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Historical Sketch

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Inventory Of The County Archives Of Illinois No. 9 Cass County (Virginia). Prepared by Illinois Historical Records Survey Division of Community Service Programs Work Projects Administration


From the Civil War to 1940 -- Economic and Social

    The economic and social changes after the Civil War were reflected in, and overshadowed, the political and administrative developments. The coming of the railroad and the increase of business and manufacturing activities stimulated the expansion of agricultural pursuits in the county. Forces beyond the control of the local farming group, however, arose after the World War which tied the county to the cycles of prosperity and depression and resulted in the economic and social dislocation of many of its inhabitants.

Growth of Population

    After 1860 the number of people in the county increased very slowly (except for the decade between 1870 and 1880), and after 1920 the total number actually declined. Very few immigrants entered the county, so that by 1930 the number of foreign-born (which had been 2,454 in 1860) was only 322 out of a total population of 16,197. All of them, except 14, came from northern and eastern European countries. (See tables VII and VIII.)

TABLE VII: POPULATION STATISTICS, 1870-1940[187]

Year Total Colored Foreign-Born
1870 11,576 7 1,656
1880 14,487 6 1,750
1890 14,391 1 1,572
1900 15,938 4 1,284
1910 17,368 4 866
1920 17,896   600
1930 16,197   322
1940 16,425   Not yet available

    The changes in the centers of population in the county after the Civil War also were not very great. Beardstown, which was incorporated as a city in 1849, easily continued holding the lead which it possessed from the very beginning over the other towns in the county.[188] Virginia was not incorporated as a city until 1873;[189] and town governments were established in Chandlerville, Arenzville, and Ashland in the 1850's and 1860's.[190] Several villages which had existed in ante-bellum days, like Monroe, Princeton, and Lancaster were forced out of existence mainly because they did not possess railroad connections; white Philadelphia which was laid out and platted in the 1830's declined in favor of Virginia in the 60's.[191]

TABLE VIII: COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN OF FOREIGN BORN LIVING IN THE COUNTY, 1870-1930[192]

Countries 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910 1920 1930
Germany 1,078 1,090 1,034 871 582 394 214
Ireland 407 359 242 184 114 62 23
England and Wales 209 159 144 95 52 47 22
Scotland 75 58 37 27 19 7 3
Scandanavia (Sweden, Norway, and Denmark) 23 38 66 55 50 39 27
Holland 4     2 1 2 4
Belgium 4   1        
Luxembourg           2 1
France 8 11 8 3 3 7 2
Austria     3 1 3 3  
Switzerland 18 2 12 13 9 3  
Portugal     1        
Italy         2 1  
Greece         10 2 3
Jugoslavia           1  
Hungary           2  
Czechoslovakia   1       2 1
Poland       1   1 2
Russia     2 3 4 4 6
Palestine and Syria             1
China       1      
Mexico           9  
Canada and Newfoundland 34 42 21 25      
Others     1 3 1 1 1
Total 1,656 1,760 1,572 1,284 866 600 322

Coming of the Railroad

    Railroad promoters realized in the 50's the necessity for tapping an area having farms valued at over four million dollars and producing manufactured goods total over eighty thousand dollars.[193] Several companies, planning to serve the Cass County locality, were incorporated before the Civil War;[194] yet only two were actually constructed within the boundaries of the county. The St. Louis, Jacksonville and Chicago (by 1884 a part of the Chicago and Alton) was opened in 1858. It ran through Ashland, Cass County, and served only a small portion of the extreme southeast of the county.[195] The Illinois River Railroad (by 1887 a part of the Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis) was completed in 1859 from Pekin (Tazewell County) to Virginia, and extended to Jacksonville in 1869.[196] The railroad people felt that the $100,000 worth of subscriptions made by the county were not enough and tried to secure an additional $15,000 from the county before completing the road from Virginia southward. When the county officials failed to comply with this request the tracks were not laid directly through the town but about one fourth of a miles east of it.[197] Virginia, however, soon outgrew it limits and extended eastward to include the railroad station.[198]

    The first post-bellum railroad to be completed was the Rockford, Rock Island and St. Louis. The road was incorporated in 1865 and work was begun four years later.[199] In 1870 tracks between Beardstown and Arenzville were laid.[200] These tracks are today a part of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad which has opened a workshop in Beardstown employing, at time, as high as 1,000 to 1,200 men.[201]

    The last railroad to be constructed in the county was the Pana, Springfield and Northwestern Railroad in 1871. The tracks ran through the entire length of the county from the northwest to southeast connecting Beardstown with Bluff Springs, Virginia, Philadelphia, and Ashland.[202] In 1893 this road became part of the Baltimore and Ohio chain.[203]

    The tendency throughout the nation for the amalgamation of the small railroads with larger ones was visible in Cass County. By 1940 the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and the Baltimore and Ohio controlled three of the four roads in the county -- the fourth, the old Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis, having been taken over by the Jacksonville and Havana Railroad.[204]

Agricultural Prosperity and Depression

    The period after the coming of the railroad witnessed an increase in the number and value of farms. In 1880 there were 1,382 farms in the county; in 1900, 1,432. The value of the farms rose from $4,260,382 to $11,614,360. Farm implements and machinery were used more extensively in 1900 than in 1860; and the value of livestock increased from $649,730 in 1860 to $1,243,724 in 1900. The estimated value of farm products alone in 1900 was $1,463,428. (see Table IX)

    After the World War the number of farms decreased from 1,164 in 1920 to 1,070 in 1930, and their value declined by nearly $20,000,000, the greatest depreciable item being land (declined from 430,383,311 in 1920 to $15,527,688 in 1930). The value of implements and machinery and livestock also took a severe drop (see Table IX); and the total worth of farm products declined by about three and a half million dollars. Cass County was caught in the net of the nationwide agricultural depression that followed the Great War of 1914-1918.

TABLE IX: AGRICULTURAL STATISTICS, 1860-1930[205]

Item 1860 1870 1880 1900 1920 1930
Number of Farms     1,382 1,432 1,164 1,070
Acres Improved 104,041 92,902 150,363 165,330 167,678  
Acres Unimproved 92,224   69,020      
Land in Farms     219,383 216,869 212,416 203,904
Value of Farms 4,260,382 4,591,535 6,817,105 11,614,360 39,249,369 19,825,362
Land         30,383,311 15,527,688
Buildings       1,429,080 4,539,014 4,298,175
Implements and Machinery 139,213   206,236 219,640 1,336,578 803,504
Value of Livestock 649,730 672,190 791,713 1,243,724 2,525,466 (1929)
1,417,400
Value of Animals Slaughtered 264,030          
Value of Farm products   1,071,951 (1879)
1,355,333
1,463,428 6,134,736 (1929)
2,553,756
Value of Dairy Products         158,876 (1929)
141,633

    Other statistical data dealing with farm income, population, indebtedness, tenure, and mechanization, and with the comparative value of farm products (state and county) around 1930 reveals the impact of the World War and urban industrialism on the agricultural economy of the county. In 1930 the rural population was 5,553 or 33.6 percent of the total.[206] The largest proportion of farms were devoted to crop specialties (55.3 percent), with general (18.9), animal (16.2), dairy (2.9), truck (.9), and poultry (.8) farms following in their respective order.[207]

    Farm incomes were derived, percentably, from these specified sources: crops, 44.6; livestock, 37.8; livestock products, 9.4; and forest products, 0.4.[208] The operators of the farms used about 7.8 percent of the products themselves.[209] Crops and pasture lands were devoted largely to raising winter wheat (19.8); rye (1.9); spring grain (8.6); hay (5.0). Other crops took up 2.6 percent of the crop lands, and pasture and idle, fallow, and "failure" land amounted to 34.5 percent of the total crop and pasture land.[211] The comparative average crop yields over the decade, 1924-1933, shows in what proportion Cass County was a typical Illinois agricultural county (see Table X). During this period (1920-1940) as much as 90 percent of the county land was in farms.[212]

    Even in the pre-World War period, in the more prosperous days, share cropping and tenancy made their appearance in the county. The number of farms operated by their owners decreased from 844 in 1880 to 413 in 1930; the number held on a rental basis were 130 in 1880, 163 in 1900, and 48 in 1930; and those in which the products were shared amounted to 408 in 1880, 468 in 1900, 335 in 1920, and 450 in 1930.[213] Of the owner-operated farms in 1930, 46.1 percent were mortgaged in the county as compared to 41.3 percent in the whole state. The average mortgage debt in the county was $9,569 per farm mortgage; in the state, $6,182.[214] The average rate of interest on the mortgage debt and the average taxes on lands and buildings per acres, however, were almost equal for the county and the state (5.8 percent, state average interest rate, 5.7, for the county; 1.15 percent average taxes on lands and buildings for the state, 1.16 for the county).[218] Although the land values of farms were considerably high in Cass County than in the state (value per farm: Illinois, $15,553; Cass, $18,529), yet in 1930, 56 percent of the farmland was tenant operated.[219]

TABLE X: AVERAGE CROP YIELD, 1924-1933, AND CROP YIELD INDEX[215]

Item Illinois in percent Cass in percent
Corn, Bushel per acre 34.9 37.1
Oats, Bushel per acre 32.4 31.3
Winter Wheat 16.4 17.1
Spring Wheat 18.1 16.8
Barley 27.6 25.4
Rye 13.6 13.3
Soy Beans 16.7 14.9
Tame Hay, Tons 1.3 1.3
Crop Yield Index
(Corn, Oats, Wheat)
100 103.9

TABLE XI: MANUFACTURING STATISTICS, 1860-1930[216]

Item 1860 1870 1880 1900 1919 1930
Number of Establishments 7 22 67 132 12 11
Capital 41,756 130,200 196,640 566,648    
Average Number Employees 71 107 104 404 81 543
Wages 23,928 40,655 25,427 143,088 81,709 776,693
Cost Materials   194,385 277,816 580,418 4,251,770 3,302,620
Value of Product 83,840 293,252 367,558 912,137 4,412,496 4,348,487

TABLE XII: SCHOOL STATISTICS, 1867-1939[217]

Item 1867 1881 1901 1920 1931 1939
Between 6 and 21 4,188 4,859 5,198 4,669 4,276  
Number of Districts 66 72 63 64 65 65
Number of Schools 65 67 70 70 72 75
Number of Pupils 3,306 3,521 3,992 3,718 3,882 3,679
Number of Teachers 103 96 119 145 158 158
Number of Private Schools 2 4 5 3 3 2
Number of Pupils 70 95 151 100 109 127
Number of Libraries   7 20 62 65 80
Number of Volumes 332 207 2,197 7,905 9,310 16,027
Average Monthly Wage - Male   49.84 52.81 135.50 163.98  
Average Monthly Wage - Female   38.71 39.12 66.62 96.64  
Value of School Property   50,525 152,775 441,460 1,072,280 1,602,711
Expenditures Year Ending June 31,303 39,148 67,602 182,548 300,971 225,325
District Tax Levy 22,506 31,579 54,308 142,024 257,800 230,816
High Schools   2 5      
Illiteracy   9 10      

Business and Manufacturing

    The commercial activities of the county after the Civil War continued to be centered mainly around the agricultural pursuits. Manufacturing establishments increased from 7 in 1860 to 132 in 1900 but declined in number to 11 in 1930. The average number of employees of the 132 establishments in 1900, however, was only 404 while the 11 in 1930 hired 543 employees on the average. Moreover, wages, cost of materials, and value of the products were considerably greater in 1930 than in 1900 illustrating the operation of the process of consolidation. (see Table XI). Banking facilities were established and enlarged throughout the county, and the number of retail stores of various kinds in 1940 were 248.[220]

Social Development

    In spite of the relative slow growth of population before 1920 and its decline in absolute number after the last war, the number of schools and teachers increased steadily and the value of school property rose markedly. (see Table XII). High schools were established throughout the county and the number of illiterates was reduced to a mere 108 out of a total population of 16,425.[221]

    Parallel to the increase in the number of schools in the county was the growth of church buildings and groups. Maintaining the lead gained by their itinerant preachers in the ante-bellum period, the Methodists waxed in number. By 1940 they ad 5 churches in the county located at Beardstown, Bluff Springs, Chandlerville, Virginia, and Ashland and a membership of 2,653 persons.[222] The other denominations also increased in number so that by 1940 there were 12 in the county with 31 churches in operation and 5,697 members.[223] The total church membership, however, was larger since those who were communicants of the six Catholic churches, the Episcopalian preaching station, and the Christian Science Society were not included in the total figure.

    An interesting event in newspaper history occurred in the fruitful 70's when the Reverend Schaberhorn attempted to publish a German newspaper in the county: Der Beobachter am Illinois Flusz (1877). A year later Theodore Wilkins bought Der Beobachter and renamed it Der Beardstown Wochenblatt.[224] The latter sheet also seems to have been short-lived.

    Several well established daily and weekly local newspapers, however, appeared in the post-bellum period which were still in existence in 1940. The old Central Illinoisian, after several mergers, finally appeared in 1899 as the Illinoisian Star, with an office at Beardstown.[225] At the county seat the Virginia Gazette, edited from 1881 to 1913, by Charles M. Tinney, a Republican, appeared regularly since 1872.[226] The Ashland Sentinel, started by John S. Harper as the Weekly Eagle, was only four years younger than the Virginia Gazette; and the Chandlerville Times dated back to 1874.[227]

Conclusion

    Viewing the history of the county retrospectively from the Civil War until 1940, we are able to note the following outstanding events: (1) the replacement of the county court and board of county commissioners by the township system of government; (2) the establishment of schools, churches, newspapers, and other social institutions; (3) the breakdown of the old agricultural life because of mechanization, the coming of the railroad, and the rise of the competitive urban industrial order; and (4) the necessity on the part of the Federal government to step in and help the county government carry out its many functions.

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[187] U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, I, Population, 23, 109, 351; Tenth Census, 1880, I, Population, 387, 505; Eleventh Census, 1890, I, Population, Part I, 407, 619; Twelfth Census, 1900, I, Population; Part I, 579, 746; U. S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census, 1920, III, Population, 251, 271; Fifteenth Census, 1930, Population, III, Part I, 614, 637; Rand McNally Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide, p. 120, 121.

[188] Priv. L. 1857, p. 1049, 1050. See Directory of Newspapers and Periodicals, 1940, p. 195, 197, and 201 for comparative population figures on cities and towns in Cass County.

[189] Priv. L. 1857, p. 1443-50

[190] Priv. L. 1861, p. 577; Priv. L. 1869, III, 566-74; Perrin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 147.

[191] Ibid, p. 159.

[192] U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, I, Population, 23, 109, 351; Tenth Census, 1880, I, Population, 387; Eleventh Census, 1890, I, Population, Part I, 407, 619; Twelfth Census, 1900, I, Population; Part I, 579, 746; Thirteenth Census, 1910, II, Population, 484; U. S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census, 1920, III, Population, 251, 271; Fifteenth Census, 1930, Population, III, Part I, 614, 637; Rand McNally Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide, p. 120, 121.

[193] U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Agriculture of the United States in 1860, p. 30; Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, III, Manufactures, 84.

[194] The railroad companies that were incorporated during the 50's and 60's and that had rights of way through Cass County were: Beardstown and Petersburg Railroad (1853); Jacksonville and Beardstown Railroad (1857); Illinois Farmers' Railroad (1859); Beardstown, Chandlerville and Mason City Railroad (1869); Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville Railroad (1869); and Quincy, Beardstown, and Northeast Railroad (1867). See Priv. L. 1853, p. 31-34; Priv. L. 1857, p. 1261-66. Also see Priv. L. 1867, II, 642-44 for the act of incorporation of the Beardstown, Rushville and Keokuk Railroad, and the Priv. L. 1869, p. 322-25 for the act to authorize certain counties to subscribe stock.

[195] Martin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 780.

[196] The Illinois River Railroad was incorporated February 11, 1853. The Company was organized in 1857 with R. S. Thomas, a prominent citizen of Cass County, as its president. Ibid., p. 775-77.

[197] Martin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 775-77.

[198] Ibid.

[199] Martin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 777, 778.

[200] Ibid.

[201] Ibid, p. 778, 779.

[202] Ibid., p. 777.

[203] Ibid.

[204] See Illinois Commerce Commission, Railroad Map of Illinois 1928 by P. H. Moynihan, et al. Copy of map located at 433 East Erie, Chicago, Illinois.

[205] U.S. Secretary of the Interior Agriculture of the United States in 1860, p. 30, 31, 33, 726, 727; ibid., 1880, Agriculture, p. 44, 111; ibid., 1900, V, Agriculture, Part I, 72, 73; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1920, VI, Agriculture, Part I, 377, 387, 397; ibid., 1930, Agriculture, II, Part I, 569, 584, 637.

[206] Farm, Home and Community, p. 2.

[207] Ibid., p. 38.

[208] Ibid.

[209] Ibid.

[210] Ibid., p. 15.

[211] Farm, Home and Community, p. 15.

[212] Ibid., p. 3.

[213] U.S. Department of the Interior, Report on the Production of Agriculture, 1880, p. 44, 45; ibid., 1900, V, Agriculture, Part I, 72; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1920, VI, Agriculture, Part I, The Northern States, 377; ibid., 1930, II Agriculture, Part I, The Northern States, 569.

[214] Farm, Home and Community, p. 41.

[215] Farm, Home and Community, p. 16.

[216] U. S. Secretary of the Interior, Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, III, Manufactures, 84; ibid., A Compendium of the Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, p. 818; ibid., Tenth Census of the United States, 1880, II, Manufactures, 107; ibid., 1900, VIII, Manufactures, Part I, 168; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census, 1920, IX, Manufactures, 311; ibid., 1930. Manufactures, III, 139.

[217] Illinois Department of Public Instruction Seventh Biennial Report, p. 476, 480, 484, 488, 516; Fourteenth Biennial Report, p. 360, 362, 365, 368, 377, 380, 395; Forty-second Biennial Report, p. 2, 5, 16, 38, 40, 41, 44, 68, 113, 142, 181; ibid., Illinois School Statistics for Year Ending June 30, 1914, p. 18, 22, 30, 48, 50, 52, 58; Farm, Home and Community, p. 48.

[218] Farm, Home and Community, p. 41.

[219] Ibid., p. 40.

[220] For a description of the banks in Cass County see Perrin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 85-88, 113, 114, 148; Rand McNally Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide, p. 120.

[221] Ibid., p. 121.

[222] Methodist Episcopal Church, Illinois Annual Conference, Journal and Year Book, 1939, p. 869.

[223] see Congregational and Christian Churches, Year Book Statistics, 1938, p. 103-10; Disciples of Christ, 1939 Year Book of the International Convention, p. 376; Illinois Baptist State Convention, Annual 1939, p. 111; Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, Statistical Year-Book, 1938, p. 43; Cumberland Presbyterian Church, General Assembly, Minutes One Hundred Ninth Meeting (June 1939), p. 195; Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., General Assembly, Minutes, 1939, Part I, Journal and Statistics, p. 502; United Lutheran Church in America, Illinois Synod, Minutes of the Twentieth Annual Convention, 1939, p. 80; United Lutheran Church in America, Warburg Synod, Minutes of Sixty-Fourth Convention, 1939, p. 36; E. P. Alldredge, Southern Baptist Handbook, 1939, p. 257, 515, 516; Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Year Book, 1940, p. 330; The Christian Science Journal (June 1940), LVIII, No. 3, 13; The Official Catholic Directory, 1935, p. 533-35.

[224] Perrin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 122, 123.

[225] Martin, ed., History of Cass County, p. 786, 787.

[226] Ibid., p. 785, 786.

[227] Ibid., p. 786, 787.