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home : millennium edition : area town histories August 25, 2019

Midland area thrives on Peabody coal
Amy Kiel


In 1900 mine owner F. S. Peabody sent James Kincaid to purchase tracts of land along the Midland. Peabody envisioned the potential of an industrial center thriving on the vast supplies of bituminous coal lying beneath South Fork's surface.

After purchasing 640 acres from the Isaac (Peg) Hoover and the Alanzo Adams families, Peabody began the improvements in 1913. Under the supervision of the Kincaid Land Association and with the financial support of the Peabody Coal Company, five business houses, 85 residence houses, 30 miles of water mains, sewers and concrete walks were constructed.

In January 1915, the village was incorporated, and Andrew J. Center was elected as mayor.

When making improvements to Kincaid, Peabody saw the need for a railroad. On July 4, 1906, the first tie and spike were laid. One year later Chicago and Illinois Midland Railway ran trains from Pawnee to Kincaid, west to Auburn and east to Taylorville.

In 1908, the C&IM depot built of white tile and green trim became a center of attraction for the first of Kincaid residents. Besides freight service which transported coal, C&IM provided passenger service. Passengers would ride to Springfield or St. Louis where they would shop all day. Although passenger service stopped May 8, 1953, freight trains still run through Kincaid today.

With the mine attracting workers to Kincaid, residents saw the need for a bank. In 1914, Kincaid residents and Chicago architects signed a contract for the first bank, Kincaid Trust and Savings.

The bank started operation with $25,000 capital stock and deposits amounting to $125,000. With high payrolls from the mine in the bank, early robbery attempts were common. In 1920, robbers were caught trying to steal $100,000.

After the Bank Moratorium, Kincaid Trust and Savings closed. Kincaid residents felt they needed another bank. On March 20, 1968, the Midland Community Bank opened with $100,000 capital stock, $100,000 surplus and 10,000 shares at $25 each. Today, the Midland Community Bank still serves South Fork Township.

With the opening of the first bank, Kincaid residents also saw the need for a post office. On Oct. 30, 1913, the first post office opened in the old Adams family residence. Ed Drea served as the first postmaster.

Miners in Kincaid also wanted churches for the families. On land given by the Kincaid Land Association, the Kincaid Methodist Church was built for $10,000 in April 1914. The first women's organization, the Ladies Aid Society, started in the church in January 1915.

Following the Methodist Church, other churches organized and established a congregation in Kincaid. In 1920 St. Rita's Catholic Church was built in brick with windows of imported colored glass. Other churches include Church of the Nazarene, Church of God and the Baptist Church.

Once the town was established, visiting miners could stay in the Kincaid Hotel which was built in 1914. The hotel housed outside miners until Christmas morning 1924 when it burned.

While the mine business boomed, factories and general stores sprang up in Kincaid. From 1917 to 1930, the Pitt Car Factory and Foundry employed over 100 men. Foundry employees blasted and casted iron and steel.

In the central part of Kincaid stands a large, brick factory building. The factory first opened as a silk manufacturing company owned and operated by Oscon Heuman. It employed mainly housewives for three eight-hour shifts paying ten dollars per week.

After silk production ended, the factory had become home to different companies including the Home Manufacturing Company, which made wash dresses. The factory is now known as Cardinal. Employees produce baby blankets, shoe bags, banners and dialysis bags among other items.

When the mine was in full swing during the 20th century, general stores in Kincaid thrived on miners and their families. Herb Etter operated the first hardware store in Kincaid. Reidle's operated the first grocery store. Other businesses include a shoe shop, feed store, drug store, ice plant, barber shop, bakery, livery stables, concrete block factory, clothing store, planing mill, blacksmith shop and a bottling plant.

In addition to lying on vast supplies of coal, fertile farming ground surrounded Kincaid. Corn quickly became the leading agricultural yield at the beginning of the 20th century.

Most of the corn yield went to the Kincaid Grain Elevator which has been incorporated in a Farmer's Grain Company owned by T. M. Young & Company and managed by Norman Covert and Glenn Dawson. The elevator has been under different owners and managers.

In 1913 the Kincaid Electric Generating Plant became the first to supply electrical energy to the mine. The plant supplied the Midland area with a capacity of 6,000 KWH until it shut down in 1931.

Following the Kincaid Electric Generating Plant 36 years later, Commonwealth Edison Company opened and provided more than 1,200,000-kilowatts of electricity to the Midland area and Chicago.

As immigrants settled in the Midland area to work at the mine, schools opened teach their children. Schools in the South Fork Township began with a one room school,Adams School. Eventually, an eight room school house was built in Jeiseyville which burned in February 1918.

After the fire teachers set up classes in the Miner's Building and above Etter's Hardware store. Teachers catered to as many as three or four grades in one room.

In 1925, the first private school was built. It stood adjoining St. Rita's Catholic Church. Three Dominican sisters taught nearly 200 students attending the school. St. Rita's no longer offers classes.

Kincaid High School was built in 1936. In 1984, the final consolidation was made between all of the Midland area schools into Kincaid. Pre-K was added seven years ago, and now has an enrollment of 400. Four years ago, Kincaid High School added its first computer lab. The high school now hosts four computer labs as it expands its use of technology.

With the growing Midland population and whooping cough, measles and the flu epidemic plaguing the area, doctors served the community by making house calls. Dr. G. C. Klein served as the mine company doctor. Dr. Miller served Kincaid until he died in the 1950s. Dr. C. A. Stokes of Edinburg, Dr. William V. Torricelli and Dr. Lit also served the Midland area.

After Peabody Coal Company sank Mine No. 7 in Sept. 1911, immigrants settled in the South Fork Township. As a result of immigration, Italian miners accounted for 90 percent of Tovey's population while Lithuanians were the majority of people in Bulpitt.

Communities became grounded in the solidarity of ethnic groups in the mines. While miners formed strong bonds, the threat of mass reduction of workers became more prevalent. When the United Mine Workers provided no ally, miners formed the Progressive Miners of America. The new union focused on the anti-foreign position held by the UMW.

After the P. M. A.'s formation, violent crimes bombarded Christian County from 1932 to 1936. More than 55 bombings were reported, people were injured or killed in gun battles.

Despite the struggle for law and order, by 1939, Mine No. 7 and Mine No. 8 produced 12,000 tons of coal daily through the work of 1,000 men. After Mine No. 7 and Mine No. 8 closed in the 1950s, Peabody Coal Co. sank Mine No. 10 west of Tovey in 1952. Mine No. 10 provided 5,000,000 tons of coal a year until it closed in 1994.

Although mine wars took its toll on Midland residents, Kincaid was host to many forms of entertainment in the early part of the 20th century. In the late teens and twenties, the Miner's Hall was a center of attraction. Equipped with a large dance floor, couples danced on Saturday nights to the music of the Bradley and Truckenmiller Orchestra.

At one point, Dominic Frisina owned a theater in Tovey, Bulpitt and Kincaid. A man on horse and buggy transported the reel for the same showing on the same evening. While patrons waited they were often entertained by a manual player piano.

Sherry Lynn Buschon of Kincaid remembers going to the theater when admission was five cents. She also like to skate at the roller rink and play pool at Lou's Pool Hall.

BULPITT

While Peabody settled Kincaid as an industrial center for his coal mining company, Bulpitt was settled on ground owned by the J. C. Bulpitt family west of Kincaid in 1912. In 1915, the village was incorporated with one two-block business street running north and south.

A Mr. Paige owned the first store in Bulpitt, but he later sold to J. C. Jeisy who also sold to Fehring and Haines. General stores and grocery stores as well as a dry goods store were prevalent in Bulpitt during the early part of the 20th century. Swhwarzers owned The Boston Store during the mid-20th century.

From Taylorville, Carlin and Jones owned and operated a lumber yard. The Baker Lumber Company of Pawnee owned and operated what is now the Kincaid Lumber Company.

During Bulpitt's history, Victor Erio and Sam Tani owned restaurants. Al and Helen Thatcher owned The Hutt, John Riva owned a bakery.

While business boomed in Bulpitt, no churches were ever built. The Bulpitt Gospel Mission did hold Sunday school in the school house.

Before the consolidation with Kincaid, Bulpitt held school in a two-room brick school house on the north edge of town. Before the two room building classes were held in an old store building owned by Victor Erio.

Like Kincaid, Bulpitt has been host to two banks. The Bank of Bulpitt was the first bank. In 1917, Farmer's State Bank was organized as the second bank. After the Bank Moratorium it did not reopen.

A post office was also organized in the early 1920s. Village board member requested their Congressman to look into the issue. While he was in Washington, D. C., their request was approved. Upon the recommendation of House of Representatives member J. C. Richardson, Charles Rexroad was appointed as first postmaster on Feb. 9, 1924.

BLACKBURN

In 1870, Dr. J. H. Dickerson settled the first community in the Midland area. Dickerson graduated from Philadelphia University in medicine and nine months later settled Blackburn.

Dickerson served as postmaster, merchant and physician. Blackburn served as the only place for Midland area settlers to vote during the late 19th century.

With the small village just beginning, John White opened a store while a Mr. Peck served as Dickerson's partner.

The Modern Woodmen group formed and held meetings at a large hall, which also served as the community center. At one point, the town was host to a blacksmith shop, a post office, a community hall and several homes. Blackburn is now a ghost town.

SICILY

In 1906, the small unincorporated village of Sicily was founded on land owned by Alice Lemmon. The town grew to satisfy the needs of the farming community.

The grain elevator was first known as the Sicily Farmer's Grain Co. During World War II, it burned and was later rebuilt under different management. T. Baker and Son built the first lumber yard in 1906.

Since Sicily was a small farming community, few businesses came. Pollard and Gallion owned the first store and later sold it to Charles C. George who also operated the elevator. Thomas E. Butler owned a store, and Richard Thein operated a blacksmith shop.

The town was big enough to support a community hall where the Anti-Horse Thief Association held meetings. No churches or schools were established in Sicily.

JEISEYVILLE

After Mine No. 7 was sunk, Jeiseyville was formed on land owned by the Jeisey family in the early part of the 20th century. When Mine No. 7 closed in 1952, Jeiseyville stopped growing. Between 1911 and 1952, Roy Davis, Samuel Krutauski, Votta, John Motta, Bert Riva and D. Lauwerens owned and operated stores. No stores exist today.

Although no churches were established, a one room school was used as the first school in the Midland area. The school taught all younger children in the district until Jeiseyville consolidated with Kincaid.

TOVEY

Since Peabody Mine No. 8 was located near Tovey in 1911, a small incorporated village took the name Georgetown. A railroad known as Humphrey co-existed with Georgetown. When the men founded the town and added a post office, they placed their names in a hat and drew Tovey as the name for the new village.

The only church in Tovey was the Tovey Methodist Church. The church consolidated with the Kincaid Methodist Church in the late 1990s.

Before Tovey was founded, a one room school house known as Mason School District 183 taught children. After Tovey was settled, residents built a four room school house known as Tovey Elementary with six teachers. Tovey Elementary eventually consolidated with Kincaid.

When Tovey was first established, a post office was built. Kelsey Sharp served as the first postmaster. The post office still serves Tovey residents.

With miners settling in Tovey, businesses grew. Sam Bryant owned and operated the first store. During the 20th century, Tovey was host to a variety of businesses. Mary Brown owned and operated a hotel and restaurant. A Mr. Davis owned the first boarding house. Marion Hall owned a confectionery. In the Miner's Building, Vernon Bloxam and Kelsey Sharp operated a bank.

Although business has dwindled, Joe's Camper is located in Tovey as well as several taverns.

Author's note: All information taken form History of the Midland Area.







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