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Roads and telephones
part of village history

[SEPT. 23, 2000]  The early streets of New Holland, like those of other small towns, were mud and dust. Later the village graded the streets and put on an oil coating. A very important early road was the old stagecoach road, also known as Edward’s Trace, which ran through New Holland from Springfield to Peoria. In 1920 and 1921 this road was graveled. The first concrete highway to go through the village, then called Route 120 but now Route 10, opened in November of 1931.


The New Holland Telephone Company was organized in 1904 and sold in 1916 to investors from Lincoln. These new owners bought the Pettit Hotel and located the switchboard in the front room, allowing the operator and family to live in the rest of the building. The operator would answer the telephone, ask for a number and plug wires into the various circuits. In 1950 all this changed when dial phones were installed.

More about the development of the village, with plenty of pictures, is in the upcoming "New Holland Pictorial History: 1875 - 2000."

[Joan Crabb]

[This street in New Holland in the 1930s shows a busy retail center, with plenty of folks driving to town to do business.  Looking west, a cream station and harness shop are on the left.]

Early settlers come to New Holland area

[SEPT. 22, 2000]  Although settlers came to the Sheridan Township area much earlier, the village of New Holland was not laid out and surveyed until 1875. Oliver Holland and his wife, the former Amanda Huffman, laid out the first parcel of land, composed of only four blocks, for the present village.

Other early settlers in the area were Garrett LaForge and his wife, Catherine Martling LaForge, and Jacob and Anna Niewold, who came from Holland and who were said to have lived in a hollowed-out cave along Prairie Creek until they could build a permanent home.


William Scully, an Irish landowner, bought 24,400 acres of swampy land in the Logan County area. By purchasing military land warrants issued to soldiers who had fought in the Mexican War, he was able to buy land for $1.25 per acre. About 5,000 acres were in Sheridan Township.

More about the early days of New Holland is in the upcoming publication "New Holland Pictorial History: 1875 - 2000."

[click here for information about purchasing the book]

[Joan Crabb]

New Holland group puts town’s history
in words and pictures

[SEPT. 20, 2000]  The book itself has been in the making for at least a year, but the idea that inspired it was generated 25 years ago. And this month, the "New Holland Pictorial History: 1875 to 2000" will become a reality. The book tells the story of the small Logan County town from its beginning as a tiny settlement on the prairie right up to the year 2000.

The 176-page volume will be available by the time the village celebrates its Quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) on the weekend of Sept. 29 and 30 and Oct. 1. The book is organized into nine sections: early years, municipal development, businesses, agriculture, churches and cemeteries, education, organizations, natural disasters, and nostalgia.

A highlight of the book is its 454 pictures, which cover every area of the town’s history from an 1873 plat of Sheridan township to recent aerial photes taken from balloons. The education section is thick with school pictures reaching back many years. There are pictures of New Holland’s downtown in the early 1900s, when it was a bustling retail center. There is even a picture of the explosion of the bulk gas plant in the 1930s.

The considerable labor needed to produce this attractive, informative and accurate history came from a committee of eight New Holland area women. Joanne Hawes, Lila Conklen, Phyllis Blaum, Mildred Struebing, Adrienne Chesnut, Pat La Forge, Judy Funderburg and Barbara Semple have put in many, many hours of research and writing and sent out many, many pleas to community residents for pictures and information.


"We’ve been working together on it three days a week, as well as each of us working separately, since the first of the year," Barbara Semple said.

The idea began to germinate in 1975, when the village celebrated its centennial. "We had a slide presentation at the Centennial," Hawes remembers. "People collected a lot of pictures and we put them on slides. We showed the slides at the centennial and then they were stored in the bank. We had 175 slides, and the people at the bank suggested we use them somehow for the 125th anniversary."

The first idea was to make a video of the slides, Hawes said. Then somebody saw Paul Gleason’s book, "Lincoln: A Pictorial History," and the idea jelled. "We should put these in a book."


[to top of second column in this article]

[The New Holland Historical Book Committee worked for a year and a half to produce the New Holland Pictorial History:  1875 - 2000.  Seated, left to right, are Barbara Semple, Joanne Hawes, and Lila Conklen.  Standing are Mildred Struebing, Pat LaForge, Judy Funderburg, Phyllis Blaum and Adrienne Chesnut.]

    Then the real work began. "We looked at the slides; then we looked up our senior citizens and got them to reminisce," Semple said. Committee members went to the Logan County courthouse to get the details of their schools’ history and to find land records.

They also looked up old newspaper files that had been kept on microfilm. The Middletown newspapers were available, but New Holland’s were not. They looked up cemetery records and pored through old Logan County history books and the records compiled by churches.


For the businesses, Semple said, "We went up and down the Main Street and found out what had been in each building through the years." They talked to business people and to secretaries of area organizations.

A New Holland woman, Diane Maaks Steffens, had written a history of the town for her 1975 college thesis, and they used that, too. They found a copy of a personal memoir written by the late Loren Juhl and had still another source.


When the time came to look for pictures to go along with the 175 slides, Hawes said, "We sent out a plea to everyone in town: ‘Please look at your pictures.’ I’m sure we disrupted many homes. We asked for school yearbooks. We did not get them all but we got a lot."

Semple found a treasure at a yard sale a box of school yearbooks that had belonged to a man who had once been on the school board.

The work of the committee is still not completed. After the pictures come back from the printer, the committee will have to sort them out and return them to their owners.

Only 500 copies are being printed, Hawes said, and people who want them can reserve their copy by calling Lila Conklen at 445-2333 or the Union Planters Bank at 445-2270. Cost is $25 per book, with a $3.50 charge for shipping and handling if the book must be mailed.


[Joan Crabb]


Miller remembers
high school days
in New Holland

[SEPT. 13, 2000]  Don Miller remembers a lot about the former New Holland Community High School. He spent a total of 32 years there, four as a student and the other 28 as an ag teacher. "I probably spent a longer time in that building than anyone else," he says.

[Donald Miller, ag teacher at New Holland-Middletown High School for 28 years, displays plaque naming him an Honorary American Farmer by the National FFA Association in 1988. This is one of the highest awards given to an adult by the FFA.]

He will be one of many area residents with ties to New Holland who will be attending the village’s 125th anniversary celebration the weekend of Sept. 29 and 30 and Oct. 1.

Miller grew up on a farm near Burtonview and went to grades one through seven there at Burtonview Grade School, then a one-room school. The school had from 16 to 18 students and one teacher. The teacher had to do all the work, fire the furnace, clean up the building and teach all eight grades, he recalls.


"By the time you got to the fifth or sixth grade, you knew everything, because you had to listen to all the other classes recite," he says. The one-room school didn’t even have indoor plumbing; the students had to go outdoors and use old-fashioned outhouses, he recalls.

He went to eighth grade at New Holland Grade School, then on to New Holland Community High School. "There were about 60 kids in high school in my time. We had one English teacher, one history teacher, a coach who taught math and physics, a math teacher, a typing and business teacher, an ag teacher who also taught science, a home economics teacher, and the principal, who also taught history and civics." When he graduated from New Holland High School in 1955, there were 18 in his class, one of the larger classes in the school.

"The class of 1955 has had a class reunion every year since we graduated," he says. "About eight or 10 of us come. I think we’re the only class that meets every year."


What he learned in a one-room rural school and a small-town high school was good enough to get him into the University of Illinois, where he had to take examinations for three days straight before he was accepted. He graduated with a master’s degree in agriculture.

"I believe there are advantages to small schools," he says. "To say the little schools are not doing a good job is just not true."

The principal at New Holland died in the spring of 1960, when Miller was completing his work at Illinois. "The ag teacher took over as principal, and then they needed an ag teacher. They thought of me, and I started teaching in the fall of 1960."



[to top of second column in this article]

In 1961 New Holland consolidated with Middletown High School, and students from both towns came to the high school in New Holland. That school had been built in 1931, after a fire destroyed the downtown building where high school classes had been before. The new building was dedicated in January of 1932. It originally had six classrooms, but in1955 an addition was built, giving it a farm shop, music room and bus garage.

In 1973 a new elementary school building was completed near the high school, and students walked over there for science classes, band and chorus, and lunch at the new cafeteria, Miller remembers.

In its heyday, the New Holland-Middletown High School had from 125 to 130 students, and Miller taught "some pretty good-sized ag classes. We were active in FFA and in judging ag contests in Section 14 of the state. We had about 12 different schools competing. This included schools in Logan, Sangamon and Menard counties, along with one school from Cass County.

"We always entered the judging contests, grain, beef, swine, sheep and land use judging. We usually won about two contests a year, and once we won the land use judging contest 18 years in a row."

It wasn’t an easy contest. A backhoe would dig a hole in the ground six feet deep, and the students had to get down in the hole, study the soil, make a soil profile and then map out a management plan for the land.

"Even when I started teaching I knew of lot of my students wouldn’t be farming," Miller continues. "But most of them would be involved in ag in some way, maybe as an implement dealer or a seed corn dealer. An ag background in high school could help them get good jobs."

In 1988 New Holland-Middletown consolidated with Lincoln Community High School, and Miller went along to teach ag and some science classes. He retired in 1995 and lives in Lincoln.

"I really enjoyed it," he says of his teaching career. "The kids were great kids. I still see some of them and they still call me "Mr. Miller."

"I say, ‘It’s Don now,’ but they say, "No, it’s always Mr. Miller.’"

[Joan Crabb]

New Holland welcomes anniversary parade entries 

New Holland’s 125th anniversary celebration will be the last weekend in September. There are still openings for the parade. Entries may be bicycles, vans, floats, children and so on. If you have any questions, or would like to enter the parade, please call Susie Aper at 445-2418.


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