Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 (1901-1910)


During the 19th century, we had several wars, many new inventions and numerous changes for a growing nation. The Civil War (1861-1865) remains the bloodiest in U.S. history.

Many changes took place after the fighting ended, In 1861, telegraph companies strung wires across the plains. A few years later, railroad companies began to lay tracks across the Great Plains. In 1869, a telegraph operator tapped out three dots in Morse Code and it meant "done". The U.S. had a railroad that stretched all the way across North America, the nation's first transcontinental railroad.

Dozens of new machines for farming and living appeared in the late 1800's (the Industrial Revolution). The greatest inventor of all was Thomas Edison. In 1879, he made an electric light bulb that burned for 40 hours. He improved upon the bulb until it stayed lit for several hundred hours. In 1882, Edison had built a generator. Andrew Carnegie invented ways of making steel rather than iron. Automobiles were first invented in 1890 and Henry Ford built the Model "T" which was produced on an assembly line which reduced costs.

Between 1865 and 1900, over 12 million people settled in the U. S. Another 18 million came between 1900 and 1930. They built reapers, sewing machines and bicycles. Cities grew; which led to building skyscrapers with elevators and resulted in people moving to the suburbs. The suburbs were linked to the city by railroad or street car lines.

In the early 1900's, many reformers worked for laws that would help the poor. President Theodore Roosevelt said his administration was for a "Square Deal".

In February 1898, an American battleship, the Maine, blew up in the harbor of Havana. In April, the United States declared war on Spain, and by August 1898, Spain surrendered.

Automobiles were first developed in the 1890's, but only the rich could afford to buy them. Then, in 1908 Henry Ford began producing the model "T" which brought the price within the reach of almost everyone ($600. in 1912, $360. in 1916, and $260 in 1925). By 1925, over half of the families in the U.S. had a car or were about to buy one.

Before the 1920's the U. S. had no gasoline stations, shopping centers, garages, parking lots, motels, or drive-ins. The automobile also brought traffic lights, road signs and paved roads (New York to Kansas by 1925).

By 1900, East St. Louis was the fourth largest city in Illinois, the second largest railroad center and the second largest stockyards, in all categories Chicago led. East St. Louis had flour and grist mills, chemical and paint works, rolling mills, foundries, machine shops, meat packing plants and railroad repair shops. Illinois had doubled its population in the 30 years 1870 to 1900 from 2,539,891 to 4,821,550.



The 1904 World's Fair, which celebrated the Centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, brought St. Louis to the world's attention. The fair in Forest Park lasted seven months and its success was a boost to the city. The Olympic Games held during the Fair were the very first ones held in America. The Art Museum is one of the buildings which was not demolished after the Fair. The Zoo, the Muny Opera and the Missouri Historical Society were opened in the Park.

The ice cream cone and iced tea were originated at the Fair. The song "Meet Me at the Fair" was its theme and added Louie for St. Louie at the Fair. It was the most elaborate exhibition ever seen. My mother, Viola (Soucy) English and my mother-in-law, Merrie Hicks were then very small girls but I have enjoyed many of their stories and fond memories of the fair. They are both deceased now, but they said it was the happiest event of their lifetimes. websterschool-13.tif (49167 bytes)

Loretta Grosspitch wrote about the after-effects of the Fair and the many happy memories. Her husband worked with the Southern Railway for 48 years. She is looking forward to my book being published.

Loris Clifford had a grandfather working with the Illinois Central Railroad for many years. She lived at 801 Summit Avenue near the Episcopal Church. The pastor, Rev. Raymond Gunn, had his Social Center located here; with "Pop" Myles, who recently passed away, the trainer,

Mary Angela Vogt's father, Theo Vogt, and uncle (Herman Hauser) had a liquor store in the early 1900's at 327 Missouri Ave. This later became the Liberty Theater. The liquor store served "Heim Beer" from East St. Louis (located at 10th and State Streets, and later a Sears & Roebuck site) and New Athens Brewing Co. Mary Vogt took street cars over the Eads Bridge every Sunday. Her relatives later operated the Hudson Roller Rink and another relative ran the projector at the Majestic Theater. She also remembers Pat Viehman's drug store at 33rd and State.

oldstmary's-13.tif (46362 bytes) Ruth and Elise Grote sent in three old postcards: "Old" St. Mary's Hospital at Eighth Street and Missouri Avenue; Webster School and Annex at Ninth Street and St. Louis Avenue and St. Joseph's Church at Columbia Place and Illinois Avenue.   Ruth and Elise Grote were long time employees of School District 189 and were assigned at the East St. Louis Senior High School.  They are shown on a picture with Wirt Downing when he was principal after a long and successful career as coach of the East. St. Louis High football, track and wrestling teams.



My parents, John Thomas English Sr. and Viola (Soucy) English, were born in North St. Louis in the 1890s. Both were baptized at Holy Name Church at 2047 East Grand, St. Louis, Mo. Both of their families moved to the South End of East St. Louis about the turn of the century.

My paternal grandparents were John Clement English and Ellen (Maher) English. They had the following children, listed with spouses: John T. English Sr. and Viola (Soucy) English; Walter Edward English and Mary (Reynolds) English, Mayme (English) Schwarztrauber and Jacob Schwarztrauber; James English and Catherine (Nealon) English; Helen (English) Canavan and George Canavan.

My parents had three children, listed with spouses: Mary Dorothy (English) Gedda and Louis Gedda; John T. English Jr. and Norma jean (Bumworth) English; W. Edward English and Mildred L. (Hicks) English. They lived at 1723 St. Louis Ave., 1421 St. Louis Ave. and 1425 St. Louis Ave.

My grandfather, John C. English, operated the "City Plumbing Co." at various locations - 226 Collinsville Ave. and 628 Missouri Ave.

My father was a plumbing salesman with Standard Sanitary Plumbing Supplies on 7 North Seventh Street for many years (1912-1937) when he was appointed city commiissioner to fill the vacant position resulting from the death of Herman Zierrath.

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Dad's brothers, Walter and James were both plumbers and worked with their father at "City Plumbing Co.," along with my Dad's Uncle, Edward J. Maher Sr.

In 1892, my grandfather English and uncle Ed Maher started the plumbing business at 2162 College Avenue in North St. Louis, "Maher & English"

James Meagher Sr. of St. Charles, Mo., worked with his two uncles in the Maher & English Plumbing Co. Jim was my Dad's first cousin (their mothers were sisters). He wrote a delightful and upbeat letter about his happy memories of East St. Louis. He was a long-time Chevrolet representative and in 1955 they offered him the dealership (Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Cadillac) in St. Charles, Mo. He accepted and went on to wonderful success with the dealership which is now owned by his son and other family members.

Jim Meagher Sr. gave me a copy of my great Grandfather's (John Maher's) citizenship papers dated Aug. 25, 1868, in St. Louis County, Mo. A copy is included in this book.

Catherine Ellen (English) Gallen, daughter of James English, sent me a copy of a 1910 photo of the "City Plumbing" shop and my Grandfather, John C. English is standing in front.

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My maternal grandparents were Prosper Clovis Soucy and Mary (Sample) Soucy and they had the following children, listed with their spouses: Viola (Soucy) English and John T. English Sr.; Agnes (Soucy) Tiernan and Robert W. Tiernan; Mabel (Soucy) Barton and Welker Barton; Dewey Soucy and Helen (Switzer) Soucy; Martin Soucy and Violet Soucy; John Clovis Soucy, M.D. and Alice (Viner) Soucy; Dorothy (Soucy) Mulconnery and Jerome Mulconnery, D.D.S. They lived at Eighth Street & Division Avenue and later at 1719 St. Louis Avenue. 15-soucys2.TIF (104512 bytes)

My Grandfather Soucy had a successful real estate office at 18 N. Main Street, East St. Louis, from 1900 to 1934 when he expired from an automobile accident. He was considered one of the first millionaires in the city at the turn of the century. He collected many farms in Cahokia and as faraway as Nashville, Ill. He also had one of the first automobiles in East St. Louis and built a six car garage at 1719 St. Louis Avenue for some of his valuable cars. I regret that my Grandfather Soucy did not live past 1934 for many reasons, but I do know he could have given me some excellent advice regarding the real estate business.

He, Tom Canavan, and M.L. Harris were commissioned by the mayor and aldermen of St. Louis to buy up all the real estate on Eighth Street for the approach for the St. Louis Municipal Bridge (also known as the MacArthur Bridge) in 1914. The three East St. Louis Real Estate dealers owned about 60 percent of Eighth Street and they combined to buy up the other 40 percent.

When they completed acquiring 100 percent of Eighth Street, the St. Louis mayor and aldermen changed their minds and had the Bridge come into 10th Street. This necessitated the builder to change his plans as he was already to the east side of the Mississippi River. This caused the bridge to make a certain gap and has been the cause of thousands of serious accidents.

Agnes (Soucy) Tiernan and her husband, Robert W. Tiernan, were both county auditors for St. Clair County Ill. Ag also worked in my Grandfather Soucy's real estate business.

Dr. John C. Soucy practiced medicine in East St. Louis for many years and was well respected.

Dr. Roy Mulconnery D.D.S. was a practicing dentist in East St. Louis and married to Dorothy (Soucy) Mulconnery.



Mrs. John Frank Conrad is a daughter of Melvern M. Stephens who was probably the greatest mayor East St. Louis ever had. He served many terms (1887 to 1927).

Mrs. Conrad sent a picture post-card of the City Hall to me, along with a picture of her father. Mrs. Jane (Stephens) Conrad is currently living in Clarksville, Mo.   In 1887, on his promise to operate E. St. Louis city government on a cash basis and to raise East St. Louis "out of the mud" (14 to 20 feet), Mr. Stephens was elected. He had the city float a $900,000.00 bond issue to accomplish his goals. The bond issue has never been paid off to this date. cityhall-16.tif (100726 bytes)

However, East St. Louis started on the biggest boom yet about half-way through the street raising project. East St. Louis was called the "Pittsburgh of the West" at the start of the 20th Century.

My father, who was street and police commissioner from 1937 to 1951, often told the industries surrounding East St. Louis that they were shirking their responsibilities. The industries incorporated small towns around East St. Louis such as:
National City - Stock Yards & Packing Houses
Fairmont City - Seed Plants, American Zinc & Railroads
Washington Park - Emerson Electric, railroads and fertilizer plants.
Alorton - Aluminum Ore
Monsanto (Now Sauget) - Monsanto Chemical, AMAX, Cerro Copper, Midwest Rubber, Standard Oil Co., and Phillips 66.

The industries, in effect, strangled the city government that was their main supply of labor. East St. Louis needed more money to operate their schools, fire and police departments, streets and sewers, garbage collection and health departments. Later, most of the industries moved to the South's cheaper labor markets.



1873 - He was engineer of the first engine to cross "Eads Bridge" in 1873 because he had the "best" decorated engine.  Submitted by Mae Mulconnery, 14 Stacy Drive; Fairview Heights, IL  62208.

Click here to see a photo and to read more about the Mulconnerys

Click here to read a letter from Dorothy Spannagel about her family in ESL



Seidel Apparel Company was formed in 1905 by Donald and Ida Seidel (parents of Marty Seidel, who married Minette).

Marty Seidel was a great help to me in preparing this book. I have more on him later as he passed away in March, 1992.



I received a 1903 copy of the East St. Louis City Directory from Jeri (Canavan) Summers who is the daughter of Bill Flannery (deceased). The copy came through Jeanne (Flannery) Canavan who is Bill's sister and my very good friend for 50 years. They have another sister Mary Nell (Flannery) Carter and had two brothers, Patrick (1919-1938) and Richard (1926-1931).

Their parents were Abbott Flannery and Helen (Rapp) Flannery. Abbott was one of eight boys (James, Vincent, Charles, Jerome, Alonzo, William and Thomas Flannery and one sister Mary Flannery, who just recently passed away. Founder, Patrick Flannery, was born on St. Patrick's Day.

James Jr. married Alicia Sheridan and they have two children, James III, retired to Florida, and Judy Whitehead.

The Directory of 1903 had a short history of the Queen City of Egypt (East St. Louis). Also included were M. M. Stephens (many times mayor), Congressman W. A. Rodenberg (22nd District), Harvey Hill, Dr. John P. Stack, John E. Miller, D. Walter Potts (long time Superintendent of schools), Thomas Ganey, Thomas Knoebel (pharmacist), Jerry Sullivan, Frank J. Kurrus, Louis Menges, George W. Thompson, W. H. Hill and William Meeker. My Grandparents, Prosper C. Soucy and wife Mary (Sample) Soucy, Real Estate & Insurance, 1917 St. Louis Ave.; and my paternal Grandparents John C. English and wife Ellen (Maher) English, owners of City Plumbing Co. of 226 Collinsville Ave. were also included.

Other businesses were: Reese Hardware, Schaub Hardware (Herb Giessing), Hauss Stove & Hardware of 133 Collinsville Ave., Henken & Boekenkroeger at 519 Collinsville Ave., Charles Hufschmidt Soda Co. at 349 Missouri Ave., Jacob Fitter, tailor, at 332 E. Broadwayj M. Boggemann (tents & awnings), Benner-Brichler Livery and Undertakers, M. J. Walsh at 332 Collinsville Ave., C. C. Molla Coal & Ice, Maurice Tissier Grocery and Obear Nester Glass Works.



In 1902, St. Joseph's Catholic Church was established at Columbia Place and Illinois Ave. Sacred Heart Church's cornerstone was laid, with Rev. Charles Gilmartin as pastor, at Eighth Street and Baugh Avenue.

The United Presbyterian Church at 12th and Summit Avenue and the English Lutheran Church at 13th and Summit were established.

The first electric cars passed from the National Stock Yards over the Eads Bridge on Nov. 10, 1902.

The East St. Louis Retail Merchants Association was incorporated with the following officers: John G. Gain, B. Sikking Jr., Fred Geissing, L. F. Tissier and Thomas Knoebel.

Armours came to the Stock Yards and Aluminum Ore (Alcoa) to Alorton.

East St. Louis was well on its way to becoming the second Pittsburgh of the Midwest.




On to Chapter 3


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