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A Peek At Our Past 
Kell: Surviving The:Depression Years

Dr. George Ross Kell welcomed in the new year with great style according to the Sentinel of Jan. 8, 1926. "There was a skating party at the M.C. Kell pond, and then the young folks gathered at the Clarence Huser home and listened to the radio. Just before mid-night they went to the four churches and rang the bells," The year saw considerable excitement --"moonshine was confiscated and taken to Salem following bootleg raids in Haines township. Riley and Thomas shipped as many as 16 carloads of eggs out of Kell at a time. A group of the Kell folk found their way to the Soldiers and Sailors' Reunion at Salem that summer. They were led by 80-year-old J.J. Hawkins who set up a display of his brushes, made at Kell. Village officials elected that year were J.O. Purdue (clerk), G.W. Tucker (treasurer), W.J. Presley (police magistrate), J.A. Caldwell, Wayne Howard and L.R. Osborne (trustees). The Kell High School, due to increased enrollment, was forced to occupy the store building vacated by J.A. Caldwell. Kenneth Blair and Thelma Farthing taught at the high school, and Jesse Farthing and Louise Garn instructed the elementary students. Jesse Farthing was selling McNess products in 1927, John Hooten was repairing shoes, Wm. T. Hooten continued doing carpenter work, while J.E. "Bone" Hanes continued conducting his old general store at Kell. Village officials elected included B.M. Kell (mayor), O.G. Hays, Harry Hilton, J.W. March and Frank Woodward (trustees). Kell teachers were Alfred Purdue and Thelma Farthing at the high and Jesse Farthing and Treva Riley at the grade school. The fruit evaporator belonging to W.C. Hodge and the old Moehlman blacksmith shop (one of Kell's first buildings) were destroyed by fire in 1928. Harry Hilton drove the oil truck of the Kell Oil Company servicing the farms. The M.F. Hootens and the Ora Howards were expert paper-hangers. Dr. W.D. McMeens, a practicing Marion County veterinarian for fifty years, retired. It was announced that the depot at Kell would close evenings at 10. The first class graduated from Kell High School and included Leroy Charlton, Mabel March, Kenneth Carpenter, Opal Kell, Ralph Baird, Clark Parkinson, and Edna Williams. Teachers who opened school in the fall were J. Alfred Purdue and Thelma Farthing (high) and Sam McCoy and Ruth Whitlock (grade). Joe Hall shipped a carload of grapes. There was consider-able oil speculation in the Kell area. Over 6,000 acres of land were leased in Haines township by Benoist and Finn. They mostly found dust and mud. Rev. Ross Smith was assigned as pastor of the Methodist Church In 1929, a post he held several years. The population of Kell according to the 1930 census was 187, down from a high of about 400 just prior to World War I. Times were difficult as the July 17,1930 issue of the Marion County Democrat explained, "Dr. Arthur Simmons of Kell sent a collector out last week to collect money enough to buy necessary drugs." He said they drove three days and succeeded in collecting $3.00 in cash and a lot of checks which the bank wouldn't cash. Elder Robert Phillips of near Salem held a most successful revival at Kell early In 1931. John Wilkins purchased the March Restaurant that year, and Fred Lee was operating the Red and White Store. The state relief program distributed free garden seed. The Egyptian String (Fiddlers) Band, composed of Lawrence and Harry Parkinson, Lucian Gaston, Avery Leuty and Wm. Hooten, all from the Kell area made many public appearances including programs on St. Louis radio. W.C. Hodges was elected to succeed B.M. Kell who had been mayor since Kell's incorporation; however, before the year was over, the old mayor was restored to office in a special election. Rey and Harris Parkinson did much of the threshing in the Kell environs. Miss Evelyn Purdue was teaching at the grade school and Seymour Mount was the custodian. In 1932, the Illinois Superintendent of Public Instruction issued a special commendation to the students of Kell High for being willing to walk so far to attend school. L.B. Knaus purchased the O.A. Darnell Garage, and Roy Woodward bought the Wayne Howard Restaurant. Village officials elected were, L.R. Osborne (clerk), 3.0. Purdue (treasurer), C.O.Darnell, Harry Hilton and Ralph Rollinson (trustees). Route 142, newly paved from Salem to Mt. Vernon, was opened June 5 and the following week the road from Kell to the highway was graveled. The new Hilton and Darnell Filling Station and the Ralph Rollinson fruit stand were located where the two met. Seventy carloads of peaches were shipped from Kell that year on the C. & EI. Railroad. In 1933, Mr. and Mrs. Earl Hawkins took over the operation of the telephone switchboard at Kell. The Sentinel of July 30, 1933, stated that "three hammer mills keep several of the citizens of Kell employed as they grind away making food stuff for the domestic animals owned by the people of this lively community who are engaged generally in farming, dairying and fruit growing. Besides the hammer mills these business establishments include grist mills and corn shelters, making it possible to care for almost any demand made upon the operators for meal, chipstuff, crushed corn or shelled corn." The grinding was done while the farmer waited, and the mills generally were busy six days a week. "Besides the hammer mills," the Sentinel continued, "Kell has three general stores, two restaurants, a garage, a lumber yard, bank, three filling stations, produce house, barber shop, and blacksmith shop." Kell had four churches — Elder Sam McCoy was pastor of the Baptists, Ross Smith of the Methodists, but the Christian and Presbyterian churches were without a minister. High school teachers were Clyde Smith, Mary Peace and Prof. Dean, while Bettie Dalton and Evelyn Purdue taught the grades. Village officials were B.M. Kell (mayor), and O.A. Darnell, Harry Hilton, E.N. Harp, John Wilkins, Bud Wilkins, and Ralph Rollinson (trustees). Mrs. Grace Bigham beaded the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, while Mrs. Ada Osborne presided over the Women's Missionary Union. D.E. Peace was the Noble Grand of the Odd Fellows, Ray Riley the Master of Masons, and Mrs. Hannah Hilton was the Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star.'  [Sentinel Newspaper, 10-4-1992; Submitted by J. Mike Kell]


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