Spaulding (village)

The Allen Street bridge at Spaulding (Chuck Stone)

The Allen Street bridge at Spaulding (Chuck Stone)

The village of Spaulding, off Illinois 54 east of Springfield, got its name from a mammoth nursery and orchard.

In central Illinois, the name Spaulding today is synonymous with Lake Springfield and City Water, Light and Power. But before Willis and Charles Spaulding became  involved in public works, members of the Spaulding family were nurserymen.

In the 1800s, the family’s patriarch, J.B. Spaulding (1824-97), and his children operated a large nursery north of Riverton.  The Spaulding Nursery occupied ground that fronted present-day Seventh Street in Riverton and Main Street in Spaulding. Trees and shrubs from the nursery were sold around the country.

Train station, 1920s (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Train station, 1920s (Sangamon Valley Collection)

According to a memorial leaflet for water treatment innovator Charles Spaulding, the village “got its railroad station because of the volume of foliage, plants, shrubs and trees” shipped from the Spaulding Nursery.

The Illinois Central Railroad today bisects Spaulding from east to west. The railroad station and post office were at the intersection of Route 54 and Main Street. In addition to freight, residents could board passenger trains at the station.

The nursery was not the only enterprise in town. From 1883 to 1913, a coal mine operated where Spaulding Village Park is today. The mine, which over the years operated under eight different names, closed after a fire on May 7, 1912, destroyed the its entire top works.

Although nine mules died in the blaze, the few men working in the mine — it had been closed, and a small crew was preparing it to be reopened — were able to escape through a four-mile-long tunnel that connected the Spaulding Coal Co. operation to the Springfield Coal Mining Co.’s mine near Riverton.

Fire-fighting efforts were futile. “The village has no fire fighting apparatus, and no impression was made on the fire, which made a complete sweep above ground, including the engine room and blacksmith shop,” the Illinois State Journal reported on May 8.

Until a few years ago, the old mine site also was a state rest area for Illinois 54.  A veterans memorial was recently built in the park

Another local landmark for many years was Gathards Corner, a general store, cafe, gas station,  and garage. A half mile west of Gathard’s was a gas station, garage and motel, whose name has been lost to time. The building is currently occupied by Docker’s Tavern.

Another landmark, though not as well loved, was the wooden bridge over the Illinois Central on Allen Street. The one-lane, arched structure gave more than one motorist the willies. Since the approach was blind, it wasn’t uncommon for two motorists to meet each other at the top, leading to a standoff on who would back up. Wet or icy weather made the traverse quite the adventure.

The bridge experienced a few fires of questionable origin and was eventually closed to vehicular traffic. It is still in use today as a pedestrian bridge.

Spaulding School, about 1912 (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Spaulding School, about 1912 (Sangamon Valley Collection)

Spaulding Grade School was on Raylots Street in the village. When a fire destroyed the original wooden structure, a new school was constructed at the same location. After graduating from the grade school, students attended high school in Riverton.  All ages now attend Riverton schools.

Spaulding has experienced rapid growth with both new subdivisions and annexations (2010 U.S. Census figures showed the village as the fastest growing community in Sangamon County, although Spaulding started with a very low base, 559 people in 2000; the figure in 2010 was 823).

Nascar Sprint Cup driver Justin Allgaier is a Spaulding native, as was the late Baseball Hall of Fame Umpire Al Barlick.

Contributor: Chuck Stoneschs logo (2)

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

This entry was posted in Agriculture, Business, Coal mines and mining, Communities, Farming, Prominent figures. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Spaulding (village)

  1. tom herman says:

    does anybody know when the wooden bridge in spaulding dates back to or when built

  2. editor says:

    Tom: Good question. I’ll see if Chuck Jones has an answer. Thanks for reading.

  3. Michael Patterson says:

    I grew up in Spaulding and I remember the older folks telling me a story that they had heard as kids, that the wooden bridge had been there since the time of Abe Lincoln and that he would use the bridge when he traveled the circuit of the court. Is it true? I’m not sure but it did make a fun story to listen to.

  4. Jerry Black says:

    My father’s uncle , Ulell Elben owned a business just west of wooden bridge on the south side of rte. 54.

  5. Jerry says:

    Pardon misspelling . His name was Uless Elben .

  6. This was interesting. I went online looking for a photo of the old Riverton Grade School, but the comments about the bridge were interesting. Two memories: One in the 50’s of going over the bridge in the middle of winter and having the station wagon slide over to where the wheel went off the bridge. My sisters and brothers and I all sat tight, knowing our Dad would get us out okay. And he did. The other memory was in the 60’s standing on the top of the bridge one summer day and waiting until the train went under. We were awed to see a ‘freeloader’ riding in the coal car. We waved and he/she hunkered down.

  7. Mary Pugh says:

    In talking to Enoch &Mary Harrison who lived at bottom of N. Side of bridge years ago, the wooden bridge was there before Rt. 54 was built. Mary’s sister “Belle” Hamrick lived in the little house on south side of bridge with her husband Norm Hamrick. Norm grew up in that house. Mary &Belle grew up on north side of bridge on property on east side of Allen St. Their last name was Hewitson. Reportedly, Norm & Belle used to “spark” on top of bridge as teenagers.Mary taught school at the Spaulding school.

  8. Patricia Franklin Waldo says:

    My brother Mike Franklin went to the little one room school in Spaulding. I missed going there by one year. I remember walking there twice a day with my mother and the rest of us kids to get Mike to school and back. Probably a mile each way. Mike died several years ago, but his wife still lives on the property. The old house was burned down by the volunteer fire department for practice in putting out fires. There was a huge cornfield across from the house and we flew kites in the field after harvest. That is all a large subdivision now. We had a donkey, goats, chickens and bunnies for a while and rode the donkey to Gathard’s for ice cream or sodas. Many fond memories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *