The Francis Ryder House
Built in early 1890's which included, General Store, U.S. Post Office, Photograph Studio upstairs, and living quarters in the rear.
W. C. W. Passenger train made daily stops here from Chester to Mt. Vernon and back.
On January 4, 1895, a Post Office was established at Ryder with Philine Ryder as Postmaster of record. Frank Ryder became Postmaster on December 5, 1901. The Ryder Post Office was doomed to a short life, however, for with the inaugeration of Rural Free Delivery at the Waltonville Post Office, people began to petition for rural delivery into Long Prairie. The required number of signatures were obtained and Daniel S. (Steve) Fairchild started carrying mail right through Ryder and delivering it into rural boxes along the way, on January 8, 1904.
There was little need for a Post Office at Ryder Station after that and on the 14th day of May, 1906. the Ryder Post Office was closed forever. Now, three quarters of a century later, we can hardly realize the importance of the little town of Ryder to the surrounding area. In 1891 there was very few products in south Long Prairie for which there was a market, and even then they had to be hauled for many a weary mile. But with the building of the railroad in 1892, the big city markets were layed at the very doorstep of the Long Prairie people and anyone who could hew a tie, cut cord wood (most people in the cities were still burning wood at that time), or wrangle a job at the mill or in the woods could make a few dollars with which to buy things for his family. They left the era of subsistance farming and became a part of the great industrial complex.
Timber was an abundant crop, and the sawmill at Ryder was really a factory turning timber, the raw material, into saleable products. These were loaded aboard railway cars and some of the finest timber in the world found its way into structures throughout the United States.
It is a definite fact that Ryder timber traveled all over the United States, for the most of the material that came from the sawmill at Ryder for a good many years went into the construction of railway cars at the train factory in Mt. Vernon. The sills were forty feet long, so uncountable numbers of tall straight trees were harvested in south Long Prairie and the nearby bottoms, and sawed into sills for railway cars.
The railroad ties and cordwood that was shipped out at Ryder would stagger the imagination. Old timers told of seeing a three or four acres lot stacked so full of tall piles of woodland products that you had to search for a place to unload and sometimes wait for space to be emptied by loading the material on railroad cars.
At that time people from the surrounding area would drive their rigs to Ryder, tie the horse to the back end, which was filled with hay, and catch the train into Mt. Vernon. There they would shop or visit until about 3:00 PM, then catch the passenger back to Ryder, rehitch their horse and go on home.
The passenger train continued to run, and could be boarded at Ryder until April 14, 1953, but there was only one train each way per day at that time.
Warner Louth first started the sawmill where Ryder was to be in 1889. Sam Black drove a slip (a horse drawn excavating machine) to build the mill pond, that is there yet, and then hauled logs to the Louth mill, while living across the road west in a log house. Ida (Gilbert) Black, his young wife, cooked for the mill hands. Sam was paid 75 cents per day. We don't know what Mrs. Black was paid for the meals (surely not very much at those wages).
About three years later the Louth mill was moved to Conant, IL and the Ryder mill moved in. Both were powered by wood burning steam engines. The Prairie Historians have photo copies of Sam Black and Ira Rightnowar, each atop his own load of logs, heading for the Ryder mill. Hurrah for the Ryder Photo Studio.
The Prairie Historian
December 1972 Volume 2 Number 4
Submitted By: Abby Newell
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