In the News
November 16, 2013
DECATUR — The dream voiced by Martin Luther King Jr. during his famous march on Washington 50 years ago was more than words to the Rev. Emil Hattoon of Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Among about 30 people who journeyed to witness history in the nation’s capital on Aug. 28, 1963, the Decatur pastor put himself on a national stage early the following year by demonstrating for voter registration rights for blacks in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Hattoon and eight other clergymen were arrested and jailed.
Reactions offer a snapshot of how people in Decatur felt about the civil rights movement in 1964 and is the subject of a paper written by Onarga native Kayla Samuelson, a senior history major at Millikin University.
“A lot of people said Mr. Hattoon should have minded his own business but others supported him,” she said. “Most (Millikin) students supported him, but there appeared to be a majority of the Decatur public that didn’t support what he did.”
Samuelson, who lives in Clinton, will present her research today a local history seminar hosted by Brian Mullgardt, an assistant professor of history at Millikin, at Westminister Presbyterian Church.
It will be the second time she has presented the paper. Along with senior history majors John Billimack of Champaign and Maxwell Couch of Bolingbrook, Samuelson also appeared at the 15th Annual Conference on Illinois History Sept. 26 and 27 in Springfield.
Dan Monroe, associate professor and chairman of Millikin’s history department, said it is unusual for undergraduates to present their work at conferences. “The students used original sources such as newspapers, letters, diaries and standard works of history, such as biographies,” he said.
Samuelson relied primarily on accounts published in the Herald & Review, Decaturian and the Jackson, Miss., Clarion Ledger.
Hattoon, who became assistant minister of Christian education at Westminster Presbyterian Church in August 1962, got permission to take a week’s leave from his job starting Jan. 28, 1964, but the vote by the church board was far from unanimous — 11 in favor, seven against and one abstention.
Samuelson concludes that this indicated reluctance by church leadership to get directly in pursuing civil rights.
Hattoon said pictures and names of the blacks who registered to vote in Hattiesburg were often published in the local newspaper, and those people often lost their jobs soon afterward.
Comments made by Decatur Mayor Ellis Arnment after Hattoon’s arrest Jan. 29 no doubt reflected the view of many.
“We should be sure our own house is clean before pointing the finger at anyone else,” the mayor was quoted in the Herald & Review as saying. “If I felt there was a need for Decatur or its citizens to enter into the Hattiesburg problem, I would be there, but I can’t see that this need exists.”
The newspaper also reported that Arnment believed that racial problems were being handled by evolution rather than revolution.
Another criticism leveled at Hattoon by Millikin students was that he was not a registered voter, a situation he rectified Feb. 19.
Samuelson also notes that a member of Woodland Chapel Presbyterian Church (Everett Fulton) went so far as to send a telegram to Hattiesburg stating that Hattoon “did not represent me as a member of the Presbyterian Church.”
She stresses in her paper that opponents were not “overtly racist” but rather objected to a Decatur minister going to Mississippi to break the law.
Hattoon, freed on bond Feb. 4, was ultimately convicted of breach of the peace after pleading no contest in March of 1964 and was fined $400. A jail sentence was suspended.
Less than two weeks later, Hattoon submitted his resignation from Westminster Presbyterian Church on March 25, 1964, and left for Philadelphia to become secretary of the senior high division summer program of the United Presbyterian Church on Aug. 1.
Neither Hattoon’s letter nor church board minutes give a reason for his departure, but Samuelson said in an interview he may have been asked to leave.
“I don’t have any hard evidence, but the reaction of the Decatur public and probably from his church was that they didn’t like what he had done,” she said.
Hattoon had his supporters, however, among them six Millikin students who sent a wire of their own to Hattiesburg. They were identified in the Herald & Review as Wes Sedrel, Alan Killpatrick, Eddie Baker, Bob Diemel, Bob Kuhns and Kim Young.
Others included the Rev. Jay Logan, pastor of Decatur’s First Presbyterian Church, who followed Hattoon to Hattiesburg to help with the voter registration drive.
A Springfield native who graduated from Millikin in 1951, Hattoon told the Herald & Review in an interview after he returned to Central Illinois that “the world doesn’t end in Decatur.
“... We Christians have a strong feeling of support for one another.”
Samuelson said she plans to pursue a master’s degree in political science at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston next semester after her graduation from Millikin in December.
October 31, 2013
The opportunity forhistory undergraduates to present their research in a professional setting isunique. However, three Millikin history students were granted that rareopportunity during the 15th Annual Conference on Illinois History held Sept.26-27 in Springfield, Ill.
Students Kayla Samuelson, a senior history majorfrom Onarga, Ill., John Billimack, a senior history major from Champaign, Ill.,and Maxwell Couch, a senior history major from Bolingbrook, Ill. offered theiroriginal research to audiences of scholars and non-professional historians forfeedback during the conference.
"It is unique for a history department totake undergraduates to a conference and have them present their work,” said Dr.Dan Monroe, Millikin associate professor of history. "If you look at theseconferences, typically the people that are presenting are graduate students orprofessors so this is an exceptional example of performance learning."
The Conference on Illinois History is thestate’s largest meeting devoted to the history of the Prairie State. Thisyear’s conference included 23 paper sessions that featured topics such aspolitics, Abraham Lincoln, Latino history, and the Civil War; seven workshops;and two roundtable discussions.
"The students wrote history papers in ourclasses using original sources such as newspapers, letters, diaries andstandard works of history such as biographies," said Monroe. "Thepapers were at such a level that we took them to this regional conference andhad them presented. They worked in the class and took that work out into thewider world to present."
Kayla Samuelson presented her paper titled “TheExperiences of One 1960s-Era Decatur Minister." The paper is based on thecontroversy surrounding Westminster Church's Reverend Emil Hattoon and hisefforts to register African-Americans to vote in Hattiesburg, Miss. in1964.Kayla's presentation was part of the "Civil Rights Stories” concurrentsession during the conference.
"The questions I received during theconference were very interesting because the audience wanted me to explainabout the trends and how they fit with the times," said Samuelson. "Myexperience presenting at this conference says a lot about how Millikin professorsare willing to work with students who are interested in presenting. Going to aconference that brings out questions about one's research helps anyundergraduate prepare for graduate school or grow in terms of becoming aresearcher."
Samuelson is currently working with Dr. Brian Mullgardt,Millikin assistant professor of history, to try to get her research publishedin the Illinois Herald-Journal by December 2013. She will be attending graduateschool following graduation from Millikin.
Samuelson added, "I think any researchexperience given to an undergrad is a great opportunity. The fact that Millikinfaculty took me under its wing when I had this interest my freshman year isoutstanding."
John Billimack and Maxwell Couch presented theirresearch as part of the "Illinois Civil War Generals" concurrentsession. Billimack's paper was titled "Grierson's Raid," a projectbased on 1863 Union colonel Benjamin H. Grierson who was chosen for a missionto lead three regiments of horsemen and a battery of artillery through thestate of Mississippi. Couch's paper was titled "General John A. Logan,"a paper based on the Civil War General who became one of Illinois’ mostpowerful Senators.
"I enjoyed performing the research – thethesis on my paper was how General Logan changed from a democrat to arepublican during the Civil War," said Couch. "It was interesting tobe a part of the conference because we were the only undergrads there. It wasgreat because we received feedback on how we could improve our research."
John Billimack added, "It was a fantasticexperience, and I was very privileged to have been given such an opportunitythrough Millikin's history department."
Couch will look to acquire an internship at amuseum after graduating from Millikin and then attend graduate school.Billimack will also be attending graduate school following graduation from Millikin.
Monroe added, "The fact that they went outinto the professional world and got validation from other professors andhistorians for their research is huge. It gives them a sense of confidence andit’s important for them especially for getting into graduate school. Thisexperience gives them an introduction to the profession – you do research,write papers, and then you present them to your colleagues in a conferenceforum and they respond to your findings. It's a process where everyone learns."
October 13, 2013
DECATUR —Introduced to Greenwood Cemetery on Saturday morning; 9-year-old Paige Constantwasn’t sure what to say.
She couldtell her grandma, Kristen Constant, was excited as her memories of earliervisits tumbled out, one after the other, especially when they got to the“skinny road” overlooking newer sections of the cemetery to the south.
“Here’swhere it gets scary,” the woman told her. “When we were kids, my father woulddrive us through in a big old long station wagon and go real slow by the drop-off.He’d say, ‘We gotta go slow or we might fall off the edge!’”
TheDecatur family, which also included Kristen’s husband Richard and their dogDomino, were among dozens of people who took part in a self-guided mausoleumwalking tour offered in the cemetery Saturday, an event held to show off therecently refurbished entrance gates and foster interest in Decatur history andthe cemetery.
The oldestof the approximately 30,000 graves in Greenwood Cemetery predate the Civil Warand dozens are housed inside 16 mausoleums built around 1900 when many ofDecatur’s most prominent early citizens began dying.
Theyinclude Hieronymus Mueller, who as the city’s plumber invented a machine in1872 that made the drilling and tapping of water and gas more efficient. It wasthe first of many Mueller inventions used all over the world.
He diedMarch 1, 1900, at age 67 from burns he suffered two weeks earlier during anexplosion that occurred after he lit a cigar while working on the engine of acar.
TheMueller-Cruikshank mausoleum was one of eight featured Saturday and the onlyone open for viewing, courtesy of Mike Deatherage, director of Decatur’sMueller Museum.
Nine otherpeople are entombed within, including Mueller’s wife, son, daughter, son-in-lawand grandchildren. The last space was taken by great-grandson William M.Cruikshank after his death in 1999 at age 71.
Themausoleum’s stained glass window, featuring a pair of grape clusters, had justbeen restored and reinstalled. “Now we hope it will be good for another 100years,” Deatherage said.
Oreananative Taylor Black, who wrote a paper about the people buried in the featuredmausoleums for an independent study she completed before graduating fromMillikin University in May, said she found researching the lesser-knownfamilies even more interesting than the more prominent ones.
Inaddition to the Mueller-Cruikshank mausoleum, others on the tour were built forthe families of Abrams Conklin, Robert Faries, James Millikin, James McCoy,Henry Mueller, David Shellabargerand James Vanderveer.
LindaKehart, a Decatur Township Cemetery Trustee and hostess of Saturday’s tour,said a mausoleum like the ones in Greenwood Cemetery would cost at least$100,000 to build today. “It’s unaffordable now for a lot of reasons, includingspace,” she said.
Kehartsaid she was delighted to see families exploring the 104-acre cemetery and notjust sticking to the tour. “That’s what this is about,” she said. “It’simportant to remember and honor our history.”
TheConstants visited the mausoleums, the graves of several relatives and the CivilWar section of the cemetery in addition to leaving a fall bouquet on the graveof Kristen Constant’s lifelong friend, Teresa “Terri” Williamson McCall, whodied of breast cancer in 2006 at age 52.
“Ourbirthdays were minutes apart, and our moms were in the old St. Mary’s Hospitaltogether,” Constant said. “She moved to the next block over from me when I wassix, and we were together ever since.”
October 3, 2013
Historical Journal examines priest’s role in Decatur’s War Zone, 1991-’98
A Springfield native who served as a priest in his hometown, Granite City, Taylorville, the Metro East area, and Tuscola and gained national attention for his efforts on behalf of striking and locked-out workers in Decatur in the 1990s is the subject of an article in the Summer 2013 edition of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society.
“A Priest on the Front Lines: Father Martin Mangan in the Decatur War Zone, 1991-98,” examines the life of the man who left the fast-track to bishop’s robes to serve as a parish priest. The article by Robert D. Sampson, an adjunct instructor of history at Millikin University in Decatur, reveals a deeper level of involvement on the part of Mangan in developing and implementing strategies than was previously known.
Based on letters, notes, and other items in the Martin Mangan Collection at the University of Illinois and interviews with Mangan’s contemporaries, a clearer picture of the efforts of the priest affectionately known as “Mitz” on behalf of locked-out workers at Tate & Lyle Inc.’s A.E. Staley Mfg. Co. plant, and striking workers at Caterpillar Tractor Co. and Bridgestone-Firestone Tire Co. is developed along with the personal struggles he underwent as he aided others.
September 19, 2013
MILLIKIN HISTORY FACULTY AND STUDENTS
CONFERENCE ON ILLIINOIS HISTORY
Millikin History faculty and students will be presenting papers at the forthcoming Conference on Illinois History in Springfield, Illinois, September 26-27, 2013. Dr. Bob Sampson will present a paper titled, "'A criminal offense to take a little free and healthful exercise': Baseball's Challenges in Post-Civil-War Illinois," on Thursday, September 26 at 1:45 pm. History major Kayla Samuelson will read her paper, "The Experiences of One 1960s-Era Decatur Minister," on Friday, September 27 at 1:45 pm. And John Billimack ("Gierson's Raid") and Max Couch ("General John A. Logan"), History majors will present on Friday, September 27 at 1:45 pm. Dr. Dan Monroe will moderate the session on Civil War Generals, and Dr. Brian Mullgardt will attend the conference as faculty sponsor of Kayla Samuelson's presentation and moderate a session on the Progressive Era.
August 24, 2013
Dr. Dan Monroe
DECATUR — Political campaigns are often presented as intense or even offensive today, but compared to the common campaign practices of the 1800s, many of today’s more extreme examples seem mild in comparison.
Dan Monroe, the chair of Millikin University’s History Department, has always found these earlier American political races and debates fascinating. With their exuberance, relative lawlessness and historical importance, they represent a colorful slice of Americana the professor doesn’t want to see forgotten. With this in mind, he decided to host “Running for Office in the 1800s,” a free Sept. 1 presentation at Rock Springs Nature Center.
“I find the culture of that period interesting, because the campaigns were conducted on such a local and personal level,” said Monroe, an “Americanist” who teaches American history courses focusing largely on the prewar antebellum period of the 1800s. “Campaigns were celebratory and very participatory, and voter turnout was through the roof for those eligible to vote.”
After announcing their intent to run, candidates would typically get nominated by local convention and begin literally taking their platform to the streets. Massive picnics, parades and assemblies were often held, anchored by candidates’ speeches. To entice the male voter base, hard liquor was even distributed for free in some instances.
Naturally, this could lead to some boisterous assemblies. Things could get even more heated when candidates who disagreed came into contact with one another. Even elected officials weren’t above an occasional melee, such as the famed instance when Democratic Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina nearly beat Republican Senator Charles Sumner to death with a cane on the floor of the Senate in 1856. For what today would be classified an attempted murder, Brooks was instead fined and abdicated his seat in Congress. A month later, he was re-elected by his state in a special election, but died before taking office again.
“It was not an age that had much restriction on what you could or couldn’t do to campaign or raise money,” Monroe said. “It wasn’t unusual for there to be fisticuffs when candidates met in person. A lot of the debates were mean-spirited as well. For instance, the Lincoln-Douglas debates are rightly famous, but they weren’t exactly a great Socratic debate. There were a lot of nasty personal jibes there.”
Other famously contentious campaigns that Monroe will discuss include the 1828 Presidential Election between incumbent John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, where seemingly no accusation was off limits.
“It was notoriously harsh between both parties,” he said. “Jackson in essence accused him of winning the previous election through corrupt means, and Quincy fired back about Jackson’s participation in duels earlier in his career, basically calling him a murderer.”
Nonetheless, there are elements of the political campaigns of the time that Monroe feels were positives. The responsibility and beholden nature of candidates to their constituents in particular is something he finds lacking from modern politics.
“In a statewide campaign, a candidate might give 100 speeches in different locations and be forced to interact with people at every one,” he said. “People got to address their government all the time. Maybe that was better for democracy, that the candidates actually had to get out on a street corner and answer questions from the voters.”
Monroe’s free presentation of “Running for Office in the 1800s” begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 at Rock Springs Nature Center’s Homestead Prairie Farm in Decatur.