Knoxville, September 13, 1853


by Terry Hogan


Knoxville on Tuesday, September 13, 1853. It was not a particularly historical day for Knoxville.  In fact, chances are it was a fairly normal day in Knoxville's history.  But that is good.  What makes it unusual is that I have a tattered and torn copy of The Knoxville Journal, published that day. To be precise, I have Issue # 49 of Volume IV of The Knoxville Journal, so I surmise it had its origins only about four years earlier. So what does the paper tell us about Knoxville, some 152 years ago?  It tells us a little and implies a bit more.


The Knoxville Journal

First, about the paper itself. It was a weekly paper, appearing every Tuesday.  It was published on the west side of the Public Square, "In Barnett's New Brick Building."  It was only a couple of pages long, but was a very big format by contemporary standards, with each page being approximately 21 inches across and about 28 inches long. The editor of that paper was John S. Winter. Subscription rate was $1.50 a year to be paid in advance.  The editor took advantage of the opportunity to remind his readers that the paper was approaching the end of its fourth year of operation and there were readers who were from one to four years behind in paying for their subscriptions. He acknowledged that he needed the payments to meet his own debts and sought prompt payment.  He continued to observe that the fall term of the Circuit Court was to begin next Monday and this would bring many of the subscribers into town. Thus he hoped that his many friends would take time to stop by and pay what was owed him. Advertising went for $5.00 per year for a weekly appearance of six lines or less, with the opportunity to change content quarterly.


Bungee Jumping Invented in Paris

In terms of story or news content, much of the paper had little to report of local news.  Articles tended to be stories or reports reprinted from eastern newspapers. In the area of "gee, they were crazy then too", I offer up the story repeated from the Paris reporter of the New York Times that appeared on the front page of the Knoxville Journal.  It seems that bungee jumping is nothing new.  The Paris correspondent reported on the latest curiosity sharpeners which has been invented for the Parisians:

The feat of jumping from a balloon, the jumper sustained by an India-rubber rope, was duly performed on Thursday.  It was the most stupendous exhibition of daring, and address that the Parisians have yet been permitted to witnessÉ.When the balloon had reached an altitude double that of the supposed elasticity of the cord, the voltiguer appeared on the edge of the car, looked over, shut his eyes, and dove off into the space.  He fell an estimated 600 feet in 2 seconds, thus, the article calculated that he had reach a speed of three miles and a half a minute. The article concludes with the observation we are waiting now to know what is to be done next.


Doctors and Dentists

In the area of insight on daily life in Knoxville and Knox County, the ads are worth noting.  Dr. Harvey Hadle was a local dentist who ran his business at his residence, located on Timber Street. According to his ad, he was prepared to insert teeth from one to a full set.  And carious teeth were cleaned and filled with "pure gold".  Another ad notes that Dr. R. Baily had returned home and that his office was the second door from A. Ewing's corner.  This would seem from our current standards to be a questionable reference point for a medical doctor, but I suppose it was convenient for some of his patients. Dr. E.A. Hamilton also practiced in Knoxville, but his office was on the north side of the public square, in the building occupied by C. H. Lander, Tailor. And even another doctor could be found nearby.  Dr. J. W. Halsted was located just north of the Court House in the house formerly occupied by T. J. Hale, Esq.



Local railroad business seemed to be of some considerable interest.  The Knoxville Journal reported that the entire line of the Peoria and Oquawka Railroad is now under contract.  It  reported that the line from Oquawka to the main trunk was let to C. Harding and the line between Knoxville and Elmwood was placed under contract to Crugor, Secor & Company.  In another article it was reported that the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad was now to Indiantown, one train a day. To persons going north and east this the nearest point to get on line of travel; to that place we have a semi weekly hack, leaving Knoxville on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and returning from Indiantown on Wednesday and Friday mornings.  The Fare was $3.


In what was apparently the 1853 equivalent of the Legal Notice, there was a big listing of names of landowners in Knox County, published by the Central Military Tract Railroad. It was notice that on or about the third Monday of September on the first day of term of the Knox County Circuit Court, the railroad would seek appointment of Commissioners to determine compensation and damages to be paid to the owners of specified lands having right of way for the railroad company.  The right of way was set at a space of 50 feet on each side of the center line of said Railroad as staked out and located over and upon said lands.  Also what was very interesting is that the listed attorney for the Central Military Track Railroad Company was W. Selden Gale.  The notice was dated August 30, 1853.


A very short news article reported that "a large force of hands" were on site and at work on the Bureau Valley Railroad.  It was predicted that it would be built in less time, proportionally, than any other road in the west.  The article was reprinted from the Peru Gazette.



There was also an article noting the coming of the Agricultural Fair, scheduled for October 24 and 25. Apparently it was a membership organization as the article ends, A fair exhibition of the stock and products of the county will be had, and a cordial invitation I extended to all, to become members at that time.


There was a letter to the paper that a subscriber from Victoria reported a 15 feet, 3 inch corn stalk, having an ear upon it 10 feet from the ground.  Now there's news.


Hickory Nuts Wanted In Peoria

Tucker & Mansfield of Peoria placed a notice that they wanted to buy ten thousand bushels of flaxseed, and one thousand bushels shell bark hickory nuts, for which they would pay cash.



Also in the agricultural and human health arena, no self-respecting newspaper could be found that didn't have a few patent medicine ads. The Knoxville Journal carried ads for Ely's Magic Liniment, that had names of folks who attested to its merits, but the intended cure was not listed.  There also was Ely's Big Head Mixture that was a sure cure for Big Head, Curb, Splint, Bone Spavine, and Ring Bone. Ely also had Poll Evil Mixture that was a "sure cure" for that disease, as well as for Fistulous, Withers, Ulcers, and Running Sores.  Mr. Ely prepared his own cures in Mendon, Illinois, and they were sold in Knoxville by Josiah Allen.


Josiah Allen also sold a wonder drug to rid the blood of "all bad humors". This wonder drug was known as Great Western Vegetable Billious Pills (yes, two "l's" in Bilious). 


All Natural Drugs

Kier's Petroleum, or "rock oil" was touted to be the cure for rheumatism ague, chronic sore eyes, blindness, poles, cholera morbus, diarrhea, dysentery, scrofula, erysipelas, salt rheum, tetter, ringworm eruptions and pimples on the skin, burns and scalds, old sores, coughs, colds, bronchitis, affections of the lungs and windpipe, diseases of the bladder, and the list goes on. Yes, this was crude Pennsylvania oil from a well 400 feet deep.  "The proprietor has no taste for using the canting, inflated, blowing style brought to the aid of the Patent Mixtures and Nostrums of the day-conscious that this Oil, being Nature's own work, and NO HUMAN INVENTION, is fast finding its way to public favor,- nor will we make a long parade of Certificates.  In Knoxville, this all natural crude oil was sold by J. W. Brewer.


Spurious and Worthless Money

There was also an interesting article, damaged unfortunately, about how to detect "spurious and worthless" money. It appeared that the listed paper currency was a mix of issues from bad banks and bills that were altered to read higher denominations.  Banks mentioned were Northern Bank of Kentucky, Manufacturers and Mechanics Bank, Bank of Connersville, Indiana (bills were altered), Wisconsin Marine and FiÉ(paper torn here), and Bank of Rockford, Illinois (bills altered).


Another article that was reprinted from a Chicago paper noted that two counterfeit twenty dollar bills on the Marine Bank appeared in Chicago. The bank had never issued a $20 bill.


Evil Deeds

Evil deeds locally did not stop with forgery of currency.  A robbery was reported of the steamer Caroline, while it was "lying" at Hardin Illinois, about 25 miles upstream of the mouth of the Illinois River. In total, about $2,000 was stolen, including about $1,500 from one passenger who had it all in $20 gold pieces. The passenger had given it to the clerk for safekeeping. The article speculated that the robbers left the boat and traveled to St. Louis.



New Orleans Tragedy

In a remarkable coincidence, there was a small three line article that mentions the Masonic fraternity of Cincinnati has contributed and forwarded $1,200 "to the New Orleans sufferers."  No specifics of the type of suffering were mentioned in the article, but another article in the paper made reference to a yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans.  Apparently New Orleans has a history of bad luck.


Knoxville Stores

Abraham Jacobi and Henry Ullman had a large announcement in the paper that they had just received a new shipment of goods, staple and fancy dry goods from the East. Included in the list of new items were silks, delaines, cashmeres, ginghams, calicoes, alpaccas (sic), checks, laces, ribands (sic), bonnet silks, kid gloves, jeans gum suspenders, Irish linens, handkerchiefs, etc.  They also had ladies jewelry such as breast pins, finger rings, gold chains, fobs and seals, ear hooks and bracelets, gold and silver watches of the best quality and at a very low price! Their groceries for sale included teas, coffees, sugar, molasses, tobacco, raisins, soap, and "every thing used in families". Unfortunately, the location of the (assumed) Knoxville store was not given.


John Johnson of Knoxville had several small ads in the paper.  He had a great variety of hardware goods for sale such as hay knives, forks of all kings, hoes, snaths (I have no idea), spades and shovels and the like.  He also sold groceries including teas, coffee, chocolate, sugar, molasses, golden syrup, dried apples, zante currants, prunes, rice, cod fish, white fish, cigars and Boston crackers. In another part of the paper, John Johnson provided notice to those who owe him money: I am compelled to insist on immediate payment of all that are due, without exception.


For the literary minded of Knoxville, John G. Sanburg offered the largest assortment of new books ever before offered in the city of Knoxville. But the Post Office was also advertising beautiful books and elegant gilt edged and embossed note paper and envelopes. The Post Office was also the place to buy mahogany picture frames with glass.


Galesburg Stores

There were even a couple of ads from Galesburg stores.  A. C. Tyler of Galesburg had a large ad for a great variety of patent medicines, including some pretty interesting brands such as, Jew David's Hebrew Plaster, Dr. Osgood's India Chalagogue and Thompson's Eye Water.  The reader of the Knoxville Journal was also advised to visit Galesburg Depot for stoves and tinware by F. M. Smith and Loyal C. Field. They were located opposite the Military Track House. Beyond the apparent ability to construct numerous types of stoves, they also took old brass, copper, iron, beeswax, feathers, paper rags, and hides in exchange.


New Henderson Store

D. H. Frisbee had an ad announcing his new store in Henderson. The store carried a wide variety of dry goods, hosiery, groceries, wooden ware, and hardware. In fact, he claimed that all articles wanted either for comfort, luxury, or convenience could be found at the Exchange Store, and would be sold on as accommodating terms as could be obtained at any other establishment.


New Mill on Spoon River

There was a notice given of a new flour mill on the Spoon River, near Trenton.  It was reported to have a pair of first rate Burr Stones, a new bolt, and new machinery.  The mill also had a run of stones for grinding corn and is prepared to fill orders for lumber on short notice.


California Bound

For those who were interested in finding their luck in California, a notice advised them that there was a good ferry at New Boston for crossing the Mississippi River. Wagons were ferried for as little as 50 cents. While the Mississippi was in its bank, 20 to 30 trips could be made in a day. The notice was placed by Z. P. Willett.


And a Little Humor

The Knoxville Journal reprinted an article from the Detroit Advertiser concerning a shipping box at the Central Railroad Depot.  It was marked "TOM EL WOKE".  This was finally translated to mean "To Milwaukee".


Such is a quick look into an ordinary day in Knoxville, Illinois - Tuesday, September 13, 1853, about 152 years ago. As Walter Cronkite would have said, And that's the way it is.