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article number 205
article date 01-31-2013
copyright 2013 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Small Town Businesses Had to be Good … Early Days of DeLand Illinois
by Myrta Grace Paugh

From the book, Biggest Little Town on Earth. DeLand Illinois Centennial, 1873 – 1973.


Business was good in the early days. It had to be. It took a couple of hours or more to go to Monticello by horse and buggy and the day was shot. One could go to Clinton and spend the day, but again the day was gone. One couldn’t run over to Clinton and spend the day just to get a spool of thread, or a saw or a loaf of bread, or repairs for a piece of machinery.


The first business building in DeLand Illinois was a two story frame building put up by Vail and Moody for a general store. It stood where the postoffice now stands. The lower floor was a general store that sold groceries, dry goods, and whatever else was needed. The upper floor was occupied by the “Hall”, a large room rented out for various meetings and church services. After a year or two Moody sold out his interest to Vail, and later on, after Vail built his drug store building — a double building on the corner where Madden and Trigg have their Insurance office now, other firms took over including a man named Chenowith and L.B. Hurst. Both ran general stores there. It was often spoken of as the Chenowith building. When the First National Bank was built on that corner, the old building was moved a block north to the spot where John Dean Roos now lives.

Moody and Vail were two of the five earliest settlers in DeLand Illinois. Both men were Civil War Veterans — both men came from Ohio, both were farmers in Goose Creek, Moody coming in 1868 and Vail in 1859. Both moved into DeLand soon after it was laid out, and both were prominent men, taking an active part in the building up of the town. Moody’s wife, the former Rumina Hassinger of Ohio, also took an active part in the community, running a boarding house for traveling salesmen and other transients in their home. Both were charter members of the Methodist church.

After selling out to Vail, Moody engaged in carpenter work. Next he built a grain elevator which he ran for a number of years. In 1889, he sold the grain elevator and devoted his time to the factory. He was a stock holder in the First National Bank. Mr. and Mrs. Moody had no children of their own, but took to their hearts several young people including James Moody, D.B. Troxel, Bruce Clemons, Pearl Clemons, Grace Jones, Eva Carroll, and Lawrence Dawson. Johnnie Carrol and Will Troxel stayed there for awhile as did Rumina Troxel who died at 24 and another Troxel sister who married Salem Kesler and was the mother of Lola Cathcart and Wave Hassinger who were residents here for many years. Many of these young people were relatives but the Carroll’s came from Chicago. Johnnie was lame. He had a beautiful voice and sang for a long time in a male quartette that was well known around DeLand.

D.B. Troxel, postmaster.

When “Uncle Bruce” died about 1912, “Aunt Minie” moved to the house in the south part of town, the Tilson house and lived there till she was unable to live alone any longer. She lived with the Dave Troxel family for sometime before she died.

John Vail, a product of a log cabin and a subscription school in Ohio, was a druggist for many years following his adventure in the general store business. Mr. Vail was a Democrat -— in fact they spoke of him as the “Boss Democrat” and was appointed postmaster two times. He held several township offices and served one term as Deputy Sheriff of Piatt County.

The Vail’s (Mrs. Vail was the former Mary Drais of Ohio) had five children. One died in infancy; Arminda married John Harrison — early DeLand doctor; Mary married Taylor Majors, Lucinda married W.O. Cobb and Ida married Lewis Mathews. The Mathews had Sons Ray and Fay. Fay lived with his grandparents for many years but died when a young man. Ray married Eva Trigg and had several children. They farmed southeast of DeLand for many years before moving to Michigan. The Cobb family also lived here and was in the furniture and undertaking business. Their home was the present Ted Webb house. Mr. Vail, after his wife’s death, sold out his home and retired to California. He still owned the drug store building at the time it burned in 1914.

Building continued until, by late 1875, the following business houses were mentioned. The reporter began his account thus:

“I tell you ‘Young Chicago’ is improving rapidly. We have a billiard hall (location not given) and the boys make things go lively. G.H. Race, Proprietor, says everything shall be conducted properly, and we believe George for he is a splendid fellow in many respects. The Rienhart Brothers will soon have their new building completed and ready for a stock of goods.” (This building was in the middle of the block on the west side of the present park. It burned along with buildings north of it in 1888.)

The Rinehart Brothers were I.L. Rinehart and Joel who remained in the community for the rest of their lives. Joel was a Civil War Veteran. He and his wife Lily had one daughter, I believe. I.L. Rinehart had three children, Grace, Bruce and Ross. Both Bruce and Ross were connected with the State Bank and Bruce was editor of, the Tribune for awhile. Bruce married and had a little daughter. Both the child and his wife died early. He then married Bess Cultra and had a daughter. Ross married Lucille Dauberman, a local high school teacher. He was connected with the Farmer City State Bank for a long time.

L.L. Rinehart, early general store.

“The hardware merchants are doing a fine business. We wish them well.” “H. Gessford is still at the old stand where he is always ready to oblige customers.”

Henry Gessford and his wife were one of the first five families to come to DeLand Illinois. The Gessford’s came here from Dewitt county where he farmed after returning from the Civil War. The business he established here was under the name “Henry Gessford Mercantile Business.” He conducted this business in the present Tribune building which he built. After five years, he sold out and began to work in real estate, building and selling houses and business buildings. He was an excellent carpenter and built well.

The Gaines property was built by Gessford for a home. They had four children — James, a harness maker and dealer of harness and saddlery at DeLand; Charles G. who lived with his father and owned and operated a thresher and corn sheller; Maude, the first baby born in DeLand Illinois, her middle name was DeLand. She married Ed Johnson and they lived in Monticello. She had an outstanding voice. And Bertram E., who was with his brother Jim in the harness business until he moved to Florida about 1908 or 09. The Gessford’s were charter members of the Methodist church and he was active in the G.A.R.

J.Q. Carter -- Lumber Yard.

The drugstore, owned by G.W. Corder, has been closed for several days past. We understand he and his family are visiting at Clinton. This building was on the east side about where the bank driveway on the south-side is today. It was later owned by J.L. Reed and then by Jim Gessford.

Jim Gessford who ran a harness shop in the Corder building bought it in 1893. He also handled other goods such as trunks and valises and ran a shoe repair shop in the back.

Children of those days had reason for remembering him. He had a life size, dapple gray wooden horse in the harness shop on which he displayed harnesses, but he was also a kindly, friendly man where children were concerned and delighted the youngsters by boosting them onto the horse, “Old Charley,” and letting them sit there for awhile pretending they were galloping over the prairies.

In 1938 Old Charley was 64 and had been in the shop for 40 years. It was fun. He kept a supply of stock medicines and pamphlets to go with them and he shared the pamphlets with the 7th and 8th grade pupils when they were studying live stock in their agriculture course. The pamphlets contained pictures and descriptions of Percherons, Clydsdales, Normans, Shropshire, Hamshires, Poland Chinas, Duroc Jerseys, Hoisteins, Guernseys, Herfords, Black Langshans, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and many others. The children of that day knew what they were! Do you?

Jim was the son of Henry Gessford. He married Nannie Ammann, daughter of John Ammann, boot and shoe man, and his wife Margaret. They lived in a house where Burford Hammitt lives and replaced it with the Hammitt house. The house was a two story house but a fire took off the upper story. When Mr. Gessford died, the store building was razed and Mrs. Johnson, his sister, sold the horse to Robert Allerton for his wooden horse collection. So far as I know, it is still on the Allerton place.

“The harness shop is in full blast. Mr. Parr late of Clinton is putting up some very neat sets of harness.” This was an earlier harness shop down in the park area but I don’t know exactly where.

These, except Jim Gessford’s were the earlier businesses of DeLand Illinois and Jim’s shop was later in the Corder building which was one of the first buildings in DeLand.

As time went by, more and more frame buildings were built which stretched from the railroad to the creek. Dick Tilson’s blacksmith shop was also very early but more of it later. Business was booming. It looked like a growing community. It was reported in one paper that the grain buyers at DeLand shipped more grain in 1875 than was shipped at any other point in the County.

J.Q. Carter, lumberman.


Today, the blacksmith shop is a business of the past. There are few work horses in this day of tractors, but blacksmith shops were a very necessary business when horses were the mainstay of the farm work and were also used for travel. In bad weather horses had to be shod because they were inclined to slip and fall on ice just as people are. They also needed shoes if they traveled much for the protection of their feet. The blacksmith shops also engaged in the repair of machinery and things of that nature.

There were two blacksmith shops mentioned in items of DeLand Illinois. One was the Dillavou shop on the east side of the block that is now the park later owned by Bickel. The other was one owned by Richard Tilson that stood first on the west side of the creek in what is now Gantz’ timber south of DeLand.

This blacksmith shop was really the beginning of a potential village there but failed to materialize because the railroad was put in and DeLand Illinois founded. Tilson almost immediately moved his shop into DeLand, and placed it on the corner of Highway Avenue (Main Street) and 3rd where the Odd Fellow building now stands. He also bought the lot across the alley to the west and moved a house onto it. The blacksmith shop remained there until 1889 or 1890 when the corner was wanted for a bank. He sold the lot to the Swigart Brothers who were starting the bank that was to become the First State Bank of DeLand. Tilson moved his blacksmith shop one block north to the corner now occupied by the Kaiser Agricultural Chemicals. In the early 1900’s, he sold the shop to Lyle Cathcart who owned it until it burned in 1930.

There seemed to be an occasional change of ownership of this shop between 1889 and 1890 — probably temporary arrangements at the time of the move. At one time it was reported that “Dick Tilson, our accomplished blacksmith traded his town property to N. Courier for his farm. A Mr. Johnson of Leroy will occupy the shop.” In 1890 this item, “Tilson and Elder is the style of the latest firm. They have put in a burr (mill) in connection with Tilson’s blacksmith shop and are prepared to grind meal etc. at a moment’s notice.”

Later in 1890, Hollis Fuller bought a half interest in the shop for $500 -- Now “Tilson and Fuller.”

Bakery building on Library site.

Most businesses are fraught with some kind of danger. The blacksmith business was no exception. In 1893, Mr. Tilson was injured by a horse shoe, he was polishing, getting caught in an emory wheel and being hurled into his face. He had several cuts and several stitches but got along well.

At the time of the fire, 1930, other buildings in the area went too. There was a large sales barn (originally built for a livery stable) just north of the blacksmith shop, a garage to the north of that, and a woodworking shop behind the blacksmith shop which Mr. Cathcart used as a show room for automobiles in which he dealt. They all burned. The sales barn had been converted into an implement business. Cathcart sold Chevrolet cars and International Implements.

Cathcart decided not to rebuild. He sold the site to L.E. Kallembach who rebuilt the blacksmith shop but on the lot north of the original one and ran the business for 31 years retiring in 1962.

The lot on the corner north of the shop, was occupied for a time by a filling station and it was succeeded by the DeLand Phosphate company. The blacksmith shop was razed and today that area includes the Kaiser plant, a township shed, and the Marathon Oil Company which has an installation there.

The Dillavou Blacksmith was the northernmost of the buildings that burned in 1888. The building was rebuilt and stood until 1916 when Miss Bondurant bought these lots, and donated the entire block for a park. Some Bondurant corncribs had stood on the west side of the block and they, too, were razed. By this time, there was little need for a blacksmith shop and Dillavou did not set up in business elsewhere.

Clyde Porter, grain dealer and Library trustee.


Everyone who owned a horse needed a harness shop to buy and to repair harness, be he farmer or townsman. They were common in the early days. Jim Gessford, the long time merchant of such wares has already been mentioned as has J.L. Reed who preceded him in the Corder building. Others were Barry Meeks who occupied a building in the park area — which one is unknown. His sign was interesting. It Read: “Bury Meeks, Harness maker”. A Mr. Marr also sold harness. Location unknown.


These businesses were of importance in the early days because sending away for such things, or going to another town to buy them and getting them home, was expensive and unhandy. Mr. J.E. Bickel, who had come from Germany not long before he came to DeLand Illinois, had learned woodworking in the old country and continued the craft here. His prime work was on wagons and carriages which were in demand. Before Bickel came, Mr. Merry had a woodshop in what is now the park. When Bickel arrived in 1877, he rented Merry’s shop until he decided whether he wanted to remain here. When he decided to stay, he bought the shop and was at this location when the park area buildings burned in 1888. Bickel set up business in his barn at home until he could rebuild, and he retained the site until Miss Bondurant bought it for the park in 1911.

Early Bickel’s buildings on east side of present park.

Mr. Bickel, who sometime in the early 1900’s had taken up the new and upcoming implement business, decided to continue that occupation in another location. Early in 1914, the Vail building on the corner across from the park to the northeast had burned. Mr. Bickel bought this site and built a modern brick building for his implement building and ran it with his son Harry until his death. Harry continued the business for some time. When the estate was settled, the building was sold.

Jim Trigg ran an appliance store there for some years. The present occupant is Madden and Trigg insurance. Jim Trigg oversees that and also has a casket display room in the rear since he is the local undertaker. Later the locker plant was added to the rear of the building by Howard (Brickey) Dresback.

The owners of the locker at the present time are Louis Kallembach, Jr. and Karl Ray Norton. Since they butcher meat and freeze and sell it for farmers as well as some townspeople, this would certainly be a farm related industry.

Mr. John Bickel was noted for his caskets which he made as they were needed. It was almost the turn of the century before the town had a regular undertaker. There seemed to be a hearse in existence before that. People were not embalmed then and so there was no need for a trained undertaker. When Mr. Bickel had finished with the casket, Mrs. Bickel lined it and at one period in this time, the girls of the Methodist Epworth League took over the task of lining the graves with white muslin and sprigs of evergreen. So while funerals were not then the fine affairs of today, the dead were laid away with much thoughtfulness, love and tenderness.

Mr. and Mrs. John Bickel, implement dealer and mayor.

There were several other wood working shops in DeLand in the early days including one ran by Mr. Van Vickel, a local carpenter, who had a small shop on the main street just north of the railroad and on the property of the Lumber Company. Fred Haines, too, was a woodworker. When the Bowher garage was built, a small building was moved to the back and south facing 3rd Street which Haines used. (I think this had previously been used for the same purpose). Later Haines had his shop behind the Tilson (Cathcart) blacksmith shop. Haines previously had done woodworking in the Bickel shop. Gaylord Madden is today’s wood worker. He makes beautiful furniture in the basement of his home as a hobby.

After Mr. Bickel’s death, Wilson Webb and son, Clarence, took over the selling of implements in a brick building which still stands at the corner of Main and 4th. Garages also occupied this building -- D.A. Headlee for one. But today it is vacant.

Inside W.G. Trigg’s dry goods store. Bill and Helen Baker, clerks.


In the block of Highway avenue between Railroad Avenue and Second Street, there were early business establishments, some of which have been mentioned. On the west side of the street were the Porter grain office, the Langdon post office building, the Rinehart general store, the Bickel wagon business and woodshop, J.E. Reed’s harness shop, and Dillavou’s blacksmith shop. All but the first two were consumed in the 1888 fire.

The Rinehart store was not rebuilt, and the first two mentioned were moved. The ones that were rebuilt later gave way to the park. On the east side of the street at the back of the lot behind the present Manning house was a livery stable, a shop on the same place near the front (part of the foundation is still there between Mannings and Mrs. Rudisills - a bakery run by Will McBrides in a two story building on the same site as the Carnegie Library of today, and another Livery Stable across the alley where the Jones residence stands. The bakery building was also used as living quarters at times, but other uses are unknown to us.

Livery stables were another much needed business. While the train carried most of the travel business, both Monticello and Farmer City were hard to get to unless one had a horse and buggy. Traveling salesmen especially, needed a way to get from Deland to those towns as did DeLand people who did not own their own transportation.

Jake Adams on his dray.

Two livery stables mentioned in the 1890’s. The location of both are unknown although they may have been the later H.T. Paugh stable.

“Nov. 1895 — Willis McKean succeeds Frank Merritt in the livery business.”

“Dec. 1898— Samuel Smallwood sold his livery barn to Mr. Johnston and moved to Weldon.”

In 1903 H.T. Paugh moved to DeLand from Monticello, rented the house which formerly stood where Ross Manning’s now stands and leased the livery stable behind it from E. J. Edwards who had been running it and set up business.

“Mr. Paugh will be at the service of the public and attend to traveling men between this city and Lodge, Weldon, Farmer City, Monticello, or any intermediate point. Mr. Paugh should receive the hearty support of our citizens, as a good livery barn is a long felt want in this city.”

H.T.Paugh’s livery stable.

Mr. Paugh ran the livery stable for a number of years. He drove “broncos” mostly and had numerous vehicles for hire. One was a “hack” (with a number of seats which could be used to take several people and was used to go to such things as the Fourth of July celebrations at Monticello; to the Opera at Monticello (the present Community House at Monticello was the Opera house and took up the space now used by the Allerton Library. They had good and frequent plays there). The year of the Pledger revival meetings in Monticello, Mr. Paugh took a load every night.

There were two other livery stables in DeLand that we know of. Garland B. Eubanks built one in 1904 across the alley and at the north end of the block. It stood there until it burned — believed to be about 1919 although no account of the fire has been found. Mr. Eubank had moved to Iowa but his son still lived here.

The third stable was a part of the sales barn just north of Cathcart’s blacksmith shop which burned in 1930.

Had you walked north on Main street on the west side from the Bickel blacksmith shop to the creed in the early 1900’s you would have passed what is now the Tribune building, a row of frame buildings housing Gates barbershop, Woodcook’s meat market, a small building that may have contained a plumbing shop at the time, the telephone office, a barbershop, Conner’s store, the postoffice and the First National Bank. Crossing 3rd street you would have walked past the State Bank, Doc Walker’s office, his home, J.N. Rodman’s house, and across 4th street — Tilson’s blacksmith shop and the calaboose.

Coming back on the east side of the street you’d pass south of 4th street, two houses, a small woodworking shop, the Chamberlain building, 3rd street, three tile buildings housing a hardware store, Hurst general store, Gantz’ general store, a frame building housing either a barber shop or a meat shop, Trigg’s furniture store, Gessford’s harness shop, a doctor’s office, and a double frame building housing a grocery store (Dresback’s) and Vail’s drug store.

Dresback store – Dick, Winnie Leischner and one of the girls.

These were the buildings that stood there before the fires and one set of their occupants. I shall refer to them as they are above as I recount the other businesses that they had previously housed or that they were afterwards to house. I do not know every establishment that there was, but will list what I do know.


Across the street from Street from Smith’s Garage to the west is the Rigg’s grocery. This building was built by Fred Dresback after the fire destroyed his grocery in the Vail building in 1914. It has always been a grocery. J.H. Dresback followed his brother until his death and was taken over then by his son Richard. Dick ran it until he entered the army during World War I. His wife Maxine took over the business until after he was killed in France and for awhile afterwards. She sold it to Ellis Lischner and went to New York to study music. This Rigg’s – Harold and Margaret have been running it for 26 years.

Riggs grocery.


The first furniture dealer mentioned was W. F. Kerns who opened a furniture store in the old one room schoolhouse which had been moved to the corner of Main and Fourth after the new frame building was built. He had evidently been in business before that date as he had just received a new spring shipment when he moved in. Mr. Bondurant, who owned the building, moved it to the middle of the block just north of where the State Bank sits today and just south of the tile buildings. He remodeled it and put in a glass front, and painted it outside and papered it inside.

In July of 1892, Mr. Kerns sold his stock to Henry Cobb. About the same time, Mr. Cobb decided to go into the undertaking business and purchased a “fine hearse and is now prepared to do practical undertaking on short notice. This was something badly needed as the old outfit was hardly safe to be used at all.” Who took care of the previous burials is not known except that Mr. Bickel made the caskets.

Bickel implement building built on site of Vail building.

Sometime between 1892 and 1902 — probably closer to the latter date since George Trigg bought a house on East Third St. for a residence and moved in from the farm — Trigg became a partner in the furniture and undertaking business with Cobb. Mr. Trigg took a course in undertaking and year later he bought out Cobb and became sole owner. He retained his business until his death in early 1933. His son Charles continued the undertaking business and was followed at his death by his son James who is DeLand’s and Weldon’s undertaker today. Thus the Trigg family has been in that business for some 70 years. Another son of George, Ivan, also followed in his father’s footsteps. The schoolhouse-furniture store was destroyed in the 1933 fire shortly after George Trigg died but the building was used then for storage so the content loss was not great.

Mr. Trigg ran his business with imagination. He advertised regularly and he often came up with gimmicks that called attention to his business. For instance, once he put a jar of beans in the window and offered a prize for the nearest guess as to the number of beans. 327 people made a guess. Miss Minnie Hayes guessed 1821. The number was 1815. She was awarded a handsome decorated floor parlor lamp.

But the affair that received the greatest amount of interest was the annual Majestic Range Demonstration. A representative of the company came for a week and during that time citizens were invited to the store to see the range and eat the biscuits with hot coffee that was made on the range. Nearly everyone came at sometime during the week and the kids all turned out in full force on a special evening after school. Usually a couple of pictures were taken and everyone had a good time. And Mr. Trigg sold stoves!

Majestic range demonstration.

Mr. Trigg also loved a good joke. Lately I have heard a story of one demonstration week. Tom McMillen came in to eat biscuits and enjoy a cup of coffee. Someone hurriedly filled a syrup pitcher with linseed oil and substituted salt in the sugar bowl. But the joke backfired. Tom consumed the gastronomical delicacies without blinking an eye and never let on that a trick was being played on him.

Mr. Trigg was interested in his customers and went to great lengths to serve them. When Mr. A.A. Reed built a new residence, Mr. Trigg made a trip to Chicago with him to pick out furniture and carpets for the new home.

NEW BRICK BUILDINGS (They don’t burn as easily)

After the fire in December of 1914, steps were taken immediately to rebuild the buildings. Arthur Kern and his construction company received a contract for putting them up. The building to the south was built for Mrs. Morrow for a millinery store. She sold to Lynn Williams who started a bakery there. Lynn had it most of the time until 1934 when it burned. A firewall between that building and the next spared the other five stores. Williams did not rebuild and for years there was a concrete lined hole that had been the bakery basement.

Brick buildings today.

After someone fell into it, a fence was erected, but it didn’t add to the appearance of the business district. Finally, several years ago, James Richardson bought the lot and rebuilt the building. It has been occupied by several persons since including Shirley Fisher, Beauty operator; Dick Loney, T.V. Store; and possibly others. At present E.E. Leischner has an office there for the Roosevelt National Life Insurance Co.

The second building from the south is now the Ace Plumbing Supply Co. Before that Marlin Miller had a plumbing store there. And before that for about fifty years, Bill Trigg had a dry goods store there. Shortly after the return of Doc Fonner from World War I who bought back his former store, Bill became his partner and opened the drygoods store in what is now the Laundromat. Later on, he moved to the 2nd store building and they started a confectionery in the center building. After they sold the confectionery called the Powder Puff, Trigg and Fonner parted company Trigg taking the dry goods buisness and Fonner the grocery business. Trigg retired about three years ago.

Before Trigg took the building it was occupied by John Motherspaw with a restaurant, and A.N. Kerns with a confectionery and odds and ends store.

The third building was occupied first by Seymour Cathcart’s meat market, Trigg, Oakley Bros., a woman from Kenney, Amlong and Robert Barr, before becoming a laundromat. I believe there was a pool room there for a while.

Fonner started the store in the fourth building between 1915 and 1917 when he was called to the army. He sold it to Jesse McBride but bought it back as soon as he returned. He retired in 1945 and sold it to George Harris. It passed from Harris to Murl Meyer, then to Vance Guffey and then to Bill Ted Webb.

Bill Ted sold out and the building was vacant for awhile. Mrs. Guffey had a dry goods store there. Now Henry Franklin has an antique shop there.

The building that Fonner occupied and the one now a laundromat were both built for John Conner for a grocery and then sold to Fonner. Until the antique shop was put in, the building always housed a grocery.

Fonner store.
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