While this city has always maintained a high moral standard, it is not wholly exempt from those shocking tragedies into which perverse humanity often develops. The first was in the fall of 1864, a few days after the Presidential election, when political bitterness and strife had reached and assumed its most desperate depth. Frank M. Jones, who came into this vicinity from Virginia about a year before the tragical event now under consideration, had, from the accident of his nativity, coupled with his undisguised and outspoken sentiments on the political question of the day. Incurred the hostility of several parties of the opposite political belief, which was fully reciprocated by Jones, and the bitterness soon ripened into a crisis. Jones was teaching school at the time, a mile and a half south of town, and, learning that a man from Salt Creek Township, named Moses Thompson, had been in town several days watching for him, to "settle a grudge" that had been engendered on election-day, about a week before, he armed himself with a double-barrel shotgun, and, in the evening, after school was dismissed, proceeded to town. He saw Thompson out on the south side of a saloon which was kept in a building a short distance northwest of where the La Forge grain elevator now stands, and heard his threats against him (Jones), upon which, from the rear of A. & S. D. Swing's store, through which he passed, he fired upon Thompson, mortally wounding him, from the effects of which he died next day. Jones leisurely departed, and was never captured and brought to trial. It is reported that he went to Missouri, and, a few years after, was himself shot and killed.|
The next was the tragical death of Dr. W. J. Chamblin, in the spring of 1871, at the hands of Zopher Case. This grew out of a land title contest with reference to a beautiful quarter-section adjoining town, on the southeast. Case moved a house on to one forty-acre lot of the disputed land, claiming title from one Tunison, Chamblin's contestant. Case moved his house on the premises in the night, and moved his family into it, which brought about an ejectment suit. In plowing, in the spring of 1871, Dr. Chamblin ordered his men to plow across Case's front yard, in the forenoon of the day of this tragical event; but Case would not allow them to do so. The matter was reported to Dr. Chamblin by his men at noon, and, when they went out to work in the afternoon, he took a shotgun and bade his plowmen follow him, which they did. He proceeded a short distance in advance of the teams toward Case's premises, and, when he reached the disputed line, Case, who was watching him from his door, took up his shotgun and fired upon the Doctor, killing him instantly. Case surrendered to the authorities, and, after a tedious drag and continuance from time to time of the case in the Circuit Court, was finally acquitted, and he, too, in July, 1876, met a violent death at the hands of the night-watchman, John B. Wilson, who was acquitted by the grand jury.
In the spring of 1873, Charles H. Linticum, who was then a farmer, out near the mouth of Prairie Creek, made a deadly assault upon Joseph Cowperthwaite, another farmer of that neighborhood, they having met in town. This tragedy occurred in what is now J. D. Hawes & Co.'s harness-shop, on Tonica street. The assault was made with a revolver, Lintieum shooting at Cowperthwaite some three times, the last taking effect in the side, glancing off on a rib. This created intense excitement, and, for the first time, lynch law was freely talked; but the injured party proved to be not dangerously wounded, and better counsel prevailed. Linticum was arrested, and sent for Col. R. G. Ingersoll, of Peoria, to conduct his defense in the preliminary examination. After dragging along several terms, the indictment was quashed, and the matter dropped out of court.
The next was in the spring of 1874, and was an attempt by one Alonzo Winn to murder his wife. The attack was made about 8 o'clock at night, April 21, at the residence of Samuel Wilson, on Main street, with a pistol, the shot taking effect in the eye, totally destroying it; but, after much suffering the lady recovered. Winn made his escape, but was captured over near Decatur, and imprisoned. This tragedy created the most intense excitement, and, if Winn had been brought through this place on his way to the County Jail at Havana, he would surely have been hung. A great crowd gathered at the depots at the arrival of every train, and the undercurrent of suppressed feeling unmistakably indicated determined vengeance. He was tried at the term of court following, and sentenced to the Penitentiary for a term of seven years.
In 1873, early in the year, the I., B. & W. Extension Railway was completed through this city and county. The new road had been estimated of incalculable benefit to our town, but the reverse was the result, for, upon its line east and west, grain shipping and trading stations were built, which materially diminished the trade in this place.