From the book, History of Sidney 1827 to 1976.
The citizens of Sidney answered their country’s call in the Civil War. A mere 30 years after the first settlement, Sidney sent an impressive total of 75 men to the war. Many who were too old to serve or who had been discharged pledged money to augment the pay of Sidney’s soldiers. Sidney was proud of never having to be asked for a drafting of its citizens.
Conflicting feelings existed, however, as the area had been settled by both easterners and southerners. A building owned by D. F. Hulmes that stood at the southwest corner of Washington and Main was the scene of a tragedy when a Southern sympathizer stabbed and killed William Penn Bliss. Mr. Bliss had just returned from taking a car load of cattle to Chicago. (Having no bank he had hidden the money and died before he could reveal its location. The money was never found.)
Five colored farm families lived in Sidney Township after the Civil War. John Allen bought 40 acres in Section 10, cleared the timber from it, then raised and educated ten children on this little farm. Most all the children attended Sidney High School and several of his daughters taught school in the South.
J. J. Mumm and John Allen were good friends. Essex Allen, John’s son, later worked for J. H. Mumm. Mr. Allen was a deeply religious man. Although he couldn’t read a word or write his name, he had a wonderful memory. When he offered prayer in church, everyone was inspired by his delivery. All five families attended the Methodist Church and their singing added much to the worship service. Mr. Allen’s family gradually moved to Champaign. When his wife died he sold his farm and went to live with his children. When he died he was buried beside his wife in Mt. Hope Cemetery.
Scott Foulks bought 40 acres in Sections 10 and 11 at the end of the road that goes by Salt Fork Camp Ground. He built a log cabin with a dirt floor and raised his family. Later the family built a beautiful two-story house that still stands. The children attended the Sidney schools and graduated from high school. Mitty Foulks, a daughter, taught school in southern Illinois and later in North Carolina. She attended the 1927 Alumni Association banquet and gave the major address. Jim was a star football player.
One time a visiting team refused to play the game unless Jim was removed from the team. The coach refused and there was no game that day. Scott Foulks worked for the farmers when he wasn’t busy on his own farm. He was killed by a train as he was walking to work for Mr. Rogers, who lived one and a half miles east of Sidney. Jim farmed for a while. He married a girl from St. Louis, but he died young and his wife went to live with her parents. Warren, the youngest son, married and farmed the land for several years. His wife was unhappy so far from her family, so the farm was sold and the family moved to Danville. The entire family was liked and respected by all who knew them. The community was better because they lived there.
Nothing is known of the other three families.
The growth of Sidney which had slowed during the Civil War picked up again in the post-war period.
Joseph H. Logan came to Illinois in 1866 after serving in the Civil War. He first bought 40 acres in Philo Township. In 1870 he and his wife bought 80 acres in Section 31 and moved into a one-room house. They added another room and lived there until their new house was built in 1876-77. They planted a walnut grove west of the house in 1872, which is still standing.
Samuel McElroy came to help his sister, Mrs. Rebecca Bliss, operate her farm after the death of her husband and it was several years before he bought land. His grandson still lives in the township.
|Homes of Dr. Howard Hess and John Upp.|
The village saw several changes after the war. In 1865 C. C. Robinson built the first store building on David Street, located where the grocery store now stands. It housed a dry goods store. Another new business was D. F. Hulmes’ livery stable on the northeast corner of Main and Washington Streets. William Lehman, who came to Sidney after the war, kept a tavern on the north side of Main Street east of the alley between Washington and Harrison Streets where Phifer’s tavern was located before the war.
In 1869 the Village of Sidney was incorporated and a Board of Trustees elected. Among their first acts were the requiring of all men between 21 and 50 to work four days a year on the streets and alleys, the granting of a liquor license to Jacob Coberby, and the levying of a tax of ten cents on each hundred dollars. They also voted to build a calaboose on the stream southeast of the present post office. It was built of two by fours, one laid on another and was twelve feet square and eight feet high.
From 1869 to 1880 the village was busy building wooden sidewalks, bridges and crossings. Sidewalks were built off the ground. Those on David Street were as high as the bed of a wagon standing on the street and had steps leading up to them. The walks were so narrow, 20 to 24 inches wide, that it was difficult for people to pass each other.
A letter written by R. C. Wright in February, 1871 and published in the Sidney Times in 1917 gives a view of the village in this period. The merchants noted were:
- John Thomas, butcher
- Mars and Whitcomb, agricultural implements and woolen goods
- A. Dean, harness, saddles, bridles, etc.
- Steven and Bryant, grain, lime and plastering hair
- William Freeman & Co. General Commission Merchants
- C. C. and G. A. Robinson, dry goods, hardware, notions, etc.
- Sidney House, J. F. Black, Proprietor
- Park and Son, Steam flour mill and saw mill
- Dr. G. W. Hartman, drugs, medicine and toilet articles
- Dr. W. Lawson, physician and surgeon
- Bell and Green, dry goods, boots and shoes, groceries, hardware, notions, etc.
Mr. Wright said: “The population is about 600 and steadily increasing. There is a good school, two churches, a large steam flour and saw mill, two hotels, one newspaper, a grain warehouse and general stores sufficient for the wants of the town.”
“The shipment of grain and stock reached a very high figure, so did the shipment of lumber, coal and merchandise to the town. No better place could be found for manufacturing. Here, capitalists desiring to engage in manufacturing would find a splendid opening, would be heartily welcomed and would receive cooperation from every influential citizen.”
“Its close proximity to the coal mines of Danville renders fuel cheap, while lines of the railroad with the prospective line running through this place to Champaign and to Paris giving an outlet in every direction, would insure a sure and steady profit equal to any other place in the state.”
The greatest menace of the nineteenth century was fire. It was said, scarcely a building standing by 1900 had not been built upon the site where one or more fires had occurred. Perhaps this was why an 1881 ordinance was passed requiring anyone to use brick, stone, iron, glass, concrete or grout, or a combination of such, for any building erected on David Street between the railroad and Main Street without permission of two-thirds of the village board.
Porterfield Brothers’ Store was moved from Main Street across the railroad. (It was formerly the Odd Fellows’ Hall, where classes were held when the school building burned in 1894, and when the new Christian Church was built in 1901 it was used for Sunday School and church services.) The upper room of the store was used to store farm implements. A ramp was built in the rear of the building to transfer the implements to the second floor. The brick building shown in the picture held the steam engine. Cobs were used for a fire to power the engine. A spout ran from the elevator to the engine room to deliver the cobs. (The store was north of the railroad on Washington Street.
|Porterfield Brothers’ store and elevator.|
A coal shaft was sunk in 1884 west of where the lumber yard stands. A high grade coal vein six feet thick was found. “Residents of Sidney were the promoters of the project. Those taking active part were: J. B. Porterfield, George Cole, Jacob Mumm, Luther Fisher, N. L. Hazen and John Detamore.
Boring of the shaft was done by Enoch Robbin. The vein was struck at a depth of 256 feet. It was known as “Grape Creek” coal, said to be the best in the state at the time.
Older citizens said the discovery caused a “boom” and coal miners from other parts of the state flocked to town.
A Champaign newspaper said Sidney had a bright future. A prosperous business and a rapid increase in population was assured. The town was fortunate in having a “clan” of men who were not afraid to risk a few dollars for the public good when the occasion demanded it.
The machinery broke down a short time after samples of the coal were removed from the mine and the shaft filled with water. New machinery had to be brought in to pump out the water. All during the eighties people were trying to get the mine in operation again. After several breakages when the steam chest burst and part of the pump equipment was lost in the mine shaft, the project was given up. There was so much water that it could not be controlled to allow mining.
|Site of Sidney, Illinois’ coal mine.|
Winston’s Bank, organized in 1885 by Miller Winston, was the first bank in Sidney. Miller Winston, a prosperous farmer, lived in Raymond Township just across the road from Sidney Township Section 34. He commuted to his bank by horse and buggy for several years before moving to town. The bank’s first home was in the Hastings Building, a frame structure located on the east side of David Street two doors north of the alley. Two years later, the bank constructed an imposing stone building two doors farther north.
Businesses in the town were now:
- W. H. Robinson, General Merchandise; Cole and Jones, General Merchandise
- Fred Jones, lamps, etc
- Jackson and Jones, dry goods
- M. 0. Steward & Co. - hardware and stoves
- Monroe Stevens, Attorney-at-Law and Notary
- M. J. Shoemaker, harness shop
- Building and Loan Association
- D.E. Parks, flour mill
- G. W. Helm, elevator (the Parks elevator had burned down the year before)
- Lewis Skilling and George Kirby, brickyard
- Mrs. Hays, Milliner
- Jane Adams, dressmaking
- Evan Reese, tile factory
- D. McElwee, meat and poultry market
- Fisher and Bocock, general merchandise
- R. M. Porterfield, hardware
- Charley White, barber
- Winston’s Bank
- J. W. Mitchell, livery stable
- G.W. Morgan, baker
- Joseph Thomas, lumber and coal yard
- The Sidney By Way newspaper
- Dr. Hess, drug store and physician
- Dr. Burres, physician and surgeon
- Dr. Rawlinson, a Homer dentist who came to Sidney each Friday and was to be found in Dr. Hess’ office.
New buildings were being built, both in the business section and the other parts of the village. It was said that Sidney was a pretty place. The houses were well kept up but too many dilapidated fences were around the houses. Citizens were urged to remove the fences as a stock law was in effect. Upkeep of fences was too expensive and the fences harbored weeds.
|Cottage style home in Sidney, 1880s. Still exists in 1976.|
The Sidney By Way of May 13, 1887 printed the following:
“We often have inquiries from strangers looking for locations as to how Sidney is represented from a business and social standpoint.
Well, we have the dryest (no saloons here) place and prettiest situation in the country.
- Three excellent hotels
- One XXXXXX flouring mill
- One first rate tile mill
- One mity good grain elevator
- Three drug stores and more threatened
- Two millinery shops and the ladies want 50 more
- One mighty solid bank
- Four crackin’ good general stores
- One tip-top hotel and restaurant
- Four dressmakers but nary a tailor
- One cabinet maker but no shop yet
- One boss harness shop
- Four blacksmith shops
- One wagon shop but no skating rink
- About one dozen good, industrious carpenters
- No gin shop but some folks want one
- Fifty-four more dogs than we can use
- Three bully good barber shops
- The largest and best opera house outside the county seat
- One post office (not corner of a second hand store, as is usual in a small town)
- Best brick business block ever built in a town of this size
- One first class meat shop and poultry market
- Three physicians (do all their practice in neighboring towns - live here because it’s healthy)
- Two lawyers, one justice, one police magistrate, two constables and one policeman
- Four plasterers and masons (not counting the goat riders)
- Three churches but only one preacher
- A fine school with four rooms and four teachers
- Seven practiced talkers (talk your arm off in 15 minutes if the weather is favorable)
- Two big livery stables
- About five miles of plank and brick sidewalks and money in the village treasury to build more
- Three secret societies, Masons, Odd Fellows and United Woodmen
- One hundred twenty-six other secret societies (from appearances there will be five or six more organized before long)
- Several social societies, usually about two members each
- A half acre of school and music teachers (returns not all in)
- Two first class shoemakers
- Two enterprising livestock dealers
- Four red headed women and more needed
- A building and loan association in a prosperous condition
- One print shop and a newspaper (keeps the printers hustling to spend all the money made)
- A grand cemetery and lots of natural parks
- Eight professional loafers and lots more growing up
- Enough water power to run a windmill and lots of brain power going to waste
- The richest farming country on earth and the best farmers
- The best conducted and most successful school in the county
- A host of good citizens and accommodating neighbors
- One steam broom factory
- Forty-eight pretty, single ladies, six of them noted beauties
- Thirty-six most charming married ladies and the balance not homely by a jug full; one or two exceptions
- Two or three agriculture implement dealers
- One big lumber and coal yard
- Sixteen capitalists and seven retired gentlemen
- One first class tin shop with store and hardware attached
- Two extensive stove and hardware stores
- Six teamsters and one insurance agent
- Twenty-two widows and two or three more had better be
- One brick yard
- Jeptha Johnson
- Two watch and clock repairers
- Six house and sign painters and one hundred fifty-six portrait painters.”
Two businesses changed hands in the eighties. Fisher and Bocock sold to Mr. Poage of Kansas who went back to bring his family to Sidney and then took charge of the general merchandise store. Porterfield Brothers sold their hardware store to G. D. Boone.
Mr. Betzer offered fish for sale each week in his meat market. A new elevator and flour mill was built to replace the one that had burned.
|Coles store built in 1882. The hall above was used as a Community Center.|
The Philo Budget published the following ad:
“Sidney wants to trade a barber or two for a harness maker. We can’t accommodate her, but we would like to trade two or three of our loafers for one of her plasterers.”
A new library was placed in the post office building, and people were urged to patronize it.
In traveling to and from Sidney, Mr. Robinson, the owner of the By Way said he overheard many good reports about the town. One time he heard a traveling salesman say that the merchants of Sidney had the best reputation of any town on the road. He had been traveling on the road for fifteen years and there had only been one failure to pay a bill in all that time. Another time, two salesmen were talking and one of them said “It’s no use trying to sell those Sidney fellows a shoddy article. They know shoddy goods as soon as they see it, and they fling it out like a dog does a rat”.
S. D. Boone added undertaking to his business and J. W. Mitchell, who owned a livery stable, bought a span of black horses to pull the hearse. Frank Swartz was hired to drive the equipment for funerals.
An item from the Philo Budget said Sidney had the only flour mill in the seven towns of Broadlands, Longview, Fairlands, Villa Grove, Tolono and Philo. It was the finest mill in the county. Sidney also was said to have the finest, largest single storeroom, the most neat, modern cottages, the best single street, the only brick church and the most homely men in the county.
The 1870’s and 1880’s saw David Street develop as Sidney’s main business street. When Dr. Lyon platted the town he gave the site where the school now stands for a railroad station and anticipated that Main Street would develop as the business center, which it did. But the railroad came through two blocks south of Main Street and the Freemonts built their warehouse, which was also used as a station, on David Street. From that time, businesses began to locate on David Street. When Robinson’s dry goods store on David burned, it was rebuilt and B. B. Cole ran a general store there. In 1873 his brother George Cole joined him and in 1882 the store moved to its present location.
|This 1976 map of central Sidney gives you an idea of street locations.|
The section hands on the railroad struck for $1.50 per day pay. Whether they received their request was not recorded.
The Hastings building and the Winston Bank building helped fill up “New Town” as it was then called. Two events helped accelerate the move of business to David Street. The first, an 1887 fire which burned Cy Lehman’s Assessor and Clerk office on Main and threatened several other businesses, seems to have sounded a death knell for Main Street as the business center. After the fire, when buildings needed repairs the businesses they housed moved to David Street.
The second event was the changing of the course of the stream, which used to curve at Byron and run north up David, across Main, to its present course. Getting to David Street from Main involved a circuitous route - going down Harrison or Scarborough to Byron, then over to David. In 1891 the men of the village dug the present channel and filled the original stream bed. David Street could then be extended to Main, making it far more accessible. By 1892 most businesses had moved to David Street.
Brick walks began to be built in the late seventies and eighties. One person said those humpbacked walks were hard to walk on but were much better than the mud. In 1886 the newspaper said Sidney was pretty well sidewalked, but this didn’t mean the entire town or even all of David Street had sidewalks. When Dr. Burres moved his office to the southeast corner of David and Byron Streets and began to remodel it in 1890, the newspaper predicted a side walk wouldn’t be built in front of that building for fifty years. The first concrete walk was built in 1893 by J. W. Bocock.
In July, 1888 the village had 604 people. There were 136 families and 17 boarders, hired help, etc. Thirty families had six or more members and one family, E. M. Helm’s, had eleven. With so many large families it is not surprising that the school had an enrollment of 200. The population of the township in 1889 was 778 with 548 between the ages of six and twenty-one.
The village streets were not much improved, although they were dragged when deep ruts were cut after each rain. In 1891 the number of days men were required to work on the streets and alleys was reduced to two a year.
The same year, the Village Board stopped the sale of liquor. From that time there has been no saloon in Sidney.
The newspaper said “Any fool can run a newspaper, but it takes an awful big liar to dish up a full page of local news at corn planting time.”
Sidney was a great shipping center for cattle, sheep and hogs, as well as grain from the time of the building of the railroad. When the railroad was built through Broadlands, Longview and Villa Grove there was much concern that Sidney would lose much of its business from that area. Of course, grain that had been brought from that area stopped, but the increased production from the drained swamp lands more than made up for the business lost by the new railroad.
Some of the interesting prices in the stores in 1888 were:
- six large loaves of bread for a quarter
- codfish, six and one-half cents per pound
- apricots, ten cents per pound
- fourteen pounds of sugar for a dollar
- coffee, four pounds for a dollar
- boys’ suits, size 6-11, were two dollars and twenty-six cents
- dress goods were from six and one-half cents to twelve and one-half cents per yard
- the best material was from thirty-nine to forty-nine cents per yard
- one of the luxury items offered for sale was plush albums (the price was not given)
A program for the 1891 Memorial Day celebration was given in the paper. W. H. Robinson asked the Post’s Camp and the Odd Fellows to meet at their hall at 1:00 P.M. and to march to the Methodist Church preceded by the band. At the church the following program was given:
1. Music by the band
2. Song “Dropping From the Ranks One By One” — the choir
4. Song “Peacefully Asleep ‘Neath the Roses and Lilies” — male quartette
5. Oration — Hon. W. J. Calhoun
6. Song “Let Them Rest” — the choir
After the benediction the procession was marshaled for the march to the cemetery. The band played and the people assembled. The march went south from the church to Railroad Street, then east to David Street, north to Main Street and east on Main to the cemetery. Twenty-eight girls and boys strewed flowers on the graves as the band played “Cover Them With Flowers”. Flowers were taken to the church early in the morning the day of the program. School children were invited to participate in the march and business houses were closed from one to four o’clock.
A new model railroad, the Burlington, operated a thousand miles of road, and went to Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, Omaha, Kansas City and Denver. “For speed, comfort, equipment, track and efficient service it has no equal. The Burlington gains new patrons but loses none.” These were the kind of advertisements that were used to induce people to travel.
Looking at food and clothing prices in 1893 will be interesting. A beef war was on in Fisher, Illinois. Steaks were offered for five cents a pound and roasts at three cents a pound. Rabbits were plentiful. They were offered at forty cents a dozen. Two Chicago hunters came to Rantoul and in one week killed and shipped a car load of rabbits to Chicago.
|Rabbit hunters … Rabbits were plentiful.|
- sugar was fifteen pounds for a dollar
- coffee, twenty-five cents a pound
- tea, twenty-five cents a pound
- peaches, thirty-two cents a bushel
- butter sold for eight and one-half cents a pound
- twelve pounds of California prunes were priced for one dollar
- plaid and striped materials suitable for shirts, aprons and dresses was ten cents a yard
- ten thousand yards of material was offered for five cents a yard
- Jersey knit overshirts were fifty cents each
- wool socks, twenty-five cents a pair
- young ladies’ or misses’ hats were twenty-five cents each
- men’s suits were offered from eight dollars to twelve dollars and fifty cents
- overcoats, from three dollars and fifty cents to thirteen dollars and fifty cents
An article from the Champaign County Newsy published March 12, 1892, appeared in the 1935 Sidney Times. It gives a good picture of how Sidney was seen by a newsman of that period:
“Sidney is a good business town, there being as many general stores there as in any town in the county not including Champaign and Urbana. It has, of late years, been something of a railroad center with a turntable located there and also being the junction of the Wabash railroad with the Champaign branch. Usually twenty-five, sometimes as many as thirty-five, arrive and depart daily. There is a turntable and for a great many trains it is the end of the division. The branch has been built for ten years and has paid well. W. H. Moore is the agent and has held that position here for eight years. His ticket sales for January amounted to $625.32 and for February $604.00. The amount of freight forwarded, such as grain and stock, made the receipts $1,541.33 in January and $1,344.43 in February, which was better business than was done at the neighboring town of Homer.”
Following is a picture of the Reed and Townsend Elevator. The house was the home of Mr. Townsend who with his wife and daughter, Nellie, are in the foreground. On the far right is the first depot built in Sidney in 1858. This is the location of the Sidney Grain Elevator now.
|Reed and Townsend Elevator.|
The end of the nineteenth century was called the “gay nineties”, and in Sidney it was no different. There was travel on the railroads to other parts of the country, parties, musicals and entertainments in abundance. The community hail above Cole’s store was the setting of school entertainment. There were lectures by men traveling over the country, traveling musical groups and special local activities. Parties, surprise parties and general get-togethers were reported in almost every paper.
Every summer a Chautauqua came to the community for a week. The program originated in Chatauqua, N. Y. and toured the United States each year. The program was filled with music, lectures, plays and other entertainments that were popular in that day. Some of the speakers over the years were Senator Robert LaFollette, William Jennings Bryan, Jane Addams and Booker T. Washington.
Pianos, organs and sewing machines were sold to more and more citizens.
Agriculture prospered in this period. G. W. Helm took in 4,500 bushels of wheat in three days in that summer and 12,000 bushels of corn in one week in the winter. Corn sold for 30 cents per bushel. Fourteen self-binders and six mowers were sold in 1887.
A stump puller was used to remove stumps on the timber land. Some people felt the large stand of timber in the northeast section of the township was a hindrance (at this time there were vast stands of timber all through the eastern part of the township), but the paper said it would prove a great blessing, for as the prairie wore out there would still be good virgin soil to enrich the township.
Water shortage was a problem. Dug wells went dry and tublar wells (as they were then called) were being drilled. Sometimes water was found but often only a dry hole awarded their efforts.
The first drainage system had been in operation since the early eighties. The main ditches were dug and the farmers were tiling their land. This was a slow process and many years passed before all the land was tiled. This drained land proved even more productive than the higher places on the prairie.
A new drainage system was organized south of Sidney Township near Lost Grove in 1887. A large dredge ditch, thirteen or fourteen feet wide at the top and seven or eight feet at the bottom was constructed. It was extended two miles into Sidney Township. It would drain 3000 acres of land through the Vermilion River.
Bowman Rogers was buried for twenty minutes in the grain elevator, but he was all right.
Morris Dicks, a farmer near Sidney, attached a tractor engine to his binder and was reaping his oats by steam. Steam engines had been used for threshing for about ten years, but they didn’t prove practical for farm work.
|Steam tractors were not yet practical for farm work but threshers were more common.|
John Love sowed the public roads by his house to clover, timothy and oats. The writer said this helped to keep the weeds down and made a pleasant drive. Mr. Love cut a load of hay for each quarter mile of road that was sown.
The decade of 1890 was prosperous and growing. An advertisement offered a hundred acres of improved land one and a half miles east of Sidney for $45 per acre. Two land transfers in 1892 also give an idea of the prices farm land was bringing: Emma Block, Raymond, to August Wiese, Sidney, 26-2/3 acres in Section 29 in Sidney Township, $1,060; David Underwood to Charles McCormick, 80 acres in Raymond Township, $5,000.
J. B. Porterfield rented his farm to four young men from Rantoul. These were George, Marion, John and William Trees. None of them were married. Their mother and sister kept house for them. This news probably set many of the maiden hearts aflutter.
L. C. Rudicil built a thirteen room house about one-half mile east of the village. It is said they operated a hotel there for the many people that passed through on their way to settle the West. This house was razed in the past twenty years.
In 1898 and ‘99 John W. and P. Henry Mumm decided to put in a telephone between their farms. They bought phones from Sears, Roebuck for $22.00 each and put up their own poles and wire. There was no exchange, but they could talk to each other. Two tall glass jars filled with rainwater and salammoniac powder were used as batteries. Later the line was extended to J. J. Mumm’s home in Sidney and north to Billie Jones’ store. This was a private line used mostly by the family.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s grocery stores had wagons equipped with merchandise needed by the farmers which made regular trips through the country, taking chickens, eggs and farm supplies in payment for products the farmer bought. Wagons from as far as Danville made a trip twice a year loaded with cloth, clothing, shoes and boots, as well as tin-ware, hardware and other supplies. Many farm families bought only the bare necessities and seldom went to town. These wagons brought many extras to these farms.
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|This is the building now occupied by the Aufderikampe Plumbing and Heating business. The Masonic Lodge is located above the store, the entrance door being to the right behind the young lad (unknown). This group picture is of some of the business men and women of 1903. Left to right, first row: Gil Aufdenkainpe, Bert Bartley, Roy Youngblood, Charles Porter, Harry Green, Howard Smith, Nat Johnson, Harry George, Frank Denton. Second row: Batch Woodard, Charley Helm. Travis Jakeway, Flora Cottrell, Opal Jones, Nellie Clark, Otis Robinson.|