Category Archives: Ethnic groups

DeWitt Smith Building fire, 1918

When the DeWitt Smith Building caught fire in 1918, modern firefighting equipment saved the building, and a heroic elevator operator rescued many of its tenants. Even so, the top floors of the building, on the southeast corner of Fourth and … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Architecture, Auto dealers, Buildings, Disasters, Local government | 2 Comments

St. Patrick Parish, Springfield

The flag of Ireland lay draped beside the Stars and Stripes at a banquet held at the St. Nicholas Hotel on St. Patrick’s Day 1915. Springfield’s Irish Fellowship, led by the Irish-born Rev. Timothy Hickey, had organized Lá Fhéile Pádraig, … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Churches, Ethnic groups, Irish, Irish, Schools and school districts | Leave a comment

First African-American mail carrier

When Charles Ellis Sr. was appointed a Springfield mail carrier in 1890 – the first African-American to hold the job – his predecessor refused to show him the route, and the Illinois State Register erupted with a racist personal attack … Continue reading

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Ruth Ellis, lesbian activist

Ruth Ellis was an openly lesbian woman at a time when that was almost unheard of, the first 40 years of her life in her hometown of Springfield and for 60 more years in Detroit. She became celebrated in 1999, … Continue reading

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Dr. Sheppard A. Ware, physician

Dr. Sheppard Anderson Ware (1872-1948) was a physician in Springfield for 40 years. He was also was a member of the Sangamon County Medical Society and additionally worked for the Illinois State Department of Health. Born in Brownsville, Tenn., Ware … Continue reading

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National Emancipation Monument (proposed)

A statue of a black Civil War soldier was to be the centerpiece of a National Emancipation Monument that African-American residents of Springfield hoped would be erected in the city. The effort, which lasted from 1889 to 1893, ultimately was … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Architecture | 1 Comment

Sacred Heart Church

It was a warm day in June 1884 when Catholics gathered on 12th Street near Cook Street in Springfield to lay the cornerstone for what was to be the area’s second German-oriented Catholic church. The two-story brick building, which included … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Buildings, Churches, Ethnic groups, Germans, Slovenians | 13 Comments

Doc Helm, photographer

Eddie Winfred “Doc” Helm, whose striking photographs documented African-American life in Springfield for 50 years, started his career as the man responsible for raising and lowering the flag over the Illinois Statehouse. Helm (1911-94), who grew up in Mount Vernon, … Continue reading

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Widow’s letter, 1841

Letters recently acquired by the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library show how one Springfield widow struggled to make a living in the 1840s. The story of Dorothea Grant also illustrates how some employers treated their African-American servants at the … Continue reading

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Temperance movement, 1874

Springfield’s women’s temperance movement lost much of its momentum in 1874, after a (male) Methodist minister went out of his way to blame the local liquor trade on immigrant Germans and Irish. Doubly unfortunate for the crusading women, Rev. William … Continue reading

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