1879 History of Menard & Mason Counties
Published by: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Mason County

Mills, Manufactories, Etc.
Page 522

The first mill in Havana was commenced by Thomas and Eliphaz Low. Before its completion, Pulaski Scoville bought an interest in it, and, after finishing it, they operated it for a time, when Scoville bought out the Lows, Francis Low had money invested in it. He tells the following story of his experience while interested in the business: He and Scoville were cutting saw-logs over in the bottom one spring, when the river was very high, and the bottom overflowed to the depth of several feet. They would row their boat to a tree, cable fast to it, and then cut the tree down, always cutting on the side of the tree first in the direction they supposed it would fall. They attacked a large oak one day, in their boat, as usual, and where the water was about six feet deep. Scoville thought the tree would fall one way, and Low thought it would fall the other; but Scoville, who was a somewhat determined man, would have his way. Finally, however, when the tree fell, it went down in the opposite direction to that which Scoville thought it would. Low looked up and saw it coming, and called to Scoville to get out of the way. One jumped from each side of the boat into the water, and it was cold as ice, while the tree came down on their boat, shivering it to splinters, leaving them in a worse fix than Crusoe on his island. Fortunately for them, there were two other men cutting logs in the bottom within hearing of them, who came to their rescue.

This mill was used for sawing only, and was located at the foot of the "Island of Cuba," or rather opposite the foot of the island, and was run by steam. Upon it was sawed the timber used in building the first railroad in Illinois, as noted elsewhere in this history. There was machinery procured at one time for a grist-mill for this establishment, but, we believe, was never put into it. The mill was employed mostly in sawing heavy timbers, such as are used in large buildings, and was patronized to a considerable extent by Alton and St. Louis. It was finally burned down. There are hints that its destruction by fire was due to the feud engendered between Havana and Bath in regard to the county seat question, but those who are informed on the subject and have a right to know, scout the idea, and maintain that it was accidental, which theory is doubtless the correct one.

About 1857-58, William C. Thompson put up a distillery on the corner of Plum and Jefferson streets, which he operated successfully for a number of years. To it was attached a corn-mill for the purpose of grinding material for the distillery. Before the erection of the distillery, Thompson had carried on a brewery for a time near the same place. In both ventures he made money, and finally built a large flouring-mill on the site of the present Havana Mills, north of town, which was burned about 1864-65. He then erected the Havana Mills, now owned by F. D. Coggeshall. About 1867-68, he sold these mills to James Hole and his son-in-law, Thomas Jones, and built another large mill over the river. After some changes in ownership, the Havana Mills passed into the hands of Mr. Coggeshall, as above noted. They comprise a frame building, excellent machinery and three run of buhrs, together with all other attachments of a first-class mill.

The Havana Brewery, located a little south of the city limits, and operated by Dehm & Hoffman, is quite an extensive establishment of the kind, and does a large business in the manufacture of the favorite beverage of the Fatherland. This and the mills mentioned, together with a large number of wagon, blacksmith shops, etc., comprise the extent of Havana's manufacturing interests. It seems to us, however, that the city, with the benefit of its railroads and the Illinois River, presents an excellent opening for enterprising business men and mechanics, and that there are not at least agricultural implement manufactories, if no other, is to us a matter of some surprise. This would keep a large sum of money at home that is annually taken out of the county for these indispensable articles.

The grain trade of Havana is the most extensive business of the entire county, and dates back almost to the very first settlements. In looking up the history of the grain interests, we find that Pulaski Scoville bought 1,000 bushels of corn from a Mr. Reese, "who lived where Virginia now stands," and 1,200 bushels from James Walker, at Walker's Grove. This was away back in the thirties, and then corn could be bought for 10 cents a bushel, paid in "store truck" at that. One of the first firms who made the handling of grain a regular business, was H. W. McFadden & Co., who are still prominently engaged in it. They commenced in 1863, and are among the heaviest dealers in this section. Low & Foster are another able firm, and are extensive dealers, and handle more grain, perhaps, than any other firm in Mason or Menard County. C. G. Krebaum is another grain-dealer of Havana. These three firms are the principal dealers, and no town in Illinois, perhaps, of the size of Havana, ships as large amounts of grain annually. We endeavored to obtain some statistics of the grain handled and shipped at this point, but were unable to do so, and must let it pass with this brief notice.

The banking business was commenced in the city of Havana about 1854-55, by Rupert Haines & Co., O. H. Wright forming the company. Some time after this, a bank was started by an old gentleman whose name is now forgotten. He had for his cashier a man named Littlefield, and it is told of him that when a customer would make a deposit, he (Littlefield) would take the money and go and "fight the tiger" until it was gone, when he would return to his post and be ready for another deposit. As a natural consequence, the bank did not last long. George Walker also did a banking business for a few years, beginning about 1860. In 1862-63, Kemp & Cappel opened a bank, which, in 1866, became the firm of McFadden, Cappel & Kemp, and so continued until the death of Kemp in 1867. Since that date, the firm has been McFadden & Cappel, and their establishment is known as the Mason County Bank.

The Havana National Bank was organized May 17, 1875, with Francis Low as President; A. Otto, Vice President; N. C. King, Cashier; Thomas F. Low, Teller. The officers are still the same, except the Vice President, which position is now held by E. B. Harpham.

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