Category Archives: Ethnic groups

First burial at Oak Ridge Cemetery

  Eliza Helmle, the infant daughter of Carl Albert and Marie Helmle, was the first person buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, according to cemetery records. A handwritten cemetery ledger says Eliza died of “teething” at nine months old; the record … Continue reading

Posted in Children, Germans, Markers, Oak Ridge signs | 2 Comments

‘Bird Lady’: A Lithuanian immigrant mother’s life in Springfield

On the day in 1912 when 16-year-old Mary Ann Yezdauskas arrived in Springfield from Lithuania, her brother took her to the elegant Bressmer’s Department Store to buy a new coat. Then the sister and brother posed together in their finery … Continue reading

Posted in Coal mines and mining, Family life, Lithuanians, Lithuanians, Women | 8 Comments

Skyrocket Inn

What to do after a long day – and night – at the Illinois State Fair? The after-fair, after-hours mecca for everyone from carnies to Hell’s Angels to local movers and shakers was the Skyrocket Inn, right across the street … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Business, Hotels & taverns, Illinois State Fair, Lithuanians, Lithuanians, Social life | 3 Comments

Dennis Williams, crayon artist

  This entry, originally written in 2013, was greatly expanded and corrected in 2021, thanks to the research of Mary Frances of Springfield. See “Contributor” note at end. Dennis Williams (1851-89), born an enslaved person in Mississippi, became an acclaimed … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Arts and letters, Business, Prominent figures | 2 Comments

Engine House 5 (“the colored firehouse”)

Engine House 5, 1310 E. Adams St., was known as Springfield’s “colored firehouse” from its construction in 1901 until after its fire company moved to a new building in 1954. “The Springfield Fire Department routinely gave Five the worst of … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Buildings, Local government, Markers | Leave a comment

Palace Theatre

When the Palace Theatre opened at 1836 S. 15th St. in 1915, the “very pretty little house” became a venue where downtown movies were brought to Springfield’s southeast side. Despite its grand name, the theater was very small– about the … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Buildings, Swabians, Theaters, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mumblety-peg slaying, 1889

Theophilus “Moonlight” Waldron was a 15-year-old orphan, living on the streets and by his wits, when he stabbed to death a man over a game of mumblety-peg. Waldron (1874-?) was sentenced to life in prison for murder, a judgement many … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Crime and vice, Journalism, Law enforcement, Media | 1 Comment

Zinc works, Devereux Heights

Spanish immigrants were skilled zinc workers, but they were also tough labor negotiators, managers of Springfield’s zinc smelter learned. The smelter, owned first by the United Zinc & Chemical Co. and then the National Zinc. Co., operated off Peoria Road … Continue reading

Posted in Business, Coal mines and mining, Ethnic groups, Industry, Prominent figures, Spanish | 2 Comments

St. John’s Hospital

Mary Lincoln may have been one of the earliest patients to benefit from care provided by what is now the Hospital Sisters Health System. The story was handed down by a Franciscan nun, Sister Francis Dreisvogt (1849-1933), who was among … Continue reading

Posted in Germans, Lincoln, Abraham, Medicine, Public health, Social services, Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Pekin Theatre

In segregated Springfield, the Pekin Theatre was the only movie house that not only catered specifically to African-Americans, but was managed by African-Americans as well. The Pekin was at 811-15 E. Washington St. The block, the site of both Black- … Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Amusements, Social life, Theaters | Leave a comment