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Sesquicentennial, Carmi, Illinois,









/ ■



18I6 - I966

Published by the Carmi Sesquicentennial Commission, Inc.

J. Robert Smith, President
C. F. Rebstock, Vice President
Mrs. Allen Ball, Secretary
William F. Sharp, Treasurer

Mrs. Douglas J. Ames, Sr.
Mayor Laurence Boehringer
Mrs. R. C. Brown
James Robert Endicott

Sam B. Hart

Sam A. Hassan

Mrs. Ray A. McCalhster

Mrs. Edwin Stocke

Mrs. Fred J. Reinwald, Chairman
Mrs. Robert Ready Williams.

Publication Committee
Mrs. Henry Lichtman
Mrs. Hazel K. Munsey

Mrs. Henry J. Karch
Miss E. Wave Jamerson

Business and Professional Women's Club

This souvenir booklet of Canni's 150th birthday was made possible by many enthusi-
astic people — those who graciously loaned old pictures, women who collected the photos, the
staff of the Carmi Times, the sponsors, members of the Business and Professional
Women's Club, who enlisted the support of the sponsors, and the author, J. Robert Smith.

iu/miiAe^ dow^H' i^ne decadei , . .

HOULD YOU ASK ME, whence these stories; whence
these legends and traditions — of the pioneer in buckskin;

with the hitching racks and ox teams; of the cobblestones and candles,
and the grinding o± the com mill — ^where the Little Wabash wanders in and
out of old White County?

I should answer, I should tell you : from the eager lips long silent ;
from the hist'ry of the county, from the vaults where ledgers moulder;
from the files of crumbling papers.

Here we read and pored and pondered; read some more and then
recorded. We repeat them as we found them, all these stories and tradi-

Now we cherish, save and guard them.

Your Sesquicentennial book is not a history.

Although it starts before the beginning of Carmi, no attempt was
made to write a complete chronological story about people and events of the
past 150 years.

We present here a few glances backward down the decades ; attempting
to preserve in words and pictures the ways of life of dear hearts and gentle
people — our ancestors.



n^JLtne eJ

III. H'2r,




AM 150 years old, and you are

Oh, how the years have sped by !

I was bom in a wilderness, beside a
meandering stream. Attending my birth
were pioneers in buckskin, linsey-woolsey
and calico. They walked and rode horse-
back from Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsyl-
vania and Virginia.

I was born in Lowry Hay's log cabin
near the Little Wabash River. It was
February 8, 1816 — a cold, raw day. The
winter wind moaned through cracks in the
cabin. Close by, the grist mill's water
wheel creaked as it turned.

My christening came on a bright April
day. On the sixteenth people met at the
log house of John Craw. Dr. Josiah Stew-
art was there. With him were Daniel and
Lowry Hay. Leonard White arrived. The
county had been named for him. Now it
was time to name the town — me!

I am told that many names were sug-
gested. Just who opened the Bible I do not
know. Perhaps it was the Rev. John C.
Slocumb, a Methodist minister. Genesis
46:9 .. . Exodus 6:14 . . . Numbers 26:6
. . . Joshua 7:1, 18 . . . First Chronicles 2:7,
4:1, 5:3. In all those passages one finds
the name of the son of Reuben, the grand-
son of Jacob, the nephew of Joseph.

And so, a log cabin settlement in the
forest was named Carmi.

Who am I ? For what do I stand ?

I am more than 6,000 people, and the
spirit of thousands of others who lived,
labored, loved and died here the past 150
years. My sons and daughters remember
me with affection as they have gone out
to the far places of the world. Many return
to visit or retire.

I am a log village on a muddy, rutted
road, and a modem city with wide, paved
streets. My way has been lighted dowTi the
decades by pine knots, candles, kerosene,
gas and electricity.

I can still hear the whirring wheel
spinning flax and wool ; the clicking loom
weaving linsey-woolsey; creaking wagons
drawn by oxen; hoof beats of circuit
riders' horses ; the lonely howl of the tim-
ber wolf ; the coachman's horn as the stage
approaches ; the whistle of steamboats on
the Little Wabash.

I can still smell venison roasting on
the spit; corn bread baking on the coals;
hickoiy burning in the fireplace.

My first settlers told me about the
violent earthquakes of 1811 and 1812; how
the ground shook and rocked and then
rolled like waves of the sea. They told me
about the "harraken" of 1815 — a cyclone
that mowed down the forest in a path a
mile wide.

I remember November 12, 1833, "the
night the stars fell," when the wife of
Chief Justice William E. Wilson went out-
side to gaze in wonder ; to wash her hands
and face with stars, as though they had
been snow flakes, then bathed her baby's
face with Stardust.

I am the Little Wabash River and
Shipley Hill; 'Possum Road and the old
Shavraeetown Trail ; the tan yard and dis-
tillery and pioneer ferry.

I am Joseph Pomeroy and Benjamin
R. Smith; Doctors Josiah Stewart and
Thomas Shannon, Daniel P. Berry and
William Brimble-Combe, Frank Sibley and
R. C. Brown; Lieutenant Governor Wil-
liam H. Davidson and Attorney General
Ivan A. Elliott.

I am Willis Hargrave, who rode horse-
back from Equality to find my birthplace,
and Chamber of Commerce President
Albert W. McCallister, who flies to distant
cities to look after my interests.

I remember the men enlisting for the
Black Hawk and Mexican wars ; the excite-
ment and sadness of the Civil War; the
Spanish war volunteers of 1898 ; the troop
trains of 1917; the casualty lists of the
1940's and 1950's. And now, Vietnam!

I am Ratcliff Inn and the Damron
House; the Robinson home and the Old
Graveyard; the Reinwald and Ziegler
stave factory and the Staley mill; the
Ainsbrooke Corporation and Sterling
Aluminum; the Innovation and Burrell's

You can look at me and see State Sen-
ator Edwin B. Webb crossing the dusty
street to board a stagecoach for Spring-
field; U. S. Senator John M. Robinson
riding in the fancy brougham he bought in

I am the Home Culture Circle start-
ing a library in 1898; the Thursday and
Friday clubs of years gone by ; the D.A.R.
and its Memorial Circle in the Old Ceme-

I am Colonel John M. Whiting and
General Frederick J. Karch ; Congressmen
John M. Crebs, James R. Williams,
Orlando Burrell and Roy Clippinger;
Ephraim Joy and Charles Berry; Dr.
Elam Stewart, my first mayor, and Laur-
ence Boehringer, the present mayor;
Nathaniel Holderby and Roy E. Pearce.

I am Colonel Everton Conger captur-
ing John Wilkes Booth and C. F.(Bud)
Rebstock bringing a new industry to town ;

William Stewart, long at rest in the Old
Graveyard, and Herbert G. Bayley, devo-
ting years to civic work.

I am Benjamin St. John and John G.
Powell, Adam Miller and North Storms,
Doctors J. I. Spicknall and Ray McCallis-
ter, A. S. Rudolph and Edwin Stocke. I am
Frank J. Foster and Allen Ball.

I can still hear Abraham Lincoln
speaking in Stewart's Grove in 1840; the
eloquence of William Jennings Bryan
down by the depot in 1896; the Missouri
twang of Harry Truman beside the court-
house in 1948; the clipped sentences of
Dwight Eisenhower at the back of the
campaign train in 1948.

I remember the covered bridge of
1840 ; the flood of 1913 ; the tornado's roar
in 1925.

I am the Historical Society saving Rat-
cliff Inn ; the Kiwanis Club on Corn Day ;
the Rotary Club at its annual barbecue;
the Lions Club at its hamburger stand at
the White County Fair.

Yes, I am 150 years old — but I am


The past has been gracious and good,
but my eyes are on the future. I cherish
the past but look forward eagerly to my
next 150 years.

What will I be in the year 2116?

Look in the mirror.

There is your answer.

?<^^£e tne veQMvnt/nO'

ONG BEFORE there was a
Carmi, Indians lived here.

Through their village ran a trail to a
ford in the river. Eastward it went
through tall prairie grass to the Ouabache
River. Westward it plunged into the deep,
dark forest; forked southward to La
Belle Riviere and west to the Mississippi.

Braves loafed in the sunshine. Squaws
skinned deer, tended fires, carried water
from the stream, worked in corn rows,
picked pumpkins and squash. Children
played with dogs and splashed in the

Shawnees, Piankeshaws and Potawa-
tomis prowled prairie and forest, as free
as foxes and deer. They left the land un-
changed. The river ran crystal clear, swift
and deep. The forest remained uncut, un-

Giant oaks, maples, walnuts, chest-
nuts, sycamores and sweet gums reared
skyward. They were so dense they shut
out the light ; left the forest floor in green
shadow. Grape vines as big as a man's
thigh snaked high into the trees.

This place was wildly beautiful. Whip-
poorwills called. Beavers built dams.
Wolves howled. Passenger pigeons flew in
flocks of millions. There were deer and
bears in abundance.

East of the river, prairie grasses rip-
pled as the waves of the sea. In spring-
time the prairies glowed with scarlet lilies,
yellow cowslips, sweet William and violets.
When the bluestem and Indian grasses
grew in the summer sun they were high
enough to hide a man on horseback.

From the Ouabache River the prairie
sea rolled westward to the Petite Oua-
bache, then stopped — right here!

West of the river was the forest sea —
a mighty green ocean of trees, billowing
and rolling in the ridges, hills and knobs
of southern Illinois.

To the Indians, this land was beauti-
ful, bountiful and old . . . old.

To the pioneers pushing westward, it
was wild, bleak and — new !

^ne 6ea4/n/nin^

mST CAME the trappers and
hunters, seeking fur and game.

And then the land-lookers, wanting to
settle. Daniel Bain, a Revolutionary War
soldier from Virginia, pushed into this
area in 1806. He sired 18 children; was
step-father of six more.

Others built on the Big Prairie —
Peter Kuykendall in 1808; Robert Land,
Thomas Miller, Henry Jones, James Gar-
rison, Thomas Gray and the Rev. Daniel
McHenry in 1809.

Isaac Veach arrived that year. He
turned his back on the prairie ; crossed the
Little Wabash ; built his cabin on the bluff
overlooking the river. It stood just south
of what is now Carmi's Main Street bridge.

People kept arriving at Big Prairie.
In 1810, John Hanna, Captain William Mc-
Henry, Benjamin Mobley, Daniel Boulting-

Perhaps they laughed at Isaac Veach.
Why didn't he choose rich, level land?
Why build a home at the edge of the for-

Most land-lookers wanted not only
good soil but running water. They sought
locations beside a river or creek. That is
where towns were started.

The year 1811 was one of trouble and
terror. Indians were killing and scalping.
Tecumseh was trying to unite all tribes for
war. "This is our land," he told General
William Henry Harrison at Vincennes.

Potawatomis started scalping in Illi-
nois. Gen. Harrison planned an invasion
of Indian territory. People on the prairie
hurried to build blockhouses for protec-
tion. Frightened families fled to these
forts built by Robert Land, John Hanna,
Capt. William McHenry, Hardy Council,
Aaron Williams and John Slocumb.

Going to their com patches, men car-
ried guns; leaned them against stumps.
They armed themselves before shepherd-
ing their families to worship services in
log cabin homes.

The attacks did come. In one raid on
a cabin near here Indians killed two men
and wounded four.

A flaming comet swept the skies that
summer. Worried settlers gazed in awe
and consternation.


Then came that terrifying December

It was 2 a.m. Monday. Settlers slept.

Suddenly, the earth shook. Cabins
shuddered. Logs creaked. Cradles rocked.
Chimneys cracked. Bells rang. Clocks stop-
ped. Dishes crashed.

Cattle bawled. Dogs howled. Horses

People fled from their cabins; hud-
dled in the cold. Parents prayed. Children

The ground rolled in waves. Trees
blew up, cracked, split, fell by the thous-
ands. When earth waves hit the tall tim-
ber, forest giants weaved their tops togeth-
er, interlocked their branches, sprang back
and cracked like whip lashes.

The earth rumbled, roared, split open,
raised in some places, sank in others. On
the prairie, snow-white sand shot up like

Along the Wabash and Little Wabash
Rivers banks caved in. Trees toppled into
the water. Mrs. Edward McCallister hur-
ried her children into a dugout canoe,
pushed it into the Wabash River. Violent
waves forced her to struggle back to the
heaving land.

The earth shook all night and the fol-
lowing day. Tremors continued for three
months, with massive shocks January 23
and February 7.

The praying pioneers didn't know it,
but they had experienced the heaviest
earthquake ever to shake the American
continent. It shook 1,000,000 square miles ;
rang church bells in Boston ; toppled chim-
neys in Charleston, S. C. ; frightened peo-
ple in New Orleans, Washington, D. C,
Louisville and Cincinnati.


While the earth still trembled Indians
harried the countryside. The War of 1812
broke out. A company of mounted U. S.
Rangers rode into the area ; built a block-
house ; guarded the settlers for two years.

Men named Williams and Weed
arrived here in 1812. They looked at
Veach's cabin on the river bluff and liked
the location. They felled trees, burned
brush, built a log dam and ci-ude water
mill, opened a trading post, started a tan-
nery, added a distillery.

Until then the closest mill was at New
Haven. Now, from miles around people
came to the new mill on the Little Wabash.
They brought their com by canoe, on
horseback and on foot.

The late W. D. Hay talked with a
Wayne County man whose people traveled
to the Williams and Weed mill seven years
before there was a Wayne County.

A certain settler, tired of pounding his
com into meal by hand in an Indian mor-
tar, walked more than 30 miles to the mill,
carrying a bushel of corn strapped on his

It took three days to make the round
trip. He spent two nights alone in the
woods ; killed and cooked food when hun-
gry, arrived home tired but happy.

Beside the mill, the tannery was turn-
ing out leather. The distillery was pro-
ducing whisky. The trading post was ex-
changing powder, lead, liquor, coffee and
calico for corn, coonskins, venison hams,
deerskins, ginseng and hogs.

News of this activity reached New
Haven, Shawneetown and Equality.
"Hmm-m-m," said folks down there, "is a
new settlement about to start in our


Leaders of men were living at Equal-
ity, Shawneetown and the U. S. Saline in
those days. Fortunes were being made and
lost at the salt works. Waves of migration
rolled westward, swept through the Wil-
derness Road and down the Ohio River in

Shawneetown was the principal port
of entry into the vast Illinois Territory.
Among the impoverished pioneers were
men of substance and education. They
became the natural leaders.

There was Captain Leonard White,
U. S. agent at the Saline ; former postmas-
ter there ; erstwhile judge of the court of
common pleas.

James Ratcliff, a Virginia gentleman,
succeeded White as postmaster.

Ratcliffs father-in-law was Colonel
Willis Hargrave. Governor Ninian Ed-
wards appointed him commander of the
4th Regiment militia. His property
included numerous slaves.

In the frontier excitement of Shaw-
neetown, Equality and the U. S. Saline one
could find Joseph Pomroy, John Craw,
Lowry Hay and his nephew, John; Har-
grave's sons, George and Samuel ; his sons-
in-law, Ratcliff, Benjamin White and
James A. Richardson.

There was talk at Kaskaskia that the
Territorial Assembly was going to divide
Gallatin County. Well! That would mean
a new county seat.

Big plans were soon afoot. Leonard
White and Lowry Hay got their heads
together. They formed some sort of part-
nership. Hay and his nephew, John, took
over the Williams and Weed mill, tannery
and distillery.

White built a log storehouse near
Hay's mill. George Hargrave started a
store there.

John Craw built a two-room log house
back in the woods. (This is now the en-
larged, beautified home of Miss Mary Jane

On October 16, 1814, John Hay en-
tered the northeast quarter of Section 13.
Through it ran the Little Wabash River.
On it stood the mill, tannery, distillery;
the log homes of Craw and Veach; the
White-Hargrave store. (The greater part
of Carmi now occupies Section 13.)


It was soon learned that Lowry Hay
and Leonard White were the joint proprie-
tors of the proposed town site. On Nov.
29, 1815, Willis Hargrave bought 40 acres
in Section 13 and 40 in Section 14.

More and more people were coming to
trade and have their com ground. The
place had no name. Settlers said they were
going to Hay's Mill or to Hargrave's store.

And then it happened. On December 9,
1815, White County was created. Governor
Edwards appointed the officials for the
new county:

Judges of the County Commissioners
Court, Willis Hargrave, Joseph Pomroy
and the Rev. John C. Slocumb;

County clerk and recorder, James Rat-

Commissioners to fix the seat of ju!
tice. Margrave's sons-in-law, Ratcliff an 1
Benjamin White ; Stephen E. Hogg an I
Samuel Hays;

Colonel of the 5th Regiment count,
militia, Willis Hargrave;

Surveyor, Lowry Hay; sheriff, Ben-
jamin R. Smith; justices of the peace.
Lowry Hay, William Nash, the Rev. Dan-
iel McHenry, Stephen Standly, Thomas
Rutledge, Edmond Covington, Moses
Thompson and Thomas Randolph.

It was all set. Hay, White and Har-
grave owned 220 acres. The grist mill was
busy. Cabins were going up. Why, the
place would soon rival New Haven as a
trading center!

About this time Daniel Hay was on
the move again. The 34-year-old Virginian
was dissatisfied with life in Butler County,

He had a growing family; told his
wife, Priscilla, he longed to go to the Illi-
nois country, perhaps as far north as the
Sangamon River.

In the winter of 1815-1816, Hay sad-
dled his horse, bid his family farewell and
rode northward. He would explore the new
land, decide on a location, then return for
his family.

He crossed the river at Shawneetown ;
rode on to Equality. In the French settle-
ment he paused to listen to men talking
about a new county being organized. It
was named for Leonard White. And there
was Captain White!

Yes, he said he already had interests
up there. On the Little Wabash River he
and Lowry Hay had a mill going. They
had entered land; were going to build a
town — a county seat!

Why not settle there? Go along with

Hay then talked with Willis Hargrave.
Forget the Sangamon, Hay was advised.
Get in on the ground floor of this venture.
We're leaving soon.

One of Ci \\ I

Revolutionary War soldier who served in the company of his
father, Captain Matthew Stewart. The family left North Carolina
and settled near Marion, Kentucky, before coming to Carmi. Wiir
liam Stewart was the father of Dr. Josiah Stewart and grandfather
of Dr. Elam L. Stewart, Carmi's first mayor. He died in 1856 at
the age of 93 and is buried in the Old Graveyard.


It was a cold winter morning in 1816.
Eight men on horseback rode out of Equal-
ity; took the trail toward New Haven.
Daniel Hay was with them. Col. Hargrave
led the way, followed by Capt. Leonard
White ; Margrave's sons, George and Sam-
uel; sons-in-law, Benjamin White, James
A. Richardson and James Ratcliff.

It was a long ride. Perhaps they dis-
mounted at New Haven for rest and
refreshments; talked with Joseph Boone,
Samuel Dagley and Paddy Robinson; then
pushed onward up the snowy trail.

Dusk or darkness must have fallen by
the time they arrived at Hay's mill. Tired
horses whinnied at the sig^t of candle
light, the smell of feed.

Weary riders were cheered to see
smoke spiraling from cabin chimneys ; to
think of hot com bread and venison stew.

Cabin doors opened. People ran out to
welcome the new arrivals; ask for news
from the outside world.

Now ! A county seat must be selected.
Guess where it would be?

On Monday morning, Feb. 5, the four
commissioners met in Lowry Hay's cabin
near the mill. They talked all day; met
again Tuesday and Wednesday, discussing
"the settlements, the geography of the
county, the convenience of the people and
the eligibility of the situation."

By Thursday, Feb. 8, they had made
their decision; were ready to draft their
report. The county seat would be right
here at this settlement without a name.

Now to make it legal. The county com-
missioners — Hargrave, Pomroy and Slo-
cumb — must meet and accept the report.
The following Monday, Feb. 12, they went
to Hay's house. The Rev. Mr. Slocumb
opened the first county court session with


They looked at a crude map of the
large new county. It extended from the
Wabash River westward into what is now
Hamilton, Franklin and part of Jefferson.

They divided the area into three
townships — Prairie, Fox River and West
— appointed overseers of the poor, consta-
bles and fence viewers. After a long day
they adjourned.

The next morning James Ratcliff,
county clerk, and Benjamin R. Smith, sher-
iff, presented their official bonds. The
judges then called for the report of the
commission named to locate the seat of


Ratcliff, White, Hogg and Hays
recommended for the county seat a 40-
acre tract in the northeast quarter of Sec-
tion 13; announced that Leonard White
and Lowry Hay would donate 20 of these
acres to the county. A stake had been
driven in the center to mark the public

The official surveyor, Lowry Hay,
was ordered to lay off the town. Daniel
McHenry was empowered to mark off lota
and sell them.

And so, a town was bom. People didn't
know what to call it . . . Hay's Mill? . . .
Hargrave's Store? No, a new county seat
must have a good name; something with
a meaning.

Did John Slocumb then start leafing
through his Bible? Had he met the Wells
family from Vermont? Far from their
Eastern home, this pioneer family took up
land in this area just before the town was
formally established. Carmi Wells was the
father's name, and the youngest of his
children was named Carmi.

The Wells family moved on ; settled in
Wayne County, but they left their name
here. The parents died and the grand-
father came west to take the children back
to Vermont.

Meeting at John Craw's log house on
April 10, leaders decided to call the town
Carmi, a name mentioned eight times in
Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua and
First Chronicles.

^ne ibuf^ a/i'^em o/nd p^oti/iciiAed ,

KITE COUNTY grew fast. By
1818 it passed Gallatin in popu-
lation— 3,529 to 3,348— and was the third
most populous county in the state.

Settlers poured into Prairie, Fox
River and West Townships. The forest
echoed to axes. More and more cabins were
built in Carnii. The western boundary was
where the Methodist Church now stands —
but that was 'way out in the country. And
the country then was a forest !

Oh, the town was thriving. Lowry
Hay added a sawmill. He and his nephew
shipped whisky, pork and com to New
Orleans. The river front was a busy place
when flatboats were being loaded.

James S. Graham started a ferry
close to his hotel; opened a store and
blacksmith shop.

George Webb and James Gray ran
trading posts. They paid %\ for pork bar-
rels, 12V^c a pound for deerskins, 4c a
pound for hogs.

Settlers trading there found these
prices :

Bacon 10c lb.; eggs I21/2C a doz. ;
chickens 10c each ; tallow 12i/^c lb. ; salt 6c
lb. ; tea 2 ounces 37c ; coffee 50c lb. ; sugar
32c lb.; soap 25c bar; wheat $1 bu. ;

Jack knife 371/2C; fish hooks 37V2C
doz.; looking glass 871/20; flints 25c doz.;
lead 25c lb. ; powder $1.25 lb. ; curry comb
371/2C; nails 25c lb.; grindstone $2.75;
nails and planks for coffin 621/2C;

Socks 87V^c pair; buttons 25 and 50c
doz. ; flannel 621/2C yd. ; broadcloth $3 and
$4 yd.; linen $1.25 yd.; silk $1.50 yd.;
needles I21/2C doz. ; oilcloth 75c ; bedspread
$2 ; ribbons 25c yd. ; indigo 2 ounces 25c.


A frame jail was built (where the
Municipal Building now stands) but the
county still had no courthouse. Court was
held in the home of John Craw.

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