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home : millennium edition : area town histories October 17, 2019

Stonington once was a coal mining community
Pictured is the Village of Stonington after some heavy rains in 1929.
Pictured is the Village of Stonington after some heavy rains in 1929.
TAMMY ANTOINE


Stonington was a village of growth through the years. The village began as a trading post once known as "Sandersville", prospering for thirty three years. With the coming of the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railway in 1870, the post office was removed from "Sandersville Stonington Colony" to a point along the railroad. The post office carried the name of Stonington to the new location. The land on which the village of Stonington is now situated was formally owned by R. W. Covington.

The community of Stonington was built during the years of 1870-71 and was completed and incorporated in 1871.

The Stonington Post Office established in 1870, near the railroad, had as its first postmaster John Catterwood. John rode into Taylorville on horseback once a week to pick up the mail dispatch for the community.

The town was thriving and growing, as the many fine business establishments will show. The community now had a post office, Catherwood's General Store, a saloon, Hayden & Stumpff Blacksmith Shop, the Tarrow Hotel, an agricultural implement shop, a wagon and carriage factory, the Delluge Boot & Shoe Shop, and a harness maker.

In the nine years following, the citizens reaped the benefits of a growing community.

A school house was built in 1874, and during the same year the M. E. Church was erected. In 1878 S.S. Sprague & Co. erected the first grain elevator, handling all types of grain, with 20,000 bushel capacity. In 1879, the community was proud to announce the erection of the Catholic Church.

In the following years, an important factor in the development of this farm community was the national industrial boom. This industrial boom brought with it the location of a coal mine to the Village of Stonington. This offered employment for young and old alike. This industry brought with it many new residents, thus creating a need for a bank. Stonington was fortunate to have two banks organized, The Farmer's State and The First National.

With the mechanization age, the community of Stonington, in 1906, constructed an electric generating power plant, which was operated by steam. A city water system was also installed in the same building. The power plant purchased coal from the Stonington Coal Company. The coal was trucked from the mine to the power plant, by horse drawn wagons.

Coal mining, in 1923, employed 470 men, with a daily output of coal in the amount of 20,000 tons.

With the country's economy in the great depression, the Village of Stonington felt it's heartshattering effects. The first blow to the community was felt in 1924, when the coal mine closed.

Following this, the steam operated power plant having to truck coal from Taylorville, closed it's operation at the water plant and built a new and larger generating plant, now operated by diesel power.

Although industry has played an important part in the history of Stonington, let us not forget that agriculture has, and will always, play an important part in the Village's economy.

Mechanization has brought about great strides in agriculture. Gasoline and kerosene powered farm implements were appearing on the scene. In 1915, William W. Covington purchased what is believed to be one of the first gasoline powered farm tractors, in this area. This was a fine new "Parrott" brand gas burner. Having the most modern facilities, such as an elbow powered, hand crank starting system, and full traction metal wheels. This machine was capable of drawing a three bottom No.14 plow.

In Stonington Township, the citizens had the notable privilege of having revolutionary new farm implements, being introduced on local land. The Garwood Seed Co., harvesting grain with binding and thrashing equipment, found this to be a slow and difficult process. It was noted that a new machine was being used in the western states to harvest wheat in one operation. In 1923, the Massy-Harris Co. in agreement with the Garwood Seed Co., agreed to try harvesting soy beans with their new tractor drawn combine machine. In 1924, soy beans were successfully harvested on the Garwood farms, by the combine, for the first time in the United States. With the introduction of new harvesting machines, not only for soybeans, but for other grains as well, much greater grain sales were realized.

A need for much larger grain storage brought about the expansion of the grain elevators in the community.

The Great Depression was being felt more and more by the community. During these trying times, the community received another sharp blow.

The afternoon of May 9, 1927, the residents of Stonington watched the rolling clouds of a brewing storm. Between 4 and 4:15 p.m. without warning, and with great devastation, a monstrous funnel cloud wiped a path of destruction through the village, leaving its citizens awestruck. Damage to buildings and livestock was high, however, personal injuries were minimal.

In 1928, the citizens organized an all volunteer fire department. Equipment consisted of a hand-drawn hand-pumper. Later, a 1929 Reo truck pumper was purchased.

With education being an important factor in any community, Stonington, in 1918, erected a community high school, at a cost of $19,500. The first principal of the new school was C. E. Lowry. The school board, in 1934, felt the need for an addition to be added to the school building. This addition housed facilities for teaching youth, farm mechanics, and advanced methods in agriculture. During the year 1948, the high school, along with the grade school, and seven district schools of Stonington Township were consolidated to form the Stonington Community School District No. 7.

During the early 1930's, the economic depression had seriously crippled the nation. The situation became grave, the two banks of Stonington fell prey to this disaster, forcing them to close in January of 1932. Just prior to the closing of the bank The Farmer's State and The First National Banks had consolidated in 1931.

In 1900, the O'Dall Telephone System came to Stonington from Moweaqua. This offered to the citizens of this fine community, instant communications from one point to another. In 1905, telephone service consolidated with the Bell Telephone Company. The Taylorville and Stonington telephone offices consolidated in 1924. At that time, the name was changed to Illinois Consolidated Telephone Company

The onslaught of progress has developed a mechanized nation on wheels. In 1929, the first paved highway, named State Highway No. 48, was one of the first paved main highways between St. Louis and Chicago.

With motorized transportation now available to Stonington, the Wabash Railroad, a short time later discontinued passenger service to Stonington.

Stonington, now beginning to work its way out of the Depression, received another relapse in 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This was the beginning of World War II. Stonington was not spared the heartbreaking task of sending her boys to fight and die for the preservation of peace and this great country. This story can plainly be seen on the "Charter" at the Stonington American Legion Zue Vandeveer Post No. 257.

Around 1:00 p.m. on the afternoon of January 9, 1943, the residents of Stonington were going about their duties of their daily routine. The usual quietness of the afternoon air was interrupted by an ever so familiar sound that of a freight train passing through the village midst. A few moments later, the familiar sound was abruptly interrupted by the noise of the train's engine crashing through a truck which had inadvertently driven into its path. The horrendous explosion and fire that followed had awakened the village from its normal duties. This disaster, taking its toll of one dead, the driver of the truck leaving rails, ties, and railroad cars strewn about the north edge of the village. Many of these cars were tankers, containing petroleum products, which burned out of control for many hours.

In 1950, Stonington again was giving her boys to march into battle in the Korean Conflict. Many of Stonington's boys would never return.

Time marches on, and again in the 60's, we are sending boys to Viet Nam where many have again lost their lives.

From the 60's to the present day, many new and wondrous things have happened. The residents of Stonington have shared, not only the trials and tribulations of our great country, but its triumphs as well.

The year, 1970, meant heartbreaking tragedy for a farmers toiling hours. The Southern Corn Leaf Blight caused many a farmer to lose their entire corn crop. During the summer of that same year, the farmers and villagers as well witnessed the closing of Illinois Route No. 48 between Stonington and Taylorville, due to high water. Rail traffic along the Norfolk and Western Railroad was also slowed at a point just south of Stonington, where huge liquid petroleum tanks had floated, finding their resting place upon the rails. The highway was closed for three days while stranded motorists and truck traffic were stacking up on Main Street in the village. While talking to one of the proprietor of a Stonington business firm, it was mentioned, that due to flooded basements, "sump pumps were selling like hot cakes."

The Stonington Municipal Power Plant discontinued service and the Shelbyville Electric Cooperative began serving the community.

The Village Water Plant received new equipment to soften and filter the village water supply. With the proposal to serve the community better, the installation of new plastic water mains, village sewer systems, and a sewage treatment plant were installed.

We have had quite a change in Stonington's school system, in the 90's, with the consolidation of Stonington and Taylorville schools.







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