Rolling along US Hwy. 136 in west central Illinois on our way to Keokuk Iowa, we made a few more stops to photograph a scattering of historic places…
Our first stop was in Macomb, the county seat for McDonough County Illinois.
This is the former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Passenger Station in Macomb. The station was built in 1913. It’s now occupied by a travel agency and a taxi company.
Working with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Macomb made some renovations and upgrades to the station in the 1980s. Local government has also sponsored replacement of the brick surround and driveway with new brick. In the summer of 2014, the city made improvements to the parking lot, students from nearby Western Illinois University volunteered to paint the interior and residents of the McDonough County Jail painted the exterior and completed some basic carpentry work.
The Macomb Depot sits on tracks owned by the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad. Best of all, this is an active depot with the “Carl Sandburg” and the “Illinois Zephyr” providing service 4 times a day. There is even a waiting room! The Amtrak trains run between Chicago and Quincy Illinois. In 2015 this depot handled 71,231 passengers!
Macomb was founded in 1830 as the county seat of McDonough County. It's named after General Alexander Macomb, an American general in the War of 1812. War veterans were given land grants in Macomb, part of the Military Tract set aside by Congress. The Northern Cross Railroad built a line through Macomb in 1855. In 1938 that railroad had been the first to operate anywhere in Illinois.
Rolling on down the road, we came to Carthage Illinois. Carthage, founded in 1837 and with a population today of approximately 2,550, is the county seat for Hancock County.
This is the Hancock County Courthouse in Carthage. This Beaux Arts style structure was built in 1908 and it is the centerpiece of the Carthage Courthouse Square Historic District which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Courthouse square…with an earlier courthouse…has a bit of history going for it. Orville Browning was a judge here. He became a close advisor to Abraham Lincoln, also Secretary of State and Attorney General for the USA. Stephen Douglas not only spoke here, he also served as a circuit court judge. Of course, Lincoln spoke here too.
· In 1838 Lincoln gained the distinction of representing the only man to ever be hung in Carthage’s courthouse square. Efram Fraim was found guilty of murder. Because at the time Carthage had no jail, Fraim was kept at the Courthouse which was next to the school. Fraim would converse with the children from his second-floor window. As a result of these conversations, most of the school children were present when their new friend, Efraim, was hanged.
We couldn’t pass this magnificent and massive brick home without taking a photo… This is the Fitz Randolph house, a brick Italianate style home that was built in 1873. Dr. Randolph was a medical doctor served as a state legislator and who served on the Board of Trustees for Carthage College. Sadly, he died shortly after the home was completed. His wife was forced to take in washing and rent rooms in order to keep her home.
Today this is the Fitz Randolph House Inn…a bed and breakfast with 5 guest suites available. To check out the accommodations and learn more about this bed and breakfast, go to http://www.fitzrandolphhouseinn.com/.
This is the old Carthage Jail which was completed back in 1840. It’s the site of a sad chapter in American History. It was here June 27, 1844 that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saints movement, and his brother Hyrum were murdered by an armed mob of approximately 150 – 200 men.
It’s a long story, at least for my blog, but to summarize, Joseph had destroyed a printing press of a newspaper in the nearby city of Nauvoo Illinois. He was charged with the destruction of the printing press, including charges of inciting riot and treason. The destruction of the press also brought violent threats against Smith and the Mormon community by the non-Mormon populace in the area. Smith then declared martial law on June 18 and called out the Nauvoo Legion, an organized city militia of about 5,000 men to protect Nauvoo from outside violence. Illinois’ Governor, who was especially critical of the Mormon Religion, demanded that Smith turn himself in to face charges or the Governor would call out the State Militia. Smith and his brother were part of the group that surrendered to the Carthage Constable…
After their murder, the Smiths became martyrs in the eyes of the members of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The site and the city block it stands on is currently owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and has been established as a historical site and visitors' center. Go to https://www.lds.org/locations/carthage-jail?lang=eng&_r=1.
This is the former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy combination depot from Bushnell Illinois. This classic little depot is located on park-like grounds just north and a little east of Hamilton. I couldn’t determine when it was built…
· The Nagel Brothers of Bushnell were the first to invent a process of making rolled oats without having to steam the oats. Up until that time, the oats were first steamed to separate the groat from the hull. The patent for this new process was later sold to the Quaker Company.
· The Bushnell Horse Show has become one of the better draft horse hitch shows in the tri-state region. The Bushnell Horse Show features some of the best Belgian and Percheron hitches in the country. Teams have come from many different states and Canada to compete.
This depot is located in that same park-like setting. Looking at the reference materials that I could find on-line, I believe that this combination depot was formerly located in Burnside Illinois, an unincorporated community in Hancock County. If I’m correct, this depot was built in 1906 by the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad.
The Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad was founded as the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw Railroad back in 1863. This short line railroad continues to operate today, (153 years later!), with about 247 miles of track running from Mapleton, Illinois, through Peoria across Illinois to Logansport Indiana.
The 2 depots and a number of other old time structures such as this log cabin can be found on the grounds of the Western Illinois Threshers just a little north east of Hamilton Illinois and not far from the Mississippi River. When we were wandering around the grounds, there were a few folks who’d set up their campers in the peace and quiet to enjoy the weekend…
In the spring of 1968 a group of neighbors met in farm shop north of Hamilton, Illinois to discuss how they wanted to display their growing collection of antique tractors. Today this group has grown exponentially as Western Illinois Threshers, Inc. Their members work throughout the year to prepare for their 3-day annual show that educates, entertains, and strives to bring back fond memories of bygone ways of life.
The Threshers grounds have grown to 80 acres which accommodates 2 main buildings used as a meeting place, a food stand and exhibition area, a tractor headquarters and raffle buildings, the 2 railroad depots, an early 1900s school house, general store, print shop, a permanent steam-powered saw mill, sawyer's shed, two log cabins, a blacksmith shop, museum and an old-time gas station. In 1990, the ‘Western Illinois Shortline Railroad’ was established on the organization’s grounds.
In 2016, Western Illinois Threshers are holding their 49th annual 3-day from August 5th through the 7th. For more information including a plethora of photos, go to http://www.westernillinoisthreshers.org/schedule.htm.
Laurie had me stop as we headed back into Hamilton Illinois along the back road from the Western Illinois Threshers park-like setting. We both love the look of this beautiful little stone house with the tin roof!
Hamilton is the largest city in Hancock County Illinois but that wasn’t always the case. The town of Nauvoo, founded by the Mormons, is located just north of Hamilton. More of a historical site today, back in 1844, Nauvoo had a population of around 12,000! At that point, it was almost as large as Chicago… Nauvoo is an interesting place to visit. Operated by the Mormon Church, it is well maintained with many handsome buildings and it’s a true slice of Americana. We’ve been there a couple of times. Check it out at http://www.historicnauvoo.net/.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave