9. Fireworks: Arthur Freedom Festival
The Arthur Freedom Festival features fireworks. The fireworks are 30 plus minutes of continuous, multiple aerial displays, attracting 30-40,000 spectators. The Festival has a parade, military airplane flybys and skydivers, vendors and more.
Arthur is also home to another festival: The Arthur Cheese Festival! It includes food (of course cheese), running at the rat race, a tractor pull, parade, live music, Amish farm shops, and shopping the sales in town. They hold competitions as well, like the National Cheese Eating Championships and the International Cheese Curling Championships. The festival is Labor Day weekend in September.
10. Radio Tower: WDZ Radio in Tuscola
WDZ, the third radio station in the nation, started in Tuscola, Illinois. WDZ started in 1917 in the office of the James Bush Grain Elevator Company in Tuscola, Illinois with the intent to broadcast grain prices. On March 17, 1921, the first grain report went out and what was to become WDZ was born. These reports were also the first of their kind in the U.S.
In January, 1922, the call letters WDZ were assigned to the station. The tiny 15 watt transmitter was increased to a 50 watt one. This was quite powerful at the time since the air was clear of interferences. The new commercial WDZ would offer grain reports and started mixing some music in.
In the spring of 1927, the station was given a fulltime 100-watt license. The station slogan was “the buckle of the corn belt.” The station was now given a license to broadcast at 1070 AM and was confined to daytime only broadcasting.
In 1929, WDZ started selling spot commercials and varied programming. A whole new purpose would start. Live musical performance dominated the airwaves in the early years. Dramas, comedy acts, children’s shows, religious programs, talk and educational programs soon followed.
In March, 1936, the WDZ’s frequency again changed, this time to 1020 a.m. and power increased to 250 watts. In 1939 a final power increase took the station’s power up to 1000 watts, still as a daytime only station.
During the Depression, the Bushes saw a chance to help the poor and down-and-outs of the Depression in Illinois and nearby states with a little entertainment by mixing in music and programs. WDZ was very country and local during the week, but expanded out to many professionals on Sunday. Everything was live.
According to Ray Livesay, "The records of the day were so poor in quality that live entertainment was the best. WDZ hired top-notch announcers and entertainment to produce a huge amount of entertainment and programming. The little town of Tuscola was very famous during the 1930's and 1940's.”By 1940, WDZ claimed a listenership of some 77,000 homes across East-Central Illinois.
The station remained in Tuscola until 1949. After moving to Decatur, an auxiliary studio was operated in Tuscola by Curt Marsh until 1956. The studio was moved from the abstract office to the McCumber Building that year, and Rosemary Nussel operated it until 1958.
Field Museum of Natural History plant specimen from Margery Carlson c.1972
Johnny Gruelle with his dolls
4. Windmill: Old Farm Windmill
A common sight on the Illinois farm was the windmill. The American windmill, or wind engine, was invented in 1854 and was used mostly for lifting water from wells. Farmers were no longer dependent on natural water as they could drill wells and pump water. The water pumped by windmills was used to cook, bathe, drink, water crops and animals, wash clothes, and more. Larger versions were also used for tasks such as sawing wood, chopping hay, and shelling and grinding grain. You can still see old windmills driving along farms in Douglas County today.
3. Courthouse: Old Douglas County Courthouse & Politician Joseph Gurney “Uncle Joe” Cannon
Douglas County was formed in 1859 out of Coles County. The bill providing for the creation of the county permitted an April 1859 public vote on the location of the seat, and candidate communities included Tuscola, Arcola, Camargo, and Hackett's Grove. The county court quickly annulled this vote, due to gross electoral fraud (the number of votes from both Tuscola and Arcola was ten times the number of voters in the two towns), and only after a second vote one month later could the seat's assignment to Tuscola be settled.
The initial purpose-built courthouse was a small wooden building, which was erected at private expense. Construction began in 1864 on the second courthouse, pictured in the mural, which was a two-story brick building with sheriff's house and jail in the basement. O.L. Kinney, the Chicago architect responsible for the design, projected a $15,000 cost, but the final cost amounted to nearly three times that estimate. Further costs appeared on an annual basis, due to numerous problems that required expensive maintenance, and the placement of the jail inside the courthouse was eventually deemed unsafe to use. Consequently, the current courthouse was built in its place over a two-year period, beginning in 1911 and being completed in 1913 costing approximately $170,000 to complete.
Joseph Gurney “Uncle Joe” Cannon:
Joseph G. Cannon (1836 –1926) was a United States politician and leader of the Republican Party. Cannon served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1903 to 1911, and many consider him to be the most dominant Speaker in United States history. He is the second-longest continuously serving Republican Speaker in history and the longest serving Republican Representative ever, as well as first member of Congress, of either party, ever to surpass 40 years of service.
Cannon grew up in Indiana the elder of two sons of Gulielma and Horace Franklin Cannon, a teacher and doctor. When Joseph was fifteen years old, Horace was killed trying to reach a patient. Young Cannon took charge of the family farm.
In 1858, he was admitted to the bar and later relocated to Tuscola where he became State's attorney for the 27th judicial district of Illinois (1861 to 1868). In 1872, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served for 46 years. In 1876, Cannon moved to Danville. Cannon was a staunch conservative who, because of seniority, held important committee chairmanships. As Speaker of the House, he exercised the power of that office in a blatantly partisan manner until March 1910, when a resolution passed, making the speaker ineligible for membership on the committee on rules, which took away much of his power.
Cannon brought a federal Veterans Administration Hospital to Danville which continues to serve military veterans. He also appeared on the cover of the first issue of Time magazine.
Denver Darling with WDZ Radio musicians
11. Crop Duster Plane: Airport & Crop Dusting
Aviation has been a part of Douglas County since the early 1930’s. Several impromptu landing places were used around Douglas County until Howard Cooper's semi-permanent airport was established in 1939 on the Wayne Stevens Farm in Tuscola, IL. In 1941, Cooper Cooper Flying Field was established at the junction of Rt. 36 and Rt. 45 by Howard’s brother, Paris Leslie, after Howard left to serve in World War II. Cooper Flying Field was used for both the airport and his Minneapolis-Moline parts and repair service. Howard returned in 1945 and the airport continued until a new strip was built in the early 1950’s two miles east of Camargo, IL., on the south side of Rt. 36. The Cooper brothers embarked on many flying escapades and made a name or themselves in the world of aviation in this part of the state. After World War II, many returning servicemen were eager to return to the skies and the airport was a hub of activity. Paris’s former wife Leone operated the airport, an automobile dealership and implement dealership under the name Cooper Sales & Service and leased the airport to Earl Stoops from around 1947-48 until 1952. At that time, spraying fields became popular. In 1952, Earl’s spray plane crashed, leaving Tuscola without an airport. It wasn’t until 1953 that another airport was built on land owned by Claude Ware and “Okaw Spray Service” was started by Roy Thompson. Planes were purchased and housed at airport hangers. In 1954, a new plane and hangar were added and in 1956, Paris Cooper, Willis Winn and Skeezix Adkisson added four more hangars. Skeezix and his brother Jerry even created a homebuilt airplane in '56 & '57 and flew it to the EAA in Oshkosh, WI. Willis Winn took over management in the early 1970’s. The Tuscola Airport Improvement, Ltd. Is a not for profit private airport dedicated to public use leased on land. You can still see crop planes taking off and landing from the airport today.
Rail scene in Arthur
Autograph photo to Tuscola from Smiley Burnette
Zeigler Coal Mine no. 1 photos taken December of 1941; Escape route map for the mine; Miner's carbide helmet in the collection
14. Wooly Worm: Camargo Wooly Worm Festival
The Camargo Woolly Worm Festival began several years ago. There were dedicated “Camargoians” who started and kept this family friendly festival going. Entertainment, music, a pageant, shopping, a 5K race, games, a talent show, a glow parade and more are all a part of this fun event taking place in October.
Camargo is the earliest settled portion of Douglas County, deriving from the name of the city of Camargo in Mexico. Nearby Patterson Springs was also the home to many Chautauquas. A Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day.
Arcola Carnegie Public Library
12. Baseball: Athletes Maxine Thayer, Richard Hyde & Dr. Benjamin Roller
Maxine Thayer (1921-2006) was a softball player and coach. Dubbed Indy's 'First Lady of Softball,' she was born and lived in Tuscola and played softball from the early 1940’s to 1955. She then went on to coach and manage ASA Women’s Fast Pitch teams like the Anchorettes for 29 years, participating in 7 National Tournaments with a 3rd place finish in 1974. She became the most winning coach with 1,118 wins and 475 losses. She also coached AAU basketball and softball and basketball at Arlington High School and was co-owner of the Metro Softball Stadium.
Her distinguished lifetime achievements also include: was presented in 1963 with the All Sports Award medal by the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce; was the Deputy Softball Commissioner for 28 years in Indy; was the league director of slow pitch for girls under 19 years old; nominated for 1976 Indianapolis Woman of the Year; included in 1977- 78 edition of Who's Who of American Women; was presented with Sagamore of the Wabash award by Governor Robert Orr in 1984; Mayor William Hudnut declared August 19, 1984 'Maxine Thayer Day'; became the first woman lifetime member of ASA in 1978; and was inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 1988. She dedicated her life to athletics and to ‘her girls.’ She loved her athletes and wanted success for them both on and off the playing field.
Richard Elde Hyde:
Richard Hyde (August 3, 1928 – April 15, 2020) was an American relief pitcher in professional baseball who worked in the Major Leagues for six seasons from 1955 to 1961 for the Washington Senators (1955, 1957–1960) and Baltimore Orioles (1961). A right-handed pitcher, he stood 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) and weighed 170 pounds (77 kg). Born in Hindsboro, Illinois, he was the father of professional baseball pitcher Rich Hyde.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin Roller:
Dr. Benjamin Franklin Roller (1876-1933) was a physician, university professor, and three-time American Heavyweight Champion wrestler. He grew up on a farm in Newman, IL before attending school in Indiana. He played football and track. To earn money for college, he became a professional football player.
After college, he practiced medicine briefly before teaching. During his tenure at the University of Washington in Seattle, he became a professional wrestler at the age of 30, with his first match in 1906. Roller’s first professional match was against Jack Carkeek. Roller won two falls in a period of 17 minutes and received $1,600. After that, he started having matches around the Northwest, under the names Dr. Roller, Dr. Benjamin Roller, Dr. B.F. Roller, and Doc Roller. He next wrestled Frank Gotch in an exhibition match, for which he received $4,000. After the bout with Gotch, Roller decided to use wrestling as tool for traveling the world and studying under the noted professors in both the United States and Europe. Over the span of his career, Roller defeated many of the top wrestlers of his day. These wrestlers included Farmer Burns, Fred Beell, Ed Lewis, and Joe Stecher. From 1906–1918, Roller posted a record of 39 wins, 26 losses, and 4 draws in 69 matches. Frank Gotch, considered to be the best wrestler of all time by many, hailed Dr. Roller the "second best" wrestler in the United States in 1909.
Roller retired in 1918 and continued to practice medicine. He died of pneumonia in 1933 and is now buried alongside his family in Newman.
1. Corn – Agriculture & Farming
2. Parachutist – Pilot C.A.P. & Parachutist Minnie Conn Jolley
3. Courthouse – Old Courthouse & Politician Joseph G. Cannon
4. Windmill – Farm Windmill
5. Wind Turbines - Harvest Ridge Wind Farm of Newman
6. Mining Helmet & Pick Axe – Murdock Mine
7. Accordion & Hat – Musician & Actor Lester Alvin “Smiley” Burnett
8. Horse & Buggy – Amish Settlement
9. Fireworks – Arthur Fireworks
10. Radio Tower – WDZ Radio of Tuscola
11. Crop Duster Plane – Airport & Agriculture
12. Baseball – Athletes: Maxine Thayer, Richard Elde Hyde, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Roller
13. Apple – Atwood Apple Dumpling Festival
14. Wooly Worm – Camargo Wooly Worm Festival
15. Old Plow – Farmers & Douglas County Farm Bureau
16. Raggedy Ann – Inventor, Artist & Author Johnny Gruelle
17. Beakers – Botanist & Expeditioner Margery Carlson
18. Broom & Broomcorn – Agriculture & Arcola Broomcorn Festival
19. Soybeans – Agriculture & Farming
20. Grain Elevator – Hayes Grain Elevator
21. Olympic Rings – Olympians Kenneth Leon "Tug" Wilson & Linda Joan Metheny
22. Blacksmith Anvil & Hammer – Streibich Blacksmith Shop in Newman
23. Syrup Bottle – Villa Grove Pancake Festival
24. Guitar – Musicians: The Henningsens, Pete Bridgewater & Denver Darling
25. Train Engine – Railroads & Villa Grove C&EI Division Headquarters and Roundhouse
Gruelle's 1915 patent for Raggedy Ann
Pancake Festival street scene
Arcola train depot
7. Accordion & Hat: Lester Alvin “Smiley” Burnett
Smiley Burnette (1911 –1967) was a country music performer and comedic actor in Western films, radio and TV, playing sidekick to Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and other movie cowboys. He was also a prolific singer-songwriter who could play as many as 100 musical instruments. His career spanned four decades.
In his teens in 1929, he worked for WDZ Radio in Tuscola. Burnette came by his nickname while creating a character for a WDZ children's program from a Mark Twain character.
In 1933, he was hired by Gene Autry to play accordion on National Barn Dance on Chicago's WLS-AM. In 1934, as sound films were gaining popularity, Autry and Burnette were cast in their film debut Old Santa Fe. Burnette and Gene Autry produced 62 Westerns together with Burnette playing Autry's comedic sidekick, Frog Millhouse. By 1940, Burnette ranked second only to Autry in a Box-office magazine popularity poll of Western stars. Burnette also played a sidekick to Eddie Dew, Sunset Carson, and Bob Livingston, and Roy Rogers. Charles Starrett and Burnette were paired in 56 films.
Smiley Burnette wrote more than 400 songs and sang many on screen. "Ridin' Down the Canyon", was later recorded by Willie Nelson & other artists. He also composed musical scores for such films as The Painted Stallion and Waterfront Lady.
In the mid-1960s, he portrayed railway engineer Charley Pratt on the CBS-TV programs Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. A month before his 56th birthday just after filming wrapped for the fourth season of Petticoat, he became ill and died from leukemia.
Douglas County is also home to Actor James Gammon of Newman, IL. and Actress Jennie Garth who spent much of her youth on a 25-acre horse ranch between Sadorus and Arcola, Illinois.
Pete Bridgewater signed autograph to Tuscola
Joseph G. Cannon
Kenneth Tug Wilson
Villa Grove railroad crew on turntable
13. Apple: Atwood Apple Dumpling Festival
The quaint village is the home to the locally well-known Apple Dumplin' Festival each year in August. This weekend event features live music, a small-town bazaar, mud-volleyball tournament, a patriotic parade, horse shoe tournament, wood carvers, and of course delicious apple dumplings and ice cream.
The village of Atwood originated as an offshoot of the small settlement of Mackville, located about a mile north of present-day Atwood. Once the railroad went through, Mackville inhabitants would say, "meet me at the woods", thus the beginnings of present-day Atwood. Soon establishments began springing up around the railroad tracks and Mackville slowly dissolved into present-day farm ground.
24. Guitar: Musicians The Henningsens, Pete Bridgewater, Denver Darling & WDZ Musicians
(2008-present) is an American country music trio consisting of Brian Henningsen, his son Aaron, and daughter Clara from Atwood. In 2008 at church, Aaron met Wynonna Judd's husband and Highway 101 member Cactus Moser, who in turn shared The Henningsens' demo recordings with producer Paul Worley. The Henningsens co-wrote The Band Perry's singles "You Lie" and "All Your Life", as well as several album tracks on The Band Perry. Their collaborative efforts would later yield several album cuts on Pioneer. Other songs that The Henningsens wrote include "Love It Out Loud" for Wynonna Judd, "Alone" for Sara Evans, and "Six Gold Coins" by Highway 101. They then signed to Arista Nashville and began working with Worley on their debut album.
On December 17, 2012, the trio released their debut single "American Beautiful". In August 2015, they released a tribute song to honor the farmers, “Why I Farm,” in partnership with Beck's Hybrids. On June 16th, 2017, The Henningsens released their first LP album, World's On Fire.
There’s a heartland theme that runs throughout the music of The Henningsens, which seems only natural for a family from rural Atwood, Illinois, where their 1700-acre farm has offered home and livelihood – and, at times, school, playground, and even birthplace – across seven generations.
“We try to be very lyrically descriptive,” Brian says. “We always say it when we write: we’re trying to make a little movie play in your mind.”
Pete Bridgewater (1916-2003) was born to Preston and Effie Chavous Bridgewater of Tuscola and graduated from Tuscola High School. Pete Bridgewater's name and the jazz and big band sounds were synonymous for years in East Central Illinois.
The Bridgewater family has been an influential force on the Champaign-Urbana jazz music scene for many years. Pete’s father Preston, was a cornet player for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Band. Born in 1910 and attending Tuscola schools, his brother Cecil played trumpet in the U.S. Navy Jazz Band in WWII. Cecil married pianist, Erma Scott.
Pete, who also served in WWII, played bass and led several bands. He had his own musical group, called the Pete Bridgewater Quintet. He was an announcer on WKID and WITY radio stations, and was a jazz DJ on WDWS for twenty years with a slot several hours on Tuesday—Thursday nights and Sunday evenings. He also announced a show on WBCP.
Cecil’s son, Cecil Bridgewater Jr. was a driving force in Champaign-Urbana jazz after serving in Vietnam. He traveled with the UofI Jazz Band, winning many awards. He married famous singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, who has won two Grammy Awards and a Tony Award. Cecil, Jr. went on to work with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Band and Max Roach. He and his brother Ron played, composed, taught, and recorded music. Ron played with many jazz greats and on Broadway hit shows and went on to teach at the UofI School of Music.
Denver Darling & WDZ Musicians:
There were many musicians that came out of WDZ radio as well. Besides Smiley Burnette, another popular talent at the Tuscola WDZ station was radio cowboy Denver Darling. Darling was born in Whopock, Illinois and raised in Jewett. He started playing guitar at the age of twelve and began working at a radio station in Terre Haute Indiana seven years later. Over the next six years, Darling sang at several Midwestern radio stations. He played the guitar and sang on the WDZ station in the early 1930's. At the end of 1937, he came to New York City where he would spend most of his career.
In November 1941, Darling made his recording debut; in the midst of his second session, World War II erupted. His subsequent patriotic songs, such as "Cowards Over Pearl Harbor," "The Devil and Mr. Hitler," and "When Mussolini Laid His Pistol Down," were designed to inspire troops and provide comfort for their families back home. Over the next five years, he released 36 singles, not all of them were patriotic; Darling also recorded under the name of Tex Grande and his Range Riders. In total, he made over 120 records until he began having throat problems and grew uncomfortable with big city life in 1947. He and his family moved back to Jewett, where Darling lived as a farmer for the next 30 years.
22. Blacksmith Anvil & Hammer: Streibich Blacksmith Shop in Newman
The Streibich Blacksmith Shop is a historic blacksmith shop located at 1 N. Howard St. in Newman, Illinois. The shop was built in 1870 for local blacksmith Ignatius Streibich. Streibich's shop produced farming equipment and domestic items for residents of the area. In addition, Streibich started the first electric power plant in Douglas County in the shop in 1891. While the power plant only lasted a year, it provided a model for future electrification efforts in Newman. Streibich retired in 1912, and his son Fred purchased the shop in 1916. Fred Streibich operated the blacksmith shop until his death in 1932. Machinist Kermit O. Tucker operated a shop in the building from 1938 to 1969. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Another place in Douglas County on the list of the National Register of Historic Places is the Arcola Carnegie Public Library which was dedicated in 1905.
Streibich Blacksmith Shop
20. Grain Elevator: Hayes Grain Elevator
The village of Hayes is four miles north of Tuscola on either side of the Illinois Central Railroad. In the 1880’s, it was a convenient shipping point for the surrounding farmers.
The Tuscola Grain Company was a co-partnership, consisting of Wilber F. Goodspeed, of Tuscola and W. Ernest Orndorff of Mattoon. They owned a operated both the large grain elevators in Tuscola, one at the east end of North Central Avenue, and the other, the Hayes elevator, on the Illinois Central railroad right-of-way, just south of the Hayes/Villa Grove Road off Route 45. Later, the Tuscola Cooperative Grain Company, founded 1930, purchased the original Rice and John Ervin elevators at Tuscola and Hayes from the late Ernest Orndorff. The elevator burned and collapsed in a fire in 1997.
The grain elevator was built to alleviate the job of having people shoveling grain into the train which was a time consuming and tedious task. Early grain elevators and bins were often built of framed or cribbed wood, and were prone to fire. Grain-elevator bins, tanks, and silos are now usually made of steel or reinforced concrete. The original grain elevators were powered by steam and nowadays they are run by motors and electricity. A grain elevator has several containers that contain grain and the grain is held there by the farmer so the farmer can wait until they want to sell it. They often are operated by a co-op that several different farms take part in. Grain elevators act as receiving and testing offices, weighbridges, and storage facilities. Today, there are many active grain elevators throughout Douglas County. Just look for the line of semi-trucks during harvest season or the large piles of corn!
17. Beakers: Margery C. Carlson
Margery C. Carlson (1892-1985) was a Botanist & Expeditioner born in Arthur, IL to John E. Carlson & Nellie Marie Johnson. She was the first woman to major in botany at Northwestern University and went on to become the first full-time female professor at Northwestern. She was also a research assistant at the Field Museum and made five international trips to Mexico and Central America to discover and catalog various plant species with her partner Kate Staley.
Traveling the dense jungle terrain by jeep, airplane, ox, and on foot, she discovered many new plant species and collected thousands of plants often for the Field Museum on her expeditions. She was the first lead female expeditioner to ever travel to the mountains of El Salvador for a scientific project.
Carlson was a founder of the Illinois Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and there is a wildflower garden Illinois Lighthouse Park in Evanston and a nature center named in her honor in LaSalle County.
She won two major awards from the Garden Club of America, an honorary member of Graduate Women in Science, and a fellowship named after her and her partner, the Margery Carlson & Kate Staley Fellowship."
5. Wind Turbines: Harvest Ridge Wind Farm in Newman
A wind turbine is a windmill-like structure specifically developed to generate electricity. Harvest Ridge Wind Farm is located in northeastern Douglas County, north of the town of Newman. The wind farm complements the area’s sprawling corn and soybean fields, providing farmers with a stable, drought-resistant cash crop in the form of landowner lease payments. Modern wind turbine generators are sophisticated, high-tech machines designed to capture the kinetic energy of the wind and convert it into electricity. Harvest Ridge Wind Farm has an installed capacity of 200 megawatts (MW) — enough to power approximately 68,000 average Illinois homes. It also saves more than 355 million gallons of water each year and will displace carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants, a major contributor to climate change. Wind energy also enhances air quality by helping to mitigate the health effects of harmful air pollutants.
Roosevelt stopping in Tuscola in 1912
23. Syrup bottle: Villa Grove Pancake Festival
Villa Grove was known for its Pancake Festivals in the 1940s, which drew crowds over 10,000 over its years of existence. The idea of the festival came out of a business venture. Charles Walmann and John Dineen, representatives from the Pillsbury Flour Company, contacted two grocery store operators in Villa Grove, with the idea of serving free pancakes for a church supper to help advertise Pillsbury products. The store owners thought serving the pancakes in their stores would be a better idea and from that, the idea of sponsoring a Pancake Festival for building up good relations was formed. The mayor of Villa Grove, John Henson, became the general chairman of the festival and the first Pancake Festival was held on November 19, 1940 with an estimated crowd of 5000 people in attendance. The festival became so popular, it attracted Hollywood personality, Smiley Burnett, and had its own queen. The festival lasted 18 years, but with costs mounting, the decision was made to not have a festival in 1958. In the 1970s, the festival was replaced by the Ag Days celebration.
Newspaper Advertising from Greenville Daily Advocate
Minnie Conn Jolley Airmen Identification Card
Uncle Joe Cannon giving a speech at the dedication ceremony for the current courthouse on June 12, 1913
Arcola broom factory; Broomcorn harvest coming through town; Broomcorn Festival broomcorn palace
8. Horse & Buggy: Amish Community
Founded nearly 150 years ago, the Amish community in the Arthur area is the oldest and largest Amish settlement in Illinois. Over the last century and a half, the Amish community has grown to become a large and integral part of the Arthur way of life. While farming has always been a significant part of the Amish culture, other cottage industries have arisen such as woodworking, cabinet-making, quilting and baking. The Amish maintain a level of craftsmanship in all of their work that keeps their community thriving to this day.
One of the main attractions of the area is the members of the Old Order Amish Faith. In 1864, three Amish men came from Pennsylvania and Maryland in search of new and better farm ground. They discovered the area that was to become Arthur and returned to their respective homes. In 1865, they returned with family and friends. There are several Amish Centennial Farms in the area. From these few settlers, the Amish settlement grew to its present size of approximately 4,000 members.
19. Soybeans: Agriculture & Farming
Of the county’s total economic output, agriculture and agriculture-related industries contribute $294.3 million (14.8% of the county’s economy) in ‘direct economic impact’ combined with all ‘indirect economic impact’. 946 (8.2%) of all jobs in the county derive from agriculture activity. For soy bean production, 108,720 acres produced 4,677,447 bushels of soybeans in 2012. 6,893,000 bushels of soybeans were produced in 2014 (47% more than 2012 production level). Soybean sales revenue = $61,773,000 in 2012. Increased to $86,369,290 in value of production in 2014.
*Statistics from the USDA Census of Agriculture as reported by the Illinois Farm Bureau
WDZ's Red's Kitchen Barn Dance c.1940; Studio equipment; WDZ transmitter and tower
16. Raggedy Ann: Inventor, Artist & Author Johnny Gruelle
Jonny Gruelle (1880 –1938) was an American artist, political cartoonist, songwriter, children's book author and illustrator born in Arcola. He is known as the creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.
John Gruelle's cartoons first appeared in print in the Indianapolis Star in 1905. From 1906 to 1911, his cartooning work appeared in many newspapers usually signed as Grue, including The Toledo News-Bee, The Pittsburgh Press, The Tacoma Times, and The Spokane Press.
Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, his wife Myrtle Gruelle recalled, "There was something he wanted from the attic. While he was rummaging around for it, he found an old rag doll his mother had made for his sister. He said then that the doll would make a good story." Gruelle watched his daughter Marcella, for inspiration for his Raggedy Ann stories. In 1915, Gruelle patented and trademarked the design and name. The same month it was approved, his daughter passed away from an infected vaccination. She continued to be an inspiration to him after her death.
In 1918, the P. F. Volland Company published Raggedy Ann Stories, promoting it with a Raggedy Ann doll. Both became major successes. In 1920, Gruelle introduced Raggedy Ann's brother, the mischievous and adventuresome Raggedy Andy, in the book Raggedy Andy Stories. Gruelle was awarded a patent for a stuffed animal in 1921.
18. Broom & Broomcorn: Agriculture & Arcola Broomcorn Festival
In 1890, Corn, oats, wheat, hay and broomcorn constituted the chief agricultural products of Douglas County, corn and broomcorn being the most prominent. Around 1865, a local gentleman named Col. Cofer experimented by planting 20 acres of broomcorn on his land. The crop did so well that the popularity of broomcorn took off. Soon after, nearly half of the broomcorn grown in the United States came from the Arcola area. And so began the storied history of broomcorn in Arcola.
In the 1880s, the harvesting of broomcorn, then a major crop, gave rise to several companies. One such company was the Thomas Monahan Company, which was founded in Arcola in 1922.
Arcola celebrates its heritage as "broomcorn capital of the world" with the renowned Broom Corn Festival. The festival's parade is Central Illinois' largest and is home to the world famous Lawn Rangers, who twirl and toss their brooms. The community still boasts ties to broomcorn and the broom industry with companies such as the Thomas Monahan Company and the Libman Company.
The initial wave of Hispanic immigration into Arcola is rooted in the opportunities for employment with broom manufacturing. In the 1940s, Cadereyta Jiménez in the state of Nuevo León was considered the broomcorn capital of Mexico, and many residents knew how to harvest the corn and manufacture goods. Because Arcola started importing Cadereyta’s broomcorn, families began moving to Illinois to carry out the arduous task of cutting, laying out and preparing the plants that can grow as high as 12 to 14 feet.
There are some Tejanos, like Irazema Galyiz of Farr, Texas, and families from places in Southern Mexico like Chiapas, but the majority of the town’s Mexican residents hail from Cadereyta Jiménez. Many Mexican immigrants who had been a broom maker came to the U.S. to make more money. Some then branch into other jobs in the area.
The Latino community is growing and in the 2010 Census, Hispanics accounted for nearly 40% of Arcola’s population and account for nearly 50% of the student population. Language barriers are a big concern for Latino adults and many turn to the local Latino community center, Mi Raza, which offers ESL courses, child care services, U.S. citizenship exam and interview prep, and tutoring services, as well as a place to sort out immigration issues and interpretation problems.
6. Mining Helmet and Pick Axe: Murdock Mine
The Murdock Coal Mine was in operation from 1946 as an Old Ben Coal Company up until the early 1990s, when Zeigler Coal Company acquired the mine, but maintained the "Old Ben" name. Underground portions of the mine were active until 1991. In the 1970s, it was recorded as a shaft & slope mine at a depth of 180 ft. with a coal seam 7 ft. thick and in the 1980s at a depth of 220 ft. There were injuries and even a few fatalities at the mine including Earl Culley, David Jenkins, Donald D. Kurfirst, Harold L. Plumlee and Francis Burl Wilson.
Miner’s faced death from collapsing mines, oxygen deprivation and accidents. The most instantaneous and catastrophic loss of life was caused by explosions due to miner’s lamps igniting methane gas. Working in the deep, dark caverns, miners wore helmets with lamps on the front. Oil-wick lamps were invented in 1850 and followed by carbide lamps, around 1910. The acetylene gas that powered the flame burned cleanly, relieving the miner from the smoke and soot from oil lamps. Also, the flame burned brighter and often came with a reflector, allowing this brighter flame to be directed and giving the miner a wider range of light. The drawback of the carbide lamp was that its open flame was still capable of igniting methane gas in mines. Eventually, these lamps were replaced by electric lamp caps.
Poster advertising one of Burnette's movies with Gene Autry c.1941
21. Olympic Rings: Olympians Linda Metheny & Kenneth “Tug” Wilson
Linda Jo Metheny:
Linda Jo Metheny (1947-present) is a retired Olympic gymnast. Metheny attended high school in Tuscola and graduated in 1965. She was inducted to their hall of fame in 2015. Metheny started competing in 1962, and between 1964 and 1973 was a member of the national team. After the 1964 Olympics she enrolled to the University of Illinois as their only female gymnast.
During her Olympic career, she won seven gold, three silver and one bronze medal at the Pan American Games in 1967 and 1971, and served as the flag bearer for the American team in 1971. She competed at the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics with the best individual result of fourth place on the balance beam in 1968. Domestically she won at least 18 individual national titles. In 1985 she was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastic Hall of Fame.
After retiring from competitions she became a gymnastics coach, working together with her husband Dick Mulvihill, and an international referee. She judged at the World Cup in 2000, at the world championships in 1994, 1995, 2002 and 2003, and at the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000. Together with her husband she has run the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics in Eugene, Oregon, since 1973.
Kenneth Leon "Tug" Wilson:
Olympic athlete Kenneth Leon "Tug" Wilson (March 27, 1896 – February 2, 1979) was involved in athletics through most of his life. Growing up in Atwood, Wilson was a runner in high school and a teacher for country schools for two years. After that, Wilson attended the University of Illinois, competing for them in multiple sports and the Chicago AA. He played football, basketball, and track and Field. In track and field, he competed in the discus throw, shot put, and javelin throw. Wilson earned a spot and competed in the 1920 Summer Olympics, finishing tenth in the discus throw.
He was invited onto the University of Illinois staff and later became the Director of Athletics at Drake University and then at Northwestern University.
Finally, Wilson served as the second commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, the highest position, from 1945 to 1961, and as the president of the United States Olympic Committee from 1953 to 1965.
Dr. Benjamin F. Roller
Villa Grove turntable & roundhouse
15. Old Plow: Farmers & Douglas County Farm Bureau
Who are Douglas County famers? 735 are ‘farmer operators’ and 403 list farming as their primary occupation. In Illinois, 97% of all farms are operated by a single family or by closely-related family members. The typical farm family in Douglas County manages at least 1,000 acres of tillable Illinois Farmland. Douglas County is also a strong livestock producer featuring chickens, beef cattle, milk cows, sheep, swine and horses. In 1920, 168,298 chickens compared to 19,694 in 2012.
The Douglas County Bureau was one of the most beneficial organizations to the farmers of the County through Douglas County’s history. It was organized in 1920 largely through the efforts of J. R. Clisby, John McCarty, W. F.Goodspeed, G. R. Helm, Grover McCormick and Edgar Morow. The association was very active in its efforts to better the condition of the farmers. The livestock department of the association was organized and enabled the farmers to sell their stock at advantageous prices and eliminate the middleman’s profits. Great effort was spent by the management of the bureau to secure better sales for the farmers and to help aid them to raise better livestock and to enable them to secure the best kind of fertilizer. The Douglas County Farm Bureau is still in operation assisting farmers to this day.
*Statistics from the USDA Census of Agriculture as reported by the Illinois Farm Bureau
Smiley Burnette with Pancake Festival Queen
1. Corn: Agriculture & Farming
In 2012, there were a reported 735 farms in Douglas County comprising 262,839 acres or 410 square miles. While the number of farms has gone down from 1,630 in 1920, the number of average acres per farm has gone from 157 in 1920 to 358 in 2012.
So how much corn is produced by Douglas County farmers? 124,637 acres produced 11,948,683 bushels of corn for grain and an additional 1,229 acres of corn are used for silage in 2012, a drought year. 26,411,000 bushels of corn were produced in 2014 (a 121% increase in production from the year 2012). This resulted in corn sales revenue of $78,283,000 in 2012 and that Increased to $110,133,870 in value of production in 2014.
*Statistics from the USDA Census of Agriculture as reported by the Illinois Farm Bureau
2. Parachutist: Pilot, C.A.P. & Parachutist Minnie Conn Jolley
Minnie Conn Jolley (1901-1999) was one of six Conn siblings to serve in the military. Embry was in the Navy, Lucy was a WAC, Edith was a nurse, Jonas was in the Army, Stella was a WAVE, and Minnie was a CAP (Civilian Air Patrol Auxiliary of the US Air Force). At the time, there were many who thought women weren’t capable of flying or being mechanics. Minnie knew planes inside and out and even had to make her own propeller and put an engine together to qualify for service. She served as the Deputy Flight Leader of the CAP at Lunken Airport. Minnie logged many hours in her flight books and could fix an engine or fuselage after taking a four-year course in aviation.
To further support the war effort, she raised money by giving people plane rides around Cincinnati in exchange for buying war bonds. The CAPS rose over $600,000 for the war effort.
Minnie didn’t just love flying planes; she loved jumping out of them. She first jumped in 1936 because she wanted to gain confidence for future solo airplane flights. She became one of only 12 women in the National Parachute Jumper’s Association. She participated in many stunt shows, parachuting in front of crowds. Minnie was also honored with a membership in the National Aeronautics Association of the U.S.A and The Greater Cincinnati Airmen’s Club.
In an interview conducted by the Tuscola Journal in 1987, Minnie was quoted, “On a still day, when I hear the groan of the plane, I want to get up there so bad, but I can’t, I get out my scrapbook and relive some of the moments.”
Here is your guide to the Douglas County Museum's mural, located on the north side of the museum buillding. The mural is a result of the efforts of the Museum Association of Douglas County and the design of Ainslie Heilich, Artist and 2019-2020 Vice President of the Museum Association. LyondellBasell and the Tuscola Community Foundation donated funds toward the project and volunteers from the public & museum board helped paint it. Find out what the significance of various mural items mean below.
25. Train engine: Railroads of the county & Villa Grove C&EI Division Headquarters & Roundhouse:
The coming of the railroad resulted in a major shift to settlement patterns as new communities developed along the railroad lines. After 1870, growth was steady but slow. Stephen A. Douglas persuaded congress to grant the railroad 4,000 square miles of land in Illinois, small towns sprung up between Chicago and Cairo. Railroad replaced traveling on river. The railroads not only brought people to live there, but they also made shipping goods north and south possible. The particular train pictured actually came through Douglas County!
Villa Grove was chartered in 1903 after the area was recognized by the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (C&EI) as being exactly halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. This made it a desirable location for a steam locomotive repair facility. Villa Grove later became the site of a C&EI division headquarters, shops, and an eighteen stall roundhouse. At one time, there were six to eight passenger trains that passed through Villa Grove each day.
In Tuscola, the original town was bounded on the west by the Illinois Central Railroad and extended eastward to Niles Avenue. The avenue was begun by Mr. Joseph Cannon in his addition. Additions were added as the Wamsley, Cannon, Kelly, Mathers, and Corneius additions. Railroads brought people to the barren prairie and marshland. Illinois Central Railroad sold land to help pay for the railroad and people were enticed by it and the prospect of another railroad coming.
In Arthur, in the early 1870's, a switch track was needed for the new railroad between Paris and Decatur, Illinois. Several had been established along this rail line, one being at Arcola, but another was needed between there and Decatur. It was placed near a road said to be the county line between Moultrie and Douglas counties. The area was also known as "The Big Slough" because it was so swampy. A small settlement soon grew up parallel to the railroad track at this new switching place.
In Arcola, while buildings were constructed in a settlement called Bagdad In the mid-1800s, along the banks of the Okaw River, the 1850s brought the announcement of the construction of a railroad that would connect the cities of Chicago and Centralia and run just to the east of Bagdad. In 1855, the Illinois Central Railroad surveyed and plotted a tract of land along both sides of the newly completed railroad in order to build a city. This was four years before Douglas County formed. The new community was called Okaw, after the river located a few miles west and was later re-named Arcola. Business boomed in Arcola, and in the winter of 1856 the residents of Bagdad loaded the entire town, buildings and all, on wooden sleds and moved the whole settlement of Bagdad to Arcola. The first town was laid off parallel and at right angles to the railroad track, and consisted of twenty blocks. The historic Arcola Depot is still standing and you can visit it to learn more about Douglas County and Arcola history.