Category Archives: Photos/Postcards

5th and Adams – Then and Now



The greenhouse in the above image was located on the southwest corner of 5th and Adams Streets. W. H. Druse constructed a greenhouse at that address in 1893. Later, Frank Burtenshaw either leased or purchased the business. At the time of the photo, the greenhouse was most likely owned by the Frank Brothers.





The Fourth Ward School stood on the northeast corner of 5th and Adams, at 316 W. Fifth. The building was declared unsafe due to the effects of high water. In 1914 it was replaced by Beard School, located on higher ground – the site of Beardstown’s first city cemetery.


Willow Bugs

Many summers during the last century Beardstown residents and business owners had to contend with swarms of may flies, also known as willow flies. These insects, that only live for a few hours, were drawn by the hundreds of thousands to street lights and the display windows of downtown stores.

In July of 1907, five wagon loads of the dead insects were hauled away. A two and a half-foot pile of them stood at the corner of Main and State Streets, the location of the above, undated, picture postcard.

Other items of note in the image – S. L. Von Fossen‘s row of businesses is seen in the white buildings at the end of the block. His monument works, music store, and “Big Store” sold everything from pianos and and groceries, to grave monuments, one of which is visible in front of the stores, beyond an early automobile.

Further along, toward the wagon bridge and the river, there is a “Garage” sign. In 1913 R. C. Schell sold Ford and Moline automobiles at 116 N. State, and Cannon and Billings ran an auto livery service at the same address.

Wm. Comerford’s saloon can be seen nearest the edge of the photograph, in the building that was torn down prior the the construction of Beardstown’s U. S. Post Office. Information about Comerford’s saloon has been hard to find, but it was the scene of a murder. On July 25, 1914, Thomas Ratcliff was shot three times by the jealous former husband of a woman he had been seeing.

1908 Fish Fry & Carnival

Looking east, toward the corner of 2nd and State, August 21, 1908 –


Fish Fry, long looked forward to, long remembered, dawned bright and clear, and the early morning brought a line of teams from every road leading into town. By ten o’clock the streets were crowded, and the noon trains brought added thousands to spend the day.

The Beardstown Cadet band rendered excellent concerts during the day, and the different places of amusements did a rushing business. It was estimated that 6,000 people were served fish at noontime.

The usual scenes attending the serving of the fish and bread were re-enacted this year and it was one grand rush from the time of serving of the fish until the last bit had been disposed of.

Miss Mazie Link, a young lady very popular among the younger set, was elected queen of the Carnival, after a contest of about two weeks’ duration. A great deal of interest was manifested in Miss Link from the first and her success was no surprise. Miss Blanche Hagerstrom was second. The vote stood: Miss Mazie Link, 7,997; Miss Blanche Hagerstrom, 5,500; Miss Gertrude Evans, 3,198; Miss Chloe Miller, 2,100.

The queen crowning ceremony will take place in the Wild Animal show at 9 o’clock this evening.

The Cosmopolitan Shows have demonstrated their ability to entertain the crowds, and a cleaner, more agreeable and acceptable Carnival company never visited the city. All the shows are good, and are well worth the price of admission. The Wild Animal show in particular is a feature attraction, and draws large crowds. The three free attractions are well worth seeing and are given twice daily. One is at the corner of Main and Jefferson, another at the corner of Main and Lafayette, and the third at the corner of Third and Washington.

During the early part of the week not much interest was manifested, but Thursday the usual Carnival conditions prevailed, and the people commenced to arrive from everywhere. The weather is ideal and barring Wednesday, has been good all the week. The mayor by his warning as to confetti, has removed one of the most objectionable features of the Carnival, and tonight, the big night of all, will undoubtedly be one of the best ever given here.

Kennedy’s Window the Best
It was the decision of the judges that had been appointed, that the window of C. F. Kennedy’s store was the best in the city. The window in purple and white was the one awarded the prize, and the attractive display of the goods for sale was the basis of decision.

Confetti Warning
L. W. Pilger, Chief of Police:
I hereby ask you to instruct all police officers under you to arrest any one found or caught throwing confetti or other articles in people’s faces or at them in any way.
R. H. Garm, Mayor

LOST – A purple crochet money bag trimmed with beads. Finder can have money if purse is returned to Mrs. C. J. Baujan.
The Illinoian-Star – Friday, August 21, 1908


With the closing performance of the different carnival attractions the Cosmopolitan Company, like the silent Arab, will quietly fold its tent and steal away in the night, bound for Burlington, Iowa, where they will hold forth next week.

It has been a good week taking all things into consideration, and the attractions furnished by the Cosmopolitan Company have been morally clean. The streets this morning were quiet as compared with yesterday, but during the afternoon the crowds increased in size. But after all, there is only one banner day in a week’s celebration, and that is Fish Fry day. This one day in Beardstown history has become familiar to people residing for many miles in all directions. It was established years ago, away back in Aug. 1891, when the first public free fish fry was given on Thursday, August 27, under the direction of the Illinois Rivermen’s Protective Association and attracted some 2,000 or 3,000 visitors from nearby towns. The fish and bread were served from 10 o’clock in the morning until 1 o’clock in the afternoon. The Browning Band furnished the music.

In 1892 there was no celebration, but in 1893 the business men gathered together and had a rousing celebration on the twenty-third of August. The next year it was held at what was then known as Woodland Park, near Wood Slough, but the following year the business men again took a hold of the affair and it has been an annual event each year. . . . .
The Illinoian-Star – Saturday, August 22, 1908

Dry Flood of 1943

A few years ago, a friend and I spent some time cataloging photographic negatives at the Illinois State Archives. During the course of this project, we came across several envelopes of images that indicated they were photographed in Beardstown. One group of negatives was shot during the “Dry Flood” of 1943, when the endurance of Beardstown’s flood protection system and its citizens were tested to the breaking point.


Governor Dwight Green (light-colored suit, next to army officers) in front of Beardstown’s wagon bridge.

In previous floods, the Illinois River rose slowly enough to give people ample warning to move their belongings to a place of safety and evacuate. By 1943, however, levees and a concrete “seawall” were in place, and a breach in either would quickly inundate the town. Beardstown citizens, aided by U. S. Army and state military personnel, worked tirelessly to sandbag and reinforce the barriers. Their efforts were rewarded as the river eventually receded, and the town was spared.

Included in the group of images mentioned above were several of a band of talented musicians made up of African-American soldiers. In addition to their duties fighting the rising water, they performed impromptu concerts several times during the crisis – raising the spirits of soldier and citizen alike.


Green Lauds Beardstown

Governor Dwight H. Green, speaking on a radio broadcast at noon yesterday from the flood-threatened bank of the Illinois River at Beardstown, praised the courage and determination of the residents of the flood-stricken areas of the state and promised them all possible aid in rebuilding their communities.

“The heroic people of Beardstown who are fighting this mighty river in a long, relentless struggle which is still going on, are Illinois’ greatest example of the high courage and grim determination which will prevail in all the flooded districts of the state,” Governor Green said.

“The citizens of Beardstown, and the citizens of all Illinois areas where flood is a menace, deserve the highest possible praise for their brave fight.  But we must not be content with praising them – they also deserve our fullest assistance and co-operation – and in recognition of that fact, your State Government, Federal and State Military authorities, and many independent civilian agencies have been working side by side with the local flood fighters in every section of Illinois.


Governor Green and Mayor Cline survey the situation in Beardstown. The men on the left are unidentified.

“I know I am speaking for the people of Beardstown when I say that the work of the Federal and State Military detachments here cannot be praised too highly.  The tireless men of the 732nd Military Police Battalion and those of Company C of the 739th Military Police Battalion have done a job of sandbagging and patrolling the twelve and a half miles of seawall and levee that has contributed much to the saving of the city.  Without them, and without the strong arms and willing hands of the men of the Illinois State Reserve Militia, we might have lost the Battle of Beardstown almost as soon as it began.

“The Red Cross, the local Council of Defense, and churches and civic groups from neighboring towns as well as from Beardstown, also deserve much credit for preventing suffering and for providing many needed comforts for both evacuees and workers.

“Facilities of all state agencies which could be utilized in meeting flood disaster have been placed at the disposal of civilian flood-fighters here and throughout Illinois.  And as we speak here now, directors of State Departments are in Washington, conferring with members of the Illinois Congressional delegation, seeking Federal assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation in the flooded areas.”
Illinoian-Star – May 28, 1943

Bell Cemetery


Bell Cemetery Vicinity 1874

I have relatives buried in the old Bell Cemetery on the western edge of the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area, near Chandlerville, and have hiked out there several times over the years.

PantherCreek7The Showalter, Robinson, and Baker families are among those who came to Cass County from the State of Virginia around 1850. They owned land in the vicinity of the cemetery, and their names can be found on some of the headstones there. As the frontier moved west, so did some of the families who made the Panther Creek area their home for a few years.

One of the grave markers in the cemetery is that of Crockett Nester. Here is the story of his demise, followed by a few photos taken in Bell Cemetery and vicinity at different times of the year:

CNesterCrockett Nestor, a farmer, pretty generally known throughout the county, committed suicide at his home place, near Chandlerville, on last Thursday. The news did not reach here until Friday, and then the details were not given. Inquiry elicited the following facts: Some days previous to the commission of the deed by which he forfeited his own life, Nestor bought, at the store of Mr. Neff, in Chandlerville, several yards of rope which, it was supposed, was to make halters of. Thursday morning some of the boys about the farm, who had been hauling wood past the barn, were instructed by Nestor to take a different route, thus leaving the way clear for the suicide, who evidently feared his purpose might be discovered and his plan frustrated. He told some members of his family that he was going to Chandlerville, and left the house, going to the barn ostensibly to get a horse to ride to the village. This was the last seen of him alive. About 5 o’clock some of the boys went to the barn, where the lifeless body of Crocket Nestor was found hanging from a rafter, stark and stiff. The alarm was at once given, but the body was not cut down until about 11 o’clock that night. The coroner was notified and an inquest was held the next day, the verdict of the jury being suicide by hanging. In the commission of the act all the surroundings show that deliberate preparation was made. Deceased had removed his boots and coat, and tied a handkerchief over his head and under his jaw. A board was so arranged as to enable him to climb up to the rafter, fasten the rope and adjust it around his neck. This done, the suicide doubtless allowed himself to fall from the board and into the opening between the loft and lower part of the stable, where his lifeless body was found hours afterwards.
The Virginia Gazette – Friday, February 9, 1883 – p. 5

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