Elwood gossip, only 140 years old

Sandy Vasko

    One of the reasons we read our local paper is for the gossip. We may not call it that, but news of happenings to our neighbors is extremely interesting to us. It was no different 140 years ago.
    Today we repeat gossip that we read about our neighbors in Jackson Township, published over a century ago.
    Court cases are good sources for news about your neighbors, especially those who won a big settlement. We read on Feb. 5, 1868 in the Wilmington Advocate, “Circuit Court - Ebenezer Allen vs. Town of Jackson. Plaintiff alleges the loss of a horse caused by a defective bridge. Verdict for plaintiff, $125 ($2,300 today). Defendant moves for new trial.”
    In 1877 using bad words were not only politically incorrect, but could get you arrested, at least in Elwood. On Aug. 18 we read, “Mr. Jas. Landergan, on Tuesday responded with ready cash for his fines before Justice Grant for indecent language and drunkenness on our streets.”
    Just a week later we read, “James Landergan was arrested for indecent language on the streets, last Sunday evening. After paying fine and costs, he again got himself in trouble and was brought up and fined. J. Breen got served the same way for using his language too freely in defense of his friend. They will find, we hope, such conduct will not be overlooked by us.”
    In 1878 we pick up this juicy bit, “An abduction or kidnapping case up from Elwood occasioned considerable interest in the Circuit Court last week. The complainant, Milo S. Cook, brought suit against John Hampton, Margaret Caswell, John J. Hines and Robt. Kelley, for abducting and detaining his daughter Minnie from her home.”
    “She is about fifteen years old, the daughter of a former wife, who was a daughter of John Hampton and sister of Mrs. Caswell. After the death of the mother and the second marriage of Mr. Cook the defendant obtained possession of the child during the absence of the father, spirited her away, and kept her whereabouts a mystery to her father until recently. Therefore, the suit. The court awarded $650 ($16,500 today) damages as against the defendants.”
    In 1879 the correspondent to the Joliet Signal furnished us with the following; “Litigious Jackson - Last week the usually peaceful town of Jackson furnished our justice courts with three interesting cases.
    “The first was a shooting case wherein Michael Doyle, a prominent and wealthy farmer residing three miles south-west of Elwood, appeared against Henry Kirkham. Kirkham is an erratic, irresponsible sourt of a man, who lives a kind of Robinson Crusoe life on a 12-acre farm. Mr. Doyle's possessions form part of the vast prairie ocean surrounding him.”
    “Kirkham, holding a fanciful grievance against Doyle, and having learned the most approved method from newspaper criminal columns, obtained a large revolver, and finding Doyle at home, opened fire at once.
    “Happily, for the well-being of his astonished neighbor, Kirkman had acquired no facility in sighting his weapon, and the contents of the six-shooter went amiss.
    “Doyle, not liking this disagreeable manifestation, came to Joliet and caused his arrest. Kirkham was brought before Justice Wilcox and placed under bonds of $200 to keep the peace and $500 to await the action of the grand jury for assault with a deadly weapon.
    “Another case which should be noted by those who allow cattle and other domestic animals to run at large came before Justice Murphy. P. F. Dooley, the complainant, averred that the herds of P. Reeves, a neighbor, run at large and that to the annoyance of his neighbors. Reeves' defense was that his cattle were simply sent to find water and should have come back. He was fined $3 and costs.
    “M. Meyer sues F. J. Rapple for damages caused by ‘them steers’ of the latter breaking into his cornfield. Each party has had the damage estimated, and while Meyer brings suite for $200, the appraisers selected by Rapple place the damage at $2. The case comes up today.”
    And in May of 1880 we read, “Alexander Ridges has a warrant issued for the arrest of Mrs. Trabian, of Jackson township, who is charged with feloniously stealing, taking and carrying away one stone bolt, of the value of ten dollars, and four wheels of a threshing machine, each of the value of four dollars.”
    Well, I guess all of this proves that good fences make good neighbors, and life was evidently not exciting in the 19th century in Jackson Township. Oh, well.