Civic Spirit Develops
"THE most important event to Springfield was the completion of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad, now the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad. The completion of that road breathed into us a new life, and, lately, the extension of the Great Western Rail|road's connections to Toledo, has been of incalculable bene|fit to our city." Thus wrote James H. Matheny in 1858.
By its original charter, the Alton and Sangamon was to run through Waverly in Morgan County and join with the Sangamon and Morgan at New Berlin. But when residents of Morgan County failed to subscribe for a single share of its stock, and New Berlin took only two shares, Springfield interests began to urge the adoption of a direct route north from Carlinville. Their argument was given point by the fact that the new road, already under construction at its southern terminus, was being built with tracks twelve inches wider than those on the Sangamon and Morgan. The advo|cates of the direct route took their case to the legislature, and at the session of 1851 received the charter amendment they desired. A few weeks later authority to extend the road northward was also granted.
By mid-summer of 1851, a year after work had com|menced, ten miles of track had been laid, more than a third of the right of way between Alton and Springfield had been graded, and the entire distance was under contract. Com|pletion Page 163 of the road to Springfield by January 1, 1852 was confidently predicted. Actually, it was September 9th of that year when the first train from the river city ran into the capital, to be greeted with a national salute and the cheers of hundreds of citizens. A month later 400 excursionists formally celebrated the opening of a rail connection between the two cities. Leaving St. Louis on the steamer Cornelia at 6:00 A.M., the party reached Springfield at 2:00 in the afternoon. Two hours later, after a complimentary dinner served in the road's new machine shops, the party departed, to reach home at midnight. "It was a glorious sight—the careening of the passenger train over our prairies!" one of Springfield's editors exulted. "The railroads of Illinois will hasten our state to her brilliant destiny!"
Work on the railroad north of Springfield continued steadily. On October 15, 1853, the tracks to Bloomington were finished, and two days later the first cars ran through. Early in the following year a connection with Chicago was established. Devious though it was—travelers changed to the Illinois Central at Bloomington and to the Rock Island at La Salle—an all-rail route to the metropolis was hailed joyfully, and a large party from Springfield, made up of members of the legislature as well as townspeople, eagerly accepted the invitation of Chicago citizens for a triumphal visit. Within a few months the direct route was finished. On July 26, 1854, the last spike was hammered home, and four days later the first train ran from Alton to the city on the lake. In little more than a year the southern extension, from Alton to St. Louis, was completed.
Meanwhile the Sangamon and Morgan—or the Great Western, as it was now called—was extending its tracks also. By the fall of 1853 trains were running as far east as Mechanicsburg, where stage connections for Urbana, Dan|ville, and Lafayette, Indiana, could be made. Steadily the road was extended eastward, with the result that the con|nection Page 164 with Toledo, which Matheny looked upon as one of Springfield's red-letter days, was made in late November, 1856.
It was soon apparent, however, that to lay tracks was easier than to run trains over them—easier, that is, than to run them safely. Accidents happened with appalling fre|quency. Typical of the first years of operation was the record for a few weeks in the fall of 1853. On October 13, a short distance south of Lincoln, two cows were struck. The locomotive and baggage car were derailed, two firemen were killed, and the engineer had both arms broken. On November 1 a train from Alton struck a cow north of Carlin|ville. The fireman was killed instantly, the wood passer fatally injured, and the engineer's legs were both broken. In consequence of this accident, section masters were ordered to run over their sections in hand cars an hour before train time and drive the stock to a safe distance. Two days after this order was issued a wood train from Springfield to Lick
From Ballou's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, November 15, 1856
Snow was another source of trouble. A heavy fall in January, 1855, paralyzed traffic to and from Springfield for nearly two weeks. The storm commenced on the 20th. On the 24th the first train to reach town in four days limped in from the south, having been marooned on the prairies all that time. Not until the 28th did a train from Bloomington force its way into the capital, and several more days passed before regular traffic was resumed.
In the minds of the people, however, troubles of this sort, and even a life now and then, were a small price to pay for the benefits the railroads conferred. For one thing, Spring|field was growing rapidly. Between 1840 and 1848, a gain of 1300—from 2600 to 3900—had been registered.1 In the next two years, during which the Sangamon and Morgan went into operation, the population jumped to 5100. By 1855 it had mounted to 7250, and in 1860 it stood at 9400. Thus a gain of nearly 5000 was recorded in the decade of the 50's, as against 2500 in the preceding ten year period. Even more striking was the increase in property valuation, which rose from slightly less than $1,000,000 in 1847 to $2,365,000 in 1853, and to $4,400,000 in 1858.
The individual citizen, however, was not so likely to be impressed with figures such as these as by the tangible evi|dences of progress which came within his own observation. He was not slow to draw inferences from the fact that out|side the town virgin prairie was being broken as never be|fore, while within the city new businesses were being estab|lished in rapid succession—William Pierce's broom factory, John Cook's soap and candle establishment, Hoyt's woolen mill, Huntington and Campbell's planing mill, the car fac|tories and repair shops of both railroads, and several new Page 166 brickyards. Moreover, each day presented undeniable evi|dence of brisk business in the teams which lined the State House yard. On a single circuit of the square on an April Saturday in 1854 an observer counted 140 teams and as many saddle horses, with large numbers of both teams and horses hitched in side streets and alleys. Retail trade on a fair Saturday was estimated at $15,000; on any week day the estimate was half that amount. Annually, about two and a quarter million dollars changed hands in Springfield.
The railroads were welcome to the credit. Simeon Francis expressed the general attitude when he contrasted conditions in 1853, when he was writing, with 1843. Then one got to market in wagons; now, he said, two railroads run into Springfield. Instead of $1.25 per hundred, beef brings $7.00; corn sells at 20c instead of 6c; potatoes at 50c instead of 8c; and butter at 25c instead of 5c. Ten years ago, he continued, improved farms in Sangamon County sold for from $3.00 to $8.00 an acre; now they bring from $15.00 to $30.00. The laborer who then received $10.00 per month now gets $20.00. On the other hand, manufactured and imported commodities have gone down in price. "In those times," he concluded, "few of our farmers, indeed of our citizens, could indulge in such luxuries as coffee, sugar, tea, or a broadcloth coat—and now the amount that was required to buy either a suit of clothes or a dress, will pay for clothing a family of girls."
Nor did a recurrence of the cholera, absent from Spring|field for nearly two decades, have any serious effect upon the growth of the town. In the summer of 1850 cholera symp|toms accompanied several sudden deaths, but when no epi|demic developed the physicians denied the presence of the dread disease. During the following summer, however, several clear cases appeared and a number of deaths resulted. In 1852 and 1853 Springfield escaped, but in 1854 a mild epidemic developed. Throughout the summer cases were re|ported Page 167 almost daily, and on one September day ten cases, several of them fatal, came to the attention of the authori|ties. With cool weather the disease abated. During the fol|lowing year an occasional individual was stricken, but by 1856 the cholera had disappeared entirely.
Even the panic of 1853 failed to retard Springfield's prog|ress materially. Local business men were mainly con|cerned with the effect of widespread bank failures on the pork market, which was stagnant, with hogs selling for $4.25 instead of $5.50 as they had brought the preceding year. But wheat was worth $1.00 at Alton and $1.05 in St. Louis— a good price, though slightly lower than that of the last year or two. When the panic finally struck Springfield directly, as it did when the Mechanics and Farmers Bank closed on November 22, 1854, the result was not disastrous, for the people were quickly convinced that the bank was basically sound, and that its depositors would ultimately be paid in full.
From such embarrassment as the panic did cause, recovery was rapid. By the early winter of 1855 hogs were selling at $6.00, although it was generally recognized that that price was too high to last. Wheat was quoted at $1.50 in Spring|field, and produce prices were the highest on record. By the following summer, business had advanced beyond the pre|panic level. In one week in May, 1856, the Chicago and Alton2 alone delivered 125 carloads of lumber to Springfield, while during June daily lumber shipments varied between fifteen and twenty cars. Large quantities of lime, coal and general merchandise were received and forwarded every day. Construction was in full swing and, as always when that is the case, the town hummed with activity.
No better time can be found for taking a sort of in|dustrial and commercial survey of Springfield than this year Page 168 of 1856. One panic had been successfully withstood, and no signs of another which was soon to follow were apparent. The railroads had been in operation long enough for their effect to be manifest. What changes had they brought about?
In the first place, it is apparent that the export of farm products had taken an enormous leap, and constituted the foremost business of the town. In 1856 the Great Western shipped 450,000 bushels of wheat and 90,000 bushels of corn from Springfield, and it was estimated that equal quanti|ties were exported on the Chicago and Alton. In addition, local mills, six in number, ground 500,000 bushels of wheat into 100,000 barrels of flour. Trade in cattle and hogs, shipped live to Eastern markets, had become a business large enough to bring $1,500,000 to the city annually. Pork pack|ing had also grown in importance, though less rapidly than the trade in live animals. Still, from 25,000 to 30,000 hogs were killed and packed each year. The export of wool, in spite of the increased quantities which were manufactured locally, reached 200,000 pounds, with a value of $100,000, in 1856.
One result of the increase in exported produce was the development of specialization. Formerly the grain exporters and pork packers had been the leading merchants, forced in this way to dispose of the produce they had taken in exchange for goods. Now the business was in the hands of men who devoted their entire time to it. Post and Brother, and L. S. Warner, were the town's grain dealers, with Elijah Iles, still a pioneer, and owner of the first—and largest—elevator. Pork packing had become the exclusive concern of James L. Lamb and Jacoby and Company. Cattle and hogs, and much of the grain as well, were purchased direct from the farmers by buyers from Chicago, St. Louis, and other large cities.
Another result, which was partly cause as well, was the stimulation of intensive agriculture. At last the farmer had a market for all that he could raise. How quickly he took Page 169 advantage of the opportunity may be seen from the fact that Springfield's three farm implement dealers—B. F. Fox, G. L. Huntington and T. W. S. Kidd—disposed of 270 reapers in the year 1856 alone.
In the second place, manufacturing had received a notable impetus. In 1856 Armstrong's woolen mill was employing twenty workmen and using 75,000 pounds of wool in the manufacture of cloth, flannels, blankets and yarn; and a second, though smaller, establishment had commenced busi|ness. In addition, E. R. Wiley employed twenty men and sixty-five women in making ready-made clothing. At G. S. Manning's carriage and wagon shop fifteen men found work. Besides the railroad car shops, three foundries employed an average of twenty men each the year around. Brickyards had increased to seven in number, with a yearly output of 6,000,|000 bricks, in the manufacture of which seventy-five men were needed. The flour mills and pork packers gave work to many more.
The craftsmen had not been displaced, however. J. H. Adams and J. H. Force, hatters, still made a third of the hats they sold, and the seven shoe dealers of the town em|ployed fifty shoemakers. J. A. Hough and other furniture men still made a good part of the beds and bureaus they sold. In many other shops at least part of the goods offered for sale were made by hand on the premises.
In fact, business in Springfield during the 50's was remark|able more for increases in volume than for structural changes, though structural changes were evident. That the value of sales increased mightily is plain. In 1856 twenty-three dealers in dry goods—in other words, general stores—were credited with an aggregate business of $800,000. Six wholesale mer|chants added another $300,000. Dealers in country produce did business amounting to $120,000. The hardware and stove trade, divided among seven firms, totalled $215,000. Four jewelry stores enjoyed an aggregate volume amounting to Page 170 $100,000. In fact, in the year 1856 the total sales of Spring|field merchants—exclusive of grain and flour, cattle, hogs and packed pork—approximated $3,000,000 according to the best estimate which can be made. Not only was this a neat sum in itself, but it represented a gain of three quarters of a million over 1854, and an enormous advance over the days before rail transportation.
One reason for the increase, and at the same time a signifi|cant indication of industrial and commercial growth, was the development of banks. In 1835 the State Bank of Illinois had been established at Springfield, but in the crash of 1837 it had been forced to suspend specie payments. Thereafter it was in constant trouble, with the result that in 1839, by act of the legislature, it was forbidden to accept new business, and in 1843 it was ordered to liquidate within five years.
By that date the entire state was without a banking system. The Democratic party was in control, and hostility to banks of any sort was a cardinal article of Democratic faith. Framed under the party's influence, the constitution of 1847 required every bank charter granted by the legislature to be submitted to popular vote for ratification. The effect was a practical prohibition.
Still, the need for the services which banks performed— the safeguarding, loan and transfer of money—was so great that ways were being found to get around the legal obstacles. Merchants with strong boxes kept money for their customers, more often as a personal favor than as a business transaction. Men of substance frequently invested in loans, but the legal rate was high—ten per cent—and the demand so great that higher rates were often demanded and paid. Naturally, only those in pressing need of money borrowed, with the result that progress was much slower than it would have been had credit been generally available at reasonable rates.
What this situation meant to Springfield was clearly set forth by the editor of the Illinois Journal early in 1850. Page 171 "Some of our business men," he wrote, "have sufficient capital, at all times, to sustain their credit and take up their liabilities, without difficulty. To others of less means, it would often be a convenience if loans of money could be ob|tained to make operations perfectly safe, and of general and individual benefit, if they could be had. Even to all classes, at times, when accounts cannot be collected—and there are such times—moderate and short loans would enable business men to carry on their business more pleasantly and successfully. To the mechanics of this city, those doing prudent and profit|able business, small loans, occasionally, would be of great advantage. There are many of them—young men of good habits, known industry and business tact—who, with a small loan and the means they have on hand, would erect for them|selves dwellings, and thus make themselves more comfort|able—stimulate them to greater industry, and render them permanent and valuable citizens. . . . What we want is capital here that can be borrowed, at all times, on good security, and which may tend to encourage and stimulate industry, and to enable those to get along and make money and render them|selves useful to society, who were not 'born with gold spoons in their mouths'."
Developments of the next year or two proved the editor's case. On January 1, 1851, Jacob Bunn who, with John Wil|liams, had been carrying the main burden of such unofficial banking as Springfield had enjoyed, opened a private banking house on the southeast corner of Fifth and Adams streets. A few weeks later the Springfield Marine and Fire Insurance Company secured from the legislature a charter which en|abled it to perform all the functions of a bank except that of issuing currency. By spring the company had effected the purchase of the old State Bank Building on the east side of the square—"the most chaste, beautiful and substantial build|ing west of the Allegheny Mountains," it was called—and early in July the doors were opened for business. Late that Page 172 year the legislature yielded to realities and authorized the formation of banks under certain restrictions, with the result that two more banks—Clark's Exchange and the Mechanics and Farmers—were organized in the following year.
The banks were quickly put to the test. As has been noted, the depression following the panic of 1853 was too much for the Mechanics and Farmers Bank. Clark's Exchange Bank also liquidated, but Nicholas H. Ridgely, its guiding spirit, at once set up a private banking house of his own. Thus, by the end of 1854, Springfield found itself with the banking system which was to serve it without change until the Civil War, when the First National Bank was organized in accordance with the National Bank Act.
Hardly had recovery been made from the panic of 1853 before a more severe crash—that of 1857—shook the country. Springfield was affected, of course, but the town kept its courage. Said the Journal, in October of that year: "In the midst of the failures, which are occurring throughout the country, it is peculiarly gratifying to be able to announce that Springfield yet stands erect and firm. Not a failure has yet occurred among our merchants and business men, and none are contemplated. The pressure has been pretty severe upon some of them, owing to their inability to obtain Eastern exchange, but they have nobly outrode the storm. . . .
"At present we are in the midst of hard times; money is scarce and dear, sales of real estate are perhaps less frequent, and trade may be somewhat less brisk than usual; but Spring|field yet stands prosperous and unshaken. With a continu|ance of the same forebearance, which has thus far been practiced, relief will soon return; credit and confidence will be fully restored and the abundant resources of our citizens will again be made available."
These were brave words, for the prospect seemed black. Beef cattle were selling at $2.00 per hundred and wheat was 65c. Money seemed to be almost non-existent. The best Page 173 barometer, however, was pork. In the winter of 1856 the packers had paid $5.00 per 100 on an average. On December 1, 1857, the price ranged from $3.00 to $3.25. Even so, the packers were not buying, and such sales as took place were made to drovers for live shipment. However, by the middle of the month there was noticeable improvement. The price had advanced to $3.75—$4.00 and the packing houses had commenced operations. When the season closed the total pack was only 2,500 less than that of the preceding year, al|though the price had remained at a much lower level.
As always, hard times focussed attention on the cost of living, and there was much discussion of that perennially vital subject. One participant climbed down from the realm of generalities and published an itemized account of the cost of maintaining a family of three adults and four chil|dren, clothing excluded. It follows:
- Rent per year $120
- Meats 72
- Flour 30
- Tea and coffee 31
- Butter 40
- Milk 18
- Wood 66
- Potatoes 12
- Sugar 12
- Molasses 3
Because of its greater severity, recovery from the panic of 1857 was slower than from that of 1853. Trade stagnated throughout 1858, although the pork market reacted sharply from the low point of the previous season. Hogs opened at Page 174 $4.50 and mounted to $5.50, while the total pack numbered 37,000—a gain of nearly fifty per cent. The reason, how|ever, was to be found in a short grain crop rather than in general recovery. In the summer of 1859 it was said that more dwellings were for rent in Springfield than had been vacant for many years. Still, the business men had survived two years of hard times without serious failures, trade was fair and the prospect seemed better. The end of the de|pression was in sight.
With all its ups and downs, it had been a prosperous decade. Of this Springfield gave many proofs. As early as 1851 three-story bricks began to appear among the wooden shacks on the north side of the square which made up Chicken Row. The real boom in building, however, com|menced two or three years later. In the spring of 1854 so many new buildings were erected on the north side of Wash|ington Street west of the square that the locality was dignified with the name of "Commercial Row." In May, 1855, when a bad fire destroyed part of the west side of the square, con|tracts for the erection of three-story brick buildings were let at once. At the same time R. F. Ruth and Mrs. Catherine Latham were planning buildings for the square's south side, Stephen T. Logan was erecting two buildings on the corner of Washington and Sixth streets, and S. B. Fisher had a store room under construction on Washington Street west of Sixth. In the fall of 1856 it was reported that forty new store rooms had been built since May 1, and that each one had been rented upon completion. Two years later Jacob Bunn erected one of the show buildings of the town on the corner of Fifth and Adams streets3—Bunn's Bank Building. By 1860 the appearance of Springfield's business section had been transformed.
Prominent among downtown improvements were public Page 175 halls—Masonic Hall, at the corner of Fifth and Monroe streets, completed in 1853; Metropolitan Hall, on Third Street between Washington and Jefferson; Cook's Hall on the east side of the square. When Metropolitan Hall was finished in 1855 its seating capacity of 1,200 was the largest in the state, but three years later it was forced to yield, in popular favor at least, to the hall which John Cook built on the second floor of the building which he erected south of the Marine and Fire Insurance Company. In Cook's opinion the distinctive features of this auditorium—its size, its gal|lery, the gas lights—could be adequately represented only by the name of "Illiopolitan Hall," but this was too much for Central Illinois, and so it quickly came to be known by its owner's plain but familiar name.
Even more conspicuous were the new hotels. In 1854 Joel Johnson made a large addition to his City Hotel on West Washington Street.4 The next year he sold the property to John W. Chenery, who had been managing the American House. The new proprietor improved the front of the build|ing, added an ornamental doorway, rearranged the interior, bought new furniture and bestowed his own name upon it. When the Chenery House opened for business, each of its 130 rooms was lighted with gas and equipped with a bell for summoning servants—the latest improvements in public comforts. The next year—1856—J. D. Freeman built the St. Nicholas.5 "From the Revere House in Boston, to the St. Charles Hotel of New Orleans, you can find no better accommodation," wrote a traveler who enjoyed its facilities in January, 1857, soon after the opening.
New dwellings matched the new structures of the business section. Residences sprang up by the hundreds. Three hun|dred Page 176 were built in 1854. Early in the following year it was estimated that tenants for two hundred more houses could readily be found. During 1856 nearly four hundred dwellings were constructed. (Included in a list of improvements for that year was the following: "Addition to house on Eighth street, for A. Lincoln. Cost $1,300; Hannan & Ragsdale, Architects and builders.") Half a million dollars went into new buildings that year in Springfield, and the next two years saw the expenditure of equal sums.
While most of the new dwellings were modest homes, some were elaborate. "Almost palaces of homes have been reared since you were here," Mrs. Lincoln wrote to her sister in the fall of 1857, "hundreds of houses have been going up this season and some of them very elegant." On South Sixth Street were a group which the townspeople, in mingled pride and envy, dubbed "Aristocracy Hill." First among them was the substantial home of Jacob Bunn. Next to the south came the "castle cottage" of G. W. Chatterton, described as "Gothic, or Elizabethan, carried out with fanciful exten|sion"—the "extension" apparently consisting of a tower, em|battlements, ornamented spires and composition chimney flues! Isaac R. Diller's new home across the street belonged to the group, as did a number of new dwellings south of the Town Branch.
West of Aristocracy Hill the new Governor's Mansion, completed in 1856, was a fine structure, but the show places of the town were the home of Joel A. Matteson and the Cottage Garden of N. H. Ridgely. A resident of Joliet at the time of his election as governor in 1852, Matteson became heavily interested in the Chicago and Alton Railroad and decided to reside in Springfield upon the expiration of his term. In 1856 he purchased a large lot on the corner of Fourth and Jackson streets and began the construction of a home which, when finished the following year, completely dwarfed the nearby Governor's Mansion. "The whole place Page [unnumbered]
Courtesy Illinois State Register
Courtesy Illinois State Register
Residential and commercial improvements, prosperity, a growing population—out of these developed a quality un|known in Springfield before 1850: a civic spirit.
In the spring of 1853 a visitor—the editor of the Rockford Forum—had a number of unlovely things to say about the capital. "Springfield presents neither a pleasant nor cheerful appearance," he wrote, "nor does it give any demonstrations of great enterprise, either public or private. There does not appear to be much taste or neatness in the arrangement of things, either of a private or public character, especially of a public, judging from streets, alleys, sidewalks, etc. . . . As to city improvements, it is horrible to think of them. Just think of a city containing seven or eight thousand inhabitants, with all the boasted wealth of this city, and so favorably patronized too, without a single good sidewalk in it, or even a public lamp to light a street!"
A few years earlier words like these would have drawn indignant rebuttals from the local editors, but now—and the fact is indicative of the changing mood of the town—there was only acquiescence. Streets and sidewalks were both bad, the Journal admitted, and it was time something was done about them.
For once the city fathers agreed. The Chicago and Miss|issippi Railroad had already eased the way by putting down planking on Fourth Street between Washington and Jeffer|son and building a board sidewalk in front of its station. Page 178 Before the end of the year the councilmen decided to plank the streets around the square. Work commenced in Septem|ber, but 1854 was well advanced before the job was finished. Once started, however, the movement continued. Every year more planks went down, with the result that by the end of the decade most of the downtown streets were finally out of the mud, if not free from it.
At the same time the beginnings of a system of street lighting were taking shape. Lamp posts—for oil lamps— were erected at the corners of the square in January, 1853. A year later the city council gave the Springfield Gas Com|pany permission to lay pipes in the streets and alleys on condition that it would have a plant in operation by May, 1855, and that it would furnish light at the rate of $25.00 per year for each lamp. The company turned gas into the mains four months earlier than it had promised. Almost at once every store around the square was lighted with the new fuel. (Day after day notices appeared in the papers cau|tioning the user to turn off the gas, and not to blow it out.) Within a short time the pipes were extended to the residence districts, and Springfield's opulent citizens—or "the quality" as the phrase then went—parted forever with candles and lard oil.
Meanwhile, the legislature had been infected with the improvement mania and had made provision for the beau|tification of the State House yard. Unadorned, often littered with refuse, the grounds had been an eyesore for many years. Now (in 1854) a wrought iron fence was erected, the en|closure was planted with trees and shrubs and gravel walks were laid.
The result was to spur the local authorities to further action. On May 1, 1855—noteworthy in the annals of Spring|field for the grand concert of Madame De Vries, M. La|barthe's May party and an eclipse of the moon—the old market house was torn down.
Page 179In its day the market house had been a thing of beauty and a point of pride. But times had changed, few farmers used it, and neglect had made of it a nuisance. Finally it became so bad that outspoken visitors made it the object of their choicest vituperation. Why do the people of Springfield let "that miserable abortion of a Market House" stand in the middle of one of the principal streets,8 and right in the face of the Capital! a disgusted St. Louisan exclaimed. "Tear it down—take it—hide it—hide it—it is a blot on the face of the City!"
"Go over to the ravine in the south part of the city—buy a block of ground and build a capacious Market House thereon," this outspoken visitor advised. The city council followed the suggestion, although not for some years after the old structure had been demolished. But in the summer of 1860 the contract was let for a new building on the corner of Fourth and Monroe streets, and work began at once. Built of brick, 40 by 140 feet in size, space was provided for the sale of meat, fruit and vegetables, and the basement was fitted up for a public eating room.
Still another public improvement was occupying the at|tention of the council. That was the matter of a suitable burial place. Early in Springfield's history Elijah Iles had donated four acres of ground west of the town 9 for a grave|yard, and somewhat later John Hutchinson laid out six acres a short distance farther west 10 for the same purpose. To|gether, the two cemeteries sufficed for thirty-five years. But by the 50s it was clear that further provision had to be made. Moved to action by Charles H. Lanphier, one of its members, the council purchased a small tract of land north of the city in 1855. The next year an additional purchase was made, and the name "Oak Ridge," suggested by Mayor John Cook, Page 180 adopted. Although further burials were prohibited in the old city graveyard, Hutchinson's Cemetery was still in use, and little was done at Oak Ridge except to enclose the grounds with a common post and board fence. Nevertheless, the land was in possession of the city and dedicated to burial purposes, and one more notable project merely awaited the future for its fulfillment.
Meanwhile, an effort was being made to solve the peren|nial mud problem by other means than street planking. Originally the little streams which emptied into the Town Branch had provided fairly effective drainage, but because of the growth of the city an artificial substitute had become a necessity. Where the Branch and its tributaries intersected streets culverts were built, and sewers11 and drains were laid on the principal downtown thoroughfares. By the end of the decade quagmires had been eliminated, although mud still found a way to ooze between the planking and make wet weather miserable for the fastidious for many years to come.
With the Town Branch itself, nothing was attempted. Once the groves through which the little stream meandered had been a favorite place of resort; now the slaughter houses threw their offal into it and at times it became a crimson stench. The citizens held their noses, shut their eyes and swore.
The hogs were another insoluble problem. Agitation over the question of the confinement or non-confinement of the porcine population never ceased. Early in the 50s the council ordered the hogs shut up. Shortly afterward, at one session in 1853, it repealed the ordinance and then immediately re|versed itself and repealed the repealer. "Much talk and considerable feeling has been manifested by a portion of our citizens immediately interested, and distinctions have been drawn of Hog and Anti-Hogites," one of the papers re|ported. Page 181 A year later the old ordinance providing for con|finement was again revived. And so it went, with whichever side was momentarily most vociferous in possession of the legal badge of victory. Meanwhile, regardless of the law, the hogs continued to root up sidewalks, wallow in the mud, and bedaub fences and houses with slime.
Hand in hand with physical improvement went progress in the services the city rendered its inhabitants. In 1854 five policemen were added to the one law officer who had served the city for many years, and six years later the force was put in uniform. The officers grumbled loudly because the uni|forms were to be purchased at their own expense, but the council refused to yield, and the order stood.
Of greater interest, both practically and socially, was the creation of an organization for fire protection. For years there had been a town fire warden, and fire hooks, ladders, and buckets were supposed to be available at all hours in the market house. But when the outbuildings of the City Hotel caught fire one night in the summer of 1850 every hook was found to be broken and not a single fire ladder could even be located. Only the hardest kind of work on the part of the townspeople saved the hotel itself. Other fires followed every few months—the Sangamon & Morgan sta|tion in 1852; Johnson's Old Tavern, four stores in Chicken Row, and Chatterton's jewelry store on the west side of the square in 1853; the City Mill and the Chicago & Mississippi car shops in 1854. Not until more than half the block on the west side of the square burned on the night of May 11, 1855, did the city take action. Prodded by the most disastrous fire in the town's history, the council requested the mayor to call on the citizens with a subscription paper for raising the money for two fire engines and other apparatus. The citizens, scared, subscribed enough for one engine. Nine months passed before it was delivered, and then the council refused to ac|cept it. Another year went by. Finally, early in 1857, the Page 182 council ordered an engine in Boston and provided for a building to house it.
Late in May, 1857, when the delivery of the engine was expected momentarily, Fire Company No. 1 was organized. Three weeks afterward the engine was received, and the newly formed company, "gaily dressed in their handsome uniforms," drew it through the streets behind Burt's band and then formed at the northwest corner of the square for their first trial. Six months later a second engine was received, and Sangamo Fire Company No. 2 was formed forthwith. The first company—the Pioneers as they were now called— celebrated by hanging a bell atop their engine house. Fire engines and bell were too much of a temptation to the boys of the town, and a rash of false alarms broke out, not to subside until the novelty wore off. But the urge to be a fire|man was too strong for such discouragements, and two more companies made their appearance in a short time—Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, and Young America Hose Com|pany No. 1.
To property owners the fire companies were a valuable asset, but it is doubtful if the young men who joined them were motivated as much by a desire to render a civic service as by anticipation of the social pleasures they afforded. Fol|lowing the precedent of the military companies, visits were exchanged with similar organizations in nearby towns. Typi|cal was an exchange of visits which took place on Independ|ence Day, 1858. Since the holiday fell on a Sunday, the Springfield companies were invited to Jacksonville on Sat|urday, July 3rd. The program—a parade, barbecue, balloon ascension and fireworks—took up the entire day. On Mon|day the Jacksonville companies returned the visit. The Pioneers entertained one company of visitors at the St. Nicholas, where Abraham Lincoln, a guest of honor, of|fered the toast: "The Pioneer Fire Company—May they extinguish all the bad flames, but keep the flame of patriotism Page 183 ever burning brightly in the hearts of the ladies;" while the Sangamo Company fêted the Jacksonville Rescue Company at the United States Hotel, and that evening gave a ball in their honor at Concert Hall. Balls, incidentally, seem to have been a part of the fireman's regular routine, for each company gave several every year. With frequent parades, they added to the gayety of the town.
With the formation of fire companies the city began to realize, as it had never done before, the lack of a public water supply. In 1857 eight cisterns were dug in the business section. Even so, it was generally recognized that this was inadequate provision. So $3,000 was appropriated by the council for an artesian well, contingent upon the popular sub|scription of a similar sum. The money was soon raised, and drilling was begun on Washington Street near Eleventh, then the eastern limit of the city. The work continued intermit|tently, and unsuccessfully, for two years. Finally, when a depth of 1100 feet had been reached, the project was aban|doned, with the city and its inhabitants wiser in the ways of water underground and poorer by $10,000.
Thus the last of the improvements of Springfield's pros|perous decade ended in failure. Nevertheless, in ten years the town had made more progress than in all its previous history. Crudities in plenty remained, but substantial buildings faced a tree-planted square, fine homes sheltered many of the in|habitants, the mud at least was not quite so bad as it had been, and a civic spirit had come into existence and been made manifest in many ways. In comparison with older places, the prairie capital on which the eyes of the nation were soon to focus might still be a country town; but in com|parison with itself of other days, it had become a shining city.