MECHANICSBURG TOWNSHIP - The township of Mechanicsburg is in the eastern portion of the county and in the second tier of townships from the north. It comprises government township 16 north, range 3 west, and is bounded on the east by Lanesville, west by Clear Lake, north by Buffalo Hart and south by Cooper township. The principal water course is Clear creek, which has several tributaries. The Wabash railroad passes through the township from east to west and on it are located two flourishing villages Dawson, with a population of 574, and Buffalo, with 531 inhabitants. On the line of the same railroad, in the eastern section of the township, is the county poor farm. The village of Mechanicsburg is the oldest of the three villages in the township, and was laid out by William S. Pickrell in 1832. It is situated about four miles south of Buffalo, with which it is connected by a short line of railroad, and has a population of 476.
The population of the township, including the villages, is 2,393.
This township is well supplied with schools and churches, and its people are among the most intelligent, enterprising and prosperous in the county.
The first settlement in the limits of Mechanicsburg township is said to have been made in 1824. Among the early permanent settlers we find mentioned the names of Jacob Constant, Charles Morgan, Josiah Green, Jesse Pickrell, William S. Pickrell, David and Benjamin L. Hall, Jacob Fullenwider and others.
"Dawson is located near an old Indian Trail, the general course of which was from Clear Lake to Buffalo Hart, one the their Camp Grounds being just south of Buffalo Hart. Dawson is borderd by Buffalo on the East, Riverton on the West, Buffalo Hart on the North and Mechanicsburg on the south.
"In about the year 1837 Sangamon County was one of the largest and most influential Counties in the State. It had 2 Senators and 7 Representatives, being much taller than the average of human nature, some of these men were less than 6 feet tall and some were more, but their combined heighth was just 54 feet. They were spoken then and still are as the "LONG NINE". JOHN DAWSON and ABRAHAM LINCOLN were two of the nine men mentioned in this group. Mr. Dawson helped secure the removal of the State Capital to Springfield, Illinois."
John Billington and Abner Wheeland were the first settlers in Dawson. Samuel Wolgamot was the first to erect a house in Dawson, a farm house called the J. Shankland house which stood farther in the Street until moved. This house is still standing on the corner of Walnut and Ledlie Streets, and known as the Charles Braden residence.
Mr. Billington and Mr. Wheeland came to Dawson in the Spring of 1853-1854 and erected their houses before the Town was laid out.
FIRST POSTMASTER AND RAILROAD AGENT
John Billington one of the first settlers in this Community was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire England, came to the United States In June 1840 and arrived in Springfield in August 1840. He had learned the business of Baker and Confectioner in England and established himself in that business in Springfield. He was married to Elizabeth Cannon who died in 1851 and in 1853 he was married to Rachel Constant at Buffalo Hart Grove. They had one child, Mary J., better known as Miss Janey who passed away at Dawson, Illinois at the age of 93 in November 1952. She made her home with the Constant family most of her life and at the time of her death was with Mrs. Lula Rentschler, formerly Constant.
Mr. John Billington erected a residence for himself in 1854, a short distance from the Wabash Depot site before the Station building was erected. When the Post Office was established in that year, he was appointed Postmaster which he held about 7 years, a part of which time was during the trying years of the Civil War. He was also the first Station and Express Agent at this place and was acting in that capacity until he died in 1905. He was one of the most unique characters in the Railroad annals of Illinois Veteran Station Agents. He enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest man continuously in the employ of the Wabash Railroad, having been on the payroll of the Company as Agent for 50 years.
The first Telegraph Dispatch was sent from Dawson to Springfield, Illinois on March 30, 1880 and returned by William R. Constant Jr. at the Wabash Railroad Company Depot. Mr. Constant was working as an apprentice under John Billington, Agent.
Mr. L. W. Abbott is the present Railroad Agent, having served about 40 years. Mr. Chester Stanton is the present Postmaster having succeeded the late Thomas Peddie, who acted in that capacity for 38 years.
THE FIRST SCHOOL HOUSE
Mr. Wm. Harrower deeded Lots 9 and 10 in Block 3 Original Town of Dawson in September 1867 to the Trustees of School, Township 16 North, Range 3 West of 3rd Principal Meridian. A two room school was built and was surrounded by a High Board fence with pointed top and the gates were locked every evening after school and unlocked in time for the children to enter the next morning. On February 13, 1895 the School House burned down and a more modern type brick school was constructed the same idea in fencing prevailed. Children were supposed to stay within the grounds during school session. There are now approximately 10 lots used for School premises. The school is no longer a High School and is known as the Dawson Grade School. All High School pupils from this Community are entered at Tri City High. Incidentally, Dawson was the first 3 year High School in Sangamon County, outside of Springfield.
The first Commencement Exercises ever to be held at the Dawson School were on May 3, 1889. It was quite an event and called forth an audience which packed the Hall to the door. The graduates were Misses Ollie Wheeland, Bell Bryant, Annie Ratcliff (Crane) and Trina Nielson. Prof. J. A. Richardson was the Principal of the School.
Louis A. Oder is now Superintendent of the Tri City Community School District.
THE FIRST BLACKSMITH
The first blacksmith in Town was supposedly S. T. Crim wno operated a Shop on Walnut Street between Constant and Ledlie. He later moved his Shop to Elm Street where the business was conducted at the back part of the Crim residence property in the shade of an old Cottonwood Tree. The Tree is still standing and must be 100 years old. When the cement sidewalks were laid in Town, this particular one was built around the Tree, rather than disturb the old landmark. (Same can be seen between the Lydia Cooper residence and Mrs. Mary Estrop residence). The Crim Shop was later rented out to J. Q. Johnson, who some years later began his own business on the site of the W. R. Crane property. Mr. Crim then tore the old Shop down. A large grind stone stood out in front of the Blacksmith Shop. Here the farmers came and sharpened their sickles and scythes. For a nickel the youngsters of the Village would turn the large handle for hours and thereby carry on the sharpening process.
Wooden hitch racks entirely surrounded the School yard and Stores and as high as 15 teams were tied, waiting their turn to be shod at the Crim Blacksmith Shop.
The Wabash Coal Company was organized in April 1880. Incorporators were Fred P. Wilms, Thos. P. Mowitt and W. Wilms, later it became the Dawson Coal Mining Company. It was organized May 25, 1918 and incorporators were Geo. W. Burton, E. B. Hamilton and L. Callahan. Coal was found abundantly at a depth of 250 feet and of excellent quality. Coal was hoisted in June 1881. The mine closed permanently June 3, 1924 and burned September 21, 1924. It operated 43 years.
THE FIRST ELEVATOR
The first elevator was operated by E. R. Ulrich and Company and later by J. L. Smith. The Office of the present Dawson Elevator Company was formerly the Bank of Dawson. One of the worst fires in the Community was the disastrous J. L. Smith elevator fire in 1904. The only thing that saved the Town was the heavy sheet metal covering of the building. The Wabash Depot was badly scorched and flying debris was carried many blocks. About 5 homes were set ablaze by the sparks.
Dominic DiGiovanni is Owner of the present Dawson Elevator Company.
The first church was organized in 1857 with 12 members and was known as The First Presbyterian Church. John Wilson and Thomas Wilson were the Trustees. John Ledlie deeded Lots 13 and 14 Block I.to the Trustees of the First Presbyterian Church and their successors. Among the first Ministers were Rev. J. G. Bergan, D.R. Todd, E. W. Thayer, W. G. Keady and B. E. Mayo. James Large was Village Blacksmith and served as the first Minister for said Church. In 1887 the Trustees of this Church deeded the property to the Trustees of the Christian Church of Dawson. J. M. Munson, James Large and Stephen Cooper were the Trustees. On April 26, 1930 at a meeting of the Board of Trustees it was decided to sell the Church and in April 1930 was sold to Margaret A. Morgan, one of the first members of the Church. The Wilsons, Wrights, Berrys, Richardsons and Constants were familiar names on the Roll.
THE METHODIST CHURCH
Aaron Morgan and wife deeded to the Trustees of the Dawson M. E. Church on April 7, 1863, Lots 1 to 6 Block 2 Original Town. In 1864 a small one room structure made of brick with a belfry was built. The brick used for building the church was molded from clay taken from the church yard. Rev. Mr. Peter Cartwright was Presiding Elder when the Church was built and preached in the building before it was plastered. Rev. Hiram Buck was assigned Minister. Oak lumber was used for the seats and bricks were under each end of the boards. This type seat was used for over a year. In 1881 through the efforts of B. F. Valentine a bell costing $50.00 was purchased for the Church and put in the belfry and as it rang out to a quiet agricultural people in the bygone days it seems to have just the right note for the restless rushing age of today. Among the first preachers were I. C. Kimber, G. W. Fairbanks and Archibald Sloan. Dawson was first a part of Mechanicsburg Circuit, then with Riverton until 1902 when Dawson formed a Pastoral charge. Rev. J. B. Houts was Pastor in charge during the latter part of the late war 1864-1865. When President Lincoln was killed the Church was draped in mourning for 30 days. A most remarkable event happened when the Revival meeting of 1887 brought forth 85 converted souls.
The Ladies Aid Society was organized in December 1903. The first sewing was making Carpet rags. Forty years after the building of the first church it was torn down and in 1904 under the leadership of Rev. James McCrory a new Edifice was constructed on the same site and dedicated February 5, 1905 by Rev. M.A.G. Byerly, Dist. Supt. Many and great were the sacrifices demanded to bring this work to completion. Those of the Building Committee were: Fred Rentschler, Henry Rentschler, H. M. Van Winkle, J. W. Gatton, W. R. Constant, Dr. John McGinnis, J. L. Smith, W. H. Matthews, Gisborn Scattergood, Jr., Rev. J. McCrory, Jane Peddie, Mrs. John McGinnis and Mrs. W. H. Matthews. The building cost $7 000 exclusive of ground. It had a tower 60 feet high which was removed in 1947. The Trustees were Geo. Harnsberger, Isom Enlow, Jacob Constant, William R. Constant and Anderson W. May.
In 1947 the teeth of time had made deep inroads on the building and the Trustees found it necessary to make extensive repairs and improvements. A remodeled Tower, a re-built Chimney, new Oak Doors for the front entrance, beautifully decorated interior, new cement steps to the Portals and was re -dedicated Sunday October 19, 1947 under the supervision of the late Rev. Herman Schreiner. Rev. Harvey B. Wright is the present Pastor.
Bales, Baugh, Billington, Bullough, Blackmore, Bumgardner, Burns, Bracken, Cass, Cartmel, Correll, Cooley, Constant, Cooper, Crim, Curry, Danley, Daugherty, Dawson,Enlow,Estrop, Fain, Ford, Fowkes, Fleming, Garrett, Gravendeck, Gillett, Hardy, Huckelberry, Hicks, Houts, Hooner, Judd, Kirkpatrick, Kelley, Large, Lewis, Ledlie, Lanham, Matthews, May, Metcalf, Morgan, Mowitt, Munson, Myres, McElleny, Norred, Peddie, Phares, Pope, Reay, Ross, Rhape, Redding, Ratcliffe, Rentschler, Richardson, Sexton, Scattergood, Smith, Schultz, Shinkle, Shankland, Stowe, Timmons, Talbott, Taylor, Van Winkle, Wheefand, Wolgamot, Welch, Wilkenson, Williams, Wilson and many others.
Aaron Morgan one of the landmarks of pioneer times came here in childhood and was an eye witness to much of the development of this Section. He bore a part in the labors by which a tract that was only fit for the haunts of wild beasts and savages became a beautiful and productive, highly civilized community. Mr. Morgan grew to maturity amid the surroundings of a pioneer farmer's home. He became the owner of 600 Acres of land including the spot where his father's family had camped on their arrival here, while building their cabin home. Their own home was a log house 18 x 20 without doors or windows. They were greatly troubled by wild animals and at one time were attacked by a number of catamounts.
Jacob Constant one of the early permanent settlers was born in 1765 in Virginia. He was married to Eleanor Clinkenbeard in Virginia. They moved on pack horses through the mountainous country to Fleming County, Kentucky, where 14 children were born and later moved to Ohio where 2 more children born. They settled in Mechanicsburg Township in 1826. Their son Isaac moved to Dawson in 1827. Rachel, the daughter of Isaac was married to John Billington and Mary A., another daughter was married to Alfred Rhape in 1871. They were the parents of Jesse C. Rhape who has been making his home at St. John's Hospital since 1945, having received permanent disability through a Bus accident in December 1944. The elder Mr. Rhape served in the 124th Illinois Infantry Co. K. in 1862 and engaged in 15 battles of the War. (The Rhape home is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Abbott). A daughter, Sarah E. Constant was married to Horatio M. Van Winkle and the Van Winkle home is now the residence of the Roy Curry's.
Strother G.Jones, born in Lincoln County, Kentucky in 1813 was married to Lucy Newton in 1834 and embarked at Louisville on a steamboat and came to Beardstown, and from there by wagon road and finally stopping at Springfield in 1836. He was City Marshall of Springfield, acting Justice of the Peace and Postmaster at Dawson at the same time. He took an active part in organizing the Old Settler's Society. He later developed a splendid farm in Mechanicsburg Township where he raised high grade stock and fine horses.
Abner Ford was born in Williams Township in 1840. His father and grandfather were natives of Virginia. He cultivated 160 acres of land adjoining Dawson on the North. Mr. Ford and C. E. Wheeland laid out and made an Addition to the Town of Dawson, known as A. T. Ford's Addition, the plat of which was recorded in 1892. He was married to Rebecca McGinnis in 1874. W. 0. Ford was the only son and he lives in the old Ford Home. Mr. Abner Ford was an earnest Republican since voting for General Grant in 1868. He enlisted in the defense of his country in 1862 in the 114th Illinois Infantry. He was one of the first members of the Christian Church. Mr. W. 0. Ford is ex-officio Supervisor of Mechanicsburg Township, having served in that capacityfor 16 years.
John H. Shankland born in May 1826 did much toward building up the Town of Dawson. He came to Illinois in 1856. He was a veteran of the Civil War and was wounded in the Battle of Corinth and carried a bullet in his head all the rest of his life. He came to Dawson after being mustered out of service and married Mrs. Mary Constant Rinker. Mrs. Shankland had one child by her first marriage, Antoinette Metcalf who had one son Don R. Metcalf who lives North of Dawson on the old home farm.
John Gelling born in the City of Douglas, Isle of Mann came to America in 1830 and entered 160 acres of land in 1839. He later traded it for 160 acres 2 1/2 miles South of Dawson where he lived with a sister.
Charles H. Cooley came to Sangamon County in 1844 farming in Clear Lake Township, Buffalo Hart Grove and Spaulding until the time of his retirement when he located at Dawson. His daughters Lillie Cooley and Mrs. Jennie Brake were teachers in the Dawson Public School.
Marquis Judd, retired farmer of Dawson whose parents were Resin and Eve (Shinkle) Judd. The father emigrated with his parents from Kentucky to Ohio when he was 5 years old. The family settled in Clermont County, that State, lived there 28 years when they moved to Illinois making the journey by wagon and passing through woods and unbridged streams. They found the new country plentifully peopled by Indians. They acquired 208 acres of Government land 2 miles East of Clear Lake where they made improvements and farmed until 1857. In 1858 they traded their land for houses and a stock of merchandise in Dawson where the elder Judd died in 1876. Their son William W. managed a store at Dawson on Lewis Street between Walnut and Main. Resin A. V. Judd was Agent for the Illinois Traction System at Dawson and Marquis was the first carrier on Dawson Rural Delivery Route No. 21, which he drove for 6 years. Resin A. V. married Sarah Bolinger in 1876 and were parents of one daughter Nellie who taught in Dawson Primary Grades for many years.
Ferdinand Young, one of the foreign born citizens whose thrift and industry added to the worth of the community and the value of property in the great common wealth. In 1863 he came across the briny deep believing a broader life awaited him in the new world. He learned the trade of a barber and worked as a tonsorial artist in St. Louis, Missouri. Feeling an interest on the preservation of the Union he entered the 12th Missouri Cavalry. At the close of the war he was sent with a detachment to fight Indians. After being mustered out he settled down to the pursuit of agriculture South of Dawson. After his death his wife Catherina resided with her daughter, Mrs. Emma Weisbrodt, just South of Town.
John Rodgers was a successful merchant and well known citizen of Dawson. He was employed in the Coal Companys to rein l880-1898 when he returned to Scotland till 1901. When he returned he engaged in mercantile business with Thomas A. Morgan. They carried a line of groceries and Yankee notions and continued in Partnership until 1905 when Mr. Morgan passed away. He then conducted the enterprise on his own account. Mrs. Jessie Rodgers continued to operate the store after the death of her husband. Familiar sites in the store were barrels of flour, large wooden boxes of bacon, barrles of sugar, cheese boxes, coal oil pumps, vinegar pumps, coal oil lights. All the school kids loved to go to Mrs. Rodger's store at recess for a snack.
Amaziah Ratcliff located in Dawson in 1852 upon a farm which comprised 80 acres. His wife, Sarah passed away in Dawson in 1892 leaving 3 children, James, Amaziah and Eliza, wife of Walter Judd, a business man of Dawson. Amaziah Ratcliff II married Permelia Shankland in Dawson in 1867 who died in 1875 leaving 3 children, Ida, Effie and Anna, later Anna Crane, now deceased. He later married Emma Wright a native of England. She was educated in Illinois and became the mother of 4 children, namely Arthur, Lorrine, Fannie and John. Mr. Ratcliff served 6 years as President of the Village Board of Dawson. He was a veteran of the Civil War and was in the seige at Vicksburg. Was discharged at Camp Butler in 1865. His daughter, Mrs. Lorrine Bardrick lives on Walnut Street, the site of her father's last home.
John D. Waters born in 1851 in Sangamon County, was one of the foremost stockmen of Sangamon County. He conducted his interests in Mechanicsburg Township where he had a large well ordered farm finely adapted to stock raising purposes and had one of the finest and best kept herds of cattle in the State. He attended many State Fairs with prize cattle. His father was one of the early settlers of this County. Mr. Waters became an extensive land owner and stood high in financial circles for square and honorable dealing. He was an accomplished rider and was often seen about the town. His brick home South of Town is now occupied by his son Homer F. and daughter, Miss Emma Lorrine.
Dr. John McGinnis was a capable member of the medical profession for over 30 years in Dawson. He was a member of Co. B. 130th Ill. Infantry in the Civil War. Dr. McGinnis was assigned to Western Army under the command of General Grant. He received his honorable discharge in 1865. He then took up the study of medicine and graduated from Medical College in 1869. He at once located at Dawson where he entered upon the practice of his profession. He was married in 1873 to Miss Mary L. Broad of Trimble County, Kentucky. They had 3 daughters, Misses Mary, Cora and Lula. Miss Cora is the only survivor. She resides in Springfield, Illinois.
Timothy Welch, Tiler and apple orchard owner planted the Maple trees that once lined Main Street. Some are still standing, others have been replaced. He had five daughters. Mrs. Nellie Welch Maher of Lincoln, Illinois is the only survivor.
Duncan Ross operated a general store in Dawson until his weight of years induced him to retire from active life. His wife survived him a number of years and was known as "Granny". Their home was the site of the Everett Lercher residence.
0. R. Saunders operated one of the first stores on the corner of Constant and Main and is now the Crane and Lercher Store.
Rentschler Bros. Store, a partnership consisting of John and Henry Rentschler operated on Main Street for many years. Another brother Fred Rentschler first operated the store alone and later took up farming 1/4 mile South of Town. John Rentschler served as Supt. of Dawson Sunday School for many years and Fred was a prominent figure in the church. The Fred Rentschler farm is now occupied by a son, Otto T.
Willenborg Hardware Store started in business on the corner of Walnut and Constant Street in November 1908. It was a two story Concrete building. The second floor became the meeting place of the Masonic Lodge. This was removed some years ago and at present is a one story Grocery Store operated by W. R. Nation.
Jim Mathews, the butcher was a familiar figure in the old days. Children used to line up on butchering day to get "Free Liver".
James E. Ratcliff, local carpenter, invented the original Gould Car Coupler in his little shop here in this Village. He made a wooden model but never obtained the patent himself. Heresay is others copied the patent from his model. He made many of the local ironing boards.
Nannie Jones was Postmistress for many years in a small office just North of the Davis Home. Miss Nannie was quite a familiar figure among school children years back. Her father, Alfred Jones also served as Postmaster for the Village.
On May 18, 1883 a Cyclone struck one-half mile South of Dawson and turned East across the Country between Dawson and Buffalo uprooting trees and over turning buildings.
The Odd Fellows Hall, now Masonic Hall was once a gathering place for Box Socials, Dances, Home Talent Plays and the Silent Movie.
A Sunday afternoon pastime in the ole days was driving a fancy buggy and fine horse on the Shale road from Dawson to Buffalo. Most all other roads were just mud and dirt - no Oil! no blacktop!
The Official Lamp Lighter for the Town was R. S. Garrett. Wooden Lamp Posts stood on the corners at top of which was a kerosene lantern. Mr. Garrett made the rounds each evening with his ladder, lighting up the town and in the morning turning out the lights. The same type lantern is now used for Ornamental yard lights.
Wooden sidewalks covered the Town. Fences surrounded almost every residence. Electricity was furnished the Village in 1917. Thus we acquired the modern street lighting.
The worst sleet storm since 1883 came December 18 and 19, 1924 breaking down many trees, light wires, telephone wires and shutting off means of travel for days. Telephone wires were down for months, Candles were burned in the homes for quite a spell. This was the beginning of the Toll charge to Springfield and vicinity.
Do you recall the big freeze of May 1925 when all fruit, vegetable, floral and farm crops were killed?
Six young men from this Village became engaged in the Medical Profession namely: Dr. James L. Taylor, now deceased; Dr. Thomas Morgan, now deceased; Dr. David A. Morgan, now deceased; Dr. Louis Curry, Dr. Truman Rentschler and Dr. William H Cooper.
Dr. Chas H. Norred son of Wm. Norred born in 1842 near Rochester Illinois began his practice in Dawson.
Dr. W. E. G. Mayes, brother of Dr. Corwin Mayes of Springfield practiced medicine here for many years. He is now deceased. He was the first person to own an Automobile in Dawson.
Dawson contributed its share of manhood in the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Korean Conflict. 2 boys gave up their lives in World War II. Brownie Pope, son of Mrs. Clarence Pope was mortally wounded at Okinawa. Billy Heinrich, son of Mrs. Chester Kitchen, perished at Sea.
Abstracted from "Dawson Centennial", 25 Jul 1954.
In Spring of 1828 Jesse Pickrell, being the first to come to the county, stopped in what is now Mechanicsburg township and was married to Elizabeth Churchill. In 1829 Jesse Pickrell taught the first school on section 27, west of what is now Mechanicsburg. In 1830 he was postmaster of a post office established under the name of "Clear Creek, P. O."
After more families came into this surrounding community and with the county established, there was need for a village. William S. Pickrell, brother of Jesse Pickrell, entered the land on which Mechanicsburg now stands, laid out the original town, having a block in the center for a park, and later making two additions. He offered to give a lot to any mechanic who would build a building and pay for the title. Hence the name MECHANICSBURG. The sale of lots took place November 16, 1832. The town was described as the East half of the S.W. Quarter of Section 26 and part, of the East half of the North West Quarter of Section 26,Township 16, Range 3 West. Mechanicsburg was not incorporated until 1869. The post office was then changed from Clear Creek to Mechanicsburg with Thomas Fortune as the villages first postmaster. He later entered the merchantile business for many years and left about the close of the rebellion. Mrs. Elizabeth Butts, a daughter of Thomas Fortune, had a boarding house about the year 1859 in a building built by Dr. Leeds, built on the lot where Leonard Belts now lives.
As the needs of the community began to grow, other men opened up different lines of business. William D. Spain was the first wagon maker and William Parks had the first blacksmith shop. John Dawson was the first Justice of the Peace.
Religious devotion being inherent in these early settlers, almost immediately after adjusting themselves to the situation, religious services were begun in the home of Jesse Pickrell. Some of these early settlers served in the Black Hawk War in 1832. William S. Pickrell volunteered and served three terms in this war. He was Lieutenant, then made Major and Lieutenant-Colonel of the militia.
Jesse Pickrell had a tan yard west of the present Pickrell cemetery. After conducting it for a number of years, he sold it to Nathan Smith, who moved it to another part of town.
Villlages and towns were few and far apart, and business was varied and conducted in peculiar ways in earlier
days until the trend towards modern conveniences.
In 1835 Crawford and Crealy were the first merchants and had their stores in the east room of the old Byerline house; Mr. Pease living in one part. When they opened their store, there was no place nearer than Springfield where merchandise could be bought and the "Sangamo" River (as it was then called) had to be crossed by flatboats near the present site of Riverton.
Mrs. Miles Wilmot, daughter of Morris Bird, told that when her father built his house in 1835, it was considered a very fine one because it had a brick chimney. The site of this house would have been on the north side of Main St. near the northeast corner, on the Norman Smith Farm Supply property. She also mentioned about having seen sheep killed by wolves on the prairie east of their house. This house was one of the land marks of down town and was known as the "Bird House" and was used as a post office by David Isaacs, postmaster about 1915.
The following item was published in a Springfield paper in 1838. "Mechanicsburg, 15 or 18 miles east of Springfield, contains 12 or 15 families, two stores, a tavern (at that time applied only to an inn or hotel), a Post office, a school, and about 25 buildings. Lots are worth $lO-$30 each. As the country is fine and well settled in the neighborhood, it is reasonable to suppose that with the start it has already attained, it will grow to some importance".
The village was located on what is known as the "Old State Road", hence the reason for the tavern mentioned in the above item. It was used by a stage coach line and for travellers to rest over nights, also used for meals and changes of horses. By whom it was built or when has not been kept in records of the village, and those whose memories that one depends upon for data has long since passed on. But it was located on the property and exact spot (data given by Leslie Holmes) of the new Mechanicsburg Fire Engine House built in 1954.
In the fall of 1838 William and Upton Radcliff opened a store, and about this time Wesley Hathaway and B. L. Hall opened another store.
In 1841 an Englishman by the name of Rowell built a steam saw and flour mill in the southwest part of town which he operated until 1850, when he sold it to the Dunnick Brothers who afterwards replaced it with a larger mill on the same site.
In 1844 the Thompson Brothers (A.T. and Harvey) purchased the Radcliff store and conducted the business until 1857 when A. T. Thompson sold his interest to his brother Joseph. In 1873 the Thompson Brothers (Harvey and Joe) built a brick store where the post office now occupies the old Bank building on the northwest corner of First Cross St. and Main St.
The First Bank was built of brick by A. T. Thompson and was known as the Thompson Brother's Bank in about 1873. At this time it was the only, bank between Springfield and Decatur. William Grout, son of Priscilla Thompson, was the cashier. In this same location several years later the Bank became the property of J. T. Fullenwider.
About 1887 the Thompson Brothers retired from business and Ed. P. Thompson and Samuel Nesbitt took charge of the business. Later Nesbitt sold to J. F. Fulleniqider and Thompson; this partnership continued until,1891 when Mr. Thompson bought his partner's interest and later sold to R. E. Alvey.
Mrs. Hazelrigg, who was the oldest woman in town at the time of the Centennial in 1932., being 90 years of age, came with her father's family when 11 years old in 1853, remembered many interesting happenings of the early days. Her father was John T. Dunn who came from Kentucky in three covered wagons and built his house on the corner of the lot where Charles William (Bill) Taft now owns and resides. The Taft home is the original home (what was then two rooms with a lean-to kitchen) of Robert Dunn, the brother of John T. Dunn. They both did blacksmith work in the village. John T. Dunn was the great grandfather of Mrs. Earl T. Sample (Irene).
According to Mrs. Lucy Hazelrigg, there were only a few houses here when she came, and people told her the oldest was that of Mrs. Elizabeth Burch, which was built in 1826 and was across the street from the Dunn home, on the north which at this time would be where the S. D. Caruso family now resides.
During this early period the village had never had a licensed saloon until a certain man in 1853 started one in connection with a boot and shoe store. The ladies of Mechanicsburg, headed by Mrs. Harriet Langston with funds raised by the community, purchased his stock and poured it into the street and attempted to set fire to it. He promise never to sell liquors again, but of course, he didn't keep his promise and the citizens agreed to boycott his business. This was very effective and the man left town.
In 1839 or 1840 a woolen mill was built and operated for about ten years by Andrew Lindsey; it was patronized by farmers for miles around and was located south of the Henry Lochbaum house, (house south of the present M.E. Church).
In 1859 Frederick Snelling, who was a coffin maker, came to Mechanicsburg and started his business in a shop on what would be now located on the northwest corner of First Cross St. and Main, just across the street, west of the present post office. He conducted this business until his death in 1885. He built his home in the southwest part of town in 1859, and it still stands on the original spot. At the present time it is the home of the Atterberry's. Mr. Snelling was the grandfather of Mrs. William Prior (Marie).
In 1859 William (Billie) Hall opened a store selling boots and shoes, also dry goods. Later he added groceries and conducted the business for two years.
Also about--this time George Hall and Mr. Fisher had a store in one part of the Leeds building. Mrs. Butts had a boarding house in the other part.
A boarding house of most importance was built for Mrs. J. N. Sparrow by her husband, who at the same time conducted a new blacksmith shop. This boarding house is still on the original location and is the home of Mrs. Preston Combs, located on Main St. second house from Church St. It has been kept in good repairs and is a historical spot known by most people as "The Sparrow House". This was built in 1858 or 1859.
In 1860 James Freeto started a tin shop in the Leed's building called "the Row". Later he moved his shop into the old Elkin building and added hardware.
A favorite place for women of the community to combine shopping with exchange of news was to go to the milliner's shop, in the Row, operated in 1865 by Mrs. John Bird and Mrs. Elizabeth Caman. Hats then were not bought ready made. First the frame was selected, then the trimmings, be it flowers or feathers or ribbon according to the season, and then wait for it to be made. Next year the hat or bonnet might be returned to be remodeled.
In 1860 J. N. Bird started a drug store on the corner of First Cross and Main. This corner was known as the Thompson corner. It is now the property of Norman Smith Farm Supplies.
In 1864 F. H. Weber had a harness shop in the Cyrus Correll building; this was a most important industry for the machinery age was not even thought about as yet.
In 1872 the Pickrell Cemetery Association was organized and the grounds northeast of town were plotted and sold to several families. There are at least five generations of the Pickrell family laid to rest, with William Pickrell the founder of Mechanicsburg and his brother Jesse, the grandfather of the late Harry Pickrell, among them.
About 1873 Allen Hall and Andrew Freeto had a grocery store in the Elkin building.
Mr. J. N. Bullard, contractor and builder opened a shop about 1882 which he operated until his death. Mr. Bullard built most of the larger homes of Mechanicsburg and several in Sangamon County. His daughter, Mrs. Leonard (Alite) Belt, now is living in the J. N. Bullard home place on Main St. and Second Cross St.
In 1881 R. A. Farmer, who formerly conducted a shoe shop, went into grocery business with Peter Gore in the McNeill building. Later Mr. Farmer sold his interest to Simon Rogers and opened his own store where he continued until he retired.
In 1884 or 1885 Mr. Stooky started a brick and tile factory in the southwest part of town which he later sold to Edward Bennett and James Barbre, who operated it for a number of years.
In 1895 a creamery was built by the farmers of the community who delivered their milk there each morning to be separated and made into butter. After a few years, the creamery was burned and never replaced.
Samuel Farmer came to our town in 1897 and went into business with Jacob Ebeniger, in now what is the Legion Hall.
In 1906 some of the citizens organized the Mechanicsburg Coal Co. and sunk a shaft on the John Garvey land north of town. After a few years this had to be discontinued for difficulty within the mine which would have incurred more money than could have been secured, or it would have taken too many years to have realized the returns of such an investment.
Miss Ida Freeto., she stated that the following were the functioning businesses at that time: The postmistress was Miss Pauline Gragg. Ellis Schultz and Pearl Garren owned the two barbershops. Harry Smith was the propietor of the restaurant on the south side of Main St.
William Regan and Joel Stewart operated the two filling stations. Most of the old homes have been replaced by modern ones till there are very few of the old homes left to tell the story of the early settlers.
The fraternal orders were Globe Lodge #323-I.O.O.P., Carlock Lodge #904--A.F. & A.M., Hawthorne Lodge #569--K. of P., Buckthorn Camp #570 M., W. A. Helena Chapter #221--Rebeccas, Crystal Camp #128 --Royal Neighbors, Lock-wood Chapter #844--Order of the Eastern Star.
The social clubs were the Half Century, The Just Us, and the Aracline; the Civic Club--The Mechanicsburg Woman's Club with Mrs. John E. Fullenwider, President.
The members of the town board were Mayor John Ostermeier, Council --Sam Farmer, Everett Dragoo, Desire Hourez, Elvin and Earl Coe, Clerk - Donald Wilson, Police Magistrate - Ellis Schultz, Justice of Peace - J. F. Hall, and Marshal - Clark Semple.
In 1836 the first school house in the village was built on land given for that purpose by William Pickrell. It was only 18 feet square and stood where the M. E. Church now stands.
Abraham Bird was the first teacher with hardly enough pupils to fill two or three benches. In July of 1838 Rev. MatthewDutton and wife, Elizabeth Carpenter Dutton arrived in Mechancisburg, both being teachers and in the absence of any school house and system, built a school house, and lived and taught in it for about twelve years. It was a frame building plastered inside and out and was almost snow white. In 1849 the Old Seminary was built in the southwest part of town and was used until about the close of the Civil War. Mrs. Dutton was one of the first teachers and Mr.Northcott was one of the last teachers. The Seminary was located on the south side of Seminary St., and for many years, the impression could be noticed for a long time of the land where it was built. In 1854 the citizens raised the money and built the Academy, a two story brick building located where the present school house stands. School opened with four teachers and pupils came from all parts of the country to attend. But it didn't last and in 1862 was sold at auction to the District for a public school; this was the first free school for Mechanicsburg. In 1887 a three year high school course was added to the grade school. Then to obtain the fourth years, the pupils must finish either by going to Illiopolis or Springfield High, which many did. In 1899 the Old Academy was torn down and the present school house built.
The first account given as to the first doctor in Mechanicsburg is concerning Dr. Peter LEEDS building a sanitarium in the village in 1836. It was a long row of buildings, two stories high, built close to the side walk and stood where the Leonard Belt's home is now, formerly owned by Mrs. Belts family, the J. N. Bullards. Here he had residence until 1859 when he moved to Buffao and the buildings were rented to several families. In 1872 Dr. Robert NcNeill built a brick building on the north side of Main St., where he and Benjamin Giger conducted a drug store. Dr. McNeill was born in Mechanicsburg, Dec 23, 1840 the son of William McNeill, who studied medicine and graduated from college in Philadelphia and came first to Petersburg in the Spring of 1839 and then moved to Mechanicsburg that Fall. Dr. R. McNeill married Eliza Taft of Rochester.
A Dr. Josiah Brown once lived in the village, but the only data that could be found about him was that he built a typical Kentucky mansion with wid ehall running through it and ahd a red brick building office on his property that was used by his brother-in-law Dr. Foster, to live in, who was once a fine phsycian but had mental trouble. This house became the property of the Clark Semple family, and from them to Mrs. Anna Mendenall and is located on the north side of Main St. and Fourth St., across the the "Sparrow House". Dr. Brown preceded Dr. Riddle and his travels were by horse back. In 1873 Dr. H. R. Riddle, lcoated in the village, became "the Country Doctor", everyone's friend and comforter in distress; and traveled miles and miles riding in a gig, a sleigh, a buggy or astride Old "Brant" through the fields and when the roads were impassable. Dr. Riddle graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago, IL in 1873 and practiced almost all of his life after he was married. His office was located and is still standing--the first house east of the Mechanicsburg Implement Company.
OLD LIVING CITIZENS (1957)
Mrs. Crane recalls her wedding dress with all its frills and ruffles upon it. It was made by Miss Hattie Kaup who ran a dress making shop in her home and who lived in what is known as the "Bruce Brown" home on the north side of Main St., now owned by Harry Pfeiffer family of near Dawson.
Miss Kaup, who married Sam Follis of Springfield, passed away just last year. She was a cousin of Mrs. Raymond (Florence) Kent living south of Mechanicsburg on the black-top road about three miles. Until a recent interview with Mrs. Harry Green, a daughter of Mrs. Crane's, living next door just west of her mother's home on Railroad St., the details of this knowledge was not known to these families. Mrs. Sam Follis's family in Springfield were very close friends of Mrs. Crane's granddaughter's family, the Kenneth Louchbaums.
Mr. William (Bill) Ealey, age 86, came to Mechanicsburg from Farmingdale, Illinois, in 1887. He married Miss Martha Hancock.
Mr. Ealey, called by most every one as "Uncle Bill", is the oldest man residing in Mechanicsburg at this time.
In 1938 he had as a partner Mr. William (Bill or Cotton-eye) Ross, who is now deceased. They ran a pool room in the Carl Farmer Garage Buildings which at that time was located first door east of the old Cyrus Correll building, formerly owned by R. A. Fanner, and now is the property of the Mechanicsburg Implement Company.
The history of the Mechanicsburg Christian Church had its beginning between the years of 1842-1846. A group of forty to fifty people I gathered at the home of Willoughby Churchill and organized the Church of Christ. Mr. William Pickrell donated the ground for the church lend parsonage; he also personally supervised making the brick in his own kiln. The building was started in 1854 and was dedicated in 1857 by Alexander Campbell, the found of the Christian Church of America. Among the leaders were the Pickrell's, Hampton's, Garvey's, Elkin's, Churchill's, Mrs.Langston and others.
In 1837 the Fullenwider, Bullard, Morgan, Hall, Constant, Correll and Bird families, who were Methodist from Kentucky, organized a society and built their first church. This was used until 1863 and then made into a dwelling by Stephen Short. In 1861 the building of the present church was started. Josiah Smith was the architect, his brother William, and John Carman. During construction it was used for a recruiting station for Civil War Soldiers, and in August 1862 many of the members of Co. A, 73rd IL Inf. enlisted there. William Smith was Captain; Edward Bennett, lst Liet.; Thomas J. Underwood, 2nd Liet.; and Oliver McDaniel, Sgt. Others in the company were Emanuel Cross, Thomas Fortune, William Hazelrigg, P. H. Kiser, Jack Hesser, D. C. Fletcher, John Carman, John North, James Northcott, John Churchill, Richard and Thomas Baker, W. S. Bullard, and W. H. Bullard. The church was finished in 1863 when J. Montgomery was pastor.
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