The setting of More Than Meets the Eye is Carlinville, Illinois, the seat of Macoupin County.I grew up just twenty-two miles south of it in in Woodburn, and on our occasional visits, I used to admire the historic homes and commercial buildings. But I knew nothing about the town’s history or their collection of Sears houses until recent years.
According to the History of Macoupin County, in 1829 Joseph Borough laid out the town with fifty lots and nice perpendicular streets of ample width. He “received from the court of commissioners for his labors the munificent stipend of seventeen dollars and fifty cents.”
My fictional character Carolyn Beatty drives Merri and her friends on a little tour of present day Carlinville, Illinois. All the things Carolyn tells them are true, including the part about the boondoggle courthouse, the historic buildings around the town square, and the mysterious tunnels rumored to run beneath it all. (Read more about the tunnels.) If Merri hadn’t been white-knuckling her armrests the whole time, fearful of dying in a fiery crash, she might have asked a few questions.
If you’d also like to know more, you could take a trip to Carlinville via State Route 4, the first fully paved highway in Illinois and formerly part of Route 66, the Mother Road. Or, you could take an armchair tour from the comfort of your own home right here.
The Sears Houses If you were hoping to stop here first, I apologize. I’ll describe them in another post. Until then, let’s take a look at some of the other sites of interest around town.
The Anderson Mansion Museum. John C. Anderson built it in 1883 as a one-story residence but enlarged it to be the beautiful two-story, thirteen-room Victorian mansion it is today. It is located in a district of elegant homes that were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. TAKE A “VIRTUAL TOUR” OF THE MANSION
The Anderson Family. John C. Anderson inherited substantial wealth from his father Crittendon Anderson, arrived in Carlinville in 1834 and became a successful businessman in several areas, including banking. John gets a brief cameo appearance in MTMTE, but I develop his fictional wife Lucy just a bit more in order to give a sense of the Carlinville, Illinois social strata in 1918. I pictured Lucy looking something like this:
Million Dollar Courthouse (You Tube video tour) At the time Macoupin County’s courthouse was constructed in 1870, it was the largest outside of New York. You’d be amused if you saw how over sized it is for the county it serves. But the citizens whose taxes paid for it thought it was no laughing matter. According to Wikipedia:
Not only was the courthouse an exorbitant expense to the taxpayers, rumors of a scandal involving misused appropriations also tarnished the project. Initially, the blame was laid on Judge Thaddeus Loomis and George H. Holliday, county clerk. Judge Loomis was apparently innocent of any wrongdoing. (We may never know the truth about Mr. Holliday, however, because one night in 1870, he boarded a train out of town and simply disappeared.)
Loomis House is the oldest building on the Carlinville square. It was built by Judge Thaddeus Loomis and designed by architect E.E. Meyers who also designed the courthouse. The three-story building opened in 1870 as a hotel with fifty guest rooms. The name was later changed to the St. George Hotel.
Blackburn College plays a role in MTMTE, purely because I needed a place for Elizabeth Spaulding to stay for the 8 1/2 months she was in Carlinville supervising the construction of the Sears houses. Since the college is handily located right next to the Sears Addition, I decided the president’s family ought to take her in. Mr. William Hudson really was the president of the college at the time, and his wife really was named Florence, but everything about them in MTMTE is completely fictionalized. I pictured Florence looking something like this:
In case you’re thinking that seems unlikely that a college president and his wife would take a boarder into their house, you should read, as I did, Harvey Phelps memoirs. He lived just down the street from the family, and it was his portrayal of them that gave me the idea.
Reading about all these buildings helped to give me a sense of what Carlinville must have been like in 1918. But of course there were many others, as this corny poem written in the 1920s about the good old days shows.
by Judith Jordan Anderson
It’s Summer, and along East Main
The trees arched o’er from curb to curb.
That thorough fare I tread again
My old time wanderlust to curb
As to the Square I wend my way.
I feel the need of ready cash,
First National has coins to pay,
Frank Glenbo for my locks to slash.
With hair cut in the latest class
I feel the need of stimulant;
At Martin’s place take on a glass
Of amber brew, then with intent
To slight no merchant on the Square
To each my friendly greetings bring;
Two partners who for years were
there Gus Mueller and Al Gieseking
Then once again my throat gets dry;
This visiting is quite a chore,
Which means I never will get by
The soda fount of Theo. Loehr.
Now some might call it a mistake
To pass up Rudy Bohrman’s place,
But there’s no need my thirst to slake
And I continued on my chase.
I mount the steps to talk with Clem,
Discuss Bill Bryan’s chance to win;
I find Old Ed quite full of vim
About McKinley’s getting in.
With politics put on the shelf
I go on in to get the mail,
Give John Stadler some of my help
And then set out upon the trail.
To Riefenburg’s who right next door,
Where Otto with a genial smile,
Extols each piece upon the floor,
Elaborating on its style,
Next, a visit short to Adam Hoch
Who kept his booze in barrels more,
I’ll tell the world it was no joke
To count the highballs in his store.
But what’s the use;so next I greet
My good old friend, Charley Schumann
Whose specialty was fine fresh meat,
Rich in protein and albumen.
A word or two on Dodson’s store,
Then on to Diesel’s grocery mart.
Jeff Deadrick meets me at their door
and tries from me my cash to part.
But it’s no good, for now my thirst,
Has got the best of me again
And into old Sour Mash I burst,
Inhale a glass of beer and then
Around South Broad I madly dash,
To enter through the open door
Of our town’s leading dry goods
mart The property of J. C. Loehr.
Just at the juncture pains and aches
Develope all along my spine,
So quick to Doctor Hankins take
Myself, above friend Bill Horine.
The Doc suggests another drink
At Tiefenbruch’s saloon next door
But as I stopped I seemed to shrink
From dissipating anymore.
This roaming sure is hard on shoes
But luckily I’ve reached the place;
Brockmeier’s footwear one ne’r rues;
Be it congress, button or lace.
Now once more shod I take the trail
And drop in on young Otto Wolf
Whose store’s aromas now assail
An appetite I’ve tried to spoof.
But simply adding to my plight
Are odors from Drostonshop.
Whose bakery goods gave delight
And proved to inner man a prop.
But one can’t live by bread alone
I’ve oft been told by worthy sire,
So lifted feet that felt like stone
To visit H. C. Steinmeyer.
Cas Zengerle, his able clerk,
Was on the job and did his best
To put my cash right to work.
Til forward on my way I pressed.
Old Henry Daley’s tiny shop
With Tommy Allen out in front,
Did not even make me stop,
Although I like that little runt.
Then Cookson’s, what a dry goods store
There at the corner of West Main,
And so, I’m half way through my chore
Of visiting my old haunts again,
It seems but yesterday that I
Admired those thick Steinmeyer sideburns,
And often thought that I would try
To grow some too, But one soon learns
That whiskers take a lot of care
So that ambition I forsook.
Now on my roaming way I fare
To give Joe Flori’s place a look.
Oh that was wondrous place my dears
With picture books and games and toys
Some dating back for untold years
When parents were wee girls and boys.
At last we’ve reached the corner where
The brothers Paul launched “Yellow Kid.”
And in that little side street there
Sonnemann’s Bakery made a bid
For patronage from those who dwelled
In old fourth ward of Carlinville.
How good those luscious pastries smelled
And would a hungry tummy fill.
But that’s enough of gastric things;
Sep Woodward filled another need,
Hardware and paint and chimney rings
Spades, hoes and rakes and garden seed.
Just next there was the Co-op Store
Those wares were away up to snuff.
It was a job to pass the door.
One would rather go in and stuff.
Hoecker ran the harness shop
Just to the East, and many times
I’ve had from him his leather crop,
The skating straps for my thin dimes.
But time moves on and we must be
Along our way. Who’s next on Call?
Fanning and Ross I sure must see,
If I would visit with them all.
In corner drug store portal there
Is Alex Boring’s pleasing smile
And as I have some time to spare
I visit with him for awhile.
But as I linger there with Al
At Battise’s across the street
Young Bob who used to be a pal,
Is waiting my approach to greet.
So now with three-fourths journey done
I cross North Broad with springy step.
this pilgrimage has been real fun
And finds me still quite full of pep.
My chat with Bob comes to an end
And into Bergdorff’s store I hie
To find out what is style’s late trend.
And perhaps a nice hat to buy.
But nothing suits me and I go
A few steps east to Nathan’s place.
That I may part there with my dough
If he has hats to suit my face.
With bonnet now atop my pate
I wend my way up flight of stairs,
For there I know I’ll find a mate,
My chum “Sun” David who prepares
The type for printing all the news
In the old weekly Democrat,
The G. O. P. to give enthuse
And show Clem Lumpkin where he’s “at.”
Great Guns, it’s getting pretty late;
I’ll have to hurry on apace,
For with Sam Sims I have a date
In Surman’s well-known clothing place.
With dancing plans fixed up with Sam
I violate an early rule;
And drop in to see “Honey Lamb”
Who used to be my gal at school.
But that’s a secret all my own,
I leave for you to make a guess
She trimmed swell hats for Mister Cohen
And friends all called the maiden Bess.
Now Mister Cohen was loathe to see
Me wasting Bessie’s time for him,
So with word I had to flee
His highly wrathful, threatening vim
It wouldn’t do to pass the bank
Of C. H. Anderson, Esquire;
For favors there one had to thank
That genial man, John Westermeier.
Altho Frank Glenbo cut my hair,
From good Fred Ruegg I had a shave,
And as I stepped down from his chair
I heard some fellow start to rave
That Fred had pulled a boner bad;
He’d used his razor all in vain
He should have known that such a lad
Was wiskerless, Oh, what a pain
Those barbershop bystanders are
To callow youth who would be men.
I left the shop with feelings sour,
And vowed I’d never go there again.
But let it pass; I must be on
My way before the day’s complete;
In Andel’s jewelry shop I’d gone
But for the fact my aching feet.
Were giving me a hectic time.
So I let Otto Sonnemann
Bring finish to this silly rhyme,
By fitting me with shoes again.
I’ve taken you around the square
About the year of “ninety-six”
I may have missed one here and there,
For aging memory plays me tricks.
And so I know you will forgive
If I, perchance, have passed someone by
Who in old Carlinville did live,
And loved her, even as you and I.
Many of those who greeted me
That day of two score years ago
Have passed on to eternity.
May happiness their spirits know.