Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Daniel Butterfield

Monument to Maj. Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield (1831-1901) in West Point Cemetery, 329 Washington Road, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. A native New Yorker, Daniel Butterfield’s father had founded the company that became American Express. He had no military experience prior to the American Civil War, but rose from the rank of captain to major general, and even won the Medal of Honor in 1862.

Butterfield was a talented organizer. He wrote an Army field manual, introduced the use of patches to distinguish between Union Army corps, and is credited with composing the bugle call “Taps”. He later transferred to the Western Theater. After the war, he served as Assistant Treasurer of the United States, but was forced to resign for taking part in a scheme to manipulate gold prices.

Historic America

Coles County Ghost Towns: Hitesville, Farmington, and Curtisville

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.


James Hite, who immigrated from Kentucky to Coles County in 1831, created this village in Ashmore Township and named it after himself in April 1835. He was appointed postmaster on August 24, 1835. A stone marker at the location, however, says that Hitesville was founded in 1837.

Whatever the year of its establishment, at its peak it contained several shops and houses. The History of Coles County (1879) stated that the village was “swallowed up” by new villages that appeared when the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad was built. Ashmore, which was plotted in 1855, was the most likely culprit.

James Hite and some of his neighbors also built a nearby Presbyterian church. A man by the name of Reverend John Steele presided over the congregation until the building was sold when James Hite moved out of the area. The parishioners, many of whom were from the St. Omer area, then attended a different church. Hitesville lasted long enough to appear on a county map alongside St. Omer and Ashmore, but shortly after, both Hitesville and St. Omer ceased to exist.

Photography Roadside America

Jeannie’s Just Sew Shop

Unique sign for Jeannie’s Just Sew Shop, 114 W 2nd Street in Byron, Illinois.

Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Captains of Industry

Almost untouchable in life, today anyone can visit the final resting places of these wealthy and powerful figures.

America’s cemeteries are filled with rich and poor alike. In life, these wealthy industrialists were among the most powerful men alive. Yet today, their sometimes humble monuments can be found scattered among a sea of granite stones. A name and date carved into stone tells so little about the incredible lives they must have lived. Here are a few of their stories.

George Pullman (1831-1897)

Monument to George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897) in Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, the city’s premier burial ground. George Pullman invented the Pullman sleeping car. He’s perhaps best well-known for the town he created for his factory workers in Illinois. When his workers went on strike in 1894, President Grover Cleveland intervened and sent several thousand troops to Chicago to break the strike. The violence left 30 dead. Pullman died in 1897 and he is buried in a lead-lined coffin sealed in cement to prevent desecration.

Historic America

The Manteno Madness

Manteno State Hospital was at one time the largest state mental hospital in Illinois, but its overcrowded corridors invited disaster. From typhoid epidemic to scandal, trace the tragic history of this forgotten asylum.

“It is not by confining one’s neighbor that one is convinced of one’s own sanity.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Novels (and the films based on them) such as The Snake Pit (1946), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), and even memoirs like Girl, Interrupted (1993) have permanently colored public perception of mental hospitals. Images of sadistic Nurse Ratched and torture disguised as treatment have horrified us for decades, but those of us who grew up after the closure of such facilities have no memory of the very real scandals that led to their condemnation.

At one time, Illinois had eleven state mental hospitals, located in Alton, Anna, Chicago, Dixon, East Moline, Elgin, Jacksonville, Kankakee, Lincoln, Manteno, and Peoria. Manteno State Hospital was the largest of these, and perhaps the one that attracted the most negative press. Ironically, hospitals like Manteno, with their “cottage system” of patient housing, were meant to correct the appalling conditions of what we now know as the classic “mad house” or “insane asylum” that Michel Foucault deconstructed in his influential book Madness and Civilization (1965).

Progressive hospitals like Manteno State proved not to be much better than their predecessors, and the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 began the long, slow process of de-institutionalization that eventually led to their closure.

Manteno State had a long history of tragedy and disgrace that reached the highest echelons of Illinois’ medical community. It began with what Time magazine called the “Manteno Madness,” a typhoid epidemic that killed more than 50 and brought down Archibald Leonard Bowen, the state director of public welfare. It ended in scandal, with charges of illicit sex and medical malpractice involving patients and staff.

Manteno State Hospital was built on 1,000 acres of land in Kankakee County, a few miles east of the village of Manteno. Construction occurred in stages over a period of several years, beginning in 1929. The hospital’s diagnostic building was designed in 1931 by Chicago architectural firm Granger & Bollenbacher, with O. Herrick Hammond supervising its planning and construction. The Chicago Daily Tribune described its architecture as “a Georgian adaptation in face brick and Bedford stone.”

Commentary Historic America

Stories in Stone: Maj. Gen. William Phillips

Monument to British Maj. Gen. William Phillips (1731-1781) in Blandford Cemetery, 319 South Crater Road in Petersburg, Virginia. Phillips was an officer in the Royal Artillery and fought in the Seven Years’ War, and later in the American Revolutionary War on the British side. During the recapture of Fort Ticonderoga in Upstate New York, when his peers objected to hauling artillery up the nearby mountain, he famously replied: “Where a goat can go, a man can go. And where a man can go, he can drag a gun.” Thomas Jefferson called him “the proudest man of the proudest nation on earth.” He contracted typhus or malaria after the Battle of Blandford and died in Petersburg. He is buried somewhere in the Blandford Churchyard.

Historic America Photography

Trenton Battle Monument

The Battle of Trenton was fought on December 26, 1776 between American forces commanded by General George Washington and British forces commanded by Col. Johann Rahl in Trenton, New Jersey during the American Revolutionary War. The battle was an American victory and a much-needed boost to Patriot morale. In 1893, a 150-foot Beaux-Arts style monument was erected on a high point where George Washington stationed his artillery. The Trenton Battle Monument is located at the intersection of Warren and Broad streets and Pennington and Brunswick avenues. The interior of the monument has been closed for years due to its elevator being inoperable.