kept backing out and took the only course possible to do any good. We tore out buildings and stopped her on Sale Street, just east of Joe Kornblums. Then we went on the Avenue, merely to satisfy ourselves that commercial block, our pride and glory, was safe. Well it wasn’t, but they had been at work, and Jim Trownsell had saved almost all of his large and valuable jewelry stock and afterwards found time to do yeoman service as a fireman. She burnt, around to the present location of VanLankin’s shop, and with what assistance we could give by the way of tearing down, she finally went out for want of fuel.
Several active firemen who had sworn off from fires, till apparatus was bought by the city, pitched in, in the usual effective style of active men, and many who were not the oldest of old residents, proved valuable to the impromptu fire department.
Trownsell and the Ervins, for instance, Bob Macpherson, after the fire was under subjection, insisted that his hair and eyebrows were burnt off, and that he was “burnt inwardly.” We believe the latter part of his statement, for many of us were in the same interesting situation.
Commercial block, while not as imposing a building as the present opera block whose site it occupied, stood over five handsome store rooms, contained one of the best public halls in the state, 40 x 80 feet, with an arm chair seating capacity of 800, stage, side scenery, ante-room and handsome drop curtain. We were proud of it. In the building was the Masonic Hall conceded to have shown the best floor in the state. No expense had been spared in its decoration, and if the committee had found another spot upon which to delineate another symbol or “totem” with taste and effect, they would have filled it. Here was absolutely nothing saved. It was in the third story and all hoped to put out the fire before the block was reached. But in vain, for it seemed to have got in through the back windows before we realized the fact.
Tuscola has no fire organization. We always hold a meeting after every important fire and pass some resolutions. This seems to stop the fires for a while, but it should not be relied upon as an organization of any great force. One hundred and fifty dollars will buy the necessary ladders, hooks and chains and buckets. It is, since the fire that the people of Tuscola refused to vote a small appropriation for fire apparatus.
Tuscola city and township history notes offer peek into the past
Early Tuscola events
The first house which appeared in Tuscola was a part of the present dwelling of Thomas S. Sluss, at the northwest corner of Main and Daggy streets. It was placed there by William Chandler, who hauled it from the close neighborhood of Bourbon. He occupied it awhile and sold it, building subsequently the dwelling now standing directly east.
The first house built was the store at the railroad, on the north side of Sale street, long since gone. Simon G. Bassett, brother of Dr. H.J. Bassett, of Tuscola, was the first Postmaster as well as express and freight agent.
The second house built was erected on Parke street, east side, near the present brick, south of Sale street; it was put up by A.L.Otis and was later removed to the south side of Sale street, east of Main street and is now the present residence of Dr. Bassett.
The third house built was the residence of Thomas Woody, erected on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Main Street, whence it was removed. It occupied the site of the present brick on that corner. Thomas Woody was the father of A.M. Woody, who served as May of the city for the four years ending in April, 1883. Thomas Woody, an active Methodist, and before the day of churches, he and his wife with A.G. Wallace and wife, associated with Mrs. Dr. Bassett and Mrs. Kuhn were the only church people in the place who had any aptitude for conducting religious exercises. Class and prayer meetings were held in Mr. Woody’s house for several years after Mr. Woody’s arrival. He died in November 1883 full of honors.
The first child born in the place was Miss May Wallace, daughter of A.G. Wallace. Mrs. Has. Moore, daughter of William Chandler, moved here from Bourbon at the age of six years and was consequently the first baby in Tuscola.
The first store was a grocery, built on the north side of the court house square by B.F. Lewis now a farmer, who farmer on the northwest of town.
The next store was probably the drug store of Dr. J.W. Wright, which was located in the present one and a half story dwelling, now standing directly east of the old court house. These two proprietors were compelled to yield to the logic of events, both eventually pulling up states and moving down town or up town as the case may be. The Lewis store was removed bodily to Sale Street. The stock was bought by J.M. Ephlin and A.M. Woody, and was the foundation of the large Woody & Russell grocery store. Dr. Wright built a store and dwelling combined on the southwest corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, where he had sole control of the drug business until 1865. He finally went to California, being succeeded in his business by Dr. J.A. Field, who occupied the old stand for a while, and afterward removed to his brick at the southeast corner of Parke and Sale streets, which he built in 1882. H.C. Niles, who had been born to the drug trade, opened a new drug store, in 1865 at the southeast corner of Avenue and Main streets in company with E.C. Siler. The latter sold out to Niles, who joined C.A. Davis on the north side of Sale Street, in a building which was destroyed in one of the great fires, which occurred in October, 1881. The house stood the second door directly west of Goff’s Marble Works, which is the first establishment of the kind permanently located at this city.
Mr. R. Gruelle was in the drug business for a few years; also E.L. Smith, who sold out to Benton and he to Foster, who is was later in the business. E.L. Smith after leaving the drug business began the practice of law, and in 1878, he “shuffled off this mortal coil” by cutting his throat in his office, up stairs at the southeast corner of Parke and Sale streets. He was a man of talent in some respects, and could and did make most excellent stump speeches on occasion. The real causes of his self “taking off” were never known.
It is not the intention of this history to give a list of all the business houses in Tuscola, but an attempt is made to show how business started. Niles returned to the southeast corner of Main Street and Central Avenue, and then removed to J.M. Smith’s building, corner of Avenue and Washington streets, and joined, as a partner, W.B. Dryer. They were finally succeeded by James D. Higgins, the present druggist on that corner.
The first boarding house or hotel was kept by A.G. Wallace. This building was a large “story-and one-half-house, situated just about where the bank now stands on the Avenue. Mr. Wallace had arrived in the county in 1841, and stopped at a place then widely known as the “Wallace stand,” west of Hickory Grove, in the southeast part of the county. He removed to Camargo in 1854, and in 1858 to Tuscola, where he kept hotel as above for about two years. He was deeply interested in and was one of the most active workers for the formation of the new county.
He was the first Justice of the Peace elected in Tuscola, 1858, and in 1859 was elected the first Circuit Clerk and Recorder. He was continuously re-elected until he had several four consecutive terms of four years each. Upon retiring from the office, he conducted for several years a real estate and loan office, and was always an active and leading member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Wallace died on the 27th of July 1879.
The Central House
The Central House was originally erected by Younger, but the business did not appear to suit him and he was succeeded by the Thayers. It is situated on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Main Street, and is a favorite resort of all the country round. Mine host, Archbald, jolly fat and bearded, has the confidence and good will of his guests. This house caught fire one day, but the boys were too smart for it, and didn’t have any fun.
Had the Illinois Central Railroad Depot been located as first intended, all the business of the city, and all of the business improvements would now be grouped about the court house, where they ought to be and Sale street and Central avenue, the present business centers, would have been as bare of business houses as are now the adjoining blocks in the neighborhood of the court house. The blocks and lots north south east and west of the court house would have been solidly built up, at least as much so as Central and Sale streets are today; but they began to build close to the depot, and no one had the courage to make his improvement so far out of town; and indeed it would have taken courage, for at that time the site of the present court house was a howling wilderness; and even after the first court house, the old light two-story frame yet standing north of the court house had been erected, it stood solitary and alone for years; there was not a building, in 1861, between it and the present residence of Dr. J.L. Reat.
The present court house square had been fenced in with common boards and was the “fair ground’ of the first Douglas County Fair. The old court house was used for a “Floral Hall,” as it were and a band and speakers stand had been erected in the north side of the square. E. McCarty, Caleb Garett and Ira J. Halstead, secretary were the managers. The first dance was held in the room over northeast corner of Parke and Sale Streets, where Mrs. John Madison danced the first set with Joseph G. Cannon. This old court house was, on its completion, hailed with joy by all who believed in wholesale sociability.
Douglas County formed in 1859
The towns of the present Douglas County had not been in existence very long before the residents tired of the long journey to Charleston, the county seat. A group of citizens prepared a bill for the state legislature, setting apart the north portion of Coles County as a new county.
The bill was passed in March 1859, and although the area, as now, was predominantly Republican, it was named for Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat. The name of Douglas was accepted because legislature was mostly Democratic at the time. It was planned to change the name at a later date but this was never done. It was actually desired to call the county “Richman” after the first white inhabitant, John Richman, who arrived in Camargo Township in May 1829.
An election was held to determine whether the county seat would be at Camargo, Arcola, or Tuscola. This event turned out to be a farce, with thousands of votes being polled in an area where the citizens were counted in hundreds.
A second election, held May 30, 1859, resulted in the choice of Tuscola. By 1860, the population of the county was 7,140.
A convention was held and the first county officers were as follows: James Ewing, judge; John Chandler, clerk; Andrew G. Wallace, circuit clerk and recorder; Samuel B. Logan, sheriff; William Hancock, assessor and treasurer; and Henry Niles, surveyor.
The people of the county voted in 1867 to adopt township organization and Lucious McAllister of Arcola, Joseph B. McCown of Camargo and Henry B. Evans of Tuscola were named commissioners to accomplish this objective. They divided the county essentially as it is today.
The first supervisors were Caleb Garrett of Garrett, Lemuel Chandler of Bourbon, Asa T. Whitney of Arcola, Oliver C. Hackett of Tuscola, George W. Henson of Camargo, Benjamin W. Hooe of Newman, Isaac W. Burgett of Sargent, and Benjamin Bowdre of Deer Creek.
When it was found that Deer Creek conflicted with a township of Tazewell County, the name was changed to Bowdre, for its first supervisor.
Douglas County found itself in the 15th judicial circuit, which also included Vermillion, Coles, Edgar and Clark Counties. The judges were Harlan, Steele and Davis, the first named presiding in sessions here.
The first court was held in the newly completed Illinois Central depot. Later, court was held on the second floor of the J.M. Maris store, at the northeast corner of Parke and Sale Streets.
City of Tuscola founded in 1857
(Originally published August 13, 1959)
The city of Tuscola was laid out in 1857 by officials of the Town Company, who had acquired the site–approximately one section of land–from the Illinois Central Railroad.
The town was plotted to provide 100 feet of right-of-way, east and west, for a proposed railroad. The Illinois Central had been built six years earlier and the prospect for another road added early impetus for the budding growth of the village.
The first house in Tuscola was moved here from Bourbon. It stands on the northwest corner of Daggy and Main Streets. The first building erected was at the railroad, in which Simon G. Bassett lived and served as postmaster, express and freight agent.
The first store was built by B.F. Lewis on the north side of the courthouse. It was later moved to Sale Street.
The city was chartered October 11, 1859. The first officials were James H. Martin, mayor; and E. L. Jordan, E. Price, M. Pugh and W. Taggart, aldermen.
For many years, much area in Tuscola was used as farmland. With the coming in 1952 of the USI and other allied industries, the need for living space had grown and most of the city area has long since been taken up.
Two new subdivisions adjacent to the city have been established. They are Meadowview subdivision and Southland Acres subdivision. Both are south of Route 36, the southern boundary of the city.
Another addition has been annexed to the city on the north. This is known as Parkview addition. Still another subdivision has been started south of Tuscola on land acquired from Lester L. Smith. This is known as Hillcrest subdivision.
The city now has a population of approximately 4,000 people. About 500 additional people live in area adjacent to the city limits.
The present city valuation is $9,050,648.
City officials now have charge of some 120 acres of paved and oiled streets, a 30-acre park with a swimming pool, a 5,000 capacity amphitheatre, baseball diamonds, restrooms, and scores of picnic tables.
The city operates a sanitary disposal plant, with an original cost of $250,000, and is soon to start the construction of a second plant and tributaries, which will cost $500,000.
A fully equipped volunteer fire department, headed by fire chief Douglas “Lucky” Ball, serves the city. Facilities include two fire trucks and a new firehouse, now in progress of construction.
Another city service is that of garbage and trash disposal, with Charles Dowler in charge.
The present city officials are Roy A. Toomey, mayor; O.B. Moorehead, clerk; O.B. Smith, treasurer; A.C. Baer, city attorney; Raymond Owen, police magistrate; R. E. Burns, Don McCumber, Wilbur Hoel, Walter Steiner, John N. Cunningham, Lewis Consoen, and William Alexander, aldermen.
Newspaper marks change in ownership
Editorial by Robert Hastings (Originally published April 9, 1970)
The transition from reporter to full ownership of a newspaper has been accomplished in gradual steps, due to an interim partnership that has existed between myself and Bert Quackenbush.
Nor are the community or the inner-workings of the paper strange since Tuscola has been my home for over 20 years and The Tuscola Review my means of livelihood for the past 13 years. For these things I am deeply grateful.
If I were new to the community and to the paper it would become necessary to set down a listing of newspaper policies. Since neither is true, and since most of you are acquainted with our policy at The Tuscola Review, we need not dwell on this further.
This does not, however, mean that there will not be changes at The Tuscola Review. The entire staff is constantly striving toward a better paper that is geared to serve a growing community. We have plans, hopes, fears, and regrets, just as does any other small business in these trying times.
As the new owner and publisher of The Tuscola Review, I pledge to our advertisers and subscribers as well as the residents of Douglas County, that I will continue to carry out the high principles always advocated by the distinguished gentlemen who have preceded me in the nearly 100 years of the paper’s existence.
I am extremely proud of our staff. We are fortunate to have Allen Mann as managing editor. Mr. Quackenbush has capably pointed out his assets in his farewell.
Our shop foreman, Robert Jackson, comes to us from Sullivan, and the Decatur Herald. He is an accomplished printer and has purchased the W.A. Irwin property which will become the new home for the Jackson family. Included are his wife, Lois, and daughter, Lisa.
Needing no introduction to most of you is our society editor, Mrs. Nora Collins. Mrs. Collins is both my right and left arm, and as you all know, a lady with whom it is a pleasure to be associated. Mrs. Collins has been a member of The Review family for nine years and we sincerely hope she will be with us many, many more.
Another vital member of the family is my wife, Beverly. She daily handles hundreds of details so necessary to any publication, and most important, keeps track of finances.
Our “gal Friday” is Freeda Evans. Freeda sets 99 percent of the news in type, and can be called upon to fill in almost anywhere in our production operation. Mrs. Evans and her daughter, Tammy Jo, make their home at Village Haven, Tuscola.
Rounding out our full-time staff are Larry Schweighart and Terry Bassett. These two young men run the press, cast advertising mats, and carry out the many hundred duties of printers.
Also vital to our operation are the many correspondents who bring you news from all parts of the county.
These are the people who make YOUR newspaper possible. Our best efforts will be put forth at all times to make this a live readable paper, advocating any movement or project for the betterment of the community. We will appreciate your continued good will and support.
Tuscola Journal’s history long and storied
Plainly, the Tuscola Journal story is many stories. But, in recording the various phases of the newspaper’s first 100 years of existence, the consideration of the guiding hands of the enterprise must take first precedence.
The Journal first saw the light of day (or perhaps literally, the light of a dim coal oil lamp) on a cold night late in February 1864. It was printed in a frame building that stood at the corner of Washington Street and South Central Avenue, and it was the work of the hands of E. C. Siler and Amasa S. Lindsay.
Mr. Siler must have been the more versatile of the two, as he had previously been in the grocery business and was county surveyor and real estate broker. He also had been a partner of Henry C. Niles in a drugstore.
History has recorded little about Mr. Lindsay. However, he must have been active in politics, as he first nominated Joseph G. Cannon for public office at a convention held in 1862 in Tolono. This was, for state’s attorney. Later “Uncle Joe” served for 50 years in the U.S. Congress and was the speaker for two terms.
At one time, Mr. Lindsay must have withdrawn from the firm, because in 1866, the publisher of the Journal was listed as E.C. Siler and Company.
No doubt he returned shortly, as on February 24, 1877, there was a publishing change from Lindsay and Chapman, to just Chapman.
Mr. Chapman sold out to John Thomas, (J.T.) Williams, on June 7, 1879. Mr. Williams was the father of the late Miss Elsie Williams, who was Tuscola’s librarian for over 30 years. He died at the age of 33 on July 4, 1881. Harry Johnson, who was working in the shop, conducted the paper until the end of that year. Reports have it that he was a man of ability but with an equal measure of fault.
G.M. and E.S. Glassco bought the paper in 1882 and ran it until 1892, when the latter withdrew and W.E. Bond of Charleston became a partner. This firm held forth until 1896, when Samuel Reat and Henry R. Caraway became editors and publishers. Mr. Reat had a long career on the Journal staff. He had been associated with Glassco and Bond and his service was continued for some 15 years.
MR. Caraway has spent six years in college and held the degree of Ph.D.
A.C. Sluss became publisher in 1898. He was a harness maker, who became postmaster and served two terms in this office. Mr. Reat again became publisher in 1900. At that time, the Journal absorbed the Tuscola Republican, which had been founded in 1884 by Dick and Charles M. Chapman. For five years, the paper was known as the Journal-Republican.
During the early years of the century, Mr. Reat was assisted at various times by Judge William H. Bassett, Charles Truitt and Rev. William McFadden. No doubt, the Journal enjoyed some of its best years while Mr. Reat was at the helm.
F.C. Bullington bought a controlling interest in the paper in 1911, and he was assisted by Mr. Reat and Mr. McFadden. Myron E. Bigelow bought the publication in 1914 and operated it until 1920. Previously, he had farmed and had engaged in the hardware business.
S.S. DuHamel, a young attorney and former state’s attorney, owned the paper from 1920 until January 8, 1925, when he sold to J.H. Patton. The late Fred “Jack” Haney served as editor for Mr. DuHamel, who was the author of a book on Illinois School Law that was published in the Journal shop.
Mr. Patton sold out to the late John Howk, who took over May 12, 1927. Mr. Howk had been associated with the weekly papers at Neoga, Assumption and Momence. Mr. Howk was succeeded by Ernest C. Foster on December 1, 1936.
Mr. Foster then sold the paper to Robert B. Pickard on April 1, 1938. Mr. Pickard was succeeded by Philip S. White, effective December 1, 1947. Mr. White served the longest continuous term of any of the editors.
While each of the publishers may have had his own ways, which were reflected in the publication, from the political standpoint, the Journal has always been Republican. Some of the men were ardent drys, and others were unprofessed wets. Some had strong tendencies, while other were far less devout.
Some were practical printers, while other had talents of a more literary nature. However, all of them had a common bond in their dedication to get a paper out every week. And this they did, for 100 years.
*The Journal Format
The Journal began its existence as a paper five columns wide and 18 inches deep. It was printed on rag content paper until 1880, when the use of wood pulp in paper-making began. At the turn of the century, it was changed to six columns and the depth of the page was lengthened to 20 inches.
It remained this way until the middle 1920s, when a seventh column was added. In 1944, it reverted to the tabloid size of five columns, 15 inches. Because of this size, it was often referred to as the “little paper.” It became a seven-column paper in January 1951, and later in the year, it was expanded to eight columns, with a depth of 22 inches, and this is the format used today.
The Journal has been printed in many locations in downtown Tuscola. For its first 20 years, the printing facilities did not require anything spacious. While the publication required more than “a shirtful of type and a hand press,” the mechanical demands were modest.
After its debut in 1864 at Washington Street and South Central Avenue, it occupied various upstairs rooms. In 1868, it was located “upstairs, north side of Sale Street.” In 1872, it was located on the second floor of the Commercial Block, which stood on the site of the present Community Building. Four years later, it was to be found in the “Union Block, upstairs, east side of the hall.”
It was later printed on the second floor of the Arthur building, Sale and Parke Streets, and was moved to the second floor of the Gus Flesor buildings shortly before the death of J.T. Williams.
The Glassco Bros. moved the plant in 1882 to the Coleman and Bright brick building on the South Central Avenue, in the approximate present location of the McCumber building. The second floor was used as the Masonic hall. It remained there until November 1905, when it was moved to 116 West Sale St.
In 1920, S.S. DuHamel moved the concern to 123 W. Sale Street. Mr. DuHamel had his law office in the front of the building. John Howk moved the Journal to 130 W. North Central Avenue. This home was much enhanced in 1959, when the front office was completely remodeled and a new front installed.
For the first 50 years of its existence, all the Journal type was set by hand. This meant that each letter had to be placed by hand and then returned to its case after the printing operation. During the 19th century, this work was done mostly by men, but with the turn of the century, women began to be employed at this task.
The first Linotype machine was installed in 1941. By its use, as much or more work would be accomplished in an hour as formerly could be done in a day. And after the type was used it need only be dumped into the melting pot.
The second Linotype, which was far more versatile, was purchased in 1927. For many years, the Journal was printed on a drum type press. Two pages were printed at a time and a sheet was printed each time the drum made its slow revolution.
The subsequent press, purchased in 1930, was a Miehle No. 1 two-revolution. Running at a much higher speed, it printed the sheet on one revolution and then delivered it on the second. It printed four pages at a time.
Additions to the Journal equipment in the 1960s included complete darkroom and photographic equipment, a photo-engraving plant, a proof press, complete casting equipment, an automatic offset press, power paper cutter, heavy duty saw, and a Ludlow typographic machine. The latter machine cast larger sizes of type, which meant none of the newspaper type had to be set by hand.