By Margaret Downing


Russell Binning makes clocks from cherry, black walnut, and butternut.

The Pecatonica News had reported in early 1893 that the residents of what is today Pearl City had applied to the State of Illinois to change the town’s name. A few weeks later another item appeared which read:

“The fourth assistant postmaster general has decided that Yellow Creek cannot change its name to Pearl City because there is a post office by the name of Pearl in the State.” 

Apparently that argument didn’t hold with the townspeople because it is called Pearl City today.

─Other items from the Pec News of this time period included:

* “Mrs. Chas. F. Simmons of Rockford, formerly of Pecatonica, has applied for a divorce from her worthless dude of a husband. He is the curly haired dry good clerk who formerly worked for M.W. Welles, and who left town with quite a sum of money belonging to the fire company, which was entrusted to him. He’s a la-lah!”

* “The Winnebago Reflector says: ‘Miss Annie Dixon, the young lady who has been making her home with Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Waters for some time back, will be united in marriage to a young Pecatonicite next week.’”

* “The entertainment, ‘An Hour with Mother Goose and her temperance children,’ which was to have been given at the Hall last evening for the benefit of the Congregational church has been postponed until April 26.”

* “Can it be said that we have chicken thieves in our community? Several of our citizens report having had their chicken-houses visited.”

* “We now have a school board ‘with brains,’ and still we are not happy.”

* “The C.M. & St. P. R.R. have so arranged their time table that the people from Durand and Davis have less than an hour to remain in Rockford if they wish to return the same day. This is helping our railroad considerably as a great many come over to Pecatonica to start for Rockford and Chicago, the trains being run very accommodating on this road.”

* “Rockford’s new hotel, the Nelson, is not paying very well. The landlord has been running it as a three-dollar a day house, but the patronage has been so slim that he has reduced the price to $2.50 and $2 a day.”

* “A Mr. Wilson of Ogle County last Tuesday introduced the following bill to prohibit the playing of athletic games on Sunday: ‘It shall be unlawful for any club, association, society or any number of persons to conduct or play any game of base-ball, foot-ball, curling, polo, tennis, or any athletic game or sport of any kind or nature on Sunday. Any individual, member, employee, officer or person violating any of the provisions of this act shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500 for each offense.”

* “A bill was introduced in the House at Springfield last week by Representative McKenzie of Jo Daviess county, to make General Grant’s birthday a legal holiday. With no disrespect to the memory of the old Commander, we believe the legal holiday business is being worked to excess. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Washington’s birthday, Arbor day, Columbus day, and the Fourth of July already set aside as legal holidays, it would seem that there is scare any need for further encroachments upon the time of legitimate business.”

* “The patent medicine men are stirred up over a bill introduced into the legislature of this State requiring them to print the formula of their medicines and have it attached on the outside of each box, bottle or package, with the quantities of each ingredient and with their correct English names. Thus do crank legislators who want to regulate the earth.”

* “Women are now in it, for after a fierce parliamentary struggle last Wednesday, the bill granting women the right to vote in municipal and township elections was passed by the State Senate by a vote of 27 to 17.”

* “A dispatch out of Rockford last Saturday says; ‘One of Schweinfurth’s apostles was asked if there was any truth in the report that heaven was to be moved to Colorado. He replied that it was simply the revival of an old rumor. He further said that Schweinfurth’s intentions would not be made public if he were going to move. The impression prevails that Schweinfurth was hard up financially and would move if he could profit by it. The papers have left him alone recently and his fake is getting old. Converts have been dropping off.”*

*(Note: The rural Winnebago, Illinois, cult scandalized this area in the late 1800s. Bearded and red-haired George Jacob Schweinfurth was the self-proclaimed “Second Christ” and leader of a religious cult with hundreds of followers. The cult maintained much prominence in the Midwest at the time. In 1890, Schweinfurth had declared that he was responsible for sending a damaging cloud burst upon Rockford as punishment for its “sinfulness and scornful attitude” shown toward his cult. That year, extremely heavy rains caused two houses to drift down Kent Creek and smash into a viaduct over the train tracks on South Winnebago Street. Ten bridges crossing Kent and Keith Creeks in Rockford were destroyed.

By the late 1890’s, Schweinfurth was taken to court and accused of taking money and property from converts who had been required to surrender all of their worldly goods to the cult. He was found guilty and made to return most of the real estate he had accumulated. In 1900 the flock was disbanded and Schweinfurth moved to Rockford where he engaged for several years in the real estate business. He later moved to Chicago where he died in 1910.)

─Some other 1893 news included:

* “There are, it is computed, 30,000 cyclists in the United States, and the number is swelling rapidly. Let the women gyrate as much as they please. Their power to turn men’s heads is so great already that no perceptible increase thereof will result from any additional circumvolutions.” 

* “A dispatch from Beloit last Saturday says: Harry Hayes, proprietor of the Goodwin House, was publicly whipped by R.H. Wilson last night for making remarks of a scandalous character about ladies who live in the hotel; and this morning Mr. Wilson kicked Hayes through the streets downtown. There is great excitement over the occurrence. Hayes will probably be forced to leave town. Creditors are springing up all over the city but can get nothing out of Hayes, and many are threatening to take it out of his hide.”

* “A number of people throughout the country have been swindled in a novel manner by a Chicago sharper, who inserted in several western papers an advertisement stating that an extraordinary inducement was offered by the advertiser, who would deliver a handsome steel engraving of the landing of Columbus to any person sending $2 to a certain address in Chicago. The newspapers containing the advertisement were circulated extensively, and the result was that many a two-dollar bill was sent to the Chicago address. The senders anxiously awaited the arrival of the handsome steel engraving, but all they received in return for their money was one of the new 2-cent postage stamps which bears a picture of the landing of Columbus.”

* “The great Mormon Temple at Salt Lake City was dedicated last Wednesday. It is an imposing structure, 1,864 by 99 feet, and the walls are 16 feet thick at the bottom with six towers, three on each side, ranging from 194 to 222 feet in height. The east part of the temple will be devoted to the spiritual priesthood; the west to the temporal priesthood.”

* “In olden times, what is now known as ‘typhus fever’ was known by the names of ‘jail fever’ and ‘spotted fever.’ Its present name comes from the Greek word ‘typhus,’ which means ‘a mist,’ and refers to the great stupor, which is one of the symptoms of the disease. Persons infected can be removed into clean, healthy quarters where the air is pure and be nursed to health with comparatively little danger to the attendants. It only breeds where there are impurities.”

* “A marriage of two physical wrecks is reported from Tom Green County, Texas. The groom had come out of the civil war minus one leg, one arm and one eye, which the rebels had shot away: while the lady had lost one arm in a fight with the Indians, and had dropped a leg in a railroad accident.”

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