Centennial History
Mason County

By Joseph Cochrane
Springfield, Ill., 1876

Page 80

Havana is beautifully situated on the east bank of the Illinois river, and is the county seat of the county. The situation is somewhat elevated, perhaps an average of forty feet above the river. It contains many fine residences and pleasant homes, and more than ordinary taste is exhibited in the improvement and ornamentation of grounds.

The town contains, as near as we can estimate in the absence of precise figures, 3,000 inhabitants. During the past year has erected a fine school edifice on the bluff east of the court house, at an expense of nearly $30,000, an improvement of which our citizens are justly proud. In addition to this main central school house, there are smaller houses for the primary schools in both the north and south ends of the town.

The churches are as follows: The Methodist Episcopal church, corner of Main and Broadway, is a good, plain house, and the place of worship of one of the oldest societies in the city. Being centrally located, and of easy access, it is as well attended as any. The Reformed church is located on the second block south of the M. E. church; a neat, well finished house, of unpretentious appearance, erected at a cost of about $7,000.

The Lutheran church, on the bluff northeast of the court house, is still smaller, though the average attendance is larger than in the two preceding. It is as old, if not the oldest organization in the city, and its membership is the wealthiest of any. A neat parsonage is attached to their grounds, and their pastor has a pleasant home.

In the northern part of town is the Catholic church, a neat, commodious frame building, as are all the others, very tastefully finished. This society has a large membership, and some of the most substantial citizens of town and country are included in its numbers. All the foregoing churches have pastors in charge, and regular services, though the minister of the Reformed church receives his salary from the Board of Domestic Missions of that church in the East.

The Baptist church is a neat frame building, near the southwest corner of the public square. The membership is few in number, and without a minister at this time.

Our Swedish citizens, of whom there are about fifty, are making efforts to hold religious services in their own language, and a minister of that nationality has recently visited them several times for that purpose. A word in reference to our Swedish population. Though not wealthy, they are in fair circumstances, and are rightly ranked among our most valuable citizens. Honest, industrious, temperate and reliable is the reference we must make to them, and a personal acquaintance with each enable us to know "whereof we affirm."

If there is one class of inhabitants more than another of whom we have just reason to proud, it is our


We have a large number of mechanics, in all the various trades usually pursued in inland towns. Carpenters, machinists, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tailors, painters, jewelers, printers, tinners, etc., etc., that are equaled by few and excelled by none. Strangers have remarked to the writer, in regard to some of our mechanics, whose abilities they had tested, that they regard them as very superior, indeed. It is ever our pleasure to give honor to whom honor is due, and we hold it as a fundamental principle of a democratic government, that the masses, the man who earns his bread by the sweat of his brow, either in common or skilled labor, is the bulwark and stay, the anchor and safety, of the institutions of our country. Hence the value of the free school system in our country, where the property is taxed for the education of the poor man's children. With few exceptions, the best minds in America have sprung from the laboring classes, and been educated in the common schools. More of this under another heading.

The first settlement was made where Havana now stands in 1839. In 1829, in September, a postoffice was established, and six years later, or 1835, a town was laid out-O. M. Ross, proprietor. The second family was named Myers, and the third was the Krebaum family, some of the members of which have been identified with the public and business interests of this city and county down to the present day.

The details of the early settlement of Havana are so fully set forth in the biographies of Pulaski Scovil, A. W. Kemp, N. J. Rockwell, O. E. Foster, J. H. Neteler, and others, that a repetition here would be work of superogation. In lieu there of, we will refer the reader to the biographies above named, to the extracts from early newspapers, and the railroad department.

Havana contains many substantial business houses, warehouses, steam elevators, and three hotels; and her trade, though not as flourishing as many towns, has had a slow, healthful growth. In 1856 there was no brick building in Havana. In 1857 J. H. & D. P. Hole built the first brick store, and in the same year Wm. Walker built the first brick dwelling.

Havana's improvement in trade and the erection of new buildings, has been equally slow. A reason for this is readily seen in her manner of doing business. Manufactures of various kinds have been undertaken here and failed for the want of patronage, and from being driven out by competitive articles being brought in and sold at such rates that an honest workman could not compete with shoddy articles, and from a determination of the people to buy nothing at home that could be shipped here from abroad. This system of business has been felt here in every department of trade. We aim to stat facts and facts only, and the preceding we would gladly have omitted had candor allowed it to have been done.

No city in our knowledge can claim more beautifully laid out or better improved streets than Havana. All are regular and crossing each other at right-angles, corresponding to the four cardinal points of the compass, and beautifully ornamented with trees. Our town viewed from some of the fine elevations within its limits, presents the appearance of a densely peopled forest, many of the buildings being entirely obscured by trees. Among the many fine improvements we can name, are the residences of Adolph Krebaum, R. R. Simmons, C. G. Krebaum, F. H. Cappel, L. Dearborn, S. C. Conwell, and others.

The Irish population of Havana deserves especial notice. The United States and every locality thereof is indebted to the older counties of Europe for a par of their inhabitants. To Germany more than any other for a rare development of muscle, and for persevering industry; but to the emigrant from the Emerald Isle, and the descendants thereof, for both the quantity and quality of the brains and business energies of her people. Irish wit has become proverbial the world over. The energies and ambition of the Celtic race are as proverbial as their wit. It is no fare thing to find a street or a railroad laborer a man of education and various attainments. We have always sympathized with the man who lost the following, containing a lock of tangled hair:

"Och, Judy, me darlint,
Here's a lock of me hair,
And if there's a snarl in it,
Sure I don't care,
Any how.

For now I'm going off
For to work on the track,
You may take it and keep it
Until I get back,
If ye like."

The Irishman who awoke in the unfinished dream, has always had our sympathies, he dreamed that St. Patrick called on him, and he felt honored. St. Patrick asked him, "Would he drink something?" He replied, "Would a duck swim?" St. Patrick asked him, "If he would have it cold or hot?" "Hot, to-be-sure,' he replied. "St. Patrick went below for the hot water, and before he returned I woke up, and now it's troubling me that I did not take it cold."

The Irish population of Havana is about two hundred, and for education and intelligence, honest industry and good citizenship, will compare with any other equal number of citizens. They more readily than any other nationality become assimilated with the institutions of the country of the adoption, and attached to its institutions and government. To them and their descendents is this country indebted for some of the best minds in the army and nary, the halls of legislation or the pulpit.

The city government of Havana now consists of---
I. N. Mitchell…………….Mayor.
H. H. Hanrath……………City Clerk
J. H. Knobbe…………….Treasurer
L. R. Haack, 
Max Meyers,
P. E. Limburgh,
W. S. Dray,
J. W. Boggs,
Jabez Dunbar…………Aldermen

In 1848 a canvass was made of the number of voters and the number of inhabitants in Havana, in view of its incorporation, and at the same time a note was made of the manner in which they would vote. The original paper, brown with age, is now before us, by the kindness of Dr. E. B. Harpham, in whose possession it has been.

The voters were-N. J. Rockwell, N. Rockwell, L. Dearborn, M. Dearborn, J. Criswell, George Walker, Wm. Walker, Robert Walker, B. Krebaum, Wm. Krebaum. F. Krebaum, H. Cease, W. Eldred, S. Judd, E. B. Harpham, C. W. Andrus, A. Swing, K. Sykes, A. Bowers, A. Ganson, H. Umphrey, G. Hony, J. Drone, J. Cheshire, J. Moyer, J. H. Hole, ---- Wilson, G. Christian, S. Baldwin, R. S> Patterson, S. C. Conwell, N. Powell, G. Robinson, M. Robinson, E. Thornburg, P. L. Beckstead, J. D. Cross, B. Grubb, J. D. Hays, S. Osborn, A. Stuart, W. Stuart, J. Lane.

These were voters, and the number in each family is also given. The following are also given as residents, but not voters, and the numbers composing each family: Phelps, Ashmore, Graham, Neil, Dr. Loveland, Mrs. Owens, Mr. Melton, Mr. Litchfield, Catharine Baylor, Bowers, Taylors, Sykes, and a girl at Robinson's.

Census taken October 1, 1848---total number 191.

The town was incorporated with E. B. Harpham, President of the Board of Trustees, and Frederick Krebaum, Clerk. The first ordinance was signed by the above officers, and bears date March 2d, 1848, the original draft of which is now before me.


Preparations for an appropriate observance of a Centennial Anniversary having been entered into with enthusiasm by our citizens, all were desirous that an enjoyable time should be the order of the day, with our guests who might favor us with their presence on that occasion. To this end, many of the buildings were ornamented with shrubbery and flags; wreathes and arches spanned the streets.

The morning was rendered unpropitious by a slight rainfall, and the two first trains brought but few guests.

The skies brightened, and the faces of our people partook of the same blessing. Wagons and carriages brought their hundreds from the country, and the later trains brought other hundreds.

A band of music enlivened the scene. At the park, all was life and enjoyment. A tall liberty pole, with the national emblem, graced the summit of the mound in the park. The tables were being loaded with the abundant supply of food for the assembling mass.

In the streets processions were formed by the benevolent orders of the city, and others, who marched to the already well filled park.

To omit a reference to the decorations of the engines and the passenger coaches would be unjust. The employees of the P., P. & J. road took especial pains to make their display of evergreens, wreaths and bouquets tasteful, while hundreds of banners were attached to all trains. A passenger coach on the fast express, Mr. McSherry, conductor, was especially tasteful. The inside of the coach was a profusion of wreaths, bouquets, evergreens, flags, etc., etc., commendable alike to the taste and patriotism of this of this gentlemanly conductor, who spared no expense to make it attractive.

The proceedings at the speakers' stand were opened by the president of the day, in a few introductory remarks, followed by a brief prayer by the chaplain. The reading of the Declaration of Independence, by Judge J. A. Mallory, was preceded by a few well timed remarks by the Judge that were as happily conceived as they were beautiful in their expression.

The reading was followed by an oration by Prof. Williams, of Wabash College, Indiana. For conception, delivery, matter, language, intonation, etc., we have heard few to excel it. Space forbids even a synopsis.

After the speaking, ample justice was done to the large supply of viands. All had plenty. The five thousand were few, not with five loaves and two fishes, but with five hundred loaves, eight hundred pounds of dressed fish and four fatted cattle. All were well done and in every way satisfactory.

The old squatter sovereignty doctrine was amply illustrated during the afternoon, to-wit: that every body should enjoy themselves as their taste and inclinations dictated, and most thoroughly and effectually was that done.

It is with pleasure that we are enabled to add that the day passed without accident or hurt to any.

In the evening came the display of fire-works, but these were superceded and displaced by a most magnificent display of the pyrotechnics of the heavens, and the booming of the artillery of the skies. The vivid lightning blaze, and the reverbration of nature's heaviest ordnance continued most of the night, accompanied by the extraordinary rainfall of three and one-half inches of water.

We hazard the opinion that the 4th will be long remembered by those who partook in these centennial festivities, and as time rolls on into the second century of our National existence, ushered in this day, it will be with gratification and great satisfaction, that we can all look back on our participation in the celebration of July 4th, 1876.

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