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Editor and historian for Monmouth College. Avid researcher of western Illinois history for 40 years. FB and Twitter. jrankin@monmouthcollege.edu
Stunned, sad and scared, Monmouth College students attend an impromptu convocation in the chapel on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — When the news of Sept. 11, 2001, reached Monmouth College one would imagine the College’s president calling an immediate cabinet meeting to plan strategy. But life is never that predictable.

Instead, then-President Richard Giese was on Interstate 80, driving to a meeting of Associated Colleges of the Midwest presidents in Chicago when the news was announced over the car radio. When Giese heard reports that traffic was not being allowed into Chicago, he turned around and headed back to campus.

The dean of the faculty, George Arnold, was not in his office either. …


Original Olmstead’s mill bridge, looking west. Photographer Paul Kobler took this photo for the Warren County Highway Department in 1940. It was replaced by an open steel bridge shortly thereafter.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — People love a good ghost story and are seemingly always eager to embrace tales of legendary local hauntings, regardless of corroborating evidence.

Every year — particularly around Halloween — I receive inquiries about a site near Monmouth that is legendary in local lore for alleged supernatural occurrences. Known as “Crybaby Bridge,” it’s a small steel bridge spanning Cedar Creek near the stone quarry and the former Olmstead’s mill, four miles northwest of town.

Legend has it that a school bus full of children once plunged off the bridge, killing everyone aboard. …


An early photo of the Rev. Meneilly in the pulpit of Village Church. (Image courtesy of Village Church)

Monmouth College alumnus built nation’s second-largest Presbyterian church from scratch

MONMOUTH, Ill. — In 1965, when the Rev. Robert Meneilly ’45 delivered several sermons calling for the integration of largely white suburbs around Kansas City, Kan., it made front-page news and raised a firestorm of controversy. When an outraged resident told him over the phone, “I hope you go to hell,” Meneilly responded, “I wasn’t planning on it, but if I do, perhaps we can have lunch together.”

The remark was typical of Meneilly’s quiet yet passionate lifelong campaign for social justice that caused thousands of devoted Christians to flock…


Calvin Bryce Hoover as a senior at Monmouth College in 1922, and as a renowned Duke University economist in the 1960s

MONMOUTH, Ill. — It seems improbable that a humble farm boy from Berwick, Ill., would become one of the world’s leading economists, help the Allies defeat Hitler and be awarded the Medal of Freedom, but those are only a handful of the accomplishments of Calvin Bryce Hoover.

Born to a railroad section foreman in 1897, young Bryce (as he was known) worked with his father on the railroad and on their tenant farm during breaks from school. In June 1910, after receiving his 8th-grade diploma from the Berwick schools, he was sent to live in Monmouth, so that he and…


Alice Tinkham boards the Cannon Ball bus at Kirkwood in 1927, en route to Monmouth College.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — Beginning in 1906, the interurban electric railway allowed Monmouth residents to travel conveniently and inexpensively between nearby cities. Even after automobiles became more numerous during the 1910s, the interurban remained popular because paved roads remained scarce.

That would change by the 1920s, when the Good Roads Movement gained traction and communities competed to become part of a network of reliable highways. Monmouth was one of the cities that earned a spot on the Cannon Ball Trail, which connected Burlington to Chicago on a concrete highway. …


In this cracked glass-plate photograph, prisoners enjoy a Fourth of July celebration in the yard at Joliet, not long after McClaughry spoke at Monmouth.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — I have written previously about Maj. Robert Wilson McClaughry, the pioneer prison reformer who graduated from Monmouth College in 1861 and for a time lived in Monmouth. From his appointment in 1874 as warden of the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet to becoming the first warden of the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1899, he was considered a groundbreaker in modern penal theory.


Myra Tubbs at age 14 in Kirkwood, and years later as an influential director of the National Bank of Monmouth, a post she would occupy for 46 years.

MONMOUTH, Ill — Growing up in Monmouth during the 1970s, one of the interesting landmarks I recall was a circular brick fountain in front of the National Bank of Monmouth’s Colonial Drive-In on East Broadway. It was particularly memorable because of a recurring nighttime prank by members of a Monmouth College sorority, who would drop a Salvo laundry tablet into the basin and by morning the fountain would be overflowing with suds.

Affixed to the masonry was a bronze plaque, announcing that it was the Myra Tubbs Ricketts Memorial Fountain. I always chuckled at that name, especially having no idea…


Occupying the east ground floor of the Homestead Savings & Loan building, Mayfred’s continued Allen’s retail tradition for 26 years.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — As long ago as the early 1960s, downtown Monmouth merchants were worried about the encroachment of shopping centers and discount stores on traditional retail establishments. We know now that they had good reason to worry.

One of those merchants was about as traditional as you could find. Fred Schmitz, who for more than a quarter century ran a fabric store on the Public Square, showing up every day wearing a white shirt and bowtie, announced in 1963 that he was going to retire. …


Surrounded by a brick fence that still stands, the Pattee/Tubbs Mansion at 316 East Broadway was razed in 1964 to make way for Warfield Manor apartments.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — Sometimes an architectural feature of a residential property can survive long after the residence associated with it is gone. A good example is the sturdy brick and iron fence surrounding Warfield Manor apartments at the corner of East Broadway and North 3rd Street.

Constructed more than a century ago, the fence tells a portion of the history of the block, as does the remnant of an earlier fence adjoining it.

Five prominent names from Monmouth history figure in the block’s history — Babcock, Paine, Pattee, Tubbs and Warfield.

One of Monmouth’s earliest settlers, dry goods merchant Draper…


Calvin and Fanny Orth lived in retirement in Monmouth after having spent many years in Keithsburg.

MONMOUTH, Ill. — In the 19th century, Monmouth boasted a long line of wealthy capitalists. Names like Hardin, Quinby, Hanna, Weir and Pattee are inscribed on impressive monuments in Monmouth Cemetery.

Then there was Calvin S. Orth. He lies beneath a modest headstone, did not live in a Broadway mansion and is little remembered, but his accomplishments were no less remarkable.

Born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in 1835, Orth was the son of a tanner who later became a successful farmer and encouraged each of his nine children to pursue higher education. …

Jeff Rankin

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