Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Charles J. Hull

Wealthy real estate developer Charles Jerold Hull (1820-1889) was best known for donating his house at 800 S. Halsted Street in Chicago, Illinois to aid newly arrived immigrants. Social reformer Jane Addams leased his home and operated it as Hull House from 1889 to the 1960s. Hull died in 1889 of Bright’s Disease. His monument in Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, was designed by Richard Henry Park in 1891.

Categories
Historic America

Second Winchester Battlefield in Frederick County, Virginia

In the first major infantry battle of the Gettysburg Campaign, Confederate forces dealt a crushing blow to Union designs in the Shenandoah. Today you can visit the remains of a fort where they fought.

The battles of Second Winchester and Stephenson’s Depot were fought from June 13 to 15, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy and Confederate forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell in Frederick County, Virginia during the American Civil War. These dramatic Confederate victories in the Gettysburg Campaign’s opening phase cleared a path through the Shenandoah Valley for Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army, allowing it to invade Maryland and Pennsylvania. Taken together, the battles were among the most lopsided of the war, with 4,747 total casualties, mostly Union prisoners.

On June 1, 1863, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia slipped away from the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, and headed north to invade Pennsylvania. Gen. Robert E. Lee intended to use the Shenandoah Valley as a corridor to invade the north, with the Blue Ridge Mountains hiding his movements from the enemy. To do so, he first needed to clear the 8,324-man Federal garrison commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy at Winchester, Virginia. He entrusted his Second Corps commander Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell with the task.

Milroy had occupied the area around Winchester since late December 1862, digging fortifications to protect his supply depot as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad farther north. On June 12, Ewell took his three divisions and one cavalry brigade, for a total of 19,000 men, through Chester’s Gap into the Shenandoah Valley. He sent one division under Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes northeast to cut off the Federal retreat and his other two divisions under Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early and Maj. Gen. Edward “Allegheny” Johnson to directly attack Milroy at Winchester.

Categories
Historic America

The Great Tornado of 1917

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.

In late spring 1917, more than a month after the United States formally entered the First World War, the Midwestern United States was hit by the largest and longest sequence of tornadoes on record. The storms appeared for seven consecutive days and ranged over eleven states. For seven hours on May 26, a series of tornadoes tore a path through central Illinois, from the Mississippi River to the Embarras River. Coles County was hardest hit, suffering close to 100 deaths, hundreds injured, 800 families homeless, and over $2 million in damages.

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 26 around 3:15 p.m., the sky grew dark, the wind howled, and the air filled with a greenish hue. “I thought the end of the world had come,” said D.S. May of 701 DeWitt Avenue in Mattoon. The storms moved west to east, so Mattoon was hit first. A funnel cloud appeared suddenly, hardly giving those in its path time to flee. It struck a lumber yard, hurling wooden boards and planks through the air like missiles.

Reporters compared the limbless trees and flattened buildings to a scene in war-torn Europe. Invoking images of the desolate, cratered Argonne Forest in France, S.A. Tucker of the Decatur Herald said Mattoon’s swath of destruction looked like a “shell-swept plain.”

Categories
Photography Roadside America

Antiques & Oddity Shop

Antiques & Oddity Shop, E Old St in Petersburg, VA. I love this old building near the Appomattox River. You can still see some of the faded brick ads advertising produce and poultry. Petersburg dates back to 1750, and this building sits in its oldest area.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Stories in Stone: Edward Fay Claypool

Mausoleum for Edward Fay Claypool (1832-1911) and family at Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery, 700 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. Edward Fay Claypool was a banker and investor who helped finance the opulent Claypool Hotel and the Herron-Morton Place neighborhood in Indianapolis. He married Mary Catherine Morrow in 1855.

Categories
Historic America Photography

Fife and Drums

Reenactors dressed as a French fife and drum corps at Fort Ticonderoga, 102 Fort Ti Rd, in Ticonderoga, New York. French engineer Michel Chartier de Lotbinière, Marquis de Lotbinière constructed the fort between 1755 and 1757 during the French and Indian War. It was originally called Fort Carillon.

Categories
Mysterious America

Illinois State University and the Enduring Legacy of Ange Milner

Founded in 1857, Illinois State University is said to be haunted by the ghost of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a beloved librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. Does she still haunt the university archives?

Jesse W. Fell, a Bloomington newspaper publisher, founded Illinois State Normal University in 1857 with the help of his friend, lawyer and legislator Abraham Lincoln, who would go on to become our sixteenth president. Originally a teacher’s college, ISNU became Illinois State University in 1968 to accommodate a broader curriculum. The university is currently home to around 23,000 students and faculty, as well as one tenacious ghost.

The ghost is said to be that of Angeline V. Milner, or Ange for short, a beloved librarian who remained with her books long after she passed from this world. Although now often spelled Angie, Angeline is commonly abbreviated in the original French as Ange. In Charles William Perry’s 1924 biography of Miss Milner, he omitted the ‘i’ from the diminutive form of her name. As head librarian for 37 years, she was so beloved by the school that Illinois State University named its library after her.