Category Archives: Ethnic groups

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 | 7 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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Slovenians in Sangamon County

In 1909, Slovenian immigrants Josef Grobelnik and Bartol Ramschak operated a popular tavern on South 15th Street. At the time, southeast Springfield was filled with young Eastern European families—most of them new arrivals to the U.S. While Grobelnik and Ramschak … Continue reading

Posted in Buildings, Business, Churches, Crime and vice, Ethnic groups, Hotels & taverns, Social life | 4 Comments

Maj. George W. Ford (Camp Butler superintendent)

Maj. George W. Ford was a rarity – an African-American who held a supervisory position in early 20th-century Sangamon County. Ford (1847-1939) also was an outspoken opponent of the Ku Klux Klan and racism, a friend of both W.E.B. DuBois … Continue reading

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First African-American juror in Sangamon County

The first black person to serve on a jury in Sangamon County may have been Thomas Flynn, a barber, on March 18, 1873. Flynn wasn’t the first African-American called to jury service in the county, but an earlier attempt – … Continue reading

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Douglass Community Center

The Douglass Community Center offered civic, social and educational opportunities to African-American residents of Springfield when most similar organizations were closed to blacks. The Douglass center (apparently named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass) opened in 1926. It was phased out as … Continue reading

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Centennial Co-Operative Educational Congress, 1918

Black Springfieldians observed Illinois’ 100th anniversary in 1918 with a three-day conference examining the status, progress and prospects of the state’s African-American community. Some 3,000 people attended the Centennial Co-Operative Educational Congress, held Sept. 22-24, 1918, at the Illinois State … Continue reading

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Harry Taylor, first black firefighter, police detective

Harry Taylor (1861-1928) was Springfield’s first African-American firefighter, but became better known as a Springfield police officer and detective. Positions on both the police and fire departments were patronage appointments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Taylor was … Continue reading

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