Leander Shoup vowed to go down in a blaze of gunfire rather than relinquish his 123 acres of farmland to inundation by Lake Springfield.
The city of Springfield won a lawsuit to take over the land, a little over a mile east of Cotton Hill, in February 1933. A jury set the property’s value at $79 an acre, only $1 less than the highest of four appraisals submitted by the city. About half the land was farmland and the rest timber.
Shoup (1862-1935) lived in a house on the property along with a tenant couple. He had occupied the farm “almost all his life,” the Illinois State Journal said.
Shoup refused even to attend the condemnation trial, the paper said.
(T)hroughout the condemnation proceedings brought by the city (he) has ignored the Lake Springfield project. He has been quoted as saying that he will not leave his farm until carried away in a coffin. …
It was said unofficially that the city during negotiations with Shoup had offered much more than $79 an acre.
Shoup refused to give in for months after the judgement. “Farmer Is Obdurate,” the Journal said in the headline of a Nov. 24 story.
Whenever workmen for the lake projects have approached near to the Shoup farm, he has patrolled the boundaries of his land heavily armed, and has threatened to shoot anyone who set foot on the ground to clear it, S.T. Anderson, in charge of the lake construction stated last night. … Shoup usually carries a shotgun and two revolvers, Anderson declared.
With construction workers needing to clear the land, Sangamon County Sheriff Allan Cole brought 10 armed deputies and Springfield police officers with him to confront Shoup on Dec. 2. The most dramatic version of the ensuing face-off was published as part of Shoup’s Journal obituary two years later.
They stalked him through the nearby woods, hiding behind trees for fear that he would shoot them, while they attempted to reason with him.
Again they were greeted with threats they would be shot …
Springfield police detective Austin Jones finally defused the situation.
Jones, sensing the futility of such argument, came out into the open and walked slowly toward Shoup, telling him how useless it would be to kill a man over some land and what the consequences would be. Jones’ disarming talk caused Shoup to abandon the idea of keeping his land by force and agreed to let the city settle with him.
The obituary, published Oct. 3, 1935, also said that, after he accepted the city payment of $10,000 (including some costs), Shoup lived “almost a hermit’s life” in a Springfield apartment. “Shoup, taken from his lifetime haunts, went into seclusion and was seldom seen by friends.”
Three days later, however, the Journal contradicted itself in a short story about Shoup’s funeral. Reading between the lines, it’s clear that Shoup’s family and friends had objected to the “hermit” characterization, and the newspaper published the funeral article in lieu of a correction.
“After moving to Springfield Mr. Shoup never missed an opportunity to visit with his many friends, who always sought him out when they came to Springfield,” the follow-up story read.
A portion of Shoup’s property today is submerged in Lake Springfield. The rest, however, is part of Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center.
Detective Sgt. Austin Jones (1895-1980) retired in 1950 after 26 years with the Springfield Police Department. In addition to the Shoup standoff, Jones was involved in two shootouts with criminal suspects, one of whom died. “It was mostly luck who shot first,” Jones said later.
Jones also spent five years investigating the local coal miner union war of the 1930s. At least six men died in the violence, which pitted the insurgent Progressive Miners of America against the United Mine Workers. Jones’ work contributed to the racketeering convictions of 36 Progressives.
Jones is buried in Indiana.
Hat tip: To commenter Phyllis Fairchild, whose question (below) led SangamonLink to determine that a section of Leander Shoup’s land ultimately became part of Lincoln Memorial Garden. Thanks also to Curtis Mann of the Sangamon Valley Collection for his help with that research.
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