ILLINOIS GENEALOGY EXPRESS

Macon County, Illinois
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Pages 415 thru 424 

HISTORY OF MACON COUNTY


CHAPTER LXXIII

DECATUR TODAY
 

Could the pioneers who came to Macon county a hundred years ago see the city of Decatur today they would be astounded.  From the twenty acres in the original plat of the town, containing a log cabin or two, Decatur has turned into a beautiful city spreading out over 6,100 acres.  A hundred years ago Decatur had just a few blocks of streets.  In 1929 Decatur had a total of 139.7 miles of streets.

In 1830 Macon county had a population of 1,122, less than two persons to the square mile.  In 1930 the county's population was 81,674.

Instead of the rude log shack the pioneer built in 1829, the Decatur business man today erects a modern building towering toward the sky.  An example is the new Citizens Building at the southeast corner of North Water and East William streets, erected in 1930.

Decatur, now a city of 57,511 inhabitants, in the midst of a rich farming community, has every advantage a city could desire.  Within a radius of 250 miles of the city live 16,150,000 people.  Decatur is a trading center for these millions.

Of the residents of Decatur 91.4 per cent. is native born white.  The percentage of negro population is 2.7 per cent.

A hundred years ago Macon county's big drawback was a lack of transportation facilities, having neither railroad or water communication with markets.  Today five railway systems provide all transportation facilities needed.  The total mileage of the roads serving Decatur is 19,970.

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LAKE DECATUR AT NELSON PARK

Decatur is on the lines of five state paved road routes.  Two are federal routes, No. 2 being part of U. S. 51 from Lake Superior to the Gulf, and No. 10 and 121 being parts of U.S. 36 from Colorado to the Atlantic.

The number of industrial plants in Decatur now is placed at 135, with an annual payroll of about $15,000,000.  Many thousands of men and women are employed i these plants.

Among the principal products are:

Corn oil
Starches
Syrup
Hominy
Feeds
Soy bean oil and meal
Steel
Iron
Brass
Auto bumpers
Pumps
Valves
Specialties
Millwork
Soda fountains
Caskets
Sealing caps
Women's Dresses
Wire goods
Candy
Ice
Vitreous ware
Building materials
Many others

Decatur is the location of the I. T. S. car shops, and of the Wabash car shops.  It is the headquarters of the Decatur division of the Wabash railway.  The total number of Wabash employes in Decatur is about 3200 and the annual payroll is approximately $5,000,000.

The value of agricultural products of Macon county is estimated at $11,000,000 annually.

The value of manufactured products is estimated at $51,000,000.

Decatur today has a corn milling capacity of 50,000 bushels daily.

Decatur's people are prosperous.  Deposits in the three banks of the city are considerable above $15,000,000.  The total amount of money invested in the banks of the city is $2,363,000.  Three building and loan associations aid in the erection of homes.

The Illinois Bell Telephone company, housed in a splendid new building at West North and North Church streets, operates the telephone system of Decatur, with about 13,000 telephone customers.  The dial automatic system was put into use in 1929.

Decatur has 97.99 miles of paved streets.  It has 108 miles of sewers.  It has the commission form of government.  It has six fire department stations, with well equipped forces.  It has a well-regulated police department.

The city has an active Association of Commerce.

Decatur has a water supply sufficient for a city four times its size.  The source of that water supply is a lake fourteen miles long and from a half mile to a mile wide.  This lake, created in 1922-23 by the erection of a huge dam across the river, furnishes also unexcelled recreational facilities.

Total acres of parks is 810.  There are thirteen supervised playgrounds.  There are four 18-hole golf courses, three owned by clubs, the South Side Country club, the Sunnyside Golf club, and the Decatur Country club.  The fourth is a municipal course, in Nelson park.

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SCENES IN DECATUR TODAY

Fans field, in the northeast part of the city, provides the location for games of the Decatur baseball team and visiting teams of the Three I league.  Decatur was the second city in the state and the third in the United States to put on night baseball.

Five cemeteries furnish burial grounds for the dead.  Greenwood cemetery at the foot of Greenwood avenue is the oldest.  Calvary cemetery ion West Eldorado street is for the members of the Catholic church.  Fairlawn cemetery occupies attractive grounds at the west end of King street.  On North Oakland avenue is Graceland cemetery, and northeast of the city is the Lutheran cemetery.

The public school system in Decatur includes sixteen grade schools, four junior high schools, one high school, all housed in modern, attractive buildings.  Parochial schools include four Catholic, two Lutheran, and a Seventh Day Adventist school.  A new Catholic high school has just been finished.  Decatur also has the James Millikin university, a Brown's Business college, two large music schools, the Millikin Conservatory of Music and Decatur Music college; several smaller music schools, and an Art Institute.

Several of the social clubs of Decatur maintain club houses on the lake shore.  The Decatur Country club erected a handsome new club house in 1929.  The Elks and Moose clubs have attractive buildings, both on the lake shore and in the business district of the city.  The South Side Country club maintains grounds southwest of the city, with club house and individual cottages, and the Homewood Fishing club has grounds with cottages on the lake shore east of Decatur.  Many Decatur people own cottages located in Faries park, four miles northeast of Decatur, on the lake shore.

The Decatur club, a strong social organization, is erecting a new building on West Prairie avenue.

Decatur ahs three hospitals, a tuberculosis sanatorium and a preventorium.  A contagion hospital is under contruction at this writing.

Decatur is well supplied with theaters.  They are the Lincoln, Empress, Bijou, Avon, Alhambra, Crescent and Morrow's.

The city has fifty-eight church and religious organization buildings.

Decatur's service clubs are active in the life of the city.  These clubs include the Rotary, Kiwanis, Exchange, A. B. C., Optimists and Lions clubs.

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SCENES IN DECATUR TODAY

Women's organizations of large membership, active in social and civic life, are the Decatur Woman's club, the Business and Professional Women's club, the Women's Council, the Macon County Home Bureau, and the Young Woman's Christian association.  There are many smaller clubs.

Good work is done by the Macon county Tuberculosis and Visiting Nurses association, the Macon county chapter of the Red Cross, the Decatur Day Nursery, the Girls' Welfare home, the Boys' Opportunity home, the Y. M. C. A., the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army and other welfare agencies.  Charity work is effectively taken care of by the Social Service bureau.  The community Chest plan is used for financing these agencies.

The creation of Lake Decatur made possible the establishment of recreational camps on the lake shore.  Camp Kiwanis is the Y. W. C. A. girls' camp, located across from the lake from Nelson park.  The boy scouts' camp on Big Creek is enjoyed every year by scores of boys.  Not far from Decatur is the state Y. M. C. A. camp, Camp Seymour, with attractive surroundings.  It is nine miles southeast of the city.

Macon county farmers are organized in the Farm Bureau, which for more than ten years has been operated most successfully with headquarters in Decatur.

Decatur ahs an efficient Motor clubs, which is of great aid to motor travelers.

An airport is provided for the air travelers.  Decatur had its first sight of an airplane back in 1910, on July 17, when a Curtiss biplane was flown at the race track by Charles Willard, under the management of the Dreamland Park Association.  Now airplanes are owned in Decatur.

Seventy-five years ago a big share of the business of the city centered about the manufacture of buggies, wagons, carriages, and harness.  Today an even bigger share concerns the automobile.  Garages, filling stations, battery stations, have taken the place of the wagon repair and the horseshoeing shop.

Another business of fast increasing importance is the radio, a business undreamed of a hundred years ago.  Decatur is now "on the air", having its own broadcasting station, WJBL.

Many other things might be mentioned, but they are unnecessary, for Decatur speaks for itself.

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SCENES IN DECATUR TODAY

OUR PLACE IN THE SUN

Macon county has no reason to be ashamed of the place it has made for itself in the world.  It has sent out men and women who have made the name of Decatur known far and wide.  In army and navy it has furnished leaders.  In government positions, in banking circles, in the fields of art, music, literature, Macon county citizens have reached high placed.

As examples might be named Generals R. J. Oglesby, I. C. Pugh, G. A. Smith, J. H. Moore and Herman Lieb of the U. S. army; Rear Admiral C. B. T. Moore of the U. S. navy; Ethelbert Stewart, U. S. commissioner of Labor Statistics; Bert Eldridge, former New York banker; Roy Brown, artist; Leonard Crunelle, sculptor; Myrna Sharlow, opera singer; Charles H. Dennis, editor Chicago Daily News.

Scores of others might be named, men and women who have won laurels in their chosen lines of work.

In inventive genius our citizens have made an unusual record.  Industries and manufactories have been revolutionized by inventions produced by Macon county residents.  Their stories have already been told.

In the friezes in the Centennial Memorial building in Springfield, Ill., honoring famous men of Illinois appear the names of two men once Macon county residents, Abraham Lincoln and Richard J. OglesbyOglesby's name appears in the frieze honoring Civil war generals, also.

In fact, Macon county during its first hundred years has made a name for itself, one of which it may be proud.  As its citizens have made good, the land also has fulfilled its promise.  Today, a hundred years after the establishment of the county, no one can doubt that the faith of the pioneer in the "rich country of the Sangamon" as a desirable place to establish his home has been more than justified.

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This Webpage was originally created by Sharon Wick 2003