Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Erasmus D. Keyes

Monument to Maj. Gen. Erasmus Darwin Keyes (1810–1895) in West Point Cemetery, 329 Washington Road, United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. New Englander Erasmus D. Keyes led a brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run, then the Union Army of the Potomac’s IV Corps during the Peninsula Campaign. Despite having a regular Army background, his lackluster performance led to reassignment and eventual removal from command. He resigned his commission in May 1864. Later in life, he became a successful businessman in San Francisco.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Faugh a Ballaugh!

Relief sculpture on the Irish Brigade monument, Bloody Lane, at Antietam National Battlefield. The Irish Brigade, consisting of the 63rd New York Infantry, 69th New York Infantry, 28th Massachusetts Infantry, 116th Pennsylvania Infantry, and 88th New York Infantry regiments, was first commanded by Colonel Michael Corcoran, then Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, and finally Colonel Patrick Kelly. It experienced one of the highest casualty rates in the Civil War.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Burnside’s Bridge

Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam National Battlefield, 5831 Dunker Church Road, got its name on September 17, 1862 when Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s IX Corps forced an ill-fated crossing of a stone bridge over Antietam Creek. His attack briefly succeeded, despite heavy casualties, until Confederate Maj. Gen. A.P. Hill’s Light Division arrived from Harpers Ferry and drove his men back. The bridge was recently restored.

Categories
Mysterious America

The Strange Life and Death of the Lindbergh Schoolhouse

Suburban sprawl may have destroyed this historic schoolhouse along Shoe Factory Road in northwestern Cook County, Illinois, but not even bulldozers can erase its strange legacy.

For many years, a unique stone building sat nestled between woods and farm fields along a quiet rural road in the far northwest corner of Cook County, Illinois. One day, the family who rented the building—an old schoolhouse that had been converted into a residence—moved out. Then the bulldozers came. Pavement, manicured lawns, McMansions, and “water retention areas” slowly replaced fields and streams a few miles down from the building along Shoe Factory Road.

Suburban families moved into this new subdivision. Traffic increased along the road, which was the only access to the outside world for its residents. Occasionally, their children passed the strange looking house—the only one of its kind they had ever seen—on their way to and from errands or on trips to explore the area around their new home.

“What was that place?” they wondered. Why was it abandoned? Had a gruesome crime occurred there? Some of the kids began to break in and explore the building, unaware that local residents had already begun a campaign to save the old schoolhouse and one of the last remaining links to a fast-vanishing rural past.

This is the story of the Charles A. Lindbergh School—a story that begins in 1929 and ends with a decade long battle for its preservation, rumors of ghosts and murders, and its ultimate demolition to make way for yet another subdivision at the height of the nation’s housing bubble. It was a classic struggle between tradition and modernity, character and sameness, all swirling around youthful transgressions and an attempt by local teens to alleviate boredom through destructive storytelling.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Louis Schwitzer

Detail on the door of a neoclassical mausoleum for Louis Schwitzer (1880-1967) and Sophie Rampp Schwitzer (1889-1935) at Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery, 700 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. Louis Schwitzer was born in an area of Poland then part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire, where he earned master’s degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering. He immigrated to the United States and went on to found the Schwitzer Corporation in Indianapolis. He was an engineer, not a race car driver, but he did win the first race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sophie Rampp Schwitzer (1889-1935)
Categories
Historic America Photography

Hallowed Ground

Maryland State Monument on Antietam National Battlefield, 5831 Dunker Church Road, is dedicated to Marylanders who fought for both the North and South during the American Civil War. Several Maryland units fought at the Battle of Antietam, including the Baltimore Light Artillery (CSA) and the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Maryland Infantry Regiments (USA). It reads: “Erected by the State of Maryland to her Sons, Who on this field offered their lives in maintenance of their Principles.”

Categories
Mysterious America

Innocence Lost: The Tragic Unsolved Murder of Barbara Sue Beasley

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.

As the summer of ‘73 dragged on, Coles County suffered the loss of another daughter at the hands of an unknown assailant. At around 10:00 a.m. on Friday, August 3, 1973, 11-year-old Barbara Sue Beasley of Mattoon disappeared while riding her white Stingray bicycle near the Cross County Mall.

She was approximately 5 feet tall, 95 pounds, with blonde hair and green eyes, wearing slacks and a blue blouse. She lived on E. DeWitt Street, and her father, Warren Beasley, worked at the nearby General Steel and Metals plant. Her parents reported her missing on Saturday.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 7th, exactly one month after Shirley Ann Rardin’s body was found, two teenage boys left the Cross County Mall and headed to hunt turtles in a drainage ditch one-quarter mile north of the railroad tracks.

At around 6:00 p.m., they stumbled upon the badly swollen nude body of a girl lying on her back in two inches of water under a pipe that ran across the ditch west of Columbia Machine Company. The girl’s blouse was beneath her body, pants wrapped around her left arm, and her other clothes, alongside her bicycle, were strewn along the drainage ditch approximately 35 feet south. The boys ran back to the mall and called the police.