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Hartford, Illinois, Newspaper Clippings

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


EARLY HISTORY OF HARTFORD     (also called Edwardsville Crossing)


Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, November 24, 1870
Monday evening, a well-to-do farmer living in the American Bottoms, and more generally known as "River Bill," was found near the [Edwardsville] Crossing of the Madison County railroad in an insensible condition, with his head beaten and cut up almost past recognition. He was brought to Edwardsville on the six o'clock train and taken to the Union Hotel for medical treatment. Mr. Emmert lives about half a mile from the crossing, and it appears that he had just arrived from St. Louis and was on his way home from the crossing when two men attacked him with clubs, beating him in a most shocking manner. Supposing him to be dead, they then rifled his pockets, but the booty they got did not repay them for so foul and dastardly a deed. A watch and three or four dollars in money was all they gained. A pocket book containing fifty dollars in the back pocket of his coat was overlooked. It is supposed that the two men followed Mr. Emmert from St. Louis, thinking that he had a large amount of money on his person.


Source: Alton Telegraph, March 29, 1872
The new depot at Edwardsville Crossing [Hartford] was destroyed by fire about three o’clock Friday morning. The building was almost completed, the workmen having intended to put in the doors and windows today. It was a frame structure, and was owned by the Madison County Railroad Company. Its cost was about $600, and there was no insurance. The main platform was not burned.

The origin of the fire is unknown, but there are strong reasons for supposing it was the work of an incendiary. It is hardly probably that the fire originated from sparks from a locomotive, owing to the fact that at three o’clock, the roof of the building was covered with snow, though it is possible that sparks from an engine were blown inside the building through the open doors or windows. It is not probably, however, that the fire originated in this way, as all the shavings, sawdust, and debris of building had been removed previously. We regret that the company has met with this misfortune. It is only a few months since their former building, on the same site, was destroyed by an incendiary fire. If this fire was also caused by an incendiary, we trust that the miscreant may be promptly brought to justice.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, January 27, 1887
The meeting held by Rev. T. S. Young, assisted by Rev. Creswick, at St. John’s Baptist Church, Brushy Grove, closed last week with nine accessions to the church. The baptismal service will take place soon. The Sabbath School held an extra session last Sunday afternoon.

The erection of a church building will now come before the people, and the kindly help and encouragement of the surrounding neighborhood is earnestly desired.

The Brushy Grove Literary and Social Circle had a very pleasant meeting at Mr. John Henry’s on last Thursday evening, a large number being present. Program short, but good, especially the recitations given by the Misses Berry and Maltby. Next meeting to be held at the reside4nce of Mr. William Ray on the evening of February 3.


Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, August 2, 1892
Last night about 9 o'clock the Cincinnati Night Express on the Big Four, going east, met with an accident at Edwardsville Crossing that was most disastrous in its results. At the time mentioned, the train, which runs at a very high rate of speed, ran through an open switch at the Crossing, causing the death of the engineer and fireman, and the probably fatal injury of a tramp who was riding on the front of the mail car. His name is Samuel Cosgrove of Newport, Kentucky. When the engine ran onto the switch, it plunged into a string of freight cars, smashing them and the engine badly. The engine then veered to the west and crossed another sidetrack, pulling it up and dragging it to one side, torn and distorted. A telegraph pole was in the way, and this went off like it was a straw. On the engine went, until it struck the ditch on the right of the C. & A. track. Here it overturned, and was rendered a mass of old iron. Wheels were distributed around in all directions. The trucks of freight cars were knocked out. The cab was rendered into kindling. No one could have recognized that the boiler and the heap of ruins was once a model locomotive. The mail car, dismantled and stone in, was tilted in the air across the main track of the Big Four. The baggage car was thrown in almost the same position across the Alton track. In this car was a valuable horse belonging to F. D. Comstock. When the crash came, none of the occupants of these cars were hurt, strange as it may seem, and when the cars stopped, the horse walked out as if accustomed to such performances. The baggage car was stove up, but was not so badly injured as the other cars. None of the passengers were hurt. The engineer and fireman were buried under the wreck of the engine, but they were dead before the monster came on them. As the engine started to plunge, Engineer Edward Hoffman, who was in charge of the train, was struck on the left side of the head and then badly scalded, resulting in his death. Fireman W. A. Barrett was also instantly killed, having one side of his head completely torn off. Both bodies were brought to this city, and prepared for burial by Undertaker Howell, and were this morning shipped to Mattoon, the homes of the deceased. Engineer Hoffman is about 44 or 45 years of age, and has a family living in Mattoon. He was a member of the Masonic order, being a Knight Templar. The fireman, Bartlett, was a young man, only 23 years of age. It is supposed that the switch was left open by a freight train which had preceded the wrecked train. The tramp, who had both limbs badly crushed and was otherwise injured, was brought here and placed in St. Joseph's Hospital. He is so badly hurt that there is but little hope of his recovery. The wreck, which consisted of the engine and mail car of the passenger train and the box cars into which the train ran, was scattered over both the Big Four and C. & A. tracks, delaying the Chicago and Kansas City mail trains of the latter road several hours. Work on the wreckage began at once and continued all night and a good portion of today.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 6, 1906
Farmers in the vicinity of Poag, below Edwardsville Crossing [present-day Hartford], are wondering considerably and worrying some over the identity of two skeletons of humans found a few days ago near that place, buried in the sandy banks of the Cahokia creek. No one is missing from that immediate locality whose absence has not been accounted for, but the impression is that they came from above and not a great distance either. Fred Archer, who purchased what was known as the Busch place on the electric line, two miles below Poag, decided to strengthen the levees against possible inundation from the creek. It was while engaged in excavating in the timber close to the edge of the stream that the remains were found. The bones were about four feet underground, and the fact that the skeletons had the arms in a close embrace leads some to believe that they are the remains of persons drowned in the overflow and swept to that place, being covered with sand by the current. Others believe that they are evidence of a murder, and show a hurried burial.


Alton Evening Telegraph, June 22, 1911
Gus Smith, aged 27, was wounded in the right shoulder, the ball going clear through the young man, and his two brothers, Frank and Berthold Smith Jr. were shot at by William Schorrs, a farmhand, Wednesday afternoon on the farm of Berthold Smith Sr. near Wood River. The shooting was done from ambush to satisfy an old grudge. Three weeks ago, Gus Smith, the oldest brother, had quarreled with Schorrs, who is a relative. Schorrs worked on the Hockstra place about a mile from the Smith place. The three Smith brothers were plowing, and late in the afternoon as they were rounding the end of their furrows, Gus Smith was shot at by Schorrs who was lying behind a shock of wheat. The would-be-assassin was so close to his victim that Smith's shoulder was powder burned. The shooting was done from behind, the ball entering the right shoulder and emerging in front. Schorrs carried an army rifle, and after shooting at Gus Smith, he turned the gun on the two other brothers. Gus, after being wounded, started to run, and so did Frank. Schorr shot once at Frank and twice at Berthold Jr., his revenge evidently taking in the whole family, and he doubtless intended to kill all three of the brothers so there would be no evidence of his crime. The three boys got to the house, then called for help. The assassin was not seen again, as no attention was paid to him and he was allowed to escape. Word was sent to Alton for a surgeon, and for the deputy sheriff to go to Wood River to help hunt for Schorrs, but too long a time had elapsed and no trace of Schorrs could be found.

Berthold Smith Sr., the father of the boys who were shot at, came to Alton today with A. T. Head to swear out a warrant for the arrest of Schorrs. Mr. Smith was very quiet about the cause of the trouble, but it developed that some time ago Schorrs had been staying at the Smith home. Schorrs is a cousin of Mrs. Smith. He was not known for industry, and preferred to dress fine and shine in society. Mr. Smith, who is a hardworking, industrious man, and believes in hard work, did not approve of Schorr's way of living, so he let him know his presence there was not desired. This led to the ill feeling that Schorrs bore to the Smith family, it is supposed, in the absence of further information that Schorrs determined to be revenged upon his cousin by slaughtering the three sons who were at work in the field plowing. According to Mr. Smith, Gus Smith was not over 20 feet away from Schorr when the shot was fired. It happened that Gus was stooping over in the act of turning his plow around at the end of the row, when Schorrs fire, and but for the fact that Gus did stoop, he would probably have been shot in the head. The ball which pierced the young man's body ranged upward after entering just below the shoulder blade. The size of the hole indicates it must have been a 44-calibre ball. Then Gus started to run, after almost falling to the ground. Schorrs then took a shot at Frank Smith who was a short distance away and missed him. Berthold Smith Jr. was a half mile away and did not know what was going on. Schorrs ran toward him, and when about 200 yards distant he took two shots at the boy. Berthold hurriedly drove his team away, but the other two teams stood in the field until near 8 o'clock, when A. T. Head went after them. The shooting happened at 5:30 o'clock, and it was almost 9 before Dr. Shaff arrived and dressed the wound. The wounded man had lost much blood, and the greatest danger lay in his exhaustion from blood loss. Mr. Smith offered a reward of $250 for the arrest of his son's assailant. The warrant charges assault with intent to murder the three Smith boys. It was learned from relatives of the family that Schorr was in love with one of the daughters of Berthold Smith Sr., and the girl being his second cousin, Schorr's suit was discouraged. He wanted to marry the girl and finally was forced to leave the place. It is said that Schorr made a threat that he would kill the whole Smith family and that he made no secret of his enmity. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have six sons and five daughters, and while the report was somewhat disquieting, they did not worry much over the threats of Schorr. When the shooting occurred Wednesday evening there was wild alarm in the family, and none of them would even go out to bring in the teams which had been left standing in the field.

Skeleton of William Schorrs Found - Suicide is the Theory
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, August 21, 1911
The fleshless skeleton of William Schorrs was found Sunday afternoon in tall grass of what was once the bed of Grassy Lake, by Frank and Berthold Schmid, two of the sons of Berthold Schmid Sr., who were shot at by Schorrs on the afternoon of June 21 from ambush. Gus Schmid, the young man wounded by Schorrs at the time of the shooting, and who is recovering from the wound in his breast where a Springfield army rifle ball pierced his body, was not with the other two brothers when the skeleton was found. It was a strange fate that led the two brothers to the place where their assailant had ended his own life, and that they should find his skeleton and identify it, seems remarkable to all who learned about it. A price on his head, aggregating $700, $500 of which was offered by Berthold Schmid Sr., and the other $200 by a brother, John Schorrs of Sunbury, Iowa, who believed his brother could be vindicated by showing just cause for the shooting, William Schorrs, the fugitive, probably concluded to end his life rather than face trial on a charge of attempted murder and perhaps murder. He was supposed to have taken refuge in the tall grass and thicket that surround the lake, and it was known that if he was there, a desperate man, armed and ready to defend himself, his capture would be difficult. None of the county officers would make the attempt. Cards were sent out broadcast bearing his picture, and his escape would be very difficult. He disappeared completely, although what now appears to have been false information came from Fidelity that Schorrs had been seen there at the home of a relative. The finding of the skeleton Sunday afternoon came as an incident of a hunt for blackbirds on the part of the two Schmid brothers. They went armed everywhere since the shooting, as Schorrs had threatened to exterminate the family because Berthold Schmid Sr. refused to countenance the suit of Schorrs, for Miss Ida Schmid, who was a second cousin of Schorrs. The boys stumbled over the skeleton lying in grass that was man high, where water had formerly been two feet deep. The lake having been drained revealed the body. It is supposed that Schorrs, despairing of escaping, waded into the shallow water shot himself and then lay down in the water to drown if he did not kill himself instantly. His rifle was about five feet distant. All the flesh had disappeared. On the backbone of the body was lying a shell watch charm, which the boys identified as one Schorrs had owned. On the waist was a belt with a large metal buckle they also identified. In the pocket of the garments was a watch which the Schmid brothers did not touch, as they preferred to wait until Coroner Streeper had been called to take charge of the skeleton. However, they were satisfied that the skeleton was that of the fugitive. Others who were called to the scene were satisfied of this also. Owing to the difficulty in getting to the place because of the tall grass and brush, the coroner did not go down until today. Ever since the shooting on June 21, the Schmid place has been guarded and members of the family in a state of terror. Someone was on guard against night attacks for a long time after the shooting, and it was feared Schorrs would return to work his vengeance on the family because of his failure to find favor for his courtship of Ida Schmid. Berthold Schmid Sr., the father, never relaxed his efforts to find Schorrs, and refused to converse about the matter with anyone. He heard reports several times of Schorrs being in various places. However, the finding of the skeleton seems to set at rest all doubt of what really happened. The skeleton was about fifty yards from the wheat shock where Schorrs hid when he shot Gus Schmid from ambush on the afternoon of June 21. It is believed that Schorrs killed himself soon after he shot at his cousins, the fleshless condition of the bones indicating that death occurred long ago. There are some who think he may have gone away, and afterward returned to the scene of the shooting to fulfill his threatened vengeance, and that he found too strong a guard and that he, failing in his purpose, determined to end his life. coroner Streeper held an inquest Monday morning and a verdict of suicide was found. The body was positively identified further by a memorandum book containing Schorr's name, also that of his father, Jacob Schorr of Sunbury, Iowa, to whom the coroner sent a telegram asking instructions as to the disposition of the skeleton. The jury consisted of J. A. Hend, John Henry, Dr. L. L. Yerkes, Will Yenny, Al Dixon and R. F. Hoeckstra. The place where the body was found was about 100 feet from the old bank of the lake, and 50 feet from the water edge at present. It was lying in a mat of water lilies and willows. A hole in the skull showed where the ball had passed through. In the clothes was found 40 loaded cartridges, and four more were found in the handkerchief. They were forty-five calibre. The rifle lying under Schorr's leg had an empty shell in it. Richard Westerholt and E. F. Hoeckstra said that they heard a report of a gun after the shooting at the Schmid boys, and believed that was the shot that killed Schorrs.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 16, 1916
The details of the plans of the International Shoe Co. for the tannery which it will erect at Hartford indicate that this will be one of the greatest industrials that has ever located at Alton. It is not only the tannery that is to be considered, but a host of cut leather industries which will follow in the train of the coming of the tannery. It has been announced that the details of the option were closed up Monday in St. Louis by H. J. Bowman. The plan is for a plant that will produce 5,000 hides every day. The magnitude of the plant may be realized when it is said that some of the tanning processes of some kinds of leathers require eight months. The tannery will furnish the leather to be used in all of the twenty-three shoe factories of the International Shoe Co. The tract which will be bought belongs to Mrs. Virginia Bowman. It is situated in Wood River township, south of the Illinois Terminal railroad and east of the Big Four railroad, and is one-half mile south of the Wood River Refinery. The amount of money to be spent on the plant is said to be in the neighborhood of $8,000,000.

The plant will be built in separate units, and it is said it will require three years to complete it. When finished, the plant will employ 1,200 men, and no women or children. It will be made the nucleus of a number of plants for the fabrication of leather, and a settlement will be established there. Part of the employees will live in the city of Alton, and part of them in the vicinity of the plant. To accommodate the company, assurances have been given by the Clark Syndicate that ample electric interurban transportation facilities will be provided, and if necessary, the line between Alton and Hartford will be doubled-tracked. With the growing strength of the other industries and the increased demand for labor from Alton made by them, the addition of this large army of helpers will make necessary the double-tracking of the interurban line. It has been assured that to take care of the new business, the Alton, Granite and St. Louis Traction Co. will establish a five-cent fare from Alton to Hartford.

The statement is made on authority of the International Shoe Co. that this tannery will be the biggest in the country - in face, will have the capacity of any three of the largest tanneries in the United States. R. D. Griffin, who will be general manager of the plant, lives at Edwardsville. He has been conducting the negotiations for the purchase of the plant. Mr. Griffin says that the purchase of the land is conditioned upon the finding of the same quality and volume of water as is found on the Standard Oil Wood River Refinery grounds. Of this there is no doubt. Water is found in great volumes under all this land by the sinking of drive wells. For a tannery, there is needed an immense amount of water and also good facilities for disposing of the sewage taken from the tanning process. The fact that on the land on all sides of the site selected for the tannery, manufacturing industries were relying on wells to furnish them with millions of gallons of pure filtered water every day, and the further fact that the river was so close that it would be easy to get sewage disposed of counted heavily in the decision coming to Alton. Arrangements have been made for the giving of an easement over the Bowman land from the site to the river, also for a sewer to pass over the land and for wharfage privileges at the river. The Bowmans will build a cinder road from the site to the river. In this connection it may be said that the Bowmans have given an option on the land at a very low price, H. J. Bowman Jr. acting for his mother, put a price on the land that was a very attractive one, and many times less than the best prices given elsewhere.

There were about fifty seekers after the plant. East St. Louis and the Hartford site were the final contenders, and the Hartford site won because of the numerous advantages offered. The Alton Board of Trade has been the principal factor in securing the plant. For four months the Board of Trade was working on it. The former secretary-manager, W. H. Joesting, had made out the brief of Alton and had done much work toward convincing the International Shoe Co. that the best place for the factory is the Alton industrial district. He was engaged on this work when he resigned his position, and on condition that he would finish this work he was given his release by the Board of Trade at the time he took the position with the Equitable Powder Co. The Board of Trade was therefore entitled to the credit of landing the industry. The locating of the tannery on the extreme edge of the Alton industrial district will be a big thing for the whole district. The possibilities of this plant are great. It is expected that it will be in course of construction within thirty days. All the financial arrangements have been made by the International Shoe Co. to go ahead with the tannery project. The shoe company has been experiencing much difficulty in procuring the leather it needs for the making of shoes. Most of the big tanneries are in the East. In the West is the place where hides come from, and much can be saved in the freight on the hides by having a tannery near the center where the hides originate. The shoe company will press work of construction on its new plant. It is said that the new industry is the greatest that has been located at Alton inasmuch as it will draw others of allied trades to it. The state aid road leading to Alton will give Alton a good advantage, as will also the interurban line, in getting benefits therefrom. The people of the village of Wood River think that their village will be greatly benefited by the new industry. They expect that there will be a much greater demand for new houses in Wood River than there is now, and that the village will increase largely in value. The moral value of Alton capturing this industry will be great. It will be much easier now for the Board of Trade to win over some other industries which are about ready to make a decision and which have been urged to come to Alton district and settle down because of the many advantages here that have already proved alluring to such big corporations as the Standard Oil, Federal Lead, Alton boxboard and Paper Co., and which developed such home institutions as the Western Cartridge, Equitable Powder, and the Beall Bros.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 20, 1916
The first construction work of the big tannery down at Hartford is starting in real earnest, and the first building constructed will be the main factory building and will be the biggest factory building in this section of the country. The building as planned calls for six stories and will be 800 feet long and 100 feet wide. The materials for the construction of this building are coming in, and the tool shed is already constructed. The work on this building will take a long time because of the great amount of brick laying and because of the great amount of material to be used.


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