Wayne's World of History and Genealogy

Home | About | Contact | Facebook logo
Gillespie Historic header
History as in 1936
      This History of Gillespie written in 1936, has many variations that conflict with other records, newspaper articles and other documents. The text provided here is a transcript of the the original as it was written, except for the correction of some obvious typos.

Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois
Centennial Edition, Section 5, Pages 6 & 7
Wednesday, January 15, 1936
Gillespie Is One of State's Principal Coal Centers
- - - - -
First Settled in 1828, Area Booms When Mines Open
- - - - -
Location, Midway Between Springfield-St. Louis,
Rich Soil Attracted Pioneers to Community
- - - - -
By Evelyn Yurcessen
Gillespie Correspondent
      GILLESPIE -- The City of Gillespie is located in the southeast part of Macoupin county, half-way between St. Louis and Springfield, with transportation facilities of the Big Four Railroad and the Illinois Terminal Railway system, surrounded by rich agricultural lands and in close proximity to four of the largest coal mines in the world.
      The site of the city was surveyed by J. B. Meads from Edwardsville in the spring of 1853 and was located and founded in 1854. The city of Gillespie was named in honor of Judge Joseph Gillespie by the managers of the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad, now the Big Four. Judge Gillespie's influence and efforts made possible the running of this line through the city.
      July 4, 1854 marked the celebration of the completion of the line and operation of the first engine over it, under Gillespie as road master. The city is one of the oldest in the county with the largest population 6,015. The village of Gillespie was incorporated as a city March 4, 1907.
      Not until 10 years after Illinois was admitted into the Union in 1818 did the hardy pioneers begin to settle in the territory now called Gillespie. From Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolina, Mississippi, and as far east as New Jersey and New Hampshire they emigrated and found in this section a wild and unsettled country with rolling land dotted with fine timber. there was plenty of wild game of deer, turkeys, pheasants, and prairie chicken, now practically extinct, and still somewhat abundant small game of rabbit, squirrel, quail and wild duck. The land, a deep black productive soil was purchased from the governor at $1.25 an acre.
Huddleston First Settler
      Among the first pioneer settlers in this section in late 1828 and 1829 a a a Abraham Huddlesto, jr., who imigratad with his family from Virginia and settled north of Gillespie. Alexander Miller, Dennis Davis, and a widow, Mrs. McCafee and their families settled about the same time near the Huddleston's. Aaron Maxwell, Gabriel Maxwell and James Robinson settled in the central part of the township in 1830 and 1831.
      Descendants of these early settlers, who arrived here between 1828 and the early 30's on the north, south, east and west sections of Gillespie, have lived in or near Gillespie over a period of a hundred years.
      One of the leading farmers and enterprising citizens was Randall Clark, who, when 20 years old left his home, in south Carolina with his uncle, Arter Taylor Feb 12, 1835. He reached Bloomington, Ill. April 1, 1835, and worked in a grist mill until August 1835 to obtain money to continue his journey to this part, where he had relatives. In Bloomington he worked for John Rice Dodge, of whom a direct descendant is Lawrence E. Dodge, science instructor at Gillespie Community High School for 10 years. After Clark was able to continue his trip and paid his uncle for the horse he bought from him on credit, he sold the horse for $60. With part of the money he bought 20 acres of land southeast of Gillespie which was part of the premption right of his cousin, Marion Taylor.
Related to President Taylor
      Clark's grandfather, William Taylor, was a brother to the father of General Zachery Taylor, hero of the Mexican War and president of the United States in 1848. Clark was therefore a second cousin to President Taylor. Clark was the first member of the board of supervisors from Gillespie township after the adoption of township organization. At the age of 64, in 1879, Clark owned 1315 acres of land, having started with 20 in his youth.
      Arter Taylor, the uncle with whom Randall Clark journeyed to Illinois from South Carolina settled in the central section of Gillespie township. It was Arter Taylor's uncle, Richard Taylor, who was the father of President Taylor.
      Giles M. Adams, who was born in Virginia, came as a youth to this territory in 1829. he had married Elizabeth Taylor on April 19, 1809 in Tennessee. she was connected with the Taylor family of which President Taylor was a member. Adams lived on the old stage road, northwwest of the Gillespie city limits, which ran between Bunker Hill and Carlinville. This stage line which began operation in the early part of 1800, ran through the present location of the Liberty Coal Mine section. Adams' son, Francis M. Adams, was the second member of the board of supervisors from Gillespie township.
      Capt. James P. Pearson came to the Gillespie section in 1834 with his mother from Clark county in Ohio. Capt. Pearson, who in his later life lived west of Gillespie, is remembered by his present descendants for his part in the Mexican War in 1846, where he served as drum major and then wagon-master. His drum, now more than 90 years old is in the possession of his great grand-daughter, Mrs. Lucius Lockyer. Capt. Pearson was mustered in Company "A" First Illinois Regiment at Alton, July 4, 1848.
      Andrew Jackson Rose emigrated from New Jersey in 1835 and settled west of here in what is known as the Red School district. His eldest daughter, Susan Rose, was the wife of James M. Pearson. some of he difficulties experienced by the people of that period can be shown by a bargain made by Rose with his brother-in-law, Andrew Opdycke, a tailor.
What New Jeans Cost
      Opdyke was to make a jeans coat in exchange for a grist of buckwheat which was to be ground. Rose first took the buckwheat to Montgomery county, five miles north of Hillsboro, and not being able to get it ground at once, returned home, with the promise that it would be attended to after the next general rain. After waiting until it rained, he went after the buckwheat, but ti was not ready, so he carried it back to Macoupin county, and after a couple of additional trips, succeeded in getting it ground at a mill in Macoupin county, east of Carlinville. When rose wore his new jeans coat, he had the satisfaction of knowing that he had paid heavily for the making of it.
      In 1838 George Boosinger and family, who had traveled in a covered wagon from Ohio to Missouri to settle in a new home, were on their way back to Ohio because Boosinger was not satisfied in Missouri. On the trip back, stopping to camp east of Gillespie on a grassy knoll by a spring, the family was so delighted with the spot that they settled there, later acquiring tract of 160 acres of government land. henry Rice is the present owner of the piece of land on which the spring is located having inherited it from his mother , Mrs. Christian boosinger Rice.
      Edward Shirtcliff Holmes came with his parents in 1831 at the age of 9 from Pontifract, England to near Jacksonville. In 1845 Holmes settled east of here,a t 23, on a government tract of land of 160 acres. There he lived for 65 years. The homestead was left to his son, John Holmes, who in turn willed it to his widow, Mrs. John Holmes. The town of Eagarville, covering 30 acres, was laid out on part of the Holmes estate.
      John Carter came from Louisville, and settled northeast of here on the present site of the Horace Drennan farm, in 1858. In the history of Gillepsie, Carter was the only man who possessed a negro slave. Although in neighboring towns a negro race is found, it has never inhabited Gillespie. Carter brought the slave with him from Kentucky.
Sewer Issue Enters First Election in City's History
      William McDaniels and family settled east of here in 1854. McDaniels was the first mayor of Gillespie, and even in that day there were issues to be decided by the outcome of he election. A creek ran diagonally from the stock yards (present site of Osborne's Filling Station) across Main street, and down to McCabe's Blacksmith Shop, now back of the Colonial theater. It was called Deer Creek because the people used to watch for a deer that came there for salt.
      When the election of the first mayor took place, McDaniels was in favor of filling the creek and his opponent against it. following the election of McDaniels, the first money appropriated for the building up of the city was spent in filling and sewering the creek.
      To the south part of the Gillespie territory came Edmund Burton and family from Bedford county, Virginia. three sons, Shotwell, Charles, and George Burton were in the family. The Burton's early land is near the John Crawford farm. Gillespie of the 1860's owes much to Shotwell Burton, who married Margaret Francis, a daughter of early pioneer settlers.
City Buys Cemetery
      Shotwell Burton's home for many years was across from the present residence of W. E. Schmidt, which later burned. In 1872 the city purchased land from Shotwell Burton for the first cemetery, now known as the "old" part of the Gillespie cemetery. Previous to that time there were a few scattered plots of country grave yards. It was through Shotwell Burton's efforts and influence that Gillespie's Main street is 100 feet wide instead of the 60 feet first intended. Part of the land he donated and part was purchased from him by the city.
      In 1840 Abraham Isaacs and family of Kentucky settled four miles south of Gillespie. The homestead of Abraham Isaacs, sr., has remained in the family until the present. After his death in 1896, a son Abraham Isaacs, jr., remained on the homestead. Here A. A. Isaacs, first city attorney and Macoupin county judge from 1926 to 1934, was born. A. A. Isaacs and two brothers in the west are the present owners of the land. When the family moved into the city in 1916 the property was leased to tenants, the present occupant being Joseph Kirkwood. The log cabin built by Abraham Isaacs, sr., now a room of the present dwelling.
      Edward Woodruff and family came from Virginia in 1830 and built one of the first log-cabins in the south section on land which is now owned by the Barbrockes. A Widow Francis and family from Ireland and the Sissens from Virginia settled in that locality about the same time.
City Begins to Develop
      The first child born in Gillespie township was either to Mr. and Mrs. John Wright or Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel McKenzie. Both children were born in the fall of 1830. The first death was that of Louisa Huddleston, daughter of Abraham and Judah Huddleston, in 1831 or 1832. The first land entered in Gillespie township was on Oct. 28, 1825 by Michael Dodd. It was 80 acres on Section 15. Three years later, Sept. 15, 1828, Dennis Davis entered 80 acres on the north-west quarter of Section 2 and on Sept. 29, 1829, B. Nowlin and J. G. White entered 80 acres on Section 14.
      One of the first frame houses to be built in the early 1850's was the four-room McCellan house which stood on the present location of the Illinois Central Telephone Co. office. Another landmark was the McGovern house built where the Odd Fellows hall is located.
      The first frame building on Main street, which was erected by G. F. Clark in 1853, was made of rough lumber sawed down at the Cahokia Saw-Mill. the floor was used as a store room while the upper story was used as a dwelling.
      In the spring of 1856 another small building was built by S. D. Martin and served as the first hotel, known as the National Hotel.
      In the year 1855 the village received what is known as Huggins' first addition, which was the North side. Shotwell Burton made the second addition on the South side in the year 1856, at eight dollars an acre.
Old Wagon Makers
      In the year 1855 Jacob Querbach built a wagon shop. Later well-remembered wagon makers were Wilbur Young, E. Crittenden, and G. M. Jones. Thomas Rose, dickie Brothers and F. G. Kimble were both wagon-makers and blacksmiths. E. Crittenden, first dealer in coffins, had his shop where the new postofice now is located.
      Early hardware dealers were Llwewilyn Miller, W. M. McDaniels, the first mayor, and G. W. Schmidt. Schmidt, who was a wagon-maker had his shop located on the present corner of Dippold's drug store and his residence was on the present site of the Masonic temple.
      Herman Behren's Old National Hotel, which was on the present site of the building of his son, Henry Behrens; and Henry Meniecke's hotel, The Old California House, on the present site of the Novelty Shoe Store were built after 1870 and were in use until 1903.
      Early dry-goods and grocery shop keepers were Henry Behrens, John T. Hutton, Peter J. Ahrens, and William McDaniels. The present Ganey Mercantile Company was established in 1890. Still older is S. Lesem and Sons Clothing store, operated by Harry and Benjamin Lesem, and established by their father, Solomon Lesem, in 1876.
      A well remembered and well known meat market owner, livestock, and real estate dealer is Edward C. Frederickson, sr., who was born in Bunker Hill and came to Gillespie in 1883 at the age of 16. After working for a butcher named William Love, he opened his own shop. Upon the opening of the Superior Coal Mines, Frederickson extended his trade into the mining camps by means of meat wagons. Frederickson's meat shop was the delight of all the youngsters, who, now grown, still remember his treat of wieners with purchases.
Tragic, Comic Incidents In First Mill's History
      The only remaining early frame building is the J. M. Rodiner harness shop on the southeast side of Main street. Rodiner came to Gillespie in his early youth and was reared by his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Frey, who lived on the second floor of the building. Frey, a Gillespie township school director, taught his nephew to be a harness maker. In 1890 when the Frey's moved to Carlinville, Rodiner took over management of the shop and was elected Gillespie township school treasurer. To date he has held both positions for 45 years.
      Early farmers sold their surplus grain crops to the first mill built by the settlers, Settlemire, Rankin and Holmes in 1859, four years after the town was founded. A fatal accident occurred on Jan. 14, 1864 when the explosion of the engine killed the engineer, William Robinson, and the miller, Lewis Zinzer.
      An incident which occurred in the mills and was later a source of amusement to the old timers was the "almost" hanging of a horse-thief after the Civil War, in 1865. Citizens who captured a horse-thief and who wanted to make him "talk" threatened to hang him. although they had no desire to carry out their threat, in reality they did hang him up in the mill to frighten the information out of him. Somehow the noose became much tighter than desired and the righteous citizens almost had a dead horse thief. It was often remarked by the "old timers" how many shook in their boots at what they almost carried out.
Confederates Invade Meeting
      During the Civil War men were mustered in one of the smaller buildings now located near the present mill. At one of those meetings presence of several Confederates caused a fight. It is told how one powerful man became so aroused that he threw one of the Confederates half-way across the street.
      Later proprietors of the mill were Lincoln Francis, George Francis, I. B. Green, Jacob Querbach, and J. Cockrell. Gillespie's mills have always been located on the southeast side of the Big Four Railroad, although the buildings were not always in the same spot.
      H. F. Bycroft, who operated the mill as early as 1873, was joined by his son, James E. Bycroft, in 1900. James E. Bycroft sold the mill to the present stock holders of the Gillespie Elevator Co. in the 1920's.
      It was H. F. Bycroft who owned the first automobile in Gillespie. He bought the car in 1910 from R. M. Carnahan of Eldorado, Kan., a brother-in-law of Mrs. john N. English, wife of Dr. English. Carnahan, who had been visiting at the English home, left it in their possession for about six months. The second car was owned by a Mr. Meyers.
Dr. Osborn First Physician
      Dr. Isaac Osborn was Gillespie's first physician and began his practice in 1855, a year after the town village was founded. In 1859 Dr. T. Warren Floyd, a Kentuckian, began practice and on Sept. 20, 1860 he married Anna E. Caudry, who came from Kentucky with her parents, John and Sarah Prahter Caudry., in 1859. Dr. Floyd, in connection with his profession, ran a drug store and several years before his death, Jan. 5, 1876, was postmaster. Mrs. Floyd filled the position of postmistress and the office was kept in the Floyd Drug Store. A daughter, Mrs. Ola Dorsey at 407 West Chestnut street.
      Dr. W. K. Pembroke, a Dr. Rice of Kentucky, Dr. B. Crawford and Dr. William M. Gross, father of Mrs. Frederick Opie, practiced their profession before and after 1870. Dr. Marvel Thomas, who practiced in the late 1880's is now living in Florida.
      Dr. B. Crawford resided in the present home of Dr. and Mrs. N. English of 114½ South Macoupin street for 44 years. The English home and the Patrick S. McPherson residence on 305 East Chestnut street were built about 1865, soon after the Civil War, by two brothers from the south.
      The business section of Gillespie was practically destroyed by fire of unknown origin, in the winter of 1903.
The year of 1903 as stated in the article in several places, should actually be 1905
The True Republican, Sycamore, DeKalb County, Illinois
Volume 48 Number 16
Wednesday, February 1, 1905, Page 2
Pump Failed to Work.
      St Louis, Jan. 30. -- The business portion of Gillespie, Ill., 50 miles north of here was burned Sunday, six business houses and the hotel being destroyed. The origin of the fire is unknown. The village pump failed to work and the fire practically burned itself out; the buildings consumed being frame structures. Gillespie is a coal mining town with a population of 1,500.
- - - - -       - - - - -
The Hutsonville Herald, Hurtsonville, Crawford County, Illinois
Volume 14, Number 14
Friday, February 3, 1905, Page 3
Big Blaze at Gillespie
      Fire at Gillespie swept through the business portion of the town, and charred ruins now cover the ground formerly occupied by imposing business buildings, the loss is estimated at $100,000, with insurance of about $50,000.
- - - - -       - - - - -
The Quill, La Harpe, Hancock County, Illinois
Volume 13, Number 42
Tuesday, February 7, 1905, Page 6
      Fire broke out at 12:30 o'clock the other morning in the town of Gillespie, and at 2 o'clock the business section had been reduced to ashes. The buildings burned were those occupied by Behren's saloon, Behren's drug store. Ganey Clothing Company, National Hotel, Ewing's barber shop. Ritchie's place. Hutton's grocery store and the Bell telephone office. The origin of the fire is unknown, As soon as the fire was discovered the village engine was brought from the house, but when the men began to pump it, it refused to work and they were forced to abandon it. The buildings consumed were frame structures. Gillespie is a coal mining town and has a population of 1,500.
- - - - -       - - - - -

      The fire broke out in Ganey's store, which was then located where the Cash and Carry Building now stands. A wind in the northeast swept the flames across all of the east side, then across the west side to the present site of Lesem's store. The fire started about midnight and everything was burned by morning. The water brigade was defenseless against it, but several buildings were saved when the wind calmed down.
      Families who lived near Main street had begun to pack some household belongings to leave the fire area, the spread was so rapid. Persons who had not learned of the fire during the night came to town in the morning to find the shops in ashes. Gillespie's Main street at that time extended on the east side from the present Henry Behrens' building to the People's State Bank and on the west side from the former Gillespie National Bank building to Dippold's Drug store. After the fire the frame business structures were replaced with modern brick buildings.
      In the same year as that fire, 1903, the Superior Coal Company began to open its mines and built the Northwestern Railroad to carry the coal away. Gillespie stopped being a village then and became a booming city. A coal washer was built at s cost of $200,000 east of Gillespie for the purpose of washing the coal produced in the mines. It was closed in 1930.
Mines Produce 11,000 Tons Daily
      The promoter of he coal and railroad enterprise was Benjamin L. Dorsey, who struggled for 10 years to interest a company in the coal option. Dorsey was a pioneer settler in the locality of Benld. Benld, a quick growth town located near the mines, was named after Benjamin L. Dorsey (Ben-L.-D.)
      The Superior Coal Co. of Iowa in 1903 obtained an option on 45,000 acres of coal rights located in Gillespie, Cahokia and Dorchester townships. Mine No. 1, located at Eagarville and Mine No. 2 located Sawyerville, the largest of the four mines, was sunk in Sept 1917.
      The company owns approximately 100 acres of lend around each of the four mines. The mines are equipped with modern machinery with a wash house built near each. Mine No. I has one of the most modernly equipped wash-houses in this section of the state. It was completed this fall, replacing one destroyed by fire of an unknown origin last spring. A reservoir located near each mine furnishes all the water needs.
      At present the four mines produce a total of 11,000 tons of coal per day and an average of 725,000 tons each in a year.
      Twenty-two hundred men are employed at the four mines, and are members of the Progressive Miners of America. Gillespie business dealers receive most of the trade of the families living in the mining camps.
      The miners completed underground connections between mines No. 3 and 4, so that underground passages now connect all four mines. D. D. Wilcox, who has been employed since 1903 by the Superior Coal Co. is the present general superintendent of the mines.
      Another Gillespie Mine in operation is the Liberty Mine, employing 210 men. It is located on the northern limits of the city, and was sunk in 1919. This mine is electrically equipped, but has a much lower hoisting capacity than the others. It was first owned by home people, but is now in the hands of the West Virginia Coal Co. The coal rights of the Liberty Coal Mine in the beginning were one square mile, and later an additional 320 acres was added.
      The same company which opened the Liberty Mine sunk the Henderson Mine northeast of Gillespie in 1921. One hundred men were employed there, but it was closed in 1924. since the demand for coal had begun to slacken at that time.
City Has Muny Water Plant Costing $239,800
      Outside of the mines now in operation, n 1880 and several years later several small shafts were sunk. The first shaft ever located at Gillespie was the McKinley mine, sunk in 1880, located where the old slack pile now stands, east of Gillespie. The Voge mine, four miles east on the Big Four Railroad, was sunk about 1882. It had a hoist of 600 tons per day and at that time was considered a good one. The Dorsey mine, sunk a little later, at the northeast edge of Gillespie was considered the best of the three. The Dorsey was located at the present northeast edge of East Oak street. All of these mines were sold to the Consolidated Coal co., which owned all the mines in southern Illinois at that time. These three mines were worked out before 1900.
      In the fall of 1905 the Illinois Terminal Railroad System was laid through Gillespie. The right of way was obtained in a section on the northern out-skirts of the city from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which built into this city in the 1880's and operated but one year. This B. & O. R. R. did not run into Gillespie as the Illinois Terminal did, but ran straight in from the north to the old electric light plant.
      In 1916 the convenience of the city sewer and paving of Route 4 was begun the city water works was constructed in 1922 at a cost of $239,800. The Gillespie News, a weekly paper was established in 1905 by the present editor, S. P. Preston.
      The Gillespie National Bank was originated in 1905, after the opening of the Superior Coal Mines, with a capital of $50,000. The first officers were J. M Rodiner, president, Thomas E. Elliman, vice-president, and Henry W. Rice, cashier. After being established for 26 years, the bank was closed in December 1931, with deposits of one and a half million dollars. To date, four dividends totalling 32 per cent, has been paid to the depositors.
Bank Opens, Panic Closes It
      Gillespie's first bank, organized in 1893 by a Mr. Gaber from Chicago, as the Bank of Gillespie, located in the present site of Gene's bakery shop, was forced to close in the same year by the panic.
      After the panic, a group of Litchfield business men reopened the Bank of Gillespie and later changed the name to the Gillespie Trust and Savings Bank. Later, this bank became the American National Bank of which Richard H. Isaacs was the president, having been a cashier in the second ban, The Gillespie Trust & Savings.
      In 1930 The American National Bank merged with the Gillespie National Bank. Bunn's Meat Market is now located in the building formerly occupied by the American National Bank The city's present bank is the People's State Bank organized in 1927 with Richard E. Long sr., as president. He still retains the position. The bank is capitalized at $50,000.
Story of Postal Service
      Until the fire of 1903. Gillespie's postoffice was located in various stores and shops. After the fire, the postoffice was established in the George Schmidt building on West Chestnut street, with J. F. Ahrens as postmaster.
      It was kept there until last October, when it was moved to the new building on Went Spruce street constructed at a cost of $35,124. Everett L. Cameron is postmaster, being appointed in August.
      The first postoffice was kept in the B F. Clark store in 1854 with the Rev. Thomas Chandler as postmaster. Previous to 1854 it was kept at the home of Giles Adams, north of the city limits in Gillespie township, with Adams as postmaster, because the stage coach line ran near his dwelling. A still earlier postoffice was kept in 1852 at the home of the Rev. Thomas Chandler east of Gillespie on the Washer road, and was known as the Prairie Home postoffice. The mall was carried on horseback and came in once a week from Brighton.
      During the 1870's Dr. T. Warren Floyd was postmaster and kept the office in his drug store; after his death in 1876 his widow filled the position until followed by Miss Etta Love, daughter of William Love, in 1883. Andrew MacDonald followed Miss Love, and then J. F. Ahrens became the postmaster in 1888 and held the position until 1913, when Michael J. Bergan was appointed. appointed. Bergan was followed by Even Harris, who was succeeded by the present postmaster, Everett L. Cameron.
Religious Development of Area Dates Back to 1834
      The first church edifice to be erected in this section was by the Baptists, about 1834, built of logs given by the neighbors. It was located north of Gillespie.
      The first church built in the city was the Episcopal in 1863. The original frame building is still in use on West Spruce street.
      On the corner of South Macoupin and Spruce streets, northwest, where today Eiler's store stands, the first Methodist Church was erected during the year 1863, in the midst of the Civil War. Lumber for the building came from the timber owned by Abraham Isaacs, sr., at whose home the first organized meetings of Methodists were held. In 1909 the church building was removed to the place it now occupies, -- the corner of Madison and Spruce streets. An annex was built and dedicated during 1910. When the town became a city, the church trough the years outgrew the building and equipment.
      In 1928 around the old buildings so well constructed, a new building was erected at a cost of $37,000.
      The first Methodist parsonage was bought in 1855 for $450, and is still standing on East Chestnut street occupied by the family of George Sawyer. The Rev. C. C. Dawdy, the present pastor of the Methodist Church, has been in that pulpit since 1934.
Zion Lutherans there 66 Years
      The Zion Lutheran Church was built in 1870 and after 31 years of use was sold to the Christian congregation and moved to South Macoupin street, south of the present residence of Adolph H. Behrens. The present modem brick structure of the Lutherans was completed on Oct. 6, 1901, A nine-room parsonage was built in 1907. the parish hall, used for all the church's social functions was erected in 1921. It is also used for the religious instruction of the children. The small building put up in 1870, where the children received instructions, was moved in 1901 to its present location across from Gillespie Community High School. Additional rooms have been built and it is used as a dwelling.
      the Rev. L. Krekeler, who has charge of the Lutheran congregation in Dorchester, as well as here, will observe his fortieth anniversary as pastor of the Lutheran Church this year. There are 457 members in the congregation composing 175 families.
      The Christians held their services in he old Lutheran frame edifice until 1915. this building is now Russell's Red & white store. The Christians in 1915 built a frame structure on the east side od South Macoupin street, north of the city cemetery. In 1923 this building was destroyed by fire which started in the cemetery. The present brick building of the Christian Church was built to replace the one destroyed by fire.
Catholics Have Church, School
      The first Catholic church edifice was a frame building erected in 1879 under the patronage of Simon and Jude. The first mass in that building was offered on Jan. 1, 1880. The frame building was enlarged during 1900 and 1905 while the Rev. Father Thomas Masterson, now pastor of St. Michael's Catholic Church in Staunton, had charge. A parsonage was built in 1906 on the north side of the church. In 1910 property composing the present Holy cemetery adjoining the city cemetery was purchased by the parish.
      In 1920 the Catholic frame edifice was torn down and the present brick building with a seating capacity of 500 was constructed at a cost of #85,000. The church is modified gothic in design.
      A parochial school building was commended in 1913 and completed the following spring. The Sisters of Mercy from St. Joseph's Convent of Mercy, Webster Groves, Mo., took charge Sept. 20, 1914. The present church was erected during the pastorate of the Rev. Father John Crosson, who took charge of the parish April 1, 1905. Father Crosson is now pastor at St. Patrick's Church in Alton, being transferred there in June 1935, after 30 years of service here. The Rev. Father J. T. Walsh was transferred from the Catholic Church in Altamont to replace Father Crosson. Father Crosson was the first resident pastor for SS Simon and Jude's Catholic Church and was the first priest to occupy the parsonage, built in 1906.
      When the parochial school was built in 1913, a six-room dwelling was also built for the nuns. when it became necessary to increase the number of teachers, the parish decided to build the present two-story brick building containing 14 rooms, completed in May, 1925.
      The present frame Baptist Church was built about 25 years ago. The Rev. H. L. Wheeler is the present pastor of the church.
School Opened Century Ago In Building Made of Logs
      The history of Gillespie's schools dates back to 1835, when the early settlers built one of logs north of here. Outside of private teaching it was not until 1854, when Mrs. Elizabeth Chandler Green taught the first public school for the community in her home, which was on the present Cockin's place on Washer road. The first public school in Gillespie was in the old home of Mrs. Beggan and stood where the Little Brick School now is. Before being a school, it served as the town hall. The building was later moved away and a four-room school was built. This frame school burned the day before it was to be opened. Classes were conducted in church and store buildings. In the 1880's the present Little Brick School was built for the grades, on the same ground where the first school burned.
      Eighteen eighty eight marked the beginning of the first two-year course of high school work. The principal served as teacher and the high school work was done in the old White School near the mill, now the location of the Gillespie Elevator Co.
Introduces Four-Year Course
      In 1905 the Big Brick School was built at a cost of $5,750, serving as quarters for the high school students and part of the grades. After the sinking of the Superior Coal Co. mines, the population rapidly increased, and the high school course was extended to four years in 1906 under Superintendent A. C. Stice who revised the course of study to make high school an accredited institution.
      In 1909 the board of education found it necessary to remodel the original four-room Big Brick. The addition cost $20,000, increasing the valuation of the Big Brick to $25,000 and enlarging it to a 14 room building. Combined grade and high school work was carried on in the Big Brick School to 1919.
      In 1918 the grade schools were over-crowded. Then it was decided to conduct classes in the large frame home of Henry Behrens, built in 1874. After six years of use, the Behrens' home was torn down and the present modern Maple Street School was built about 1924 on about the same location.
      Gillespie's grade classes are now conducted in the Big Brick and Little Brick schools, and the Maple Street School.
      Until 1918 the Gillespie Community High School was known as the Gillespie High School. The present high school, located on the present west edge of Broadway, was begun in June, 1919, and completed in Sept., 1920, at a cost of $124,000 for construction and $16,000 for furniture and equipment. The high school is located on seven acres of ground in the northwest part of the city and has enrollment of 580. Earl J. McNely has been the principal since 1923. The faculty includes 17 members. The student body takes part in the activities at 17 organized clubs in addition to a Boys and Girls Athletic Association. More than 1100 students have graduated from the school.
      In 1928 a gymnasium, valued at $40,000 and considered one of the best equipped in this section of the state, was constructed. Previous to the building of the gymnasium, all the athletic activities were carried on in the cafeteria of the school. Coach George W, Grauel has charge of basketball and Coach Leslie Nicolet, football.
      Although some at the early settlers on the site of Gillespie came more than a hundred years ago, there is no mention of the Indians here, as found in history of the immediate area. One of the closest approach to the Indians was the Peoria, Kickapoo and Winnebago grand camping ground near the creamery northeast of Bunker Hill. These Indians, it is thought, might have hunted in the Gillespie section The Indians used the Bunker Hill camping ground only when they made their north and south journeys. They left in 1826 for the west when the white settler began to come.
      An incident which occurred in Weaverville, Calif., on Oct. 13, 1888 is connected with Thomas F. Burke of 212 Park avenue. Burke's father, Thomas Burke, who was a citizen of Gillespie before moving to California was murdered by a band of Indians while at work in the field in California. The Indians spared Mrs. Burke when she told them where they could find money in the house, which they plundered and burned to the ground. Mrs. Burke returned to Gillespie with her three small children and lived here until she was 82. Thomas F. Burke of Park avenue was a small child at the time. A sister, Rosa, is now Mrs. John Main of California.
      In addition to the organizations of the Gillespie churches, lodges and civic organizations are located here. The Odd Fellows Lodge, oldest in the city, was instituted on Oct. 13, 1857. In the Masonic lodge John Slaughter, 96, Civil War veteran, is the oldest member, having been for 71 years.
      A Victory Rebekah Lodge, Gillespie Chapter of the Eastern Star, Lady Douglas Lodge of the Daughters of Scotia, Clan Mackintosh. The Burns Club. Knights of Pythias, Pythian sisters. White Rose Camp of the Royal Neighbors of America. Knights of Columbus, American Legion and Auxiliary, Spanish American War Veterans Association, the L. H. Wilhite, F. L. Hoehn, and Maple Street School Parent-Teacher Associations. Home Bureaus. Gillespie Community Club, Woman's Club, Gillespie Rotary, and Retail Merchants Association are other organizations located here.
      The city of Gillespie, which is 81 years old and whose chief industry is mining, has a chance for further development through research work to be continued in the study of coal and many more by-products to be discovered and bettered.

© 2018    Wayne Hinton
Coal Mining logo