Friday, January 20, 2012
Isaac's Years in Rossville, Illinois
During 1870 & 1871, Isaac had been the proprietor of a drug store, but he had chosen to sell that business when the railroad came to Rossville. Druggists in those days sold liquor "for medicinal purposes," and Isaac was concerned that an unsavory crowd would arrive in town along with the railroad and cause trouble for him as a respectable businessman, demanding liquor for reasons other than their health.
Eventually the idea of a railroad began to gain favor, and the Bonds passed. The dispute shifted to where the depot should be built. Isaac described the conflict: "Somehow no public certainty yet where Rossville is to have its Depot for R.R., on Gilbert's, Livingyard's or Henderson's. Some tugging by each, but I guess old Gilbert will about win the stakes...Seem being conducted rather quiet & reserved." Isaac sided with Henderson, but Gilbert had been an early supporter of bringing the railroad to town, and Isaac suspected that the railroad would reward him by giving him the site.
We arrived in Rossville a few minutes after four o'clock, and because we had a schedule to keep in order to reach our destination in time for the seminar, we could not linger. Consequently, we only peeked through the windows of the closed Historical Society Museum and Railroad Station Museum, both of which looked very interesting. We also enjoyed driving some of the streets, although we found nothing that appeared to date back as far as Isaac's time.
Isaac's years in Rossville were good ones for him. After selling his drug store business, he was tempted by the possibilities of participating in the town being built near Hoopes Farm, prospering as the town grew. Instead, he stayed in Rossville to form a milling business with his cousin Henry and a man named Mr. Ross. He also bought two lots in the "New Town" development of Rossville, planning to build a home with a separate library for all of his books. Although like many others he was eventually drawn further West where he claimed a homestead on the Kansas prairie, for more than a decade and even during hard financial times when his need for money was desperate, he kept the lots he owned in Rossville, perhaps imagining he might someday return, or perhaps only unwilling to sell because of the memories of old friends and good times there.
Rossville is still a charming town, and the arrival of the railroad did not ruin it after all, despite the concerns shared by Isaac and many of the established merchants. Next week I will share our journey as we replicated Isaac's trip with friends in a borrowed buggy to see the location of the proposed intersection of two rail lines where "Hoopestown" was supposed to be built.