Woodford County

El Paso

A History in Pictures

Researched, written and donated by Steve Slaughter



Fire !!!!!!

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Eagle Block Building


This is all that was left of the "Eagle Block" Building on the morning of July 20, 1894. The charred wooden eagle fell from the top of the building and was later recovered and repaired by S.Y. Lishness. His grandson had it on top of his Ohio barn in 1954.

Fire Equipment Used in the Great Fire


Between 1873 and 1894, 7 major fires wiped out vast sections of the El Paso business district. In some cases, the fires spread into the residential district as well. The first fire destroyed the Bigham & McOmber buggy and carriage factory, their livery stable and several horses in 1873. Also burning in 1873 was the first Seery & Rouse grain elevator, Grafft's planing mill, and Webster's elevator.

The third big fire in less than 2 years emphasized the need for better fire protection. An order for $1000 had previously been issued for the purchase of a fire engine.

In mid-October, 1876, a fire started by sparks from an Illinois Central train swept over 100 acres of the Adam Henning farm south of El Paso and threatened the roundhouse at the south end of the switch yards.

The south half of Block 43 was destroyed by fire on October 10, 1882. It began in the old El Paso House hotel. In addition to the hotel, 16 other businesses were destroyed. These were:

Geiger & Ingels, implements

O.A.Cavan, Hall's safes

S.D.Patton, sewing machines, pianos and organs

D.C.York, barbershop

Charles McCoy, drugs and books

Thomas Doyle, groceries

John Geiger, saloon

Saltzberger & Seidel, groceries

Carl Schuitman, restaurant

Attorney offices: P.C.Ransom, James Harper, Dr. J.Q.Adams, W.G.Randall

On May 8, 1889, the coal sheds belonging to the Illinois Central Railroad caught fire. The flames were fed by 1,500 tons of coal and fanned by a high south wind. The home of the railroad agent caught and burned quickly. The freight houses and offices 200 feet north burned and the Campbell House diagonally across the tracks caught fire and was damaged but not destroyed. The fire jumped Front Street and burned the Summit House (hotel) built by James H. Wathen. Then Saltzberger's grocery and Patton's barn, across the alley, burned. Flaming shingles carried by the high wind set fire to the residence of Christian Geiger, several blocks north at the corner of Cherry & Fourth Streets.

El Paso's biggest fire broke out on July 19, 1894, and destroyed every building in Block 42. Businesses destroyed included:

First National Bank the Masonic Temple

S.H. North, implements

D.A. Strother's barber shop

H.G. McCord, groceries

J.I. Kerr's office

J.H. Strathman, furniture

J.W. Parkinson's veterinary office

The El Paso Journal

W.O. Cotton's restaurant

El Paso City Hall and Council rooms

W.H. Hoagland, storeroom

The Ladies Library

F.L. Kyser, jewelry store

J.K. Kyser, building supplies

D. Dunn, drug store & building

W.H. Dorsey, restaurant & household goods

W.H. Fitzgerald & John Kearney, saloon, fixtures, stock & building

F.A. Young, harness stock

Newton Sheen, building, hardware & household

I.K. Tegtmeyer, general merchandise

W.N. Snype, boots and shoes

Christian G. Schafer, 4 bldgs & residence

A.E. Waite, hardware stock

George Burster, bldg & clothing stock

Worthington Dry Goods

Mrs. Haerer building

Somers & Co., bdlg and meat market

Dr. McCann, 2 frame bldgs

Albert Smith, notion stock

Peter Thomertz, bakery & grocery

W.H. Ferguson's Clifton Hotel & livery barn

George Thorpe, brick building

Dr. J.A. Schofield, dentist

Thorpe Brothers real estate offices

Residences of: Mrs. Neifing & Martin Loesch

Last of the Horse-Drawn Fire Wagons


The El Paso Fire Company


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Part 1

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The Kemp Brother's Wild West Shows


This is part of the Kemp Show Troupe taken in 1894. If you look closely, you'll see an old Concord Stagecoach in the background. The troupe booked shows at fairs and celebrations along the Eastern seaboard where Wild West themes were strong and drew hundreds of visitors. The troupe was the brainchild of George Pendelton Kemp and was run by he and his two brothers, Frank and Abe. It was called the Kemp Brothers Wild West Shows. George was born in Lexington, IL, on Sept. 4, 1864, and lived his life in Lexington, Gridley, & El Paso, IL and in La Mar, Missouri. Their "practice grounds" were in "Old Pastime Park" near Kappa and a track at the eastern edge of Gridley. Over time, the shows increased to 25 or more acts. The headliners were Native Americans from various reservations. One of the biggest headliners was Alex Long Pumpkin, a Sioux, who bore 32 knife & saber wounds on his body from the Custer massacre and other Indian wars.

Old Water Tower and Back of Wathen's Home (r)



Methodist Church


George W. Tegard is believed to be the first uniformed police officer in El Paso. Police Officers were elected when the city was under special charter. W.T. Tucker was elected Marshall in 1875. He was followed by O.R. Webster and in 1880, E.S. Paul served until the election of Ozias Johns in 1889. H.J. Morris was elected in 1891 when the town began operating under the general law. Morris resigned in January, 1892 & was followed by George W. Tegard. He resigned in 1895.

George W. Tegard


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