Worcester was the original name of Barry, Pike County, Illinois. The name was changed in about 1838 when problems with mail occurred because there was another Worcester somewhere in Illinois. The name was changed to Barry.
Barry History in Brief
William Walcott Watson, 1929, privately published
William Walcott Watson was the editor of the Barry Adage for many years. He was born and raised in Barry, and his family had roots in Barry for more than 150 years. In 1929 he and his wife, Margaret Bonnell Watson, each wrote a book on their families. Since William was so active in the affairs of Barry, he wrote chapters on the histories of Barry Township and Barry City.
It was during the days when the speculative fever at first swept over Illinois that the village of Worcester came into existence. After the harvest in July 1836, in the midst of the wheat stubble, two men named Geo. Bartlett and John E. Birdsong, agents of Calvin Stone of the firm of Stone, Filed & Marks, St. Louis, Mo., made the surveys and plat of the future village. Mr. Stone was killed the same fall by the explosion of a steamboat on the Ohio River at Cincinnati about the same time that Worcester was conceived another town about a mile east of that village was laid out on land that that afterward was owned by B.D. Brown and John McTucker, which they named Redfield. This movement failed and the town never materialized.
Six weeks after the surveyors completed their work, Worcester received its first inhabitants, David Green and family, consisting of husband, wife and seven children, of whom Joseph Greene, so long a resident here was one; Orlando Babcock, was also one of the party. All were natives of New York state. They took their abode in the one cabin in the place, which had previously been vacated by a man named Holcomb. Soon after other residents began to arrive. The one cabin was then situated at the corner of the intersection of Bainbridge and Mortimer streets. Other cabins were built.
Then came J. E. Birdsong. Geo. Bartlett, Henry O. Whitmore, Daniel Bary, John Cowan and William Crofton were the first. Others who followed were: Dr. A.C. Baker, Josiah and Wm. Lippencott, Stephen R. Gray, Mr. Peabody, Laurison Brown, Albert Tolcott and wife, Nelson Gray, Burton Gray, L.N. Ferris, D.W. Greene, I.G. Howe, Jas. B. Allen, F.M. Dabney, Calvin Jackson, John B. Hazen, Fred Frike, John C. Frike, R.W. Howlett, Lewis Angle, Chester R. Churchill, Jon Watson, Chauncey Metcalf, Jas. Yancy, P.E. Howland, Andrew Booth, Chas. S. Allen, David Shields, Albert G. Blake, Wm. Bright, Alex. Early, Wm. Eddingfield, M. Allen Robinson, Jesse Chandler, John A. Hall, M. Lane, The Jones, Hollembeaks, Kidwells, and others.
As newcomers appeared, a boarding house became necessary, and David Green became the first to establish one. With only one small room their accommodations were meager, yet as high as twenty persons at a time received entertainment. While one table full (seven or eight persons) were fed the rest of the boarders loafed abound on the outside of the building and had their turns at eating. Sleeping room was obtained in the cabin, smokehouse, etc. Board cost $1.25 a week.
The next boarding house was kept by Mr. Owe, who was a tailor, and had his shop and residence at that time in a dwelling built by John Blair in Block 38, in 1838. That same year the village was honored by a hotel, which was established by John Dellavan on Block 39, which remained a hotel up to a few years ago, several different landlords conducting the hotel during the intervening years.
The new village had hardly begun to function before complications arose over mail matters. It then developed that Illinois had another town named Worcester and the name of our village had to be changed on that account. It was renamed Barry.
Merchandising was introduced in the village by two men who laid out the place, Bartlett and Armstrong. They conducted a small store for a few months in a building in Block 12, in nearly the northwest part of town. That was in 1836. Birdsong sold out his interest to David Greene, and the firm became Bartlet & Greene, who built a building at the old Blair corner, Lot 5, Block 23, and removed their stock there. This store was burned in 1837 and the firm quit business. Daniel Bary started a blacksmith shop in 1836 in the vicinity of the first store.
In 1838 Whitmore & Peabody opened a store on the Wendorff lot on the west side of the public square, there being no other store here then. Peabody died in 1840 and his surviving partner, Henry Whitmore, then built a small store building at the southeast corner of the public square, afterward the residence property of John H. Mallery. He also packed pork in the cellar of the store. Whitmore was succeeded by Theo. Digby, who made a failure of it and sold out to his brother James, who took in a partner and the firm was then known as Digby & Sears. Nathaniel Smith and Nathan Hadsell also kept a store on Lot 5, Block 8, in 1837, and the next year Gardner Mayes entered the grocery business at the same stand. Wm. Hart opened a harness shop on Lot 5, Block 8, Nelson Gray was another merchant who was in business at that period, as was also Mr. Scott, who had his store on Lot 2, Block 23, where the old location of Mayes & Son was.
In 1844 Isaac G. Israel engaged in business at the old Whitmore & Peabody stand. He was a speculator and packed pork and conducted a flour mill that he built in Little St. Louis. He built several new dwellings, a cooper shop, etc., and the place bid fair to outrival Barry in its day, but Israel failed in 1847 and Little St. Louis blew up.
Lewis Angle came over from Hannibal in 1845 and opened a store 12X14 in size on Lot 6, Block 20, and the next sprint he went into partnership with a Mr. Shields on the corner Lot 4, Block 23, the old Hollembeak corner. This firm succeeded for a while and J.B. Chamberlin and Morris Hammond occupied the same room with their business. At the end of the year the firm changed to Hammand & Greene, and was followed by Greene & Richards, who retired at the breaking out of the civil war, Mr. Richards becoming a captain in the army.
Montgomery Blair went into merchandising at the corner of Lot 5, Block 23, about 1847 and operated on a cash system, a startling departure for that period. He was succeeded by M. Blair & Co., they by C. &S. Davis, and this firm by S. Davis & sons, all of whom conducted general stores and packed pork. Blair & Co. sold lumber also.
Angle & Brown opened a store at the corner of Lot 1, Block 22, in 1849. They were succeeded by Angle & Crandall, they by Widby, Frike & Sweet, they by Angle (Lewis) and he in 1863 by Sweet & Mallery, later J.H. Mallery & Co.
John B. Chamberlin began the clothing business in 1858 in a building that had been removed to Barry from Little St. Louis. He afterwards bought Lot 8, Block 21, and built a store building there, which he occupied for years. He was succeeded by J.B. & A.J. Chamberlin, his son Albert being the partner. Other early day merchants and up to the sixties were Elisha Hurt, Gray & Huntley, Gorton & Dutton, Jon Watson, L.D. White, W.F. White & Co., Hammond & Blades, Blades & Dutcher, W.W. Blades, T.A. Gorton, William Bright, M. Lane, Land & Bernard, Jones & Hollembeak, Dr. Shepherd, Jasper & sons, Cromwell & Whitaker, Dr. Washburn, Josiah Rowand, and others.
Thus was laid the foundation commercially of our town of Barry. It was light picking the first few years and money was scarce. What cash there was in circulation was Mexican money. Small change was hard to obtain and currency there was very little of. Dr. A.C. Baker was the first physician. He came in 1837. About 1841 Dr. Cromwell located here and afterward came Dr. Barron, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Adams, Dr. S.O. Hatch, Dr. P. M. Parker, Dr. Parish, Dr. L. H. Callaway, Dr. G.H. Long, and others. Present physicians are Dr. R.H. Main, Dr. T.D. Kaylor, Dr. W.W. Kuntz, Dr. W.F. Reynolds.
Alfred Grubb was the first justice of the peace, and later was county judge; he was also an attorney.
Morris Hammond started the first livery stable. Today the business is almost extinct. It is all automobile garages now.
Early blacksmiths were Jas. Woods, Yancy & Dabney, James Yancy, Jackson Goodale, McConnell & Phenneger, At this time they are C.M. Holmes, D.S. Phenneger. Undertakers: Schuyler Gray, Burton Gray, Lewis Harvey, Smith & Bulger, Henry Hildebrand, all of whom did their own making of the coffins. Undertakers now here are F. Hufnagle, Ed. Keller, Roy Dieterle.
Tradesmen: Mr. Bridges, first to arrive who did carpenter work; other carpenters: Burton Gray, Schuyler Gray, Laurlson Brown, Solomon Phenneger, Thomas McIntire, John Spencer, Wm. Rositer, Daniel D. Gray, Alex. Liggett, John Piper, W.T. Mitchell, Geo. W. Clark, J. L. Terry, Geo. D. Mays. Plasterers: Jas. Badgley, Wm. Ware, Wm. Eddingfiled, John Booth, Ed. Churchill, Jas. B. Allen. Stone masons: Sam Brown, Abiah Wright, J. Higgins, Jas. Eagan, Stone masonry is now a lost art in the country districts; it’s all cement work. In the plastering line we have Jas. Badgley, Gus Kinne, Mr. Shahan.
Up to 1838 there had been few frame houses erected, to not to exceed ten. All were log houses up to that time. The old Buckeye House, so long located on the west side of the city park was kept by Louis Harrvey and was built in 1837.
Most of the surveying about town was done by A.G. Chamberlain, who got his field notes from the land office at Quincy.
There has always been a healthy religious sentiment in this section. As early as 1838 the Methodists organized a society and built a house of worship on what is known as Church Square, and in 1847 conference sanctioned the Barry circuit, with Rev. C.I. Packard and Rev. H. S. Shaw as “circuit riders.” A brick church was built on Lots 3 and 4, Block 26, in 1851-2. This church was remodeled in 1872, and a new addition costing $40,000 was added to it in 1924. It is a beautiful and modern edifice and meets the needs of the society. The present pastor is Rev. C.W. Hammand, who is filling the position very acceptably.
Barry Station was established by the Methodists in 1870, with Rev. J.W. Sinnock as pastor.
The Baptist church was established in June 1829 at Atlas, Pike County, by Jacob Bowers and Jesse Sutton. In 1840-1 a committee was appointed to solicit funds to build a new church in Worcester, now Barry. The church was built on Block 1, Brown’s Addition to Barry. A Sunday school was established by Rev. Chas. Mason the next year. The present church was built in 1853 and was dedicated early in 1854. Rev. W.H. Dickman is the new pastor.
The Christian church was organized in 1843, and in 1848 they built a brick church on Lot 3, Block 5, in Brown’s Second Addition to Barry. Their Sunday school was organized in 1867, with John H. Mallery as superintendent. This organization built a new church about 1898. Rev. C.W. Jacobs is the pastor at this time.
Other church societies that were organized in this place and flourished for a time, but finally passed out were: Congregationalists, who had a church on Lot 4, Block 49; the Universalists built a church on Lot 1, Block 18. Both of these buildings have long since been torn down and the lots are used for other purposes. Along in 1882 a society known as the Christadelphians was organized and afterward the body was called as Christian Brethren. An itinerant preacher named Rev. Nicholds led the flock and a church was built in the northwest part of town. Most of the members came to our town from other sections of the country. They all appeared to be well to do and were a good class of citizens. A few older citizens of town united with the church. The flock soon pulled up and left for Rochester, New York. Then in a few years they purchased a steamboat and operated on the Mississippi river, terming the boat a “Mission.” Next the boat was sold and the party returned to Rochester. Since then several of the older members have passed on and the few that are left are not active.
Camp meetings were favorite forms of religious worship in the early days. They were quite common in mild weather and some great revivals resulted from these camp meetings. One of the favorite camp meeting grounds was just north of Little St. Louis.
Secret societies have always flourished here. We still have several branches of Masonry, three of I.O.O. F., Modern Woodman of America, royal Neighbors, Pike County Life Association and others.
The Barry public library was organized in 1876 as a private enterprise, but in 1994 it was turned over to the city and since then has been supported by taxation. It occupies its own building, donated by Mrs. B. D. Brown, and is well supplied with literature.
Banking began by the organization of the Exchange Bank of Barry in 1872. The firm was C. & S. Davis, L. Angle and Eugene Smith, the later being cashier. This firm was succeeded by Smith, Brown & Co. In 1905 this bank failed, owing to excessive loans to W. Bartholemew, pork packer. It was succeeded by Barry State Bank in 1906, which was organized by John Weber. I was a director of this bank, but sold my stock and retired as director. The First National Bank was organized in 1901, I was also a director of this bank, but sold my stock and retired from that Board also. Since then I repurchased ten shares of this bank after selling out of the State Bank. I still hold this stock. The First National has grown to be a large and substantial bank. O. Williamson is cashier and T.A. Retallic, Pres, the State Bank, J.H. Jones is cashier and J.O. Strubinger is president.
The mail facilities of the pioneers were limited and the carriers were attended with hardships and often dangers. It was done principally on horseback. The main route the first few years was from Quincy to Carrollton, Ill. The trips were made to and fro once a week. Residents of Barry township received their mail from a side postoffice near where New Canton is now located. A carrier from Barry met the other through carrier and charged the incoming and outgoing mail, neither of which were very heavy. Daniel D. Gray and Wm. Smith were the local carriers. The Barry postoffice was established in 1839, Stephen R. Gray, postmaster. A few years after this our father, Jon Watson, held the office. Edwin C. O’Brien is the present postmaster. In 1953 the first daily mail was established for Barry. We were then on the route from Hannibal to Naples, Ill., and the route agents were Wren Smith, Nick Thornton and Wm. Duffield.
Electric lighting caused much speculating when it was first introduced in 1893. E.B. Hillman received the franchise. He conducted the plant in a halfway style for a few years and then sold out to Fred Frike of Fowler, Ill., who in turn sold to a syndicate from White Hall, Ill. The next owners were the Central Illinois Public Service Company, who rebuilt the plant, contracted for energy from the Keokuk Power Company, and raised the business to a high plane, giving us twenty-four hour service and first class attention. The company is the big company of Illinois.
Barry was incorporated as a town in 1856, as the result of and in consequence of an election held on January 24th of that year. 92 votes were cast and all for the proposition. The trustees elected to govern the town were: Alfred Grubb, Dr. N. Cromwell, Chas. S. Allen, Jon Watson, and F.M. Dabney, who held their first meeting Jan. 31, 1856. Jon Watson was elected as president and Jon Shastid as clerk.
In 1872, Barry was organized as a city. The petition to change to that form was filed by C.S. Allen, Jas. Holmes, A.C. Hollembeak, Lewis Angle, and forty-six others, and as a result of the move an election was ordered which took place Sept. 16, 1872. Only 60 votes were cast, all favorably. Officers elected then were: E.R. Burnham, mayor; J.R. Rowand, John Weber, N.R. Davis, Jas. S. Watson and Belah Mors and Matt Peterson, aldermen; C.C. Roasa, city clerk; W.I. Klein, attorney; J.C. Brown, treasurer; J. Whttleton, marshal; J.E. Haines, street commissioner.
City officers this year are: T.J. McVay, retiring and C.M. Holmes succeeding, mayor; Dr. W. F. Reynolds; W.G. Hurt, Otis Oitker, Veldie Barnes, C.A. Green, A. Volbracht, aldermen; Glen McNeal, city clerk; Lilah Boyd, treasurer; A.L. Sederwall, marshal and street commissioner; Geo. Grammer, engineer, Jas. W. Evans, police magistrate.
Following are the principal merchants and professional people of Barry in 1929: Dry goods: L.F. Bright, W.H. Ogle; clothing, J. Sessel & Co., Clark & Barnes; Furniture, Wendorff & Co., B.A. Campbell; Grocers, Crump & Son, Kiefer’s, Krogers Grocery & Bakery; G.W. Buffington; books & stationery, G.L. Ware; hardware, Grammer Ramsey Co. A. Vollbracht, T.F. O’Brien; Lawson Hardware Co.; Meat markets, L.G. Brown, A.H. Davis; novelty store, G.J. Clifton; bakery, city; cigar manufacturer, J. E. Dennis; poultry, Bartholomew Bros., Barr & Sparrow, E. Scotten, electric supplies, C.I.P.S. Co., Alva Kaylor; feed mill and coal, E.E. Bonifield, Barry Milling and Grain company; telephone, Pike Col. Tel. Col; monuments, Retallic & Garrett; electric lights, Central Illinois Public Service Company; filling stations, C. A. Doyle, F. H. Tholen, Geo. Lippencott; drug store, H. F. Behrenmeyer, Ed. F. White; banks, First National, Barry State; hotel, Potter House; bakery; restaurants, C.E. Mason, Nicols & Fusselman; garage, Lease Motor Co., John Lamp, W.E. Peterson, F.H. Tholen.
'The Scotch Group - Scottish Settlers in Barry
(William Walcott Watson, 1929, privately published)
There was a time when Barry had quite a number of Scotch residents within her borders. They began locating here about 1842. Nearly all the men were tradesmen in the old country, but in America they took up other occupations, as a rule. Some of the men brought wives and families with them. Families represented were the Nicols, Whites, Holmes, Carswell, Watson and Hamiltons, nearly all of whom had several descendants.
The senior members of the Nicol family were Mathew and Michael and their wives. The two brothers came from the Highlands of Scotland and were shepherds of sheep in that country. Mathew engaged in basket making and gardening for a living after arriving here and Michael settled on a farm for a few miles southeast of town. Mathew had a son and daughter, and Michael had four sons and three daughters. The children of both parents reached their majorities and resided in the neighborhood for several years, but some of them moved to the western country.
Thomas and Esther White were married in the old country, and brought their children here with them. They located on a farm near town. Of the family were seven sons and one daughter. The sons were Louis D., Thomas, John W., Alexander, Wm. F., Arch and George. The daughter was Esther, who married Wm. Nicol. All these or at least most of them reared families. L. D. engaged in the hardware and tinner business, and later located at Quincy; Thomas conducted a stove foundry at Quincy; Alexander was a book binder, and engaged in merchandising with his brother Wm. F., who was a carpenter in his native land; John W. was cooper and had a shop here. Nearly all of these married ladies of their own nationality.
The Hamilton family was represented by Alex and John, the former being a tailor and the latter following the carpenter trade, later taking up farming. Both married after arriving here. Alex chose a sister of Mrs. Alex. White for a companion, and John chose Annie E. Shaw, daughter of an old family in Pike County for his helpmeet.
Jon Watson and Agness Begg Watson were the parents of three sons, Thomas M., Jon B. and Wm. W., while Mary Ann Jessie was a daughter by a former marriage. Both parents taught school on arrival in this country, and afterward conducted a store. Of the sons, Thomas M., became a physician and located at Griggsville, Jon B. engaged in merchandising at Barry and New Salem, and William W., conducted a Barry newspaper. Mary Ann Jessie married Bunyan McConnell, Thos. M. married Helena Terry, Jon B. married Permelia Hall for his first wife and at her death took for a helpmeet Fannie B. Robb, William W. married Margaret Alice Bonnell of Griggsville. All of the Watsons have descendants.
James Holmes was a tradesman and married Elizabeth Wilson of Scotland. Their children were Jessie, Mary, Chas. M. and Elizabeth. Jessie married Wm. A. Peck and raised a large family; Mary married Jas. McTucker; Chas. M. married Nettie Barney and is still engaged in the blacksmith business in Barry; Elizabeth married J.H. Hall, and raised a family in our city. James Holmes was a volunteer in the civil war and served with credit. He was appointed postmaster of Barry soon after the close of the war.
John Carswell married Sarah Wilson in his native land. They had several daughters, of whom Sarah was married to Theo. Doran; Katie is unmarried; Maggie married Mr. Dane; Ray married Geo. Lewis, and Lena married Harry Hutchinson. There was also an afflicted daughter named Eliza. Sarah is dead; Ray and Lena are widows, and Maggie lives with her husband in Texas. John Carswell was a tailor and also conducted a confectionery store here.
With the exception of the Nicol and Hamilton families all of the others were related to our family. Mrs. Esther White was a sister of our father, and Mrs. Jas. Holmes, Mrs. John White and Mrs. John Carswell were his nieces.
Of the group mentioned all the elder members have passed away. They were quite an addition to Barry both socially and commercially, in their day. They were frugal and industrious, and altogether good and useful citizens. Like most groups of foreigners they found most pleasure in their own society and with their own kind, until they were well settled and acquainted. Some of them did quite a little in social entertainments. Mathew Nicol was a bagpiper and brought this instrument with him when he came. He delighted to entertain crowds at the country school houses and at parties in town. I was not especially fond of his music, but there was a novelty to it that appealed to most people. Wm. F. White had dramatic talent and took great pride in displaying it, especially at social events. His specialty was Dickens characters. In the social entertainments he attended there were nearly always persistent calls for his rendition of sketches, and he could always be relied on to respond. He was always a feature of the Masonic socials, which used to be annual events of prominence.
The Scots were noted for their observance of their holidays, the principal one of which was Halo’ween night. Oct. 31st was always celebrated, as also was Bobby Burns birthday. They had their own kind of amusements. One of the principal ones was the antics employed Hllow’een night, when the children would assemble around a tub of water that contained a supply of small apples. The amusement was to dip their head into the water and catch the apples in their mouth. It was not easily performed, and the successful ones were rewarded for their skill. Merriment followed these efforts. The children had a lively time on these occasions and the grown people enjoyed them with the children.
Our family have the most kindly recollection of our cousin Kate White, who devoted time to nursing and did much good in that way in the community. We have always given her credit for saving the life of our son who was ill with lung fever and nearly died and would but for her efforts.
Another attribute of Mrs. John White and her husband was their religious proclivities. They were certainly profoundly religious, and belonged to the group my mother affiliated with. They never variated from the course mapped out during their entire lives. Often when boys we visited their home and talked over their old time Scotch experiences, to our pleasure. They were sure to refer to their religious views some time during their conversations. One expression they used so often was impressed indelibly upon our minds; that was about “wars and rumors of wars” in which they were confident that at some time soon all the world would be engaged. How true that came about in 1914, when the world war broke out. I often think of it.
The Conflagration of 1894
William Walcott Watson, 1929, privately printed
When the alarm of fire sounded on the air at 4:30 on the morning of March 30, 1894, it struck terror to those who heard it. And well it might have. Such a conflagration had never visited Barry before. It was evident from the first there would be great destruction of property. The flames first broke out in the Hollembeak opera house, located at the corner of the alley on the north side of Block 23, where a dance had taken place the night before. Our home was on the west side of the same block, and part of the lot was taken up with my printing office building. Dr. F.G. Varney occupied rooms in the upper story of his brick building, which stood just across the street from the opera house. He was the first to discover the fire, and the alarm that he gave was in such a distressing voice that it startled me. I then realized that something awful had happened and hastened to the scene. A glance at the flames convinced me of the enormity of the situation, and I hurried back home and informed Mrs. Watson of the danger we had ahead of us. She at once took charge of the removal of our furniture to the street a block away while I organized a force and got what merchandise I could out of the J.B. Watson hardware store which was located in a building adjoining the opera house. Jon B. not having yet heard of the fire. Others were then removing what they could of my printing outfit to a place of safety.
The fire department was soon on the scene, but the water supply was not equal to the emergency, one after another of the store buildings went down with their contents. Some owners outside of the range of the first destroyed were fortunate in saving quite an amount of their stocks. The entire north half of Block 23 was laid waste; then the south half of Blk 20; then the southeast quarter of Block 21, and finally all but one building of the northwest quarter of Block 22. Fortunately no lives were lost and no person was seriously injured, which was remarkable for such a disastrous fire.
Some fifty person s in all were losers in the fire, among whom the principals were: J.B. & A.J. Chamberlin, building and stock; Masonic Lodge, building and outfit; J.H. Mallery, building and stock; J.B. Watson, stock; C.W. Goodale, stock; G.D. Mayes & Son, building and stock; Dr. Varney, building, furniture and grocery stock; Dr. G.W. Doyle, residence; Wm. Bright, residence and furniture; City of Barry, city building’ John Siegle, building and stock; F. M. McNeal, grocery stock; Thornton & Pitts, harness stock; D.K. Weiss, drugs; J. Weber, building; J. J. Hughes, furniture stock; C.H. Ware, stationery; Hollembeak & Son, building and stock; W.B. Powell, cigar stock; Wike Bros., warehouse, and more than a score of other light loses. Our own loss was on our home and contents and on the printing office equipment and building, amounting to about $5,000. The total property loss was over $100,000 with insurance covering about two-thirds of it, nearly all of the insurance being in my agency. Those who have had experience in such matters will realize how busy I was with all that on my hands, and trying at the same time to get out the Adage at the same time. Several insurance adjustors arrived the following week and I had to give them attention. Every loss was adjusted and fairly so, and prompt settlement was made.
The Weekly Adage for that week and the next week or two was printed in the Democrat office at Pittsfield, our own employees setting the type, first in that office and next in the Independent office at Griggsville. The paper was out on time and never missed an issue, although it took strenuous work to make the record.
During this time I had purchased a cylinder press at Quincy and had it set up in the Jeff Pence blacksmith shop, the only available location I could find. There the press work of the Adage was done until a new office building could be built on the old location. The type setting during that time was done in the second story of the Churchill building at the northwest corner of the city park. We were soon in our new building, however, as it was rapidly constructed.
When it came time to move the press to the new building, I had it loaded bodily on a low wheeled wagon and transported it without trouble, then slid it right into its place on the floor. It was rather risky thing to do, but to dismantle the press and then set it up again would have been a big job and we had no time to spare, so I took the chances and won.
Everywhere in the burned district there was hustle and bustle, clearing away rubbish and getting ready to rebuild. Property owners who did not care to rebuild sold out to others who did. Building activities were going strong. The Adage office was the first to be completed, then followed in rapid succession many other buildings, until by late fall of that year nearly every vacant space was occupied with new and better brick buildings. So far as the town was concerned the fire was “a benefit in disguise,” but it was hard on some of the individual losers. Our town now compares well with other towns of its size in this or any other state.
One good result of the fire was the improvement in the fighting apparatus and the water system. We now have a well-trained volunteer company that does excellent work, and they are equipped with two fine motor fire trucks and plenty of hose, so that they are equal to any ordinary fire. Of course, when a conflagration comes along as it did in 1894 it can hardly be expected they could cope with it.
William Walcott Watson, 1929, privately printed
Barry Chautauqua has long held a place in the estimation of our citizens. It was organized about the year 19-- and has grown in influence and favor until to-day it is recognized as one of the strong independent chautauquas of the country. According to all who seem to know our Chautauqua is one of two that operates on the Barry plan. It is unique in that it sells season tickets that admit the holder to twelve excellent entertainments for one dollar. It is in this respect that it is a marvel to managers of other entertainments of a similar character.
Barry Chautauqua started out as a ten-day enterprise. It has a history. One evening in the store of J.B. Watson, in Barry, a group of men casually met and in the discussion that usually follows such a meeting the subject of carnivals came up, their effects on a community, and especially on the young people, and how to counteract their influence. Many suggestions were offered and discussed, and finally Rev. D.V. Gowdy, who was present, offered a concrete proposition that instantly met with the approbation of the company. He proposed the organization of a Chautauqua. He had formerly had some experience in that line and felt that it could be made a go on the plan he outlined, which was to sell one thousand season tickets at one dollar each and put the full sum in talent, counting on the single admission s to cover the incidental expenses. It was decided to undertake the experiment. That evening after I went home I gave the matter considerable thought and sized up the community as I knew it and made a list of persons I was reasonably sure would pledge to take season tickets. Some were listed for ten tickets, some for five, and others for smaller numbers. On the strength of this estimate I decided to give it a try-out myself. I did so and remarkable as may appear I secured from nearly every person I had listed the number of season tickets I had allotted to him in my mind. O the desired one thousand pledges I secured fully ninety percent, and the balance of the number was obtained by others.
The organization of the Chautauqua proceeded with along the lines suggested by Rev. Gowdy, and the following August the first entertainments were given under the management of Rev. Gowdy. It was held on the public school grounds, as in fact every annual entertainment since then to 1928 has been held. The ten days were occupied and the numbers were satisfactory. Of course, they were not first-class, but they were very good, considering the price. Selecting the talent was not so easy as one would think. I have held a place on that committee ever since the organization was formed, and am still with it, but am trying to make way for a younger person, but with indifferent success.
Ten days were soon found to be too long and the sessions were reduced to eight days, and afterward to six days, which seems to be about the proper number to suit the average audience. At the start we used a small tent, and as the crowds increased we increased the size of the tent. We now use a tent 70 X 110 feet in size. For a long time we have used chairs for seating instead of the common circus ones used at first.
Conducting an independent Chautauqua we found it advisable to patronize different bureaus in selecting our talent. That feature has proved quite successful. The different bureaus knew if they did not come up to contracts that would end our patronage. Two or three bureaus found that out to their sorrow some time ago. Those we have dealt with are the Coit Abler Company, Chautauqua Managers Association, Jas. B. Shaw, and the Lohr Independent Chautauqua Company of Bloomington, Ill. Talent for several years now is costing us about $1,500 annually. Now and then a weak number slips in on us the best we can do, but as a rule the programs are highly appreciated and that is what is most desirable. Varied programs are most appreciated; that is what we try and secure.
Among the talent we have listed in the past are the following: Lecturers, Stricklen Gillilan, Wm. J. Bryan, Senator Pat Harrison of Mississippi, Judge George Alden, Rev. Jas. S. Montgomery, Rev. Roy F. Smith, “Mother” Lake, Gabriel Maguire, Bob Seeds, Wm. Rainey Bennett, Lincoln McConnell, Arthur, Walwyn Evans, Gov. Frank O. Lowden, Dr. Stanley Krebs, Dr. Edward Amherst Ott, Glenn Frank, Dr. Herbert Willets, Sylvester Long, Lou J. Beauchamp, Fred G. Bale, Judge Kavenaugh, Wirt Bowther, and others.
Musicians: Goforth’s orchestra, Harry Davies opera company, Chicago Ladies Orchestra, Preachers Quartette, Dixie Jubilees, Grossman’s Sympathy Orchestra, Vitalli’s Band, Philippines orchestra, Ye Old Folks Choir, Walter Eccles and his College Girls, Hruby Bohemian Orchestra, Backman’s Million Dollar Band, Illinois State Band of Quincy, Wolverine Quartette.
Entertainers: Castle Square Company, Reno the Magician, Crawford Adams Company, Jess Pugh Company, Weatherwax Brothers, DeJen the Wizard, Fisher-Shipp Company, Wm. Sterling Battis, Chief Caupolican, Howard Quintette, Totten the Magician.
While the Chautauqua has not entirely succeeded in eradicating the street carnival it has been an educator and whre in former years a good portion of the audiences would leave as soon as the lectures commence, now there is very little of that and old and young are interested in what the lecturers have to say and stay throughout the entertainment. Another thing worth noting is that never since the Chautauqua started have we been bothered with drunken or noisy persons on the grounds, nor has there been any need of police protection.
Other Amusements in Barry's History
William W. Watson, 1929, Privately Printed
Barry has long been noted as an amusement center. In former years, when circuses could afford to visit towns of our size they were always patronized by large crowds. The first circus that exhibited in our place so far as recorded was the Van Amburg show, a small attraction, and it spread its tents in the public park. In other years we had the Ringling Brothers circus, Adam Forepaugh show, John O’Brien’s circus, Heming, Cooper and Whitby show, W.W. Coles’s circus, Walter L. Main show, Gollmar Brothers circus, and others. Several of these obtained national reputations in after years.
In the early days of the circus business they always traveled overland with teams and wagons. Then it was that youngsters like myself would arise about four o’clock circus morning and walk out on the highway several miles to meet the cavalcade, always waiting to the last for the band wagon, which nearly always trailed the rest of the outfit. We also had a way of working our way into the shows by carrying water for the animals and horses or doing some other drudgery we would never thought of doing at home. In later days since the advent of concrete roads many of the smaller shows travel by motor cars and trucks. The railroad rates are now so high that only the large shows can afford that mode of travel.
Dramatic and musical companies and other entertainments of a similar nature have always been well received here. We could boast in having opera houses in those days, which were inducements for these companies to come here.
Starting with the old grout church, which was built by the Universalists about 1858 and which was purchased by C. & S. Davis and W.F. White & Bro. along in the seventies and re-modeled and improved, it was quite presentable and filled the want. A lot of good shows were held there; in fact, the building came into general use for all sorts of entertainments and public gatherings. Hollembeak opera house came next, after the old opera house had outlived its purpose, and served the community for several years before it was destroyed in the big fire of 1894. The next opera house was built by John Weber and Frank McNeal , on Lots 7 and 8, Block 20. It was a very substantial and modern one, built of brick and finished in true opera house style. This building was destroyed Jan. 26, 1914, after several years use.
I recall some of the old time companies that visited Barry: Simon & Kendall’s dramatic company, A. J. Sharpley’s with Aida Lawrence (Mrs. Sharpley) as leading lady, Kendall’s dramatic company, with Fred Felton as leading actor. The Crowe Sisters company, Kibler’s Band and Dramatic company, Beach & Bowers Minstrels, Carter’s Jubilees, etc., most of which made annual visits to our town and were favorites of our citizens.
Like other traveling companies the above entertainers found the railroad rates prohibitive and it followed that they had to retire from the road. Of the number listed most all of the performers have long since passed from the stage and probably have passed from earth. Such companies are not seen in the smaller town now. The companies that do come to our town are as a rule tent shows such as the Darr & Gray company, who travel overland in autos and exhibit only in the summer and fall. Motion picture entertainments have largely succeeded the other kind of shows in recent years. Barry has a very good one of this kind and is right up to date in serving its patrons with an excellent run of pictures. Our theatre is operated in connection with one at Pittsfield and is managed by Russell Armentrout of that place, is in much favor as a promoter.
Our town has also been in the front rank on big days, such as old setters meetings, political gatherings, Fourth of July celebrations, Decoration days, Armistice days, farmers picnics, etc., when the people turn out in large numbers. The larger the crowds the better they are liked.
One entertainment took place in the old opera house that will not soon be forgotten by any person who was present. A dapper like fellow came along with an assistant or two and announced a fine show at the opera house that evening. He had a novel way of advertising. He went about the business part of town and displayed a large amount of cash that he proposed as an inducement for the people to go and witness the entertainment. He hired a band and otherwise added to the publicity until the citizens concluded something big was going to take place. They were right about it only it showed up in a way they were not expecting. The house was crowded. After a vaudeville program was given, the fellow put on a real entertainment. Calling a couple of prominent citizens to the stage, he announced that his business there was really to advertise the O.I.C. soap, a new and excellent grad of soap, as he stated. His way of doing the advertising was to distribute cash in such a way they would always remember, and every once in a while he would throw out to the audience a handful of silver pieces for the men and boys to scramble over. Then he brought out a box of envelopes, all numbered and several of them having money sticking out in view of the audience. At this point he called upon the committee on the stage to examine the envelopes to satisfy the audience. Then he began selling the envelopes in genuine lottery style, all the while impressing upon the minds of the citizens his soap advertising. The audience became enthusiastic and the dollars rolled into his till, all expecting to receive in return some of the bills. Finally the drawing took place but the dollars failed to show up. A madder lot of persons is not often seen, and the cry of fraud went up. Men took after the fakir, but he was too quick for them and he rushed out of the opera house by a rear door and boarded a carriage in waiting. That was the last seen of him. He surely advertised the O.I.C. soap, but our people were out about $1,000 by the game he played. The incident is still well remembered in our town.
Several years ago N.R. Davis built a large hall for roller skating and other similar purposes. That craze did not last long, and as the building was not showing a rental profit it was offered for sale. It was the place needed for large gatherings and basket ball and other games played indoors.
Fearing the public might be deprived of the use of the building by the sale of it for commercial purposes, a group of citizens, numbering forty, contributed $100 each to a fund and purchased it. An addition to the hall was built at a cost of $2,000 and a stage, curtains, scenery, etc., was secured at a further cost of $700. The property was then leased to the board of education to be used for school entertainments, etc. Basket ball games also have their place in the school program, and the public has the opportunity of leasing it for meetings and entertainments. The building is known as the Coliseum. It is still owned by several of the original purchasers but the control of it is with John Snider and myself, who own more than half of the stock. The officers of the organization are L.F. Bright, president; J.M. Snider, Secretary; and W.W. Watson, treasurer. The property was leased year before last to the board of education at $600 per year, which is helping wipe out the indebtedness caused by the improvements.
Long before the cahautauqua was started and established with other enterprising citizens I took interest in Lyceum courses for winter entertainments. We had one of these courses nearly every winter. We would go out and take pledges early in the season for season tickets, but if that preliminary was overlooked we generally were called upon to make up a deficit at the close of the course. For a long time this soliciting fell to Harry Hollembeak and myself, although others would help a little at times.
We usually contracted with the Redpath bureau for the talent, as it was the main bureau in that line. Some important personages appeared on our platform during the years we operated. Of the number may be mentioned, Theodore Tilton, George R. Wendling, Geo. W. Bain, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Bingham, Frances E. Willard, Ralph Parlette.
Of late years the Lyceums have been fostered by some society about town or by some department of the public schools.