Editor and historian for Monmouth College. Avid researcher of western Illinois history for 40 years. FB and Twitter. jrankin@monmouthcollege.edu
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Two of Cable’s most celebrated works were “Homeward” (left), which was pictured in Harper’s Monthly, and “Maternity,” depicting a mare and her colt.

Born on a farm just north of Berwick in 1865, Benjamin Davis Cable showed an aptitude for drawing and painting from an early age, while attending the district school in Floyd Township. A voracious reader, he schooled himself on all aspects of the arts, and in his spare time on the farm took up sketching farm animals and wildlife.


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When the current Methodist Church was completed in 1890, the streets surrounding it were not yet paved, and a 86-foot tower that would be removed years later anchored the structure. To make room for a modern sanctuary, demolition of the 1890 building has begun.

The current church, constructed of 350,000 red bricks manufactured at the Radmacher brickyard in Monmouth, has stood on the southwest corner of Broadway and Second Street for 13 decades. When it was dedicated in January 1890, its price tag was $28,000 — more than $750,000 in today’s dollars.

The neo-Gothic church was designed by the noted architectural team of Weary & Kramer of Akron, Ohio, whose portfolio included more than a dozen churches now on the National Register of Historic Places in cities from Brooklyn, New York, to Birmingham, Alabama, to Dubuque, Iowa. David Myers, a contractor originally from Akron who had worked with Weary & Kramer, had since relocated to Burlington, Iowa, and was hired by the Monmouth Methodists to oversee construction. …


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A 1950s street view of Maple City Dairy.

The business dated back to Jan. 1, 1933, when J. T. DeCoste of Galesburg opened Maple City Dairy at 216 East Broadway with brand new equipment for pasteurizing milk, manufacturing butter and retailing ice cream. Perhaps because of the worsening Depression, the business and equipment was put on the auction block just eight months later, but a buyer didn’t come forward until October, in the person of a Danish immigrant. …


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Mounted on camels, three wise men approach the illuminated stable on the Monmouth Public Square. (Photo by Paul Kobler.)

First erected in 1953, that manger scene came about through a remarkable community effort that was a joint undertaking between the Chamber of Commerce and the Monmouth Council of Churches. The centerpiece of a “Put Christ Back in Christmas” campaign, the nativity featured elegant figures that were pure white and larger than life-size.

With additional figures purchased in 1954, the total investment was $5,000, which, given inflation, would today cost nearly $50,000. …


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A successful Monmouth attorney, Civil War veteran and state legislator, John T. Morgan achieved even greater fame as a supreme court judge in the young state of Idaho.

James Clark Morgan, a farmer and justice of the peace in Hamburg, N.Y., was one of those settlers, who in 1843 set out for Monmouth, Ill., with his wife, Penelope, and six children. One of those children, 13-year-old John T. …


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A circa 1910 photo of the entrance gate to Monmouth Cemetery on North Sixth Street. The planters in the shape of tree stumps on either side of the drive were manufactured locally at the Monmouth Mining and Manufacturing plant.

Then a Massachusetts physician and botanist named Jacob Bigelow, interested in sanitation and public parks, proposed building the country’s first landscaped cemetery — Mount Auburn — just west of Boston. It was the beginning of the American public parks and gardens movement.

Although the city of Monmouth was founded at about the same time as Mount Auburn, its frontier residents had little time and few resources to devote to the creation of picturesque gardens. When Daniel McNeil donated Block 1 of the Old Town Plat to be used as a burial ground, there was little foresight. In fact, the editors of the 1886 Warren County history commented: “It would seem that when the people of Monmouth first laid out grounds for the interment of their dead, they did not expect their town to grow very much, for they only set aside an acre for this purpose.” …


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Passengers disembark at the busy Monmouth depot in the 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Don Hitchcock)

Monmouth’s depots were a good illustration of that progression. The city’s first passenger depot, a simple structure built in 1855 near South Third Street for the Peoria & Oquawka (later CB&Q) Railroad, was replaced in 1868 by a larger but no-less barnlike building, located across the tracks to the south. …


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One of the oldest houses in Monmouth, the log-framed residence built by Dr. Samuel Webster in 1837 now stands at 601 West Broadway.

That was the observation of Levi H. Brown, when he visited the recently incorporated town of Monmouth in 1837. A 23-year-old Quaker from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Brown made the rigorous journey to the wilds of Illinois with six companions in the days before railroads or paved roads.

Near the conclusion of the trip, Brown met up with his cousin, Dr. Samuel K. Webster. Webster and his family (also Quakers from Lancaster) were en route to Monmouth, where he would set up shop as Monmouth’s first physician. Fifty years later, in a letter published in the Oxford (Pa.) Press, Levi Brown chronicled his trip. …


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President Robert Gibson addresses the audience at a memorial service for President Kennedy held in the Auditorium on the Monday following his assassination. (Photo by Lee Schaeffer ’65)

Before the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the universal date on which everyone alive at the time remembered exactly what they were doing was 11/22/1963 — the assassination of President Kennedy. As the passing of another November causes that once-vivid memory to fade a little farther into the mists of time, I thought it would be worthwhile to record the recollections of a few witnesses who happened to be on or near the Monmouth College campus that fateful day.

Only 11 known faculty and staff members from 1963 are still living, and the youngest former students are now 75 years old. The student newspaper had been put to bed earlier that day, prior to news of the assassination, and the following week was Thanksgiving, so there was little written about the events on campus surrounding the assassination. …


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Students help move furnishings into Monmouth College’s new Rotary Hall in November 1946. Because it was built on a hillside, the front of the building was one story, but the rear encompassed two stories.

To understand the motivation for the dormitory project, which occurred in the summer and fall of 1946, we must consider the unusual historical circumstances facing the country that year. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act — also known as the G.I. …

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