Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois
Centennial 1872-1972 on-line
On Monday, July 20, 1891, fire destroyed the entire west side of the square with the exception of the Gilkey and Schnitker Drug Store located in the brick building on the northwest corner. The fire started in a frame building just south of the drug store that was occupied by the M. E. Henderson restaurant. Driven by a north wind the flames ate their way to the south consuming all the buildings in their path. The following places of business were destroyed: S. W. Thayer, Clothing Store; J. B. Vietor's Barber Shop; Lawson Seybold Grocery; H. M. Galloway, Jewelry; Mrs. H. M. Galloway, Millinery; Smith and Hartley, Dry goods, Groceries, and Post office; Standiford Brothers, Bank; Courier office conducted by A. S. Harmony above the bank; Judd Mussleman and Mel Matheney, Furniture and Undertaking; U. W. Waltrip, Hardware. All of the buildings were frame except the bank, furniture, hardware, and Seybold's.
Mr. Schnitker said their store was saved by pumping two 10-gallon fountains of soda water onto the store and the adjoining building which was on fire. A. E. Schnitker was in the drug business at this location until 1897.
After the fire the Standiford Brothers moved their vault to the Newkirk Harness Shop on the east side of the square and carried on their banking business. Mr. James Thomas came to work September 28, 1891, and found his employers had absconded taking merchants' insurance money from the west side fire as well as the entire savings of many depositors. They were not apprehended.
Some of the lots on the west side of the square changed hands after the fire, and it was not long until the work of rebuilding was started. By the first of September 1894 it was entirely rebuilt.
The work above was sponsored by THE FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF CHRISMAN, Chrisman, Illinois
Chrisman was visited by another large fire on December 11, 1902. This time the old frame buildings comprising the west half of the north side of the square were destroyed. In December five years earlier (1897), several of these buildings had been damaged by an explosion of dynamite which had been placed in the entrance of the building Dr. Linebarger now occupies. Later, the remainders of the buildings were destroyed by fire. Chrisman's third large fire on the square was in November 1946, when the Chrisman Milling Company burned with a loss of nearly $50,000.
The mill, property of Walter Daily, was located on the north portion of the east side of the square. The mill had been operated here since 1832. Eight people were employed besides Mr. and Mrs. Daily. It was one of the larger businesses in Chrisman at the time. Their "Burr" cornmeal had been shipped to points all over the United States. The mill was also well known for its "Chrisman Maid" and "Markitop" brands of hog, dairy, and poultry feeds.
The work above was sponsored by RODGERS IMPLEMENT COMPANY, Hume, Illinois Deutz Tractors; and, New H. LOEWI & CO., Investments to Mid-America, call W. C. Burnsides, (217-423-6091)
The Empire Theatre on the south side of the city square was destroyed by fire on the morning of March 19, 1959. The blaze was believed to have started from a trash fire in the alley at the rear of the building. The heat from the wind-fed fire was so great that a large tree in the park directly across from the theatre ignited and sparks were extinguished by the firemen. They were able to contain the fire and kept it from spreading to other buildings. The Legion Hall was on the west at the time, and a restaurant was on the east side of the theatre. Damage was estimated at $35,000. The building was 140 feet long with a 20-foot frontage. There was a stage, but the building was used chiefly for a motion picture theatre. There were approximately 335 seats in the theatre.
In the early days when a fire was discovered, someone had to run and ring the fire bell to arouse the townspeople. The first bell we have knowledge of was mounted on a metal tower similar to a windmill tower. This tower was located by the old jail on West Madison Avenue where the Municipal building is today. The bell, property of the city, has been stored in Mr. C. C. Smitley's building for years. The first fire-fighting equipment was a two-wheel hose cart or reel which was pulled on the sidewalk and a ladder truck. The city policeman was paid $2.00 to rewind the hose after a fire.
When Chrisman changed from the bell to a fire whistle, the switchbox was installed in the telephone office. On receiving a fire call, the operator rushed to the switchbox and pulled the switch. Then she rushed back to the switchboard to answer the innumerable calls asking the location of the fire. Chrisman was divided into four fire zones. The first fire department was organized in 1894. Mr. A. E. Schnitker was the first fire chief and continued to be for over fifty years.
The work above was sponsored by DEUTSCH UPTOWN, Paul Levy, Danville; And, EDGAR COUNTY BUILDING & LOAN, Paris, Illinois
The first fire truck is still owned by the city and is stored in the old locker plant. The bell from this truck is kept at the present fire station. In 1948 the Chrisman Fire Protection District was organized. The new fire station was opened for operation in January 1953. At this time the district had two fire trucks. A new siren was placed on top of the building. The city and county are each divided into four zones for the location of fire calls. Mr. Robert J. Hoult was fire district chief at this time.
Now, the district has three fire trucks, a rescue unit truck and a motor to furnish lights in case of a power breakdown. The station has two attendants each working a twenty-four-hour shift.
The work above was sponsored by RURAL KING SUPPLY, Serving Chrisman and the Edgar Co. Area with quality Farm and Home Supplies, North on Rt. 1, Paris, Illinois
Now, the district has three fire trucks, a rescue unit truck and a motor to furnish lights in case of a power breakdown. The station has two attendants each working a twenty-four-hour shift.
At present Mr. Elmer Malone is the Fire Protection District chief. The district has an organized force of twenty-four or more volunteer firemen. They hold regular training meetings and receive payment for each call they answer.
In recent years the fire department has added greatly to the Christmas season by the lovely decorations in the city park and along State Route #1 which they sponsor.
STORIES OF CHRISMAN
After the village of Chrisman had grown in sufficient numbers, the people living in the south portion of the township thought the election should be held in Chrisman. Those living in the north section asked that it remain at Ross school house where the election was held each spring, then at Cherry Point where fall elections were held. Chrisman asked that all elections be held in that village.
On the day of the election, to settle the question, every voter was present and arguments were settled with fights. The men had rushed outside to watch a fight, except two from Chrisman who gathered up the ballots, walked out of the school house, mounted their horses and rode away. The next year the election was called at Chrisman.
New schools were opened in the community, and each district soon had its school house. The first Christmas tree was in 1875 in the Baptist church. The church had been dedicated in elevated water storage tank. The water tank was completed in 1963. The old water tower was dismantled and removed in 1966.
The work above was sponsored by FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF CHRISMAN In Recognition of the Love and Service of Our Membership in the Chrisman Area 1872-1972
Mr. Roy Perry was superintendent of the Water Department for nearly 45 years. George William Hoult is the present superintendent.
SEWAGE DISPOSAL SYSTEM
Chrisman has enlarged its sewer system from time to time, and sewer taxes have been levied. In 1916 a large concrete sewer was built through the city from the southwest part of the city to the north boundary and emptied into Brouillett's Creek. Later another system was constructed east from the New York Central railroad between Washington and Jefferson Avenues. It crosses Washington Avenue just east of Ohio Street and empties into Brouillett's Creek.
On January 8, 1957, a special meeting was called to consider the correction of stream water pollution in order to comply with requirements of the State Sanitary Water Board. The consulting service of Clark and Daily, Consulting Engineers of Urbana, was obtained. In a special election on December 5, 1959, citizens voted to issue bonds for the purpose of paying part of the cost of constructing necessary improvements and extensions to the existing sewer system.
Today all sewage west of Route #1 and two blocks east of Route #1 has to be pumped "over the hill" to the natural drain leading to the disposal plant located east of Woodland Cemetery. Two large pumps located twenty feet underground are used for this purpose.
After the sewage is treated, it flows into Brouillett's Creek.
Most of Chrisman's homes have been heated by gas for many years. Natural gas was first supplied by the Panhandle Pipeline Company of Texas in 1941. It is supplied by Central Illinois Light Company, Peoria, Illinois, today.
In the early days festivals were quite popular, especially if some organization was in need of money. At one such festival Nettie Hartley and Laura Camerer were placed in nomination for the most beautiful girl. The winner was to receive a cake. Each girl was supported by her friends, and the cake proved quite a luxury, bringing about sixty dollars.
The work above was sponsored by COOK DRUGS and THE VILLAGER, Chrisman, Illinois; Ben, June and Ramsey Cook
In those days the young people supplied their fun in different ways such as taffy pullings and parties. The parties in the homes were the chief pleasures. Each year the town had a rousing Fourth of July celebration. These celebrations were held in the grove where the high school stands. By eight o'clock in the morning the town was active, and about eleven o'clock a parade would lead the way to the grove. After arriving at the grounds all listened to some speaker, then led by the band all would march to dinner. For a few years all dinners were placed together, but later families and neighbors would place their dinners together and have a good visit.
The afternoon was given over to pleasure. Many girls made new dresses for the occasion, for in the afternoon those who enjoyed the pleasure would dance.
Sunday school picnics were quite popular. The different schools would vie with each other for the most beautiful turnout from their school. A hay rack filled with children dressed in red, white, and blue, driving six or eight white horses to a decorated wagon, was a beautiful sight.
Delegations would come from different schools for miles around. Then in the presidential year during the campaign, rallies were held and girls would ride horseback wearing blue riding skirts, white waists, and red hats; the young men wore sashes of red, white, and blue. This was quite different from today, but people had good times.
When Tilden ran for president, seventy young people led the parade to the high school grounds. This was a popular grove for all occasions.
Many church and home weddings added gaiety to life, for they were always made joyful by the friends of the bride and groom. The train on which the newly weds were to leave was decorated along with their luggage.
Near the turn of the century an Opera House on the south side of the square brought traveling theatrical companies and various entertainment groups to Chrisman. This theatre was located above the present Yates store and the building to the east. The traveling companies presented plays from time to time. School plays and other home-talent plays were also given here. Later, the hall was used for basketball games until the Township High School was built and for dances until the early 1920's.
Excursion trips were popular, and there was competition between railroads. Round trips to Indianapolis and Decatur cost $1.40. The Big Four had a $.40 round trip rate from Chrisman to Reservoir Park, Paris for the Water Carnival. In 1907 the Big Four advertised excursions to the West for Home seekers, Settlers, and Colonists. In 1910 the C. H. & D. advertised round trips to Indianapolis for $2 and to Cincinnati for $3.
Often early forms of entertainment were transient. In October 1909 the Chrisman Courier reported that P. W. Koontz opened an electric theatre in the Light house on the south side of the square. The newly painted room had one hundred folding opera chairs and motion pictures were shown. Mr. Koontz decided to remain in Chrisman all winter.
In July 1911, F K Thayer built a swimming pool on the north side of Monroe Avenue in the second block west of the square. Francis Robison owns the lots today. Mr. Dan Scott was in charge of the pool which was a very popular attraction in Chrisman and surrounding communities for several years.
The work above was sponsored by THE PAUL LEWSADERS; Paul and Joan, Rick, Dennis and Cathy. Larry and Phyllis, Eric and Jeff
About 1913 Mr. James Watson opened the Empire Theatre, a modern motion picture theatre for the times. The theatre was located just east of The First National Bank. The Empire also had a stage where plays and entertainments were given. Usually prices were $.10 and $.15 for the motion pictures. Later prices increased to $.10 and $.25. The theatre presented good pictures and played an important part in the life of the community for many years. It was destroyed by fire in 1959 and was not rebuilt.
At one time Chrisman also had a skating rink in the building where the Chevrolet garage is now located, and later a bowling alley was operated on the west side of the square. Pool halls have also been operated in the city from time to time. At the present time band concerts are given in the park during the summer, and merchants sponsor a motion picture show in the park.
TEMPERANCE IN CHRISMAN
The Edgar County History (1879) tells us several organizations for temperance work had, at times, existed in Chrisman and in 1879 no saloons were to be found in the village. In 1875 a man had been murdered in a saloon on the north side of the square and the townspeople wrathfully destroyed the place of business and the owner left town.
In 1900, the Chrisman Courier, in reporting the Horse Show, says, "The crowd numbered about 3,000 people and although the saloons did a thriving business hardly a man was seen on the streets that would be considered drunk." One advertisement in this Courier asked, "Have you tried a glass of "Home Brew?" If not, do so. It's the best tasting beer sold. Call for it at Heidrick's or Scott Bros. They have it. Brewed by the new Danville Brewing Company."
The W.C.T.U. was active in the early 1900's. Saloons would be banished for a while and later return. An Ordinance dated February 11, 1911, levied a fine of not less than $20 or more than $100 against anyone who sold intoxicating liquor to a minor, an intoxicated person, or an alcoholic.
Then came Prohibition and the 18th Amendment; after the repeal of Prohibition on April 1, 1933, Chrisman had taverns until they were voted out June 21, 1943. Just previous to this date there were four taverns in the city -- one at Punkin Center, the Top Hat on the south side of the square, the Lone Pine Tavern on the west side and the Wonder Bar on the north side.
On April 21, 1955, Chrisman voters again rejected the proposed return of package stores and taverns to the city.
Chrisman has been without liquor stores and taverns for almost thirty years. This is another important reason why it is a desirable place to live.
The work above was sponsored by SAM ROGERS, retired farmer Son of Miles Rogers, Chrisman area pioneer and farmer 1824-1897
The band was a very important part of community life in Chrisman's early years and continued to be through the years. According to the 1879 Edgar County History, the Cornet Band of Chrisman was organized in 1875 and consisted of twelve pieces. The first leader was N. Y. Nelson and the second, Carl Temple. Melvin Matheney was manager. The band had attractive uniforms and has been referred to as the Military Band.
In the early days, during the winter months, the band would serenade the town board and other friends, so the men always kept a supply of cigars for the occasion. It was delightful to be awakened by the band playing at your door. Ice cream suppers in the summer and oyster suppers in the winter were given for the support of the band.
The housewives vied with each other in baking cakes for the band festival, for it was an honor to be invited to do so. On the night of the festival the band members were seated at a special table decorated with flowers. Then, young girls sold buttonhole bouquets to the young men at ten cents each to swell the fund.
The Chrisman band became known all over the Middle West as an excellent one. When at political rallies where there were sometimes as many as thirty bands, this band was always placed at the head of the procession. The fire and bank failure in 1891 caused it to disband.
About sixty years later the Danville Commercial News published a picture of the Chrisman Cornet Band and stated it was organized in 1876. The thirteen members at this time were: Mel Matheney, W. E. Holden, C. H. Temple, Bade Hannah, C. C. Rice, N. Y. Nelson, C. W. Seybold, J. R. Cretors, E. E. Cretors, D. C. McClure, Ed Hill, Buck Baker, and Otis Matheney.
A picture dated 1906 showed the band in "marching regalia" with the following members: Frank and John Buhl, Tom and Bert Stevenson, Everett Hull, Harry Rinesmith, Mel and Otis Matheney, Charles and Chester Smith., W. E. Holden, William Odell, Dave Tucker, and Otis Aikman.
For many years Chrisman had a Municipal Band which was organized in 1914. It was chiefly supported by public contributions. In 1927 a Tax Levy Ordinance made definite funds available. In 1928 during the Edgar County Fair and the Chrisman Horse Show, the old band wagon in which the band made its appearance in the 1884 presidential campaign was brought out of storage and painted in fresh circus colors.
The work above was sponsored by CHRISMAN FARM CENTER, Chrisman, Illinois; Mr. and Mrs. Jess Poor and Janna, Mr. and Mrs. John W. Craig, Teiri, Lorri and Troy
Only one member of the band of 1884, W. E. Holden, played with the band during the two parades in 1928. Mr. Otis Matheney led the parade and did not ride in the band wagon. The band wagon, which many can recall, was in Chrisman until about three years ago.
A few years later loyal band members that many residents will remember are: J. S. Bishop, Judge Dawson, Harry Haworth, Richard Jamison, Russell Jamison, William Jamison, Lewis Moss, Russell Moss, Santos Osborn, Roger Yontz, and Elmer Wheeler. William Jamison, the only surviving member of this group still living in Chrisman, lives on North New York Street.
In the 1950's the High School Band, aided by adult members, took over the summer concerts. At the present time concerts under the direction of the High School band director are given for ten weeks during the summer.
In the heart of a thriving agricultural community it was natural for Chrisman to be interested in and proud of its horses. Early horse shows and races were held in the grove north of the village. Colt shows were popular in the 1880's, and in 1900 Chrisman's first annual horse show was held on the town square. The city had a street sprinkler at this time, and it was used to keep the dust down. An estimated crowd of 3,000 attended in the afternoon.
The horse show undoubtedly brought more people to Chrisman than any other annual event. For about twenty years the Chrisman Horse Show Association organized a well-run show that drew excellent horses from quite a distance, several entries having been shown at state fairs. The money won was never great, but ribbons from the Chrisman Horse Show were highly prized.
The work above was sponsored by THE ROBERT RIGGEN FAMILY Robert, Rena, Toni and Kim, Sue, Keith, David Anthony and Steven Eric, David and Vicki
Usually the show was held for three days. Mules, draft horses, and ponies were shown in the afternoons, and the society show was held in the evenings. Chrisman's last horse show had a fourth day for a Western show.
The shows were held on the east side of the square. Bleachers were erected and special events made the horse show an outstanding occasion. It was estimated that over 5,000 persons attended the last show.
The Chrisman Horse Show Association assisted in raising money for the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, an Honor Roll and Flag Pole erected in the City Park, and liberal contributions to the Army and Navy Relief Societies. It was not a profit-making organization. The last horse show was held in 1946.
The first great social event in Chrisman was the wedding of Miss Florence Chrisman, a niece of Mathias Chrisman, and George W. Henry, of Chicago. The happy social event took place at the M. E. Church on December 18, 1876. The ceremony was described as the grandest and most impressive that ever transpired in Eastern Illinois.
Conspicuous among the early autumn events in 1925 was the international wedding at the Methodist church when the marriage of Miss Catherine Thio of Tandjong Balei, Sumatra, and Mr. Henry T. Siek of Parakam, Java, was solemnized.
The work above was sponsored by TAYLOR GRAIN COMPANY, Chrisman, Illinois; Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Taylor, Pam and Mike
In the years before Chrisman had a Public Library, there were lending libraries and book clubs at different times in the village. Mr. Lee Moss had books to loan in his grocery store. Each member contributed a new book. In 1932 the Padlock Circle of the Methodist Church opened a small library in the church. They continued to keep it open two afternoons each week for about seven years.
The Chrisman Library was opened November 1939 in the front rooms of the Presbyterian Church. The Chrisman Woman's Club and the Booster Club were instrumental in starting the library. Miss Agnes Hoult, the librarian, donated her time two afternoons and an evening each week to maintain library service.
The library remained at this location until November 1950 when it was moved to the new Municipal Building. The new building was constructed largely through the efforts of the Chrisman Commercial Club which was very active at the time. Many citizens made liberal donations. As in the beginning, the library was supported by the clubs, organizations, and citizens of the community.
After investigation by and recommendation of the Chrisman Lions Club, the City Council voted funds on March 25, 1957, to establish and maintain a city library. A tax, approved by the voters, was levied for its support. For the first time the librarian received pay for her services.
The work above was sponsored by LORENZEN FARMS, Polled Hereford Cattle and Chester White Hogs, Chrisman, Illinois; Sonny and Leila, Steve and Vicky, Nancy, Jeannie, Cynthia, John Spencer, Dave and Shirley, Tony, Trudy and Tracy
Marshall Sparks, Mayor, appointed the following as members of the Board of Directors: Iverson Barr, president; Mrs. Allen E. Overaker, secretary; Ben R. Cook, Martin Dalrymple, Robert Ellis, Stanley Lewman, Raymond Newlin, Clyde Samford, and E. 0. Tate.
After Miss Hoult's death in May 1961, Miss Ivy M. Compton served as librarian until her resignation in 1962. Mrs. Goldie Jenness became librarian and serves in that capacity at the present time.
Today the Chrisman library is a member of the Lincoln Trails Library System. This service provides late books, films, framed art works, records, and reference materials for loan through our library.
When Chrisman first came into existence, a place to bury the dead was soon set apart. Mr. and Mrs. Charles T. and Sarah Kenton Caraway gave the land just northeast of the village for this purpose. They suggested the name Woodland.
The cemetery was laid out in 1875, and Mr. William Kenton was the first to be buried there. Stanfield, Caraway, Mitchell, and other names of men prominent in the early development of Chrisman are found here. (Some are found at the Hoult Cemetery south of Chrisman.) In the center of the cemetery is a large monument presented by Samuel Kenton as a memorial to the soldiers of the Civil War.
Through the years many veterans have been buried here. In August 1971, American Legion records showed 30 Civil War, 1 Confederate, 5 Spanish-American War, 34 World War I, and 13 World War II veterans making a total of 83 veterans buried in Woodland at that time.
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