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Rock Spring Park, Upper Alton, Illinois, Newspaper Clippings

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser




The land that encompasses Rock Spring Park, located just west of Upper Alton on College Avenue, was owned by private individuals throughout the early years. The stone spring in the park was well known for being used by Indians (in the earliest days) and travelers. The spring was a naturally flowing water source that poured into two little basins, supposedly carved by Indians. Even before the land become an official park, it was used for picnics and other outings.

In April 1896, Joseph F. Porter, President of the Alton Railway and Illuminating Company (streetcar company), purchased from Harry Marsh 16 acres of ground just west of Upper Alton. The price paid was $1,600. It was the dream of Mr. Porter to establish a park there, and run a line of streetcar tracks to the park. He began planting a variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers to improve the property. The streetcar began running to the park in June 1896. A pavilion was constructed, along with a stone dam for a lake. A cottage and greenhouse were soon constructed, along with an open-air theater. The park officially opened to the public in June 1907, and over two-thousand citizens attended the grand opening. In November 1907, William Elio Smith, co-founder of the Illinois Glassworks, offered 60 acres of his land adjacent to the park to the city of Alton, if Mr. Porter would donate his land also. By December 1907, the park officially belonged to the city of Alton. In 1914 a country club opened at the park, which included golfing and tennis courts.

Rock Spring Park was a favorite park among the people. It offered a stream of water, rolling hills, and plenty of shade during the hot summer months.


                                             Rock Spring Park, Upper Alton

Source: Alton Telegraph, July 11, 1862
We learn there was a very pleasant picnic at the "old Stone Spring," between Middletown and Upper Alton yesterday. There can be found no more pleasant place in our vicinity; and we are informed that the day was spent most pleasantly and delightfully in dancing, strolling, singing and other pastimes, by those so fortunate as to be in attendance.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 7, 1896
Mr. Harry Marsh yesterday sold to Mr. Joseph F. Porter, for the Alton Railway and Illuminating Company, a tract of land comprising 16 acres located at Rock Spring on the route of the Middletown line. The price paid was $1,600. It is the intention of the Alton Railway and Illuminating Company to lay out a park on this site and to make it a place of resort during the days and evenings of the summer months. Special excursion cars will be added to the company's rolling stock to carry pleasure seekers to the grounds. There is no prettier place around Alton than Rock Spring. It can be made more beautiful yet. In years gone by it was a delightful spot for picnic parties, and many happy days have been spent there.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 17, 1896
Arbor Day was not very largely observed in Alton. President Porter, of the Electric Line, set out 200 trees of various kinds in Rock Spring Park. He is very much pleased with his purchase. The oftener he visits the spot, the prettier it appears to him. He proposes to fix it up handsomely so as to make it an attractive resort. He will run the cars through on Sunday in order to give all who wish to look at it a chance. If possible, Mr. Porter will have a lake, even if he has to bore a well to get it.

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 18, 1896
In order to give all who desire an opportunity to visit Rock Spring Park, the new purchase of the Electric Street Car Company, cars on the Highland Park route will run through to Upper Alton tomorrow (Sunday).


Rock Spring Park, Upper Alton - 1910ROCK SPRING PARK
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 2, 1896
President Porter of the electric lines, Monday afternoon invited the City Officials, Councilmen and other citizens to a trip over his lines. He first took his guests, of whom there were two car loads, over the new State street line and return, then out to Rock Spring Park over the old Middletown line, and from there to Upper Alton and back to City Hall, via Second Street [Broadway]. Nearly an hour was spent at Rock Spring Park, the grounds recently purchased by the company for a pleasure park. Naturally of great beauty, President Porter has added to them very materially. A road is now being built east of Mr. William Eliot Smith's grounds to the park. A switch is also being built, and the cars will be running by the latter part of the week so that passengers will be carried directly to the park. The grounds have been carefully cleaned of weeds and leaves; blue grass and clover has been sown, flower beds laid out, trees planted, and shrubs of all kinds are set out in every conceivable shape and in all places where they will add beauty to the already varied scenery. Here, a bed of brilliant geraniums; there another in the shape of a crescent, another star-shaped, and others in various parts of the grounds. Beds of roses greeted the eye at various points. The work is still going on. On the top of the hill the ground plan of a pavilion has been laid out, where dancing and other amusements may be indulged in. The wonderfully beautiful and romantic spring still gushes out of the almost solid rock at the foot of the hill. These limpid [clear] waters for a generation or two have been the delight of many of Alton's citizens. No more delightful spot for picnics and real enjoyment in the woods can be found anywhere within many miles of Alton. Forest trees of immense proportion still adorn the hills and vales, and give to all a charm of country life, while the sweet odors of the flower garden are wafted on every breeze. The visitors were all charmed with the place, and are eulogistic of the indubitable energy and enterprise of President Porter, who is transforming the rare spot of Nature into a place still more delightful. When completed according to the plans, it will be difficult to find anywhere a more pleasant place to spend a few hours than Rock Spring Park.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 10, 1899
The new stone dam at Rock Spring Park to continue water in the lake there, is almost complete. A heavy wall that will not wash away is being built and a fine body of water will be continued in the hollow to form a lake.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, Thursday, June 22, 1899
One of the attractions at Rock Spring Park on July 4th may be a skirmish drill or sham battle if the Naval Militia accept the invitation of President Porter of the electric lines. The boys will meet on Tuesday evening next when the invitation will be considered. There are about 80 members in the division at present. If they accept the invitation, they will appear at the park in their new white duck uniforms, with Lee rifles, the Hotchkiss gun [cannon] and other paraphernalia. The battle line will be formed in the afternoon with part of the naval boys as Spaniards, Tagals or Mugwumps, along the hillsides, with the valley between. The guns, while only loaded with blank cartridges, will be fired with all the earnestness that could be inspired if real Tagals were on hand. The only Hotchkiss will be in the hands of the party assaulting the stronghold of the Tagals, and the way it will make the welkin [sky or heaven] ring will be frightful to the natives. It will be almost real, and will be a grand fight. President Porter will stand all expenses and will treat the boys right royally, as he is so capable of doing. In the evening there will be a grand fireworks exhibition, of which the navy boys will be in charge. It is hoped that the navy boys will accept, as everybody wants to see them in their new uniforms, and at least smell the powder and hear the noises of battle.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 1899
Last evening, at Rock Spring Park, a very large crowd of people was present to enjoy the fine music rendered by the White Hussar Band, and the beautiful scenery which nature and the proprietors of the park have united in making. The music of the White Hussars is always superior, and last night it was more than enjoyable. A gentleman was in the park last evening who is familiar with the smaller parks in Chicago, and he says he knows of none of them that will compare in beauty with Rock Spring, and as to the music, Alton's band was far ahead of anything he heard there. President Porter is entitled to credit for the excellent taste displayed in beautifying the park, until he has made a resort that is really delightful. He has now a lake, about 1000 feet long and of varying width, which he will stock with game fish, and which will no doubt be a pleasant place not only for boating but also fishing in another season. Mr. Porter has steadily set his face against allowing anything in the nature of intoxicating drink to be sold in the park, or permit questionable amusements. He determined at the outset that Rock Spring Park should be a place where he could invite the citizens of Alton to go without meeting unpleasant sights and placing before the young people temptations that would be injurious. Mr. Porter has firmly kept this determination when possibly a little laxity would have netted more revenue for his cars. He is entitled to sincere thanks for Rock Spring Park and the music.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 17, 1900
The cottage and one greenhouse at Rock Spring Park are complete, and the second greenhouse will be furnished within a few days.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 17, 1900
Mr. W. M. Sauvage and Mr. J. F. Porter today announced they will establish a summer theater at Rock Spring Park to be opened about June 1, where plays will be given during the summer. A theater to seat 1,000 people and with standing room for as many more will be built on the east side of the lake and will be approached by way of a rustle bridge over the lake. Tables will be provided where ice cream and soft drinks can be served and the place will be handsomely fitted up. Mr. Porter has leased a strip of ground east of the park to make room for the theater.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 12, 1901
Upper Alton News - Charles Wade will open a stone quarry at Rock Spring Park, where stone will be obtained to be crushed into macadam for the Upper Alton street paving. Mr. Wade has secured the contract for furnishing 600 squares of macadam, and will move his crusher to Rock Spring Park where it will be set up to crush the stone. The macadam will be hauled in wagons to College avenue, where it will be used as a bed for the paving.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 15, 1907
Rock Spring park was formally opened to the public today. It is a great surprise to people visiting the park that such a good class of entertainment is afforded. The park is almost like a continuous street fair. The vaudeville shows to be given will be of a high order. The opening program, for the first week, in the new theater, will be the complete bill from the Columbia, and hereafter the entertainers will be brought from the Delmar and Forest Park Highlands in St. Louis. Many new buildings have been erected to house the entertainment features and they are brilliantly illuminated. Dancing every evening will be another entertainment, with Mathle's orchestra to furnish the music. Supt. Bailey, in speaking of the opening, said that it is the purpose of the street railway company to interest an orderly, well behaved class of people, that the park will be conducted in first class way, and that if it develops that disorderly people alone patronize the park, the place will be closed up. It will be made a place of refined amusement, he promises, where men can take their families and spend a few happy hours or a day whenever it is desired, with no fear of unpleasant incidents.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 18, 1907
It is estimated that over two thousand people visited this beautiful spot Sunday and Sunday night. The park begins to look like a real White City. The theatre, the electric theatre, the Arcade, the Merry-Go-Round, the Dance Hall, the Wonderland, the Shooting Gallery, the Parlor Bowling, the Novelty Balls, the Ring Stand, the Curio Shop, the Studio, the refreshment stand, were all well patronized, affording all kinds of amusement for the visitors. Hundreds of people witnessed the free balloon ascension at 5:30 p.m. This daring ride by Professor Hill is considered to be one of the best ascensions ever seen in Alton. The electric wire walking is a great feature. Professor Hill's daring feat, the slide for life, is a sensational act and should be seen by everybody. The slide for life, the balloon ascension, the electric wire-walking and many other high-class attractions are free.

The Rock Spring Theatre presented one of the strongest and best vaudeville performances ever given in Alton, every performer handling his part very cleverly. Radcliff and Belmont, the world's greatest rifle shots, do a very clever act, shooting at small objects in every position imaginable. Their equal has never been seen in Alton. Stemm and La Grange, musical comedians, present an exceptionally good repertoire of musical selections, playing on various different kinds of instruments, bringing forth applause from everybody who hears them. The Great Wagner, clown, trapeze and contortionist, does one of the best trapeze acts ever seen in this country, introducing something entirely new and never before seen in this city. Miss Helen Stewart, lightning change artist in singing and dancing specialties, brings down the house. The Deizell sisters, song and dance artists, are very clever indeed and present the audience with a unique and up-to-date sketch of real good songs and clever dances. Francisco and Crosse do a very clever sketch entitled, "Morning Exercises." It is funny, especially the dancing feature, which is exceptionally good. The Majestic Trio, in a roaring afterpiece, "The Dutch Judge," hold the audience in real tears of joy and laughter. All in all, the performances given in this theatre by the above people are really recognized to be the best vaudeville attraction ever placed on the stage of any theatre at such a small admission price.

The theatre is built on a large scale, amply able to take care of the best attractions, and the management assures the public that there will be no time lost in securing at all times the very best attractions obtainable. The theatre was filled to its seating capacity at the matinee and night performances yesterday. The seating capacity of the theatre is 950 people, and there was a little room left, which was also filled. The Temple Theatre orchestra is engaged to render music for the theatre for the season.

J. Edgar Collins, owner and general manager of the Rock Spring theatre and other concessions, including the Electric Theatre and the Wonderland, is a manger of years of experience and seems to know just what particular kind of attractions suit the public. Judging from the comments passed on the performances given in Mr. Collins' theatre. It is an ideal spot to spend the evening, cool breezes and plenty of attractions is the talk of Rock Spring Park.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 16, 1907
The proposed city park project has taken a very promising appearance. If the owners of Rock Spring park will deed the property to the city of Alton as a permanent park site, property adjoining it will be given also to make the park bigger. William Eliot Smith, who has favored a public park and a more beautiful Alton for four years, has announced his purpose of giving a beautiful tract of 60 acres to the city, on condition that the Rock Spring park tract is given by the street railway company. The piece of ground which Mr. Smith would give adjoins Rock Spring park and would make a fine improvement to the property and a very valuable acquisition for the city. The following letter was received today by Mayor Beall from Mr. Smith, who is at Colorado Springs, Colorado: "Dear Sir, As we grow older the wish grows to leave some sweet memorial which shall not perish. May not the Beall administration be handed down to time for establishing the park system in the city of Alton? You will remember I began in this line over four years ago and must confess frankly I have been a complete failure. To this date there seems little encouragement. Possibly we went at it wrong. I feel sure you can make a success and should be glad to help you in any way I can. If the electric line gives their present park, and proper restrictions can be had, I shall be glad to deed to the city of Alton say sixty acres of land for a permanent park. I have written to my friend, Mr. Hatch, of Springfield, Ill., to advise Mr. C. A. Caldwell the restrictions which they place on a park given their city, and have also written Mr. Caldwell more fully with regard to the real estate. I shall return to Alton in about ten days and have the honor to remain. Your most obedient servant, William Eliot Smith." Corporation Counsel McGinnis says that a park could easily be maintained at city expense. He says that under the most recent enacted state park law, municipalities are allowed to levy a tax of 2 mills on the dollar for park maintenance purposes. He cites the law on this point and says that with the present valuation of Alton property about $5,000 per annum could be raised. With this sum a park could be maintained in fine condition and no one would feel the burden of taxation, as the amount would be very small for each $1,000 valuation of property, about 20 cents. The Park Commission was called this afternoon by Chairman P. W. Coyle, to be held Wednesday evening to consider the propositions and will try to arrange some plan whereby the offer can be accepted and a guarantee given that the property can be kept in good condition permanently as a city park. C. A. Caldwell has also received a letter from Mr. Smith, telling him of his plans.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 21, 1907
And now Rock Spring park belongs to the city. The deeds will be transferred soon, the attorneys for the East Side lines and the City of Alton having been authorized to draw up the necessary papers at once. A meeting of the board of directors of the Alton, Granite and St. Louis Traction company was held yesterday afternoon, and it was unanimously voted to make the transfer. The F___ Commission was present, and Mayor Beall also was there, and the gift was acknowledged. General Manager Haynes instructed the attorney for his company to prepare the necessary deed which will be given as soon as possible, and Corporation Counsel McGinnis was instructed by the Mayor to look after the city's interests. The conditions attached to the gift will be few. The most important one is that the safe or use of intoxicating liquors or beverages within the park be forever forbidden, or as long as the city controls it. Another condition is that the place must be maintained as a place of public resort and that during at least two months every summer there must be weekly concerts in the park, by not less than ten-piece bands or orchestras. None of the conditions which have been named are unreasonable. It is expected that they will be put in the deed with the condition that the park will revert to the street railway company in event of a failure of the city to comply with the terms of the gift. It is expected that the gift of William Eliot Smith of an adjoining tract will be made at the same time, and under the same conditions as the city will agree to in accepting Rock Spring park. Mayor Beall has invited the Parks commission consisting of Chairman P. W. Coyle, J. N. Drummond, H. M. Schweppe, C. A. Caldwell, William Eliot Smith to remain in office permanently. It is expected that the city will be able to dispose of the refreshment and amusement privileges at the park for enough to maintain the park in its present condition and to pay for the concerts.

Rock Spring Park, Upper Alton

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 3, 1908
The formal opening of Rock Spring park to the public attracted many people there Thursday evening, but before the program was over the crowd was dissipated by a shower of rain. The park was in fine condition. It was the first time many Alton people had seen the new part of the park, given by William Eliot Smith, yesterday afternoon, when a number of people visited the place. The program at the park began at 7 o'clock last evening. Rev. A. A. Tanner of the Congregational church, who has always been deeply interested in the park, and who helped clean up the place on the park cleaning day, delivered the opening address. It was a splendid effort. Rev. Tanner hurried through with his talk and hastened away to get to his church by 8 o'clock so he could attend the last prayer meeting he will be with his congregation before his departure on his vacation trip. He is going for a tour of chautauquas, delivering lectures. After the address the White Hussars band, always a popular entertaining organization, rendered a fine concert. The band was paid for only twenty pieces of music, but the members contributed the services of ten others to help make a success of the concert. When the shower of rain came up, many people hurried to the street cars and went home, but others arrived later and there was a fairly good attendance, but not what it would have been with fair weather.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 3, 1912
One of the prettiest features of Rock Spring park, the little spring that gave the park its name, has been done away with. The natural fountain which bubbled forth from a cleft in the rock no longer pours water into the two little basins that are said to have been carved in the solid rock by the Indians. There were two little bowls into which the water ran, and it was possible to scoop up a cup full of water at a time. A few years ago the stream of water broke through in another place and poured forth in two channels thereafter. The park commissioners have had a hole cut in the rock farther upstream, about six feet, and in this have inserted a sewer pipe, well cemented in. The sewer tile drains all the water that formerly bubbled out of the old-time spring, the work being completed last night. Now, while the beautiful little spring has been wiped out of existence, the water that once came forth into the two little stone basins pours out of the mouth of the tile pipe, and anyone wanted a bucket of water can get it by holding a bucket under the end of the pipe. There will be many who will regret that the old-time spring has been changed, wiped out of existence. It was a pretty feature of the park, and one that was very attractive.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 16, 1914
The new Rock Spring Park Country Club, which is to be a new social center in Alton, was given a very favorable start this afternoon when the formal opening of the club took place, to be followed by a dinner party this evening and a dancing party after dinner. The managers of the club had made preparations to entertain a large number of members and their friends this evening. Over 200 acceptances of the invitations had been received up to this morning. The reception this afternoon drew many people to the new club house to spend part of the afternoon. The club grounds were very popular for golf players, and the tennis courts, which have been put in order, were in use. This evening those who care to dance will be able to enjoy dancing in the large club room on the main floor, and on the club verandas, where many dancing parties will probably be held during the coming summer. The membership of the club is said to include fifty automobiles, though this may be a few over. However, the club may add a few more in the course of a short time, and it will be almost an automobile club as well as a country club. The roster is as follows:

T. C. Moorshead, H. H. Ferguson, Charles Levis, R. H. Levis, E. M. Gaddis, Eben Rodgers, Charles H. Degenhardt, C. Segar, Franklin W. Olin, C. R. Beall, Harry L. Meyer, Louis J. Hartmann, Nelson Levis, George M. Levis, S. W. Farnham, Abbott W. Sherwood, Edwin F. Pohlman, A. F. Barth, A. J. Moorshead, Frank J. Eberlein, H. M. Schweppe, J. T. Corgett, John M. Pfeiffenberger, S. H Wyss, A. J. Norcom, A. R. Levis, T. S. Clark, J. B. Hastings, O. C. Macy, James J. Aldous, E. M. Clark, F. F. Ferguson, J. W. Beall, George D. Duncan, W. M. Duncan, James Duncan, J. A. Giberson, H. G. Giberson, James J. Dorney, E. J. Anglin, Homer W. Davis, C. P. Levis, Eugene Gaskins, O. H. Kramer, A. H. Cannell, T. M. Otrich, J. H. Booth, H. B. Matthews Jr., W. J. Boals, George S. Milnor, J. R. Steck, Samuel Wade, Edward Rodgers, Hosea B. Sparks, L. F. Baker, Harry R. Lemen, G. S. Stage, C. F. Sparks, W. T. Loudon, R. P. Kennedy, J. A. Miller, D. A. Wyckoff, E. H. Beall, John C. Ryan, E. W. Enos, J. V. E. Marsh, Harry J. Rish, R. Wilder, William M. Sauvage, Fred Wade Jones, Robert C. Luly, R. H. Roadhouse, Henry S. Baker, William E. Levis, L. O. Landon, H. J. Bowman Jr., W. B. Joesting, George D. Eaton, Franklin W. Olin Jr., J. M. Olin, Harold Hoefert, Clark Rodgers, roland Radecke, James Morgan, Walter Levis, Harry Johnston, Elden Betts, Nelson Schweppe, Frederick Bowman, Philip Gervig, P. W. Day, and C. W. Williams.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 6, 1916
I. D. Shepler, candy man, announced this morning that he would have his annual Easter egg hunt for the kiddies of Alton on April 22, at Rock Spring Park. This time he is planning to make the affair bigger than it has been in the past. Over 10,000 candy Easter eggs will be distributed over the park on the morning of April 22. The time for opening the hunt and other details will be announced later. It will probably start at 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. The children from all parts of the city will be invited to the park, and will gather at the front entrance of the park to start the hunt. When the word is given, the children will start on what promises to be the biggest Easter egg hunt ever held in the city of Alton. Over one thousand children attended the hunt last year, which was a big success. At that time, three thousand eggs were hidden in the park and almost every one was found by the children who took part in the hunt. Distributing the eggs for the Municipal Easter egg hunt will be no small matter. Mr. Shepler and a crew of men will go to the park early in the morning, carrying the eggs in automobiles, and most of them will be hidden before daylight. Mr. Shepler may find it necessary this year to have some of the police of the city of Alton aid him in conducting the hunt, so there will be no trouble with the children. He is expecting over two thousand children from all parts of the city to take part in the Municipal Easter egg hunt.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 5, 1917
That people don't believe in signs is evident, since they paid no heed to the sign placed over rock spring - the spring from whence Rock Spring Park gets it name. It has been about two years since the park commissioners first placed the sign over the spring, announcing the water unfit for drinking. People who had been drinking water from the spring for many years gave no attention to the verdict from the Illinois State University, pronouncing the water unfit for drinking, and they kept on drinking it. Boys defaced the sign many times. They erased the "un" from the word "unfit," so that the sign read: "this water is fit for drinking." Numerous new signs were put up by the park superintendent, but each time it was changed to read differently from the original lettering. The park superintendent took away all the cups many times, but others would carry cups there and leave them. Empty soda bottles were used for drinking out of, and old tin cans were gathered up left at the spring where the water continued to flow in its usual quantity from the tile that had been placed in the hillside some years ago by the park workmen to carry the water out to the public instead of allowing it to run out through the little stone basins that were supposed to have been cut out by the Indians many years ago. The park commissioners have at last given up trying to stop the public from drinking the water by persuading, and they have blocked the water from the tile by completely closing it up with concrete. The tile itself is covered up with a mound of concrete, and the flow of water has ceased. The water again runs out by way of the little stone basins in the creek. If the public insists on using the water, they will find it a little more inconvenient now to get at, but they can still get it by dripping it out of the basins.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 6, 1920
The wounding of two girls Saturday evening about 10 o'clock in Rock Spring Park caused a mystery which has engaged the attention of Chief of Police Fitzgerald, with no satisfactory solution. The girls, Opal Whittico and Helen Shields, both employed at the Western Cartridge Company plant and living at the Dolly Madison Hotel [in Alton], went to the park Saturday evening in a motorcycle and side car with Lawrence Porter and Charles Clark. Left alone for about twenty minutes by the two young men who rode to Upper Alton to buy some refreshments, the girls claim to have met a man who spoke to them, asked them if they were not afraid to be alone in the park so late, and later followed them. They believed he shot them. The Whittico girl was shot in the breast, the bullet coming out her back. The Shields girl was shot in the left hand, shattering a bone there. The Whittico girl's wound was said by the attending surgeons to be very serious and she would die.

Sunday afternoon Miss Shields was taken to Rock Spring Park, and there she went over the ground with Chief of Police Fitzgerald, Mayor Sauvage and two park watchmen, J. H. Dailey and Fred C. Fahrig. Miss Shields said that when the two couples went to the park Saturday evening they sat together, and it was proposed by the boys that they go to Upper Alton for some refreshments. The girls insisted that the boys ride on to Upper Alton and bring back the refreshments. The young men departed in their machine. Just as the sound of the departing motorcycle indicated the young men had passed out of the park, the girls were approached by a man. Miss Shields said that the man inquired if they were not afraid to be out in the park alone, and he smiled at them. He passed on a short distance, and the girls moved nearer to the pavilion on the top of the hill. They went over to a gate west of the pavilion and stood there ten minutes, they said, when they noticed the man standing nearby with his arms folded and looking at them. The girls turned to run and took a course toward the pavilion, when four shots were fired behind them. The first bullet to take effect was in the hand of Miss Shields, and the second one hit Miss Whittico. Just how the bullet could have struck Miss Whittico in the front when she was running away could not be explained, as the girls did not recall having stopped in their flight to turn around. Miss Shields says that she and Miss Whittico ran down the hill and across a valley and up another hill and arrived at the Rock Spring Country Club. There they were given help. Both girls fell from exhaustion from loss of blood when they reached the country club. A dancing party was in progress there, and the arrival of the bloodstained, wounded girls caused much excitement. The police department was notified and an effort was made to look into the story told by the two girls.

Their stories agreed in all details. They firmly believed that the man was the one who shot them. They could attribute no motive for the shooting. During the investigation of the ground where the shooting occurred, it was evident that there was some confusion in the story told by the girls as to where they had gone, what direction they had run and where the person who did the shooting could have been standing. Blood spots on the ground, on benches and on trees indicated that the girls had taken a course different from what was pointed out by Miss Shields. J. H. Dailey, watchman at the park, said that he heard many shots being fired from passing automobiles on the eve of Fourth of July, and he was of the opinion that someone might have accidentally wounded the two girls. Fred Fahrig corroborated his statement of shooting. He said that he had seen a man hanging around the park during Saturday afternoon, and the man acted very queer. The two young men who were at the park with the girls said they had left the girls alone only when the girls had insisted on it. It was denied that they left any revolver with the girls or that the girls had a revolver. The two young men said that they returned to the park after the shooting and met Fred Fahrig, who, attracted by the discharge of arms, had gone over to investigate. The girls were not around, having gone to the country club. The two young men asked Fahrig if he had seen any girls, and Fahrig said he had not but had heard girls crying for help and had gone to help them, but could not find them. The spot where the girls were shot was indicated by a hat belonging to one of them, which was dropped. Both girls had fallen to the ground after being shot, and one lost her hat, but the other kept hers. It was the location of the hat, coupled with the girls' story of their movements, that caused some confusion, together with the fact that one was shot in the breast, the bullet passing straight through her body and coming out her back.

The two girls came here from Gillespie last April to take jobs at the cartridge plant. Their families live at Gillespie and were called to Alton when the girls were injured. The attending surgeons found Monday that Miss Whittico was in a bad way. She took a turn for the worse, developed bad heart conditions, and it was concluded that she would not be able to pull through. She was living this morning, but it was the opinion of one surgeon that she would not last through the day. Assistant States Attorney Gilson Brown and Chief of Police Fitzgerald went to the hospital this afternoon with the intention of taking a statement from Miss Whittico.

As the days went by after the shooting, Opal Whittico came down with pneumonia, but showed signs of improving. The girls never changed their story, although it was never explained how she was shot from the front when running away. I could not find any record of Opal Whittico dying, so I believe she recovered from the incident. No further mention was made in the newspaper regarding the shooting. Did the two young men leave behind a revolver and the girls were playing with it, and accidentally discharge the weapon? They may have been afraid to tell the truth about what happened, and made up the story of the man in the park stalking them. The incident remains a mystery to this day.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 16, 1921
L. M. Taggart has decided to start work on a pavilion which will be erected on his property adjoining Rock Springs Park. The pavilion will furnish a good place for dancing and also a refreshment stand. It will be of large capacity and capable of accommodating a great number of dancers. The property is situated outside of the city of Alton, just over the line. Mr. Taggart plans to conduct the pavilion as a high-grade amusement place, with the best of music. Work is to be started by the park commissioners in a few days on a brick building to be used as a toilet room for men and women, and also as shelter house. This is to be finished in time for the American Legion picnic to be given on the Fourth of July.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 8, 1922
John Baldwin, 18 years old, was electrocuted this morning at 11:15 o'clock in Rock Spring Park, where he was helping to operate a small merry-go-round. The accident has put a damper on the picnic for a time, that was being given for the children of the Alton Catholic Orphanage. Baldwin came to Alton with George Alderman of Collinsville, who owned the merry-go-round. The little machine had been operating all last week at East Alton in connection with a carnival that was showing in that village, and Alderman consented to set up the machine just for one day in Rock Spring Park for the free amusement of the children of the orphanage. The machine had been set-up and had been running a couple of hours amusing the children before Baldwin picked up a live wire which killed him instantly.

The merry-go-round has been running and carrying the children, but there was no music, the organ not being connected up with the electric wires to furnish power to run it. Alderman, who is an electrician himself, decided to rig up another wire to operate the organ. He did so, and taking one end of the wire, he climbed a pole in the park and made a connection with an electric fed wire that carried 110 volts. He had scarcely made the connection when Baldwin, not knowing of the danger, picked up the other end of the wire which was lying on the ground in the center of the merry-go-round. He was instantly electrocuted. There was only a half dozen people standing nearby at the time the accident happened, including Father Merkel, Father Spaulding and several younger priests. It was several minutes before anyone knew that something wrong had occurred, so quick was the accident, and not a sound was heard from the young man through whose body the 110 volts of electricity had passed while he was standing on the wet ground. As soon as it was realized that the man had been electrocuted, the priests rushed in to telephone in the Valley Park pavilion and called for help. Drs. Taphorn, Davis, Walton and Brunk arrived in a few minutes. Two pulmotors were rushed to the park and everything possible was done to try to save the young man's life, but all efforts in an hour's time failed to revive him.

Alderman, the owner of the merry-go-round, when he learned that the boy had been killed, became distracted and his sorrow was great. He said that he had been a lifelong friend to the boy's father and mother, and he felt that the relatives of the dead boy would feel that he was responsible for the lad's death. He refused to be comforted in spite of the efforts of many people in the park to persuade him that the accident was purely unavoidable, and that the boy's family would not blame him for it. When the physicians gave the boy up for dead, the body was turned over to Deputy Coroner Streeper, who took him to the undertaking rooms in Upper Alton.

Alderman brought the merry-go-round to the Park yesterday afternoon. Work of setting it up was started at once, and it was running early this morning when the automobiles of Alton people commenced to arrive at the park with the orphans for their annual outing. The kiddies were enjoying the fun of riding on the machine, although it was a very small one. It had been set up on the picnic ground in the valley of the park, opposite the Valley Park pavilion. The picnic was almost broken up after the fatal accident. Alderman, because of the happening, would not run the machine any longer. At noon the White Hussar band members arrived at the park where they had been sent by the Egyptian Hustlers to give a concert for the orphans at their picnic. At 1 o'clock the band started to play and the children resumed playing. Another young man who had been with Alderman in the operation of the merry-go-round, consented to run it, and he again put the machine in operation. Alderman insisted that he be taken to his home at Collinsville after telegraphing to his wife of the accident, and instructing her to tell the boy's relatives. Alderman said Baldwin's father and mother are living at Millersburg, a little town southeast of Pocohontas in Bond County.

John Baldwin was born March 11, 1905, and was the son of William and Ellen Baldwin. He was buried in the Hug Cemetery in Pierron, Bond County, Illinois.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, July 31, 1922
That spooners will have to be a little less public in their show of affection in the city parks is an edict that has gone forth to the watchmen in the parks, or they will be arrested and held for action by the police judge. This became known today after the arrest of a man and a woman and the hearing of their case in the police court this morning. J. H. Dailey, a deputy sheriff with powers in the park, said today that he wanted it known that he was going to begin making arrests right away of all who make public display of "spooning" in the parks. He said that it had come to be "fierce" in Rock Spring Park, broad daylight, bright electric lights, or crowded places seeming to make no difference to some of the lovesick couples. Dailey says they are going to be sicker than that henceforth. He says that summer time may be a time for making love all right, and it may be romantic to seek parks, but that the love makers will have to seek places where they won't be obtruding themselves on the public gaze. Dailey is no kill joy, but he thinks there is a time and place for all things and that secluded nooks always were the proper thing for lovers, and he proposes to educate some who don't seem to know it, or had forgotten about it. He proposes to make Rock Spring safe for anybody, and girls cannot sit on the laps of their fellows in the park, anyhow not where folks are going to see them.


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