1860 photo taken 4 days after Mr. Lincoln visited Lincoln, Illinois, for the last time. Info at 3 below.

This President grew;
His town does too.
Link to Lincoln:
Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership

Site Map

Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of Lincoln, IL

Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville Courthouse,
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse

About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse, the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era


The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn

Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois,
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht

"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06

Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in Billie Dyer and Other Stories

Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois: on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"


Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites, Descriptions, & Photos

The Hensons of Business Route 66

The Wilsons of Business
Route 66
including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites

Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek & Cemetery Hill,
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), & the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell

The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past & Present

Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District

The Foley House:  A Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

Agriculture in
the Route 66 Era

Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the 1950s

Business Heritage

Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era

including the hometown churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

Factories, Past and Present

Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era


Hospitals, Past and Present

Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras

Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois

Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities


Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight Museum

with Distinction

News Media in the Route 66 Era

The Odd Fellows' Children's Home


Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble fountain of youth

A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of Lincoln, Illinois

Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era

The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois

The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois,
including photos of LCHS Class of 1960 dignitaries & the Blanfords

Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois, on October 11, 1950?

The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)


Pages in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away, revisits, and career:

About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me

A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos related to Lincoln, Illinois)

Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001

Leigh Henson's Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography

Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography, Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski

Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois

Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of Lincoln, Illinois

Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life


Pages in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of other Lincolnites:

A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century

A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois

A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine, Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and Correspondent with William Maxwell

Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web Site,
including photos of many churches

Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois

J. Richard
(JR) Fikuart
(LCHS '65):
he Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes

Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois, Memoirs & Other Stories

Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956

Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route 66 Era

Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era

William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information for His Books About Murders in Lincoln

Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories

Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois

Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht

Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953
including announcements of LCHS class reunions

(Post yours there.)


Highway Sign of
the Times:

The Route 66
Association of Illinois

The Illinois State Historical Society

Illinois Tourism Site:
Enjoy Illinois



  Email a link to this page to someone who might be interested. Internet Explorer is the only browser that shows this page the way it was designed.  Your computer's settings may alter the display.

April 24, 2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical Society  
  "superior achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater public"


Marquee Lights of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois

    You can go home again. 
Email Leigh Henson at dlhenson@missouristate.edu.


4. Introduction to the Social and Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois

     "You could be eccentric and still not be socially ostracized.  You could even be dishonest.  But you could not be openly immoral.  The mistakes people made were not forgotten, but if you were in trouble somebody very soon found out about it and was there answering the telephone and feeding the children.  Men and women alike appeared to accept with equanimity the circumstances (on the whole, commonplace and unchanging ) of their lives in a way that no one seems able to do now anywhere."

      William Maxwell describing Lincoln society early in the 20th century, from Ancestors (1971), p. 190.


     The threads in a community's economic and social tapestry are closely woven.  What are the kinds of natural resources in a given area? Who are the people who settle it? What do they do with those resources? What businesses and industries stem from local citizens because of their cultural backgrounds, special talents, and ambitions?

     The most important fact about the economic history of this area is that it is surrounded by some of the most fertile land in the world.  Thus, farming has shaped Lincoln's and Logan County's growth from mid 19th century to the present.  Row crop farming, first of corn then of both corn and soybeans, emerged as more important than raising livestock.  A history of farming in the Lincoln area, including memoir of 20th-centuy farmers, appears in Nancy Lawrence Gehlbach's "Farm Life in Logan County, Our Times.  She explains how farming changed over the decades, for example, how hedgerows of Osage orange trees were used to help mark boundaries as the land became well populated.  Then, hedgerows got in the way of tractors, so the hedgerows were taken out, drastically changing the prairie landscape and destroying the habitat of many species (p. 1). 

     Another excellent history of agriculture in Logan County is found in Paul Gleason and Paul Beaver's Logan County Pictorial History (pp. 1-22).  The photos there depict farmers at work and the changing technology of farming, farm houses and farm buildings, the crops, as well the variety and importance of livestock.

     In addition to farming, mining played a key role in the early economic and social development of Lincoln.  The most complete account of this industry occurs in Nancy Lawrence Gehlbach's "When Coal Was King."  Mines were located literally south, north, east, and west of Lincoln.  More information about the mines appears in this site on the page titled 28. Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities.   Mrs. Gehlbach explains that many late 19th- and early 20th-century immigrants to Logan County worked in these mines.  "North Lincoln, the area off North Kickapoo Street, was full of immigrants:  Hungarians, Poles, and Croatians.  The Lincoln Public Library even boasted a Croatian-English dictionary, one of a group of seven foreign-language dictionaries given by a patron in 1915" (p. 5).

     Farming and mining provided regular employment for many, forming a solid foundation for other commerce.  Workers needed building materials, hardware, food, and the services of a professional class, including ministers, teachers, doctors, and lawyers.

     The photos below show "then" and "now" versions of a typical two-story, brick structure that housed shops owned and operated by folks of Germanic descent.  Businesses in Lincoln were often named by and for their owners.  In Lincoln, Illinois:  A Pictorial History, Paul Gleason notes that "The 100 block of South Sangamon Street was known as 'Dutch Row' since the business owners in that block were of German nationality" (p. 71).  Also, "the Dehner Block" was familiar to Lincolnites from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s. 

     Much of Lincoln's growth occurred toward the end of the 19th Century.  Gleason observes that especially between 1880 and 1890, an influx of people occurred as railroads were laid out and made Lincoln a stopping point on their new lines (p. 65). 

4.1:  Lauer Brothers Hardware on
South Sangamon, Part of "Dutch Row"

(Fish, Lincoln Illustrated, 1916)

4.2:  Part of "Dutch Row" in 2002, Including Site of Former Lauer Brothers Hardware

(Leigh Henson photo, 6-02)

     Author William Maxwell used his childhood recollections of Lincoln in the first two decades of the 1900s as the setting of some of his writing, and he observes "other towns within a radius of a hundred miles continued to prosper, but Draperville [Lincoln] stopped growing.  It was finished by 1900" ("The Trojan Women", p. 41). 

     Growth may have slowed, but it really did not stop.  Some people continued to settle here for the work afforded by the diverse economy.  Some families, such as my father's, came from southern Illinois because the economy of central Illinois afforded more jobs.  After WW II, new small factories opened in Lincoln, allowing at least for modest growth and economic stability in mid 20th century. 

     More information about Lincoln's economy is presented on 17. Agriculture in the Route 66 Era; 19. Business Heritage; 22. Factories, Past and Present; and 28. Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities. A forthcoming article will discuss William Maxwell's use of social, ethnic, and racial groups: 5. Social Consciousness in the Writings of William Maxwell Set in Lincoln, Illinois.

Political and Social Context for the Arrival of African-Americans in Lincoln, Illinois

     Part of the fame of Abraham Lincoln is that he was the Great Emancipator.  Thus, any town such as Lincoln, Illinois, that proclaims its direct association with this legendary American hero is bound to have its social fabric and race relations scrutinized.  This subject is difficult, and the following discussion is not intended to be a complete analysis of race relations in this community, but only to identify some of the context for them.  To begin such a consideration, we go back to the day Stephen Douglas spoke in Lincoln, Illinois, on September 4, 1858 (described in 3. The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln and the Founding of Lincoln, Illinois, also the Founding of Lincoln College, the Plot to Steal Lincoln's Body, and Memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn).

     In the large and favorable crowd that Douglas enjoyed (on 9-4-1858), many participants came on the train with him, but most likely many others were from the local community.  The enthusiasm for Douglas at that time and place suggests how famous he had become for his principle of "popular sovereignty," which appealed to advocates of states' rights, including citizens with Southern sympathy.  A significant number of citizens of Lincoln, Illinois, may have been of that political persuasion.  Historian Raymond Dooley has observed that "actually, the town [Lincoln, Illinois] was settled largely by Southerners, and many of its citizens maintained Southern sympathies even after the war began" (Dooley, "Lincoln and His Namesake Town," p. 139).  

     A casual survey of the biographies of the earliest settlers presented in Lawrence Stringer's History of Logan County 1911 and some of their descendants' autobiographical and biographical sketches in  Paul J. Beaver's History of Logan County 1982 indicates many settlers of Lincoln, Illinois, were born in such northern states as Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  (Most were of English, Irish, Scotch, and German descent.)

     Yet, the number of those who settled in Lincoln from such Southern states as Virginia and Kentucky appears to be significant.  Dooley notes that "while basically the town of Lincoln was loyal [to the North], it was not exactly a 'unit for the union.'  The following news item in the Illinois State Journal of October 12, 1863 (discovered in 1952 by the late Illinois State Historian Dr. Harry E. Pratt) illustrates the situation:

     'Exciting reports reached this city [Springfield, Illinois] Saturday afternoon [October 10, 1863] to the effect that a riot was going on at Lincoln, in Logan county -- a Copperhead meeting being in progress at the time [Copperheads were Southern sympathizers in the North, including some anti-Union activists].  The difficulty commenced about one o'clock, by one Sparks, a Copperhead, hurrahing for Jeff Davis and Vallandigham, when a man named Harless made at him and cut him severely.  A crowd then pursued Harless, knocked him down, and beat him  terribly. . . .  There were eight solders on down [sic] passenger train at three o'clock, who waited here thirty minutes for orders from Gov. Yates, but no order came. . . .  Harless is reported killed, and Sparks lies in a very low condition'" (Dooley, "Lincoln and His Namesake Town," pp. 140-141).

First African-Americans in Lincoln, Illinois

     Evidence indicates that the first African-Americans in Lincoln, Illinois, were not exactly welcome.  "Negroes Found Difficult Time Settling Here" is a brief article published in the Lincoln Evening Courier Centennial Edition, Section Eight, August 26, 1953, p. 3.  This three-paragraph article says that "no colored people were here at all when the town was laid out [1853] and many local citizens objected to their settling here.  The negro was first brought up from the south by the northern soldiers returning from the Civil War." The unnamed author of the article had interviewed Mrs. Georgia Artis, then "Lincoln's oldest colored lady."  She recalled the "early days" when "colored people would never go out of the house during the day, but would slip out after dark for a breath of fresh air."  (For additional information on sources of black history, see "Lincoln Public Library District Sources on the Local African-American Community" listed toward the bottom of this Web page.)

     The article reports that Mrs. Artis had been born in Kentucky, and her mother had been sold four times.  Mrs. Artis said she had worked for a banker and had witnessed his murder by Jesse James.  She "still has the blood stained shirt that her employer wore."  She said she had first worked in Elkhart and then came to Lincoln, working for Judge Stephen A. Foley [original owner of Harts Hall].  "Still spry and active the 89-year-old mother of 12 children was the owner of a 200-acre farm near Lincoln. 

     There are many more stories the old timer could tell, but many of them she says she does not care to recall" [emphasis mine].

4.3:  Mrs. Artis

     (Photo from Lincoln Evening Courier, sec. 8-27-53, p. 5)

      Mrs. Artis's observation that "When they [soldiers] brought them [blacks] to Lincoln, the soldiers had to stop outside of town and roll them in blankets so they would not be seen" ("Negroes Found Difficult Time Settling Here," Lincoln Evening Courier, Centennial Edition, section 8, 1953, p. 5). Mrs. Artis's reference to the Civil War soldiers transporting blacks is probably to the route of the Underground Railroad.  This observation is supported by information in another Lincoln Centennial publication, The Namesake Town:  A Centennial History of Lincoln, Illinois.  The editor, Raymond Dooley, presents brief memoirs of another elderly African-American woman named Mrs. Harriet Dyer Brummell (the sister of the African-American named Billie Dyer, M.D., the subject of the story "Billie Dyer" by Lincoln, Illinois, Author William Maxwell). Since the age of seven, Mrs. Brummell had lived at 133 N. Elm in the house of her parents, Alfred and Laura Dyer.

     Mrs. Brummell explained that her Grandfather Aaron Dyer "was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, and received his freedom when he was 21 years old, came to Springfield [Illinois] where he was employed by the underground railway. Aaron drove his horse and wagon at night, taking runaway slaves to the next underground station. When they reached Springfield, where the feeling against slavery was strong, they were fairly safe, although there were times when their masters traced them there and then they would be kept in hiding for as long as three weeks, or until the chase was given up and their masters returned without them. Springfield was a center for the underground railway. Everywhere throughout the South the Quakers, enemies of slavery, strongly supported the fugitives and aided them in every possible way. Once they reached Chicago their freedom was virtually assured." (The Namesake Town, p. 33).  More information about Harriet Dyer Brummell and her family appears later on this page under "Blacks of Lincoln, Illinois, in the Early Twentieth Century."

     As the Underground Railroad ran from the South through Springfield to Chicago, it must also have run through or near Lincoln.

4.4:  Map of Underground Railroad Through or Near Lincoln, Illinois

     Click thumbnail for larger version.

     The thumbnail image above is adapted from a map by Historian Wilbur Henry Siebert published in "Andrew Borders vs. William Hayes" by Carol Pirtle (p. 149).  Fuller bibliographical information for this source appears below in Sources Cited.

     When you click the thumbnail image to see a larger version of this map, you will note the location of Lincoln, Illinois, on the Springfield Stage Road, running from Springfield to Ottawa and paralleling the Chicago & Alton Railroad. Thus, you will see that Lincoln, Illinois, was on or near the underground railroad, which followed this route (Pirtle, p. 147).

     Another source with even more information about the first blacks in Lincoln, Illinois, is the 1939 Logan County Centennial Edition of the Lincoln Evening Courier in an article titled "Lincoln's Former Slaves Recall Pre-Civil War Days."  This source identifies other blacks who were born into slavery and who found their way to Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois. The information below is excerpted from this 1939 Courier article. Access the full text and photos of the article.

     "It is significant that a majority of the plantation emigrants who came to Lincoln and Logan county just after the Civil War were born in Logan County, Kentucky.  In fact a reunion of Lincoln residents who sprang from the Kentucky Logan County would find a very large segment of our colored population represented. 

     This settlement pattern was similar to that of Emden, first established by emigrants from Emden, Germany.  The first comers wrote back to their friends, and others from their home community followed them" (Courier, Section Two, 9-18-1939, p. 1).

     This article provides biographical sketches about the following African-Americans, including former slaves:

     Mrs. Millie Smith, 88, 441 Ninth St.; Walter Orendorff, 89, and his wife, Mary, 85 (also photo); Preston Townsend, 78, (also photo); Wilson Russell, 82, (photo on carriage with the Frorer family); Albert Perkins (also photo); Mrs. Laura Dyer, 82, (also photo); William Bibb, 74, (also photo); Susan Camper (also photo); and William Boyd, 73.  There is also a photo of Dock Fort, but no other information about him. Additional photos show black women and the white children they cared for:  Mrs. Millie Smith (servant) and Mrs. Phyllis Kuhl Edgell (as a child) and Mrs. Millie Smith (servant) and Barrett Cosby (child).

     The Orendorffs (photo at right) had been slaves and afterward worked for the Brainerds (owners of the Neo-classical mansion in Lincoln whose photo is published more often than any other house there. See an artistic drawing at 30. Neighborhoods with Distinction). Mr. Orendorff was the family coachman and "drove the open and closed carriages of those days.  He loved horses and spent much time grooming 'White Molly,' Mr. Brainerd's favorite mare."  Mr. Orendorff also farmed on the Brainerd property on North Union Street.

     Several other blacks mentioned in the 1939 Courier article were former slaves.  One, Mrs. Millie Smith, married a Civil War veteran in Petersburg, Illinois, and lived at 441 Ninth Street.  She is pictured twice in the Courier article:  first, as a housekeeper holding the child who became Mrs. Phyllis Edgell and in another picture holding "the late Barrett Cosby." 

4.5:  Mr. and Mrs. Orendorff

(Photo from Lincoln Evening Courier, Wednesday, Section Two, October 18, 1939, p.1)

     "Mrs. Smith recalls a great deal of those dark and at times seemingly hopeless days when the older slaves prayed for deliverance from cruel masters."  She recalls how some slaves, forbidden from praying, concealed themselves under large iron kettles "to prevent the sound from traveling up to the 'big house,' the home of their masters.  It was the only way in which they could have 'church.'"

     Mrs. Smith gave this recipe for "beaten biscuits:  Flour, very little lard, milk.  Mix and put on a block like a butcher's block:  beat with rolling pint for two or three hours, or until light.  Bake in slow oven."

Lincoln, Illinois, and the 1908 Race Riot in Springfield, Illinois

     In her acclaimed critical biography of Lincolnite Author William Maxwell (William Maxwell: A Literary Life), Professor Barbara Burkhardt notes that at the time of his birth (August 16, 1908) a race riot broke out in Springfield, Illinois. A white mining engineer had been murdered by a black man, and in a separate incident a young white woman, Mabel Hallam, claimed she was assaulted by a black man. As a result, "angry mobs lynched two black men, wrecked the small black business district, and burned forty homes in a black neighborhood" (p. 24). The riot killed two blacks and five white men. Ms. Hallam later admitted that her white lover had beaten her (p. 24).

     The next morning, news of the riot arrived in Lincoln when trains delivered the Springfield Register. At the train depot, sales of the Register set a record, and tensions in Lincoln increased because of a local incident, as described by Professor Burkhardt:

     "The Courier reported that a black Lincoln man made remarks about Mabel Hallam that 'in Springfield would have meant his death.' Other blacks in Lincoln advised the man to go on vacation until the racial climate cooled. 'It is well for the colored people of [Lincoln] that they refrain from utterances likely to inflame the people and their most valuable acts will be to suppress any signs of rowdyism that may appear on the part of the less valuable members of their race,' the local paper advised. '[This] may go a long way in promoting the peaceful relations which now exist between the white and colored people [here] but which might be strained without much tension'" (pp. 24-25).

     Burkhardt continues, "No large-scale acts of violence were reported in Lincoln, yet racism was common, as it was in most small Midwestern towns. In neighborhoods such as the Maxwells', genteel bigotry marked most dealings between white families and their black servants" (p. 25).

Blacks of Lincoln, Illinois, in the Early Twentieth Century

     Late in the nineteenth century and early in the twentieth century, some blacks in Lincoln gained upward social mobility, rising from the lower middle class to the center of the middle class. Some of the children and grandchildren of black servants and laborers advanced into positions in the business community. The following four examples are seen in a 1910 Illinois business publication. This source was contained in a vertical file folder that Lincoln Library Director Richard Sumrall showed me. The captions are quoted in their entirety:

     "One of the leading blacksmiths of Logan County, a promising young business man, whose future is good.

     Mr. Orendorff has the respect and confidence of the leading white people of the city and with them his word is his bond.

     He does a large volume of business annually, employing three men, regularly 99 percent of his customers are white.

     He has a beautiful home on east Broadway."

4.6: A.B. Orendorff

4.7: Izora Rogers

     "Miss Rogers is prominent in the social circle and teacher of the junior class of the A.M.E. Sunday School; president of the Allen Christian Endeavor of the Springfield District.

     Miss Rogers is a 'typo' [typist] of no mean ability, and worked on the Metropolis Gazette, a weekly colored paper.

     Miss Rogers is very popular and enjoys a wide circle of friends."

     "An industrious promising young lady, who is book keeper and office girl in the office of Coleman and Rhodes, white physicians, having been in their employ for five years.

     This is a good record and the position is one that is not commonly held by colored girls. The stenographic work of the office is done by her.

     Miss Perkins is a church worker and Sunday school teacher and has been organist of Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church for several years. She is very popular in Lincoln and adjacent cities."

4.8: Anna Mae Perkins

4.9: Lucille Louise Duke


     "Of Lincoln, Illinois, a prominent young stenographer and book keeper, who is employed in the offices of Drs. Brown and Ewing, the leading white physicians of the county, which position she has held for the past seven years.

     Miss Duke takes special pride in church work, being a member of the A.M.E. Church, and was recently elected Dist. Sec'y. of the Illinois A.C.E. League.

     Miss Duke is Supt. of the primary department of Allen Chapel Sunday School and is a zealous and ardent worker, held in high esteem by all the members and people in general.

     She recently finished a special course in stenography in the Lincoln Business College and is able to fill a creditable position."

4.10: A.B. Orendorff Family Stone in Old Union Cemetery

The Alfred and Laura Ward Dyer Family

     The photo below does not appear to be from a Lincoln setting, but the photo does show second and third generations of a black family that was prominent in Lincoln from just after the Civil War into the mid twentieth century. This photo is undated, but I guess it to be from the 1910s. The photo and related information were provided by Lincoln Courier reporter Nancy R. Saul at my request. I have sought information about Hattie Dyer Brummell (1883--1963) and her family because of my interest in William Maxwell and his writing about her and her brother, Dr. William "Billie" Dyer (1888--1958).

4.11: Alfred and Laura Ward Dyer Family

     Below I quote the caption exactly:

     "Picture was taken in front of Etta & George's house"
     L to R [from top]
     Thelma Brummell--Mary Dyer
     Annette's 1st husband--Fred Brummell
     Mildred Tyler--Hattie Brummell
     Ethel Brummell--Annette & Gertrude Groves--William Tyler?
     Lainey Groves--Alfred Dyer--?--Laura Dyer--Etta Dyer--Sadie Dyer
     Hellen Brummell on Alfred's lap
     Dorothy Tyler on Laura's lap
     two girls on front row
     Edith Tyler & Margaret Brummell"

4.12: Hattie and Fred Brummell from the Photo Above

     The Namesake Town, published as part of the 1953 celebration of the centennial celebration of Lincoln, Illinois, includes an interview with Harriett "Hattie" Dyer Brummell because she represented one of the town's prominent black families. Above on this page, I give information about Mrs. Brummell's Grandfather Aaron Dyer.

     Mrs. Brummell's mother, "Laura Dyer, was born a slave in Sedalia, Missouri, the property of the wife of General Smith of the Union Army. Laura's father and mother, also slaves, ran away from Sedalia to escape their bondage, but were caught and returned. General Smith then sold the father somewhere in the deep South, and he was never heard from again by any of his family. After the Civil War Laura Dyer moved with her family first to Edwardsville, and then to Lincoln where she worked in the boarding home kept by Mrs. Jones and located where the high school new stands [now Lincoln Junior High School on Broadway Street]. Later she married Alfred Dyer, in the home of J.L. Leslie which stood on the site of the present Burke home."

     The 1939 Lincoln Courier special Logan County centennial edition reports Mrs. Brummell's mother, Laura Ward Dyer, was 82 that year. Mrs. Dyer "recalled seeing both Confederate and Union soldiers at Sedalia near her birthplace. Her father, Strouther Ward, was shot in the knee while waiting on officers, and later during the war was exempt from service in the Union Army draft because of the disability." Laura Ward married Alfred Dyer in 1877.

     "Mrs. Brummell's father, Alfred Dyer, born in Springfield, Illinois, remembered when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Springfield at that time was put under martial law with orders to shoot at sight anyone who seemed to rejoice in the death of Lincoln. As long as he was able to work, Alfred Dyer was employed here by the B.P. Andrews Lumber Company."

     "Both Mrs. Brummell's father and mother were deeply religious. 'In our home' [133 N. Elm Street, beginning in 1884, but now demolished], she said, 'there was no card playing, but how we loved to dance! And we did dance when they were away from home.' Her father, long a Sunday school superintendent and a choir leader, was a student of the Bible, and on hearing a Bible quotation, could tell instantly where it was to be found."

     According to the 1939 Courier Logan County centennial article, Alfred and Laura Ward Dyer had seven children. Four were living in 1939: Mrs. Hattie Brummell of Lincoln; Clarence, a pullman porter of Columbus, Ohio; Dr. William Dyer, city policy surgeon, Kansas City; and Sadie Tyler, Chicago. Three children were deceased by 1939: Etta Mae Groves, Mary B. Dyer, and Fred Dyer.

     According to the 1953 Courier article, "Mrs. Hattie Brummell is part Indian--her grandmother, who lived in North Carolina--was the child of a Cherokee Indian father and a white mother. This woman came in the covered wagon days first to Sparta, Illinois, and then to Springfield."

     "'In looking back over the years,' Mrs. Brummell said, 'I am proud of my father and mother, who were highly regarded by all who knew them, white as well as black. Their deep religious faith has been my help and strength throughout my life'" (The Namesake Town, p. 33).

    On the Internet I discovered the following information about Aaron Dyer posted By: Eric <elcancestry@spamex.com>Date: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 11:57 pm

     "I am trying to find information about my ggggrandfather, Aaron Dyer, who was born into slavery in Richmond, Virginia sometime between 1813 and 1819. The family story is that he was freed when he turned 21 (1834 - 1839). He subsequently moved to the Springfield, IL area, where he worked on the underground railroad, although his official work, according to the 1850 US Census, was as a blacksmith.

     The precise birth date is unclear. I believe the cemetery record said he was born Nov 13, 1813 and died Sept 2, 1900 at age '87 yrs, 10 mos, 17 days' (even if the dates are correct, I think that number might be a miscalculation by about a year). The 1880 Census age (67) also puts his birthdate in/around 1813. However, his age was recorded in the Oct 25, 1850 US Census as 31, with corresponding ages reported in the 1860 and 1870 census records (which would make his birthyear closer to 1818 or 1819)."

     Another kink is a family story that the (or a) slaveowner's name had been Cunningham; "Dyer" was chosen to mark a new beginning."

     In an email to me of 2-6-08, Nancy Rolling Saul told me that Aaron Dyer is buried in a northeast section of Old Union Cemetery at Lincoln, Illinois, where he moved and where several generations of his descendants lived. In March of 2008, I located the Aaron Dyer grave marker about 75 feet beyond the Beaver crypt. The Dyer stone is not in a special black section, but among the markers of many whites, including those of German descent.

4.13: Aaron Dyer Stone in Old Union Cemetery

     This Web site's pages on William Maxwell and the Foley house have additional information on the Dyer-Brummell families. The material shared with me by Nancy Rolllings Saul includes a flier of the "5th Annual Dyer Family Reunion" held in Decatur, Illinois, in 2002, and a page of information about one of the children of Hattie and Fred Brummell, Marian Louise Clay, and that information is summarized below:

    Mrs. Clay's life shows a common pattern of both blacks and whites who lived in Lincoln but whose lives took them to other places because of marriage and job opportunities. Marian Louise Clay was born in Chicago, Illinois, in1923. After 1 1/2 years, her parents, Hattie and Fred Brummell, moved the family to Decatur, Illinois. When Marian was in the first grade, her family moved to Laura Dyer's home at 133 N. Elm Street in Lincoln, Illinois, due to Fred's poor health and loss of employment. Marian lived in Lincoln until she graduated from high school in 1942. She then moved to Kansas City, Kansas, to stay with her Uncle William "Billie" Dyer, M.D., and to continue her education. Years later in 1952, Marian returned to Lincoln and worked at the Lincoln State School, where many blacks and whites found steady employment. After her marriage to Frank Clay in the mid 1950s, they lived in Jacksonville, Illinois, until his death in 1980. Following Marian's retirement from the State of Illinois Department of Revenue, she moved to the Chicago suburbs to be near her children.

Blacks in Lincoln During the 1920s

     From a source in California, I recently acquired some rare photos of blacks in Lincoln, Illinois, from the 1920s. The photos are from an album that had been owned by Theodore R. ("Teddy") Isaacs. The first photo shows Ms. Callie Gorens with the A.M.E. Church on Broadway Street. This church was attended by the Dyer-Brummell family and other black Lincolnites mentioned on this page.

4.14: Ms. Callie Gorens at the A.M.E. Church on Broadway in Lincoln, Illinois (undated)

     The Dyer-Brummell house in Lincoln was at 133 N. Elm Street, and William Maxwell wrote that Elm Street was the boundary between the white upper middle class and lower middle class, which consisted of whites and blacks living in the same neighborhood. William Maxwell's parents and maternal grandparents, the Edward Blinns, lived in fine, large houses on Ninth Street one half block east of the intersection of Ninth and Elm. West of Elm Street "the neighborhood took on an altogether different character. The houses after the intersection were not shacks, but they were not a great deal more. Grass did not grow in their yards, only weeds" ("Billie Dyer"). This lower-middle-class neighborhood was integrated: "In this down-at-the-heel neighborhood a few white families and most of the Negroes of Draperville [Lincoln] lived on terms of social intimacy to which there were limits. . ." (Time Will Darken It).

     My maternal great grandparents, Martha A. (Woodruff) and George G. Wilson, lived at 450 Ninth Street two blocks from the intersection of Elm Street. Thus, they lived in the "down-at-the-heels," integrated neighborhood of Ninth Street described by Maxwell. My Wilson great grandparents lived at that address for 50 years (he died in 1925; she died in 1941 at the age of 86--I have her obituary) and were thus neighbors of the Dyers and Brummells. Mr. Wilson was a house painter, and she was a housewife. Both were of German descent. According to my family history, Mrs. Wilson wrote letters in English, spoke German, and played the accordion. Mrs. Wilson was a member of the First Presbyterian Church, attended by William Maxwell and his parents (sometimes social class boundaries are blurred). Five generations of my family have attended or belonged to the First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln--attended by even me once in a while. My Wilson great grandparents are buried in Old Union Cemetery not far from the graves of Dr. Billie Dyer, his wife, and his sister, Hattie Dyer Brummell.  See link under Works Cited for information about Dr. Billie Dyer and photos of Dyer-Brummell headstones in Old Union Cemetery.

    The background of the photo below shows a couple of the houses on Ninth Street that Maxwell refers to as not being much more than shacks.

4.15: Ms. Callie Gorens at 402 Ninth Street (undated)

     The excited young man in the background is unidentified.

4.16: Unidentified Man in Front of House on Ninth Street:
The Photo Album Caption Reads "The Old Homestead."

     I have found this house still standing in 2006, and it is easily recognizable because of its 1 1/2 stories, three windows, gabled porch, and gabled roof.

4.17: Evelyn Taylor

     William Maxwell summarizes race relations in Lincoln in the early twentieth century: "Apart from the doctors, the only things I can think of that the white people of Lincoln were at that time willing to share with the colored people were the drinking fountain and the cemetery" ("Billie Dyer" in Billie Dyer and Other Stories, p. 9). Actually, whites and blacks shared much more. The photos below show blacks at the GM&O train station, and high school yearbooks show photos of blacks in sports and clubs along with their white classmates. The information about John Ross later on this page indicates blacks and whites shared the public library, too. For a photo of a black patron of the historic Rustic Tavern on Pulaski Street in Lincoln, see the link to "Photos of the Rustic Tavern in the Route 66 Era" in the Works Cited.

4.18: Evelyn Taylor (l) and Sadie (last name unknown)
at the GM&O Station (date unknown)


4.19: Sadie at the GM&O Station in Lincoln
(click image for larger version)
The Photo Album Caption Reads "Hot Mama."


4.20: Sadie and Teddy Isaacs:
Photo Caption Reads "Squeeze Me Tight."


4.21: Close-Up of "Squeeze Me Tight"


John A. Ross: A Black Life-Long Lincolnite of the 20th Century and Friend of William Maxwell

     According to an article in the Bloomington Pantagraph of 1993 by Elaine Graybill, John A. Ross and Lincoln author William Maxwell attended Lincoln High School in the same freshman class of 1922. Maxwell's family then moved to Chicago, so the freshman year was the last time that Ross and Maxwell saw one another, although they corresponded over the years.

     Ross says Maxwell encouraged him to read: "He [Maxwell] introduced me to reading. He loaned me a copy of The Wizard of Oz. That was the first book I ever read" [in the eighth grade].

     Ross says he then began to visit the Lincoln Public Library: "I learned to read all stuff. I read some of everything." Ross said he read all of Maxwell's books and has read novels by other authors.

     The Pantagraph article says that "after graduating from Lincoln High School, Ross attended Lincoln University, now Lincoln College, about six months, until he ran out of money."

     "Ross's career consisted of farm and janitorial work, and 29 years at Caterpillar's foundry. He worked for Maxwell's aunt, Annette Bates. 'I worked around the Maxwell family all my life.'"

4.22: John A. Ross
(Pantagraph photo)

Memories of John A. Ross

     From Debbie Ross: "Hello to you, I m Debbie Ross, daughter of "John A". Thats what everybody called him white or black as his name was "John Adam Ross". I read your emails and had to smile as I work now at the new Abraham Presidential Library and Museum here in Spfld. Il. I work in "Newspaper/Microfilm so some one is always doing "genealogy", or trying to find out info about either family or Abraham Lincoln. We here are the largest repository of Il. newspapers on microfilm in the world. I was told this as I have only been here less than a year. I used to work for the Il. Dept. of Corrections (the prison system). Alot of these people in your photos I remember, one lady lived long enough that I actually knew her. My father was a very liked and well respected man, very wise, and even though he weighed never more than 140lbs, or stood taller than 5'6 and I am 6'1 to me he was the tallest man I've ever known. His wisdom and logic and intelligence could not be learned or I should say taught at any school, it was "life", and the things that unfolded. He was a humble man, that loved his wife and his kids, though they never had any of their own. I was adopted by him from a family member and raised and loved without any prejudice. My father was the greatest person I think I've ever met. And sir, I have a band and have performed for 3 Presidents of these United States so I have been around what society thinks is the best but none as far as I'm concerned compared to my  "daddy" as I called him up until the day he died Nov.6 1992 a month and a day to his b'day as it would have been  Dec.7th 1906. I would be glad, and mostly honored, to talk to you about "Billy Maxell", (as this is what daddy and I called him. I even wrote to him as I have saved his letters and he would send daddy books, and they were autographed, by him. To many Billy was this larger than life icon, to daddy he was just his "friend". And that's how he closed his letter to daddy, typing on that old smith corrona. I've gone on too much."

     From Bobby Olson: "Although he was far older than me, more or less by two full generations, I was acquainted with Mr. John Ross through the Railsplitter Coin Club in Lincoln from around 1975 until his death.  John had an excellent collection of United States and world coins; he was always a strong buyer of nice silver coins.  He was the only black member of the Lincoln Coin Club, and we all enjoyed his presence & stories very much.  He never seemed to age or change much through the years.  He died suddenly, at an advanced age. . . . While that is sad, he was in full possession of his mental faculties right up to the end, which is better than the alternatives.  John Ross was a memorable Lincolnite."

Email Bobby Olson at oly2059@aol.com

     From Leon Zeter: When I graduated from LCHS in 1953, I immediately started working at Caterpillar in their 4 year Machinist Apprentice Program, working on the second shift.  I rode to work with John A. Ross for about 3 or 4 months until Caterpillar had a big layoff, as a result of loss of business after the Korean War ended and I was one of them.  I got to know John fairly well during that time as it was an hour there and an hour back.   I thought he was a very smart person and enjoyed the ride.  I learned a lot from him about a variety of things as he loved to talk as well as read.  Some nights when we would get home a little after midnight all of us would go out in his back yard and look at the stars with his little telescope.  He would point out a lot of the stars, constellations, etc.  One day he saw a wart on my arm and said “Do you want to wish the wart away?”   I thought he was kinda crazy when he said it and I said “Yeah, sure.”  He grabbed my arm and rubbed his thumb on the wart.  I kind of laughed and forgot about it.  A few weeks later he asked me how my wart was.  I looked and honest to god it was gone. He also had a very nice coin collection with quite a few old and/or rare ones. He was very proud of them and showed them to me several  times. 

     I heard later on that Caterpillar gave a test to all of their employees to try to find people that might be able to be promoted into better jobs.  It is my understanding that he got the highest score of anyone at Caterpillar.

As always, I enjoy reading and looking at your website.  Keep up the great work. 

Email Leon Zeter at lzeter@sbcglobal.net

     From Debbie Ross: "The story that Mr. Zeter wrote about daddy, I can attest to the wart thing. He saw I had a wart on my hand one day and he rubbed my hand and yes not much longer after that it was gone. Boy I never knew about the test that was given at "Cat". My daddy always said he wanted to be a scientist if he could have furthered his education, God love him Mr. Leigh he was the best... As I told you he had that effect on everyone he came in contact with. Though he claimed to not be religious in practice, he was the most Christian person I ever new, and honestly, and I'm not just saying this. I never ever heard him ever, ever say anything bad about anyone.

     He told me about the time him and Billy were around Salt creek and Al Capone was there and told them both to "Get". Daddy said he did not realize who it was until he got a good look at him and saw that scar. Daddy use to work for the Bates family the old man W.C. was our lawyer, and my mom did their laundry (washing and ironing as she did for the Graue's). I guess there was an incident where when daddy was working either for W.C. or his family there was a chest, in which daddy never told me what was in that chest. It was not until after his death I was told by I think it was "Boe" Perry (daddy use to work for the Perrys on Union St) and also is a cousin to Billy Maxwell he told me that in that chest was a Klan uniform". I guess daddy wanted to protect me from that part of it, he said it scared the devil out of him. I guess it would. Would you please do me a favor and tell Mr. Zeter, whom I'm sure I probably went to school with one of his children (if any), that I read what he wrote my father and tell him I said thanks, Thanks alot." Debbie Ross.

     For more about John A. Ross and William Maxwell, see http://findinglincolnillinois.com/ross-dyer-brummell.html#maxwellandjohnaross.



     Information about the social context of Lincoln, Illinois, early in the twentieth century is provided by Larry Shroyer and published in Paul Beaver's History of Logan County 1982

     "In the early 1920s a disturbing element appeared with the organization of Ku Klux Klan opposed to Catholics, Jews, and Blacks.  Before the end of the decade its tentacles had hundreds of followers in Logan County and had infiltrated both the city and county governments, law enforcement and fire services.

     A mammoth rally was staged in Lincoln September 30, 1924, which drew thousands of the white robed and masked members.  The Illinois Terminal Railway ran excursions from Bloomington, Springfield and Peoria. 

     A lengthy parade with the Klansmen in full regalia moved through Lincoln.  Except for the Klan band and the French's Military Band, one only heard the tramping of marching feet. 

     A lighted cross was mounted on the lead car in the parade.  The statue of Liberty was a Lincoln girl.  Chief of Police Bill Hopp put on extra men to handle the traffic and [a] local contractor, and his crew erected five tents on the Gentry farm and the old Johnson race track at the end of Wyatt Avenue [site of the 1959 LCHS campus] and along the east side of the Primm Road.         

     Two electric lighted torches were prominent at the south end of the 40-acre field.  The program began at 3:30 p.m. with vaudeville stunts.  The free barbecue drew thousands.  The Rev. "Dinty" Moore gave a two-hour lecture on Klan craft before an audience of 3,000 which packed the big tent.

     Naturalization in four branches of the order took place in the shadow of the fiery crosses at the conclusion of the evening program.  City police reported that a pickpocket working the crowds grabbed 16 pocket books.  A later Klan rally took place on the Atlanta fair grounds" (p. 13).

    Certainly the celebration of racism was not unique to Lincoln and Atlanta.  Nor is there any indication that the majority of the participants in Lincoln were local or that this behavior reflected the racial views of the majority of local citizens.  Lincoln, Illinois, was not the location of the kinds of anti-black violence as seen in other Midwestern cities such as Springfield, Missouri, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where blacks were murdered early in the twentieth century.

Comments About Social Class and Minorities in Lincoln at Mid-20th Century

     As a teenager in Lincoln, Illinois, I became aware of social class distinctions and racial prejudice.  I knew that money meant a great deal to everyone and that those who had it were studied, perceived as superior, and envied.  I knew the well-to-do were entirely white and that they lived on certain streets, ate in certain restaurants, and sat in certain places in church.  I knew that my family, although white, was not part of their society. 

     From my experience as a white male born and raised in Lincoln, Illinois, I recall hearing whites use racial slurs in conversations among themselves but not express them directly to blacks.  I was, however, not living in adult society and so lacked a full perspective.  I also recall a time of self-awareness when I knew it was wrong to use racial slurs.

     Attending public schools in Lincoln in the 1950s, I had little experience with classmates of minorities.  My third-grade class photo shows only one black.  Unfortunately, I do not remember his name, but I also do not remember the names of several other classmates.  I do remember Bradley Fox, whose family was Jewish.  Bradley's father was William Fox, M.D., the superintendent of the State School and Colony in the 1940s and early 1950s.  My Grandmother Ruth Ann Henson, a licensed practical nurse, worked there closely with Dr. Fox.  She was very fond of Dr. Fox, as Bradley's classmates were very fond of him.

4.23:  Mid-1950s Third Grade Jefferson School Classmates (l. to r.):  David Carpenter,Carol Reynolds, and Bradley Fox


     In my view, race relations among school children in the 1950s were essentially favorable.  Childhood innocence and low numbers of minority groups helped to minimize racial conflicts.  The photo below clearly shows a relaxed, friendly group:  black and white hands and arms resting on one another's shoulders.

4.24:  Third Grade at Washington School in the Early 1950s

(Photo provided by Sue Hodgdon)

4.25:  Lincoln High School Black and White Sprinters from 1954

(Adapted from 1954 Lincolnite pages provided by Leon Zeter,
LCHS Class of 1953 -- the Centennial Class)

American public education has been one of the major influences in creating a level playing field for blacks and whites.

From Kentucky, Federal Judge Bob Goebel Also Recalls Limited Experiences with Blacks While Growing up in Lincoln

     In an email message to me on July 26, 2001, Judge Bob Goebel wrote, "Interesting that you should choose such a topic for your master's thesis. [My master's thesis is titled "Treatment of the Negro in Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner".]  We who grew up in Lincoln led a rather sheltered existence when it came to contact with racial and cultural diversity.  Lincoln schools had long been integrated, but there was hardly anyone there to integrate.  From K thru 12 I can think of only 2 blacks, Foster [Whitfield] and a girl I think was named Mamie Ross in 7th grade.  She didn't stay long.  I recall she "liked" Foster, and he wanted nothing to do with her.
     After H.S. graduation, I went to Murray State University (then, college) on a basketball scholarship, and played 4 years.  Murray is in far western Kentucky and very "Southern" in its culture.  I recall my first trip to a movie theater there -- seeing a sea of black faces in the balcony as I turned to leave when the show was over.  As I reentered the lobby, I discovered why -- on the wall, a simple sign, "colored," with an arrow pointing up the stairs.  Murray plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, and did when I was there.  When I started in the fall of '60, black faces were hard to spot on campus.  Not one black played for any team in the OVC which had 4 Kentucky and 4 Tennessee schools.  Not till my senior year did the OVC have a black player, and Murray broke the color line.

     In the summer between my junior and senior years, I sold Bibles and other religious materials in deep south Georgia (this was strictly a commercial enterprise), and I encountered prejudice the likes of which I had not even encountered at Murray.  I recall being literally run out of the small Georgia town of Attapulgus simply because some of the local rednecks thought I was "one of them agitatin' no-good Yankee sonsabitches down heah signin' up our niggas to vote." I was doing this around the time Birmingham, Selma, etc., was heating up -- about 2 or 3 years shy of MLK's assassination.

All of this is to say Lincoln hadn't prepared me at all for these encounters."

     Respond to Bob at E._Robert_Goebel@kywd.uscourts.gov.

     Leigh continues:  In later adolescence, I was guarded in my brief, friendly acquaintance with Foster Whitfield, the black male mentioned above by Bob.  When I knew him, Foster and I were attending Lincoln Community High, and I was fearful of what some adult whites (not peers) might think if they saw me with him.  I have almost no information about him, but I often think of him, wondering what his full experience was like for the time he spent in Lincoln.

     In this matter, I think of the voice of Langston Hughes, the celebrated black poet who began writing poetry in the eighth grade at Central School in Lincoln, Illinois. "Minstrel Man" is a poem about the gap between the social mask and the true, inner emotion of the black performer.  To what extent does the minstrel man's laughter relate to the quiet, wry laughter of my black friend in this small Midwestern town with a predominately white population?  "Because my mouth/ Is wide with laughter/ You do not hear/ My inner cry?/ Because my feet/ Are gay with dancing,/ You do not know/ I die?" (from "Minstrel Man" by Langston Hughes).

     Another poem by Langston Hughes expressing his social criticism is "Theme for English B," a work commonly included in the anthologies of high school English literature textbooks.  For thirty years, I taught English at Pekin Community High School, an all-white school, and I recall the interesting challenge of teaching this poem to juniors in American literature: "You are white-- /yet a part of me, as I am a part of you./That's America./Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me./Nor do I often want to be a part of you./But we are, that's true!" (from "Theme for English B" in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Knopf and Vintage Books. Copyright ©1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes. All rights reserved.  Obtained from http://www.poets.org/index.cfm).

      In 1953, Langston Hughes expressed his social criticism in Washington, D.C.: "I have believed in the entire philosophies of the left at one period in my life, including socialism, communism, Trotskyism.  All isms have influenced me one way or another." According to Time, Langston Hughes made this statement "during a closed-door inquiry in 1953 before Senator Joseph McCarthy's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, as documented in transcripts released last week" (Time 5-19-2003, p. 21.)

     It is unclear if Langston Hughes had any hurtful experiences in Lincoln, Illinois, that might have contributed to his social criticism.  He was in Lincoln only for a few months while in the eighth grade at Central School, and he had kind words about his time in Lincoln as expressed in a letter to his English teacher, Miss Ethel Welch, in which he said he was unable to attend the 1953 Centennial Celebration because he was working against a publication deadline.  I quote this letter in its entirely at 33. Schools, and ironically this letter dates exactly to the time in which Langston Hughes was expressing his political views in the U.S. Senate.

    In view of Hughes's 1953 testimony in the U.S. Senate, the question arises as to whether he was merely being polite to Miss Welch -- playing the minstrel man -- in declining to visit a place that he knew had a white majority -- a racial context that he may have found disturbing.

Responses of Several White Males to Racial Prejudice in Lincoln of the 20th Century

     The men whose social views are cited here include businessmen, a teacher, and social workers.

     John Hickey owned and operated a pool hall on Chicago Street (a picture of it appears at the very bottom of  18. Arts & Entertainment Heritage, Including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club).   In an email message to me March 13, 2003, Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, described Mr. Hickey as unsympathetic toward those who advocated social injustice based on prejudice. 

     Jim wrote, "I spent many of my teen years either at football or track practice or in the pool halls of Lincoln, and eventually became close to John Hickey who told me the KKK in Lincoln was frustrated by the lack of blacks and Jews so they became interested in energetically intimidating Catholics.  They marched down Chicago Street, and Hickey placed a revolver in his waistband and sauntered up and down in front of his store so the hooded miscreants would be sure to see the pistol.  He let it be known he carried a pistol to his car each night -- when poker was big, he often carried large sums home after midnight as he did not have a safe -- and told me he hoped one of the KKK would confront him in the dark.  No one ever did."

Tony Rufogales and Pete Andrews owned and operated the Gem Coney Island Lunch Room in downtown Lincoln on Pulaski Street, one block from the Logan County Courthouse.  The following account of their views on race relations is found in an article written by Nancy Lawrence Gehlbach titled "From Greece to America": 

     "Pete is proud that the Gem was the first restaurant in Lincoln to serve African-Americans in the dining room.  When Pete's Uncle Tony had the lunchroom, an African-American janitor named Lee Townsend always ate in the kitchen.  One morning, Pete's uncle said, "Lee, I want you to go out and sit on the first stool there.'

     'It didn't go good with a couple of guys,' says Pete.  'They threw one of those old-time coffee mugs and almost took his head off.'

     Pete says, 'We continued that practice.  Some people didn't like it, but most people accepted it.'"

4.27: Gem Coney Island Lunch Room on Pulaski Street in Lincoln:
Tony Rufogales Behind Counter (left); Pete Andrews at the Grill (far right)

(Undated photo from Our Times vol. 6, issue 1, spring, 2001, p. 5)

Jim Knecht, LCHS Class of 1962, worked at the Lincoln State School (& Colony) before attending law school, and he emailed me the following account on March 13, 2003:

    "Ron Ross and I both worked in activity therapy {recreation} at the State School -- arranged to have about 8 or 10 youngsters from the school sign up for and play Jr. baseball.  It was quite controversial -- some members of the Jr. baseball community {parents who were coaches} did not want to let kids from the State School -- especially black kids -- play with their children.  Liberal minds prevailed and after it was discovered that most of our kids -- ages 10, 11 and 12 -- were excellent athletes, they were more than welcome.  Ross was also instrumental in joining the elementary school association-IESA -- and from 1966 to 1970 when I left to enter law school, Lincoln State School fielded junior high school basketball and track teams.  Ross left in '69 to teach at the high school and by the time I left there were very few youngsters of the right age and ability to play sports or be mainstreamed on the playing fields.

    One of our better kids was taken in as a foster child by a black Lincoln couple and then played sports at both the junior high and the high school -- started on the basketball team and then went to Lakeland Jr. College. Most of the kids we worked with in athletics did not belong at the state school and had been shunted off there as juveniles by the Cook County Juvenile Court -- if they tested low, then send them off to the Department of Mental  Health -- that was the norm in the 60's before large institutions began to be phased out.  More later if you are interested -- my granddaughter wants to use the computer.   

      I would like to note that Bob Thorton -- Judge Thorton -- I think I have the spelling right though there may have been an "n" between the r and the t-- was one of the coaches who welcomed Ross and me and the kids from the state school -- his son also helped with the coaching.  I would get a van from the school car pool and take the kids to various practice fields in the spring and then to the games during the summer.

    The boys met with some prejudice both as to their race -- though one of the boys was white -- and their retardation -- that was the term in those days.  Their success -- particularly at bat -- made them heroes on some teams.  We also played jr. high basketball against LJHS, Carroll Catholic, Broadwell, Jacksonville, Farmersville and maybe Chester-East.  At any rate we encountered some problems but were generally well received.  I am not sure Ron Ross realized he was advancing  race relations but I believe it did.  Pete Andrews -- I think -- was one of the Jr. baseball commissioners and was supportive of the kids playing (emphasis mine).

    Thus, this was going on at the very time the poet was railing against the small-mindedness of Lincoln.  My involvement with the youngsters from the state school and my work there taught me more about the human condition than any other experience.  It gave me a sensitivity to race and poverty and oppression and an interest in civil liberties that I might otherwise never acquired.

  Ron Ross was practical -- he wanted to enhance the sports program at the state school, and did it both for the adults and the kids.  I was self-righteous about the "right" of our kids to play in jr. baseball and had the potential to say things that could have made our efforts a failure -- Ross was more diplomatic, which no one who knows him has ever said, and prevailed upon me to be calm and prevailed upon the coaches and commissioners to give it a try.  Our success at fielding IESA teams in basketball and track lent credence to our efforts with jr. baseball." 

     Respond to Jim at j.knecht@verizon.net.

    The experiences and views cited above show that racial prejudice and discrimination have occurred in Lincoln, but have been limited and resisted by many.  I believe the community has always benefited from the many decent people living there.

Other Present and Former Lincolnites' Comments on Race in the First Lincoln Namesake Town

     As a result of my addition of the section above titled "Blacks of Lincoln, Illinois, in the Early Twentieth Century," I received several messages besides those relating to John A. Ross. I present these messages below in the order I received them:

Sheryl Miller Beccue: Good afternoon Leigh. Another good read.

     I was raised at 225 N. Union St. Noah and Clara Gordon on one side....Chub McCubbin lives there now, and Charles and Eva Richards on the other side....Mike Fak lives there now.

     Charley and Eva didn't have any children but they let the neighborhood kids have the run of that big old home. Loved the billiard room.....Eva had trunks of clothes up there that a certain few of us could play dress up in. Beautiful expensive clothes, jeweled handbags, and shoes. 

     They had a garden, Ray Kurtz; a houselady as Eva called her...Mary Foster, who is still living with her husband on Elm street. Mary was loved by everyone (she was a very pretty black lady and still looks great for her age.) Have no idea how old she would be now, but her and her husband are always out working in their yard, waxing the car etc., ....only a little slower. Not sure but her husband might have been the "driver" as Charley always called him....maybe they weren't married yet...I just can't remember.  Charley went every night to the Hotel Lincoln to eat while the "driver" waited for him. Eva more often than not stayed home and watered her prized flowers most every night. Charley and Eva treated all their help like family... black or white and remembered them when they passed away.

     When I was in the first grade I had the mumps, measles, and chicken pox one right after the other. My mother fixed me a bed in our den by the window so I could watch as they put a huge elevator on that side of their home.... it was bigger and better than any around and completely silent. Not sure what's going on with the elevator now that the house is so run down....but I do know it's not being used.....makes me sick. Pat Gleason and his parents lived in this same home for years but they kept it up. Emmett and Helen made the old carriage house out back into a cute little house for their retirement. Both have passed away and a widow woman lives there now.

     The story and a half home on Ninth street was owned by one of the Kirks and I'd bet it still is. As a child I remember going there with my mother and some other ladies from the church to take food. I'm thinking someone must have passed away or was real sick. I'm sure this isn't adding much, but just thought I would pass it along.

     Sports have come along way...all my children played...now my grandchildren. What a mix we have here in Lincoln now.

     Gene and I lived at 189 Ninth street for 24 years so have seen the neighborhood go thru some changes. Our neighbors on one side were Ida and Henry Johnson and their daughter. Wonderful people and black. Ida just retired from teaching at LCHS and Henry from the prison as a Chaplin. Ida had a rough time at first, (not so much with the students but others)  in the end the kids all loved her as far as I know. I could go on, but have a couple little rugrats here that want to go to McDonalds.  Hope all is well with you and your family. Thanks again for all you do.

Email Sheryl Miller Beccue...61 at samy43@webtv.net


Ted Allison: Hi, Leigh -- 

   Very interesting article on black Lincolnites.  In it, you say you're looking for information about Hattie Dyer Brummell (1883--1963) and her family.  For most of the years that I was in high school (I graduated in 1956) and probably until my brother Steve graduated in 1959, we had a housekeeper named Hattie Robinson who would have been about that age (70+), certainly bore a resemblance to the much younger Hattie Brummell in the photos, lived around 9th and Elm, and passed away around 1963. Could Hattie Brummell have married a Robinson later in life? 

     Regarding (our) Hattie's family, she was the aunt of Eloise Girard (sp? Gerard?).  Eloise passed away in Lincoln just within the last year or so, was the mother of Hank and Harvey Townsend, LCHS '54 I think, and was the preeminent caterer in Lincoln during the 50s-70s.  While we understood Hattie Robinson to be Eloise's "aunt" in a literal sense, that may not have been the case.  I don't remember Hattie ever mentioning having children or grandchildren.  I hope this helps you. 

     Keep up the good work. Whenever I'm around Lincoln people, especially my former classmates, your name and your very interesting work on Lincoln invariably come up.

    Email Ted Allison at ted.allison@att.net


Dave Salyers: Leigh --

     Well, you've done it again!  Another home run!

     As a small boy -- 1945-1947, maybe, my grandmother Salyers lived next to Mrs. Orendorff, on Sangamon St.

    I don't think it was the Mrs. Orendorff your piece refers to, because she was 85 in 1939.  Although I suppose it could be.

     She was the sweetest woman; I just loved her.  I'd sit on the front porch and talk with her whenever we came to town.

     I remember -- actually, I don't, but my mother told me about this when I was older -- I touched Mrs. Orendorff's hair and said something like, "I'm glad my hair isn't like yours."

   My mother said that Mrs. Orendorff just laughed and said something about God making different people in different ways.  (All this while my mother was probably ready to fall off the porch in a dead faint.)

     I also remember -- not that I thought much about it at the time -- that black people in Lincoln were virtually invisible.  Mind you, as a country boy, I wasn't in town every day.  Had I been, my memory might be different.

     When I was maybe in 8th grade, I recall Bobbie Hood, Joycelen's elder brother, played on the LCHS basketball team and I would talk with him from time to time, although he was much older than me.  (I remember that he had two rows of lower front teeth; as if he hadn't lost his baby teeth.)

     I also recall Henry? Townsend, who was a very good athlete.

     The Whitfield boy I had completely forgotten about.  I'm even having a hard time placing him in high school.  (I think I'm getting him mixed up with some guys that I was in the Army with.  Comes with age, I'm told.)

     I also remember the murder at Goren's? Tavern, in about 1946-47?  That was a major topic of conversation for about the next 3 years.

     Interesting about all the books about Lincoln that you just cited.

     Well, that's all another trip down Memory Lane.

     Hope this finds you well.


Email Dave Salyers at dbs1128@earthlink.net


Dan Gaydosh: Leigh:

    Again you have provided interesting information and food for thought, I did not know about the KKK activities in Lincoln.  As almost everyone has said, Lincoln has lived up to its namesake in providing a reasonably good example of racial tolerance.  For example, my father never allowed the N word to be used and told me to refer to them as colored people, which he practiced long after that term disappeared from usage.  Of course, Lincoln's good reputation may have been true because there were not that many blacks in the town.  If push came to shove, I think Lincoln would not have been so nice.  A not-so-latent bias did exist just under the surface.

     Outside of Foster [Whitfield], I really do not remember any blacks in school during our presence at LCHS.  I know there were more in the early 50's because I saw a picture in the Courier of a black basketball player from Lincoln.  As a grade schooler, I attended a football game at the old field where Lincoln had a black running back.  He could have been a member of the Tommy Rouse family which was quite large.  An entertaining black man called either Sylvester Myers or "Pork Chop" Myers worked on a bailing crew for my father.  Until ISU, I really had no contact with any other race.

Email Dan Gaydosh at DGaydosh@aol.com


Sources Cited

     Beaver, Paul J. History of Logan County Illinois 1982.  The Logan County Heritage Foundation. Dallas, TX:  Taylor Publishing Company, 1982.

     Burkhardt, Barbara. William Maxwell: A Literary Life. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005. For information about this book, including ordering information, see http://www.aliterarylife.com/.

     Childress, William. Out of the Ozarks. Carbondale:  Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.  (Available at www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com.)

     Dooley, Raymond.  "Lincoln and His Namesake Town." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. vol. 52, no. 1, spring, 1959:  130-145.

     ___________, ed.  The Namesake Town:  A Centennial History of Lincoln, Illinois. Lincoln, IL: Feldman's Print Shop, 1953.

     Gehlbach, Nancy.  "Farm Life in Logan County, Our Times vol. 2, issue 2, summer, 1997.

     __________ .  "From Greece to America."  Our Times vol. 6, issue 1, spring, 2001.

     __________.  "When Coal Was King," Our Times vol. 2, issue 3, fall, 1997.

     Gleason, Paul E. Lincoln, Illinois:  A Pictorial History. St. Louis, MO:  G. Bradley Publishing, 1998. Material from Mr. Gleason's books is copyrighted with all rights reserved.  Mr. Gleason's material used in this Web site is with permission from the G. Bradley Publishing Company, 461 Des Peres Road, St. Louis, MO 63131. Call 1-800-966-5120 to inquire about purchasing Lincoln:  A Pictorial History (1998) (200 pages of rare photos and text) or Logan County Pictorial History (2000) (also 200 pages of rare photos and text). Visit http://gbradleypublishing.com/.

     Gleason, Paul E., and Paul J. Beaver.  Logan County Pictorial History.  St. Louis, MO: G. Bradley Publishing, 2000.

     Henson, Leigh. "Dr. Billie Dyer: Patriot, Dedicated Caregiver, and Role Model for Blacks": http://www.geocities.com/findinglincolnillinois/foleyhouse.html#dyers. For a photo of a black patron of the Rustic Tavern, see Photos of the Rustic Tavern in the Route 66 Era.

     Hughes, Langston.  "Minstrel Man."  The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes.  NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1994.

     Hughes, Langston. Quoted in "Notebook." Time magazine. May 19, 2003, p. 21.

     "Lincoln's Former Slaves Recall Pre-Civil War Days." Lincoln Evening Courier and Lincoln Herald vol. 83, no. 291, Section Two, Wednesday, October 18, 1939, p. 1.

     Maxwell, William. Ancestors:  A Family History.  NY:  Vintage Books, 1971.

     ___________.  "Billie Dyer."  Billie Dyer and Other Stories.  NY:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

     ___________.  "The Trojan Women."  All the Days and Nights:  The Collected Stories.  Vintage Books-Random House Inc., 1995.  William Maxwell's books are available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

    "Negroes Found Difficult Time Settling Here."  Lincoln Evening Courier Centennial Edition, Section Eight, August 26, 1953, p. 3.

     Pirtle, Carol.  "Andrew Borders vs. William Hayes:  Indentured Servitude and the Underground Railroad in Illinois."  Illinois Historical Journal.  vol. 89, no. 3 (autumn, 1996), pp. 147-160.

     Stringer, Lawrence B. History of Logan County Illinois (1911). Reprinted by UNIGRAPHIC, INC., Evansville, IN:  1978.

Lincoln Public Library District Sources on the Local African-American Community
(as of January, 2005)

     The following is provided by Mr. Richard Sumrall, Director of the Lincoln Public Library District:

1. The Library collects and disseminates information on all subjects/topics related to Lincoln and Logan County, including the local African-American community. Library sources of information on the local African-American community include

  • Books and other information pertaining to author Langston Hughes, including his connection to Lincoln

  • Information on and diary of Lincoln native Dr. William "Billie" Dyer, a World War I surgeon

  • Vertical files on local information pertaining to African-American churches, biographies, slavery, and the Underground Railroad

  • The United State Federal Census records for Lincoln, 1840-1930, listing everyone who resided in Lincoln during a given census year

  • Lincoln City Directories, 1871--present, listing everyone who resided in Lincoln during a given year

  • Lincoln Courier newspapers on microfilm, 1859--present, containing any article written on anything related to local African-Americans or the local African-American community

  • Book biography on Brian Cook and a current events clipping file on him

2. The Library collects this information on a courthouse basis.

3. The information is available to anyone who visits the library. No library card is needed to access the information; all items that can be photocopied are available at ten per copy.


     Email comments, corrections, questions, or suggestions. 
Also please email me if this Web site helps you decide to visit Lincoln, Illinois: dlhenson@missouristate.edu


"The Past Is But the Prelude"

The founding fathers of this town asked their attorney, Abraham Lincoln, for permission to name this new community after him, and he agreed.  On the first day lots were publicly sold--August 27, 1853--, Abraham Lincoln, near the site of the train depot, used watermelon juice to christen the town as Lincoln, Illinois.  It thus became the first town named for Abraham Lincoln before he became famous.