Site Map


A Long-Range Plan to Brand the First Lincoln Namesake City as the Second City of Abraham Lincoln Statues

The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration in Lincoln, Illinois

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



   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

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

28.1:  Copper Paperweight Bust of Abraham Lincoln
Distributed by McGrath Sand and Gravel

(Image adapted from the author's memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois)

Coal Mining

     Agriculture has always been Lincoln's economic foundation, but mining was the second-most important early industry from just after the Civil War until early in the 20th Century. 

     The first mining in Logan County began in 1867 with James Braucher's discovery of coal (Stringer, p. 541).  The first mine was known as the South Mine and was located "behind the old Armour plant" (Sanford in Beaver, p. 42) near Maple and Second Streets (Gleason, Lincoln:  A Pictorial History, p. 33).  Much of the history of the South Mine is given in Stringer's History of Logan County 1911 (pp. 541-543).   The South Mine was destroyed by fire on October 21, 1917 (Gehlbach, "When Coal Was King," p. 1).  Frank Frorer was one of the owners, and a picture postcard of the South Mine is presented on the page that tells his tragic story:  11. Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park, the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites.

     My great-grandfather and Cousin Jerry Gibson's grandfather, John Hoblit, worked in the South Mine for many years.  He lived with his family near the South Mine on south Elm Street for 50 years.  His oldest daughter was Edna Blanch Hoblit Wilson, my maternal grandmother.  His youngest daughter, Eleanor, was Jerry's mother.

     The Route 66 era saw the East Mine (1889?-1926), North Mine (1901-1934); the Bliss Mine (1934-?), located "one mile west of Route 66 on Route 10" (Patterson, "Will Coal Mining Return to Logan County," in Beaver, p. 42); and the Deer Creek Mine, also called the Bennis Mine (1937-1954, Beaver, p. 42). 

28.2:  Picture Postcard of the Citizens' Coal Mining Company, Also Called the East Mine

(Image from

    The Citizens' Coal Mining Company was also known as the East Mine.  Stringer writes that the Citizens' Mining Company of Lincoln was incorporated February 20, 1882, by such entrepreneurs as A. Mayfield, Peter Obcamp, S.A. Foley, and W.H. Traner with capital stock of $30,000.  "Land was purchased of A. Mayfield near the junction of the present [1911] Peoria and Evansville and the Champaign and Havana branches of the Illinois Central railroad" (Stringer, p. 548).  "The mine was located between what is presently Central Illinois Light Company and Lincoln Christian College" (Gleason, p. 33).  In 1883, a vein of coal five feet thick was discovered at 266 feet (Stringer, p. 543).  The mine employed 188, annually producing 120,000 tons valued at $102,000 (Stringer, p. 543).

     The North Mine had a history of strikes over "working conditions and pay."  "In April of 1934, fourteen months after miners' final strike began, the management of Brewerton Coal Co. shut off the electricity running the pumps and allowed the north mine to be flooded, never to be worked again" (Gehlbach, p. 3).  "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this mine had the second largest output of any coal mine in the state, producing almost 200,000 tons of coal.  The north mine was bought by Brewerton Coal Company in 1923 and operated until 1934" (Gehlbach, "When Coal Was King," p. 2). 

   In the Route 66 era, the most visible evidence of mining in the Lincoln area was the old coal shale pile, located on north Kickapoo Street on Business Route 66 near the ice plant.  I recall hearing about one traveler through Lincoln who saw the smoldering shale pile and mistook it for a volcano.

28.3: Giant Shale Pile Seen from Gullett's Chimney on Tremont Street

(undated photo courtesy of Stu Wyneken)


28.4: Looking North from the East Side of the Giant Shale Pile of the North Mine

 (Undated photo provided by Bob Krotz, LCHS Class of 1946)

28.5:  On Top of the Shale Pile of the North Mine with
Kickapoo Street (Business Route 66) in Background

     (Gleason and Beaver, Logan County Pictorial History, p. 188)

     Steve Verban is on the track-type tractor. The email message below identifies the man in the bib overalls as Matt Verban, Steve's brother.

     Note:  I was most pleasantly surprised to receive the email message quoted below.  It provides an excellent example of fulfilling one of the goals of this Web site -- using the Internet to make rewarding connections through time and space that would otherwise be impossible.

     Thanks, Nancy, for your wonderful message and contribution.

From:  Nancy Huber


Subject:  Site: info regarding one of your photos

Date:  Wednesday, September 17, 2003 3:33 AM

Dear Dr. Henson,

     I read about your website in the Lincoln Courier which I read from my home here in Munich, Germany via the internet. It is great to still be able to be a part of Lincoln despite the great distance.

     In any event, I was looking through your site and came across a photo that had some unidentified men on it. It is in the coal mining section and it is photo 28.3. Steve Verban, my uncle, is identified but the other men are not. The man with the bib overalls on and no hat is my father, Matt Verban.

     It was great to find that photo of my uncle and father together. I had never seen one of them together at the mine. THANK YOU!!! Also, thank you for making such a wonderful site that shares our Lincoln with others!

Warmest Regards,

Nancy (Verban) Huber

Respond to Nancy at

28.6:  Shale for Sale Ad in 1953 Lincolnite Provided by Leon Zeter, LCHS Class of 1953

(Click thumbnail image for larger version.)

    The Deer Creek, or Bennis, Coal Mine was the last functional coal mine in the immediate Lincoln area.  Bennis had "decided to develop a mine which would produce coal for the area as well as aid the local economy by providing jobs," and most of the coal "was used within a 50-mile radius of Lincoln" (Gleason, Lincoln:  A Pictorial History, p. 32). 

     Because the Bennis Mine was developed in recent history, its story is well documented in "Deer Creek Mine Begun by Steve Bennis in 1936; Many Improvements Made Since (Lincoln Evening Courier, August 26, 1953, section 5, p. 15).  In the 1940s and early 1950s, demand for stoker coal was high, and the owners continued to invest in new methods and innovative technology.  "The price of the coal has been held below that of shipped-in coal of equal quality and during the life of the mine the payroll has totaled $1,7653,686.66; 21 former miners and one miner's widow are drawing pensions from the miners' welfare fund; thus one can easily see that the Deer Creek Mine has been and is an asset to this community.  The mine represents a total investment of approximately $400,000 and seventeen years of effort."  This account in the 1953 centennial edition of the Courier offers no hint that the mine would close in the following year.

28.7:  Rare Photo of the Bennis Mine Operated as the Lincoln Coal Mine

     The above ad with photo is from the Official County Plat Book and Farmers' Directory of Logan County, Illinois, 1962, p. 12.  I remember this structure with the large wheel mechanism on top.

     The Bliss Mine was the most unusual mine in this area, although it was never productive.  The Bliss Mine was the obsessive "labor of love" of local photographer A.B. Bliss, who had worked in a mine in a Western state and had studied mining engineering.  Sanford Patterson tells the story of how Bliss attempted to develop an innovative mine that was not dependent on pumps to remove water from the shaft.  One major complication was hitting quicksand.  "Broken in health, he died without realizing his dream" (Beaver, History of Logan County, 1982, p. 42).

Mining Limestone

     The mining of limestone has been very successful at Rocky Ford, where early settlers and travelers crossed Salt Creek.  Mining limestone at Rock Ford was begun by John Rankin, and Arthur Park leased 503 acres of this operation from Mr. Rankin in 1942 and purchased the property after Mr. Rankin's passing ("Rocky Ford Quarry Produces Large Quantity of Limestone," Lincoln Evening Courier, Wednesday, August 26, 1953, p. 4).  After WW II, Arthur Park's son, Harold D. Park, joined his father in the mining operation, which "soon became one of the largest and best in the state at that time" (Beaver, p. 453). 

     At a cost of $50,000, against the advice of mechanical engineers, Arthur Park designed and built a "second crusher" as a portable unit that would enable a greater range of mining.

     According to the Courier, Rocky Ford limestone is high quality and essential for growing corn and soybeans.  Rocky Ford limestone also yields lime, which many manufacturing plants require, including those producing cement.  Park estimated that enough limestone remained for another fifty years.  "The Rocky Ford Limestone Company was sold to the Martin Marietta Corporation in 1975" (Beaver, p. 56).  As of 2002, mining limestone near Rocky Ford continues more extensively than ever, by all appearances.

Mining Sand and Gravel

     Arguably, the industry that has had the greatest benefit for the city of Lincoln and the lives of the most citizens is the mining of sand, gravel, and limestone.  The key company in this industry has been the Lincoln Sand and Gravel Company, which has existed for nearly 100 years. 

The McGrath Sand and Gravel Company and William Maxwell's Description of Its Owners

     The McGrath Sand and Gravel Company was established in 1907.  Eventually it had locations at Lincoln, Mackinaw, Chillicothe, Pekin, Forreston, Shawneetown, and Bloomington.  The Lincoln deposit was exhausted in 1910, but the company's headquarters remained in Lincoln (Dooley, The Namesake Town, p. 18).

     The president of the McGrath Sand and Gravel Company was James W. McGrath (1892-1954).  Other executive officers were his brothers:  Harry Edward (E.T.) (1884-1960) and Thomas Patrick (1890-1937).  Their sisters were Grace McGrath Maxwell (William Maxwell's stepmother, 1890-1972) and Margaret McGrath Perry (1891-19??), who was the mother of Dr. Robert Brown Perry, Thomas Enlows Perry, and Harriett Perry Carrington (Beaver, Logan County History 1982, p. 415).  William Maxwell corresponded extensively with Tom Perry, who provided researched information from time to time, including material from the Lincoln Evening Courier that Maxwell used in writing So Long, See You Tomorrow.

    In So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell describes the McGraths:  "Grace's mother lived directly across the street [Park Place] from us with her son Ted, who was at that time a bachelor.  Mrs. McGrath was a stately, warm-hearted old woman, much looked up to by her children.  Grace's brothers were jovial, exceedingly kind men who, together, on next to nothing, had started a sand and gravel business and been successful.  They loved to tell funny stories and whenever they were gathered together there was the sound of laughter.  They also confused me by treating me as if I were a genuine relation.  I didn't so much hold out against them as proceed with caution" (p. 47).

     "When it was time for me to go to Chicago, Ted and another of Grace's brothers drove me there, stopping on the way to inspect a gravel pit in Joliet.  They checked in at the La Salle Hotel, in Chicago, and we had dinner.  As I stood gaping at the coffered ceiling, the like of which I had never seen before, they stuffed ten-dollar bills in my pockets.  I didn't know whether it was right for me to take the money or not, and tried not to, but they assured me that it was perfectly all right, my father wouldn't mind, and in the end I took half of it.  Instead of using the elevated railway, as I  expected, we drove all the way from the Loop to Rogers Park in a taxi so I could see the city.  As I looked out of the window at Sheridan Road they looked at me, and were so full of delight in the pleasure they were giving me that some final thread of resistance gave way and I understood not only how entirely generous they were but also that generosity might be the greatest pleasure there is [italics mine]" (p. 49).

The Lincoln Sand and Gravel Company    

     In 1905 the construction of the Illinois Traction System track grade led to the discovery of sand and gravel in the Salt Creek area south of Lincoln.  An engineer named Wyndham C. Jones apparently observed the large sand and gravel deposit when "he was sent from his office in Cleveland, Ohio, to determine the cause of unstable piers along the track right-of-way south of Lincoln.  Later, after solving the problem, he determined the deposit location situated close to the Decatur, Springfield, Pekin, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Champaign-Urbana markets should be developed" (Beaver, p. 612).

     Jones and Erle W. Farnell [or Farwell?], in 1905 "purchased for development, from Frank Frorer and David H. Harts, Sr., some three hundred acres of land in Salt Creek bottom, underlaid with sand and gravel" ("Lincoln Sand and Gravel Co. Developed Here During 1905" Lincoln Evening Courier, August 26, 1953, section 4, p. 2).  "On 5 January 1905, Farnell and his wife, Charlotte E., sold 278 acres for $52,000 his interest to Jones, who then organized the Lincoln Sand and Gravel Company, whose motto is "One Car or a Train Load."  By happy coincidence, innovations in concrete and the building of hard roads created a demand for sand and gravel (Courier, p. 2). 

     According to Beaver's History of Logan County 1982, "at one time, over 40 people were employed in production and sales.  The company owned rail cars, switch engines, and four miles of track.  The company motto was "A truck or a trainload.  The company has worked 7,307 days without a lost time accident" (p. 612).  A photo of one of the company's switch engines is presented at 7. The Railroads & Streetcar Line at Lincoln, Illinois.

     "The machinery has become more sophisticated, but the process is pretty much the same as it was in 1905; strip off the overburden (clay and topsoil); suck up the mixture of water, sand, and gravel; and run it through screens to separate it by size.  Today, however, everything goes out by truck" (Gehlbach, p. 6).

     According to Bob Orr, present co-owner of Lincoln Lakes (along with Judi Orr) 25 million tons of sand and gravel have been shipped since the operation began in 1905.  "Bob Orr says that probably LS&C's most unusual order has been for the special sand that flamingos stand in.  The firm also has sent a baseball mix of sand and clay to the Chicago Cubs.  Many central Illinois golfers stride across greens treated with LS&G dressing sand (a mix of sand and peat) and try to swing their way out of traps filled with the company's trap sand" (Gehlbach, p. 6).

28.8:  Office of Lincoln Sand and Gravel Company in 1916

(Photo from Fish, Illustrated Lincoln)

     Left to right:  Katherine Broughton, "stenographer"; C.R. Gilchrist, traveling salesman; J.D. Neylon, billing clerk; V.O. Johnston, president; John C. Brandt, sales manager; J.W. Webb, auditor.  The full-sized photo shows a telephone just to the right of Ms. Broughton, and a J. Baum safe is at left background.  The picture at the left is that of President Woodrow Wilson.

28.9:  Mining Gravel at
Lincoln Lakes in 1916

(Photo from Fish, Illustrated Lincoln)

     The early date of this photo suggests it shows the front part of Lincoln Lakes, which had the boat house, docks, and beach.  The full-sized photo shows men on the barge-like units spanning the lake and on the dredging machine.  The city of Lincoln appears on the horizon toward the left, including a large building that may have been part of the IOOF Children's Home.

Lincoln Lakes

      As soon as the Lincoln Sand and Gravel Company began operations, the recreational potential of the gravel-pit lakes was apparent. Lincoln Sand and Gravel Company officials, especially its president V.O. Johnston, were civic-minded and thus eager to develop their property's recreational potential for the community.  Johnston "was a pioneer in the industry" ("Lincoln Sand and Gravel Co. Developed Here During 1905," Lincoln Evening Courier, section 4, August 26, 1953, p. 2).

28.10: Lincoln Lakes in the Mid 1950s

(from John Drury, This Is Logan County, Chicago, IL: The Loree Company, 1955, p. 12)

     Note: the white area toward the upper left is the beach of Lincoln Lakes. Train cars are noticeable in the upper right section.

28.11:  Vintage Sign at the Entrance of Lincoln Lakes

(Click on thumbnail image for a larger version.)

     The sign reads,

"For Recreation and Health"
Lincoln Lakes
Lincoln, Illinois
Boating -- Bathing -- Beach"

     The Lincoln Lakes entrance sign is the property of the homeowners association of Lincoln Lakes.  The photo appears here courtesy of Roger Bay, president of the association, and his wife, Pat, who kindly allowed me to take a photo of it at dusk on Saturday, June 7, 2003.  My thanks to Roger and Pat and to Brian Pineda, who located the sign and introduced me to the Bays.

     The best history of recreation at Lincoln Lakes is Nancy Lawrence Gehlbach's "Water Works," Our Times, summer, 1999.  "In August of 1909, the Times-Courier reported that riders on the interurban were startled to see naked boys and men swimming in the gravel pits" (Gehlbach, "Water Works," p. 1). 

     Recreation-related developments included building a gravel road in 1928 from the foot of Kickapoo Street to the lakes.  In 1929 a large sand beach and temporary dressing rooms were built.  By July of 1931 the new beach and bathhouse were completed (Gehlbach, p. 3).

     In the mid 1930s, after the Chautauqua had declined, cabins were located on the shores of some of the western and southern "back lakes."  The popularity of "the lakes" was indicated by the annual "water carnivals" held there beginning July 4, 1932 (Gehlbach, p. 3).

     "Throughout the forties and fifties, the Lakes continued to be a playground for central Illinois residents.  But as floods and agricultural runoff led to cloudier water, swimmers became enamored of the clear waters of the Lincoln Recreation Department's new swimming pool on Primm Road and the Elks pool near Memorial Park, and attendance at the lakes fell" (Gehlbach, p. 3). The beach was closed in approximately 1975 following an accidental drowning (p. 3).

28.12:  Lincoln Lakes Near "the Island" in 2000

     The above photo was taken 10-2000 by Brad Dye, LCHS Class of 1960.  More photos of Lincoln Lakes are found at Mr. Dye's Web site in Sources Cited below.  During Mr. Dye's high school years, his family home was at Lincoln Lakes, so he is an authority on the social activities of his peer group in that setting, e.g., boating, fishing, ice skating, and jeep riding on the ice.

28.13:  Picture Postcard of Lincoln Lakes, 1940s,
Based on a Photo Probably Taken from the Diving Tower

     Note in the upper-right the bell on the pole, which I had forgotten till the image jogged my memory.  Was the bell rung to get swimmers out of the water when thunderstorms threatened?

28.14:  Rare Picture Postcard of the Lincoln Lakes Beach Dated 1952
(Click on image for larger size.)

     I try not to spend too much money expanding my collection of Lincoln memorabilia, but here is an exception.  I saw this postcard on eBay along with a picture postcard of the replica of the reconstructed Postville Courthouse.  I already had plenty of images of the courthouse, but postcards showing Lincoln Lakes are more scarce.  The one above was pictured on eBay as a rather small image.  I could have downloaded the small image, but I decided to bid on the two cards so I could get the one with the beach scene full sized as the cards were not being sold separately.  I had to bid $14.25 to get both cards so I could have this wonderfully impressionistic view of the Lincoln Lakes beach.  Here I present the image on the card even larger than actual size, and I hope you enjoy it.

     The caption on the card reads, "The Lincoln Lakes comprise more than one half the water area of Logan County and consist of two hundred acres of spring fed waters and well stocked with game fish.  This popular fresh water resort has many modern private homes as well as a modern both house and excellent beach facilities.  There are 8 miles of most interesting shoreline and beautiful scenery."

     Not really a resort, but actually better -- wonderful summer fun on the water, yet close to home.

     The card was sent on May 30, 1952.  It was addressed to a Mr. Raymond Kelly of Pasadena, California.  The sender wrote, in part, "Here we are in this place where everything is green and fresh, the trees so beautiful and peonies all in bloom. Love, Della."

28.15:  Another Rare Lincoln Lakes Beach Color Picture Postcard

     This view appears to be from the diving tower.  The colors of the water, beach, trees, beach umbrellas, and sky are quite vivid.   The sliding board is the centerpiece, and the shelters are also prominent.  Swing sets are noticeable in the background. 

     In my visit to this area in June of 2003, I found the swing-set frames in their original locations, rusty and nearly obscured by scrub trees and weeds.  I also saw a portion of the concrete slab on which the bath house had been built, and I found a section of the concrete sidewalk that led down the beach to the wooden boardwalk.

28.16: Undated PC Looking East

 Click image for larger version. Picture postcard images of 28.15 and 28.16 provided by Jay Burger, Huntington Beach, CA.

28.17: Undated PC Looking West

     Click for larger image faintly showing houses in the background. Note the smokestacks of the coal-fired power plant at the right (location of the hot-water ponds).


28.18:  Dramatic Aerial Photo of Lincoln Lakes Beach by Mark Holland

     Full-sized photo is generously provided by Stan Stringer.  In Sources Cited (below), there is a link to his article at, "Lincoln Lakes Beach," which tells the story of this photo.  In the photo above, notice the sand and gravel railroad cars in the background.

28.19:  Scene at Lincoln Lakes from the 1930s

(Photo from Gleason, Lincoln:  A Pictorial History, p. 163.)

     This photo shows that in the 1930s men's bathing apparel had halter-like tops.  Note the flag on the diving tower, the sailboats, and the large floating dock toward the left (whose exact purpose I cannot recall).  The arrow points to the chimney and water tank of the Lincoln State School Annex ("Farm").

28.20: Second Cousins Leigh Henson and Jerry Gibson at the Beach of Lincoln Lakes (@1945)

28.21: Jane Henson with Son, Leigh, and Jerry

28.22:  Panfishing at "the Lakes"

(photo from Gleason, p. 163)

28.23:  Brewster (l) & Jonathan Parker & Friend

(photo from Joan Parker, published in
Our Times
, summer, 1999, p. 5)

     Nancy Gehlbach's "Water Works" presents several Lincolnites' memories of fun at Lincoln Lakes:  boating, sailing, fishing, and swimming.  Gini Webster Higgins recalls sailing experiences.  Other sailors included Doc Lund, Les and Bill Dowling; John Parker, Brewster Parker, and Jonathan Parker; J. Frank and Marta Fikuart; Tom Perry; Bill Bushell; Bud Petty; Doug Pokorski; Stu and Jeanette Wyneken; Gil Dalton; Rae Marie Gelsthorp; and Rich Branom.  "Weekends, they set up a course according to the wind direction, shot off a cannon, and held races -- weaving in and out of the duck buoys to win the traveling trophy:  a six-inch-tall pepper shaker in the shape of a classic cup" (Gehlbach, p. 3).

     Other memories include Ruth Groff Goebel Aldendifer's account of locker room towel dancing with a clandestine, peep-hole audience and her sons' water skiing pyramid (Bob, Doug, and Steve Goebel); Elsie Menzel's family cabin construction; Jonathan Parker's swimming, fishing, and sailing experiences; and Eric Burwell's winter fun.

28.24:  Contemporary View of Original Lincoln Lakes Beach

(Photo by Leigh Henson at dusk, June 7, 2003)

     I am grateful to Brian Pineda, who allowed me to take this photo from his private beach, just west of the original public beach at Lincoln Lakes.  Brian's mother, Nancy Heinzel, is a 1957 graduate of LCHS; and Brian's Aunt Sally is a member of my LCHS Class of 1960.  Brian's Grandfather Heinzel poured the concrete slab for the bathhouse and was given land just west of the beach, where he built his remarkable stucco residence that was familiar to beach goers during the Route 66 era.

     The left arrow in the photo points to the area of the original beach.  The right arrow points to a platform built on the original support piers of the impressive, two-level diving tower enjoyed by untold thousands, including me.  The lifeguard chair was used at the Lincoln Lakes beach in its later years.

     For more information, stories, and great photos of Lincoln Lakes, see J. Richard (JR) Fikuart (LCHS '65): The Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes.

     For contemporary photos of Lincoln Lakes, including the boyhood home of Brad Dye, see


Memoir of Lincoln Lakes

     Brad Dye tells about his "Secret Love":

     Leigh Henson recalls water skiing: At about 12, I rode my bike to Lincoln Lakes in the morning to take swimming lessons.  Of course, I remember many visits to the beach with peers during the high school years.  At about 16, I accepted Jim Thudium's invitation to accompany him a couple of times when at the Lakes he "borrowed" the Leatherses' utility motorboat to go water skiing.  In fact, that's when I learned to water ski and have been at it ever since and have taught my daughter, son, and stepson. (You can take the boy out of Lincoln Lakes, but you can't take the lake out of the boy.)   Thanks, Thudium and Leatherses, wherever you are.  Recently I offered to teach Cousin Jerry Gibson, 60+, and he's taking some time to think it over. 

28.25:  Leigh Henson Approaching 60 (2002) on
Table Rock Lake Near Branson, Missouri


     At my request, Jon Diers tells about rescuing Jim McCubbin: The story as I remember it went like this: I'm not sure what year it was (maybe '62). McCubbin, you, and I were skating at the Lakes. It was bitterly cold and clear (i.e., as snoopy says, "it was a dark and stormy night"). We were skating toward the ski lake [east of "The Island"]. I told Jim to watch out for the white patches, as they held air under them. We approached a large area of white. You and I went to right of the danger zone, but Jim went to the left side. The next thing I heard was a loud yell for help.

     Now McCubbin was well known for his swimming prowess, as in like a rock. He went water skiing with three vests, so he would be sure to float if he fell.

     I skated toward him, and he was grabbing the edge of the hole he was in. I slid up to the edge of the hole and grabbed him. Every time he would try to slide up on the ice it would break away. I couldn't  pull him out, because he was much heavier than I was. You then slid up behind me and grabbed my skates and helped [Leigh's comment: I'm sure I held back because I was not as fearless as Jon. Or, was I unsure about the wisdom of saving Jim?]. Together we hauled him out.

     We both then put our shoulders behind him and pushed across the lake to the Langenbahns' house. I remember his coat being almost solid with ice by the time we got there. The Langenbahns were always more than willing to help us in any of the problems we might encounter in their domain. They gave Jim some clothes of their son Jerry's and warmed us up.

     I later swore McCubbin to remain silent about this event, as there were people who would have wished that we had left him in the lake. This is the story as best I can recall.

     I was also going to relate to you a story about skating out at the lakes one night and pushing a burning log out to a hole in the ice to put it out. We were skating rather slowly, and I looked behind us (this was a rather rare time when the ice was very clear, no snow or ripples.) We saw a gar following the light. I remember that fish was at least 5 foot long. Of course the ice might have magnified the image, or maybe my memory might be magnified. We also wrote some obscene messages in the snow so that only airplanes could read them.

    Respond to Jon Diers at

     Leigh's note: I looked forward to the first ice of the season at Lincoln Lakes during my last two years at LCHS and my freshman year at Lincoln College. Often the first safe ice was formed after the first two or three cold nights--at least 10 degrees--; and we called that "black ice." I recall cautiously testing the ice close to the shore to be sure it was thick enough--usually at least 2 to 3 inches of black ice would be enough. Yet we had to be careful in exploring the far reaches of the big lakes because they were open to the wind, which stirred up the water and prevented it from freezing as fast and as thick as the more protected areas close to shore. I loved ice skating so much at Lincoln Lakes that in the winter of 1961 I went skating between morning classes at Lincoln College. One day my 1949 Ford got stuck near the interurban overpass at the back lakes, causing me to miss class--the only one I recall missing during my freshman year.

     The only time I fell through the ice was many years later when I was teaching at Pekin High and went ice fishing at Spring Lake near Manito. That lake was well named--the springs caused uneven freezing and dangerous, weak places in the ice.]

     Respond to Leigh Henson at


Utilities:  Water, Gas, and Electricity

     "The Lincoln Water Works Company was formed in October of 1886 and approximately 5 miles of cast iron pipe was laid to varying sizes from 4 inches to 12 inches. . . .  The first water pumping station was located in a brick building on the west side of the Alton Railroad just before you go under the viaduct to the present [1953] electric plant."  The well and power plant have been removed.

     Lincolnites of the 20th Century will remember the "stand pipe" water tower, now demolished, formerly located on Sixth Street near State Street.  "The stand pipe on Sixth Street [was] 100 feet high by 16 feet in diameter and [held] approximately 100,000 gallons of water.  This stand pipe [helped] to maintain constant pressure on the water system. . .   It is of interest to note that the first franchise granted the company provided that the stand pipe should be painted inside and out with two coats of Dr. Angus Smith's coal tar paint and varnish" (Lincoln's Water System Had Its Beginning Back in 1885," Lincoln Evening Courier, August 27, 1953, section 7, p. 1).

     Lincoln's first gas was not natural gas, but gas manufactured first from oil and later from coal.  The first gas company in Lincoln was organized in 1873.  Judge Stephan A. Foley was one of the principals. 

     Making oil from coal required heating the coal to temperature high enough to emit the gas.  The by-products of this process were tar and coke, which was used for heating.  "At one time there was a 75,000 gallon tar reservoir or well, on the gas plant lot ("First Lincoln Gas Plant Was Built in 1873," Courier, August 26, 1953, section 7, p. 1).  Was this Dr. Smith's coal tar paint that the city required to be used in painting the Sixth Street stand pipe?  At first, the main use of gas was for lighting Lincoln's streets, which had gas lights until 1902.

     In 1902 the Lincoln Water and Light Company consolidated the electric and water operations.  The facility shown below was the third electrical-power generating plant built in Lincoln.  The technological history of these facilities, including brands and sizes of generators, appears in "First Electric Light Plant Started in Lincoln in 1891" (Lincoln Evening Courier, August 27, 1953, section 7, p. 7).  In 1953, a typical day's supply of electricity for the city of Lincoln required 60 tons of coal (Courier, p. 7).  At that time, the Central Illinois Electric and Gas Company supplied Lincoln's electricity:   In Lincoln there [were] approximately 3,600 residential electric consumers, 650 commercial consumers and 140 power consumers" (Courier, p. 7.)

28.26:  Electric Plant and Water Works, Constructed in 1895 (undated photo)

(panoramic photo provided by Fred Blanford)

     The photo shows most of the 60-foot brick smokestack that was constructed in 1902.  This structure was square, five feet by five feet inside ("Lincoln's Water System Had Its Beginning Back in 1885," Lincoln Evening Courier, August 26, 1953, section 7, p. 1).

     The above photo was emailed by Fred in two sections because the panoramic view was too wide to scan in a single pass, so I spliced them together.  Fred notes that the photo was taken looking south from near the road underpass of the GM&O railroad tracks, which appear on the right. In the photo, several people are on the tracks. 

     The year of this flood is uncertain.  One helpful source on dating this photo is Paul Beaver's History of Logan County 1982:

     "One of the biggest floods on Salt Creek was in early October 1926.  The flooding began Oct. 4 at the power and water plant in the flood plain between the I.T.S. and Alton Railroads.  On October 5 the utility company -- Ben P. Hallock was the plant superintendent at the time -- began a battle that lasted day and night to save the plant with sand bags and straw.

     The Charles W. Routson Construction crew shored up the walls with timbers.  Materials were hauled through the flood in horse drawn wagons.  At one time with fingers of water spurting through the wall -- an order was given to evacuate the plant -- but a couple of men grabbed sand bags and straw and caulked the worst spot and saved the plant.  The flood abated on October 6 and soon after recession of the water the utility company built a number of flood gates which could be quickly placed if needed.

     "The plant of the Lincoln Sand and Gravel Co. was heavily damaged and the flood trapped two locomotives near the screens on the east side of the I.T.S. right of way.  Water rose to more than halfway on the engines" (p. 12).

28.27:  CILCO Ad Featuring Reddy Kilowatt

     (Ad from Official Plat Book and Farmers' Directory of Logan County, Illinois, inside back cover)

Memoir of the Power Plant

     My father, Darold Henson, remembers that when he was about nine or ten, he saw a plaque on the outside of the power plant that indicated the high water mark of the plant's flooding.  This means he saw the plaque in approximately 1928, just two years after the great flood of 1926.

     Dad also worked in the power plant briefly at the time I was born in 1942, just before he was drafted into the Army.  He said that the power plant had a diesel engine that it could use to run the turbines in case a problem developed with the regular system of burning coal to make steam that powered the turbines.  He noted that a side track ran from the ITS track so that fuel could be delivered to the plant.  I remember that the shore line of the first pond by the plant was covered with small pieces of coal.

     My father and I were among countless Lincoln men and boys who traveled the road under the railroad track and passed the front door of the power plant on their way to "hunt" night crawlers and to fish the hot water ponds, the back lakes, and Salt Creek.  Teen males also went "bush whacking" in these environs, known as "hoot 'n holler." 

     Folks who drove this road and passed the power plant often found its wide front door open.  Passersby could see the large green generators and hear their low, powerful roar. 

28.28:  Cave-Like Vehicle Underpass at Former GM&O Railroad Tracks Leading to
the Old Power Plant Site, Back Lakes, "Hoot 'N Holler," and the Old Dam Site on Salt Creek

(Leigh Henson photo, 7-02)


Sources Cited

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

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

     Drury, John. This Is Logan County: An Up-to-Date Historical Narrative with County Map and Many Unique Aerial Photographs of Cities, Towns, Villages and Farmsteads (The American Aerial County Series, No. 8), Chicago: The Loree Company, 1955.

     Dye, Brad.

      "First Electric Light Plant Started in Lincoln in 1891." Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, August 26, 1953, section 7, p. 7.

     "First Lincoln Gas Plant Was Built in 1873," Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, August 26, 1953, section 7, p. 1.

     Gehlbach, Nancy Lawrence. "When Coal Was King." Our Times. 2.3, fall, 1997.

     ___________ .  "Water Works." Our Times. 4.2, summer, 1999.

     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

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

     "Lincoln's Water System Had Its Beginning Back in 1885. "Lincoln Evening Courier, centennial edition, August 27, 1953, section 7, p. 1.

     Official County Plat Book and Farmers' Directory of Logan County, Illinois. Mankato, MN: 1962.

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

     Stringer, Stan. "Lincoln Lakes Beach,"  published in

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

"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.