McLeansboro and Hamilton County History
by Geneva Nipper
McLeansboro was laid out in 1821 and named for William B. McLean who gave 20 acres of land for a site if they would give him 1/3 of the lots sold. Later another 20 acres were acquired.
Hamilton County was named for Alexander Hamilton.
The first courthouse was a log building covered with boards. It measured 8' high and 16' square at a cost of $579.00. In 1821, a jail was built for $780 with an outside pen that cost $12.00 for loose animals. This structure burned in 1894.
In 1843, a brick building was constructed at a cost of $4,500.
In 1869, a fire proof building with offices was constructed at a cost of $7,000.
In 1938, the present courthouse was built with 906 square feet at a cost of $135,000.
In 1896, McLeansboro had a Marine band with 20 members.
The first fire department was organized in 1894.
In 1855, there were 22 saloons in McLeansboro and not a single church.
During the oil boom the population of McLeansboro was 3,500.
In 1890, the population of Hamilton County was 25,000 and is now roughly 8,000.
The first telephone company was organized in 1898 for service in McLeansboro.
The first rural delivery of mail was October 24, 1901.
McLeansboro's first auto was owned by Rev. J. B. Wright. He put an electric motor and batteries in an old buggy.
On September 23-28th, an aviation circus and carnival was held in the courtyard. There were only two 75 horse powered racing bi-planes in teh world and one was in McLeansboro. It could go 80 miles per hour. The first air mail flight was made on September 26, 1912.
In December of 1896, Fred Behme who was 49 years old was hung. He murdered his wife and small child. Matt Buck was sheriff at that time.
In 1906, Elm Grove Coal Co. was organized and never better veins than the two have been found.
Heard's pond was a popular place. Boys swam in summer and icemen cut ice in winter for summer delivery.
The story goes that Jim Floyd drank "hooch". Someone saw something near center of Heard's Pond and it was Floyd who walked into the pond. His feet stuck in the mud and he drowned standing up.
At school, one boy wore boots and chewed tobacco and spit into side of his boots.
Definition of phonomenon? When you go down the road some bright sunny morning and see a cow setting on a thistle singing that's phenomenon.
Anderson school was first built in 1825 and used until 1959. First hot lunch program cost 10 cents. The school was the last to be shut down.
In 1874, Hamilton County was organized. Enrolled 80 students the first year. Enrollment reached 300. They met in Methodist Church. The college dissolved in 1880. They taught science, teaching, and commercial.
At one time before consolidation, there were 101 rural schools (1915).
East Side High School was built in 1877. It was a two story brick building costing $9,000. It stands now as part of East Side school. The two wings had Cathedral windows.
In 1927, $60,000 in bonds were floated to build a new high school which was finished either in 1928 or 1929. John Daily graduated from M.H.S. in 1929, his brother Jo in 1931. Ernest Hood graduated in 1930. In 1918, Whit Daily, John's father, was county superintendent of schools.
Where the auto mechanics and ag addition is was where the Billy Choats, Zarlington, and Lane Shanklin put on the Choat Comedian Shows.
McLeansboro has always been a farm community. Farmers often spent Saturday in town taking care of all necessities, business, and shopping.
The elite lived close to the square as you could guess. Homes were built for a lifetime of occupation. Some ornate and included now in National Architecture Registery. The Library, Mrs. Rev. Wilson Home, Dr. Willie Hall's, Norval Wright (now owned by Jerry Sloan), Johnson Lane House, Episcopal Church, and Peoples Bank.
(03/10/2001) Copyright 2001 by Geneva S. Nipper)