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The Early History of Grantfork

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


The village of Grantfork (just north of Highland), at the intersection of Hwy. 160 and Pocahontas Road, lies partly in Leef, and partly in Saline Townships. The town was first called Fitz James, and was laid out in 1840 by Henry K. Lathey, James Carpenter, George Fulls, Jonas R. Gale, Z. Lowe, and William F. De Wolf, on the southwest quarter of section 33. John Duncan opened a store there in 1840. His house stood on the north side of the road that runs on the township line. He kept a public house, and put up a large sign inscribed in prominent letters – “Fitz James Hotel by John Duncan.” He lived there until his death, after which the buildings burned.

Martin Ruch, in the early history of the village, opened a store on the south side. In 1840, Mr. Herrin opened a blacksmith shop in a little log cabin, that stood just east of the Douglas store. John Link was the second blacksmith.

In 1862, Stephen Bardill opened a stone quarry and lime kiln west of Grantfork. He later sank a shaft for a coal mine on the property, but it was abandoned because of flooding.

Some years later, the town was making little progress. R. D. Leggitt put up a second store, which stood on the north side of the road. After two years, he sold out to William Schum, who subsequently sold to John Bardill and brothers. Mr. Bardill later purchased his brother’s interest in the store, and conducted the business for many years. He was instrumental in getting a post office established called Saline. The postal department ordered the name changed, and the citizens christened the town Grantfork.

In 1886, the water which flooded the Bardill mine was tested and was revealed to contain minerals. The Diamond Mineral Springs Hotel was erected, and the mineral springs developed into a health and summer resort. Back in the days when travelers visited the State capital in Vandalia, they would stop at the hotel to enjoy mineral baths and a good night’s rest. The property was sold to Anton Kraft in 1891, who further developed it by enlarging the lake and converting the grounds to a park, with fountains and flower-lined walks. He updated the system of waterworks for the hotel, and added an amusement hall for dancing and billiards. A dining hall was constructed for guests in 1892, and expanded in 1937 when the hotel operation ceased and the Krafts concentrated on the restaurant business. The hotel was torn down in 1957, but the restaurant continued under the name of the Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant, which is still open (2019) at 1 West Pocahontas Road, Highland.

                                   Diamond Mineral Springs Hotel, Grantfork

The Catholics built a brick church in 1872. There was a school connected with this church.
The Lutheran Church was erected also in 1872, and was a brick structure.
The Grantfork public school was a brick building, one story high, with two room.

Businesses in Grantfork in 1882:

Physicians – A. R. Ransom and A. Sacconi
General Store and Postmaster – Martin Ruch
Hotel – Anton Kraft
Drugstore – A. Sacconi
Blacksmith Shops – Charles Schmitt, Nic Mollett, and Theodore Schwartz
Wagon Shops – G. Winter, Nic Mollett
Harness Shop – E. Salzmann
Butcher – F. Landolt
Tinsmith and Stoves – Joseph Miller
Undertaker – F. Oswald
Shoemaker – G. Zweifel

Daniel Ruedy was chosen as a member of the Board of Supervisors in 1876. He was succeeded by John Bardill in 1879. John Mulloy was elected in 1880.


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