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Wood River, Illinois, Newspaper Clippings

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

EARLY WOOD RIVER HISTORY

 

THE TOWN OF WOOD RIVER BORN YESTERDAY –
FRED W. PENNING TURNS HIS 80 ACRE FARM INTO TOWN SITE
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 2, 1907
The town of Wood River was born yesterday and christened the same day. It is located south of East Alton in Wood River township and consists of 80 acres of high, floodless land lying just north of the Standard Oil tract and is what is left of the Penning farm, the remainder being sold to the oil company. Mr. Penning was in Alton Thursday and said that County Surveyor, W. H. Morgan completed the work of surveying and subdividing into lots and acre tracts yesterday. The plat will be made as soon as possible and after that the building of the town will begin. Mr. Penning will sell in lots or in tracts, and some lot purchasers have already appeared.

 

STANDARD OIL ERECTING LARGEST OIL REFINERY IN THE WORLD
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 15, 1907
From the East St. Louis Journal
At Benbow City, formerly Wood River, Illinois, just sixteen miles from East St. Louis, and about seven miles from Alton, the Standard Oil Company is now erecting the largest oil refinery plant in the world, and a city of tents and frame shacks has sprung up as if by magic out of the wheat fields, along the tracks of the East St. Louis and Alton street railway company, the Chicago and Alton, the Big Four, the C., P. and St. L., the C. B. and Q., and the Illinois Terminal railway, all of which run parallel with the new town, while the Illinois Terminal connects with the Illinois Central, Clover Leaf Route, Wabash and the Litchfield and Madison, and will soon connect with the B. and O. at Maryville.

The big plant, in course of construction, now employs 700 men, and within a short time the construction force will be increased to 4,000 or 5,000 men, and the greatest need of the new city at present is living accommodations for this army of workmen, as hundreds of them are now obliged to sleep in tents and some of them at present are even sleeping out by the side of campfires.

A. E. Benbow, who originally owned all of the land on which the new city now stands, has sold over fifty lots for business and residence purposes in the past few days, and the business people are starting the erection of business houses immediately, and there will be work at Benbow City from now on for hundreds of men in the building trades.

Another feature of this great Standard Oil plant will be that they will not only refine oil, but they will manufacture their own cars for shipping, also all their barrels will be made at the big cooperage now being erected at Benbow City, while a large eastern chemical concern will erect a plant adjoining the refinery to utilize the waste product, making vaseline, paraffin and wax, while the Standard Oil company will erect a plant to manufacture candles from the wax residue.

Four large cold storage plants will be erected at Benbow City, one by the Anheuser-Busch Co., one by the East St. Louis and New Athens Brewing Co., one by the Wagner Brewing Co., and the Columbia Brewing Co. will also erect one, while the East St. Louis and New Athens Co. are preparing to erect a large two-story hotel building.

From all indications, Benbow City will soon be a city in fact, as well as in name, and Mr. Benbow in an interview yesterday stated that the city would be incorporated within the next ninety days. Real estate prices in the new city are advancing rapidly, and within the next six months Benbow City will assuredly have a population of over 5,000 people.

The magnitude of the plant being erected by the Standard Oil company is so great, that words cannot describe it, and the visitor to Benbow City, with its white tents and rude new buildings hastily erected, its hundreds of workingmen pushing on the great plant, is impressed by the spirit of hustle and energy, and the way the town has sprung up in a night reminds one of a page from the Arabian Nights, but the spirit of American energy displayed in this future great city shows it is no dream, but a reality.

Anyone wishing to spend a profitable half-day can get on the Alton car at Third and Broadway, and in less than an hour's time he can alight in Benbow City and see a big manufacturing city budding from out of the wheat fields. Many people think there are oil and gas in Benbow City. We know there is ginger there.

 

WOOD RIVER DANCE
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 13, 1912
The dance given by John Carstens and Elbert Shepherd was well attended last night, it was given in honor of the birthdays of Carstens and Shepherd.

 

WOOD RIVER HISTORY
Source: Syracuse, New York Daily Journal, July 15, 1912
Alter three years of planning, the Standard Oil Company, which owns the refinery at Wood River, Illinois, is ready to realize its dream of a model city for employees. After the refinery was in operation, the men who operate it began to settle near the works, and the village of Wood River was founded. But another settlement beat the village to the name, and it was necessary for it to be known as East Wood River until it absorbed the other town. Then a fine school building and model homes were erected. Next plans were made for electric lighting. Sewer contracts will be let at once, and a water system will be in operation by Christmas. This ends a struggle of three years made by the Standard Oil Company to make its town habitable.

 

WOOD RIVER FAMOUS FORTY BAND
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 1, 1914
The Wood River Famous Forty Band, which has been renamed the Stocker Band, gave their excursion Saturday night on the steamer Sidney, and there was a large attendance of Alton people. The boat stopped at Wood River on the return from a day trip to Jefferson Barracks, and at Alton the steamer was boarded by a large number of Alton people. The excursion was well patronized. During the evening the Famous Forty gave a good musical program, which was a very delightful feature of the outing. The Famous Forty has another reason for being famous aside from the wonderful proficiency in music it has achieved in a short time under the leadership of Dr. A. Don Stocker. It has enlisted in its numbers the youngest drummer boy, it is claimed, in the country, six years old Paul S. Cousley, who drummed with the band Saturday night. He wore the regular uniform of the band and played the drum through the entire musical program the Famous Forty gave. The Wood River band started a few years ago with only a few experienced musicians. Under the direction of Dr. Stocker, they have arrived at a degree of musicianship that is very gratifying to their leader and is the wonder and admiration of all who hear them play. The band, in a few years more, will become one of the really big musical organizations in Madison county, a class that occasionally has a new recruit added to it, and in which the Famous Forty will take a conspicuous place.

 

WOOD RIVER FLOOD
Source: New York Times, new York, NY, August 21, 1915
The storm that devastated the Texas Gulf Coast last Monday and Tuesday, sweeping northward, struck St. Louis and surrounding communities with diminished fury last night and today, bringing with it the heaviest downpour in the history of the city, and causing a flood that drove hundreds of city and suburban residents from their homes. Up to 5 o'clock tonight the rainfall since the storm began was 5.95 inches. The 500 residents of Benbow City and West Wood River were warned of the oncoming flood by two men on horseback, who, preceding the water by a few minutes, rode through the streets calling, "Run for your lives!" The entire population of both towns sought refuge in the city of Wood River. Four hundred employees of the Western Cartridge Company and the Equitable Powder Company in East Alton escaped the wall of rushing water. The property loss of these two plants alone was estimated at more than $200,000. A Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis train, with seventy-five passengers, was caught between two streams of flood water and was stalled. Efforts to remove the passengers by boat were begun.

 

WOOD RIVER - SULLIVAN COAL AND ICE COMPANY WILL BUILD ICE PLANT
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 3, 1918
The Sullivan Coal and Ice Company this morning received priority orders from Washington D. C. for the erection of an ice plant at Wood River. The work of the erection will commence at once when completed will be a big thing for both Wood River and Alton. The news of the priority orders being received will be of great interest in both Alton and Wood River, as up to this time the Alton plants have been supplying Wood River. In the past, when an ice shortage occurred in Alton, the Wood River people were unable to get any cold comfort, as the Alton dealers were supplied first. When the large, new plant is completed, the owners can assist in supplying Alton after taking care of Wood River and vicinity. For some time, F. R. Sullivan has been planning to build the plant, but the war [WWI] interfered with his plans and he was uncertain whether or not the building could be erected until Washington was consulted and the priority order secured. The priority orders also give permission for the obtaining of ammonia when the manufacturing of ice commences. The permit received this morning authorizes the Henry Vogt Machine Company of Louisville to use and assemble necessary materials for the ice plant in preference to all lower building classifications. R. W. May of the Vogt Company of Louisville was in Wood River this morning in conference with the Sullivan Coal & Ice Company, relative to the adopting of building plans.

 

FAMOUS HEAD TRACT IS SOLD TO SYNDICATE –
DEAL FOR ADDITION IN WOOD RIVER IS CLOSED
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 23, 1920
One of the biggest land deals in the Wood River district in recent years came to a close early today, when a syndicate of men bought the property south of and adjoining what is now known as Head's addition in Wood River, from J. Augustine Head of Alton. According to real estate authorities in Alton, the land is the best piece of real estate left in the Wood River district, and brought the biggest price ever paid in that district for acres. The purchase price was $65,000 for 43 acres. The purchasers interested in the deal are the Harnett-Eggman Realty Co., Oscar Sotier of Alton, Clarence Hale of Alton, Frank Rippley of Grafton, Thomas M. Holdman of East St. Louis, and I. C. Hatridge of Wood River. The transfer of this property recalls its early history, when "Tiny" Head became famous because of the muskmelons called "gems" which he raised on the land. It also marks the remarkable enhancement of property value in the Wood River district since fourteen years ago when Head sold the present site of the Standard Oil Company to that firm for $60 an acre. At that time, it was believed Head was making money on that land. The property sold by Head today for $1,500 an acre is just across the street from the Standard Oil site on the Alton-Edwardsville road, and reveals an obviously remarkable enhancement in value. According to Mr. Harnett of the Harnett-Eggman Realty Co., which originated and pushed the deal through, the 43 acres will be subdivided into lots for houses, and it is intended to make it the finest residential district in Wood River.

 

WOOD RIVER ROBBERY
Source: Watertown, New York Daily Times, August 4, 1921
Three bandits today held up and slugged Tommy Felaido, a post office messenger at Wood River, Ill., and escaped with three mail pouches, one of which was believed to have contained $60,000 in currency consigned to the Standard Oil Refinery at Wood River. The robbery occurred shortly after the pouches had been thrown from a train from St. Louis. Felaido met the train, placed the pouches in a push cart and started for the post office across the tracks, when the armed trio stepped from an automobile, commanded him to throw up his hands, threw up pouches in the automobile, and escaped. An hour later an abandoned automobile was found in a corn field five miles south of Edwardsville, Ill. A rifled mail pouch containing parcel post matter addressed to Wood River residents was found nearby.

 

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