'Logan County Pictorial History'

[JAN. 10, 2001]   Logan County Pictorial History." Paul E. Gleason and Paul J. Beaver, G. Bradley Publishing, 2000, 200 pages.

"Logan County’s history begins with the period of glaciers and the time when the land was occupied by the Kickapoo Indians…every stroke of a hammer, every rattle of a farm machine, and every puff of a locomotive became a blow to the quietness of the primordial prairie wilderness. As an agrarian population mastered the tall prairie grasses, the settlers with varied professions and businesses found their niches in the burgeoning settlements." So begins the incredible saga of Logan County, Illinois, as told by local historians Paul Gleason and Paul Beaver.


Their collaboration, entitled "Logan County Pictorial History" chronicles the story of this quintessential American community as captured through the eye of the camera and told through the life experiences of its residents. Though the book was conceived as a pictorial documentation of the county’s history, there are also narrative histories on 16 of the 17 different communities in Logan County (Lincoln appears in an earlier publication by Gleason).

In addition to the history of the different communities, the authors discuss the single greatest influence on the life and development of the county: agriculture. The impact of agriculture is vividly illustrated through scenes of everyday farm life, prized animals, specialized machinery and the people who worked this rich, bountiful land.

A unique feature of the book is the chapter entitled "The 50s In Logan County." Recalling an era of innocence and optimism following the end of World War II, this chapter is more than fast cars, bobby sox and cool hairdos. It is a glimpse at some of the young women of the county and the lives they led. The authors write that "the girls pictured here…are visual proof of what made the 50s fabulous."

It is, however, the local histories of the different communities in Logan County that comprise the heart of the book. After opening each community’s chapter with a brief history, the authors present a visual record of the county through rare and personal photographs. Some of the most fascinating and entertaining reading in the book is contained in the captions of these photographs.

  • At one time Atlanta was actually larger than Lincoln.
  • Beason was named after Silas Beason, one of the promoters of the new rail line in 1872.
  • The fire-and-brimstone evangelist Peter Cartwright opposed Abraham Lincoln in his bid for Congress and brought Methodist doctrine to Broadwell.
  • The school in Burtonview opened in 1873 and served the community until 1958.
  • The town of Chestnut is considered to be the geographic center of Illinois.
  • Cornland fought back to rebuild after the devastating effects of a tornado in 1927.
  • John D. Gillett of Elkhart was known as the "Cattle King of America."
  • Emden has a reputation for an abundance of musical talent among its citizens.


[to top of second column in this review]

[Paul Beaver holds a copy of his book, "Logan County Pictorial History."]

  • The Hartsburg Soil Experimentation Field was established in 1911 as a forerunner of today’s agricultural research stations.
  • Lake Fork is home to the Hopewellian Indian mounds and the first schoolhouse built in Logan County.
  • Latham enjoyed passenger train service to communities such as Decatur as late as 1939.
  • Prior to its 1936 demolition, the largest grain elevator between Chicago and St. Louis was located in Lawndale.
  • Middletown is the oldest community in Logan County and was established seven years before the county.
  • Mount Pulaski was Logan County’s original seat and was frequently visited by practicing attorneys Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas.
  • The arrival of the C.C. Hawes Implement and Hardware Company in New Holland signaled the beginning of the end of the horse-farming era in the county.
  • Two of the county’s best basketball teams were San Jose’s 1940-41 squad (22-3) and the 1969 team (28-1).

Concluding the book is a collection of interesting photographs on the town of Lincoln — photographs not found in Gleason’s previous book, "Lincoln: A Pictorial History."


"Logan County Pictorial History" is an outstanding documentary history on the story of this central Illinois community. Sponsored by State Bank of Lincoln, the book is a visual delight and should be treasured by families and enjoyed by generations to come. Both authors are lifelong residents of Logan County, and their own personal experiences are evident in the writing and the stories they have chosen. Lavishly illustrated with numerous photographs and informative captions, the book is one that the reader can easily peruse page by page or select any of the community histories. The inclusion of a bibliography of sources and a comprehensive index enhances the book’s scholarly value and makes it a valuable source of information on this part of the state.

Serving as companion volume to Paul Gleason’s earlier book on the city of Lincoln, "Logan County Pictorial History" is essential reading for everyone young and old who is interested in the rich, colorful history of Logan County, Illinois.

For more information, visit the library at 725 Pekin St. or call (217) 732-8878.

[Richard Sumrall, Lincoln Public Library District]


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