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Heritage Museum

Photos by 'Tad' Church

Butler Ford Bridge

In October of 1993 we received from Gene Harris of Vermilion Heights, by way of Jim Jones, a Premo Camera, patented October 26, 1904, and manufactured by the Eastinan Kodak Co., successors to: Rochester Optical Co., Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A. This camera has two view finders, one on the top left and one on the right side top left with a handle on top. The top has a hinge to get into the plate compartment. Inside the camera are two wood glass plate holders. Camera and equipment all came in the original shipping box.

Rocky Ford Bridge

With the camera came the following equipment: Box for Dry Plates, Seed's Dry Plates (5 cents) M.A. Seed Dry Plate Company, stamped on back of box, Plaster Drug Company Wholesale and Retail Drugs, Kodak & Photographic Supplies, 105 N. Vermilion, Danville, Ill.; Box for Dry Plates, Blue Label Roebuck Dry Plates, The Stanley Dry Plate, Eastman Kodak Co.: Bottle of Kodak Film Cleaner; Solo Toning Solution; five empty chemical bottles, two incised Eastman Kodak Tested Chemicals; Developer Box; Developer, Azuro Blue Print Paper, 2 dozen post cards; another Developer Box and developer.

We also received thirteen (13) developed glass plates which we are hoping to get printed. Some of these include horses in a pasture, a two story house with a large porch, 4 little girls sitting in the road, horse and fancy 4 wheel buggy with a barn in the background, etc. There are twelve (12) other developed glass plates, one is labeled "Rocky Ford Bridge". Many others include cows, horses, men, girls, people and four wheeled buggy/wagon and many more.

We have seven 8 by 10 black and white glossy photos which had been developed from the 4 by 5 glass plate negatives. We are including four in this newsletter. As we get others printed we will present them in future articles or on our Web Site.

These photographs were all taken by Clarence "Tad" Church, the uncle of Gene Harris who donated the collection to the Catlin Heritage Museum. Gene's mother, Mary Jane (Kinney) Harris, and Tad's wife, Grace (Kinney) Church were sisters. Tad was born 12 October 1884 in Catlin Township and was a life resident of the Catlin community. He was the son of Joseph and Achsah (Izard) Church. Tad married Grace A. Kinney on 13 January 1919. Tad died 30 August 1960 at his farm home northwest of Catlin. Grace passed away 12 March 1977 at the age of 86. Both she and Tad were members of the Catlin Church of Christ and are both buried at Oakridge Cemetery, Catlin.

The Danville Commercial-News carried an article about Gene and this collection of photos in the November 28, 1982 issue, quoting Gene's comments about his uncle. Gene was born 19 February 1927 in Oakwood, the son of Granville D. and Mary Jane (Kinney) Harris. He married Betty Jane Goble 23 December 1951. Gene passed away 30 June 1999 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. He served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene College with a B.S. degree and was a member of Lone Oak Church of Christ where he was ordained as a minister 7 February 1982. Gene was Corporate Purchasing Manager at Peterson-Puritan, retiring in 1983.

Tad Church took most of the pictures sometime between 1904 and 1919. He was a self-taught photographer, taking the pictures and developing the glass plates using the components listed above. Some of the glass plates were by trial and error, as if he was practicing with his new equipment. The photos we are showing are quite good.

The photo of the old Butler Ford Bridge, north of Catlin, was taken around 1910, and shows a horse and buggy starting to cross the bridge. (Note the dirt road with wheel marks.)

The Butler Ford Bridge (where Butler Creek comes into the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River) was located at the bottom of Anderson Hill. The bridge there now is known as the Anderson Hill Bridge. The creek and evidently the first bridge were named for the Butler family who arrived in 1820. James Butler built a cabin on a point of timber just west of the present site of Catlin. He planted a crop and became known in Vermilion County history as the first farmer. Other settlers followed and the area became known as Butler's Point (the original name of Catlin). Tad Church's family lived northwest of Catlin, probably in the area near Anderson Hill.

Another bridge Tad photographed in 1910 was the Rocky Ford Bridge over the Salt Fork River, south of Oakwood. When replaced by a new bridge it was called the "Singing Bridge" because of the sound made by automobiles when they drove across it. Again, Tad captured a horse and buggy crossing the old bridge.

Glass-sided Hearse

To me, one of the most intriguing photos of the group is one taken of an empty, glass-sided hearse in downtown Catlin. The drapes inside have been pulled up and you can see through the glass the tree trunks on the other side. Does anyone recognize the driver or know exactly where the buildings in the background were located and the businesses in them? If so, we would certainly like to learn more about this photo.

Another photo from the collection is of five old men taken 15 August 1907. They are, from left, Thomas Brady, Henry Foster, Joe Buckingham, Asa Snyder and Sylvester Hodges.

Do you know
these men?

Five Old Men

Related story

 1982 Commercial-News story about Gene Harris and his uncle, 'Tad' Church.

All photos

 Notes and links to 32 photographs.


Catlin Historical Society
210 North Paris
Catlin, Illinois 61817