HISTORY OF PETERSBURG
As narrated by J. Colby Beekman
Previously Unpublished

 

The first settler in Petersburg was a man named Estep. He came here about 1820 and his pioneer home is supposed to have been somewhere within the limits of the present city of Petersburg. Later on in 1832-1833, two men, PETER LUKIN and GEORGE WARBURTON, who owned 160 acres of Sec. 14, township 18, Range 7, which embraces the present site of Petersburg and had a town surveyed. In fact, they had the entire 160 acres surveyed, which would generate a pretty good-sized town. They fell out among themselves as to what they were going to name it. Lukins wanted to call it Petersburg and Warburton wanted to call in Georgetown. This is the story that is familiar to all of you.

History records it: Under a sycamore tree that stood on the southeast corner of the public square they played a game of cards and whoever won that game was to name the town. Lukins won it and some records show that he, in language not too beautiful, named the town PETERSBURG at the top of his voice.

We know that George Warburton died in perhaps a drunken fit; both these men were given to hard drinking, and history records that he was found lying face down in a pool of water about 6 inches deep right along the edge of the river. However, they never told what year he died. The historians of the past lead us to believe that his end was any too happy. This morning I went up to the Circuit Clerk’s office to see if I could find out anything bout him (George Warburton) and Peter Lukins, and we both went down into the vault on the first floor of the Court House and in looking over old Coroner’s reports we found the Coroner’s report on George Warburton. I made a copy of it and I would like to read it. This report is as follows: “Wherefore, it was represented to us, Tom, ( Martin S. Morris, Coroner of the said county, on the 11th day of July, that a male person was found dead at Petersburg in said county, supposed to have come to his death by violence or undue means. Whereupon, I forthwith summon the jury of 12 good and lawful men of the neighborhood, to-wit: ALEX TRENT, W.W. BENNETT, THOMAS WILSON, C. A. DAVIDSON, G.S. MANNING, G. B ADAMS, STEPHEN ASHBURN, G. R. WEATHERBY, H. A. CLARY, TIMOTHY COLBY, who was a cousin of my grandfather, A. D. WHITE AND JOHN MCNEAL, to inquire how and in what manner and by whom or what he came by his death and as soon as the said jury assembled at the said place where the dead body was lying, he appointed ALEXANDER TRENT, one of them as foreman, and in the presence of all the rest administered to him the necessary oath required by law and to the others likewise. Whereupon, the said jurors after examination of said dead body returned the following verdict, to-wit: “We, the undersigned jurors sworn to inquire how and in what manner the dead body came by its death, we find upon examination of the said body that the name of the dead man was George Warburton and that he came to his death by voluntary drowning of himself.” Now, the history that we have read so far says nothing about it being voluntary. I think he fell in there accidentally. “I, MARTIN S. NORRIS, coroner in and for the county and state aforesaid, do hereby certify that the foregoing is a true statement of the proceedings held before me of and concerning the death of the said George Warburton. Given under my and seal this 19th day of October 1840.” Now, the thing that intrigued our interests was that they found the body on the 11th day of July and they didn’t hold the inquiry until the 19th day of October Now, what were they doing all that three months? But at any rate, we know when George Warburton died. He’s like Moses – no man knows his resting place – but I found out that much about him.

Now for PETER LUKINS: His remains are in Rose Hill Cemetery. I went over there a day or two ago. There is a little headstone about so high. It has the name PETER on the top of it and I suppose it has been inscribed on the side but it is so weather beaten that there is no vestige of any of the carvings on the sides of it. Next to it is a similar little stone name: Julia”. I suppose that was his wife’s name and on that, too, the inscriptions are obliterated and no records exist in Menard County. When he died – they found him dead in bed. He was like Warburton, he liked his drinking a little too well and I would like to know when he shuffled off this mortal soil. There is nothing in the records in Menard County that show; it is possible they are in Sangamon County.

Now then – I think perhaps I stated – I am going to wonder on this some because it is a little hard to stick to one text to do it all. They had the city of Petersburg laid out in 1832-1833 and after the town was surveyed they sat back and waited for customers to come. Well, they didn’t come. Petersburg was passing thru the same throws that other pioneer towns were. Now we go out west to see these pioneer towns, those ghost towns while we have them right here. We have a resurrected one right across the street here. We get on-half mile north of where Arthur Johnston lives over towards Curtis and out where the cornfields are (I don’t know whether there was ever a house there or not) is where NEW MARKET was surveyed and laid out. East of Petersburg, about one-half mile off of the hard road, there was a town named GREENSBURG laid out. Farther north along the Sangamon River was HURON and MILLER’S FERRY, but later on they were located in Mason County, but they were originally in Menard because Menard County at one time comprised what is now the County of Mason and Menard. When the court house fight was on for where they were to locate the seat of justice, all those towns were candidates for the courthouse but Huron and Miller’s Ferry were removed form the picture because the legislature about that time cut off the north part of Menard County and made Mason County out of it and that took Huron and Miller’s Ferry over into Mason County. Along about 1835, Warburton and Lukins sold their interests. It hadn’t grown very much – the city that they had laid out. They sold it to HEZEKIAH KING and JOHN TAYLOR. The town was re-surveyed. I was allowed one, a good many years ago, to see a copy of the original survey and bout the only difference that you can notice between that one and the one that Abe Lincoln surveyed of the present town, is that the centers, the main street, the two main streets, one from the north and south and the one east and west, intersected at the public square. They came up not on the sides of the square but in the center or in the middles of the sides of the sides of the square. Lincoln threw the square in there between streets. There is on file in the Circuit Clerk’s office a copy of the Lincoln Plat of Petersburg and it was recorded on February 22, 1836. It began to grow. Somehow or other it took on new life. These other towns began to pass out of the picture As New Salem began to die, Petersburg, began to grow.

In 1841 the legislature passed and act making a town out of Petersburg. Then the COUNTY OF MENARD was laid out in 1839 and the courthouse was located here and then the town began to grow. At the time it was made the County seat it had a population of 300. The first Trustees of the town were JAMES HOEY, HOHN MCNEAL, and WILLIAM G. SPEARS (and as I read some of the fellows that I know who have descendants living around here I will try to call attention to them) is the grandfather of Quincy Spears of Tallula, who most of you know. James Colbey, another cousin of my grandfather, had a wagon shop where Main’s Restaurant stands now, (106 N 6th) and, GEORGE E. ADAMS, were the first trustees of the city.

The Post Office was established in either 1840 or 1841. Mr. Miller says in his book that it was in 1841 but I have an old letter at home that grandfather received in October 1840 and it was addressed to him in Petersburg; so, I think perhaps it was designated as a post office before that. Somebody said that it was designated in 1834 but I can’t believe that it went that far back.

The three COMMISSIONERS who were appointed to fix the county seat were JOHN HENRY of Morgan County, NEWTON WALKER of Fulton County and BENJAMIN MITCHELL of Tazwell County. These towns that I have just recently named – there was a hot fight on, but Petersburg won out because after Mason County was removed from the Territory of Menard County, that left Petersburg in the center of the county, as we know it now.

On the 18th day of May 1839, these commissioners whose names I have just read located the seat of justice on the public square of Petersburg. It was understood that the proprietors of the town, Hezekiah King and John Taylor, would give the site for the court house, but there was a misunderstanding of some kind and the county officials decided that the city, besides giving that court house square, also had to give $3,000.00 so they also had a heck of a fight about that. But finally the county won out so it cost the proprietors the lot that was taken up for the square and $3,000.00 in cash.

The first two things that happen in a new community are the location of schools and churches. Generally the church preceded the location of the schools. At that time all schools were subscription schools; that is they were private schools. The parents paid so much tuition to a teacher whose qualifications were not as high as the qualifications are today. The teaching fraternity has improved quite materially in the last 100 years. For instance, I have heard my parents tell about a teacher they had – he could barely read, but he was good at chewing tobacco. He would sit up and chew tobacco and have little tads, the big one too, lined up out in front of him and when they would strike a word they couldn’t read, he would relieve himself of a mouthful of amber and he would say, “call it Moses and go ahead.”

There was a school established up in the west part of Petersburg that stood up on what we older ones know as the Robert Frackelton square. It is where Fred Krueger lives now. (207 S. 12th) They had an academy up there and many of the older residents of the town were educated there. But for some reason that blew up. The first teacher there was CHARLES B. WALDO and he had begun in a little log cabin (we don’t know where that was located.) Then the next building stood where the high school now stands (old Harris High School Building) and that was the Masonic building. The Mason had built a building that stood where the high school now stands and it had a kind of seminary academy on the second floor. The attendance was not limited. It was co-educational and big, little; old and young could come upon the payment of just a nominal sum. Of course, that fiddled out in a little bit and so then the town took over this establishment and was one thing that was strange. The law establishing free schools was passed in 1847. However, it was 1855, eight years later, before Petersburg had a free school. It was all subscription schools. I couldn’t help but wonder when I ran across that just why they were anxious to learn and why they put off having free schools for 8 years. We have a great grandson of the principal of the first free school and he is our very courteous County Clerk, Earl Pillsbury, whose grandfather was Judge J. H. Pillsbury.

In 1858, and I remember that building stood down where the high school is, that building was remodeled in 1858 and after that thru the years it was remodeled or rebuild three times. The present high school is the result of the third building and that is just the high school building. Where the gymnasium stands is where the original Baptist Church stood. Pardon some personal reference I make and just for the sake of history (that’s a private matter too) my grandfather Beckman gave the ground to the Baptist people for that church that stood where the gymnasium now stands. In 1870 there was another private seminary erected, but I don’t know much about it, it evidently winked out before so very long.

Back at the time of the Civil War, I got hold of a bound volume, 2yrs. Of 1858 and 1859, of the Menard County Index. They are in the library and they make very interesting reading. But certainly, prior to the Civil War, they had politics high, wide and handsome. They record fights which were numerous and it makes rather interesting reading..

Now I will take up the CHURCHES – we got the schools started. The first church founded in Petersburg was the METHODIST church in 1835. It had less than a dozen members at the beginning and the first church building was erected in 1848. I remember the building. It seems to me it was a wooden building, but it says that it was a brick building and it stood where the present church stands and the present church was dedicated in 1898. I remember that very well. Old Chaplain Rutledge made the dedication speech. He along with Dr. Benjamin Stephenson who was one of the founders of the Grand Army of the Republic, spoke.

The BABTIST church was founded in 1854 and it had 14 members. They built their church in 1856 on the site of the present gymnasium. They had a larger membership for a number of years that the 14 original members, but there was a group of people who belonged to it (I have heard them tell the story a good many times) who would come and they would sing and they would pray and on occasions they would shout, but when it came to paying the preacher, they weren’t there. They were spiritual members and not material members. So on account of that the Baptist Church had a heck of a hard time for a while.

The PRESBYTERIAN church was organized in 1839 with 16 original members. You could read the Conover family history about the beginnings of this church for 8 members of that family were of the 16 organizing members of this of this church. Helen Lawson Carter (Dr. Carter’s wife) is one of their descendants living in Petersburg now. The original church stood where the Standard Oil Station is now. (Marathon station in 2001) Some of you can remember when that old church stood there; Hardy Peterson’s blacksmith shop was in front of it and I think it was the 2nd house east of the church (a little brick house) was where the minister lived and my mother boarded there. She was 8 years old. Grandfather sent her in there to come to school. Her job was to ring the bell for the meetings and she said she didn’t know that so many meetings could be held in so short a time because for a child of eight or nine years to tug on that bell rope was pretty much of a job. This minister was McKinley, the father of Senator William McKinley, who gave the organ to the Presbyterian Church in memory of his father. The senator was born in the little brick house in September 1856. It used to be when he came to town (I don’t know how he knew her, but when ever he came to town he always came to see her. They were quite good friends) mother got a good start on her Christian life by ringing that bell.

In 1873 and 1874 the Presbyterians moved form their location I have just mentioned to their present site and the original church was built up there in those years. Then in 1863 the Catholic church was organized and the present church was erected in 1865-1866.

St. Paul’s was organized in 1861. I just read that history today.

I didn’t know how I would get the history of the Bethlehem Lutheran Church down there, but they had an anniversary of some sort last year and that gave a little history of the church. That at one time, these two churches were one body. They had a minister here who was very friendly to the Missouri Synod and it seems that body and the other department of the Lutheran Church didn’t agree very well. They fussed among themselves and finally those who were friendly to the Missouri Synod were in the minority and I guess that they were invited to leave the church, which they did. They went and organized a church of their own. The present church – I remember when they had the churches together – it was a little old carpenter shop. It is down there now just on beyond where Will Taylor lives (103 E. Taylor), on the west side of the street. There was a carpenter shop there. I don’t know if it was over 20ft. Square and whoever the carpenter was, Dedrick Fisher had it, they sold to the German church and they had their meetings there for a number of years. It was not nearly as large as this room. (Superintendent of Highways room at the courthouse) Then the ones who were friendly to the Missouri Synod soon pulled off from them and the St. Paul’s church was built about 1890. The Bethlehem Lutheran church was built a few years earlier. There was only one family of Episcopalians in town. Of course, they got some recruits. Mrs. Harris was very active and largely thru her endeavors the present church was built. I heard T. W. McNealy say that one time somebody asked him why he was raised a Methodist and why he happened to leave the Methodist and join the Episcopal. He said he liked the Episcopal Church because it interfered the least with his religion.

Then the CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN – they were organized in the latter part of the 1860’s and were very weak to begin with and they had quite a time. They had their periods of strength and periods of weakness; most of the time they had the latter. There is no date available as to when they built their sanctuary, which is at the site of the present Baptist Church. In after years when the Presbyterian churches united, it was ruled that the property of the Cumberland Presbyterians belonged to the Presbyterian Church and thus the property was sold which created a lot of antagonistic feelings. Some of the Cumberland’s didn’t want to unite and they didn’t. They have a church here in Petersburg now, but they lost their original property. I am not critical because I am a Presbyterian myself.

Of course we have the SEVEN-DAY ADVENTISTS and the ASSEMLY OF GOD congregations now. They are very recent. I don’t believe there is anyone but who remembers when they came to Petersburg.

When Petersburg was incorporated as a city, April 3, 1882, Dr. F.P Antle was the first mayor and Charles Collier was the second mayor.

In 1888 the WATER WORKS was established. Feelings ran high at that time. (We are getting up into the period of time now that I personally remember). Petersburg had a good many retired farmers who had come into town to spend the end of their lives an easy way, but they wanted to go on living just as they had always lived; that is, drink out of a spring or well. They didn’t believe in city water works. It was going to cost them so much and would raise their taxes and property wouldn’t have any value and they had an awful time arguing there.

Two farmers, one of whom by marriage I became the Son-in law of, and another old farmer who I’m not going to name (he still has some descendants living around here) was going to shoot Mr. Golden (my father-in-law) because Mr. Golden was in favor of the water works. This other old fellow was raising the dickens to keep from building it. It was going to ruin the town if they did. But the town is still here and the have the Water Works too.

The fist SANITARY SEWERS were laid in1892. There was some confusion in regard to that. It was just a waste of money and it was going to make their taxes higher, ruin the value of their property there in town. I don’t know if there are some of you, not many of you, who remember when on the north side of the square and on the south side of the square there were ditches along the sides of the walk that were rock-paved open storm sewers. The first large storm sewer was laid on the north side of the square in 1904. They got rid of the old rock wall ditches. In 1883, that was the time of the extremely high waters, the highest it had ever been and has never been reached quite since. I remember my father drove into town to see the river and he brought me along and my only recollection of what I saw was a boat that was being rowed up one of these old rock paved ditches. He came up as far as Manchetti’s Meat Market is now in that boat. Of course, I heard of a fellow who is quite a bit younger than I am who was talking here a few years ago who said he remembered that he and his father came into town (he was also a country-raised boy) and rode around the square three time in a boat. That never happened, I am sure.

The old COURT HOUSE. In 1896 it was torn down and replaced with the present Court House. Some of you have seen pictures but very, very few, if any of you, remember it was one of those old tobacco barn shaped buildings – a square brick building, but it had historic memories. Some of the older fellows objected very much to its being torn down because in the courtroom public meetings were held or platforms were built against the north wall of it where they used to have their public speaking. The walls inside or out side had echoed and re-echoed to the voice of Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, Col. A.E. Baker, who was killed at the Battle of Balls Bluff and a lot of those old timers who were giants in their days. The present Court House doesn’t have any tenants of that sort at all now and we don’t hear very much political speaking there and if we did we wouldn’t believe more than half of what we heard anyhow. But these old-timers believed what they heard.

Mr. Edwin Worth was an early settler here. He was working for Mr. James Thompson in 1858. (Mr. Thompson known as Uncle Billy was the father of Anson Thompson who had the Thompson and Harms Department store where the Robbins establishment is now. He was the great grandfather of Helen Lawson Carter whom we mentioned before). In 1858 when Lincoln was candidate against Douglas for nomination for U.S. Senator. Mr. Thompson who lived out there in the neighborhood where I was raised (5 points road) (he was one of those kind of impulsive sort of a fellow) at noon one day said, “Edwin, Abe is going to speak in Petersburg this afternoon. Do you want to hear him?” Mr. Worth had come out here from New Hampshire just during the preceding year and he had heard of Lincoln but he had never heard him speak and he said, “Yes, I would kike to hear him.” (Edwin Worth was Zeta Lynn Terhune’s grandfather). So Mr. Worth and Mr. Thompson went into town to hear Lincoln speak. Lincoln spoke in the old courtroom. Mr. Worth said he spoke for over an hour and he didn’t think it was over twenty minutes. As he came out of the old courthouse landing at the head of the stairs, Mr. Thompson said, “Edwin, Abe’s right, Abe’s right.” Thompson drove good horses. They got into the buggy and started home. The highway was lined with wild mustard. As they drove along, Mr. Thompson was in deep thought and would take his buggy whip and cut off a bunch of bloom of the wild mustard and he would say, “Abe’s right, Abe’s right.” Finally Mr. Worth said, “Well, Mr. Thompson, are you going to vote for Mr. Lincoln?” He answered, “What! Me vote for Abe Lincoln? Of course not, I’m a democrat, but Abe’s right.” And he mowed down a whole swath of mustard.

It is so easy to digress. In the early days we talked about the navigation of the Sangamon, seen plays that were put on out here; that was a popular subject with Lincoln he believed in it. There was a time that the bill was introduced into the Legislature and I think was passed, to build a canal from Beardstown to Decatur by way of the Illinois and Sangamon rivers. Then we heard of the Talisman – it came up the Sangamon River and never went down. The water fell and they couldn’t get it back. Then it was not so very long until in 1856 Petersburg and Tonica railroad was chartered. It was to run from Jacksonville to Tonica. Tonica is up here toward Streator. The president of that road was Richard Yates, who was afterwards the war governor of Illinois. The treasurer of the road was William G. Green, Mrs. Epling’s grandfather, and the superintendent of the road was William T. Beekman, who was my grandfather. So you see our families were connected in a business way back there in the early days.

As you read the histories of these towns there are names that keep appearing all of the time. For instance, in Petersburg there was John Bennett. In 1836 they had a Jockey Club in Petersburg, Mr. Bennett was the treasurer. I have some of the old tickets. They were playing cards, but the pips were put on by hand, rather crude affairs, but on the back of them were written receipt for whoever the subscriber might be. W.G. Green was the first president of the Menard County. Agricultural Association.

The Petersburg and Tonica Railroad was completed to Petersburg in 1861. They had a serious time – it was just prior to the Civil War. Financial conditions were unsettled, unstable, and almost everybody knew that sooner or later there was going to be war, or if there weren’t, there would be a terrible upheaval anyway. But they got as far as the tenacious work of those three principal officers. My grandfather had a brother in New York who was the president of the bank there and he went and borrowed on his own responsibility $10,00000 to help the road out. Mr. Green was a wealthy man. He kept putting up. I have some of the old documents at home now in regard to the Petersburg and Tonica Road. Governor Yates wasn’t so very well-to-do but he was pretty keen and along with the keen mind of Mr. Green and the working ability of my grandfather they brought the road thru as far as Petersburg in 1861 and the depot was out up there by the overhead bridge just west of town. After the war it was completed as far as Delevan and then it was sold to the Chicago, St. Louis and Alton – afterwards the Chicago and Alton. They took it on from Delevan to Bloomington and it constitutes now the route between Roodhouse and Bloomington. In 1869 there was a charter granted for building a road between Springfield and Rock Island. Menard County voted on hundred thousand dollars; I think they gave fifty thousand dollars for the Petersburg and Tonica road, but they still voted $100,000.00 toward building this road from Springfield to Rock Island. They had a world of trouble and a lot of lawsuits. Finally Petersburg itself, the county voted one hundred thousand dollars to them, and Petersburg voted fifteen thousand and work began at Havana in 1870 and progressed very slowly and reached Petersburg in 1872 and was finally completed to Springfield in 1874. Thai is now the C&IM.

THE LOCATION OF SOME OF THE OLD RESINENCES: Dr. R.E. Bennett, Ted Bennett’s grandfather, one of the first doctors in the town; his old home is the home where Cecil Young lives (corner of south seventh diagonally across from the high school.) John Bennett and Dr. Bennett, I don’t know whether they were brothers or cousins, but at any rate they were related and for John Bennett – his name appears as the first merchant in Petersburg. He was a very active fellow and very active in the Masonic fraternity and he was always mixed up in about everything that tended toward the progress of the town. His old home is what we know as the Whipp property at 313 N. 9th street, Petersburg. I think he built the house.

J.W. Warnsing was a moneyman and he and Dedrick Fisher did contract work together. Warnsing built the house – the brick house where Dr. Davis lives (503 West Sheridan). After Mr. Warnsing died, Dedrick Fisher (who had boarded there at Warnsing’s) married the widow. They owned a good deal of that hill up there.

Robert Hamilton, a good many of us remember his as editor of the Menard County Index for a good while, came here as an engineer on the survey of the C & I M Railroad. His place is up on the south hill at 404 West Washington St.

The T.W. McNeely house is also on the south hill at 316 West, Washington. W.S. Conant built the house where Paul Cherry lived at the corner of Jefferson and 8th (red brick). Dr. Cox lived in the house that has been remodeled into Hurley’s funeral home (122 W. Douglas). That house, if you remember, where the steps are built out rather close to the walk used to be a picket fence in front of the house. Dr. Cox was assassinated between that picket fence and the steps by a man of a pretty prominent name form Tallula, by the name of Scott Judy.

The John B. Gum house is the house at the top of the hill out north of town – the Woods’ property now. (North of Amac Elevator)

The Robert Bishop house is the one where Walter Watkins lived at 217 West Sheridan and the wooden part of the Presbyterian parsonage at 203 West Sheridan is a part of the house where my grandfather lived and I can’t refrain from telling you a little something that happened when grandfather lived there and old Uncle Bob Bishop lived the other side of the tight board fence. Bishop has a son, George, who was bout the age of my father and his brother, and they played together a good deal. George had some deformities; one was that an ear grew down, more or less on his jaw, instead of across from each other, and he also had an extra toe on each foot. These were great marvels to those two bys. One day they heard George raising the dickens over there in the back yard and they peeked thru a knothole in the tight board fence. Old uncle Bob had George out there with a foot up on the chopping block and had a chisel and a mallet and was trying to cut those extra toes off. I don’t know whether the old man did or not, but George was remonstrating very strongly and it scared my father and uncle so much that they ran away from the fence.

Capt. A.B. Wright – his house stood up on the hill where Julius Mallegren and Joe Connelly live in two places now. (215 N. 9th) Mr. Smoot bought the Wright house and made two residences out of it.

The old Thomas L. Harris house was north of town and burned not so very long ago. Corp. Rourke – his house was a big square brick house that stood where the Post Office is now. Rourke lost a leg at Buena Vista in the Mexican War.

The C. B. Lanning house is the place where Walter Sewell now lives, at 717 South 10th. The Ed. Lanning property is the present Satorius Funeral home at 510 West Sheridan. The Isaac White property is where Arthur Finney now lives, 521 West Jackson. William White was a carpenter and a contractor and his house is the one that stands just west – the second house going north and south on the west side of the street – opposite the Christian church.

THE HEMP FACTORY, my grandfather managed it at one time. The creek in that hollow out south of town was the Hemp Factory Creek. The Hemp Factory was located out there somewhere. Up that creek, along the north side of the Horner property is where the old Menard County Fair Grounds used to be. I don’t think they had a circular track – I believe their track was a straightway track. That was where they used to have the Fair in early days.

BALES WOOLEN MILL stood on the east side of the present location of the railroad just about opposite those Shell Oil tanks (east of them) on the east side of the railroad.

THE TANYARD – I can remember when they called the street going out west Tanyard hill. It went back of the Satorius undertaking establishment. The Tanyard was on the spot where the Fred Schmidt Home (403 W. Sheridan) is now and may have reached a little over toward the driveway and back up the hill.

Now for the HOTELS – Where the REA building is now was the old Menard House a pre-Civil War hostelry. One time I was riding home from Champaign on my wheel when vacation was coming on and the rains ran me in over at Elkhart and I hade to stay there that night. The old fellow at the desk where I registered told me if I would help the girl carry up a tub of water up to my room that I could take a bath, so I helped a big stout damsel carry a big tub of water upstairs. When I got cleaned up and came back down, the old fellow said to me, “You’re from Petersburg?” I said, “Yes.” “What are you doing way over here?” I told him. He replied, “ I was never in Petersburg but once and that was before the Civil War. Three of us wanted to go over to Beardstown and we drove as far as Petersburg and stayed all night. The next morning, there was three fights out in front of the hotel before breakfast and when we came home form Beardstown, we cam around thru Springfield and I have never been in Petersburg since.” Petersburg was noted for its many fights.

Right across the river here from the Park is where one of the Clarks and somebody had a fight. They took them across on the other side of the river and had them fight over there and nobody could leave this side to help. It must have been a fight to the finish. Lincoln would let none of them go over to help and Clark killed the fellow.

Contributed by: Will Carter

 


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