Abe Lincoln’s Duel:

Before she married Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd wrote a paper that was critical of the then State Auditor, James Shields. When Shields confronted Abe Lincoln, Abe accepted responsibility for the article and Shields challenged him to a duel. They, along with their seconds, rowed out to a small island in the Mississippi. Once there, Shields, who was a very small man, became upset because Abe, as the challenged, had chosen broadswords as weapons. What had upset Shields was the sight of Abe, who had removed his coat and was brandishing a broadsword to limber up. The sight of the tall Lincoln swinging the broadsword and shouting was just too much for Shields. Their seconds conversed and agreed on a formal statement from Lincoln whereby he would state that the paper written by Mary Todd was not aimed at “injuring the personal or private character or standing of Mr. Shields.”

 

The Herrin Massacre:

In June of 1922, William J. Lester, who owned the Southern Illinois Coal Company, fired the union mine workers and hired non-union workers.

Colonel Samuel Hunter was the personnel officer in the Adjutant General’s office in Springfield. He read in a newspaper that the SICC had started to use non-union workers and he knew immediately there would be trouble. He gathered all the participants and urged Lester to close the mine, but Lester refused.

A truck carrying strikebreakers was ambushed and three men were hospitalized. It was reported that several hundred union miners were meeting in a cemetery near Herrin and that they were buying and stealing guns and ammunition.

The union miners surrounded the mine and began firing at the strikebreakers who fired back. Since a truce could not be reached, it was agreed that the mine would be closed and that the strikebreakers would be given safe conduct out of the county. When officials tried to enforce the truce, they discovered that the strikebreakers had surrendered and the miners were marching them toward Herrin. They were easy to follow as they left a trail of dead and wounded—nineteen were killed and this incident came to be known as The Herrin Massacre.

 

Pullman Strike:

In 1893, when the country was in depression, George M. Pullman, founder of the Pullman Car Company, lowered the wages of his workers. The high salaries paid to company bigwigs continued and dividends actually increased. When the workers asked that their salaries be returned to their previous level, they were told it was impossible and that the company was keeping them on even though it was losing money.

The union voted to strike on May 10, 1894 after the company fired three of the workmen’s committee. The American Railway Union, which was led by Eugene Debs, vowed to support the strikers. They also voted to refuse to handle Pullman cars until Mr. Pullman agreed to arbitration. An injunction was issued against anyone interferring with the railway and the Attorney General sent troops to Chicago, even though there had been no violence by that time.

The troops arrived in Chicago on July 3 and on July 5 the seven largest buildings at the world’s fair site were torched. On July 7 a crowd gathered at the railroad yards and a federal officer gave the order to fire; four men were killed and twenty others were wounded.

President Cleveland issued a proclamation for the crowd to disperse or to face martial law to which Debs responded by issuing a plan for a general nationwide strike on July 11. Debs and others leaders were arrested for contempt and the strike was broken.

Property damage totaled $350,612 and nationwide the property loss was close to $80 million. There were many results following the strike: Deb’s union lost out to the AFL; Debs was a socialist when he was released from prison; and the strike helped form labor legislation.

 

Nauvoo:

The Mormon religion began in 1827 with Joseph Smith when Smith said an angel revealed to him the location of nine golden plates buried 1,500 years before. The plates supposedly told of the migration to America by the Indians who were descendants of the ancient Hebrews. From these plates emerged the Mormon church.

Joseph Smith soon had a following but the group faced a lot of persecution. After locating in Ohio and twice in Missouri, the Mormons settled on the Mississippi river at Nauvoo, Illinois in 1838/39. Converts began to settle at Nauvoo and soon the city had a population of 20,000 and was the largest in Illinois. The group was granted an unprecedented autonomy which enabled them to have an independent militia.

Very soon jealousy and fear of the Mormons by the Gentiles and internal squabbles among themselves created an explosive situation. Outsiders were upset upon hearing stories of plural marriage. As things worsened, Joseph Smith allowed himself to be put in jail at Carthage under the protection of the governor, Thomas Ford. However, those guarding the jail were working with a mob that soon formed and broke into the jail where Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum Smith, were murdered on June 27, 1844.

Two years later the Mormons abandoned their city and, under the leadership of Brigham Young, moved to Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

Bishop Hill:

Bishop Hill Colony in northern Illinois was founded by a group of Swedish religious dissenters in 1846. They were led by Eric Janson. The settlers arrived in the fall and built temporary shelters on the side of a ravine. Ninety-six of them died the first winter primarily from inadequate food and shelter. In the next few years they built a mill, began making bricks, started a school and the colony became a major center of commerce.

The members of the colony were sober, industrious, and had little time for anything other than work or church. The colony suffered a major setback in 1850 when a man named John Root murdered the leader, Janson. Many of the colony members expected Janson to awaken on the third day, but when he didn’t, they had to admit that his life had ended.

The colony continued for more than 10 years after Janson’s death, but the people gradually split into two sides over financial policies. One side supported the policies of Olof Johnson which were anti-Janson and the other side supported the policies of Jonas Olson which were pro-Janson.

The colony was dissolved during the Civil War and all the property divided equally among the members.

 

The Piasa Bird:

When Marquette traveled down the Mississippi in 1673, he was the first wine man to see the Piasa Bird which was painted on a Mississippi River bluff above where Alton is now situated.

Farther Marquette wrote in his journal: “While skirting some rocks, which by their height and length inspired awe, we saw on one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes… Moreover, these two monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to paint so well—and, besides, they are so high up on the rock that it is difficult to reach that place conveniently to paint them…”

And where is the Piasa Bird today? The bluff was destroyed for railroad ballast in 1847.

 

Haymarket Riot:

On May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago and other industrial centers joined a strike opposing long days and advocating the 8-hour day. More than 40,000 Chicago workers participated with a lot of attention being given to McCormick Harvestor. When officials from McCormick brought in outside workers, they only intensified the situation. Three days later, almost 200 policemen marched on a worker’s gathering demanding that it be broken up. A bomb exploded which killed seven policement and injured a hundred others.

The next day, newspapers called for justice against the men responsible for the riot. Eight persons who had been active in the labor movement were accused, tried, and found guilty. One of the eight committed suicide and four were executed while the remaining three stayed in prison.

A movement began asking that the three remaining men be pardoned because they had been unfairly tried and their rights violated. Governor Richard J. Oglesby refused the pardon. When John Peter Altgeld became governor, he took the matter under consideration and after reviewing the case, he pardoned the three men.

 

Grant Park:

The Chicago fire effected many changes in Chicago and one of those was the creation of Grant Park. After the fire, the city needed an area to dump debris and refuge [sic]and they finally decided to dump it into Lake Michigan. That debris formed much of the land that later became Grant Park.

 

The Searchers:

The film, “The Searchers,” starring John Wayne was based on a true story about Cynthia Ann Parker, born in 1827 in Palestine, Crawford County, Illinois.

At age 7 her parents moved to Texas and established Fort Parker in 1834. In 1836 the were killed in a raid by the Comanches and Kiowas, and Cynthia Ann was kidnapped by the Comanches and lived with them for the next 24 years. After she was rescued by the Texas Rangers during the Battle of Pease River in December 1860, she was returned to her family. Unfortunately, she never adjusted to white society and ran away several times. She died in 1870.

Her Comanche name was Naudah and she had several children with a Comanche, one of whom grew up to become a war chief, Quanah, who waged war against Texans for many years. Quanah was eventually moved to a reservation in Oklahoma where he took up the white man’s ways. He participated in the 1905 inauguration parade for Teddy Roosevelt and had a town named for him. He died in 1911. In 1957 he was reburied with his mother and sister in Fort Sill Cemetery in Oklahoma.