A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
Asa "Dollarhide" Rice and Jacob McCune were having another successful hunt. They were covering unfamiliar territory north of the Kaskaskia River, and had just traveled onto the prairie again. Before them a green ocean of prairie grass stretched almost as far as the eye could see. A line of trees bounding it on the east, south and west, took on the hazy blue of a distant shorehne. Here and there the sea of grass was splashed with the rainbow colors of prairie flowersyellows, violets, blues. The wind blew waves in the tall grasses and the sunUght was reflected as on frothy whitecaps. They had just passed through a line of timber which meandered northward, and then ended in a point where the stream and prairie met. To the north, the green of the prairie flowed into the blue of a lake two miles long.
Asa said, "Of all the country I've seen, this is my choice." His companion responded, "This shall be called Asa's Point."
Many years later, in 1845, a town and county seat was founded in this idyllic setting. First called Asa's Point, it soon was given the more sophisticated name of Sulhvan, after Sullivan's Island in Charleston Harbor, S. C, where Gen. William Moultrie so ably defended his fort during the Revolutionary War. Another version (John Freeland's) states that the city was named for Gen. John Sullivan, a northern officer, since Moultrie was a southerner.
The setting for the new county seat may have been beautiful, but, for health reasons, it was not a very good choice for a town site. The Eagle Pond to the north and the poorly drained prairies were breeding grounds for malaria carrying mosquitoes.
The little village of East Nelson, now known as Old Nelson, was a more logical site for a county seat. It was located on the south side of the Kaskaskia River near the Old Bend, and was further removed from the miasmic conditions of Asa's Point on the prairie. It had been in existence for ten years, having several stores and a mill; and most importantly, the trail toward Charleston passed through it, crossing the river ford near there. It was unfortunate for East Nelson that the east side of the county did not have enough votes to make it the county seat.
There was nothing at Asa's Point when it was chosen. It was simply a point of timber and a little stream named by two hunters many years before. Even though the town soon lost Asa's Rice's name, it is still retained in Asa Creek which flows through the town.
AT THE DROP OF A PEN
On a cold day in the winter of 1844, the commissioners gathered in the home of Dr. William Kellar to decide which 40 acres to choose for a site for Sullivan. Philo Hale, a benevolent land speculator and a large landowner in Macon County had offered to sell half of his 80 acres near Asa Creek. An open ditch ran through a low spot between the two 40 acre plots, but the land rose gently to the north and south. A courthouse built on either rise would be prominent.
The county commissioners were at an impasse, so Parnell Hamilton suggested that they "Put up a stake and be governed by its fall." At that moment, the pen with which the chairman, R. B. Ewing, was writing fell from his fingers and pointed north. Taking this as an omen, they chose the north forty, and the original town was bounded by Jackson, Hamilton, Water, and Douglas (later Worth) Streets. It was purchased by Dr. Kellar and others for $100 and then donated to the county on February 28, 1845.
Charles Martin Cochran recalled the following legend about Parnell Hamilton, the county surveyor:
It was said that Hamilton, in laying out the city, trained his instruments at the courthouse site on a flagpole just west of the present C.&E.I. railroad tracks. So he could see the pole clearly he tied a whisky jug at the top, and people always joked about the town being laid out with a whisky jug.
The organization of the town was the death knell for East Nelson and Glasgow. Glasgow was a town platted in 1840 by William Cantrill, a Macon County businessman, at the first crossroads south of Sullivan on the west side of Route 32.
One sour note was heard at the beginning of Sullivan. Ebenezer Noyes, promoter and large land-owner in Whitley Township, saw his dream town of Essex doomed with the growth of Sullivan. He said, "It's a shame to spoil a good 40 acres with a town like Sullivan."
A Frontier Village—1845-1872
House (1) SW corner, Harrison and VanBuren John Ferryman, a merchant from East Nelson, must have been anxious to get Sullivan underway, because in May, 1845, only two months after its site was determined, he moved into his small frame house, becoming the first resident of SulHvan. His responsibilities were heavy as both county treasure and school commissioner. He was also appointed the town's postmaster and delivered mail which arrived from Shelbyville by horseback every two weeks. In 1848, he was elected circuit clerk and later operated a dry goods store on the south side of the square.
Freeland Log Cabin (2) NW or NE corner, Adams and Washington
John A. Freeland, the county clerk, was the second resident of Sullivan, coming here from Marrowbone Township in July of 1845. His was the first log cabin in town, having moved it from Glasgow. He was glad to see the court have a permanent place instead of the temporary locations of Campfield Point and East Nelson.
Richard J. Oglesby, future governor and U. S. Senator from Illinois, first practiced law in the old Freeland cabin and was the first lawyer in town. He left in the spring of 1846 to fight in the Mexican War. Decatur claims Oglesby as a native son, but Sullivan played a part also in the life of this great Illinoisian.
There were seven houses or cabins built in Sullivan by the end of the first year. Joseph Thomason's was on the corner of Van Buren and Monroe Streets. He was county sheriff in 1846, and his brother Arnold Thomason, who lived with him for a time, spent 30 years in various offices in the county. The other homes were built by Owen Seaney, a blacksmith; Andrew Scott, county commissioner and the builder of the first county courthouse; Rowland Hampton, a county commissioner; and Thomas Randoll, a carpenter. Note that most of these first residents were either engaged in the actual building of the town, or were county officers.
Earp Saloon (3) NW corner, Harrison and Washington
Joel Earp's (pronounced "Arp") enterprise was not only the first business, but the first of many saloons. Sullivan was a rough frontier town, and saloons and the affects of their liquor added a lot of local color to our history. Earp sold this business in 1848 and it was later operated by Keedy and Brown.
Oglesby Store (4) SE corner, Jefferson and Washington
William Cantrill sold his small frame store building at Glasgow to Warner W. Oglesby and he moved it into Sullivan to this site in 1845, making his dry goods store the second business here. Oglesby moved to Decatur the next year, apparently not impressed with the business opportunities in Sullivan.
First Blacksmith Shop (5) corner, Washington and Water
Blacksmith shops, hke filling stations today, were one business every town had to have. Isaac Funderburk started one in this location the first year. Owen Seaney also had a blacksmith shop in 1845, on the southeast corner of Harrison and Van Buren.
First School House (6) lot 2, block 11 on East Harrison In the summer of 1846, the first school was taught here in a little frame building. The school master was a young attorney from Christian County, John W. Wheat. This little school was used until the Sullivan Academy was opened. It was also where court was held before the courthouse was completed in 1848. Later it was moved across the street and used as a stable.
In the 1850's a two story brick was built on East Water (7) by members of the Christian Church, and was used until the North Side School opened. This lot has sat idle since then, as the original owners stipulated that it be used only for school purposes.
Taylor Hotel (8) NE corner. Main and Harrison
In 1847, Beverly Taylor, a miller from Marrowbone Township, erected a two story frame hotel or tavern, the first here. The old county history says that the hotel had several nicely furnished rooms; but, the circuit riders apparently avoided it if at all possible on their biannual visits to Sullivan. Judge David Davis, then traveling the Eighth Judicial Circuit, said of it, "The tavern was so tough that I should have been in a bad humor to have staid there." By 1857, Joseph Thomason was operating the hotel, then called the Eagle House (probably after the eagles who nested north of town in the walnut grove along Eagle Pond).
Sullivan may have been a rough town in its early days, but it was a religious town.
The Methodist circuit was serving this area as early as 1826, including Sullivan in 1846. In 1848, they built the first church in town on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Madison (9). They moved to their present site in 1862.
The Christian organization predated the formation of Sullivan, organizing in the home of Levi Patterson in 1840. Later, it used the Methodist building until 1853 when they built their own church on the southwest corner of Worth and Harrison (l0). The Christians worshiped on this corner for 120 years. Bushrod Henry, their first preacher, was a founder of Eureka College.
The Presbyterians were organized in 1848 and its first building erected in 1853 on the southwest corner of Main and Jackson (11). Although the present church is across the street from their first building site, they have always worshiped on the same intersection.
First Courthouse (12) 1848-1864
Two years after Sullivan was founded, the first official courthouse of the county was begun. The county commissioners chose one of their members, Andrew Scott, to be the contractor. It was a two story brick, 38 feet square. A rail fence surrounded the yard to keep out the hogs and cows which roamed freely through the village. It was ready for use in 1848.
To the pioneer, one of his most exciting diversions was to go to town when court was in session, for the village came alive on these days. If a town visitor could not get into the crowded court room, he could always gossip with friends around the square, "wet his whistle" on sod-corn row or do some trading with the merchants. A picture of the activity of a typical day can be seen from this item in an October, 1858 issue of the Sullivan Express:
Circuit Court in session— docket not so full as common—pretty fair representation of the legal profession from several of our neighboring towns — quite a number of political speeches made—sod-corn whiskey in demand— town constable very busy—northeast corner of courthouse, lower floor, somewhat crowded— town constable charged with being drunk, arrested, tried and honorable acquitted—peddlers make a great deal of fuss to sell their ''Yankee notions''— all our merchants who advertise in the Express very busy — those who do not advertise, not trading much — would tell more but owing to ill health were not able to take items.
The crowded area referred to above was the first jail located in the northeast corner of the basement of the courthouse. The jail was very inadequate, and most prisoners were taken to neighboring counties for incarceration. Of the four known overnight occupants, two escaped, and one of the ones who did not was a donkey, placed there by pranksters.
The judge in the following article (compiled by Glen Cooper in 1946) was probably Judge David Davis of Bloomington, the judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit which served Moultrie:
Around 1851, the presiding judge in the Moultrie' circuit court was a man who couldn't ponder legal questions deeply unless he could do something with his hands. So, he usually got out his knife and whittled while a trial proceeded. The courthouse had a basement jail, which, because of its filthy conditions, was referred to as ''the Stable".
THE FIRST COURTHOUSE may have looked like this sketch. An 1864 picture of its burned out shell shows the position of the windows and four chimneys. The roof style is in question, but it apparently had no cupola. On the second floor was the courtroom.
The whittling judge insisted upon dignity in his court and demanded that spectators remain in their seats. During a trial one day, a band of Indians passed through Sullivan. They attracted much attention and one of the court room spectators made frequent trips to the window to watch them. The judge's irritation increased each time the man walked to the window. Finally, the judge ordered the sheriff to ''put that hoss in the stable,'' and the violator of the court's dignity was locked in jail.
Through the doors of this courthouse, Abraham Lincoln passed many times while he traveled on our circuit from 1849 to 1852. The judge and entourage of circuit riding lawyers came to Sullivan twice a year and stayed about two days. The circuit lawyers were usually highly experienced, and often the local lawyers turned their cases over to them.
Few records have been kept of Lincoln's appearances here. In one incident, however, some of Lincoln's humor is preserved. The prosecuting attorney at the time was David Campbell. Campbell had just been in a fight during which the seat of his pants was torn off. Some of the other lawyers present suggested that they buy Campbell a new pair of pants. When they approached Lincoln, he said, "I can not conscientiously contribute anything to the end in view."
This courthouse was destroyed by fire in November of 1864, and many early records were lost.
James Elder's Home (13) SW corner, Main and Harrison
When James Elder came to Sullivan in 1845, he was already a well established merchant in the county, having kept store at East Nelson for ten years. Elder saw the opportunities in Sullivan, built his first residence on this site and his store building across the street north. He and his wife kept transient guests in their two story home, and Mrs. Elder was stiff competition for the hotel located diagonally across the intersection. The circuit riders, including Lincoln and Judge Davis, preferred to board with Mrs. Elder rather than stay at the crude local inn.
Lincoln stayed in Elder's second home on East Jackson (14) the night preceeding his appearance in Sullivan in 1858, described on the next page. Douglas had spent the night with Robert Ginn about five miles east of town and was led into town by a procession. The Sullivan Express said, "In passing the residence of Judge Elder, half a mile east of town, A. Lincoln was espied standing upon the porch, when another tremendous cheering for Douglas took place." It is said that the back two or three rooms of the present house are part of the original Elder home.
Lincoln-Douglas "Riot" (15) East of Courthouse
Probably one of the most infamous events to occur in Sullivan's history was the day of the "riot" between the supporters of Lincoln and Douglas when they appeared here in 1858. This fracas may have been the only one of its kind during that long summer of campaigning for the U. S. Senate. They had engaged in a series of now famous debates all over the state, but had many separate speaking engagements, as their Sullivan appearance on September 20th was to be. Their fourth debate took them to Charleston two days before.
Apparently, their dual appearance in Sullivan was a coincidence of scheduhng, although Douglas accused Lincoln of following him around the state to capitalize on the crowds he had gathered. He indeed gathered crowds, for early in the day they began streaming into the little village from all the neighboring counties.
After a morning spent in parading into and around the town, and then celebrating at the Eagle House, Douglas began his two hour speech at 1 o'clock. The Express described the ensuing events:
A short time after two o'clock, as the Judge was making a point on Mr. Lincoln, which struck terror to their hears, the abolition part of the audience hurried off, and with full band playing and all the discordant vocal noise that they could muster, assembled at the ''Eagle House" northwest corner of public square, where they kept up the din a short time.
Lincoln's supporters were smaller in number, but their enthusiasm more than made up the difference. The main feature of their procession was a huge wagon twenty-four feet by sixty-four feet long with wheels that were cut from a hickory log three and one half feet in diameter, and it was pulled by thirty-six yoke of oxen. Upon this rode one hundred people, including the band and those running the animated exhibits on the wagon.
The Lincoln procession, led by this huge wagon, proceeded counterclockwise around the square. At this point, Douglas took note of the disturbance, and asked the audience to ignore them and "let the howlers pass, for I can speak louder than their noise."
Instead of bypassing the crowd on the east side of the square, the Lincoln procession turned and drove right through the middle of the Douglas gathering. "In a few minutes the confusion was general, coats were drawn, clubs flourished in the air and everything seemed favorable to a general melee," said the Sulhvan Express.
One of the exhibits on the Lincoln wagon depicted the evils of slavery with an overseer whipping two slaves working in a cotton field, all set in motion by a small windmill. F. M. Green, the creator of this controversial cotton field, was one casualty:
As the wagon was about to pass the viewing stand. . .a mob, infuriated by my exhibit, sent a shower of missiles at my cotton field, and one of the bricks made that dent in my forehead.
Lincoln and his supporters then went out to Freeland Grove where he delivered his speech. The town was still in turmoil that evening and there were threats of more violence, which, fortunately, did not materialize.
There are so many different versions of what did happen that day that it is difficult to ascertain the truth. Accounts written by Democrats usually play down the violence and place the blame on the Republicans who interrupted their meeting, while the Repubhcans accuse the Democrats of assaulting their peaceful procession. Whatever is true, passions were still running high fifty years later. The eyes of James T. Taylor, a Douglas man, lit up while reminiscing about the riot and he exclaimed, "Now they had no right to do that!"
Freeland Grove (16) Bounded by Wyman Park, Main, Strain, Worth.
On the north edge of the old village of Sullivan was located a beautiful grove of trees known as Freeland Grove, the unofficial park for many years. Fourth of July picnics, tent meetings and political rallies were held in the cool shade of its trees. Owned by John Freeland, who built his later home on the west side of this grove, it was the site of Lincoln's speech on September 20, 1858
STRUGGLING TO IMPROVE -Sod-corn Row (17) North side of square
During this early period of history, a tavern and a saloon were on either end of the north side of the square and other establishments of a like nature later located there. John R. Eden discussed the atmosphere of the town of 1853:
At that time the village had no policemen and some of the rougher elements that usually gets out as soon as civilization becomes established wtill remained in the county. This part of the population when in town, made the saloon their headquarters. They at times indulged in fist fights and other disorderly conduct, as a result of which the north side of the square was called than and for a long time subsequent, ''sodcorn row".
In 1857, an indignant letter was written to the editor of the Sullivan Express:
From the seeming taste, and business like appearance of your citizens, I was somewhat astonished to see men and women have to go paddling along through the mud around the aquare, from the fact that there are no sidewalks.
I notice in some places wood piled up where there should be sidewalks; particularly on the south side of the square. On the north side, or what is called ''sod-corn row'\ there is not a vestiage of a walk-way. I suppose on that side of town there is no particular need of walks for they that visit the bacchanalian halls there, would go, mud or no mud. But, from the mere fact, of there being no side walks there, I think should act as a stimulus, and cause those living on other streets of the town, bo build sidewalks in order to show a difference between grog and no grog. — A Chicago Plug
In spite of the atmosphere on the north side of the square, the town was mainly inhabited by responsible, peaceful citizens. As Eden said, "This much is true, that without ordinances, or municipal officers, and with but a few peace officers of any kind, the people of Sullivan were as orderly and law abiding in 1853 as they have been at any time since."
By the 1870 's the atmosphere on this side was improved, due to the efforts of city marshall, James T. Taylor, the first strong temperance man to run the police force.
Sullivan Academy, Moultrie County Academy or "Bastion Seminary" (18) North of 418 South Washington
At an early day there was a desire for Sullivan to improve. One of the men who contributed most toward this in the 1850's was John A. Freeland's brother, James S., a teacher and Presbyterian preacher. By 1850 he had started a private school of secondary education, teaching his first classes in the new courthouse. He constructed the Sullivan Academy, a two story brick, in 1851. Freeland died in 1856, but contrary to information in earlier histories, an 1857 Sullivan Express item indicates the school continued under the leadership of a board of trustees:
The fourth annual session of this institution will commence on Monday the 5th of October, 1857. The prospects of the school were never brighter than at present. Good teachers have been procured and every arrangement made to render the pupils comfortable and advance them in the various departments of literature. Scholars from a distance will be furnished with bood boarding, convenient to the academy. B. W. Henry, Pres. B. T; Dennis Cokely, Principal
Prof. Washington Smith purchased the academy in 1858 from the Freeland estate and sold it in the same year to N. S. Bastion, a Christian Church minister and his wife, Eunice. It is known that the Bastion's operated the school as the Moultrie County Academy or the "Bastion Seminary" through the late 1860's and early 1870's. Bastion stressed the usual study of the classics. It ceased to be a private school a couple of years before the first high school was built and public school classes were held in this building.
Second Courthouse (12) 1865-1904
After the first building burned in 1864, a larger courthouse (50 square feet) was built on the same site. All the materials had to be hauled from the railroad town of Mattoon except the brick, which was made at Dunn by Sam Brooks. The money for the new structure was obtained by Judge Eden, who arranged for the sale of the county's swamplands given to it earlier by the state. Thus, within a few years, most of the unsettled prairie of the county was sold and farmed for the first time. The health of the county was improved and the farming income increased as the prairies were drained. It can be said, then, that each brick of this second courthouse represented one more step in the general improvement of the county. The yard surrounding the courthouse was filled with trees, and an outhouse adorned the east lawn.
WATER TOWER stood on the same block. Like most churches built in the 1850's, there was a door for each sex. The bell was moved from this building to the second church on this site, and was used until 1973.
Old Well (19) South side Eden Street, at end of Market
Besides private wells and several located on the square, there was a good well located one-fourth of a mile from the southeast corner of the old town. The ladies of the town made a beaten path through the prairie grasses to it. A well for fire protection was dug in 1871 on the southeast corner of the courthouse lawn, but it was inadequate. In 1887, a sixty foot high wooden storage tank (20) was erected which was to protect the business district.
BUSINESSES AND INDUSTRIES OF THE FRONTIER
Sullivan's merchants had a hard time in the first
years. Competition from railroad towns in neighboring counties
was strong; nevertheless, a few were successful, and some are
Corbin Furniture Store (21 ) South side of square
A furniture business started by W. P. Corbin in 1851 is the oldest continuous business in Sullivan, and was owned by the Corbin family for 110 years. Corbin at first made his own furniture, assembling the pieces from native wood in a small factory on Washington Street. The business was in the same location on the south side of the square from 1872 until 1965 when it was moved to the west edge of town by its new owners.
The Sullivan Progress
The Sullivan Progress is the second oldest business, but the oldest one under the same name. Established in 1856 as The Sullivan Express, its name was changed to The Sulhvan Progress in 1869. It has been a Democratic paper most of its life. Early copies of The Sullivan Express are an invaluable source of historical information. The Progress has been in many different locations.
Eden House (13) SW corner, Main and Harrison
The Eden House, one of the more famous hotels in Sullivan, was Established in 1864 by Judge Joseph E. Eden, brother of John R. Eden. Joseph Eden, who was a merchant, came to Sullivan in 1853. The Eden House may have been in the same structure built by James Elder here in the 1840's. In 1880, the Eden House burned, but was replaced with a three story brick at a cost of $25,000. It had forty sleeping rooms, a dining room and parlors, and was considered a very fine hotel for a town of Sullivan's size. The Eden House, later called the Savoy Hotel and in the 1920's the National Inn, ceased operation in the 1950's.
Morrell Grist Mill (22) N. Worth opposite Strain intersection
The main industry in Sullivan most of its first 25 years was the Morrell Grist Mill. It was purchased by S. H. Morrell in 1859 from Garland and Patterson who built the frame structure in 1852. The late Homer Tabor wrote of the Morrell Mill:
. . .probably from about 1890 to 1900 this historic industry was riding the crest of its useful existence. Those among us today. ..without too much of a stretch of our imaginations, may envision a long line of horse drawn wagons and buggies with the drivers waiting on what was. . .either a dusty or muddy north Worth Street to have their cereals ground at the mill into corn meal, both of which he would take home to the members of his family to use in their routine cooking. Mr. Appollos Hagerman of Sullivan informed the writer that he definitely remembers this old mill with its steam engine that had an enormous fly wheel which appealed to him very much as a small boy. . . Evidently the Morrell Grist Mill burned either shortly before or else shortly after the turn of the century. Joseph H. Baker, grandfather of the writer, purchased the Morrell Mill site to add to his adjacent farm land. . .
A Railroad Town at Last— 1872
"CHISSELED OUT OF ITS RICHES' -
By the 1870's Sullivan was stagnating. The 1850's had brought both the Illinois Central and the Terre Haute and Alton Railroads to Coles County, and our citizens watched with envy as Mattoon sprang up at their intersection, soon surpassing Sullivan in size and in business activity. According to I. J. Martin, our civic leaders "were quite sure that the Chicago branch of the Central would not bypass an important town like Sullivan..." Their disappointment was great and an 1858 Express item claimed the area was being "chisseled" out of its riches. John Freeland said in an 1876 Progress:
One could hear the wagons going to Mattoon and other points before day and returning after night, while in Sullivan no one came to trade only some poor fellow that had nothing to sell and wanted credit until next Christmas. Our county was literally starved to death and our money and trade taken to build railraod towns all around us. Our men of enterprise were leaving us. Older and more prosperous counties around us formed combinations and legislated against us.
Bond issues were passed to entice railroads to the area, but by 1858 the taxpayers had nothing to show for their generosity but a Httle grading and surveying from two railroad schemes that had failed. The Civil Vvar intervened, but finally, in 1872, Sullivan had acquired the coveted title of "railroad town".
Much excitement was generated when the first train rolled into town, consisting of a boxcar pushed by an engine. This first railroad was the Decatur, Sullivan and Mattoon line, and after many name changes is now the Illinois Central. The 1870 's brought one more line, the Chicago and Paducah, known later as the Wabash, and a third railroad went through the northern part of the county.
Suddenly, the taxpayers were faced with three railroads waiting to collect on the $400,000 in bonds passed the decade before. Freeland defended the harassed county this way:
In justice to our people let it be remembered that when we commenced voting subsidies we were in hopes of getting some one road and did not think of getting them all. We felt we had voted too much, and as we now had the roads, and would have to pay, a feeling of discontent came on a portion of our enthusiastic citizens, which was encouraged by some would be office holders and fee catchers. So far the fee catchers have come out the best as the treasury can testify.
The last railroad to be built through Sullivan was the Chicago and Eastern Illinois, built in 1891.
The twenty year delay in getting a railroad to Sullivan is the main reason it is smaller than cities of the same age in neighboring counties. Nevertheless, it can be said the quality of life here is far superior to theirs.
INCORPORATING A CITY-
1872 was a banner year for SulUvan. To celebrate its revitalization and to express confidence in Sullivan's future prosperity, the founding fathers incorporated as a city in December of 1872. It had first been incorporated as a village in 1850 and as a town in the 1860's. The city officials were so enamored of Sullivan's new status as a railroad town that they included a railroad engine in their first city seal. (See front cover)
AROUND THE SQUARE -The Present Courthouse
The second courthouse was too small by the turn of the century and was torn down for the present courthouse which was completed in 1906. The cannon on the courthouse lawn is reputed to be from old Fort Moultrie in Charleston, S. C. On the southeast corner is a monument of a Union soldier which used to hold an iron musket. It was erected by Fred Sona, an immigrant monument maker, to face his shop on the east side. The monument on the northeast corner commemorates Lincoln's circuit riding days here. The W.C.T.U. fountain on the northwest corner originally had a figure of a boy pouring water from a boot.
Titus Opera House (8) NE corner, Main and Harrison
By the 1870 's sod-corn row was gone, and the north side of the square became the center of Sullivan's entertainment and social hfe. Built by J. B. Titus in 1871, the opera house was considered one of the finest in the area. Located on the second and third stories of the building, the large auditorium, balcony and box seats could accommodate 800.
The establishment offered a wide variety of entertainment, including traveling theatrical companies, lectures and talented local musicians. Since it was the largest hall in town, school commencements, balls and other big gatherings were held there.
The Opera House burned in 1910, but its cultural influence was long lasting in Sullivan. Titus's daughter, Winifred Titus Sentel, (who later taught voice and piano to two generations of young people) wrote of its influence on her life:
Good attractions were booked and one especially that I so well remember was the concert given by the great Brazilian pianist, Teresa Carreno. Her playing thrilled me and inspired me so, that I longed to be able to play the piano. The opera house was my playground, and after a stock company had filled the weekly engagement, my playmates came, and we would, to the best of our abilities, in this world of make-believe, give the plays over again.
Oldest Building on Square NW corner, Harrison and Washington On the site of the first business in Sullivan, stands today what it said to be the oldest building on the square. It is a two story brick built by Dr. T. Y. Lewis sometime between 1866 and 1872. On the unaltered east side the original window cornices can be seen
North Side of Square
It was a hot summer day in 1881, too hot for much trade. What better time for A. S. Creech to get a picture? The windows of John R. Eden's law office on the second floor corner of Titus's Opera House were pushed all the way up except for that one that always had to be propped. Down below, the merchandise of the general store on the corner was stored under the awning, almost hiding the two proprietors and their window display of hats. G. O. Andrews, the "merchants tailor", hurried from his store in the middle of the block to put his new sewing machine closer to the camera, and situated himself in front of the opera house stairs. L. M. Spitler and his son prided themselves on neatly stacked merchandise—the cans in their window, and the pots,kegs, brooms and sacks outside. Those four gas Ughts in front (to illuminate the street for the opera house patrons) were another source of pride, for they were the only ones in town, but someone really should straighten them!
The awning over the Vadakin "Drugs" building next door was lower and made a cool spot for loafing in the uncluttered area in front of the Andrews shop. Mose Ansbacher, the Jewish merchant, had a rack of bargain clothes on the sidewalk. The Journal management (in the two story brick), Harry J. Pike (the jeweler in one of the little wooden buildings), and the proprietors of the City Book Store (in Dr. Lewis's building at the end) did not bother to come out for the picture.
East Side of Square
A pedestrian on the east side of the square in about 1880 encountered d mixture of sights and smells. The meat market (not pictured), besides selling meat, bought hides and pelts. The market's smell of fresh blood and saw dust mingled with the heavy aroma of oiled leather, the distinctive smell of a harness shop next door. At the sign of the boot (see left of picture). Mat Layman was working at his cobbler's bench. From the open door of Brosam Bros. Bakery came mouth watering aromas of fresh baked goodies. Several customers were in John R. McClure's grocery, indicating that his 23 year old business was in much better condition than his two story wooden building. Several slabs of marble were lying in the street in front of Fred Sona's Marble Shop, waiting to become grave markers through the skillful blows of his chisel. Above the hardware at the end of the block was the law office of I. J. Mouser, with whom young Albert J. Beveridge, a future U. S. Senator, spent many long hours learning about law and politics. Across the street south a few men had stopped to visit in front of
Mayer's Dry Goods Emporium while on their way to pick up their mail at the post office next door. Beyond Citcuit Clerk Joseph Waggoner's white frame house could be seen the unused Bastion Seminary (far right of picture).
Oldest Group of Buildings on the Square ( 23 ) corner, Jefferson and Washington.
William Elder, an enterprising businessman, either built or acquired soon after construction the three buildings on this intersection. He first built about 1873 the two story brick on the northeast corner. The row of two story buildings on the southwest comer were next built around 1874 by Elder and A. N. Smyser. About 1876, Charles Crow, a blacksmith, built the large two story brick on the southeast corner and* sold it to Elder in 1877. Its ornate cornice has been removed, but, fortunately, the other two buildings have had very little done to change their original appearance. The three story Corbin store, which joins the Elder and Smyser row on the west, dates to 1872. (See picture above)
Albert Wyman Shoe Store (24) NW corner, Jefferson and Main The money used to create Wyman Park was earned in this building. It was built in 1885 by Albert Wyman, a German born shoe maker, who at his death willed the funds for the park. It was also the site of the earher dry goods store of Charles L. Roane, member of the state legislature in the 1880's.
First National Bank ( 13) SW comer, Harrison and Main This bank has been fortunate in having a long history of responsible management. Established in 1891 as a state bank, it was changed to a national bank in 1905. X. B. Trower's Moultrie County Bank of the 1870's and The Merchant and Farmer's Bank of W. A. Steele had dismal periods, but space does not permit their history to be told.
"Horse Avenue" (25) North Main, between Harrison and Jackson
There were so many many livery stables and blacksmiths north of the square on Main Street that it was known as "Horse Avenue". Traveling salesmen arriving by train would rent rigs, farmers left their horses at the blacksmiths while in town trading, high school pupils from the country boarded their horses, doctors hired drivers or rented rigs for their calls in the country, and even the veterinary had his office there to be handy to his customers.
First Paved Streets
Sulhvan's citizens slopped around the square in the mud or ate its dust until 1894. when the streets there were paved with brick. The next year West Harrison Street was paved from the square to the railroad depots. It soon became the most fashionable street as is evident by the many old homes still there. This paved street made it more comfortable for travehng salesmen as they rode to the Eden House Hotel in the Eden Hack.
THE ROLEY DELIVERY WAGON on west side next to Chapman s Hardware
Moultrie County Historical
And Genealogical Society
Century I, Notes On Sullivan