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Jessie Lee Huffstutler
Early Memories Of
LIBRARY OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
UiMB iisTogiai mm
1. Southern Illinois Penitentiary 2
2. Prison Road, Big Steps 6
3. St. James Hotel, Cole Milling Co 9
4. First Trains In Randolph County 12
5. Iron Mountain Railroad 14
6. Steamboats On The Mississippi and Rock Building 16
7. Flood, Bridge, Tornado 18
8. Chester Hill, Colored School 21
9. Changing The County Seat Of Government 24
10. McAdams House, Grand View Hotel 27
11. Phoenix Block 31
12. Edith Staley Home, Episcopal Church 34
13. Lone Star Restaurant 38
14. Dr. L. B. Torrence Building 40
15. Welge Furniture Store 43
16. Max Katz, Henry Dandes, Frank Wolff Building 46
17. Opera House, Bill Schuchert, Wiebusch Saloon 49
18. Schroeder Furniture, Montroy Barbershop 55
19. City Park, Shoe Factory, J. M. Wright Drugs 57
20. Dr. Wm. R. MacKenzie 60
21. Fragers, Middendorf and Pautleir Stores 63
22. Gozney Saloon, St. John's Lutheran Church 66
23. Evergreen Cemetery, Gov. Bond's Monument 69
24. Herschbach Building, City HaU. Post Office 71
25. Buena Vista National Bank 74
26. Fred Rebbe Wagon Shop, High School 76
27. Dr. Albert Fritze, Symphony Orchestra 80
28. Union School, ^raif Hte!i..«oj^reApMg,;,^.i«,^^ 84
Mrs. Jessie Lee Huffstutler, retired teacher and musician, reminisces about
Elzie Segar, creator of the cartoon strip "Popeye," as she looks at a replica of
"Popeye" on her piano. Mrs. Huffstutler taught school in Dowell from 1943 to
1945 and in Du Quoin from 1945 to 1955, when she retired. She also taught music
to area young people and to prisoners at Menard Penitentiary for 17 years. Be-
sides playing piano for films and slide shows at the Chester Opera House, she
played at non-denominational services at the prison.
The following stories, written by me in 1969 and 1970, are the result of a men-
tal walk which I took through the streets of Chester, stopping often to recall
memories of people, dates, and events. They were published, as a series, in the
Randolph County Herald Tribune at that time.
I received much help from people as I traveled and for this 1 am very grateful.
I'm sure some omissions and discrepancies occur, due to the many sources of
I wish to dedicate this booklet to my good friend and physician. Dr. John R.
Beck, Chester, Illinois, because he not only prescribed this project for me, but
encouraged me along the way. /~\
Age 88 Years
Born in Chester, Illinois, February 2, 1888.
Main Entrance to Penitentiary, Chester. Illinois - 1912
"In early June 1905, shortly after my graduation from high school in
May, I received an appointment by Warden J. B. Smith of the Southern
Illinois Penitentiary at Menard, to a position there in the Music Depart-
ment and was asked to report for the chapel service on the following Sunday
morning. Ruth Brinkmann, who held the position, was soon to be married
and asked to be relieved as early as possible.
I was 17 years old and wondered just how I would feel facing several
men whom I hoped to please and win their approval. With much concern I
met my choir of prisoners before service and with the Chaplain, chose the
hymns to be used in the service. This service was non-denominational. Soon
the guards, whose seats were on elevations along the sides of the Chapel,
took their places, the band began to play and doors opened from both sides.
As the men filed in I had mixed emotions, seeing some so young and others
so old. When the Chaplain arose to begin the service, I had myself under
control and when time came for special music, I sang "The Holy City" and
State Hospital For Criminal Insane, Chester. Illinois until 1975
from the applause I received, I knew they were now my friends and from
that time, I was 'Miss Jessie' to them. Immediately following this service
the Chaplain and I left through the back hall door, went through the prison
yard and up to Security Hospital for service there which was held in the
Between 1905 and 1929 I broke my parole three times, each time to
return, since this position was appointive by the Warden. In 1929 my son
Fred was ready for college. I resigned and we both went to McKendree
College at Lebanon, he as a student and I to become House Mother in the
Boys' Dormitory and also to take some courses.
In 1905 the prison band consisted of strings, wind instruments,
percussion and piano, conducted by a fellow prisoner. This was soon
changed with the appointment of David Munal of Murphysboro, an old
time band man, as director. He continued also to have a small orchestra
which included the piano. This I enjoyed very much. We played for many
occasions including the first movies shown there on Saturday afternoons,
and also for the school graduation exercises for men who had completed the
eighth grade, with special recognition given to those who had completed the
third grade and now were able to read and write.
I held choir rehearsal twice a week and during my seventeen years
there, many good musicians came and went. At one time one choir member
played my solo accompaniments. At another time one man with a beautiful
voice, good musical background and much singing experience, stayed
several years. We sang together often and I did enjoy him so much because
he was able to harmonize on most any type of song. I've often wondered
what became of him. I had hoped he would do something with his musical
Another enjoyable experience was singing in a mixed quartet
composed of Warden Smith's wife, alto, who missed her dinner many times
to rehearse. Our bass was the prison florist, an employee with a wonderful
voice. The excellent tenor was a prisoner who was the librarian.
Once each month services were held for the Lutheran and Catholic
men, the minister and priest coming from town, bringing their own ac-
companist. For one year I played the Catholic Mass. They had their own
small chapel and a choir of Catholic men who were very helpful until I
learned their Order of Service.
Warden Smith and his wife were very hospitable and entertained
much. She especially loved to dance. The dances were held in the main hall
just behind the double front gate, with the Prison Band seated in the left
wing to furnish the music. Usually they were held on short notice by calling
a few friends uptown, asking them to pass the word along. Sparta friends
were also called and the Illinois Southern sent a special car for the occasion.
Mrs, Smith and a few of the older folk wanted to dance a quadrille
one evening but few of the younger set knew what it was all about and there
was no one to call the dance. Mrs. Smith made some secret plans before the
next event and on that evening, to my surprise, my mother and brother
Otto appeared in the midst of the activities. A quadrille was soon formed
with my brother calling the dances and for a short while, the younger set
had a rest period. Fortunately I was included in the dance, having been
taught by my mother.
The Deputy Warden's home was a large two story frame house
located on this side of the prison at the foot of the hill just below the
Security Hospital. Previously a layer of soapstone had caused several slides
along the river front, and one morning the Deputy Warden's family
awakened to find the back of their house had slid into the front quarters. A
new home was soon built near the green house where the present cottages
Deputy Dowell was at the institution many years and was a very
successful deputy. Often at night he would enter the yard by one of the
outside gates and quietly inspect the premises. When he entered a building
where workmen were, they had a code by which to inform other workers of
his presence. This code was several taps on an iron pipe. But they didn't
fool Deputy Dowell very long. He had control of his men, but they had
great respect for him. He was hard, firm and very fair with them. When he
had occasion to call a man on the carpet and found him to be guilty, he
quietly said, "Out the back door, Johnnie." They all knew just what that
Many years later, about 1927 when F. R, Wolfle was Warden, he and
his wife were members of our Methodist Church choir. At Christmas time
we were sending groups out on Christmas Eve to carol in different parts of
the town— each youth group accompanied by an adult. We then returned to
the church at 10:30 p.m. for refreshments. Then, according to the War.den's
wishes, the entire group set out for the prison at 11:30 p.m. and at exactly
midnight, we entered the cell .block, singing as we proceeded. Some
dissenting voices could be heard at first. Then someone discovered I was in
the group and my name was quickly passed down the line and all became
quiet as they listened with respect gmd later thanked us. We went into the
yards that night also, over to the hospital and sang for the sick. This was a
memorial night for all of us and not soon to be forgotten. I don't suppose
this had ever happened before and I know it hasn't since.
I have many pleasant memories of my seventeen years of work and
associations at the prison. They were rewarding years. I worked under
Wardens J. B. Smith, W. V. Choisser, J. A. White, F. R. Wolflee, and
again under J. A. White, resigning in the fall of 1929.
2. I remember two railroad depots at Menard, the Illinois Southern
near the river was a two-story brick building with living quarters above for
the Agent and his family. The Wabash Depot was near the south prison
gate through which the railroad cars switched to carry freight and food
inside the prison yard. Roscoe Morse while agent there, was shot and killed
while on duty.
It was at this railroad crossing of the prison road that Father
Eckert's car was hit by a train. He was seriously injured, living only a few
days. He died on Nov. 24, 1925, and had been priest of St. Mary's Church
in Chester many years.
The Illinois Southern Railroad, later called the Missouri and Illinois,
reached Chester about 1901. It started at Salem, came downstate, crossed
the river at Ste. Genevieve Qn a transfer boat and then went into Bismark,
Mo., which was the end of the line. A branch line came from Collins (near
Modoc) to Chester by way of Riley's Lake and Fort Gage.
Many of the prison employees and their families lived along this
prison road, and I remember some of the old timers. Mrs. John Hem had
her own Art Studios, teaching china, oil and water colors. She had many
students, and some of their masterpieces still grace the walls and china
cabinets in many Chester homes. Mr. Hem was a stone mason and head of
that department at the prison.
Henry Jutze, who was a stone mason and brick layer who worked on
the prison wall, and his fajnily came next. I remember son Joe when he
came to me for piano lessons. Two small duplex units were near, one in
which I was bom Feb. 2, 1888. Then came the Adam Gnaegy family with
children' Leeman, Adam and Gertrude. All of the children down there
walked the hill to church and school. Mr. Gnaegy was also a brick layer.
There was also a lumber yard owned by Nick Beare and Joe
Chadwick. The ice plant was most important, because all of our ice was
made there and sold out to dealers. These dealers had drivers who drove
one-horse wagons with scales attached to the back on one side and a driver
to haul it over town for sale. We placed our ice card in the window to let the
driver know the sized p)iece our ice box needed. All of the children in the
neighborhood followed the wagon for blocks, hoping a few chips would fall
in the wagon and they could have it to cool their parched throats.
Then came the. Chester Illinois Southern Depot with its "Turn
Table" which never ceased to be of interest to children and adults as the
engine was turned around ready for its next run.
Across the street from the depot on the corner of Water Street stood
the Old Rock House with store building below. This was always a very
interesting place to go. Mrs. Abby Francis, a Civil War character who
slept by day and travelled by night, lived on the upper floor with her
daughter, Mrs. Ballard, and her many grandchildren. I remember Sally
best. Many Sunday afternoons we spent there, and occasionally a special
privilege was granted to us — that of opening a huge Chest that held
gorgeous gowns of silk, brocade, satin and velvet. We were permitted to
choose one, put it on, and for a while, imagine we were in the presence of
Royalty. We always wondered just which relative had been a member of a
Royal Family, but we never did get the answer.
The business houses from the Rock House in that block were the
Morrison harness and buggy factory which also had a livery stable with
horses and buggies for hire; the Jacob Gnaegy Saloon which had in its
quarters a large ice house insulated with saw dust and whatever else was
used at that time. Large blocks of ice would be cut from the river in winter
and stored, to supply the saloon in the summer time, before we had our own
ice plant here.
Ed Gnaegy had a barber shop, and then came the Cochran boarding
house on the corner at the foot of the Chester Steps. In this boarding house
most of the men from the Iron Mountain Railroad Offices, which were
across the street near the river, lived. There was a daughter Lottie Cochran
who later married one of the Lashleys, some of them well-known attorneys
in St. Louis.
Bottom of city steps straight up the hill to
the top at the McAdams Home, near the Court
House. Steps near the top are made of wood.
A short distance up the City Steps was the home of Mr. and Mrs.
Nick Beare, father of Art Beare and Jessie Beare Colbert. There was also
the home of Mr. and Mrs Joe Chadwick and their daughter Georgia. Then
came the Paulton home. I remember the daughter Alice. A little farther up
the steps was the Amzi Segar home with the son Elzie.
Returning again to Water Street, in the next block was the Frank
Kennedy grocery store, a feed store with John Hughes as proprietor and
Warf Master, the Hannah Meher General Dry Goods, John Devine Saloon,
Sugerman's Clothing, Kolp Saloon, Top's Bakery, and Frank Gollon's
Saloon where fresh oysters were brought by boat from St. Louis and were
served along with other foods. I have an old newspaper clipping that says
"Mr. Frank Gollon's advertisement had a picture of a big fat man, in-
dicating that they fed exceptionally well at Gollon's." Most saloons, I am
told, served food at that time, and if a housewife was short of bread, she
could usually buy a loaf at one of the saloons.
Across the street were a general store. Iron Mountain Offices and
depot— a two-story building with Vena Devine and her husband living
above. These were all rock buildings with warehouses behind, near the
Moving up the hill a short block was the St. Louis Flats, first owned
by a Beare, then one of the Schucherts in which Mr. Lillman had a bakery
on the lower floor with living quarters and rental rooms above. That
building is now the Landmark Inn.
The Cliff House was one of the leading hotels in the old steam boat
days and was owned and operated by Mrs. Meher and her daughter Alice
who also carried the mail in lower Chester. This building now is arranged for
two apartments and is owned by Mrs. Emma Darwin White. Across the
street was the Bush Meat Market with Fritze and his mother and father.
They butchered most of their own meat at that time. A short distance down
the street was the offices of Dr. Steele in early times.
"Cap" Boone Home
Gollon wine and liquor
company about 1864.
"We are now back on Water Street at the comer of Joe Gnaegy's
Saloon with living quarters above where Tillie presided. Next came the
Born Grocery with Oscar and William— formerly Ochs and Born. The
Tackenburg Drugstore was a much newer building with apartments above.
There was Mr. and Mrs. Tackenburg and her brother, Lynn Cashion, who
was single, good looking, although pleasingly plump, and a good dancer.
He was the pride of all the girls who were fortunate enough to have his name
on their dance programs. Mrs. Tackenburg was more than pleasingly
plump, but the life of any party she ever attended, with her wit and talent
Next to this was the Cotton apartment and rooming house. Beside
this was a small building owned by the Unie and Kate Roberts family. An
old newspaper clipping I once had said it was owned by them and was the
first bank in Chester. This adjoined the St. James Hotel, and I remember it
being used as a barber shop.
St. James Hotel, Tackenburg Drug Store and Apartment Building
The St. James Hotel was owned and operated by Mrs. Kate
Thompson. It was also very popular during the Steamboat Days. Most
Drummers and traveling men had their "trunk showings" there.
Below the St. James Hotel were several coal yards and ice offices.
Clyde Barnard operated one and Paul Gorsuch, the other. Then Mr. Mc-
Cloud and son Bud had just an ice office, with Bud the driver of the wagon.
Bud didn't mind driving the wagon because he had access to it in the eve-
ning for other purposes. He would dry the wagon floor, cover it with straw,
hitch old Dobbin, and then proceed to load boys and girls from the lower
part of town and all go to the skating rink at the Opera House for the
evening. Old Dobbin would patiently wait while they had their fun,
although he knew he would be late going to bed. There may have been other
ice dealers, but I remember Wilsey Hurley as being one of the last to deliver
ice to the home. He sold his business in 1944 after 34 years of delivering ice
himself from his own wagon.
I'm told the first knitting mill was started in this area by C. B. Cole
near the Milling Company with son-in-law Percy Withers as Superin-
tendent. About 1913 this knitting mill was sold to Joshua Richman where
he stayed for awhile, then built the new mill in Buena Vista and moved
there. It was located at the northwest corner of Stacey and Swanwick
Streets where the old Lukin Hotel had been for many years.
Next came the Cooper Shop where staves were made for the barrels
used by Cole Milling Company for shipment of their flour.
The Wabash Chester and Western Railroad, depot and round-house
held a prominent place in Chester history which I will discuss later.
A very interesting story of this area is the building of the incline,
beginning at the railroad about 50 feet above the St. James Hotel and
extending to the river's edge. Al Gnaegy was the engineer and used it for
the switch engine. Filled coal cars were brought from the coal fields and the
switch engine placed them on barges at the river's edge for shipment.
Passenger cars were also transferred to the Missouri side, making con-
nections there with another train.
The Yourtee Sand Company also used this incline in their business,
taking empty cars on barges out into the middle of the river so as to be able
to pump the sand directly into the cars, then returned to the switch engine
and placed on the railroad track, returning with empties on the return trip.
When Yourtees moved this business south, William Brown with his own
equipment continued the sand business here until his death. Now his son
Spencer carries on the business.
Another interesting story of this area was the building of the
Pentecostal Church by our good old friend, the Rev. Larry Dauer. He gave
the money for the building, furnished it, became the minister, and paid all
of the bills. "Larry" as we all knew him, was the town plumber and used his
money for the glory of God. Wherever he went to work, he talked about
what God had done for him. He was a real witness for his Lord and never
failed to extend an invitation to attend his services. My husband, son and I
went one night and were ushered almost to the front seat. It was a very
spiritual service, good music with rhythm, good sermon, and many went to
the altar for prayer. This all was a new experience for us, but we were glad
for having gone. I taught Larry's wife to play the hymns so she could be of
help to him by using the organ. The Rev. Larry Dauer was a "great man."
Mr. Gausman had a blacksmith shop near the church and Philip
Gnaegy, the saloon.
'^M^ f— ItSiJ- .nT *"
H. C. Cole Milling Co. The Home of "Omega" Flour. Chester. Illinois, on the
The Cole Milling Company is really a landmark, established in 1839
with 130 years of service to the community as well as elsewhere. It is still
owned by some members of the Cole family. I remember C. B. Cole and his
family. Their beautiful frame home still stands high on the hill above the
mill and still belongs to some of the Cole family. It has been vacant for some
The home of Harry Cole stands farther back on the hill. It is made of
sand stone with a spacious yard, shrubs and trees. It was always occupied
by a Cole until a few years ago when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Bill
Koeneman. Extensive refurbishing to the inside has been done by them.
As one sits on the river front and gazes up over the hillside, many
large beautiful homes as well as cottages, dot the hillside with their many
colors of paint. At night when the places are lighted, it really is a sight to
behold— as if the fireflies had all been turned loose and lighted at the same
I do not know the people who live in the cottages dotting this
hillside, but they add much to the beauty of the picture I wish I were able to
paint. As I walk down the river front and gaze toward them, I see these
homes— Mrs. Cole Cleiman, Doc Cleiman's now owned by the Russell
McConkeys, the old Harry Neville mansion later owned by Nick Beare who
left it to his daughter, Jessie Beare Colbert and her son Dan. I'm told this
house has recently been bought by someone who restored the outside with
shingles and brought back some of its former elegance in appearnace with
its many domes. There are also the homes of Mrs. Robert Grah, Mr. and
Mrs. Paul Gorsuch, the William Cohen residence, now Bud's home. The old
rock Presbyterian Church is now used as a residence. There are also the
homes of the Bill Schucherts and Elzie Segar's on the steps, Frank Ken-
nedy's home, Mrs. Gail Roberts, Dr. B. E. Gilster's, formerly the
Pinkerton home, John and Mattie Nisbet's old home now owned by Homer
Lochhead, Bud Yourtee's home now owned by Mr. Mizel Stevens, Mrs.
John Gilster's home and that of Agnes Kuhrtz now owned by Clara Howie,
and the First Christian Church.
Most of these homes face the long Chester Hill Road which I soon
will be climbing.
View from ferry boat, Chester, Illinois
"The oldest segment of what now is the Missouri-Pacific Lines in
Illinois was completed in March, 1872, by the Chester and Tamaroa Coal
and Railroad Company which had been chartered March 4, 1869, under the
General Railroad laws of Illinois. This section was 40 miles in length and
extended from Chester on the east bank of the Mississippi River to
Tamaroa. This was the first train in Randolph County. The company
secured subscriptions to its capital stock from Perry and Randolph
Counties for which stock interest bearing bonds were issued. The last bonds
were to mature in 1892 with 7 per cent interest paid promptly.
In 1873 the Chester and Tamaroa Coal and Railroad Company, by
consolidation, became a part of the Iron Mountain, Chester and Eastern
Railroad which was chartered on July 24 of that year, the road passed into
the hands of a Receiver and was for many years the subject of lively
litigation. A sale of the road took place Feb. 28, 1878, under foreclosure in
the United States Court, and H. C. Cole became the purchaser.
A company was organized Feb. 20, 1878, as the Wabash, Chester
and Western Railroad Company and began operating the road April 1,
' 1878. W. G. Barnard of Bellaire, Ohio, was president and Charles B. Cole of
Chester was treasurer and general manager.
The management leased the road to the St. Louis Coal Railroad
Company on March 25, 1882, for 45 years. The main line from Tamaroa to
Chester was 40.83 miles; branch from Chester to the penitentiary, 1.43
miles; sidings on the main line, 2.88 miles; aggregate length of all tracks,
William Bryden, father of Margaret Bryden, came to Chester in 1885
to work for the Wabash and was the first operator, then agent, and later,
superintendent until 1925 when he retired. He died two years later. Al
Conder was the conductor, E. C. Prowell, the engineer, with Bose Davis as
the baggage master. Other employees whose names are familiar to us are
Charles Robertson and Red Faverty. There are many more, but my memory
fails me here.
A story is told of Bud Bryden, son of the superintendent, having a
pair of goats and a wagon which he drove over town. One time when the
tracks of other railroads were under water. Bud put a sign on his wagon
reading "Wabash, the Old Reliable" and drove it through town. This
pleased Mr. Cole so much that he called the train "Old Reliable."
The Tamaroa and Mount Vernon Railroad Company was chartered
in September, 1891, and in 1892 completed the 21 miles of railroad from
Tamaroa to Mount Vernon. Almost simultaniously with the completion,
the Tamaroa and Mount Vernon was absorbed by the Wabash, Chester and
Western. Like so many railroads of that time, the name did not exactly fit
the objectives of the company. The W C & W was built to serve the coal
mines between the Mississippi River and Mount Vernon, and there was no
intention on the part of the company officials to extend the line eastward to
the Wabash River or westward across the Mississippi.
Subsequently the W C & W went into receivership, operated until
Sept. 7, 1927 and was sold at foreclosure. Three days later title to the
property was taken the name of Chester and Mount Vernon Railroad
Company which was incorporated Sept. 10, 1927, for the express purpose of
taking over the defunct W C & W. All stock in the C & M V is owned by
Missouri- Pacific and the road extending 63.27 miles with 24.67 miles of
siding from Menard to Mount Vernon is operated as an integral part of the
There is another important unit of the Missouri-Pacific lines which
has a part of its operation in Southern Illinois — the Missouri-Illinois
Railroad which has 109.95 miles of track in the region extending from Salem
on the east to Kellog. A car ferry operates to connect the Illinois portion of
the M. I. with the portion in Missouri, the west bank terminus being
Thomure, about two miles north of Ste. Genevieve.
Missouri-Pacific owns a controlling stock interest in the Missouri-
Illinois and although general and divisional officers of Missouri-Pacific
have jurisdiction over the M-I, it is operated as a separate unit of Missouri-
The Missouri-Illinois is essentially a bridge line in Illinois, con-
necting at Salem with the Baltimore and Ohio; and the Chicago and Eastern
Illinois; at Centralia with the Illinois Central, Chicago, Burlington and
Quincy and Southern Railroad; at Nashville with the Louisville and Nash-
ville; at Coulterville with the Illinois Central; at Sparta with the Illinois
Division of the Missouri-Pacific. It provides a by-pass around the St. Louis
terminal area, especially on freight moving from and to the east and south-
The company was originally called the Centralia and Chester
Railroad and later the portion of line in Illinois was known as the Illinois
Southern, this name being adopted following a receivership. The company
was again incorporated Jan. 8, 1920, as the Missouri-Illinois. Another
receivership followed and the road came near to abandonment but was
acquired by Missouri-Pacific as of April 20, 1929. On that date control of
the Missouri portion of the railroad— the Mississippi and Bonne Terre
Railroad— passed to the Missouri-Illinois by stock purchase and operating
control was obtained by a lease running for 99 years from Jan. 1, 1929. At
the same time Missouri-Pacific purchased 51 per cent of the stock of the
Missouri-Illinois and brought the road into the Missouri-Pacific lines
There is a two-mile gap in the Illinois part of the Missouri-Illinois at
Centralia, but since 1896 the M-I has held trackage rights over the main
lines of the Illinois Central from the M-I junction to Branch Junction, the
entire two miles being within the limits of or immediately adjacent to the
city of Centralia. In recent years there has been an active oil play from
, Centralia eastward to Salem and much of this oil property has been and is
owned by the railroad.
The Missouri- Illinois operates in five counties in Southern Illinois
including Clinton, Marion, Perry, Randolph and Washington. In Randolph
County there are 34.87 miles of main track, 15.85 miles of siding, for a total
of 50.72 miles.
Joe Hertich came from Ste. Genevieve to Fort Gage with the Illinois
Southern in 1905. In 1908 he married Ada Milligan and soon they were both
working at Evansville, Centralia and Salem and again at Evansville before
moving to Menard Station where they lived in an apartment above the
depot until 1930 when they bought a home in Chester. The station burned in
1933 and the railroad company built a small building where Joe stayed until
his retirment with 49 years of railroad service. Henry Menke was station
master at the Chester station.
I wish to thank Rolin Baucom for the research done on the railroads.
For many years he has been employed in the communications section of the
Missouri- Pacific Engineering Department in the St. Louis office.
"In 1898 when my brother Elmer Gant was in his third and last year
of high school, the surveyors for the new Iron Mountain Railroad had
reached Chester, and my brother left school to join them. He stayed with
the company and eventually became a Civil Engineer.
"This main line of the Illinois Division of the Missouri-Pacific,
extending from Valley Junction (the north end of Dupo yard) to Thebes, a
distance of 120.7 miles, was completed Nov. 1, 1903. It was built as a low
level line to avoid handling freight trains over the Ozark hills traversed by
the Missiouri division between St. Louis and Poplar Bluff. Its construction
was predicated upon construction of the Thebes bridge which is owned
jointly by Missouri-Pacific (2/5), and Illinois Central, St. Louis, South-
western and Chicago and Eastern Illinois (1/5) each. By means of this
bridge, Missouri-Pacific, through a trackage arrangement with St. t-ouis
Southwestern between the western end of the bridge and Dexture Junction,
Missouri, and Paragould, Arkansas, was enabled to set up a low level route
from Alexandria, La., and New Orleans to the St. Louis gateway. Northern
terminus of the line at Dupo in St. Clair County is adjacent to East St.
Louis and across the river from St. Louis and is included within the
switching limits of Greater St. Louis. The yard at Dupo is one of the largest
flat yards in the country.
The main line of the Illinois division from Thebes to Dupo supports
one of the greatest densities of traffic in the United States, for, in addition
to trains of the Missouri-Pacific, the line is used under a trackage
agreement, by the St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) for entry into the
St. Louis area. The yards at Dupo are, however, exclusively Missouri-
Pacific, as the Cotton Belt maintained its own yards and terminal facilities
at East St. Louis.
"Even before the main line of the Illinois division had been com-
pleted, it became obvious that there was considerable room for development
in the coal fields of Williamson and Franklin Counties and Missouri-Pacific
aided in opening those fields by building from Gorham toward Ziegler, a
distance of 31.2 miles. On Sept. 1, 1903, a stretch of 26 miles had been
completed, and the remaining 5.4 miles went into operation on Feb. 1, 1904,
the same date that a 7.7 mile section from Bush to Herrin was completed.
In July, 1908, the line from Zeigler to Benton, 9.4 miles, was completed. In
August, 1910, the line southward from Thebes to Cairo, 24.5, was com-
pleted and placed in service.
Except for construction done by the old W C & W, from Chester to
Mount Vernon all the other lines in Southern Illinois were built by the St.
Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern, then a close affiliate of Missouri-
Pacific. In 1917 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern, and Missouri-
Pacific were merged as the Missouri- Pacific Railroad Company.
Including the Chester and Mount Vernon (which is a part of the
Missouri-Pacific through complete ownership and the tentacles reaching
out into the coal fields, Missouri-Pacific has 591.15 miles of trackage in
Missouri- Pacific operates in ten counties in Southern Illinois, in-
cluding Alexander, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Monroe, Perry, Ran-
dolph, St. Clair, Union and WilHamson. In Randolph County there is a
totoal of 88.17 miles of track— 52.50 miles of main track, 10.32 miles of
second tracks, and 25.35 miles of siding.
In 1903 when the Illinois division was completed from Valley
Junction (north end of Dupo yard) to Thebes, Chester had direct tran-
sportation into St. Louis for the first time by railroad.
The Iron Mountain office was in Chester, located in one of the rock
buildings on the river side of Water Street near the wharf. A railroad
station was built and many trains came and went each day. In a very short
time, 14 passenger and rail trains passed through Chester each day on the
People travelled by train day and night, and the jitneys did a thriv-
ing business. As people alighted from the train, a half-dozen cab men
would be waiting. "Cab, lady?" "Cab to town?" Sometimes it was hard to
choose from the group. Each man was supposed to have his stand, but he
didn't always stay behind the lines. I remember Fronrose Jones, Charles
Faverty, Bill Roberts and Butch Heine. Butch was the first one to appear
with a huge car one day— and what a furor it did cause! I remember riding
to the train one day with him, and I felt like I was sitting on stilts because it
was so high. If I remember correctly, the brake was on the outside. When
not in use, it was housed in a building in Buena Vista near the Royal Hotel.
The hotels and boarding houses under the hill were filled with the
railroad employees and office help. The levee was in its "hey day" with
business thriving. It was wonderful while it lasted. About 1912 the railroad
offices were moved to St. Louis and part of that building on the first floor
became the office and shops for the Signal Repair Department. John
Marcum was superintendent of the department between 1914-1924, with
my husband Dick Huffstulter, Happy Hirte, Nate Ellis, Bob Stanwood
and Joe Spinner under him. L. A. Baucom was Road Master from Sep-
tember, 1919 until his death in 1945. John Snyder was Agent for many
years. Charlie Robertson was the Dispatcher for many years and Harry
Weber, Clerk for 25 years. R. H. Holmes was Road Master for many years.
A levee was started in 1940 from Okaw to Riley's Lake, and a wall
from there to a point just below the prison where the "Wagon Wheel" once
In the early 50's the old buildings on the north side of Water Street
which I named in series two and three, were razed and the railraod tracks
moved to higher ground to escape the overflowing Mississippi at times.
This was completed, and the train made its first run on the new track in
A new station was built near Cole's Mill and first occupied in 1956.
Here they house the following offices: Superintendent of Illinois Division,
Dispatcher, Freight, Train Master, General Road Master and Road Master,
Claim Agent and Diesel Superviser.
For a very short time the Cotton Belt ran one passenger train in and
out of St. Louis.
Studies reveal the Chester Subdivision of the Illinois Division
handles more traffic than any other division on the entire system.
Through the years, many employees have retired and made their
homes in Chester and vicinity. Some of them are Messers Glen A. Cole, S.
A. Hill, Ben Cason, William Crowder, Joe Dugan, Ben Butler, Leon
Hagen, Albert Knoke, Edward Hugo Suhre, Otto Harnagel, Red Faverty,
Jack Usher, Lloyd Griffin, William Faverty, Clyde Johnson, Walter Berry
Charles Rodewald, Chester Barber, Albert Asbury and Wallace Hobbs. A.
R. Miller, former Chester boy and Missouri-Pacific employee also retired
and is still getting around alone at the age of 87 or 88. He is living in St.
Louis. John Marcum, former Signal Supervisor at Chester, is living in
"Before the coming of the railroads the markets and facilities for
transportation were as inconvenient as the produce to be moved was
meager; all things were in keeping with the times.
Randolph and Monroe Counties have enjoyed special early privileges
in the way of transporation. Long before steam power was invented or even
thought of, the Mississippi and Kaskaskia rivers furnished an outlet for all
the products to-be moved by people. The early medium was by means of the
old time flat boat, propelled by poles or sweeps. Then came the steam age,
and a new era opened up to the people along the Mississippi. Then came the
Steamboats have navigated the Kaskaskia as far as Carlyle. The
first boat to make the trip was the "Bellevue" in 1837, with Captain Nelson
the Commander and owner. In the same year the "Wild Duck" made the
passage to the same point, opening a new era to the people along the
Kaskaskia. The St. Louis and Cairo Railroad bridge at Evansville
prohibited going farther.
It was questionable for some time as to the Mississippi ever being
navigated by steamboats because of its swift current. This doubt was
dispelled by the landing at St. Louis of the "General Pike" commanded by
Capt. James Reed on Aug. 2, 1817. About two years later a second boat
ascended the river. This was the "Harriet" from New Orleans on June 2,
1819, and was commanded by Captain Armitage. The trip was made in 27
days. This was the beginning of river communication proper between the
marts of New Orleans and St. Louis.
Some of the packet boats I remember were Bluff City, Bald Eagle,
Golden Eagle, Cape Girardeau, Gray Packet, and Delta Queen. Captain
Leyhe, Jr. and his brother Fred H. owned the Eagle Packet Company, and
Captain William Leyhe liked the run from St. Louis south with Fred A. Van
Gruenigan as his purser.
I remember making several trips on one of the boats to and from St.
Louis. There was music for dancing in the evening for the entertainment of
guests. The dining room was spacious and very elegant, food first class,
and service very formal. The leisure ride alone was worth the trip. On
Sunday afternoon after Junior League meeting was over, a group of us
walked down the Chester Steps to the river to see the steamboats land and
take on freight. The "roust-abouts" always sang as they loaded, making up
their song to fit whatever they were loading, and the tempo fitted the job.
This made their work easier.
We would go aboard and as long as there was water enough in the old
river channel, the boat would go up to St. Mary's and return to Chester
when we would get off and climb the hill for home.
On other days we would take the "Dinky" train or Illinois Southern
to Fort Gage for the day and roam over the Fort and surrounding grounds
looking for underground graves of which tales had been told. We never
seemed to find them though. We would sit on the bluff each time we went
and watch the last of the Old Kaskaskia homes crumble and fall into the
river, trying to remember what had disappeared since our last trip. Our
lunch consisted of cheese, crackers, soda and cookies bought at the Fort
Gage grocery. When the evening "Dinky" arrived, we climbed aboard, tired
but happy about what we had seen and done.
I think Captain Harvey Neville owned the first ferry boat in Chester,
then John Smith (who was the father of Chan Smith), who later sold it to
Robert Grah. There also was a ferry boat at the prison owned by L. B.
Yourtee and another farther up near Fort Gage called Harnett's ferry owned
and operated by the Bamett family. This was the one my family used when
we lived on Kaskaskia Island. The boat was operated by horse power. The
horse traveled round and round to keep the engine going. One man looked
after that, another the piloting and loading. One day my mother, driving a
pair of mules to a wagon, came to Chester alone, and she was the only
passenger on that trip across. The two men got into a fight and of course,
the horse stopped the engine, and the boat was gradually drifting down
stream. One of the men had a hatchet and although Mother was badly
frightened, she knew she had to do something. She did manage finally to
part them and get the boat going again.
Some of the packet boats had excursions occasionally, and they were
always enjoyable. In the later years regular excursion boats were and are
now available for all-day or evening trips with food, entertainment of all
Kinds, including dancing.
Captain Harvey Neville owned the "Nick Sauer," a boat used for
iduling wheat from Cole's Mill and cattle to St. Louis. He also used it as a
pleasure boat for his family and friends.
We were always happy when the show boats came to town. The
( I olden Rod, Cotton Blossoms and Frenche's New Sensation are some I
remember. There was always excitement through the town when the caliope
could be heard coming up the river. There was one caliopist who was ex-
ceptionally good— Ray Choisser on the Frenche's New Sensation. With the
first strains audible, we could tell when he was operating. He was a master
on the instrument. I especially remember seeing the play "The Trail of the
Lonesome Pine. " The ceiling was wired so that bird calls came from various
locations, and that was really delightful.
A few years ago a replica of one of the show boats was on display at
either Famous Barr or the Stix store in downtown St. Louis. It was quite
large, probably 12 feet long. One side was open to show the interior of the
boat— stage, orchestra pit and large auditorium. My interest was im-
mediately aroused, and I stopped and talked to the lady in charge. It seems
that her family had been on the original boat for many years, and she was
being sent by the company to display the boat at many river towns.
It brought back many memories of all the plays I had seen on the
boats, because one summer I lived under the hill, and when my husband
worked evenings, my son, Fred, and I always attended. Somehow I always
felt that each one was better than the last.
I believe there is still one show boat in operation somewhere, but will
be retired next year.
Picture of Mississippi Waterfront in Chester - 1922
"Under-the-hill would not be complete without telling how the Old
Mississippi overflowed its banks occasionally and covered most of Water
Street and the railroad tracks. Some trains, especially the morning
"Dinky," would creep through the lower Chester streets with my husband
Dick Huffstutler at times standing on the cow catcher with long pole,
pushing away the debris ahead. Of course, we knew then that some day
these tracks must be moved to higher ground, because Old Man River is no
respecter of person or things.
"I remember the Mississippi being frozen over at Chester twice,
enabling people to walk across. Once was in the 20 's. I think that was the
time wagons drove across. This lasted for several weeks; however, I never
did have a desire to try it, although many people did.
"Our most notable character "under-the-hill" was Cap Boone, a
fixture of River Boat Days. He lived in a lean-to which he built on the river
bank and moved to higher ground as the river rose. When cold weather
came, he never removed any clothing, but just added another layer each
time the temperature dropped. The very formal frock coat he wore, once
belonged to Mrs. Margaret McNabney's grandfather. Dr. C. A. Mann.
When we met Cap and saluted him, his answer was always "Peep! Peep!" in
a high pitched voice. Cap worked at odd jobs and gave his money to
William (Boe) Born to put into the bank for him. He also knew how to make
easy money. He let the roust-abouts do the hard work when the steamboats
landed, and that night, of course, there would be a crap game, because they
all had money. Cap won most of the time, and this he added to his bank
account. When he died there was money aplenty to give him a nice burial.
The levee has never been the same since Cap Boone died.
In 1944 a tornado struck the bridge and tore out the two center
spans and dropped them in the river.
"A bridge over the Mississippi at Chester just below the prison was
started in 1939 by the Massman Construction Company and completed in
1942. On Saturday evening, Aug. 4, 1944, at 9:30 p.m. a tornado came
roEiring down the river, hit the bluff, and veered toward the Missouri shore
and destroyed our beautiful bridge. The two central spans were torn from
the piers and dropped on their side into the river. When the electric cable
broke, flames shot into the air, making possible the sight of just what
happened to two people who were nearby and watching at the proper time.
Mrs. Gertrude Burklow was on her porch, awaiting her husband's return
from work at the Security Hospital. Jack Sutt, who worked at the light and
ice plant, was also watching and saw it. He called the toll gate on the bridge
and informed the keeper who was Fonrose Jones. All of Chester was in
complete deu-kness for some time.
"Henry Gross and his son Herman were returning from a trip to
Kaskaskia. When they came near the bridge approach, something told
them to stop and look around, which they did and found no bridge there.
"It was never known whether or not any one was on the bridge at the
time. A search in the water showed nothing. A man and his wife with a
truckload of furniture had just crossed to this side, and they told the toll
taker that some of his furniture had been blown from the truck into the river
by the high wind. The new bridge was completed and opened for traffic on
Aug. 24, 1946, at 8 a.m.
"Many exciting and unusual events began under-the-hill. I
remember one in particular. My aunt in Percy had died, and Jennie Boeger
and I went over on the Wabash train for the Saturday funeral service. The
Wabash train did not run on Sunday. My husband said, "Perhaps I can
come after you late in the afternoon." Of course, we didn't think he was
serious, but about five o'clock in the afternoon, here came Dick. He had
gotten permission to use the Signal Department's motor car and railroad
clearance. What a surprise and what a ride! It was wonderful rolling down
the track through green pastures, sitting on an improvised seat for two
more people. We made it home safely, delighted with a new experience.
"Another exciting experience was a trip in our motor boat. Maggie
and Will Bom with their son Kendall, Dick, myself and our son Fred had
gone up the river farther than usual one evening to see something special.
Darkness was falling fast on our return trip and as we neared home,' Dick
suddenly guided the boat around an object which was far too close for
safety. It was a dead horse floating along in the darkness. Only for a little
shake-up, we survived and were glad when we were ashore and at home.
"According to an old newspaper clipping, Chester was the first city
ever to be street lighted by electricity in 1883 or 1884. Power was furnished
by H. C. Cole and Company, and there were six lights in town. One was on
the point of the hill near the Cole residence; one was on the hill above the W.
C. W. Railroad; one was opposite John Devine's saloon downtown, and one
was at the MacAdam's yard. Another was at the corner of Lindsay's and
one at the Catholic Church. Frank Cain did the servicing.
"The first telephones in Chester were one under-the-hill at Gollon's
Saloon and one in Buena Vista at the Chester Bottling Works owned by the
Welge brothers. Important messages passed between these two phones and
were delivered personally. They were operated on batteries.
"The first graphaphone to arrive in Chester was owned by Charles
Brandes who lived on the corner of Swanwick and Cheapside Streets. It was
a Victor with the picture of a dog on the large horn. The records were of
cylinder form. I made a record on this machine when I was six years old. I
believe the machine now is in the possession of a great grandson, William
Preusse of Naperville, a brother of Paul Preusse, Jr. of Chester and Mrs.
Wib Alms of Menard, and the son of Paul Preusse, Sr. of Chester.
"P. S. I have just received a letter from one of the distant readers of
the Chester Herald-Tribune, Sallie Ballard of Miami, Florida, one of the
Ballards who lived in the Old Stone House with her mother and great aunt
Abi Francis. It reads in part as follows: Dear Jessie: The old days, how they
do come back. The Old Stone House was my great-grandfather's. He was
Horace Francis. My great-aunt Abi was his spinster daughter, the
"Southern Sympathizer" who dressed in a red and white striped dress and
used to walk up and down Water Street, waving a southern flag as boats of
southern prisoners were being taken to stockades in Chicago.
'My grandmother visited a cousin in the stockade in bitter winter
weather, contracted quick consumption, leaving Mama an eight-year-old
orphan, reared by her grandmother and Aunt Abi. Mama married John
'The old dresses you spoke of, ante-bellum styles, are still beautiful
treasures of the fourth generation of nieces. The sheer one, silk grenadine,
was worn to a ball given by St. Louis in honor of Prince Edward VIII
during the Civil War. We don't know which one of the Frances girls went to
'Great-aunt Abi's hand was sought by a German Count Von
Dolschion, but her dad refused to let her go to Germany. No, I am no
descent from royalty. Great-grandmother Francis was a pioneer cousin
from Virginia. In the old early days, educated people liked to hear her tell of
pioneer days. One of her visitors was the Mr. Eads of Ead's Bridge fame.
'Great-grandfather Francis built the Old Stone House about 1834.
The cement was floated down the Mississippi on rafts. In the great flood of
1844, boats bringing refugees put their gang planks in at the second floor
front windows. The water mark was way up on the fireplace. The plaster
never cracked because it was mixed with horse hair.
In 1943 we sold the house to the city so that they could eliminate the
sharp corner. They used the stone to build the fire station by the water
tower on the hill. In recent years we sold the back lots to the city as a place
for the filter plant, and the rest of the front to the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Chester is such a lovely city, white houses on hills of green, on
different levels— so pretty as you approach the river on the Missouri side,
and the view of Missouri farms — level and patterned back to the Ozarks, all
seen from the Court House yard.
At the top of the route up the City Steps on the right is a two-story
house. I always wanted to see lower Chester and the Mississippi River and
Missouri from their porch or windows facing Missouri.
We are so delighted, charmed and absorbed in your articles and hope
that you continue on up the hill and out to the edge of town.
Sally Virginia Ballard
In the next series I will begin my climb up the hill.
"As I start my climb up the Chester Hill, I begin to wonder just how
many times I have done this before. My step is slower now, but this gives
me time to enjoy my memories. I pass the home of my good friends Maggie,
Will, and Kendall Born, whose house did not show as I gazed from the
levee. My pulse quickens now, because I am nearing the northeast corner of
Hancock and Buena Vista Streets where I lived many happy years with my
husband Dick and our little boy Fred Elmer.
Chester Hill looking up Buena Vista from Hancock Street.
"These were wonderful years in many ways. The entire neigh-
borhood consisted of nice families with children of all ages who played
together. There were the Kennedy children, Horner and Pauline Gersuch,
Ammert and Clyde Barnard, Kendall Born, Elmer Beare's little girl, the
Darwin children, Robin and Hester Baucom and the Crippen brigade, with
Mrs. Crippen as "Mother Hen," always watching over the brood. Sounds of
"Lay Low Sheep" each summer evening could be heard resounding through
the entire neighborhood until dark. Then the children would all congregate
at one home for quiet games until bed time. All of these children learned to
swim in a water hole in a nearby pasture where cows went to drink. This
was fed by a spring farther up the hill. Many hot afternoons Mrs. Gersuch
took her book with the brood following, headed for the pasture for a swim,
ai she sat under a tree to read. Children "under-the-hill" swam in the river,
but that was off-limits for our children.
Elementary school for colored children on Hancock Street.
"The elementary school for colored children was on Hancock Street
at the back of the former Rock Presbyterian Church which had been made
into a residence. Across Buena Vista at the lower end of the block was a
lumber yard owned by E. S. Clemens which he bought from Nick Beare in
1 903 . In 1 91 3 L . Schweizer bought an interest in the business , as did his son
Bill in 1923. In 1924 the business was incorporated as Clemens Lumber
Company of Chester, combining the two businesses. From 1928 to 1932 it
was the only lumber yard in Chester. In 1932 the two Schweizers bought the
Clemens share and became sole owners. Now, after 66 years of service as of
March 1 , 1969, the Clemens Lumber Company was sold to Harold J. Reiss,
son-in-law of J. L. Montroy of Chester. It will retain the name of Clemens
"The large brick house with the many porches next door where E. A.
Crippen and his family lived then, was originally the home of William
Schuchert and his wife. They had no children. William J. Schuchert took
up his residence in Chester in 1848 and had been in business for him-
self since 1867. His native place was Ottendorf, Hanover, Germany,
where he was born Sept. 28, 1832. He received his education there in the
public schools. At the age of 16 he was brought by his father to America. In
1849 he returned to Germany for his younger brother John F., having saved
sufficient out of his wage of $10 per month to make the trip. They returned
to Chester in Nov., 1849. In 1852 he went to California, returning in 1858.
For a time then he clerked and in 1867 became proprietor of his own
business where he remained, and also acquired other properties. He was
married to Louami F. Costellow in April, 1860. The Costellows were
originally South Carolinians and came hither via Tennessee. Mr. Schuchert
was elected Mayor of Chester in April, 1881, the duties of which office he
discharged with great credit to himself and his adopted city.
"Mr. Schuchert built the building on the corner next to his beautiful
home. The lower floor was used for a store building, and I am told he let the
lOOF Lodge use the upstairs for their lodge hall for the price of $1.00 as
long as he owned the building. The lower floor for some time now has been
the office of Clemens Lumber Company.
"Just across Hancock Street on the corner. Miss Lizzie Pomeraski
lived and operated a millinery store. In those days most hats were hand-
made, and she was an artist at her trade.
"Farther up the hill were the homes of Attorney Arthur Crisler,
which has been made into an apartment house, and Attorney Abe Gordon,
father of our friend and schoolmate Florence, and Mrs. Nathan Cohen, who
still lives in the residence. Directly across the street beside the home of Mrs.
John Gilster was the approach to the Chester City Steps, from the hilltop to
"The Chester Hill was the scene of much pleasure when snow
covered it. After the evening trains were in, the police would permit
coasting straight down Buena Vista to the dead end, and, most of the time,
one stood guard. One afternoon Bob Devine asked me to ride down with him
on a single sled. I was so frightened by the time we reached the bottom, I
decided never to repeat the performance.
"On Saturday nights we always went to the picture show downtown.
Maggie Born, Kendall, Dick, Fred Elmer and myself attended, regardless
of the weather. At times the hill would be too slick to use the car, so we all
walked. As we took one step up, we often slid back two, but after much
effort on our parts, we reached the top. The real fun was in going down after
the show was over. We had trouble keeping our brakes on and had many a
One morning we awakened to find a very heavy snow which had
driven very high in spots. Mothers took their small children to school that
day, because we feared they would get lost in a drift. When we went after
them in the evening, there was no difficulty because John Darwin had made
a shovel on runners, hitched his horse to it and cleared the sidewalk from
bottom to top.
In summer on Sunday evenings Dick and I would sit on our porch
and watch the children ride down the hill in their little wgons. Dick had put
a siren on our Ford, so he took the Ford horn and put it on Fred Elmer's
wagon with the battery underneath. As he went down the hill and honked
the horn to pass a car, they immediately moved over, and when they saw
the wagon pass them, they looked with an air of disgust. Dick and I enjoyed
the joke more than the driver, I'm sure.
As well as pleasure, tragedy came to the hill. One evening the Fire
Department was having a trial run down the hill, and when they turned our
corner going, I suppose, too fast, the engine turned over. One fireman was
carried into our yard and died there. It was our neighbor Johnnie Darwin.
"Years later when our boys were in high school. Jack Devine, Ward
Stanley and Fred Elmer were coasting on a single sled. All three were lying
on the sled with Fred the bottom man to guide. It had thawed some that
day and then froze, leaving rough points. The sled collapsed under their
weight and off they slid on the rough ice on their faces. They walked up to
the first street light and were looking each other over to see what damage
had been done when Oscar Marquette came along and saw their scratched,
cut bloody faces. He said, "Boys, climb in and tell me who your doctors
are." They went to Dr. Fritze and Dr. Beare. They were all badly cut, but
the bottom man was the worst. In the act Fred bit his tongue. Dr. Beare
took five stitches in his tongue and eight in the upper lip and nostril. But
"If the 'Old Hiir could talk it would have many tales to tell, but,
anyway, it's a grand old hill. Dick Huff stu tier thought so, because his brass
front Ford took it in high gear like a soldier, and not many could do that.
"After the flood of 1844 the question of changing the County Seat
of Randolph County to a more accessible point became general. The
Kaskaskians became greatly alarmed, and Parson Perry of the 'Republican'
published at Kaskaskia fought manfully for the old village as did others.
Finally a bill providing for the selection of a permanent seat of justice for
the County of Randolph was introduced in the General Assembly in
January, 1847, and became an "Act" by approval of the Governor on Jan.
30, 1847. It provided that an election should be held on the first Monday of
April, 1847, as between towns having aspirations to become or remain the
County Capital, and that if one of the contending towns should receive a
majority of all votes cast at the election, a second election should be held on
the first Monday in May, 1847, to decide between the three towns having
obtained the most numerous votes at the first election. The third provision
was that in case no absolute majority was obtained, a third election should
be held the first Monday of June, 1847, to decide between the two towns
having received the greatest number of votes at the second election. Chester
won over Sparta by 42 votes, the total having voted, 1736.
"The second election left Kaskaskia out of the race. The 'Republican'
embraced Sparta, because it hated Chester more. Some Chester men who
were interested in selling lots and were not residents of Chester, filed a bond
to donate $3500 for the erection of public buildings.
"Several Sparta men promised they would at their own expense
build a substantial court house 40x45 feet and two stories high if Sparta
mill I II
"This is Parson Percy's comment on the third election: 'The County
Seat election came off on June 7, 1847. Never perhaps in the annals of
history was the election more grossly violated. Votes from an adjoining
state were freely taken. Boys and persons of doubtful blood were accepted.
Chester performed her part with much eclatt, and Sparta was not much
behind, if we were correctly informed. This game was played off by both of
the rival towns for the purpose of breaking down Kaskaskia which they
both had been trying to do for years past. We have no doubt that two-thirds
of the voters of the county were dissatisfied and would have been no matter
which of these two points were successful. So far as we can learn, Chester
had received a majority of 40 votes, but Sparta contested the election."
"Had the previous election been conducted with fairness, Kaskaskia
would have remained the County Seat, and we think it hard to lose it by
such dishonorable means as have been resorted to. We give below the of-
ficial returns of this honorable (?) election and leave it to the people to make
what comments they please upon this extraordinary increase in population
of Randolph County's total votes, 2124. At least 600 illegal votes were
"The County Seat matter was finally disposed of by the Circuit
Court during the November term in 1847 and it was decided in favor of
Chester. After many citizens' meetings and much dissatisfaction, a session
of the County Board was held in the Court House at Kaskaskia Nov. 22,
1847. Present were Edward Campbell, William McBride and James
Gillespi. The usual proceedings were followed by Judge Koerner of the
Circuit Court and ordered 'that in persuance of a law of the General
Assembly of the State of Hlinois entitled an act for the location of a per-
manent seat for Randolph County, approved Jan. 30, 1847, the records ol
the county be conveyed to the town of Chester, the present seat of Ran
dolph County, and the clerk of the court remove records and transact al
official business required by law to be done at county seat at said town ol
Chester in the county aforesaid."
The order was signed by each member individually.
Charles Kane, Circuit Clerk, and J. W. Gillis, Recorder, at first
refused to move their offices.
The regular December term of 1847 of the County Board was held ir
the school house at Chester, which was to be a temporary court house. The
form of county government was changed under the new constitution, whicl
provided for County Courts to be composed of a judge and two associate
justices for each county. The old County Board held its last meeting on
Dec. 4, 1849.
of Illinois. -
The election of November, 1849, entrusted the affairs of the count;
to the first county court with John Campbell the County Judge and Be
Bailey and John Broser, Associate Justices. The court held its first term o
Dec. 17, 1849. John Gillis was County Clerk and John A. Wilson, Sherifi
The new court house was completed during their administration. On Jun
20, 1850, there appeared in open court, Thomas Mather, James L. Lamb
Stacy B. Opdyke, A. Andrews, Francis Swanwick, Seth Allen, Adolpl
Black, A. Perkins, Joseph B. Holmes, Joseph Williamson, Judsoi
Clement, John Swanwick, Marmaduke Ferris, Joseph Mattingly, James R
Dunn and Charles Song who had entered into bond to build a suitable coun
house at Chester at the expense of the citizens of said town, and presentee
to the County Court said court house for said county to use forever, as theii
own property in fee without charge or rent, and free from all lien or in-
The court accepted the tender of court house and considered that the
said bond had been fully discharged and tendered, thanks of the county tc
said donors for the gift of said court house.
It was furnished at the expense of the county and first occupied or
Sept. 2, 1850. The site of the court house had been selected by the County
Board in 1849. The lots on which it was erected had been donated by Seth
Allen who had been very successful in the cooperage business, since most
everything at that time was shipped by barrel. The building was erected by
William Haskins at the expense of private individuals.
William Taylor contracted with the County Board for the building of
the old jail at Chester on Jan. 16, 1849. The jail site was also donated by
Seth Allen, but the building was paid for by the county, at a cost of $140.
What is now the middle section of the present Court House including
the court room on the second floor was the first to be erected in 1849. The
stone part built especially for the Circuit Clerk and County Clerk was built
in 1869 by Herman C. Cole at a cost of $10,000 including labor and
materials. No bonds were issued at that time, and the county paid off at 10
per cent interest. The third wing of the two stories was built in 1911.
Sparta was a poor loser, because for many years they continued to
try for the Court House. Every few years the subject would pop up. When I
was a teenager we organized a chorus and took our political songs to all of
the country picnics. Sparta had a male quartet and they were always there
too with their portable organ. Since this was a friendly fight they always
allowed us to use their organ. We also had a few torch light processions
similar to the ones of the older political days.
Picture of Court House and Bank of Chester after the Grandview Hotel burned in
"Around the court house are many interesting old buildings. Behind
and to the right at the corner of East Buena Vista and Wall Streets is the
beautiful old home of Mrs. John Sprigg Gilster.
This house was built by Mrs. Jane Douglas who, widowed with son
James, came from Scotland with a large group of relatives in 1855. They all
apparently had money, because they bought property, most of them here in
the rural area, but Jane stayed in town and bought four lots on the corner of
East Buena Vista and Wall Streets. With these lots she acquired two school
buildings and a cottage.
She soon built a two-story brick house, using some of the cottage
brick on the interior walls and the old doors between basement rooms. The
girls' school building was moved and attached to the home to be used as a
kitchen. The boys' school building, which has been kept in good condition,
still stands on the Wall Street side in the back. Steps on the other side of
the school extended down the terraced hillside to Harrison Street below.
This had been a private day school, and Mrs. Gertrude Gnaegy Burklow
told me that her her father, Adam Gnaegy Sr., attended that school when
he was a small boy.
Jane married Mr. McAdams, and this beautiful home was always
called the McAdams home. James Douglas inherited this from his mother
in 1921. Steven A. Douglas made a speech from the front lawn, it is said.
Gem Theatre owned and operated by Frieda
and Art Beare.
Chester Pharmacy, now Victor
In the next block is a building of very heavy structure and quite old.
The Aspley family lived there for awhile. At one time a bakery and saddlery
occupied these rooms.
Farther down the street at 213 W. Buena Vista Street is the First
Christian Church, located on the hilltop overlooking the river. This building
I think was built and first used by the United Presbyterians, then sold to
the Methodists. I don't know when the building was built, but records show
that on Aug. 25, 1879, at a quarterly conference meeting, the Trustees
reported that the church owned this building valued at $4000, and the
society, out of debt, moved to purchase the Schultz property near the
church for a parsonage. The motion was approved and property bought
November, 1789. This property was at the corner of Buena Vista and
Morrison Streets. Later it was owned by Douglas Harkness in 1919 and is
now demolished and used for parking space.
This church building was where I started to Sunday School when
they had coal oil lamps and pot-bellied stoves. I sang my first public solo
here when I was five years old. Here I became a member of the church and
the adult choir in 1900 when I was 12 years old.
Some of the adult choir members were Mrs. Betty Sprigg, Mrs.
Jessie James, Mrs. J. M. Dickson, organist, Blanche Eggberry, Will
MacKenzie and Bert Allen.
In 1921 we moved into our new church building on the comer of
State and Hancock. An educational building was added in 1963. The old
building was sold to the Presbyterians. They remodeled and used it until
1962 when their beautiful new church at 1750 Swanwick Street was com-
pleted. The Christian Church is a rather new denomination in Chester and
now occupies the building.
As I stand on the court house steps looking to my left, I see that the
brick house owned by Henry Rickman has been torn down. Behind it still
stands the Rock House where Professor Dickson lived so long. He was the
Superintendent of Schools. In front of this building is the Grand View
Grand View Hotel, Chester, 111. before it was destroyed by fire in 1908.
The old Grand View Hotel burned in 1908. It was the place of many
social affairs, and the beautiful balcony on the front was the meeting place
of many celebrities. Mr. O. Oliver was in charge of the saloon there.
The hotel was rebuilt and now John Jungewaelter Jr. is owner and
Looking on up the left side of State Steet in that block I remember
Hart's Clothing Store, Arthur Chenue's Jewelry, Chester Supply owned by
Meredith, Short and Cohen, the Western Business Agency where Agnes
Burbes Kuhrtz worked, the Chester Herald, Stoever and then Douglas
Josie Edwards' home came next. I remember her well and was
entertained often in her home. Later Mrs. J. Randolph lived there. She was
Mabel Achsah Hartzell (Randolph), the great-granddaughter of Governor
Shadrach Bond. I remember her quite well.
Laird's Drug Store was next door with Dr. Adderly's office above.
The John Devine home and Kennedy's Store, now Carpenters Hall, came
next. Most of these have been changed or demolished for parking, grocery
store, paint shop, drug store. Dr. Wright's chiropractic office, and
Padgett's Nursing Home. This nursing home is in the Devine home, the
inside of which remains the same, but for a sun porch which has been added
to the front of one side and a man's dormitory added in the back. A
member of the Devine family, John, was able to spend his last days in the
home, which made him very happy.
Chester Supply Co. owned by Short and Cohen. Picture of Bill Cohen,
father of Cohen who owned the store. It was where the Food Park is
L. A. Kennedy building now Carpenter's Hall.
^ ~ ^ ■ ■
The Douglas Granite works, later Henry Stover, and old Chester
Herald building, now beauty shop and Town & Country Gas Co.
As we turn left and walk down Young Avenue, Dr. L. B. Torrence
had his dental office on the comer across the street. I remember the Charles
Thies house which originally belonged to Judge Hartzell who married Mary
Elizabeth Holmes, granddaughter of Governor Shadrach Bond. That too,
has been demolished.
I remember the Horner home where Miss Sarah, the piano teacher,
and her sister Lula lived. Then there were the two Roberts sisters, Kate and
Udie, with their brother Harry. The St. Vrain home with Minnie, Kitty and
mother, Mrs. Jessie Horine James, and her tow sons, then the large
Bronson home now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ted Search Jr. Across the
street lived Edwina Morse and her mother who taught school here. This was
called "Quality Row."
On a vacant lot behind the Chester Supply in that block was the
place for tent meetings. Many evangelists came for two or three weeks of
meetings. Rev. Ed and Joe Meads were two we especiedly liked. Boards
were used for seats, straw on the ground, and a large platform for ministers
and choir. The choir consisted of members from all the churches. We really
had a big group, and the music was beautiful.
Every night the tent would be packed to overflowing, for these
religious services. These were days when religion flourished, and people
attended their churches. Many people were converted and traveled the road
of our Lord.
"Looking to my right from the Court House steps, I see the First
National Bank building. I remember the old Phoenix Block on that corner
which burned in 1917 and 1918. It was rebuilt and completed in 1919. E. A.
Crippen was the contractor.
Phoenix Block, Chester, ZIL
The Phoenix Block picture in 1909, which burned in 1917 and rebuilt in 1918 and
1919. Now the site of the First National Bank In Chester.
During the Phoenix Block days the first floor held the bank,
Southern Illinois Power and Light Company, Chester Herald Tribune, and
the post office, plus the stairway to the third floor. The second floor was
reserved for offices, mostly attorneys, and a library also used for Christian
Science services. There also was a large banquet hall which was much in
On the third floor front was the Chester Theatre with a large stage
used for plays, concerts, dances. Baccalaureate services and com-
mencement exercises. My own was held there in May, 1905. This I
remember well. Across the hallway was the Masonic Hall.
In the new building the lower floor contained the same businesses.
The second floor did not have a banquet hall, but the telephone office moved
in, plus the abstract office. On the third floor the theatre and Masonic Hall
The Chester Theatre was a busy place in those days, because home
talent plavs were very popular at that time. It "was a good way for churches
to make much needed money. Often a company representative was em-
ployed to supervise, but often we played on our own. I've played parts from
an end-man in a minstrel to a member of a singing-dance chorus, plus
character parts eind concert soloist.
I particularly remember one play that brought an overflow crowd
two nights. One night at the Chester Theatre and one night at the Chester
Opera House, the play was given as a benefit for the grade school gym-
nasium. It was called "The Womanless Wedding" with John File as the
bride and Joseph Montroy, the groom. I don't remember the "minister,"
but he used a Sears -Roebuck catalogue for the ceremony.
I was doing all the accompanying which was a mixture of music-
sheet, manuscript, and some by memory, all to be cued in at the proper
time. In the early morning of the first evening performance, I slipped and
sat down very hard on a concrete step, bruising my tail bone which caused
much pain. The doctor was called immediately, but it was in the afternoon
before I could sit up with any degree of comfort. The entire company was
plenty worried, as I was. Anyway, with two fat cushions I managed the two
nights, much to the relief of all concerned.
Another outstanding performance in the theatre was a concert by the
members of an old-fashioned singing school. A gang plank had been placed
in the middle aisle with one end on the stage and the other end at the cross
aisle. Members all dressed in old-fashioned clothes, entered from the hall
door as their names were called, walked up the gang plank and took their
places on the stage. The first act was our singing lesson, and then the
concert followed. These are just samples of many nice things we did.
The charity ball was always something to look forward to each year.
It was not only a social event, but the proceeds were used by the St.
Elizabeth's Society for the poor.
The bank was remodeled and enlsirged in December, 1965,
celebrating the 75th anniversary of its founding. The post office had moved
to its new building in Buena Vista and the Illinois Power Company moved
to a new location on the other side of the building. The Chester Herald
Tribune moved down the street where Pearl and Jack Johnson once had a
store. The third floor theatre is no more. It has been made into offices of
Radio Station KSGM. The Masonic Hall remains.
There were several outstanding attorneys in the early years whom I
remember. A. G. Gordon who graduated from McKendree College in 1871
practiced in Steeleville until moving to Chester in 1874. He was selected the
first Prosecuting Attorney of Randolph County. John H. Lindsay was
elected County Judge in 1873. In partnership was his young son-in-law,
Ralph E. Sprigg, a native of the county and son of James D. Sprigg, a
former prominent citizen and office holder. Ralph Sprigg was attentive and
determined and made the best of his advantages to become one of the very
best attorneys in the area. When he was to plead a case people flocked to the
court room to hear him, Don E. Detrich was elected Prosecuting Attorney
in 1880. A. E. Crisler was also very prominent in his profession. J. B.
Simpson, a native of Randolph County, was one of Nature's noblemen. He
took up the study of law unaided by a teacher and was admitted to the bar
in 1871. He was a Republican candidate for County Judge in 1882, but was
defeated. H. C. Homer was a native of Arkansas and was admitted to the
bar in 1877. He rapidly took high rank among his fellows. He was a close
student, clear and forceful in argument and well versed in law. He wrote
and published a set of books for which he received recognition. J. Fred
Gilster, E. H. Wegener and William H. Schuwerk, all deceased, were
among a younger group, but very successful.
As I leave the bank building and walk up State Street, I remember
the buildings of older days. The Phillips building which housed the
Harkness restaurant had the telephone office above it. The first operators
were Cora Miller Dunnerman and Ruth Eggbury Hathaway with Eugene
Gordon as Superintendent.
Paskel's Store was really a curiosity shop. From the grade school we
would go there and ask for something unusual, so it would neccessitate
much searching on Mr. Paskel's part. This gave us the opportunity of
looking around, and he never seemed to find what we asked for. Then there
was Judge Wegener's office. He was always glad to see old friends.
Mayme Whirle had a millinery store with beautiful handmade hats.
Then came the children's delight — a small confectionary operated by Mr.
and Mrs. Will Cain. We called her Miss Jennie. From the grade school we
would go with two or three pennies for candy. In that store there was such a
variety of three pieces for a penny. We would ponder sometimes ten
minutes before deciding how to spend the pennies, and Miss Jennie would
smile and patiently wait.
Henry Nagel had a grocery with Ray Manwaring as helper. Pearl
and Jack Johnson had a dry goods store, Schmitts, a meat market, and
then there was Mr. Schelik's hardware. He was a peculiar man — a bachelor
with money who slept in his store and ate his meals at the hotel. My brother
Elmer Gant worked for him after school, on Saturdays, and during summer
One summer Mr. Schenk took a short vacation, leaving Elmer in
^charge of the store to the dismay of the other businessmen, since he never
before had taken a vacation. I am told that he put in Chester's first water
system, paying for it himself.
George Douglas had a livery stable and saloon. Another house or
two and on the corner of State and Market Streets was the home of Minnie
Adams, school teacher and city librarian for many years.
On this lot the Jaycees have just recently built shuffle board courts
primarily for the use of Senior Citizens, but they are available to any
Chester residents. Equipment may be obtained at the Padgett's Nursing
Hosne across th« street froni the courts. The Jaycees are to be com-
plimented for this project, since they are a desirable addition to the
recreation facilities far the city . Other old buildings have been replaced with
the Crippen apartments and the bank parking lots.
To the right around the comer of Miss Minnie's home down Market
Street stood the old school house where so many of us spent our school
days. It is all gone with nothing left as a reminder, except our memories.
The building just off the school grounds facing Franklin Street
where Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Otteson live was originally built as a Baptist
Church, the first in Chester, I think. It was in this church building that my
brother Elmer and I, at a revival meeting, made our decision for Christ and
became members of the First Methodist Church in 1900.
The City Hotel is down, as well as others in this area. I almost forgot
to say that at one time we had an organ factory here. It was located on
Brssel Street about where the Bunny Bread Company is now. Dewey
Schenkel's father worked there.
"On the corner of State and Market Streets the old Staley home still
stands, but the Episcopal manse and church have been replaced this year
by a lovely modern parsonage for the Baptist minister, the Rev. Floyd
Edith Staley home, Episcopal Church and parsonage, now the First
Baptist Church parsonage.
The beautiful old Swanwick house stands among the old trees, like a
sentinel, guarding the neighborhood, watching the changing world since
1849. This property with a small house on it was first owned by the
Strattons who deeded it in 1837 to Eleagover Walker who in 1838 deeded it
to Richard Servant. In 1841 it was passed on to L. U. Lavillebeauvere, then
in 1849, it was bought by the Swanwicks, and the new house was built by
them. It was the two-story brick which is now the front of the house — the
kitchen and dining area being in the basement, that style of architecture
being popular then. I recently was told that one of the Swanwick maids
named the city of Chester. In the very early days it had been called Smith's
Ferry. Not liking the name, a contest was held, and this maid wrote such a
complimentary story of its beauty which reminded her so much of Chester,
England, that this settled the question.
In 1905 Joshua Rickman became the owner. I quote from the Chester
Herald Tribune's 50 year ago column of recent date: "E. A. Crippen is in
town remodeling the Rickman house." That was when the addition was
added to the back. Since 1950 Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Mullins have had the
pleasure of owning and residing in this lovely home.
The Lewis Morrison home next door was built by him in 1896. Their
daughter married a Methodist minister, Rev. E. J. Gale who at the time of
his retirement in 1946 was president of Missouri Wesleyan College. They
came to Chester and lived in this house until their deaths in 1955 and 1957.
The property now, plus farms across the river, are in the possession of Mr.
and Mrs. Gaylor Rybolt, who divide their time between the two places.
Mrs. Rybolt is the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. Gale.
The old Spencer home later owned by John Meredith has been
replaced with a modern apartment building of four apartments owned by
Mrs. Morris Frager and her son Ervin.
The Speckman house with Henry and Miss Mary Speckman and
Miss Anna Schulte, was left to the Cathohc Church with the provision that
a home for the aged was to be built. Now a lovely nursing home stands there
of which Chester is very proud.
Georgia Chadwick's brick home is still here, owned by Mr. and Mrs.
Frank Cook who have made it their home with two apartments upstairs.
Some other buildings have been replaced by new homes and the office of Dr.
Mathis, a surgeon and gynecologist.
Dr. Morrison Home,
now Dr. John Beck
The Joseph Morrison brick home and dental office have been sold to
Dr. John Beck, M.D., who came to Chester in 1964. He has a wife, Mary
and seven wonderful small children, and this is just the place to raise them.
The Becks did some remodeling to the kitchen I believe. Dr. Beck, until last
year, used the office pretty much as it was with some small changes. He
then remodeled it by adding to the back and one side. He now has most of
the interior paneled and has taken an associate physician, Dr. James M.
Whittenberg. We are very, very fortunate to have them both.
Two small Martin houses are here, but Dr. Hoffman's office is gone.
Juergens the Tailor is still with us in the 900 block of State Street
since 1911. H. F. William Juergens being from Germany, knew his
profession well and when first coming to the United States, carried his
samples in his trunk, calling at the homes for" orders. In 1894 he opened a
shop in Steeleville, moving to Chester in 1911 and locating his shop on the
first floor of a building between Mr. Henry Eggers and Mr. Gus Knapp. He
soon built his own shop across the street where the Dr. Omer Hoffman home
is now. In the 20's dry cleaning had become popular, so he moved up a
couple of lots and built a new building in which he added equipment for dry
cleaning, at 918 State Street. His son Henry had worked with him, learning
designing and tailoring, but he was called into service in World War II and
returned home two months after his father's death, Sept., 1945. Henry took
over the shop which he later bought from the family. In the whole
metropolitan St. Louis area only a very few can draft and cut a paper
pattern for garments. Besides civilian suits he specializes in riding habits or
saddle suits which he has furnished for riders in 21 states. Real tailoring is
almost a lost art, and Chester is very fortunate to have one of the very few.
In 1960 Henry added an addition to his building and installed new
The first building built by Henry's father was bought by Fred
Dunnermann in 1930 which he moved down the hill across the highway from
about the location of the old colored church. It stands on the hillside in the
midst of trees and undergrowth and can be seen, if one looks closely, on the
right driving down the hill.
The Sigmund Brinkmann home was remodeled, and Dr. E. Ralph
May had his residence and office there for many years until his retirement
and death some years ago.
The Petrowski tailor shop, then a dry cleaning plant, has been
replaced by a two-story business building owned by Jim Frazer, as does the
Dr. May home. He handles furniture, electrical appliances, and other items.
The Rudolph Holmes home is no more.'The Martin filling station has
taken its place several years ago.
We now touch "Legal Hill" so named because of the attorneys who
have resided there, including Mssrs. Ralph Sprigg, Clay Horner, E. H.
Wegener, J. Fred Glister, William H. Schuwerk. Residents also included a
number of doctors: A. E. Frtize, J. W. Beare, J. M. Whittenberg, Max
Aszman, W. R. MacKenzie, Frederick Vogt, Gerald Hammond, Albert
Wolff, an optometrist, Robert C. Wolz and his associate, dentists, Milton
Zemlyn and I. D. Newmark.
Beyond Legal Hill on the old Meredith property is our Community
Grade School at 650 Opdyke Street and the American Legion Alva Courier
Post 487 at 500 E. Opdyke.
Farther out and facing the river a large community called "Katz-
ville" has arisen. The city swimming pool is nearby and the Nite Hawk
restaurant and truck stop. The old Cleary house was remodeled many years
ago by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Katz, and the family has enjoyed this beautiful
place for many years. Their three boys were raised here, as was a niece, Gail
Now Mom and Dad are alone.
Dr. Fritze's house at 139 E. Opdyke, built in 1904, still stands like
Noah's Ark— strong and sturdy, and it is still in the family, now the home
of Mr. and Mrs. William H . Welge, where their three sons were raised. Now
the grandchildren think it is a wonderful place to come. The Welges have
done extensive alteration on the house, but nothing to alter its beautiful
style of architecture.
Mrs. Jennie Boeger and I live just across the street, and we have
wonderful neighbors all around us, including the Peace Lutheran Church
across the street in charge of the Rev. and Mrs. O. M. Meyer.
At the end of the street at State and Opdyke where once Mid-
dendorf's Confectionary was, stands a Texaco station operated by Frank
I regret to say that the once-beautiful brick home of Dr. William
MacKenzie was allowed to remain vacant and to deteriorate until about two
years ago when it was bought by Mr. and Mrs. William MuUins and
demolished. He also owns the Howorth property adjoining it. This home
has been vacant also for several years. There is a rumor that these lots may
be used to build homes especially for elderly people, and another location
chosen for the building of homes for those in the lower income brackets.
"The property at the northwest comer of State and Opdyke Streets
where my last story ended was a rectangle 105 feet on State and 140 feet on
Opdyke. The street on the south at one time was Madison, but I think this
has been changed. At the present time the Royal Hotel is on the east.
In early years when this area was farm land this particular property
was owned by the Henry Schrader family. Their farm horses were kept
where the present Schroeder Furniture Store now stands. In the immediate
area there was just one other house— a small one on the property now
owned by Wilbur Saak at 1158 George Street.
The first Schrader home was a small one on the exact spot where
their new home was built later, using the same basement, occupied now by
Mr. and Mrs. Clem Hamm. In the southwest corner was a long low building
used as a cooper shop where barrel staves were made to supply the Buena
Vista Milling Company (owned by the Glisters) for the barrels in which
their flour was shipped.
On the northwest comer was a store building which through the
years was used for various businesses, including Mr. Artmann's Saddle
Shop, Heitman's Confectionary, and later the Middendorf Confectionary.
About 1892 Dr. Max Aszmann, then a young physician just out of
school, leased a small piece of the ground facing State Street from Mrs.
Lizzie Schrader and built an office where he stayed 48 years of the 50 years
he practiced medicine. The last two years he practiced from his home
because of failing health. He died in 1942. This small building still stands
and is now the barbershop of Joseph Montroy.
Between the confectionary and cooper shop facing Opdyke was a
two-story five-room house built by the Schraders. As these buildings were
added, Henry Schrader's son and his wife (called Aunt Lizzie by most of her
friends) owned some of them, and at her husband's death, she bought the
remaining ones. She then shared her large two-story home with a cousin,
Mrs. Mary Bold, and her daughter Josie who later became Mrs. Clem
Gollon. Marie Gollon was bom in this house which has remained her home
through the years, because when Aunt Lizzie died, she left this property to
Marie, who is now Mrs. Clem Hamm.
In 1937 Marie had the smaller house facing Opdyke moved back to
the east side, and the Texaco Station has occupied the entire northwest
Next to this property on State Street was a store building used first
as a music store and later as a saloon. The second floor was used by the
colored people as a church.
Then came a small hotel and restaurant owned and operated by the
Lenherr family and called "The Lone Star Restaurant" about the late teens.
In 1930 Joe Knapp bought the hotel and remodeled it. It was very popular
in its day, serving the public as well as being a show room for the traveling
salesmen. They were called tmnk showings. It then became the Royal
Hotel. In 1947 it was taken over by the Koenemans who did extensive
remodeling; then, in the fall of 1965, the Motor Lodge was added by them
and the named changed to Royal Motor Lodge.
' 10 Til
W-'i 1 ' 1 . ^F^^^M
At one time, Old Lone Star Restaurant site, now the Royal Hotel.
Several houses were demolished for parking— Mr. Busse's tailor
shop. Bill Aszmann's saloon and Gus Lang's meat market where the best
homemade liver sausage could be found. These were replaced by Cowell and
Sons, Inc., an automobile business. On the corner of State and Stacey
Streets the "Village Blacksmith" stood with Mr. Kuntz at the anvil. This
has been replaced by the Sincledr Station.
Turning the corner here to the right we see the Buena Vista Milling
Co., owned and operated by the Glisters in the same location for more than
80 years. Many changes have taken place over these years. When the
making of flour was discontinued here, poultry was added to the feed
business, then poultry was discontinued, and for some time it has been feed
and seed. Since 1929 it has been owned and operated by Willigun H. Welge,
a member of the Gilster family.
Between the mill and the blacksmith shop was the mill pond where I
remember skating many times, as did other young people, but it too is
gone, leaving us with memories only.
At the top of the Mill Hill on the opposite side of the street is the
Chester Clinic of Drs. Newmark and Zemlyn. This hill has always been
known as the Mill Hill, and the youth of the town thought it was made just
for coasting when we had snow. We really used it. I remember about 1925
when I had a youth choir at the Methodist Church composed of 30 high
school students singing at the Sunday evening services, a big snow came
during the week. At rehearsal there was some discussion of w£mting to go
coasting that Sunday evening. This is the way we settled it— by wearing
our coasting clothes to church since our robes would cover them, and after
church we would all go coasting. I'll probably shock some people by saying
that on that evening, I wore my son's Boy Scout pants to church also, and
went coasting with the young people. We had a wonderful evening.
Further down the hill is a large two-story building that once was a
planing mill where furniture was made with Detlef Ahrens and his helpers.
Mr. Ahrens was the father of Mrs. Emma Buenger and Mrs. Herman Kraft.
This building now has been made into apartments.
Near the feet of the hill is the Elks' Club and on the corner, the
Standard Station of Atchison and Brown. From Stacey out State Street to
the Fairgrounds for a few blocks, homes have been built on both sides, but
we do miss the old laundry which burned a few years ago. Then Novak's
farm was on the left and across the road was pasture land the topography of
which was very rough with little hills and valleys. Later Mrs. Austin Cole
Sr. owned the land and, seeing great possiblities, presented some to the
Presbyterian Church for a new building at 1750 State Steeet. In 1962 the
new church was finished.
At 1900 State Street Mrs. Cole presented a large tract for the
building of a hospital which began operation in October, 1962, with a
patient capacity of 46 plus a solarium. They soon added beds in the
solarium, making 56. A well-equipped physical therapy department was
added in 1967, and they are now in the process of building a new wing,
adding 29 beds for patients plus an intensive care unit. There is room in the
above-ground basement for 26 beds later, which will make 112 beds.
Chester is very proud of this new hospital.
The old Fairgrounds where horse racing, fairs and picnics wer^ held
was very popular, but it is no more. Beautiful homes grace the race tracks
which we call Fair Ground Circle with the remaining area filled as well. The
old grandstand, I think, is about where the Trailer Court is now. Across
the street from the front entrance is Carter's Grocery for the convenience of
people in this area.
My greatest memory of going to the fair or a picnic at the
Fairgrounds is taking home a good sunburn and a headache.
Mr. Isaac Beare and Dr. Torrence at State and' Young Avenue,
tist Office, later Dr. Klippert's.
"Now I shall return to Dr. Klippert's office and walk up State Street
on the north side. First I see the little shoe shop where Mr. Griese mended
shoes for many years. That is now part of Dr. Klippert's yard. Next to this
is Mr. Seidel's store building with Tillie Young's home adjoining. Mr.
Seidel came to his store each day even though he had little on his shelves.
He sat on the front steps and smoked his pipe. We used to go there from
school and ask for something. His answer was always the same— "I got
nottings." Either he didn't have or wanted to keep the last piece on the
shelf. Since his death there has been a church and several small businesses
started, but none lasted long. I think it is now vacant with a nice apartment
The Schroeder home and barber shop were next. Mr. Schroeder's
daughter was the wife of Mr. Paskel who owned a store farther downtown.
A building used for a cigar factory and a home were next, and then the
home of Jim Morrison. The Schroeder and cigar factory buildings have been
replaced by the First Baptist Church, completed in 1950, having built and
used the basement since 1940. This beautiful church is across the street
from the lovely new parsonage built this year, 1969.
The Jim Morrison home where the Chester Public Library now
stands was a long white house containing 13 rooms and no porches. He
never married, living there alone and having his meals at a hotel. At one
time Ev. Clemens and his mother lived with him for awhile. He was a
brother of Lu Morrison whose home was across the street, but Mr. Jim's
was much older.
The Chester Public Library was a gift from C. B. Cole, and was built
in 1928. He died just after its completion, but before its dedication. A
private family service was held at the home and a public service at the
library. A daughter, Miss Alice, requested the Chester Choral Club, which
she sponsored, to sing for the service. Our director was Mr. McFadden from
St. Louis, and he came that day to driect us in singing "Goin' Home."
In 1965 the daughters of Percy Carter Withers and Edna Cole
Withers furnished the children's library downstairs in honor of their
parents, thus helping to continue the work of their grandfather, C. B. Cole.
Miss Minnie Adams was the librarian from its beginning until she became
ill and Mrs. Paul Nagel took her place on Aug. 1, 1957. When the Children's
Library was furnished in 1965, Mrs. Waldo McDonald was chosen for that
The large two-story frame house next to the library has been
replaced by an ultra-modern brick four apartment building owned by Mrs.
Morris Frager and her son Ervin.
The Dr. James big home has been remodeled into apartments, and
the little store built in 1883 where the DoUes Sisters had a hat shop for
many years, with a home built in 1897, adjoining, has beeen used as a florist
shop by Rev. Floyd Jent's wife. She has now retired, and it is vacant.
Dr. Hoffman's home, formerly owned by Doc Cleiman and now the
home of Mrs. Gordon Beers, still stands. The Snook home was replaced by
the Ford Garage.
George Rhienecker, Jr. built a new home at 851 State Street. It
replaced a brick two-story building that records show ownership of property
by the Chester Methodist Church, conveyed to the church on May 20, 1850.
I am told that the Methodists held services upstairs and German
Methodists, downstairs. Later the church sold it. and it was made into a
dwelling, and, at a much later time, was owned by Mr. Max Katz.
From this building up to the comer at Servant was the home of Dr.
A. G. Gordon with offices on the lower end and home near the center. In
1919 the Methodist Church bought this property and sold the lower part to
Rudolph Holmes where he built a duplex for himself and wife and for his
son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar C. Schroeder.
The home was there for the parsonage, so a church was built. Later,
about 1955, the parsonage was removed to make room for church ex-
pansion, while a new parsonage was being built at 725 Ann. In 1962 a new
educational building was built with a wonderful Fellowship Hall which is
used extensively for church activities as well as a meeting place for Scouts,
Retired Teachers, rummage sales, banquets, etc.
Turning left on Servant Street we see the Joe Knapp home standing
high on the ridge with the Stadler, Welge and Baronowsky homes. We no
longer see the old Dr. Frank Zilliken home. It has long been gone. Turning
left down Ann Street, our mind goes back to the old Chautauqua Days
when few homes were on the hillside at the street's end.
We were members of the chautauqua traveling circuit and, each
summer, under a big tent, we were furnished cultural entertainment af-
ternoons and evenings for a week. That was the highlight of the summer
activities. Homes have long filled all the space in that area now. I remember
a few colored people near during the chautauqua days — the Holdens and
Penny s. Mother Amanda Penny used to tell fortunes with cards, and many
people went there, including myself and some of the other girls. Mrs. Penny
died less than a year ago. She had been living with some of her family in
Alton and was brought back to Chester for interment. I went to the chapel
to see her. She didn't look more than 70 years, although she was more than
90 years old. I met two very lovely granddaughters there that day.
We have always had nice colored families in Chester. Out near the
Evergreen Cemetery lived the Millner family. Mrs. Millner had married a
minister who died, and she lived there alone. Mrs. Ralph Sprigg and some
of the leading citizens each summer gave a homemade ice cream festival on
the Millner lawn to help her pay the taxes on her property. I remember
taking a trip east one summer and discovered that the Pullman porter was
Ed Millner from Chester, and I really received special services.
Our present colored people now arc all special. There is Mother
McGee and all of her family. She was one time called "Mother of the Year"
by the news reporter for her life and the wonderful family she raised.
Chester wouldn't be the same without Mabel and John Harris. Mabel used
to drive me to the doctor in Du Quoin when I first moved here, and we had
some lovely picnics in the school park, then often called on my old close
neighbors. There is Pearl Lyghtle, Hoses Bixby, and, I'm sure, many more
whom I do not know.
I remember also the Caldwell family. Mother Caldwell and daughter
Hattie worked for my mother, and then Hattie worked for me. She studied
piano with me and did very well too. None of them live here now.
A low rental housing project has been built in the area from Ann
Street along the back road to Water Street. From Ann to the entire area
over to Security Hospital property there are new homes built on the
hillsides and valleys including the area eastward to the Catholic Church.
The church has bought a lot of property near the church, behind the school
for baseball, across the street for the Knights of Columbus Club, and the
Julia Singer property on the comer where she had her home and
dressmaking shop. This is to be used for parking. The old nuns' home was a
frame building across from Miss Julia's, facing Swanwick. One evening
Miss Julia was working late in her shop and discovered their house was on
fire. She ran into the street calling for help, but it burned to the ground. A
new home was soon built. I remember the latticed porch in the back where
the nuns sat on warm summer evenings. At that time I lived near and ran
errands for them. I often would go over and sit on this porch with them in
the evenings. The building is now gone and space used for parking. They
have established their convent in the old Weber house at 915 Swanwick,
next to the rectory. A library has been added to the school, a gift from Anna
Schulte at her death.
I remember the Mc Adams' pasture in this area. Paul Cripperi as a
small boy herded the McAdams' cows up the main street, around past our
house on Swanwick Street, down West Church Street to the pasture each
morning. He would take them home in the evening for milking and for the
night. That was my introduction to the Crippen family who later became
my very good friends.
In this pasture now we have a small foundry where special castings
are made. This is owned by Bob Schroeder and Orville Cook, I think.
Over on State Street where Gus Knapp's home and meat market
once stood, the Joy Theatre is now the home of the Veterans of Foreign
Wars. They plan to remove the theatre for parking space, next was the
Henry Eggers home with Miss Lydia's millinery and later, Wolff's Meat
Market. On the corner is the Welge Furniture Store and Funeral Chapel.
"The Welge furniture store had a very early beginning with Conrad
Welge and Fred Heinrich Boeger when they made furniture bv hand. The
exact date is not known when they located in the eastern half of what is
now known as the Ace Hardware Store at 977 State Street. It is presumed
that Henry Gilster, who was associated in business with his brother Louis
on Swanwick Street, built this part of the building with living quarters
above which the Boegers occupied. When the men were busy working or
delivering their products, the women kept the store.
Many people today remember Grandma Boeger and son Fred. The
Welge and Boeger partnership was dissolved in 1882. Mr. Boeger bought
and moved his family to a small house at 138 E. Opdyke to which he added
rooms and continued to work at his profession with a Mr. Struess. Their
initials "B" and "S" could be found on the back of their products. Mrs.
Jennie Boeger has a large desk made by Fred's father with inlaid trim.
Several people in Chester have pieces marked with "B" and "S."
The Welge business now became Conrad Welge and Son. The sign in
front of the store read "C. Welge and Son, Dealers in Furniture and Car-
pets." This was the oldest son Charles. I want to say now that Conrad
Welge made by hand the beautiful balcony rail at the Chester Opera House
which we enjoyed for so many years, and I'm wondering how many times
Ted Mueller varnished and polished it while he worked there.
In 1896 another son Rudolph joined the firm, and it become C. Welge
and Sons. In 1902 they built their own store at 953 State Street, its present
location. When the father retired it became Welge Brothers and still carries
Interior of Welge Bros. Furniture Store around 1912. Far left - Charles F. Welge,
In center - Charles Staats; On right - Rudolph Welge.
A mortuary had always been included in their business with services
conducted at the family home. In the very early days coffins were made by
hand. Country folks, when coming to town to order one, would bring a corn
stalk the same length of the person, as a measurement.
In 1930 Welge Brothers built a lovely chapel on the west side of the
building with a driveway. I remember well the Sunday afternoon they held
open house for the public. I came down from McKendree College at
Lebanon where I was House Mother in the boys' dormitory (Carnegie Hall)
to assist Miss Claire Lehmen in furnishing a program of music for the
At the present time Welge Brothers is the oldest retail business in
Chester under the same name and same family ownership. This business
includes four generations and is 87 years old. Conrad Welge represents the
first generation and sons Charles and Rudoph, the second. All are deceased.
Paul Welge, son of Rudolph, is the third generation, and the fourth
generation is Paul Preusse Jr., grandson of Charles, and Carl Welge, son of
Paul and grandson of Rudolph.
About 1890 Henry Gilster dissolved his partnership with his brother
Louis, built another room on the west side of the building then occupied by
Welges at 977 State and opened a grocery store. He also built a lovely brick
home next door for his family. He had an underground passageway between
the two basements which he used for storage. When Welge Brothers moved
in 1902 to their new location, Mr. Gilster opened a dry goods store in that
room which was operated by his son Herman for many years.
After Henry Glister's death in 1907 the grocery was managed first
by Henry Decker, and later owned by William Haier and Mr. and
Mrs. Herman Boeger, but operated by George Haier for 17 1/2 years. At
Herman Gilster's death the dry goods department was operated for many
years by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Middendorf, For nearly 50 years the offices of the
Gilster Milling Company occupied the second floor of the building.
In 1959 a new front was installed on the lower floor and Mr. Parker
opened a hardware store, using both rooms. In 1963 he joined the Ace
Hardware Company and traveled while his son-in-law and daughter, the
Carle Mahns, took over the store and managed it until 1968 when Don
Stallman bought the business and began its management. The building and
house were sold in 1960 to St. Mary's Catholic Parish. The house was
removed and the space used for the parking and a playground for St.
Mary's school girls at recess and noon for games.
On the lots beside the Gilster residence to the corner once stood
a long white house of two stories with porches across the front up-
stairs and down. That was owned by one of the Brinkman families. The
Knapp building built in 1929 and bought in 1937 by John Jungewaelter Sr.
and the Leonard Building have replaced that space.
The Jungewaelter building contains on the first floor, a self-help
laundry and the Chester Bakery, with apartments above. The Chester
Bakery has been in the Jungewaelter family for 30 years, operated by Mr.
Jungewaelter with sons Clvde and Earl as helpers. The sons are now
operators and "Pop" is a helper at times. The bakery was started by a man
named Miller, and when he left. Bill Welge had Mr. Jungewaelter operate it
for a short time. He then bought it in 1939.
In this block some of the buildings have been interchanged by
several occupants until it is like a Chinese puzzle to explain. William Welge
was a photographer, and about 1902 he built and operated a studio at 981
State Street, where he stayed until Justin Leonard came to Chester in 1935
and bought his business where he stayed until 1958 when he bought his
present building at 967 State from Charles Getting. At that time the
DeCrow Drug Store and the Lamkin Jewelry Store occupied the two store
rooms. The Lamkins moved to another location, and Mr. Leonard
established his studio here. Mr. DeCrow died, and his wife now operates the
DeCrow Confectionary. Mr. Leonard in 1962 added a complete second story
with two apartments and three work rooms.
Mr. and Mrs. Spurlock established the Dollar Store in the Welge
building in 1962. They both were killed in a car accident in March, 1966,
and two months later Mrs. Kate Boeger who operated a dress and accessory
shop in the Singer building closed out her business, and she, with Mrs.
Adelphia Lunsford, took over the Dollar Store. Jim Frazer recently bought
the Welge building, using the second floor for storing excess furniture. He
also is using rooms in the Singer and the Herman Boeger building for
The Singer building was owned by three sisters who lived together
and operated a hat shop there in the brick section. They also owned all the
buildings up to the Ben Franklin Store. I think Mrs. Marie Juegens now
owns the brick section except Dr. Albert Wolff's present location, 987
State, which he owns and where he has practiced optometry for one-third of
A jewelry store has had a place in this block for about 80 years. Mr.
Martin Wolff in 1890 opened a jewelry store in the room next to the present
Ben Franklin store. This had formerly been a confectionary operated by the
Stebers. First the elder Stebers had a bakery at their home and sold the
bread in the store. Later the confectionary was operated for several years by
Cyril and Min Steber.
In 1900 Martin Wolff moved to Murphysboro, and his brother Anton
came to the Chester store, staying until 1907 when brother Frank came to
take over. He bought and moved to 987 State Steeet some time between
1907 and 1917. In 1954 the business was sold to Lawrence Montroy who
remained in that location until the fall of 1969 when he moved to 1201
1 : m r.A
As far back as I can remember, Chester has always had a Katz Store.
I quote, in part, from the Chester Herald Tribune of May 27, 1938: "As a
poor immigrant boy from Austria, Mr. Max Katz landed in New York on
May 25, 1888, with but little cash and a determination to make himself a
home in his adopted country.
"He secured a lodging place among friendly Jews in the Ghetto, New
York's Jewish settlement. He soon decided to start out for himself, and,
spending his last cent for merchandise which he could peddle, he started out
on foot from New York, walking toward Norfolk, Va., where he landed
several months later. He stopped at night with friendly farmers along the
road and sold merchandise during the day along the route. After a few days
in Norfolk, and replenishing his pack, he started on southwest peddling
through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and finally landed at Mobile.
Here he bought a horse and wagon and started north.
"He finally landed in Perry County, Missouri, where he spent some
time peddling among the farmers. On Jan. 25, 1891, he crossed the
Mississippi, driving across the ice and landing in Chester.
"For a year he peddled in Randolph County and finally decided to
open a store in Chester. His first store was in a building about where
Hirsches' store is now. The business was under the name of Katz and
Hamm until 1895 when Mr. Hamm sold out to Mr. Katz who took in J. M.
Tindall who remained in the firm until 1899.
Max Katz at Montroy's Barber Shop
"In 1898 the store moved to 989 State Street where it became known
far and wide. Mr. Katz carried a line of men's clothing of the very finest. It
was in this store that my son Fred Huffstutler learned to know what fine
fabrics were, as he worked there while in high school, on Saturdays and
summers. At this time Mr. Katz's son Marcus was associated with him.
"In 1911 Mr. Katz opened a second store on Water Street near the
Missouri- Pacific depot. This was operated by an older son Harry for about
25 years. Then the two stores merged. For a short time Marcus and his wife
using the adjoining building, added ladies' accessories.
"Harry was just 16 years old when he took charge of the store on the
levee, and part of that time also operated the St. James Hotel on Water
Street. Later with his wife Henrietta they operated a ladies' ready-to-wear
store in his own building at 1029 State Street which he later sold to P. N.
"During an interview with a reporter from the Herald-Tribune Mr.
Max Katz said, 'I have many friends in Chester and vicinity who have stuck
by me all these years. I am grateful to them for their business and friend-
ships and want to thank them, every one.' At the time of this interview in
1938, Mr. Katz was celebrating his 46th year in business here and the 50th
anniversary of his coming to America.
"Mr. Katz was married in 1891 to Rose Goldstein of St. Louis, and
they located at Chester the next year. They raised a family of four children,
all of whom have been highly respected citizens of this city.
"All of them eventually left Chester except Harry. He loves his home
town and the people who live here. Like his father, he said, in a 1965 edition
of the Herald-Tribune, 'Chester and the people in it have been good to me
and my family, and I appreciate it.'
"In 1935 he became a real estate broker maintaining an office on the
second floor of his building at 1029 State Street. He was elected Mayor of
Chester in 1949 and re-elected for another term in 1953, serving from 1949-
"During his term of office and even before that, Harry became
concerned about the inequitable burden of real estate taxes levied for the
support of local government, county, city and the public school system. As
an added source of city revenue, Harry negotiated an arrangement with the
Magnolia Pipe Line Company whereby the pipeline company paid $25,000
for a franchise to hang a 20" pipe line on the bridge at an annual rental of
"That was the beginning of a new source of non-real estate tax
money as a source of funds which met the increased cost of city govern-
ment. The citizens of Chester can thank Harry Katz for first establishing
this concept which has resulted in the elimination of the real estate tax for
"This is just one of the projects Harry has helped promote for the
good of our city and now, at age 75, he is still interested in the community.
Chester is very fortunate to have had the Katz family for so many years
with their interest in the building of a good city. They have all been good
citizens and Harry and Henrietta are still working at it. They are fine
people, ever ready to help when needed. They are not only my good neigh-
bors, but my friends of many years.
Bill Schuchert, owner of old Opera House, in front of Wiebusch Saloon,
now Wittenbrlnk's Tavern.
"In 1937 Oscar Wittenbrink bought the tavern at 995 State Street
from Louis Boettcher. In the old days it was for many years the Wiebusch
Saloon with their home adjoining the west side at the back, leaving a nice
front yard. Mr. Wittenbrink first remodeled the second story of the tavern
with a large apartment in the front for his family and others for rental. He
then removed the house and in that space, built the store building that later
became the Ben Franklin Store. It was first opened under the management
of M. J. Boettcher who operated it for a short time. Since then several
managers have come and gone Mr. William H. McDonald is there at the
Oscar operated the tavern for many years, after his death H. A.
Boxdorfer, a son-in-law, took over the management for awhile, then he
sublet the business.
Chester Opera House
I have a story to tell concerning the Chester Opera House located at
1001 and 03 State Street, with its early history, activities and the en-
volvement of many people, some of whom later became famous — especially
Elzie Segar, creator of Popeye.
My first acquaintance with this building was in early 1893 when I
visited my Grandmother Maxwell and Aunt Ellen Walsh, a seamstress,
who lived in the long house in its backyard. The house faced toward
downtown with a portico extending its full length. A low board fence
separated the two buildings giving each a small yard. This house was part
of the Opera House property.
In March that same year, when I was five years old, my father died
during the summer. Mother obtained a renter for the farm on Kaskaskia
Island and we moved to Chester, living almost one year with my Grand-
mother and Aunt Ellen in this house until Mother could arrange for buying
The double stairway entrance to the theatre which was located on the
second floor, was in the back of the building— reached from the front by
outside wide brick-paved walks on each side, so I really had a box-seat at all
times and saw much of the theatrical world and local celebrities going in and
out of the theatre in this one year.
I remember, and earlier history refers to it, as one of the popular
centers of cultural entertainment and pleasure for the people of Chester
and surrounding area. There were extravaganzas by local drama clubs,
stock companies of high repute, many of them coming for a week's stand;
concerts by one of the three Schuchert Bands; local parties by written
invitation with Mrs. Weibusch next door serving them in her own private
dining room; many home talent programs, dancing, both public and clubs,
skating rink, silent movies, then the talking pictures.
The interior of the theatre was very elegant with large stage
equipped with drop curtain, stage scenery and plenty of dressing room
behind, with a piano off-stage. Chairs were used and the seating capacity
was about 350. Two large stoves in the front corners heated the building.
The stairway came up in the center of the floor with a closed railing around
three sides while in the back of the hall was a most gracefully curved
balcony which extended forward on both sides. There were two store rooms
on the first floor, one occupied by the Sigmund Aszmann Grocery and the
other by the Louis Heitman Drug Co. Later the Ervin Aszmann Shoe Store
All of this was made possible by the coming of John F. W. Schuchert
from Germany to America in 1848. His wife had died leaving him with two
sons, John F. and William J. He brought William J., then 16 years old,
with him, leaving him in New Orleans while he proceeded to Chester to
locate. Then his son joined him here. William J. clerked for $10 per month
and at the end of the year had saved enough money to return to Geriiiany
and bring his brother John F., then 12 years old, back with him in 1849.
In October 1851, John F. W. bought some property on State Street
in Buena Vista containing a saloon and black smith shop with a long house
behind it. This property was where the Chester Opera House now stands
and he and his sons lived in the long house behind it.
Both boys were store clerks, retail grocers and general mer-
chantizers. William J. finally became proprietor of a store in which business
he remained. I have told more of William J. in another story of my "I
Remember Series." John F. was a wholesale grocer for a few years in Ste.
Genevieve, Mo., where he had a serious accident while driving— being
dragged quite a distance by a horse. Not having the medical aids that are
available today, after a long illness, he was left a partial cripple, using a
cane the rest of his life. After this he returned to Chester. His first marriage
was to Elizabeth Hoppe Feb. 15, 1856. She died May 6, 1862. One son,
John William, ("Ou Bill") came from this marriage. In March 18, 1863,
John F. married Seletha Ford and from this marriage two sons and two
John G. built the elegant Opera House in 1875, was proprietor and
projector operator and he owned several other buildings used for various
purposes. Between 1870 and 1875 he built and lived at 1158 George Street
until 1911. This house is now owned by Wilbur Saak. John F.'s children
from the second marriage were Dr. C. E. Schuchert with dental offices in
Red Bud and Cape Girardeau. He had a band in Red! Bud. William J. and
John F. each had bands in Chester. John F. Jr., whose business was that of
manager to Theatre artists lived with his wife in the little long house behind
Lhe Opera House where his son Ernest Fred was born in 1892. Alice married
Holman Deen and lived in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Mollie spent the greater
part of her life in the theater. She had her beginning here with local drama
clubs, then with traveling stock companies, playing many times at the
Opera House. In 1899 she went to New York for study where she stayed in
the theater until the advent of the movies- then on to Hollywood where she "
probably did not reach her expectations. She returned home to the Cape in
1932 and remained there until her death in 1951 .
John F. also owned a theater in Cape Girardeau where he operated
with booking offices there, leaving the management in Chester to his son
John William (Bill) who had grown up in the business with him here. Bill
wore a mustache, was rather chubby, good natured, jovial as well as ex-
ceptionally friendly, which made for a good host at all times. He always had
some tall tale to tell and was often called "Windy Bill." He was especially
nice to all the children and often gave them nicknames. I remember a comic
strip called "The Feinheimer Twins." There happened to be two young
brothers about seven and nine years old who lived near the Opera House
and were usually in attendance. Bill named them his "Feinheimer Twins"
and, although the admission for children was five cents, the twins went
in for just one nickel. Bill's "Feinheimer Twines" were none other than
Henry and Willie Juergens.
Bill's most popular trait was his love for hamburgers. These were
usually bought at the Weibusch Saloon next door or at the Ed Middendorf
Confectionary across the street where Cooks' Service Station now stands.
Sometimes they went up to the George Gozney's Saloon, now known as the
Eggemeyer Tavern. A pair of Shetland ponies, Babe and Lucille, hitched to
a buggy, was Bill's mode of transportation. He lived with his wife Liz and
daughter Pettie Ida in a large frame house on Harrison Street overlooking
the river. His wife Liz was good-hearted and full of fun, but a personality all
her very own. She seldom left the house except to go to the Opera House
and when she did grace the hall with her presence, her air of dignity and
elegance gained the respect of all who saw her. She always wore a black
wrapper made of a soft challie fabric. The bodice was fitted with a lining,
having two double box plaits extending from the neck down the front and
back. These were held at the waistline by a wide black satin ribbon tied in
the front. With this she wore a small balck bonnet-shaped hat with a small
plume on the back of her head — much like my grandmother's.
My Aunt Ellen made these wrappers for her and I often managed to
be present when she came for a fitting because I loved to hear her talk. One
day Bill must have given her a hard time because she was in a bad mood
when she came and this is what she said: "When I die, I want to be buried
in black from the skin out because my life has been so dam black." I'm sure
she changed her mind about this, because many years later I saw pink
lingerie flying in the breeze from her clothes line.
She also smoked a small Sub Rosa cigar and was never without
them, because she carried the small box in the bosom of her wrapper. You
may think this queer, but it seemed a part of her personality. She often
brought her bulldog Bobbie on a leash to the movie. He would sit quietly on
a chair beside her and help her eat popcorn. She often sat with him near one
of the stoves in cold weather.
During my employment at the theater about 1908 at the time of
silent movies, the personnel consisted of Mr. Schuchert, manager; three
young lads, Ted Mueller and Red Faverty who were the projector operators,
and Elzie Segar who played drums with either Vida Spurgeon of Ellis
Grove or myself at the piano. Occasionally Elzie would have a rest period
and go to the projection room and Red would permit him to operate the
At that time the reel had to be rewound before the next picture could
be shown. Elzie used his creative ability by making slides to be thrown on
the screen during this period. Often he used local people and events for this
cartoon. For one such slide he used a local young man knocking on the door,
calling on his girlfriend. Of course, everyone knew who the young man was
because he made the face to look just like him.
After the evening performance it was Elzie's duty to go to the
several bulletin boards located at various places in the area and change the
poster for the next perofrmance. He had as his assistant a small neigh-
borhood boy with a little red wagon to haul the posters. This boy was
1912 - Joe Gollon and wagon. He helped Elzie Segar put up show post-
ers. Picture taken in front of Max Katz store.
When the theatrical troups arrived in town there was always much
excitement and plenty of work, because in order to get their trunks to the
second floor it was necessary to tie ropes around them and pull them up the
steps. They didn't always carry a piano player with them. Then I was
I never knew what I'd find in the music line. Some of it was badly
worn and very often manuscript which was not easy to read, but at that
time if I had the melody and time signature, I could usually fill in to suit the
song and dance routines without much difficulty. It was often necessary to
mend the music before using it. There was always a parade in the afternoon
advertising the play— led by the Schuchert Cornet Band. For the silent
movies my choices of music varied. I used popular, ragtime and semi-
classiss. For a typical Theda Bara love story, I often used "The Flower
Song" by Gustav Lang. Momvenent 1 was the love scene; 2, a small
quarrel; 3, all peaceful again; 4, brought the villian (or other lover) with a
stormy scene. She pleads with him and he storms out; 5, peace is again
restored and all ends well. For a quiet pastoral scene picture with some
excitmg moments, I sometimes used "Longing for Home." This number
was tuneful and easy to adapt to calm or excitement by changing the tempo
.a times to fit the picture. Elzie was a real artist in making these changes
v> ith me.
For a Western picture where they might be a cattle roundup or
horses traveling fast at times, I liked to use "The Turkish Patrol." This
fitted the mood of the cowboys as well as the cattle and was easily adap-
table to their movements. On Saturday evening we always had "The Perils
of Pauline" and sometimes I used "Waves of the Oceans." This was a
gallop and seemed to fit Pauline's many mishaps which kept us on the edges
of our chairs. Being a serial she was always left hanging from a cliff or in
some other precarious position for us to worry about the entire week.
Home of Mr. and Mrs. Amzl Segar near the city steps.
Elzie Crisler Segar lived with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Amzi Segar,
near the City Steps at the north end of Harrrison Street, having moved
there from the farm. His father was an interior decorator and was anxious
for Elzie to help him and to follow this vocation. But Elzie would have none
of that. As a lad he was shy, very quiet and frail. His eyes were large but
very soft and I could see kindness in them. He often smiled quietly when we
played soft music. His spare time was spent in drawing and I shall always
remember the wide brimmed straw hat he wore in summer.
He soon became poster artist and projector operator at the Opera
House, submitted an early drawing to the St. Louis Post Dispatch without
success, took mail order lessons financed by Bill Schuchert and finally
landed a Chicago newspaper job and began doing "Thimble Theatre" for
King Features in 1919. But it was not until he created Popeye in 1929 that
he bacame famous and his annual income reached $100,000. He created
Popeye because Caster and Olive Oyl needed a sailor to take them on an
ocean trip and from then on, he just ran away with the comic. Popeye
appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch for the first time June 15, 1931.
As other whimsical characters such as J. Wellington Wimpy, the
h£unburger- loving fight referee were introduced to suport the new star of
"Thimble Theatre" it became syndicated in 500 newspapers. The cartoon
continued after Segar's death in 1938, probably with the same artist who
drew it during his long illness.
Segar loved his home town and studied the characteristics of many
of the people, and from these experiences, came ideas for some of his
characters. I feel sure that "Thimble Theatre" was so named from
memories of his associations and experiences at the Opera House,
The hamburger-loving Wimpy was his own beloved former manager
of the Opera House, BiU Schuchert, and I have been told that Olive Oyl was
Mrs. Pascal, the wife of a former businessman downtown near the court
house. Popeye was Rocky Feigle, a Polish young man who lived with his
mother and sister near the Evergreen Cemetery. He was tall, strong,
always ready for a fight and always a winner. One day five local boys
decided to gang up on him and in that way, win the battle, but when they
all appeared, and the fight started — in a very short time Rocky had
whipped three of them and the other two couldn't be found. They had
disappeared. Rocky worked part-time at the George Gozney Saloon on
State Street— now known as Eggemeyer's Tavern. When Rocky had
finished his work and a couple of beers in his stomach, he would take a chair
out front, seat himself, tilt the chair back, and, with pipe in his mouth,
proceed to take a nap in the sunshine.
Day after day my brothers, Elzie Segar and several other boys would
take the long road home from school in order to pass Gozney's place, and if
Rocky was still sleeping, they would creep near, yell loudly and run. Of
course. Rocky would rouse quickly from his slumber, come out of his chair
with arms flying in all directions, ready for a fight, but by that time, the
boys would be a block away. Strange to say, he never lost his pipe.
As years passed, promoters tried to persuade Rocky to make per-
sonal appearance tours, but he wasn't interested. A business man in
Chester told me that at one time checks came regularly to Rocky from
Segar. This man saw the checks.
Segar died in 1938 at the age of 44 years. The Sunday Post Dispatch
of Oct. 23, 1938 carried a full page in the Rotogravure section with an ac-
count of his life, death, and a parade of his characters including Geezil,
Roughhouse, Wimpy, Poopdeck Pappy, Caster, Olive Oyl, Popeye, Sweet
Pea, The Jeep, Sea Hag, Alice the Goon, and Toar.
In 1908 John F. Schuchert died in Cape Girardeau at the age of 71
years. Services were held in Chester and the Chester Schuchert Comet
Band led the cortege to the Evergreen Cemetery, playing for the service, as
he would have wished.
Through the settlement of the estate John William (Bill) acquired
the Opera House and continued the program there with his assistants, Ted
Mueller and Jesse Fleming. In 1915 the back entrance of the Opera House
was closed, being replaced by a fire escape and a closed front stairway-
entrance built on the north side of the building adjoining the one then
occupied by the Lilburn Perry Dry Goods Store, now Daniel's Store. In the
late 20's, I was again at the piano taking turns with Margaret Heuer.
Movies improved and business continued as usual until Bill's death in 1941.
Walter Light with the assistance of Jess Fleming carried on there for ap-
proximately 12 years and then the Joy Theatre was built and they moved
Jess Fleming bought the Opera House building later, renting the
upper floor for the shoe factory union hall and using the lower floor for his
own electrical business until his death. Later his wife made the hall into
three modern apartments as we see it today with Mode-0-Day and Jim
Frazer's Furniture occupying the two rooms below.
The name Schuchert has from the very early days, held an important
place in the development and history of Chester. They pioneered early and
were men of push and ambition, ready with voice and purse to aid any good
undertaking, discharging any assigned duty with great credit to themselves
and their adopted city. And because of their generosity and concern for
other people, the talents of Elzie Segar were developed and through the
creation of Popeye, brought fame to their beloved city.
According to history, business on the corner of 1005 State Street at
Light Street began prior to the Civil War with a small building in which
John Floreth with sons William and Jake Jr. operated a store including
hardware, farm machinery and a tin shop. This was in the days when tin
cans were made for home canning of fruit, vegetables, etc. Mr. Floreth was
an itineraant preacher and this being more to his liking, soon left the store
to his two sons. Jake Jr. sold his partnership to Chris Weinrich, a young
man who, after serving two years in the Civil War, came from Longtown,
Mo. , to learn the blacksmith trade under Fred Rebbe Sr . , whose shop was in
the 1400 block of Swanwick Street where wagons were also made. The store
now was under the name of Weinrich and William Floreth.
Herman Rebbe (Alfred's father) began working for them in 1873 at
the age of 14, and since they also had a store under the hill, worked one half-
day at each store. In the early 80's Mr. Weinrich bought William's share
and became the sole owner.
The brick building at the back was the stable where the wagon and
horses were kept. About 1899 when Mr. Weinrich decided to build a new
building, all things were moved to the stable and operations went on as
usual from there.
The new store was large, consisting of two rooms on the first floor
and complete second floor which was used for the tin shop. Mr. Weinrich
took the east room, renting the west room to Lilburn Perry who operated a
dry goods store for many years with the help of Fred H . Boeger and Jeenie
Maxwell who later became Mrs. Fred Boeger. When Mr. Weinrich died,
Mr. Rebbe managed the store for his siter, Mrs. Chris Weinrich, and, at her
death, the two sons Fred and Heiman acquired the business and building.
Together they operated the business for several years. Then Fred died and
later Herman's health caused him to close the store.
At Mr. Perry's death his business was bought by Henry Burns, then
later Harry and Henrietta Katz with a ladies' ready-to-wear shop operated
here until they moved into their own building where the Hirsch store is now.
Then the Perry Location became Daniel's Store with Kenneth Pautler
managing first, Clarence Nordmeyer, second, and Hubert Frazer, third.
Hubert joined the Daniel staff in 1939, first working with Mr. Nordmeyer.
At his leaving in 1942 Hubert became manager. In 1957 the Koeneman
Agency bought the building, later remodeled the inside to be used as one
room, and since 1960 Daniels have occupied the entire floor. It is interesting
to know that the brick stable was repaired on the outside, paneled inside,
and made into offices by the Koenemans. As of this month, Daniel's Store
will close and Hubert take a position at Carter's, now owned by Clarence
The Schroeder Furniture Store was established in 1865 by Mr.
Schroeder, "No. 1." This was long before my time. Three generations
followed whom I did know. Herman Schroeder "No. 2" was a man of much
dignity and poise. When he conducted a service using the large hearse and
the beautiful black horses, it was really something to behold. They had a
black vehicle with two seats lengthwise used for carrying the pallbearers. I
remember on Memorial Day each year it carried the singers for the service
at the cemetery. I was usually one of them. We always called it the "Black
Oscar "No. 3" was very much like his father in the way he conducted
a service in his quiet efficient manner. His son Bob was "No. 4" in
operating the business. The family home of Mr. Herman was behind the
store on Swanwick Street. It was a stately two-story brick with a beautiful
yard and trees. Here the family was raised. Lillian became a teacher and
married Dr. Torrence. Jerry was in the undertaking business in Du Quoin a
long time. Hugo became a doctor of medicine. Ella lived in Du Quoin and
another sister, I think, in West Frankfort. The home still stands but has
been made into apartments. When Bob sold the business in 1965, it was 100
years old, under the same family management. Since then it has been under
new ownership, managed by Jack McClure, a partner in the business. Mr.
McClure joined the Schroeder staff in 1948.
I recall another home and business on Swanwick Street which I often
visited. It was the shoe repair shop of a wonderful man, Mr. Hupfer. His
work bench always interested me. It was rather pear-shaped to allow him to
sit astride of it with the large part in front for his work table.
Next to the Schroeder building was the William Stahlberg home and
jewelry store which later was bought by Tony DuRoche. John Paulus and
his restaurant came next. He made the best vegetable soup in town and
introduced Chester to Bond Bread. These have all been replaced by the
Katz building occupied now by Schuerens and the Hirsch Store. Offices and
apartments are on the second floor. Mr. and Mrs. Ervin Schueren with
Ladies' ready-to-wear and shoes were for 15 years located in the Opera
House building and at their present location eight years. The Hirsch Store
has been here since 1935 when they bought the Katz business and is now a
department store since the alteration inside made possible the use of the
There has been a Montroy Barber Shop in Chester for 71 years in the
same block. It began with Theodore Montroy purchasing a shop in 1928
from August Schroeder on State Street in an old building that stood where
the Hirsch Store now stands. His second location was 1031 State Street.
The Herald-Tribune printed an article in the paper in 1942 when Mr.
Montzoy had then, at age 72, completed 44 years as the active head of his
bosiness, not only setting an all-time record for length of business in
Chester, but there was not another single merchant in business in 1898. who
was stiD active head of his business.
His son, Paul, came into the business with him in 191" and another
son Joseph, in 1922. Atone time they had a very active business with four
chairs. Many people will remember Clark Maxwell at one of these chairs. In
April, 1959, Mr. Theodore died and Paul, in 1965.
Joseph continued operating the business in the same location until
July, 1967, when he sold the building and moved across the street to 1006
State Stre^, originally the office of Dr. Aszmann. A beauty shop now is
located in his old location.
As of this date Joseph Montroy has been in business in Chester
::r 4" ; firr Like his father he has watched the hair of some of his cus-
:.~rrs r.ir.ge to gray and then to white— and some that gradually
-jir^T.rri He also went through the period when women invaded the
- .^r- r:5 - \z ::r clipped necks and bobbed hair. He was also in business when
i^iijiV^g ni-g: and the Police Gazette gradually did a disappearing act
under the counter, and the shop ceased to be mans exclusive domain as
they were gradually pushed out of their loafing place. He proudly says he is
the oldest in service of any businessman in Chester.
The next building at 1033 State has served many different
businesses through the years until the Boonshaft Department Store came
and stayed about 25 years. Since 1952 Mr. and Mrs. Martin Epstein, who
cany a nice line of ladies: and children's wear, have been with us.
The last business on this block was the Schemer Grocery where the
best coffee in town could be bought. Mr. Schemer with his mother and two
sisters, lived above the store. I have been told that some of the neigh-
bcnliood girls were rather bothersome at times, going into the store with
their pennies for candy.
Since Mr. Schemer w as a patient man he quietly waited until their
choice was made. After this business transaction they asked to be weighed
on the big scale that stood far back in the store where there was no light. He
would Ug^t a candle and then take them all back and weigh them one by
one. He never once complained even though he knew they would repeat the
performance the next day. Martha White offices now occupy this space.
Once upon a time Buena Vista had a beautiful little park — Swanwick
Street <m the north, Stacey on the east. State on the south, and Cheap side
on the west. It realty was the pride of Chester. Corner crosswalks went
through it with a band stand in the center, and on the well-kept lawn, many
green bendies were placed.
Ir wag used for aH outdoor activities such as public addresses, band
::r. :rr:5 ^- : rek aind ice cream festivals which at that time were very
;:r. _.ir •■■.:.-. ::.i churches. And the ice cream was home made. This not
c'.y i^: rr.:r.ry m their treasury, but promoted fellowship for the public.
I remember when the Catholic ladies took their large freezers which
they turned by hand and had a hey-day behind the blacksmith shop of Mr.
Kuntz, as they took turns turning the freezers. When it was finished they
packed salt on the ice to stand until ready for use.
On the northwest comer of the park was a low rock wall where the
freezers were placed for serving so that the salt water could drain outside
and not kill the grass.
The park was well lighted on the inside plus the corner street lamps
that shed their beams through the many green trees around and inside the
park. Shoppers stepped in their cooling shade to rest awhile and visit with
others of the same mind. It was a quiet, peaceful little park where one could
sit alone and think over the daily problems and feel the better for having
been there awhile on a hot day.
Candidates used this atmosphere to expound their theories and make
political promises when they were seeking an office. There have been great
men and lesser men who spoke from that platform, but it was all part of the
life of that day.
One day a visit came— in the form of progress, and our little park
bowed its head to the inevitable.
Site of old city park and ground being broken lor stioe factory building in 1916.
In 1916 the International Shoe factory was opened which supplied
work for many Chester people and the surrounding area. The building was
placed on the Swanwick Street side facing State Street, using only part of
the ground. The office wing extended from the center front with a walk to
the street Flower beds were placed on either side, some shaped to represent
a certain name brand of shoe made by International such as "Diamond
Brand," etc. r i-u o^-
Later the building was extended to State Street. I quote from the St.
Louis Globe-Democrat of May 31, 1953: "At the present time 800 persons
are employed here who turn out 7600 pairs of shoes daily." After 45 years of
service in Chester, International closed its doors and moved this depart-
ment from Chester.
Donald Welge while president of the Gilster Milling Company
operating in Chester and Steeleville, started the original Gilster Cake Mix
Plant at the Steeleville Mill, and in 1962, combined with Martha White
who maintain their headquarters in Nahsville, Tenn. The shoe factory and
the former knitting mill buildings were converted into a cake mix plant
where Donald was president of the Gilster Division of the Martha White
Corporation. He has seen it grow from a relatively small organization to
more than 400 employees in Chester and Steeleville. As of November, 1969,
Donald resigned from the corporation and is no longer a member of Gilster-
Martha White of Chester. Martha White will continue in Chester.
About 1920 Mr. Joshua Richman moved his small knitting mill from
lower Chester to his new building in Buena Vista at Swanwick and Stacey
Streets. Again I quote from the St. Louis Globe Democrat, May 31, 1935:
"At the present time Prim Hosiery Incorporated is rather new in Chester,
but they now have 250 employees who manufacture an average of 14,000
pairs of women's stockings per day.
Behind the knitting mill and across High Street on the west side of
No. 1111 stands a house that I remember as the "Little Brick School
House." My brothers and I attended this school for the first and second
grades, as did all public shool children living in Ward Three. Miss Fannie
Whitehead was the teacher for many, many years. Miss Fannie was kind,
gentle, and an exceptional teacher for small children. I remember her as
being able to settle all school ground problems without force, and the
holiday programs of recitations and songs were always a delight. Miss
Fannie was loved greatly by all. She was also my piano teacher.
J. Rlckman kmmng mill in background and J. M. Wright Drugs, Now
Around the comer at 228 West Stacey now we find the Sickmeyer
Chiropractics Center located in the John Ahrens home. At the comer of
Stacey and Swanwick now Laurence Montroy has his jewelry store. When I
was just a little girl, on the corner was Mr. John Wright's drugstore and
had been for many years. There were several girls in the family, and usually
one or more helped their father in the store. I remember best Hazel (Mrs.
Fonrose Jones). Later Mr. Michaelis took over the corner and was in the
drug business for many years. After his death, Walter, his son, carried on
for a while, and at his leaving, the dmgstore corner was no more.
The Dial building is vacant. Sylvan's health became such that it
necessitated his retirement after many years of service to the community.
Benson's and Connie Walter's take care of the men's needs. Connie is
an old timer in this block. The Frager building is occupied by the Liberty
Dan Piosik's Tavern and Restaurant at 1205 Swanwick has been at
its present location since 1930, having started across the street two years
before. Dan and Fonnie first, then Fonnie left for other work, and Charlie
joined Dan, and together they have served the public all these years. As I
talked with Dan about these many years, he said, "I've had it. I'm ready to
retire and be able to sit under a big tree in the shade and dream, bringing
back old memories— forty -one years is enough."
The Western Auto and Brelig's Shoe Store have given special service
for several years, as did Reinhardt Jewelers until it recently came under
new management, Frey's Jewelry Company.
Through four generations and 98 years one store in this block carried
the Gilster name. L. H. Gilster was the third generation in 1913 with
groceries, dry goods and shoes. In those days there was no mail delivery, so
the uptown mail was sent to this store and delivered from boxes which Mr.
In 1927 Karl Gilster, the fourth generation, and Albert Welge, his
brother-in-law, bought the store from Mr. L. H. and they added a 'meat
department. Over a period of years remodeling was done three times. Carl
and Albert sold out in 1954. Then Mr. Sol Vines opened a department store.
Dr. B. E. Gilster still has his dental office upstairs. He opened his
first office in the First National Bank Building in March, 1919, and in 1922
moved to his present location where he has spent 47 of his 50 years in
business, and he still works part of each day.
"Opposite our little park across Stacey Street at the corner of State,
a small office building appeared about 1875. Beside it, but set back far
enough to allow for a front yard was a house, and behind this, a barn. This
was the home and office of Dr. William Robert Mackenzie, who had moved
to Chester from Kaskaskia after five years of service there.
This being horse-and-buggy days, a well-groomed horse and buggy
were housed in the barn, ready for service at any time. No night was ever
too dark, cold or stormy for the doctor to drive miles in the country to
relieve a seriously ill patient or to deliver a baby.
I don't know when the doctor bought and moved his family to the
beautiful brick home on George Street which had been built by the Hallbrook
family. Here they reared their children with the help of Anna Kloss as
nurse, maid, and companion. The doctor never moved his office, but
sometimes he would have a boy drive with him on long trips and often the
boy lived with the family, so as to be there for night drives. As a lad
William (Boe) Bom had this experience for awhile. The doctor was loved
and held in high esteem by all who knew him, and, like our little park, he
and his small office were a part of Chester until his death April 24, 1923, at
the age of 79 years. As of this date, 1970, both sons who had become
successful physicians, are deceased, and Adeline lives in Los Angeles, Calif.
The large stained glass window in the front of the First United Methodist
Church with the names of Dr. and Mrs. William R. MacKenzie was given
The following sketch of the doctor's life was taken from the book
"Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Monroe, Perry and
Jackson Counties" published in 1894 by the Biographical Publishing
Dr. William Robert MacKenzie was of Scottish parentage. His
grandfather Alexander MacKenzie Sr. was born in the Highlands of
Scotland, and his father Alexander MacKenzie Jr. in Nova Scotia.
Dr. William R. MacKenzie was born Feb. 15, 1844, in Churchville,
Pictou County, Nova Scotia. He was the eighth child in order of birth with
five brothers and four sisters. One brother Alexander G. at one time resided
in Chester, but four sisters lived within a radius of four miles from the old
William's education was secured in the village schools of his native
place where he afterward became a teacher. He spent his boyhood days on
the old home farm in Nova Scotia which was a stopping place of all the
preachers of the United Presbyterian Church, and he was reared under the
influence of the sturdy old Covenanters.
In 1865 he came to the United States, landing in Boston with the
hope of persuing the study of medicine. Soon after arrival he contacted
measles, and after a month's illness, through improper treatment, suffered
a relapse. By the time of recovery his money was spent.
Through the newspaper advertisements he acquired a position of
collectorship for a gas fitting company. Being a Nova Scotian was, in
Boston, a sufficient recommendation for his honesty, and no bond was
required. After a few months he met William Tidd, a leather merchant with
a business on Pearl Street and one in Stoneham, Mass., where William was
assigned a postion. Here he met fellow countryman named McLeid who
induced him to embark on a fishing expedition to the Grand Banks. Fitted
out at Cape Cod, the vessel proceeded to Grand Banks and began
operations. It was an old schooner which soon began to leak, and it became
necessary to abandon it. Everything of value was looted by the rest of the
fleet. She was fired and set adrift. Each man had his own dory. William and
his partner were taken on board a schooner from Cape Breten Island of
which Captain Doolan was in command.
After five months on the Atlantic without sight of land, they decided
to head homeward. They ran into a storm which they fought for two weeks
and finally anchored safely in the harber of Provincetown. To William's
surprise Captain Doolan presented him with $80 in gold.
During William's absence, his brother Alexander who had
previously come to the United States, was by then a prosperous miner in
Nevada. He sent him a draft for $100 to assist him in pursuing his medical
studies. This letter was returned, and he was thought dead by his brother
until communication was later resumed, and money again forwarded.
William, bronzed by life at sea of which he had had enough, secured
a position with M. M. Peyser and Company on Water Street, Boston, where
he remained until February 1867, when he went to Sparta, 111., and studied
medicine, and also recited in Greek and Latin to Rev. Mr. Stuart.
Shortly afterwards he entered the medical department of the
University of Michigan from which he was graduated March 30, 1870. After
weeks at Grass Lake assisting E. R. Chapin, M. D., his precepter, he came
to Illinois for the practice of his profession, locating in Kaskaskia. After
remaining there for five years he moved to Chester where he was in con-
tinual practice ever since.
A leader in his profession, the doctor holds a prominent place in
many of the prinicpal societies thereof. He was a member of the Southern
Illinois Medical Society, Illinois State Medical Society, the St. Louis
Medical Society, and Tri-State Medical Society (Ind., 111., Ky.), and later,
the Mississippi Valley Medical Society.
He was also a delegate to the International Medical Congress which
met in Washington D. C. in 1887. During the course of this meeting he was
a guest of the American Medical Editors at a banquet given for the foreign
medical editors. He was a representative of the Illinois State Board of
Health at a meeting of the Sanitary Council of the Mississippi Valley which
was held in the city of New Orleans in March, 1885.
At the meetings of the Southern Illinois Medical Society he usually
had one or more papers on topics of interest. At the meeting of the
organization in Jan., 1880, he read a paper which was afterwards published
in the St. Louis Medical and Surgical Journal from which it was copied,
translated and published in the Paris Medical Journal of Paris, France.
On June 15, 1883, Dr. MacKenzie was appointed a member of the
Illinois State Board of Health by Gov. John M. Hamilton to succeed Dr. J.
N. Gregory who had resigned. He was continued in office by the ap-
pointment of Gov. W. Fifer on May 28, 1889. He served as secretary of
said board from July 3 until Dec. 31, 1891 .
Near the close of Fifer's term, Doctor sent in his resignation which
was not accepted until May 10, 1893, several months after the accession of
Gov. Altgeld to the executive chair, thus giving Doctor 10 years in this
At the meetings for examination of candidates for license to practice
medicine his questions have beeen highly commended for their
thoroughness, comprehensiveness and elementary character. July 15, 1885,
during Cleveland's first administration. Doctor was appointed by Com-
missioner J. C. Black to the Board of United States Examing Surgeons at
Chester and was reappointed by Commissioner Tanner under Harrison's
administration. At the organization of said Board in 1885 he was elected
secretary in which capacity he served until his resignation on Dec. 7, 1893,
a term of eight years.
For 15 years he was surgeon for the Wabash, Chester and Western
Railroad Company, and his thorough knowledge of surgery rendered the
company invaluable service. He held this position under three successive
managements of the road. On May 17, 1875, Dr. MacKenzie married Miss
Nellie M., daughter of Dr. William A. and Adeline S. Gordon of Chester.
Five children were born to this union— three at this time are living: William
A., 16; Roberto., 12; and Adeline E., 7 years old.
Socially Dr. MacKenzie was a member of the Blue Lodge Chapter
and Council of the Masonic Fraternity of Chester, the Commandery of
Knights Templer of Centralia, and the Chester Lodge and Encampment of
Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He was a Presbyterian, as are most of
his race, while Mrs. MacKenzie is a member of the Methodist-Episcopal
Church of Chester.
No more appropriate closing of this sketch could be made than to
quote what has before been written of him by one who has known him for
years. It is as follows: Dr. William R. MacKenzie was a careful and in-
defatigable student of his profession and attained a high reputation for
learning among his fellow practitioners in Illinois and Missouri. He has an
extensive and lucrative practice and is one of the most highly esteemed
citizens of Chester. The same ability that placed him in the front ranks of
his profession was always at the service of the community in which he liv^d
for the promotion of meritorious enterprises. He was for nine years a
member of the Board of Education of Chester and President of that body for
two terms. In his social relations. Dr. MacKenzie was as popular as he was
successful in his profession.
Forty-seven years ago Morris Frager and brothers Hyman, Max,
and Sam were in the dress manufacturing business in St. Louis at 927
Washington Avenue. Morris, wanting to live in a small town, came to
Chester and bought the Chester Supply Company business from Sam Wiel
who had previously bought it and desired to return to St. Louis. The
Fragers continued the general store and soon bought the building from
Mrs. St. Vrain.
Being interested in Buena Vista they soon bought from Knapp and
Gant the property owned by them at Stacey and Swanwick Streets. This
consisted of the western half of that block excluding the Buena Vista Bank
building and the Ford building. Knapp and Gant had moved Dr.
MacKenzie's office over and built the Ford display room on the corner in
1916. Warfield Smith had been using the doctor's office for his print shop
and continued in that business after it was moved. There was also a store
building on the Stacey side operated by the Berry brothers.
On the Sw2mwick side just one building was there, that which the
Jolley TV Company now occupies, and at the alley way a filling station,
and, of course, the Buena Vista Bank Building of which I will tell in another
Mr. Frager first erected the small building where the Chester Cab
Station is now, for a candy shop to be occupied by a man from St. Louis.
Next he built the Children's Store and just 25 years ago the Ladies Store
thus making all of the Fragers' business now in Buena Vista. He then
remodeled the filling station at the alley way for a doughnut shop which is
still operating and is a popular place for the business men's morning coffee
break. On the Stacey side he removed the office and built the drug store
with five apartments above. Huch Rexall now occupies the drug store.
The Fragers have always been interested in the older Chester homes,
having early bought the Roberts home on Young Avenue which they
restored for their own home. From here they have enjoyed the river view foT
many years. The home contains a tower room which I've been told was Mr.
They then bought and restored the Harmer home next door which
they have made into apartments. They next bought and demolished the old
Judge Hartzell home next door which added to the beauty of the neigh-
borhood. The home originally belonging to Mrs. Jessie James Nisbet on the
north side of their own home was then bought and made into two apart-
ments. At the back entrance of this lot was added a wrought iron fence with
gate which added much to the attractiveness of the place. Another old home
restored by Bud Frager is the old Bauman home at 1209 Swanwick. Where
Benson's Men's Store is now located was Mr. Bauman's general store, and
the S. E. Dial location was the family lawn. Originally the house had two
large dormer windows which had been changed some time earlier. The
Michaelis family lived in this house many years when Mr. Michaelis
owned and operated the drug store at 1201 Swanwick Street. Bud also
restored the former Welten home at 1620 Swanwick, making two lovely
Since Mr. Frager's death Mrs. Frager and Bud have carried on, not
only the store, but an extensive building program. Bud built the apartment
house on the old Spencer property at 738 State, and his most recent venture
was the Mansion House at 743 State. This is an ultra-modern four apart-
During an interview recently with Mrs. Frager, she said that her
husband always believed in Chester's future, and whenever a depression
threatened, was the time he wsmted to build.
Besides Bud there are two daughters in the Frager family. Bernice
lives in Annandale, Va., and Marion in Carbondale.
The Ford display room built by Knapp and Gant in 1916, later sold
to the Siegfrieds, burned in 1924 and was rebuilt by them in 1926. Mr. and
Mrs. Victor Veath in 1950 bought the Stoever paint and paper business
located in the former Middendorf building at 1230 Swanwick which they
operated there for 10 years. Wishing to expand, they moved in 1960 to the
Ford building with son-in-law Allen Witbart as part of the business. Since
then fabrics, draperies, patterns and accessories for ladies who sew, have
been added and have popularized the program "Do-It- Yourself." Win-
gerter's Aluminum Shop occupies the basement.
John George Middendorf was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1824.
He received his education in his native land as was the custom from age 6 to
14. His father was a merchant tailor. John learned his father's business but
left his parental home, landing in the United States at New Oreleans on
Dec, 1845. He married a German girl who had been in the United States for
After a few years in St. Louis he arrived in Chester in 1851 bringing
with him a stock of goods for opening a store. He immediately purchased a
residence and business property and opened his store which was the first
establishment of its kind in this place. He was very successful and soon
added a stock of dry goods making it general merchandise. At one time he
was Mayor of Chester.
The property he bought was located at Swanwick and West Holmes
Streets which sloped downward to State Street and consisted of the eastern
half of the block to the alley where the doughnut shop is now. The store was
a one- story building of two rooms with a rock basement behind where the
family lived until the second floor could be added. A small shed was beside
the building which was used for storage. On the west was a vacant lot and
then a building used as a restaurant or confectionary on the alley corner.
There were nine children in the family, and when the father died in
1888, Herman was already age 21 and helped in the store when not in
school, as did the other boys. I remember Herman and Fred in the dry
goods department and George in the grocery.
The Midden do rf stores operated in this location until 1937 when all
the property was sold to William H. Welge, except the building on the alley
corner which Mrs. Herman Middendorf bought..
Kenneth Pautler bought the grocery business which was associated
with Red and White and on Sept. 17 and 18, 1937, he had his grand opening
of a new Red and White Grocery on the corner. On Saturday, the 18th, his
guests were invited to see the "The Big Pevely Show" in front of the store
with the "Famous Zebra Team" and the "Beautiful White Horse, Lady
Pevely, with their Bag of Tricks." Beef roast was quoted at 19 cents a
pound, a 24-pound sack of flour, 93 cents, coffee, 20, 25, and 30 cents per
pound. Four large cans of Pevely's evaporated milk were priced at 27 cents.
On Sept. 24, 1942, Mr. Pautler had a second grand opening— that of
Pautler's IGA Food Store, individually owned, but united operated. This
he continued until January, 1967, when the store became Pautler's, In-
corporated, with Eric Wagner, Gerhard Brelje and William Brelje as part-
owners. This left Kenneth semi-retired, going to the store part-time. In
May of that year he died. His loss to the store and to the city have been
keenly felt, because his interest in Chester's business was always foremost
in his thoughts.
The restaurant or confectionary continued, sometimes operated by
one of the Middendorfs, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Hartenberger served the
public here for 15 years in this building until they retired about three years
ago. We have all missed them, their service, and their good food. Then the
Ervin Middendorfs remodeled the building for a cut rate store.
After buying the property, Mr. Welge added two stories above the
store for apartments, a business building and apartment on the Swanwick
Street side, also the bowling alley. He also removed the wall between the
two store rooms, enlarging the Pautler grocery. The rock basement was
made into a locker plant. A store building was built on the vacant lot on the
west side. Mr. CO. Walter having bought his uncle's business and moved in 1950 to
this new store building whicji Mr. Welge had just built. He stayed there
three years, then sold to Bucklers, a Federated Store, and built and moved
to his own building across the street on the corner at 1231 Swanwick,
making this a men's clothing and furnishings. Later Mr. Walter built
another building at 1225 State for Crawford Electric, and when they moved,
Mr. Walter moved to that building and rented the other to Reinhardt
Jewelers. For 40 years C. G. Walter has been in business at that end of the
Buckler's Federated remained until 1960, then sold to Sherman's,
another Federated Store with headquarters in St. Louis.
The bowling alley was operated for many years by Mrs. J. G.
Willbrand. The new owner is Mike Cowell.
The comer building which for many years housed the Eggemeyer Tavern was built
in 1897, and the Katz Building next to it was constructed in 1929.
As I leave Swanwick Street and begin traveling north of West
Holmes Street I see the vacant Eggemeyer Tavern building, formerly the
George Gozney Saloon. Here Segar's character Pop Eye had its beginning
m the person of Rocky Feagle at the time of his employment for Mr.
Gozney. Later Mr. Gozney 's office was occupied by Rudy Aszmann for
maliy years with his barbershop. Now Mr. Harold Schopfer has his
location. There is also an auto supply house with apartments above the
Behind this building I remember Dan Colbert's filing station and bus
stop. It no longer operates since Dan's death.
The St. John Lutheran Church and school are 121 years old and have
a very interesting history of continual progress through these years. I quote
from their Centennial Publication of 1949:
"As early as 1848 30 Lutheran men, women and children were
reported living in Chester and community. Occasionally they gathered for
prayer meetings under the leadership of a Lutheran book agent. From time
to time a' Methodist missionary by the name of Boeshenz, who was active
in Southern Illinois and whose mission activities were related in the
"Lutheraner" of Jan. 12, 1849, came to Chester and preached the services
for the group.
St. John Lutheran Church
In the fall of 1848 Frederick AUmeyer, a fruit dealer then 19 years
old, while in St. Louis on business met and heard Dr. C. F. W. Walter, the
great theologian and pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, preach. He
reported to his Lutheran friends in Chester that this man's teachings
differed from that of the Methodist missionary. In the spring of 1849 they
contacted Dr. Walther, and he sent C. H. Siegmund Butterman as a
candidate. He was then a young man, 29 years of age.
Pastor Butterman immediately organized the St. John congregation
of Chester on April 22, 1849. The constitution followed that of Trinity
congregation, St. Louis, was accepted in 1843, and with but few minor
changes, has served St. John's congregation in Chester throughout the
century. The following names were entered as Charter Members: Allmeyer,
Gericke, Goehrs, Dettmer, Runge, Brinkman, Bode, Schrader, Wegner,
Wiebusch, Roeder, Kipp, Pick, Hirte, Kaufmann and Jostman.
The organization meeting was held in the home of Henry Goehrs on
State Street. The pastor lived in this home where services and meetings
"Were held and he taught school in his study. He became a victim of cholera
and died after a seven-hour illness on July 12, 1849. He was buried in
Evergreen Cemetery near Gov. Bond's monument. Pastor Michael Eirich
was ordained and installed in Chester on September 10, 1849.
The first church was completed in the fall of 1849 at the corner of
West Holmes and High Streets. It was 36 feet long, 24 feet wide, 13 feet
high. School was held in the basement. Eight years later, in 1857, a 20
foot addition was added to the church. In 1854 the first parsonage was
built facing West Holmes Street. The Rev. Mr. Eirich was relieved of his
work in the school in 1856, and F. Schachmeyer was employed as the first
teacher. In 1865 the school enrollment had reached over one hundred pupils,
and a new brick school 36x24x12 was built on the west side of the church.
The contract was let to Henry Jutzi-for $1150, completed in November, and
a second teacher called.
On New Year's Day, 1878, it was unanimously resolved to build a
new church. In order to avoid a burdensome debt it was resolved to erect
the building by installments. The congregation proceeding each time no
further than funds on hand permitted. In October, 1878, the corner
stone was laid. In 1879 the structure was roofed, and in November, 1880,
the building was dedicated. This building site opposite the old church was
purchased at a cost of $600. The church itself cost $11,586.80, leaving a
cash balance of $49.05 in the building treasury plus $256.90 in unpaid
pledges. The church was built of brick, 44x76, including the chancel, but
excluding the towe,r which had a height of 120 feet. The church, together
with the balconies, seated about 550 persons.
A new pipe organ, built by the Jackson Organ Company in Chester,
was installed in June, 1887. On September 3, 1893, it was resolved to build
a 15 foot addition to the brick school at a cost of $721.38. In 1897 the
congregation observed its fiftieth anniversary. In 1901 the entire interior of
the church was redecorated at a cost of $835. Mother Allmeyer presented
the congregation with two new bells, a large and small one. English services
were introduced in 1901.
On September 2, 1910, Teacher M. H. Grefe was installed as teacher
of the lower grades.
The corner stone of a new brick school house was laid July 6, 1913,
completed in 1914. The building had three class rooms on the lower floor
and a confirmation class room and hall, seating 300 on the upper floor. The
building site diagonally across from the old school, 140x240, was purchased
at a cost of $1900, the building costing $14,486.95. German was now taught
as an optional language study in grades 3 to 8. Gradually in the course of
years only one German church service per month was conducted, and this
was finally eliminated.
Building operations of a frame parsonage on the site of the former
school were begun in the fall of 1919 and completed m May, 1920, at a cost
In March, 1923, a plan to renovate and remodel the church was
begun. A new addition to form a cross was added to the rear; a new asbestos
roof placed over old and new sections; the entire exterior covered with
stucco; the interior decorated; hot air furnaces with blower system in-
stalled; new pews and new windows and lighting fixtures installed; an altar
and pulpit, a gift from old Immanuel Church of St. Louis installed together
with a rebuilt organ; and the balconies rebuilt. This was dedicated on the
fourth Sunday in Lent, 1924. The cost was $28,000. A month later the
church observed its 75th anniversary.
On April 23, 1939, the observance of the 90th anniversary was held.
The interior of the church was redecorated. A new steam furnace was in-
stalled and two nev/ stops were added to the organ. City water and
lavatories were installed. All societies of the congregation aided in this
In 1942 an addition to the school was completed at a cost of $42,000.
Early in the spring of 1948 plans were laid for the centennial observance. It
was resolved to reface the exterior of the church with permastone and to
redecorate the interior, to install new chancel furniture and to cover the
floor with asbestos tile, to remodel the front of the church by adding two
new entrances and hanging all new doors and building a new concrete step
across the entire front. In addition it was decided to repair and remodel the
organ and to install large circulating fans for ventilation.
On April 22, 1949, they rededicated the newly-renovated and
remodeled church, thus observing their 100th anniversary. At this time the
congregation numbered 1400 souls, 1080 communicants, and nearly 200
There were many centennial memorial gifts, among them the lower
clocks by John F. Herschbach in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Her-
schbach Sr.; Mr. and Mrs. Edward Herschbach and Helen Beushcer in
memory of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Herschbach Sr.; Mrs. Karl Natho and
Fred and John Herschbach Jr. in memory of their mother, Mrs. Emma
About four or five years ago a new electric organ was installed.
In 1963 the Ladies' Aid Society of the church observed their 100th
anniversary with a membership of 75. Their first meeting was held in the
home of Mrs. Henry C. Eggers on June 24, 1863. These ladies probably
made linen bandages and quilts for wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
Their membership now is 81, and Mrs. William H. Welge is starting her
16th year as treasurer.
There is also another women's organization — the Lutheran Women's
Missionary League which was organized October, 1936, with Emma Sasse
as the first president. They started witn r^ cnarter members and now
number 100. They meet at night and are very active in missionary work.
There are Senior and Junior Walther Leagues for the youth, the
Lutheran Laymen's League for the men, and a Parent-Teacher League.
My very good friend Mr. Martin H . Grefe gave 55 years of service as
teacher, principal, and organist to St. John's. He retired in 1965 and lives in
Chester at 1723 Swanwick Street with his daughter Marion. He is a member
of the National, State, and County Retired Teachers' Association.
As I travel north on West Holmes from High Street, I realize that
northward beyond Allendale and to the far east, all the land that once was
farms and pasture is no more. This area is thickly populated with homes
and many new streets have been made.
At the eastern end of High Street we have Koeneman Acres, a low
rental housing project of 46 units. This with 14 units in Harmsen Circle,
plus the 62 additional units on George Street promised by Setpember 1,
1970 (both of which I have previously mentioned) will make 122 units for
Chester. Also on High Street where the William Brinkman home once
stood, the telephone company has built a business building. In the former
Laurence Paulus home is the First Apostolic United Pentecostal Church,
and Ray Grah operates a garage on this street, Bill Steffen's home and TV
service is at 1315 High Street and at 1319 now the home of Mrs. Harry
Jackson, once the George Jostman Photograph Studio.
As I continue my journey northward I pass a Gulf Service Station
where the Coyle home once stood. The Lincoln Mobile Homes near the
Diefenbach home and Mr. Child's Florist Shop near the old Millner home
are next. Across the street is the location of the old home of Chester's Pop
Eye, Rocky Feagle.
Chester is proud of the fact that our first governor of Illinois
Shadrach Bond was interred here in the Evergreen Cemetery. In 1883 the
state erected over his grave a granite monument with four feet of ground
around it decl£ired as a park, the smallest park in the state. Across from the
cemetery entrance on Solomon Street I believe Jostman 's Monument
business once stood.
Near the north end of the cemetery West Holmes leaves Route 3 to
the right and enters a densely populated residential area. The bridge road
also leaves Route 3 to the left and crosses the Chester Toll Bridge into
Missouri. Many trucks use this bridge road and the busses stop for
passengers, which is a convenience for many Chester people.
As far north as McGuireville homes have been built all along Route
3, also some businesses, including the Bal Tabarin Restaurant and Motel,
El Capri Motel and Steak House, Inc., Hi-3 Motel, Kipp's Drive-in
Restaurant and bus stop, Kipp's Bonnie Maid Laundromat, and a new AG
Store, Moore and Wittenborn's Thriftway.
About a mile farther north on the old Eno Welge farm is a new golf
course completed last year, and privately owned with a membership of
about 100. The farm house is being used as club house at present.
Returning now to Allendale we visit the Chester Greenhouses and
Nursery at 1307 . As I visited with Harry Lutz, he said that when he and his
wife located in 1930 on this property, there were only three houses in the
immediate area. One was the home of William Fey, one John Wright's, and
the third owned by an older lady whose name he didn't remember. Behind
them was a wheat field, and behind that, an orchard. Mr. Lutz said he had
seen many changes in these 40 years, and because of arthritis is unable to
do many things he once did around the greenhouses. For several years he
has been semi- retired, and his son Kenneth Bruce carries on the business
with Dad doing what he can. Mr. Lutz praised his son's ability very highly,
saying that Kenneth really has the art necessary for the making of this
business successful. Kenneth has added that of nursery since coming to the
business and does much in that department.
Kline's Sheet Metal Shop is located at 1302 Allendale, and many
other businesses are scattered among the homes in the northeast area.
When I was growing up our popular skating place was Herschbach's pond
at the end of Oak Street. There was always a big bon fire built in the
evening for light and warmth while skating. That pond is just a memory
now. The famous Old Plank Road from Chester to Bremen is another
memory. About 50 years ago it was legally declared abandoned. The
building of the road took place in 1849. Planks were laid crosswise. It was
12 feet wide and had pull-off s on it for meeting approaching wagons. Toll
rates were 25 cents for one way with toll gates at Camptown and Bremen.
We now retrace our steps on West Holmes to Swanwick and start
down the hill on East Holmes. We are interested in the building on the
corner at State Street. This was once the blacksmith shop of Mr. Lampe
who for many, many years gave wonderful service to the people of Chester.
No job was ever too small for him to do, welding a broken pipe or tool,
sharpening a lawn mower, also draining, cleaning and repairing furnaces. It
seemed that when anything about the house ceased to work properly, we
always said, "Call Mr. Lampe. He can fix it." And most of the time he
could. It was a sad day when he retired and closed his shop.
We now pass down the hill into a section which once was called China
Town. I never did understand just why. At the foot of the hill over to the
left and back from the street stands a building, the remains of a brewery
that once operated in this area. When it was in operation I do not know, and
I can't find anyone who does seem seem to know.
Henry Herschbach Sr. was one of six children bom to Anna Scheldt
and Karl Gerharat Herschbach, who were both born and married in Ger-
many. Henry was born June 3, 1850, at Chauteau and Manchester Avenue,
in St. Louis, Mo., and was fourth in order of birth with four brothers and
The family moved to Chester when Henry was three years old and
lived across the street south of the court house for four years while his
father cleared the farm of trees and built a three room house.
As the boys grew up it was their habit on Sunday morning to put on
their best suits and walk to Chester and attend church — first one church
and another the next Sunday. One Sunday Mr. Pick was on his way to
church in his farm wagon, overtook the boys, and asked them to ride. He
asked them which they attended and when they said they had no
preference, he invited them to go with him to his church— the Lutheran.
Willie, Charlie and Henry went, and on July 14, 1866 at ages 16, 18 and 21
years, they joined the Lutheran Church.
When Henry was 19 years old he came to town to work for Jacob
Hartenberger, a wagon maker and learned his trade. Jacob had a lovely
daughter Carolina Wilhelmena, and as time passed, a romance blossomed
between Henry and Wilhelmena. They were married August 24, 1873,
by Rev. Stephan in the first "Frame Church Building" — she 18 and Henry,
23 years old. Eight children were born to this union — Emma, Lydia,
Elizabeth, Marie, John, Edward, Henry and Frank.
When Jacob Hartenberger died, Henry took over the wagon making
shop wood part. Paul Irose did the blacksmithing and iron work. The shop
was located at 1500 Swanwick Street. He stayed there until January 16,
1877, when he bought one lot at 1300 Swanwick Street from John Heis,
then later an adjoining lot from his mother, Anna Herschbach. Henry then
built the combined wagon and blacksmith shop and went into partnership
with his brother Robert, he doing the wood work and Robert, the
blacksmithing. Henry hired Mr. Rupert, an expert Bohemian painter to
teach him to stripe wagons and buggies and soon became an expert striper
and much better and faster than Rupert.
He striped wagons for other wagon makers in Chester, charging $10
each and could stripe seven to ten per day. They also made plows and
Then implements were added. The dropper was sold first, but it only
cut the wheat and had to be tied by hand. Before this, all wheat had to be
cradled. Next came the dropper and reaper which pushed out a bunch of
wheat on a table, but still must be tied by hand. Next came the wire binder,
which tied the wheat in bundles, but when threshed, the cattle died from
eating small pieces of wire. So the binder went out and Appleby and
Company invented the twine binder. William Deering Company bought the
Appleby patent and made Deering Binders to use with binder twine.
Henry then added two-wheel carts, then four-wheel buggies and
surreys, and many fine spring wagons which sold readily for high prices.
Robert left for California, and Louis Lutz and Guy Tudor were hired to do
the blacksmithing. Tom Neely, Martin Martinie and his brother Charlie
were hired to help with the woodwork. From 75 to 100 wagons were made
and sold each year, depending on the farmers' crops. They came long
distances on horseback, spent the night in town and drove out next day
with two or three wagons and spring wagons at a time. The price of a wagon
was figured to equal the price of 100 bushels of wheat.
In 1897 Henry decided to build a brick building and arranged with
the Warden at Menard Prison to get the brick when ready. The building
was completed in 1898. Bill Brinkman was the contractor, and George
Weber, the brick foreman. Henry Jutzi, Adam Gnaegy and Bert Allen's
father were the brick layers and stone masons.
There was a five-room apartment on the second floor and two other
large store rooms which Joshua Rickman used for his knitting mill which he
moved from the river front. Later he built his own building.
The blacksmith shop on the State Street side formerly used by Mr.
Lampe to which I referred in my last story, was used by the Herschbachs,
but is not thought to be the original one.
Henry finally decided in 1901 to retire from the business and turned
it over to two of his sons, Edward and John, who had grown up in the
business with him when they were not in school. Over a period of years
Henry had acquired several farms on Kaskaskia Island, so he kept himself
busy looking after them and the threshing rigs.
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Herschbach Sr. lived a prosperous and happy
72 years together. They left the big house, having a smaller one next door,
and together, they spent their later years reviewing life's activities and
receiving their families and many friends who were always welcome. They
were very gracious hosts. Mr. Herschbach died October 25, 1948, at the age
of 93 years, four months, and three days.
The new store on the first floor contained a tin shop and general
hardware, then when Mr. John became the first automobile dealer in
Chester, a garage was added to service the cars, and the store becemae
Herschbach's Auto and Implement Company. In 1910 the first car to be
sold in Chester was to Butch Heine to be used in his taxi service. The cost
was $900. It had a right-hand drive, single cylinder engine with solid tires
on buggy wheels. It was shipped complete in closed boxes and assembled
here. In 1915 John bought Edward's share of the business and continued
alone. In 1916 John sold a 12-passenger bus to George Douglas who also
was in the taxi business. It had four seats with side curtains rolled to the
top and let down in bad weather.
In 1934 John retired, selling the business to Ted Search and Dolph
Werre who continued there until 1949 when they moved to their new
building. Then the first floor was remodeled for Mr. Weithorn's variety
In 1951 the second floor was remodeled for apartments and offices,
including an elevator.
The Index Variety Store has just moved out and the Ace Hard-
ware, formerly at 977 State Street, now occupies the first floor.
I have been told that the 977 State Street building owned by St.
Mary's Catholic Church will be removed and used by their congregation for
much needed parking.
The small one-story brick on the east side of the Herschbach
building was built in 1938 by a Mr. Perman of Sikeston, Mo. for Harry
Schmidt's variety store which had operated downtown since 1928. In 1948
Mr. Schmidt closed his store, and Kimmel's Auto Supply has operated
The two houses next door are very old, having originally belonged to
Buena Vista National Bank In 1976
For many years the City Hall had been downtown next door to the
jail. To say the least, it was inadequate in every way. In 1961 a new one was
built at 1330 Swanwick Street. It is brick of colonial design with cupola
clocks on the top. A small yard with shrubs grace the front, and the sloping
lot makes possible in the back, a ground floor garage for the fire engine and
cells for a jail.
The first floor contains a general office, a council room with a small
auditorium for visitors, offices for Mayor, City Clerk, private conference
room, plus three rental rooms. It is also headquarters for the police
Directly across the street is the Chester Post Office built in 1939 on
the former Fred Middendorf home location. In the early days the first Post
Office was on the water front.
Mr. John F. Baumann, grandfather of the Richter sisters and
brothers, was the Postmaster during Civil War days. In 1880 it was moved
on the hill and located in the Chester Theater Building, where it remained
until 1939, when the new building was completed. This building is of brck
colonial design with the symbolic eagle gracing the cupola.
The following information was obtained from a special edition of the
Randolph County Newspaper, Inc., announcing the opening of the new
home of the Buena Vista National Bank on November 14, 1960:
The Buena Vista National Bank had its beginning in "Grandma's
Room" in 1882. Two sons of Doris Gilster, known as Grandma to several
generations in Chester started a private bank pretty much by accident in
1882. L. H. and Henry Gilster at that time operated a general mer-
chandising buisness where Sol Vines operates a department store today.
The banking business was just a side line.
Few Chester enterprises maintained checking accounts in the 1880 s,
and those that did, had their accounts in St. Louis, for there were no local
banks. The Gilster brothers dealt with a St. Louis bank, and, as an ac-
commodation to local people, both merchants and individuals, issued their
own check against a St. Louis bank for the convenience of those people in
the community who had occasion to transfer funds from one city
to another by mail. Sometimes the check was paid for in produce;
sometimes in cash, and on occasion, the check was issued against a promise
to pay at a later date. That's how the Gilster brothers got into the banking
business and that was the beginning of the Buena Vista National Bank
which has continued under various names from that day to this.
From 1882 to 1891 the banking house was "Grandma's Room' a
single room dwelling adjacent to the store connected with both the store
and the L. H. Gilster residence which stood at the rear of the lot where the
Western Auto Store stands today. Grandma had ready access to her son's
home and the store from her apartment. For convience and privacy the
banking business was transacted in Grandma's room.
In 1891 the Gilster brothers dissolved their partnership, and Henry
started a store at 977 State Street. L. H. continued to operate the original
store and banking buisness. A bank was constructed adjacent to the store
on the front of the lot approximately where the western half of Grimm's
Western Auto Store fronts Swanwick Street.
The bank of L. H. Gilster and Company continued to do a private
banking business until 1912 at which time the bank was reorganized as
"The State Bank of L. H. Gilster," and, to make it more of a community
institution, Charles F. Welge and Ralph E. Sprigg joined with L. H.
Gilster, Jr. and August E. Gilster in their reorganization.
In 1916 the bank was reorganized as a co-partnership under the
name of the "Buean Vista Bank." There were 16 partners in the bank from
1916 to 1920. They were Allen A. Short, Isaac Meredith, W. H. Roberts, D.
H. Holman, William R. MacKenzie, Adam Gnaegy, Maurice Mudd, F. B.
Wolff, George Hoffman, J. S. Morrison, Louis Kuhrtz, Savannah Tudor,
Albert Gilster, Ferd Witt, Henry Riechman and Henry Witt.
In February 1918, the property at the corner of Stacy and Swanwick
Streets was purchased from Dr. William R. MacKenzie for the purpose ol
building a new bank. In June 1918, a one-story building was started, and
was completed and occupied in 1919.
In 1920 private banks and private bank companies were required by
state law to be chartered either as a national bank or as a state bank. The
co-partners of the Buena Vista Bank elected to take a state charter, and on
Dec. 21 , 1920, the partnership ceased to exist as such and the bank became
the Buena Bista State Bank.
George Hoffman was the first president of the bank as a chartered
institution. Louis Kuhrtz vvas the first cashier.
In 1926 the one-story building was enlarged plus a complete second
In March, 1944, the Buena Vista State Bank gave up its state
charter and became the Buena Vista National Bank of Chester, a name
and charter which have remained unchanged from that day in 1944 to
On November 14, 1960, the new home of the Buena Vista National
Bank was opened at 1309 Swanwick Street, just a little over a year since
ground was first broken November 2, 1959.
The building with its modern colonial architecture, incorporates
some of the latest facilities in modern banking procedures with the charm of
yesteryear, making a perfect companion piece for the federal post office
building next door. New to the Chester skyline is the lighted cupola with its
American Eagle weathervane on top of the building.
In addition to the first drive-in windows in Randolph County, a
convenient 24-hour depository with letter drop and the electrically operated
vault door, the new building offers many other features for customer
convenience and comfort.
Blacktop driveways and landscaped parking areas offer off-street
parking for customers transacting business inside the bank, with con-
venient front or rear entrances to the bank lobby from the parking lot. The
parking lot is floodlighted for night use and may be entered from Swanwick
or from West Holmes through the alley behind the post office.
Inside the bank a spacious lobby is lighted by three large especially-
designed chandeliers which reflect the gold flecked accoustical ceiling. The
American Eagle, symbolic of the finest traditions in this nation since its
adoption as a symbol of fearless courage in the days of George Washington,
has been incorporated in the graceful Early American chandeliers. The
walls are finished in Mesquite Green with the rear wall of Colonial Rose.
Woodwork of solid birch has been finished in light ivory, and oak doors are
blonded with white Firzite over hand-ribbed lacquer. A mono-chromatic
color effect is carried out with a lighter Linden Green in the bookkeeping
department which is visible from the lobby, through borrowed light
windows, custom made fixtures, desks and other furniture are of walnut
finish; filing equipment is velvet beige. Colors were chosen for the building
to conform with the colonial period of architecture.
The ground level is carpeted throughout except for terrazzo tile in
the main lobby area and vinyl tile in the bookkeeping department to
facilitate moving of equipment. The main lobby is equipped with writing
counters and an adding machine for use of customers. A waiting room is
also supplied for customers waiting for special services. Five consultation
rooms including three private offices are available for private transactions
or discussions at the bank.
Officers and directors' rooms are located to the east of the central
lobby with the tellers' stations — there are no tellers' cages — west of the
lobby. Further to the west of the tellers are commodious bookkeeping and
record keeping facilities. To the rear and west of the lobby is the main vault.
The individual rooms for safety deposit vault customers are located in close
proximity to the vault.
A spacious stairway leading to the lower level is located at the north
end of the lobby. Below the lobby with access either through the banking
floor or from an outside entrance is a "community service room." Adjacent
to it is a fully equipped kitchen and is available to clubs, committees or
boards for their regular or special meetings. Floors have been sound-
proofed to completely separate this room from the bank. A convenient
lounge area is close by, providing wardrobe facilities for those attending
functions in the community room.
A four zone air conditioning and heating unit by which temperatures
in four areas of the bank can be independently controlled is located in a
service room opposite the kitchen. The Buena Vista National Bank is the
first building in the county to install this new system of individually
controlled temperature in zoned areas.
The Directors of the bank in 1960 included W. E. Mullins, president;
A. L. Gilster, A. Koopman, J. L. Montroy, Paul Nehrt, C. G. Walter and
William H. Welge.
Bloomsdale Bank Building and Equipment Company was the ar-
chitect for the new building and Barmac Construction Company, the
The old bank building was sold in 1964 to the Southern Illinois Sand
Company which occupies it, along with the Chester Insurance Company.
As I continue my walk up Swanwick Street I see the office of the
Jiffy Printers at 1430 where job printing is done. This property is about 80
years old, having belonged to Fred Rebbe where he made wagons. There
were display rooms in the front on both the first and second floors for
buggies and surreys that were for sale. An elevator was used to transport
them from one floor to the other.
On the first floor in the back was a tire setter for making tight the
iron rim or tire of the wagon wheel. This was later sold to the prison. The
old blacksmith shop of Fred Rebbe Sr. had been torn down. It dated back to
pre-Civil War days.
Across the street is the Randolph County Department of Public Aid
which is a very busy place.
Behind this, facing Van Zant Street is the clinic of Dr. Kenneth L.
Kuhrtz, Dentist, and Dr. N. G. Springer, Optometrist. In 1938 Dr. Kuhrtz
began his dentistry in the Michaelis store building, moving in 1946 to the
Buena Vista Bank Building where he stayed until December 1959, when he
and Dr. Springer built their clinic. Dr. Springer opened his first office in the
Herschbach building in 1950, then in 1959 moved into the new clinic at 203
Van Zant. Dr. Springer is a very busy man. He is just now completing his
second term as a member of the State Legislature. He has made a good
member, working hard for the people whom he represents. I know, because
I had occasion to talk with him several times when the Randolph County
Retired Teachers had a bill coming up, and I know how hard he worked for
Berry's Grocery at 1500 Swanwick originally was the Eggers
Grocery. Mr. Angus Berry and son Jim began their business on the water
front in 1929, moving to the present location in 1952. It is a wonderful
neighborhoood store and so very convenient for people who live close, by.
Across the street at 1530 is the W & C Motor Sales and Service
Company. Nearby is the Lochhead repair shop.
As I pass 1506 Swanwick I think of Dr. E. R. May who is no longer
with us, but the memory of his life and work remains. Dr. May had the
distinction of serving in both World Wars. During World War I he was a
Captain in the Army Medical Corps, getting his training at the Army
Medical School in Washington, D. C. Between 1917 and 1919 he was in
cheirge of a hospital in Nantes, France.
He then returned to private practice in McLain County near
Bloomington where the Commmander of the American Legion appointed
him State Medical Officer of Illinois for one year. He also served on the
Tubercular Board there.
During World War II he was Lt. Commander in the Navy, doing
service at the Bethesda, Maryland, National Navy Hospital. In 1932 he
came to Chester to serve on the medical staff at the Southern Illinois
Penitentiary at Menard, and later a Psychiatrist at Illinois Security
Hospital. At the same time he began his private practice in Chester which
he continued until his death in 1966.
While here he was Commander of the 25th District of the American
Legion and later, Commander of the Fifth Division of the Legion. He was
on the Tubercular Board of Randolph County and was a member of The
American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, D.A.V., Lions Club, and a
32nd Degree Mason ot the Bloomington Consistory.
During his term as City Alderman of Chester he originated the idea
of advertising Chester as the home of Pop Eye. Then he became ill, and I
think a sign later was erected at the Chester Bridge saying, "The Home of
When I reach 1836 Swanwick Street, I pause to think of the gen-
tleman within this home who has reached heights in his profession which
come to the very few. The coming is never easy. He has earned it all and is
to be congratulated for ascending the ladder rung by rung to achieve such
heights. Judge William G. Juergens was graduated from Carthage College
and holds a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. He
was in private practice at Chester from 1928-1938, then was elected County
Judge of Randolph County where he served until 1950. He served as Circuit
Judge from 1951-1956 and that year was appointed United States District
Judge, which position he still holds.
He has served as a member of the Advisory Board for Illinois In-
stitute for Juvenile Research and currently holds membership in the
Randolph County Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the
Federal Bar Association, and the Bar Association of the Seventh Judicial
Circuit. He is listed in "Who's Who in America."
In 1961 Carthage College awarded him an Honor Alumnus Award
for his outstanding achievements in the legal profession. On Sunday, May
17 , the speaker at Carthage College's commencement exercises is to be none
other than the Honorable William G. Juergens, Chief Judge, U.S. District
Court, Eastern District of Illinois.
Judge Juergens also will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree
during the commencement service, granted for his "distinctive con-
tributions to society and the legal profession as a practicing attorney and
I know I speak for all the citizens of Chester when I say,
"Congratulations, Judge Juergens, we are very proud of you."
As I arrive at the Chester High School building at 1901 Swanwick
my mind travels back to the Central School buiding downtown which I
attended— all is gone except memories.
As early as 1830 school houses were located at various places in
Chester— near the present cemetery and under the hill near the old
Presbyterian Church which later was the sight of the Lincoln School.
As stated in the "Combined History of Randolph, Monroe, and
Perry Counites" the Board of Trustees in 1839 arranged to erect a building
28x40 feet, to be used as a school, house, meeting house, and town house.
Mather and Company gave the site. Its cost exceeded $3000. Peter Mc-
Culloh did the plastering for $130.
Thirty pupils were found, and a contract made with A. P. Eaton to
teach for $2.50 per quarter for each pupil.
In 1859 a building was erected called the "Pride of Southern
Illinois." In 1882 it became a two-story wing of a three-story "Central
School" building. Besides the City of Chester the school district included
portions of township seven, range six, and township seven, range seven. At
this time the colored children used a building in the first ward.
There was also a building in the third w£ird used by primary children.
This was called the "Little Brick School House." Miss Fannie Whitehead
was the teacher. I attened this school and referred to it in a previous article.
Eight teachers were employed to whom salaries amounting to $4700 were
paid during the year 1882-1883. The third year was added to the curriculum
at this time.
In 1885 Chester had its first approved high school, and its first
recorded graduating class numbered eight as follows: Eloise Harmer, Dane
(LeMay), Sara Tate, Martha Nisbet, Eliza Mann (Cosby), Mary Alice
Crissey and Susannah Tate.
In 1904 another wing was added to the Central School and added the
fourth year to the curriculum. There was no graduating class that year, but
in 1 905 I was one of three girls and five boys to graduate.
Chester High School
St. Mary's Catholic School
In 1926 plans were made to build a separate high school, using the
Central Building for grades one through seven. This new building was
erected at 1901 Swanwick with the first class graduating in the spring of
1927 , The total enrollment of the high school then was 66. Superintendent,
E. W. Heob; Board Members, P. E. Stadler, W. C. Roberts, H. F. W.
Juergens, Albert Gilster, John Allison, Ida R. Bronson, and Anna K.
Mann. Architect, E.N. Pillsbury; E. A. Crippen, Contractor.
In 1936 a well-equipped gymnasium was added. The enrollment had
now reached 200. Superintendent, W. R. Lowry; Board members, H. F.
W. Juergens, John A. File, Albert Gilster, H. L. Uffelman and Ebers
In 1961 the Colbert gymnasium was added. This included a
cafeteria. Superintendent Holly C. Marchildon, Jr., Board Members — A.
L. Ottesen, Lester Thurau, Arnold Ehlers, Jr., Edward Powley, Ray Grah,
Willard Reisinger and Dr. Kenneth Kuhrtz. As of now (1970) the enrollment
Chester Grade School
When my article closed last week I was at the Chester High School.
This week I will tell you of one professional man in Chester who not only
believed in education, but found time to participate by being an active
member of the Chester School Board for 14 years and contributed much to
the culture of our city.
This man was Dr. Albert E. Fritze. The Chester Herald-Tribune of
March 28, 1935, carried a tribute to him when he celebrated his 74th birth-
day and the golden anniversary of his successful medical career. This
article was written by a "master writer" — Mr. John A. File, and I'm taking
the liberty of using it this week.
On a windy day in March 1885, an energetic young graduate of the
Homeopathic Medical College of Missouri, located in St. Louis, hung out
his shingle in Carmi over in White County in the Wabash River Valley and
sat down in his newly- furnished office to await his first patient.
"That young man, who ten days previously had received the diploma
that entitled him to add 'Doctor' to the front of his signature, was Dr.
Albert E. Fritze.
Dr. Albert E. Fritze
Bond Monument, Evergreen Cem-
etery, Chester, 111. First Gov-
ernor of Illinois.
"On last Friday, March 15, Dr. Fritze celebrated the Golden An-
niversary of his entry into his chosen profession, the practice of medicine.
Of his half-century of service, almost 43 years have been spent in Chester,
which Dr. Fritze has seen grow from a small river town to a bustling little
modem city. And the venerable doctor has played no small part in bringing
about this transformation.
"Exactly 74 years ago today on March 28, 1861, just a few weeks
after Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office as President of the United
States, young Albert was born near St. Paul, Minn., the son of Charles C.
and Susannah F. Fritze. His parents were both born in Germany, coming to
the United States and while quite young were married in the State of
"His boyhood was spent in the manner common to thousands of
other youths of that period, attending the schools near his home and, at the
same time, assisting his father in the many tasks about the farm on which
"But the farm life was not entirely in keeping with his idea of a
career, so in 1879 when he reached his eighteenth year, he entered the
Wesleyan College at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, remaining there for two years.
At the end of that time he had determined to enter the medical profession
and spent the next 12 months reading medicine under Dr. W. Fisher of St.
Paul. From St. Paul he went to St. Louis to become a student at the
Homeopathic College of Missouri and was graduated from that institution
March 5, 1885.
"In his first location in Carmi, Dr. Fritz practiced his profession for
a year. At the expiration of that time he came to Randolph County, making
Ellis Grove his home and engaging there in active practice. In the fall of
1893 he moved to Chester.
"Two months after his graduation in May 1885, Dr. Fritze married
Miss Anna Schaltmann of St. Paul. One child, who died in infancy, was
born to this union. Soon afterward Mrs. Fritze passed away.
"Later Dr. Fritze married Miss Magdalene Heob, daughter of Fred
and Elizabeth Heob. Dr. and Mrs. Fritze adopted and reared two
daughters: Mrs. Thomas Herschbachof San Jose, Calif., and Mrs. William
H.Welge of this city. Mrs. Fritze died Sept. 9, 1931.
"Dr. Fritze was initiated into Kaskaskia Lodge No. 36 A.F. and
A.M. and later transferred his membership to Chester Lodge No. 72. He is
member of the Methodist Church.
"To the city in which he spent most of his life. Dr. Fritze has been a
valuable citizen. Twice he has ably headed the city government as Mayor,
and he became one of the first advocates for the installation of a sewer
system here. Decidedly progressive in city affairs, he has always been
interested in what he terms 'what is best for Chester.'
"The 14 years he served as a member of the local school board and is
at present a member of the Board of Health. He is a member of the Ran-
dolph County and Illinois Medical Societies.
"A 'man's man' in every sense of the word, Dr. Fritze is a lover of
outdoor life and is an ardent fisherman and camper— especially in his home
state of Minnesota where he spends most of his infrequent vacation periods.
"During his 49 years of practice in Randolph County Dr. Fritze has
made a host of friends, not only in the county, but all over Southern
Illinois— friends who are remembering his Golden Anniversary and
showering him with congratulations.
"But even though his first 50 years of practice are behind him, Dr.
Fritze is far from having completed his work. You will find him today busily
engaged in caring for his clients. It would seem mighty strange if you found
The following words written by Dr. Fritze were printed in a folder
with his picture on the opposite page and sent by him to his many friends,
thus showing his apprectiation of their congratulations:
"I appreciate the many congratulations on my anniversary— having
practiced medicine 50 years. Many of us remember distinctly the past 50
years, and our fathers remember 50 years farther back. The 100 years
behind us have seen a complete change in the ways of human beings and in
the world's methods.
"Life is troublesome, full of care, disappointments, and bitterness
for those who carry responsibility and realize their shortcomings. But it has
its reward as great as its worries.
"To possess the friendship and affection of one sincere, loyal human
being, to put the welfare of another ahead of your own, finding happiness in
that, and when you reach the end of the string and the time comes to fall off
into the grave, to feel that you have done what you could, have not
neglected those that had a ri^ht to count upon you — that makes life
worthwhile and wipes out its disappointments.
"I am happy about 50 years of hard work and thank God for many
friends. Yours Sincerely, Albert E. Fritze."
Such was the philosophy of Dr. Albert E. Fritze.
I remember well one of Dr. Fritze's greatest extra contributions to
Chester was in the field of Fine Arts. He had a great knowledge and ap-
preciation of music, playing the organ, piano and wood wind instruments.
He was a "Master Director," organized and directed the first and only
symphony orchestra Chester ever had.
Recently I saw a photograph of the original group which was
organized in 1898. The orchestra continued until World War I with
members changing through the years. The photograph included Chris
Bahr, William Eggberry, Frank Bahr, Charles Brandes, Elmo Chenu, Ed
Tindall, Louis Smith, John Marsteiner, Henry Stoever, Fred A. Von
Gruenigen, Charles McPheters and Dr. Albert Fritze, Director.
They played only symphonic and classical music. After presenting a
concert the orchestra traditionally played for dancers for one hour. They
also played many benefit concerns for the Red Cross. I especially remember
one given at the Chester Opera House.
At first rehearsals were held on George Street in Henry Stoever's
marble shop building, and later they used an old building in the 1200 block
of Swanwick Street. When Dr. Fritze moved his home and office to the
Stahlberg home, between Schroeder's and Schueren's present location, the
rehearsals were held there. At this time his new home and office was being
built at 139 Opdyke Street. At its completion all rehearsals were held in the
doctor's spacious living room, moving to the yard in the summer time.
Can't you see all the neighbors assembled on their porches enjoying these
concerts each week.
The members were all good musicians who gave their time for the
sheer pleasure they themselves received, as well as the pleasure brought to
others. Elmo P. Chenu is the only living member of the original group.
Other members at various times included H. Clay Horner, Mable
Homer (Dougherty), John Dougherty, Roscoe Morse, Mamie Fritze, John
Maurer, Otto Fey, Alma Thies, Clarence Snyder, George Beever, Homer
Beever, Lydia Herschbach (Aszmann), Catherine Yourtee (Werner), Ernest
Richter, Fred Davis, and Gail Yourtee (Roberts).
As I leave the high school and pass on to Highway 150 I think of the
many changes that have taken place in this country road down through the
years. It was always quite hilly with small ravines running through parts of
it which made farming difficult except on the higher sections, although
some could be used for pasture lemd.
It was a popular road with the gypsies because there were spots near
streams for them to make camp for a few days or weeks, as they traveled
about the country. Being near town, it was convenient also for the women
to walk to town and follow their trade of fortune telling, going from door to
door. This was their means of getting food, clothing, and travel money.
Often some of the children were with them.
The men usually stayed in camp, working on their wagons, getting
everything ready for their next move. They always had several dogs with
them, and I can remember when traveling through town, the dogs would
always slink under the wagons.
Gypsies were a harmless wandering group of people having dark skin
and black hair who probably came from India originally. Fortune telling
was handed down from one generation to another, and many women were
quite adept in the art.
As I begin my journey down the road I see the following business
places scattered among homes and farms: the Superior Cleaners pleint
operated by the Powley family; then a rather new building containing the
Gross Plumbing and Heating and the Insurance Agency; the Chester
Building Supplies; a self-service car wash and a housing development.
Suddenly a road turns right which is the old County Farm Road, but
the county farm has long been gone. Many lovely homes have been built
along the road for quite a distance, because more and more people are
moving to the suburbs.
Back on the highway again I see a shoe repair shop. Town and
Country Gas Company with Harry McFadden the manager; the Dairy
Mart; Crawford Electric; Vincent Birchler's home plus his popular Birch-
ler's Lake; Jung's Big Star Market, and many homes. This immediate area
has since the early days been called Camp Town.
Next there is a building development of about 50 homes, plus
trailers, with streets laid out to accommodate many more. Then comes the
old home of Miss Minnie Adams, for many years our librarian.
I have now arrived at the Union School House, District No. 49.
According to records a deed shows one acre bought for $50 from Adam
Douglas in 1866 for the purpose of building a school house. The Union
School buiding was also used in the early days on Sunday afternoon for
church services with the Presbyterian minister coming from Chester. Some
of my older friends became members of the Presbyterian Church right
.there, later transferring to the Chester church.
There are two rooms in the building, and some years they used two
teachers and other years, only one. During the last 25 years of its operation,
the late Margaret Greer was the teacher. On April 26, 1952, the school was
dissolved with teacher and pupils transferred to Chester.
For several years the building was used as a social community
meeting place. Now it is occupied by Mac's Welding Shop.
Nearby are two old homes, one about 75 years old which is the home
of Elmer Craig, a grandson of William J. Craig who built the big Craig
house in 1866. William J. served his country during the Civil War, and at
its close, married Miss Louise Snyder and built this Craig home. Four girls
and three boys were born to this union. All attended the Union School,
including the Sunday services there. Another grandson, Delbert Craig, now
owns and occupies this home.
Over these 104 years only three changes have been made in the
house. The sitting room which contained an open fire place, has been
paneled, the kitchen modernized, and a bathroom built at the end of the
hall. In the sitting room under the window are two small doors which, when
opened and the window raised, permit one to step outside to get wood for
the fireplace. There are two fireplaces upstairs and two downstairs.
The woodwork in the "parlor" and the other rooms are the original
beautifully varnished wood. For 104 years a Craig has lived in this
As I pass on down the road and soon reach the Covered Bridge, I
stop to rest, and as I sit here, I realize I have reached the end of my jour-
ney. As I gaze upon this 116-year old wooden bridge with its single span of
more than 75 feet, sided up and roofed, I realize my ancestors traveled this
bridge. My mother often told me some of her experiences. As I look closely
at the construction, I also realize that in those days they too had highly
skilled designers and builders.
The old roadway that crossed the bridge was in part a planked road,
that is, all low and mirey places were floored with heavy planks 12 fent in
length and there were pull-outs on it for meeting approaching wagons. The
road was built in 1849. Toll rates were 25 cents for one way with toll gates at
Camptown and Bremen. The tollkeeper at Camptown was a store keeper,
Mr. G. S. Rust.
One writer has said, "I think of the bridge serving people seeking a
new home in the west, the freighter with his heavily-laden wagon drawn by
slow-moving ox teams, as well as men traveling by horseback with old-time
saddle bags. Later buggies, surreys, farm wagons, sled and sleighs, mud
boats, lizards, high- wheeled carts and other conveyances seen no more. The
stage coach also used this bridge before railroads came. Altogether it
bespeaks another day."
This is the only bridge of its kind left in Southern Illinois.
A plaque on the front of the bridge reads as follows: "Mary's River
Covered Bridge built in 1854 was in continuous service until 1930.
Originally a part of a plank toll road between Bremen and Chester. All of
the timber in this bridge is original with the exceptions of the floor, floor
joist, roof and siding. It was acquired by the State of Illinois in 1936 for the
purpose of preservation and as a picnic area. Money for the purchase of the
site was donated by the Chester Cheamber of Commerce."
As I read this plaque I realize my journey is ended. In 12 months I
have mentally traveled every street in Chester. I have had many lifts along
the way, and to these people I am very grateful, because I could never
have made it alone. I have enjoyed every minute of the journey, and if I
have brought back happy memories to some who have traveled these roads
and can leave a bit of history for younger people who may be interested in"
Chester, its people and how we lived, then I am glad.
Mrs. Jessie Huffstut-
ler made a record on
the first graphaphone
in Chester pictured
here, when she was
six years old. The
owned by Charles
Brandes, now owned
by Paul Preusse's
From Sparta News-Plaindealer April 3, 1969
Talk On Old Chester Theatre was R.C.H.S. Program Feature
At the business session conducted by Mrs. Hahn, ninety-two members and
guests of the Randolph County Historical Society attended the monthly meeting
held at the Buena Vista National Bank In Chester Thursday evening, March 20.
Hostesses for the evening were Mrs. Harold Hahn, president of the RCHS, and
Mrs. J. R. Gordon, both of Chester.
The program was presented by a Chester woman, Mrs. Jessie Lee Huffstutler,
who discussed the era when the Opera House was the center of culture and enter-
tainment in the Chester vicinity. She told of her acquaintance with the Schuchert
family, the many people who made up what they called "The Opera House Gang"
and especially Elza Segar, who went on to create the comic strip character "Pop-
eye" and thus bring fame to his hometown.
Mrs. Huffstutler told of her being pianist at the old Opera House and playing
music in keeping with the moods of the silent movies. Using the same song book
that she did then, she delighted her audience with the songs to depict various
situations and emotions. "For the silent movies my choices of music varied,"
said Mrs. Huffstutler. "I used popular, rag-time and semi-classics."
"Perils of Pauline"
On Saturday evenings we always had 'The Perils of Pauline' and sometimes I
used 'Waves of the Ocean.' It seemed to fit Pauline's many mishaps which kept
us on the edges of our chairs. Being a serial, she was always left hanging from
a cliff or in some other precarious position for us to worry about."
Mrs. Huffstutler expressed the belief that Segar' s "Thimble Theatre" cartoon
was based on the Opera House, his memories and experiences. "The hamburger-
loving Wimpy," she said, "was his own beloved former manager of the Opera
House, Bill Schuchert, and I have been told that Olive Oyl was Mrs. Pascal, the
wife of a former businessman downtown near the court house. Popeye was Rocky
Feigle, a Polish young man who lived with his mother and sister near the Ever-
Among the guests at the meeting were Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Schuchert, Jr. of
Chester who provided many momentoes of the old Opera House and assisted Mrs.
Huffstutler with her research. Mr. Schuchert is the great-grandson of the owner of
the theatre. Also present was a Chester man, L. A, (Red) Faverty, a friend of
the Schuchert family and projectionist at the Opera House at the time Mrs. Huff-
stutler was employed there. He and Mr, Segar were close friends. Another Ches-
ter man, Ted Mueller, was employed at the theatre at a later date. He was unable
to be present but was represented by his wife and son.
During the social hour, refreshments of "Wimpy" hamburgers, popcorn and
soda pop were served by Mr, Faverty, Harold Hahn and S, E, Dial, Mr. Faverty
attired in a high chef's hat and huge white apron, portrayed Segar' s character.
Rough House, the Cook. The hamburgers were fixed at Wittenbrink's Tavern,
which is located at the same spot as the old Wiebusch Tavern where Mr. Schu-
chert and his "Opera House Gang" often enjoyed hamburgers.
B.V. Comet Band, Chester - This picture was taken in front of what is now
1158 George St. the E.Fisher residence. It was then the residence of J. F, Schu-
chert. Left to right - 1. Fred Sanneman; 2. ?; 3, ?; 4, Bill Gilcrest; 5, Jake Saak;
6. Adam Ocks; 7. Charlie Schrodi; 8. Frank Wenda; 9. Henry Stoever; 10. John F,
Schuchert; 11. Albert Mueller; 12. Fred Schuchert,
From The Opera House In Chester - 1890: Left Back Row: Ed Matlock - Lula
McAtee Matlock - Ola Steele Heine - Chas. Gausmann - May Russell - Jim
Adams - Art Beare - Mamie Ames - Al Kennedy. Sitting: Louis Heitman - Guy
Penny - Molly Schuchert - Miss Cora Ames - Frank Matlock
Inside Opera House, August 13, 1914
Randolph County Court House, Dedicated June 14, 1975. -88-
Frank Wolff and Bill
Schuchert at old Wie-
busch front yard, now.
old dime store.
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Young's Ave., Chester, 111.
Public Steps, Chester, 111.
Mississippi River, From Water Tower, Chester, 111.
Buena Vista Mill about 1900 and was owned by Henry Glister, grandfather of Wm.
Scene after tornado of 1897 now the Food Park Store, formerly Uffelman's.
Tom Howorth In Newspaper Office.
Chester Herald Tribune
Shoe Factory, Chester, 111. looked like this until May 1922.
Chester Public Library, dedicated in 1928.
Chester Water Tower
First Christian Church
First Methodist Church
1 Ca THOJ- IC S CHO OL <£. nAU
Calvary Temple Assembly of God Church
Peace Lutheran Church
First Baptist Church
Chester Municipal Building - City Hall
Chester Memorial Hospital
Cole Memorial Park, Chester. Illinois
Chester Swimming Pool
First Presbyterian Church
St. Ann's Home - Chester, 111.
Picture in 1976 of remains of three story rock building which was used
through past years as a mill, warehouse, railroad office and signal de-
partment of the Missouri Pacific. During the flood of 1844 the steam
boat "Belair" ran against it and damaged the upper story.
These buildings are where the First National Bank parking lot is
now. The Gordon Telephone Co. was owned by Lucky (Eugene)
The "Bluff City" as she burned at the Chester waterfront on November 18, 1897.
Detrich "Dietz" Helmers,
Mayor Of Chester, 111.
Chester Monument and Marble Works owned by Edmond Howorth, father of Thomas
Scene at the warehouse during flood of 1903.
The flood at the ferry landing, 1903.
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