WhiteHall  Area History

As early as 1831 James Allen and Beverly Holliday were living on the present site of White Hall, the former of whom was the proprietor of a tavern, which was one of the only two public houses (hotel) between Jacksonville and Carrollton. The tavern was a long white building that when the stage coach was approaching the driver would call “Next Stop the White Hall.” Legend has it that this was how the town got its name. This tavern was said to be located at the corner of Main and Franklin streets. Mr. Holliday lived south of James Allen in a small log cabin. He was the first postmaster and first merchant. Mr. Holliday was also a mill owner, having erected in 1833 a carding mill, which was at first run by foot power then later by steam. In 1832 David Barrow bought 80 acres from Asahel North for $200 and laid out the town of White Hall. The village originally consisted of 48 lots laid out along the old state road. In 1832 while in Springfield, veteran potter, J. N. Eby becomes “very anxious” to manufacture stoneware. He tested many portions of clay from around Illinois and found out that only the White Hall clay to successful in firing. That proved so encouraging that in 1833 he went to the land office in Edwardsville and purchased the majority of the land possessing this fine clay. He had no kiln, but he hauled the green ware to Edward Heath’s Kiln, and there burned the first stoneware made in Greene County. In 1835 Samuel Higbee came to White Hall and opened a wagon shop which some years later developed into a good-sized wagon and buggy factory. In 1840 the population of White Hall was about 350 with 50 houses. In 1843 Josiah Lamborn White Hall native was elected Attorney General of Illinois, though his term lasted only three years he was prosecutor in the murder trial of Mormon leader Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois. Mr. Lamborn was contemporaries with Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and John Nicolay. It was said that Mr. Nicolay lived in the White Hall Amos Hotel for “considerable time.” He later became Lincoln’s private secretary and biographer at the White House in Washington. Edward L Hagar grew up in White Hall where he was engaged in farming. On November 15, 1861 he enlisted at Carrollton in Company A 61st Illinois Infantry presumably as a member of band, fife and drum corp. Military records show he was 16 years of age. (Though local records disagree) The 61st Illinois was one of the many proud units which took part in the battle of Shiloh at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, on April 6, 1862. The Confederates launched a strong attack against the Union forces. It was in this battle that Private Hager was mortally wounded. He was returned to White Hall were he died of his wounds on May 30, 1862. (Legend says that young Hager put down his drum and took up a musket during the heat of the battle) David Lemon White Hall native son was the fist to fire an engine over the newly completed transcontinental railroad in May of 1869. Mr. Lemon at age 78 had this to say of his experience, "The ceremonies marking the linking of the East with the West in the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad on May 10, 1869, remain vivid in my mind. The line from Sacramento east and the one from Omaha west met on Promontory Summit in Utah and the driving of the golden spike was the last act to mark the finishing of the first transcontinental railroad line to be built in America. This gold spike was about the size of a 20-penny wire nail, square, and was placed in the hole already made to accommodate it by Superintendent H. M. Hoxie, of the Utah division. Through the use of the telegraph each stroke of the hammer was heard by President U. S. Grant in Washington. My engine was the first to pass over the spot; then the gold spike was removed and presented to Governor Leland Stanford, who was President of the Central Pacific Railroad. This spike is said to be on exhibition in the Leland Stanford University at this time. When the gold spike had been removed and replaced by an ordinary iron spike, I remarked to Superintendent Hoxie that some one would pull that spike, and that I'd like to have it. After some hesitation the superintendent said: 'You saved my life once, and also that of Engineer Oman Stimpson here. Let's go and get that spike for you. This was done and Superintendent Hoxie erected a notice that the last spike driven at that point had been removed and another substituted. The original iron spike was handed to me and I am now transferring it to the Whiteside-Griswold Memorial library of White Hall.” In 1870, A. D. Ruckel and M. C. Purdy arrived in White Hall from Dayton, Ohio. Both men had a large stoneware industry. Forming a partnership, Ruckel and Purdy bought he pottery owned by Charles Garbett. They enlarged the building and installed the first steam powered engine to be used in a White Hall pottery. In 1883 Ruckel purchased the D. C. Banta pottery, located on Worchester Avenue. This shop and kiln had been originally built by C. B. Eby. During the month of July 1882, J. G. Kinder erected a building in White Hall and commenced the business of cutting out chair and other furniture frame stuff, and shipping it, in the rough to various points. In October, 1883, the firm of Kinder & More was formed, and erecting large additions to their building, they commenced the manufacture of chairs. This they carried until March, 1885 when the “White Hall Chair Factory” was formed J. G. Kinder became the general manager of the factory. They made no “low priced goods,” but made some 14 different styles of chair. They employed about 40 people. In 1891 the Chair Factory was destroyed by fire. On April 19, 1927 a tornado of gigantic proportions come roaring through Greene County. In the little Centerville Country School 16 pupils and their teacher Annie Louise Keller were tending to class. At about 12:15pm when most of the children had finished their lunches, the wind suddenly come up and a small pony shed that sat next to the school was blown away. Annie realized that the situation was serious and herded the children back in the building and told them to remain under their desks. This they did, the fury of tornado struck at 12:18pm. Much of the upper part of the building was blown off, but being unprotected and with her attention directed toward the children Annie was struck by flying debris and instantly killed.