Historic Staunton Illinois in 1909
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Historic Staunton Illinois in 1909

In 1909 historic Staunton, Illinois, was called the metropolis of Macoupin County. Coal mining was the principal industry, George H. Luker was mayor, semi-pro baseball and football teams were fielded, a city military band provided entertainment and a host of businesses and elegant homes dotted the landscape.

Incorporated as a village in 1859, Staunton, Illinois, enjoys a long and colorful history. Located in the extreme southern portion of Macoupin County, Staunton rests almost halfway between St. Louis, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois. According to the 2010 United States Census, the current population of Staunton is 5,139, an increase of 2.2% from the official 2000 government tally. Today, Staunton is perhaps best known as the host of the original Tour de Donut, a bicycle race held every July which attracts thousands of riders and spectators from around the country.

The city of Staunton was the metropolis of Macoupin County in 1909, boasting of a population of almost 6,000 souls. Thanks to the town's chief industry – coal mining – Staunton grew from a "wayside village to a blooming little city, the best of its size in the United States," crowed the Staunton Star, the local newspaper.

Staunton Local Government

In 1909, Mayor George H. Luker presided over an all-male town council. Aldermen were A.H. Schmidt (Ward No. 1), Emil Reinholt (Ward No. 1), George Hawkins (Ward No. 2), Charles Buehling (Ward No. 2), Walter O'Neil (Ward No. 3), August Huhsman (Ward No. 3), Hy Faulstich (Ward No. 4) and Paul Weis (Ward No. 4). Other city officials included City Engineer J.A. Tremble, Police Magistrate Byndman and City Clerk Charles F. Kruse.

The local government was quite busy at the time, apparently earning the trust of the local press and public. "We have some good Public Utilities and Improvements, Electric Light Plant, Water Works and Street Paving; these things we now have but there is more we are to get. Our public Officials have promised more paving and a sewer system and it's safe to say they will be forth coming as they are men who make every promise good," reported the Staunton Star.

Mayor George H. Luker, center, and left top clockwise: George Hawkins, A.H. Schmidt, August Huhsman, Hy Faulstich - Staunton Star

Staunton Illinois Businesses in 1909

With the booming coal industry came new workers and businesses. The Wabash, L. & M, two lines of the McKinley system and the Illinois Traction System (I.T.S.) served as Staunton's principal traveling and shipping facilities in 1909.

A variety of other businesses also served the community. Two pharmacies were in operation at the time: L.G. Schien and Company Pharmacy and C.C. Webster's Drug Store. The Bank of Wall and Co. and the Bank of Wall and Quade met the city's financial needs. Ed Heidkamp ran a barber shop, Alonzo Miller operated a plumbing service and Dr. O.E. Tibbetts practiced dentistry in Staunton.

Other local businesses included Courtney and Miller Sheet Metal Workers, Adler and McGaughey Hardware Store, Max Sherman's General Merchandise Store, R.G. Fischer's Store, Clifton's Confectionery, Faulstich Bros. Double Store, H.A. Jones' Store, Sievers and Son Store, Staunton Ice and Fuel Co., Routman and Son Store, Luker Bros. Office and Depot, Wyatt and Williams Gents Furnishings, Van Hyning and Prindable's Owl Restaurant, C.F. Hackman's Furniture Store, J.C. Kaseman's Hardware Store and F.G. Dietiker's Cigar Factory. The latter establishment featured a huge sign out front: “Smoke Purity 10 Cent Cigar.”

In a promotional pamphlet of the era, an obviously biased Cal E. Rasor reported: "Our business men are intelligent men who hold their honor above a few paltry dollars and their secret of success lies in the fact that they are honest and conscientious and treat the public fairly. No worthy cause is ever turned down by them and in charity they believe in 'casting their bread upon the waters.'"

Various Staunton businesses in 1909. The building for C.C. Webster's Drug Store (top) still stands today at Union and Main Streets, housing Hair Effects styling salon. A tobacco ad for Mail Pouch can still be glimpsed on the east side of the building. The other businesses are l-r: Bank of Wall and Co., Albert Benetti's Saloon, Ed Heidkamp's Barber Shop - Staunton Star

Staunton Saloons in 1909

Coal mines operated around the clock in Staunton, with thirsty miners and other like-minded imbibers often heading to the local saloons after work. The booming city of Staunton – hardly fertile territory for Prohibition proponents and Carrie Nation types – fielded a number of saloons and taverns during its heyday in 1909 and beyond. Among the watering holes were: Paul Walters' City Bar, Albert Benetti's Saloon, Otto J. Aradt's Saloon, Groves and Struck's Interurban Bar and Max Machota's Saloon. Many of Staunton's citizens had originally come from Germany, Croatia, Ireland, Italy and other countries, bringing the European drinking culture with them.

Max Machota's Saloon takes center stage in this photo from 1909. The other businesses are top left clockwise: Adler and McGaughey Hardware Store, Courtney and Miller Sheet Metal Workers, Alonzo Miller, Plumber, Routman and Son Store - Staunton Star

Staunton Illinois Churches and Houses of Worship

Along with the saloons came houses of worship. In 1909, the city of Staunton's principal churches were Zion Lutheran Church, St. Michael's Catholic Church and the Methodist Church. The latter's congregation was headed by the Reverend P.R. Glotfelty. "Our Houses of Worship are presided over by God fearing men who endeavor to build up society," declared the Staunton Star.

 

The old Lutheran Church, left, and its successor the new Zion Lutheran Church, which still stands today at 311 S. Elm Street - Staunton Star

Staunton Schools

"Educationally we are well equipped, having a fine public school building with competent teachers and three parochial schools," reported the Staunton Star. John Kennedy started Staunton High School in 1894. It is still the home of the Bulldogs.

Staunton Public School Building featuring east and west views. Staunton Community Memorial Hospital now occupies the site - Staunton Star

Staunton High School track team of 1908-09 - Staunton Community High School

Staunton Sports and Entertainment

Like many communities of the era, Staunton boasted of both semi-pro baseball and football teams. The Staunton Red Feathers reigned as the 1907 Missouri-Illinois Baseball League Champions. The team was comprised of eleven members and one manager.

Sim's Electric Theatre – an early movie franchise better known as a nickelodeon – showed early, primitive motion pictures in town. Later, the Labor Temple Theater on Wood Street would enter the scene and begin showing silent movies, with a teenage Charles "Chaw" Mank Jr. manning the movie house's organ. Constructed in 1913, the Labor Temple Theater still stands today and serves as a warehouse for iconic Russell's Furniture.

Staunton Red Feathers semi-pro baseball team - Staunton Star

Staunton Illinois Newspapers

The city's first newspaper, the Staunton Times, published its inaugural issue in August 1878. John Camp and Company, owner of the rival Staunton Star, purchased the Times in 1907, merging the two newspapers to form the present-day Staunton Star-Times, located at 108 W. Main Street. In addition to newspapers, the Staunton Star also published souvenir booklets and souvenir writing tablets.

The Staunton Star Printing Office staff in 1909, l-r: John Camp, Grace Camp, Charles J. McBride, Harold Camp, Cal  E. Rasor, Hannah Brown, Edward Camp - Staunton Star

Staunton Illinois Historic Homes

In 1909, the city of Staunton could boast of a number of large, elegant homes, many of which still stand today. Among the showcases at the time were residences belonging to Truman A. Snell, E.E. Godfrey, J.C. Kaseman, H.A. Fischer, Mrs. M.B. Dripps, H.H. Hopper, Mayor George H. Luker, C.F. Hackman, W.P. Wall, W.R. George and Charles R. Wall.

The old Charles R. Wall mansion, which incurred a roof fire in the 1990s and was subsequently repaired, can still be found dominating the landscape at 116 W. Henry Street, situated between Zion Lutheran School and Williamson Funeral Home. A huge, majestic stained glass window adorns the historic home's east side.

The old H.A. Fischer residence can still be found in all its architectural glory at 419 W. Macoupin Street. The Fischer name was long synonymous with insurance in the city of Staunton, with the Fischer Insurance Agency still doing business at 610 E. Main Street.

Historic Staunton homes in 1909, l-r: W.R. George, Truman S. Snell, Charles R. Wall residences - Staunton Star

"It is a city in which no exclusive society exists, where manhood and womanhood is not measured by wealth or fine clothing, but by the purity of heart underlying whatever clothing the wearer may wear...Many Nationalities exist here but they are, as a rule, law-abiding and respected people. We recognize their lack of English education but despise them not, preferring to help them to a higher plain and lift them out of the depth. The citizens of Staunton have found that a foreigner makes a good citizen if properly educated; in fact the people of this city know that from all the different Nationalities comes the true American." - Cal E. Rasor, Staunton Star, 1909

 

Illinois Traction System (I.T.S.) serviced Staunton in 1909. The old I.T.S. station was located on Union Street, now the site of a parking lot situated across the street from the First National Bank Loan Processing Center - I.T.S.

Top Image

  • The Staunton Military Band in 1909 under the direction of Samuel Webb - Staunton Star

Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved. 

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Comments (5)

What a thoughtful article! I wish I knew so much about the town I live in. Nice writing.

This article is filled with lots of interesting and educational contents and very well presented. I fully enjoyed your material and research.

This was a very interesting and informative read, William, but it was the period photographs that added the finishing touches to the article. The period photographs is what made it a true work of art.

You did such a nice job with this, and I agree with Jerry, the vintage photos were a wonderful touch.

interesting and informative. thanks.

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