Old Letters

Pub. in the Times-Leader, 1935
June 27, 1935

To the Editor:

After an absence from McLeansboro of more than forty years, except for brief periodic visits to seen my sister, Mrs. Douglas Daily, it might be assumed that I have no further interest in your city or its people.  On the contrary, I can almost always find at least one item on the front page of the Times-Leader that will arrest the attention of an old timer like myself.

Last week the article of greatest interest to me concerned the movement to clean up and beautify the courthouse square and give the old fireproof structure a much needed coat of paint.

For purely sentimental reasons I am still interested in the old "fireproof" building that has stood so long as a landmark in the courthouse square.  It was built in the early days by my grandfather, Lofton Echols, out of brick manufactured by himself on his farm three miles west of McLeansboro.

Ninety-five years ago my grandfather, then a young man of twenty-five years, felt the urge to leave his home in East Central Tennessee and migrate as many of his neighbors had done to the new state of Illinois.  The Black Hawk War, a few years before, had removed the last of the troublesome Indian tribes from the state, and there was a large migration of Southerners to Southern Illinois.

Having learned the brick-laying trade and the art of brick manufacture in Tennessee, my Grandfather Echols became probably the original brick-maker of Hamilton County, and the builder of not only the "fireproof" but many other early buildings of McLeansboro.

Other pleasant memories cling about the old fireproof building.  It was here that Johnson H. Lane--later Judge Lane--for many years had his office when he was our very efficient County Superintendent of Schools.  Many a chilly afternoon on Saturday in winter in my schoolboy days when I "went to town" I have toasted my shins before the welcome stove in his office.  I owe much to Johnson H. Lane and wish he were alive to hear--or read--this confession.  He was a recent graduate of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor when elected county superintendent.  Thereafter his periodic visits on horseback to the little white schoolhouse at Elm Grove stimulated my boyish imagination and ambition as nothing else ever did before or afterwards.  In the first place he was scrupulously neat and well dressed.  This of itself made upon me a profound impression--for well dressed men in that part of the world at that time were a rarity.  His inspirational talks before the often dirty-faced and ragged children always left me thrilled with a secret resolve not to be content with a common school education.  For education, plus hard work, was as he made me see it, the only power by which I could possibly lift myself out of the mud and out of obscurity.  Blessed be his memory.

Too bad I didn't tell him all this when he was living.  But then it's a common human failing to save the flowers for the funeral.  Reminds me of old man Kelley who had to die to get into the parlor.

Chester M. Echols.

Note: Dr. Echols taught Elm Grove School in 1892 and the following year he entered college.  He became a doctor and surgeon in Milwaukee, Wis., and continued until his death in 1950.  Lofton Echols was one of the founders of Blooming Grove Church in 1850.

From: Goshen Trail's
Vol. 11, No. 3, July 1975
Printed by permission.

Copyrighted @ 1999

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