A man named Stanton bought land here, then decided to move on and gave the land to the village for a square. At the meeting to discuss the post office someone suggested they name the village Stanton as a “thank you” to Mr. Stanton. The suggestion was accepted and the application for a post office at Stanton went off to Washington, D.C. There the clerk who handled the request must have thought those westerners couldn’t spell. The grant came back with the name spelled S-t-a-u-n-t-o-n, which is the name of a town in the Appalachian region of Virginia. It would take time and effort to have the error corrected, and no one really cared. Staunton, Virginia was and still is pronounced “Stanton”. And so it was in Staunton, Illinois for many years. Some say that the people here began saying Staunton as we do today only after their throats were so full of coal dirt that they could no longer say Stanton. (Source 1)
o Important addition because it brought in people and trade o Staunton goes from a subsistent farm community to a trade-based one
o Unincorporated village from 1830-1859
o Won a gold medal for “Jack Frost Flower” at Paris World Exposition (1875)
o Achieved a population of 2209 in 1890 (sufficient enough to apply for “City” status) o F.E. Godfrey serves as first mayor
o Staunton continued to grow in the twentieth century. Many of the buildings that make up what is now downtown Staunton were built around the turn of the century.
predicted that it would be three times this size by 1912. A real estate ad taken from the Staunton Star-Times on October 14, 1907 urges citizens to buy land quickly, as “Staunton will become a city of 15,000 people in five years’ time and every lot in McKinley Addition will double or triple in value”. (source 2) Although a good marketing ploy, Staunton would never approach even half of that anticipated size, and still today remains at only a third of that predicted population.
o The Centennial Celebration lasted from June 28 through July 4, 1959, and included games, a parade, and concessions. One interesting happening was the “Judging of the Beards”, or the “Brothers of the Brush” contest, in which members of the community grew long beards to show respect and to honor those of past generations. (source 1) Note: My Grandpa actually ran this contest, and ironically, since he was a barber, it probably hurt his own business for a while. However, the celebration of Staunton’s history must have taken precedence, and I think his actions, as well as others who dedicated time and money towards the Centennial Celebration, are indicative of Staunton’s close-knit and dedicated community members. Perhaps the beards also represented a socially acceptable way for males to escape the conformity of the 1950s. Either way, the celebration indicated a proud and thankful citizenry honoring its community’s history.
Ethnic background of settlers
o Two large mounds of slag that rise from prairie farmland on the outskirts of Staunton tell much about the history and the present status of the small city. The size of the piles indicates many years of deep shaft coal production, while the weeded erosions indicate the tipples have been idle for years. Mining started here shortly before the Civil War. It ended shortly before World War II. When the shafts were operating, they provided most of the employment in the town. (Source 3) Note: although it has been said that coal mining had started in Staunton before the Civil War era, I found no indication of that in any other source. All of these indicate that coal mining first started in Staunton in 1869.
o The Labor Temple was built in 1914 by the Local Miners Union. The front doors of this fine structure opened onto an attractive lobby with a wide stairway to the second floor on the right and a ticket office centered between two entrances to a large auditorium which had a sloping floor, aisles between three sections of comfortable seats and in front a large, well-arranged stage. This auditorium had the first air conditioning system to be found anywhere within thirty-five miles of Staunton. From Tuesday through Sunday it was a theatre showing first-run movies for many years. The first Monday of each month the Miners Union held their meeting there. The other Mondays could be booked for graduations, dramatic or musical productions by local groups, speakers, etc. Upstairs were toilet facilities, several small conference or committee meeting rooms, and a large hall where lodges met and dances and receptions could be held. (Source 1)
The last coal mine in Staunton closed down in 1951.
World War I
United States rushed towards open hostility, even President Woodrow Wilson remarked on the “apparent apathy in the Middle West”. (Source 4)
1918, the local union decided, through vigilante tactics, to “Americanize” the City. (Source 4) o With one man at the head carrying a large American flag, the mob made its way to various homes in Staunton where…persons whose loyalty was not of the 100 percent kind resided. At each of more than one hundred houses visited, the crowd hammered on doors and forced men inside to come out into the street where they were required to kiss the flag, sign loyalty pledge cards, salute the flag, or make other manifestations of patriotism. (Source 4)
o Following the two nights of loyalty demonstrations in Staunton, the area’s press gave enthusiastic support to the actions. The Staunton Star-Times announced that “the members of Local Union 755 [were] to be heartily congratulated on what they accomplished”…Other district papers not only supported the Staunton superpatriots but implied that such actions were required elsewhere in the area. The Mt. Olive Herald congratulated the Staunton patriots and issued a warning: “To Staunton belongs the honor of being first in the county in a real loyalty demonstration…In the future anyone with pro-German tendencies will do well to keep their mouths shut”…The Gillespie News commended the citizens of Staunton, and explained that while “we are not believers in mob violence…under the existing circumstances we are for it, and every man who took part in the Staunton demonstration should be given a medal”…And the Chicago Tribune commended the Staunton crowd for its “zealous Americanism”. (Source 4) o The Governor of Illinois supported what the local union did in Staunton. “The people in Staunton who took the ‘Pros to a cleaning are not mobs…. They were the best citizens that can be found in the great state of ours.” (Source 4)
Great Depression and World War II
o Library Mural “Going to Work”. Note: This mural, along with several others in Illinois, was the subject of a documentary film about art done under federal sponsorship during the Great Depression. The film, which was tentatively titled Silver Lining, was sponsored by the Illinois Bicentennial Commission and the Illinois Arts Council. (Source 5)