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compiled by Barth Weistart

These stories were compiled from old issues of the Minonk News and the Minonk News-Dispatch by Barth Weistart for use by in connection with the Minonk, Illinois Sesquicentennial Celebration 1854-2004.

The Minonk News November 8, 1900

Long Drive on Automobile
A Trip to Chicago from St. Louis
Made in 36 Hours

John L. French of St. Louis is the first man to make a trip from St. Louis to Chicago on an automobile. He made the distance of 450 miles in thirty-six hours, notwithstanding the fact that he encountered bad roads and was frequently retarded by following wrong directions. He traveled without a chart, and did not try to use the most direct route. He made the journey to prove that the horseless carriage could be used satisfactorily on dirt roads of the country and that it could be depended on to climb hills and to wheel through deep mud.

The automobile in which the long drive was made is of phaeton pattern and weights 3,000 pounds. It consumed gasoline with a cost of $2 for the trip. The average speed was twelve miles and a half an hour, and the only accident was the puncturing of a tire.

"When I left St. Louis I decided to take the roads as they came," said Mr. French, when seen after his arrival in Chicago. "The farmer may understand all about the highways and byways of Illinois, but I found the roads a perfect labyrinth. The persons whom I met on the journey, and from whom I humbly inquired the best route to Chicago so often misdirected me that I lost much time. Owing to the section divisions, the roads are short and I found that I had to turn a corner every ten minutes. As the speed of the automobile had to be decreased in order to make each turn, it could not cover as great a distance as if I had been on a straight road. I am sure that I could make the trip in much better time if I were to repeat it, as I know the route now.

"Leaving St. Louis at 8 o'clock in the morning, I spent the night at Divernon, eighty-five miles away. I ran 125 miles during the day, but lost fifty miles by going out of my way-according to directions given to me by persons of whom I had asked information. I took lunch at Staunton. Near Litchfield one of the tires was punctured and I had a bad time until I reached Divernon. The country people had never seen an automobile, and my machine created a great deal of excitement. Men, women and children rushed out of the houses to look at the horseless carriage. I was surprised when I saw the astonishment with which the automobile was examined. Even the horses were amazed, and many times I was compelled to stop my vehicle in order to prevent runaways. The dogs barked at me, but they fled in terror when the machine whizzed by them.

"At Divernon I patched the punctured tire with rope and went on to Springfield. After leaving Divernon the roads were much improved for a long distance. In Springfield I had the tire mended, and then I decided to go to Chicago. I came through Sherman, Middleton, San Jose and Delaven. From Middleton to San Jose the roads were good. At Pekin I wheeled into deep sand as far as Chillicothe. Near Peoria I was compelled to get out and push my machine.

"From Chillicothe to Henry the roads were fine. I spent the night in Henry. The next morning I had a splendid drive to Seneca. I ran into a heavy storm at Minoka, and the trip for the remainder of the way into Chicago was through mud, in some places six inches deep. My brother joined me in Joliet, and the additional weight made little difference with the speed of the automobile."

The Minonk News September 14, 1899

California in Three Days

Via Chicago, Union Pacific and North-Western line. "The Overland Limited" leaves Chicago daily at 6:30 p. m. and reaches San Francisco on the evening of the third day and Los Angeles the next afternoon; no changes of cars, all meals in dining car "a la carte", buffet, smoking and library cars, with barber. "Pacific Express" leaves Chicago daily at 10:30 p. m., reaches San Francisco the fourth morning. Through tourist sleeping cars every day in the year between Chicago, California and Oregon. Personally conducted excursions every Thursday. Tourist car rate to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, $6. For tickets, reservations and full particulars apply to your nearest ticket agent or address A. H. Waggener, 22 Fifth avenue, Chicago, Ill.
The Minonk News October 7, 1899


A Country of Beautiful Homes, Good Climate and a Desirable Place to Live.

Leaving Minonk on the Thursday evening (Sept. 9) freight, we arrived in Streator in plenty time to catch the Overland passenger train for the west at 1:17 a. m. Reached Fort Madison, Iowa, at about half past 5 o'clock, where the Santa Fe machine shops are located. The route through Missouri was a hot and dusty one. Fields of corn appeared to be rapidly drying up, and pastures were bare. Some of the land looked like it would be good, but the greater portion looked poor. Reached Kansas City at 2 p. m. The main points of interest in Kansas that the Santa Fe passes through are Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, Florence, Burrton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City. When nearing Emporia, we viewed the wreck of three engines that were in that terrible collision a day or two previous. The three engines exploded, and were a shapeless mass of twisted rods and scrap iron. Western Kansas is rolling prairie land, with only a farm house or a dug-out here and there. No corn to be seen except an occasional patch of Kaffir corn. Entering the state of Colorado the land appears to improve. We passed over many creeks and a river or two that were dry-not a drop of water to be seen. Farm houses are mostly one story and built of stone.

At Las Animas we shook hands with C. L. Walker, who was formerly station agent at Minonk. Mrs. Walker and children were at the depot, and we had a short talk with them. They are getting along nicely and like their western home. Mr. Walker appears much improved in health.

At La Junta we stopped for dinner. Here is where the natives sold cantaloupes for a cent each, and watermelons as large as a water pail for five cents each. The next stop of any importance was Trinidad, from which point we could see the Spanish Peaks, and in the hazy distance the outline of Pike's Peak. Passing through Colorado, we entered New Mexico by the Raton Pass or tunnel. From Trinidad to Raton, two mountain engines pulled the train of five cars up grade. The scenery was magnificent. At Albuquerque we seen many Pueblo Indians, who were selling fruit and fancy pottery ware to the passengers. From Albuquerque to Laguna we passed through what is known as the Lava Beds. Indians were thick at every station, trying to sell something. Between Laguna and Holbrook we passed over the Continental Divide, and through Fort Wingate. Stopped at Winslow for breakfast. Near this place passes the Little Colorado river. After leaving Winslow the country was level, and suddenly we passed over Canon Diablo, which is 650 feet deep. At Flagstaff we seen the San Francisco mountains and cliff and cave dwellings. At Flagstaff the change is made by those who wish to visit the Grand Canyon on the Colorado river, which is 70 miles distant. Before reaching Flagstaff we passed through forests of mammoth cedar trees that looked like they might be standing in a vast park. A blinding rain greeted us for a short time, and the air turned cold and pleasant. We reached Needles at dusk. It is called Needles because three great sharp pointed mountain peaks rise high in the air near by. It was here that we passed over the Colorado river on the great Cantilever bridge. The Mojave Indians had bows and arrows and pottery ware of their own manufacture to sell, and they hung around the passengers until the train pulled out. From Needles we entered the great state of California, and from there to Barstow is lava beds or a desert, and the air was quite warm, but after leaving Barstow two blankets and a sheet were not uncomfortable. We reached San Bernardino in time for breakfast, and the air was cool enough for an overcoat, for we had met one of those noted California fogs.

From this point to Los Angeles we passed through continuous groves of orange and lemons trees, vineyards and English Walnut ranches.

Reached Los Angeles at 8:30 Monday morning. After dinner I went out to 237 East 27th Street and called on Mrs. C. P. Waterman and Edna. Mr. W. was away from home. Had a nice visit, and found them enjoying good health and delighted with their California home. They live in a neat cottage, which they erected since going there, and have a lovely home which is well furnished and conveniently arranged. Their health is fairly good, and Edna isn't a little girl any more, but is taller than her mother and is the picture of good health. We met Miss Affie Hester who enjoys living there so much.

Los Angeles is a beautiful city. In 1890 she contained 50,000 inhabitants. In 1896 the census gave her 102,000. Fine structures are going up on every street down town. Factories of various kinds are being started, and the city has a good healthy growth. Residence lots are reasonable. Houses can be built at less cost in Los Angeles than in Minonk. In many respects the cost of living is considerably cheaper. Fuel is high; rents are high; wages good.. Girls who do house work get from $15 to $25 per month. If a man owns a house he can live cheaper than in Illinois. If he has to pay rent it will run about the same. Fruit is cheaper and the quality is par excellence. Southern California is a fruit country and we seen but little grain. Every where is fruit. This gives employment to thousands of people–men, women, boys and girls, the year around. It takes constant work to keep the fruit ranches in proper cultivation, and the harvest takes much help.

We visited for two days in Pomona with George Webber and family and A. H. Witman and family. Mr. Webber has a nice home in town, and a fruit ranch four miles from town, which is said to be one of the best in the vicinity. The sample of fruit that he was drying was the finest we ever seen. With Mr. Webber we visited many points of interest, and inspected the canning factories and fruit drying yards. We walked to the top of San Jose hill and were rewarded by a view of the surrounding country. Hundreds of acres of fruit trees in every direction presented a sight never to be forgotten.

A. H. Witman and family also live here. Mr. Witman has built up a splendid business, and carries a better stock of jewelry, watches, etc., than when in Minonk. The health of himself and family is improving every day. Mr. Witman got a livery rig and together with Mrs. Witman and "Toots" we visited Chino beet sugar factory, Claremont, Ontario, and back to Pomona through vast fruit ranches.

In the evening in company with Mr. and Mrs. Witman, we called on Mrs. George Simpson and children, who are highly pleased with their new home. All of them enjoy good health, and say they perfer California to Illinois as a home.

Pomona has one canning factory which gave employment to 300 women and girls during fruit season, their wages ranging from 50 cents to $3 per day. They canned 25,000 cans of fruit per day.

Pasadena is a beautiful city of homes but is not a really good business point, being too close to Los Angeles. It has the most beautiful residences, drives, and lawns we ever seen anywhere. The climate is delightful and said to be very healthy for most people.

Southern California attracts thousands of tourists every year; who go there on account of its climate. Los Angeles is expected to be to California what Chicago is to Illinois, some day. The Editor.