Other Fairbury History Books

History Books Written by Dale C. Maley

Mr. Maley wrote over 20 different books about Fairbury history. Often these books utilized materials and information from the Fairbury Echoes Museum. Museum Board members Diane Pawlowski, Carl Borngasser, and Ron Schlipf also assisted in the historical research required to write these books.

The Dominy Memorial Library, the Pontiac Public Library, and the Fairbury Echoes Museum have copies of all his books. Copies of the Chatsworth Train Wreck and Franklin Oliver were donated to the Chatsworth Library. Copies of the Honeggers’ book were donated to the Forrest Library.

Mr. Maley’s books in printed format are available to purchase from the Walton Centre in Fairbury. The Chatsworth Train Wreck and Franklin Oliver books can be purchased at the Community Connection Gift Shop in Chatsworth. The Strevell House book can be purchased at the Strevell House when it is open for public tours.

These books can also be purchased in Kindle e-book format or conventional printed format from Amazon.com using this link.

The titles of Mr. Maley’s books with a short description is shown below. The titles are listed in alphabetical order.

Listing of All Fairbury History Books Written by Dale C. Maley

Abraham Lincoln and the Strevell Family of Pontiac, Illinois

Zelus Nettleton was one of the pioneer citizens of Pontiac. He bought a lot and built a Carpenter Gothic style home at 312 W. Livingston Street. Zelus died and Jason Strevell, a young attorney and businessman in Pontiac, married his widow and doubled the size of the house. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave a lecture at the Presbyterian Church in Pontiac. After the lecture, Mr. Strevell invited Abe to spent the afternoon and evening at his home until his train to Bloomington arrived. During that visit, Mr. Strevell measured Abe’s height of 6 feet 4 inches and marked it on the doorway of the home. The book includes the complete genealogy of the Nettleton and Strevell families as well as the 10 year project to renovate the home. A. J. Cropsey, who Cropsey village and Cropsey Township are named for, appears in the book as well since he was associated with two generations of the Strevell family.

Coal Mining in Fairbury, Illinois

John Marsh and his son Henry Marsh dug 180 feet down and discovered coal about 1 mile west of Fairbury. This discovery set off a coal mining boom in the entire state of Illinois. This book covers the evolution of the five coal mines in Fairbury. It includes tunnel maps for the mine located where the entrance to Timber Ridge Subdivision is now. The book has all the very photographs of Fairbury coal mines and miners. Coal mining was a dangerous occupation and had a normal amount of fatalities given the three million tons of coal mined in Fairbury.

Fairbury, Illinois and the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition

Fairbury had a very strong connection with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. John Virgin imported large French Percheron horses and sold them to Fairbury area farmers. John was a big supporter of the Fairbury Fair and the Illinois State Fair. The Governor of Illinois appointed John Virgin to design and build the Agricultural Exposition building at the World’s Fair. The Fairbury Fair was cancelled in 1893 so people could take the train to Chicago to the amazing World’s Fair.

Fairbury History Stories Volume One

This is a collection of 73 well-researched Fairbury history stories including at least one photograph per story. All of these stories were published in the Fairbury Blade newspaper. The book covers a very wide range of Fairbury history topics.

Fairbury History Stories Volume Two

This book is a collection of the second 73 stories previously published in the Blade.

Fairbury History Stories Volume Three

This book is a collection of the third 73 stories previously published in the Blade. The Blade stopped printing these stories in December of 2022. The stories continued to be published on Kent Casson’s FairburyNews.net web site.

Fairbury, Illinois from Prehistoric to Modern Times

The early geological history of Illinois explains many aspects of Fairbury life. This history explains why we still find fossils of sea creatures in our fields, why coal was found in Fairbury, how we got such flat and rich soil, and the early Native Americans that lived in our area.

Fairbury, Illinois in 1888

One of the three primary history books about Livingston County was the 1888 history book. This book extracts the biographies of many early Fairbury citizens. It also includes beautiful illustrations of Fairbury farms and the two field tile factories.

Fairbury, Illinois in the Civil War

Most Fairbury men joined either an infantry unit or a cavalry unit. The infantry unit was led by A. J. Cropsey. Today, Cropsey Township and the village of Cropsey are named after him. Both of these military units fought in battles primarily south of Illinois. Some Fairbury farmers hired substitutes to take their place in the Union army, which was a legal practice in that era. Two Belle Prairie young men signed up to be substitutes, but never made it to their military units. To this day, these two young men are still missing.

Fairbury, Illinois in the World Wars

This book covers both World War I and World War II. Because World War I was so relatively short, few Fairbury men actually made it to France to fight before the war was over. Some Fairbury men were gassed by mustard gas in France in World War I. Many Fairbury men and women served in World War II. The book includes the military service record of everyone who served in World War II. Biographies of the fatalities are included as well. Glenn Lee Johnson, who served in the Pacific, went missing on a small island and he is still missing today.

Franklin Oliver: Pioneer Settler of Livingston County, Illinois 

Franklin Oliver was one of the pioneer settlers of Livingston County. He was an extremely colorful character. He owned almost 5,000 acres, was married three times and had children with all three wives. He was friends with the Kickapoo Native American tribe that lived three miles south of Chatsworth on his farm. When he was 94, his third wife divorced him.  Franklin made the national newspapers when he proposed marriage to a 39 year-old Saybrook woman and promised her many acres if she would marry him. The wedding was called off when the Saybrook woman investigated and found that Franklin’s children had  him previously declared legally incompetent and he could not make any land deals.

History of Murders Committed in Fairbury, Illinois

Fortunately, Fairbury has experienced only eight murders since it was founded in 1857. All eight murders are thoroughly investigated and all the newspaper accounts are included in the book. Because Fairbury is a small town, these eight murders impacted many different members of the community.

Honegger’s & Company of Fairbury, Illinois

Honegger’s was formed by two brothers from Forrest. They started out with one small feed mill and ended up with an international operation. They had a fleet of company airplanes, employed almost 500 people at the peak, and were listed on the stock exchange. The book covers the founding of the company through its eventual demise as farming and the feed markets changed over time.

Livingston County Historical Society: It’s Beginning and Some Later Years with Updates

This book was originally published in a small quantity by Paul Yost of Pontiac. It includes copies of several paintings of the early county courthouses done by Katherine Yost. Fairbury historian Alma Lewis James was an early member as well as Chatsworth’s Mrs. Stoutemyer. This book includes a fascinating story about Native Americans and their artifacts.

The Great Chatsworth Train Wreck of 1887

Mrs. Stoutemyer of Chatsworth published her book about the train wreck in 1970. She is deceased and her book has been out of print for many years. The new book uses her original research. The new book triples the content of her book because of the availability of more materials using the Internet. One new chapter details what happened to all 23 Fairbury passengers on this ill-fated train. This Niagara Falls excursion train derailment still ranks as the seventh worst train wreck in American History.

The Founding of Fairbury, Illinois

Alma Lewis James, in her Fairbury history book, Stuffed Clubs & Antimacassars, focused on the founding of the village of Fairbury. This new book thoroughly explores the founding of both the pioneer farmers and the village. The new book uses land purchase records to tell the story of how three different farmers all competed to have the new railroad run through their farms. Back in the 1820s, land was considered valuable if it was on a creek or river and had a timber.  All of the earliest settlers in the Fairbury area followed this convention and located on Indian Creek or the Vermilion River.

The Goudy Bros. of Fairbury, Illinois

The Goudy brothers were early motorcycle racers. They grew up in Fairbury and their father ran a jewelry and watch store for many years. Both brothers set many world records in motorcycle racing. Unfortunately, younger brother William was killed at a California track while doing practice laps. The Fairbury girl friend of older brother Carl would not marry him unless he gave up motorcycle racing. Carl gave up motorcycle racing and went on to be an inventor and businessman in New York. Both brothers are in the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame.

The Kring Family of Fairbury, Illinois

The Kring family history is deeply intertwined with early Fairbury history. One family member ran a foundry which made cast iron products. Some of these Kring foundry cast-iron doorways are still being used on Fairbury stores on Locust Street. Two Kring brothers ran a huge greenhouse that was located just west of the Prairie Central High School.

The McDowell Family of Fairbury, Illinois

The second pioneer farming family to settle in the Fairbury area was the McDowell family. They helped to found the towns of Avoca, McDowell, Fairbury, and Gibson City. Judge McDowell saw how Fairbury took off after the railroad came through in 1857. He also saw how Pontiac grew after it became the county seat. Judge McDowell went to Nebraska and tried to predict where their railroad would go next, and where a future town could make a new county seat.  He bought the inexpensive Nebraska farm land, and the new railroad came through his land and his new town became a county seat. He named his new town Fairbury, Nebraska, after his home town in Fairbury, Illinois.

The Story of the Jones House in Pontiac, Illinois

John Dehner was very successful in the early portion of his life. He was worth $936,000 in today’s dollars by 1860. He established and ran a very successful dry goods mercantile business in Pontiac. He served in Livingston County government offices including serving as Township Supervisor for four years. He helped to build the first Livingston County Jail. John Dehner served as an officer in the early Livingston County Fairs.

John Dehner tried to improve Pontiac by successfully getting the Chicago & Paducah as a second railroad for the county. He tried but was unsuccessful in getting a new state mental asylum to be built in Pontiac.

Judge Henry Jones and his son, Henry C. Jones, both led successful lives. Henry Jones ran a successful business in Pontiac. Henry Jones helped build the first bridge over the Vermilion River in 1847. He was elected a County Commissioner in 1848. In 1851, Henry Jones and Henry Loveless laid out the town of Richmond, just east of Pontiac. Unfortunately the railroad missed Richmond by just two miles, and Richmond became a ghost town.

Henry Jones and his business partner, Edwin Charles Jones, built the first brick structure in Livingston County around 1856 at 315 W. Howard Street. Henry Jones was elected to be a Livingston County Judge. After making three journeys to the California gold fields, Judge Henry Jones stayed in California. He became a pioneer settler in Shasta, California.

Henry C. Jones was involved with several businesses including the Pontiac Sentinel newspaper, the first electric light plant in Pontiac, and the first artificial ice company in Pontiac. He also lived in Texas and sold supplies to many different newspapers.

Henry C. Jones eventually married and moved into the Jones House around 1900. His father, Judge Henry Jones helped to build the first brick structure in Pontiac around 1856, and his son, Henry C. Jones lived in the oldest brick house in Pontiac built in 1858.

Unfortunately, the oldest brick structure in Livingston County that Henry Jones built at 315 W. Howard St. was torn down in 1989.

The oldest brick house in Pontiac at 314 E. Madison Street was severely damaged by a major fire in 1975. This house was saved from the wrecking ball when Francis E. Leman and Reid Tombaugh bought the house in 1976. Through the efforts and donations from countless citizens, the Jones House was fully restored. Every year, many residents and visitors enjoy touring this fascinating pre-Civil War brick home.

It is hoped this book will help to inform future generations about the history of the Jones House and the families that lived in it.

The Zoath Yost Family of Pontiac, Illinois

Zoath Yost was born and raised in West Virginia. He completed college and obtained a law degree from West Virginia University. Zoath married Pontiac native Ella Louise Hartshorn in 1890. Ella Hartshorn graduated from Pontiac Township High School and then attended several colleges. In 1898, Zoath and Ella Yost built their home on the Vermilion River at 298 West Water Street in Pontiac.

Zoath and Ella Yost had three children. The oldest child, Hellene Louise Yost, graduated from Pontiac Township High School. Hellene Yost received a bachelor’s degree in Greek from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, Lynchburg, Virginia, and a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago. Early in her career, Miss Yost taught at Pontiac High School and Rivesville, West Virginia, High School. Hellene Yost spent most of her adult life reading many books and giving book reviews to various Pontiac groups.

The middle child, Catherine Virginia Yost, graduated from Pontiac Township High School. She attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College at Lynchburg, Va., the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts for a term and the Art Institute of Chicago for two years. One of her classmates at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College was Pearl Buck, a famous author who won the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes in Literature. Catharine Yost was an early member of the Amitytown Society of Painters. Catharine Yost spent her adult life painting.

The youngest child, J. Paul Yost, graduated from Pontiac Township High School. Mr. Yost was a 1920 graduate of the University of Chicago with a degree in Philosophy. He then obtained a law degree at West Virginia University. While in law school, Paul Yost joined a traveling group of students who put on plays in various West Virginia cities. Mr. Yost then worked doing Broadway plays for several years. He also toured Europe to learn about how Europeans designed and presented their plays. Mr. Yost spent his adult life either directing or acting in various local plays. He also created artistic works as a member of the Amitytown Painters Society.

For over four decades, the Yost House and Zoath Yost’s three children were the cultural and artistic hub of the Pontiac area. These three children never married and they all lived in the Yost House. The last child to die, Paul Yost, left the house to the City of Pontiac. The Livingston County Historical Society manages the house as a museum.

The Yost House is a historical treasure because the house and furnishings are almost identical to the condition of the house when it was first built in 1898. Two generations of the Yost family saved all of their possessions and they are featured in the house today.

This book focuses on the history of the Yost family and their home at 298 West Water Street. It is hoped this book will help to inform future generations about the history of the Yost family and their impact on the cultural development of Pontiac.

Walton Bros. of Fairbury, Illinois

Isaac and J.W. Walton go clear back to when they opened their first store in 1868 in Fairbury. They experienced three different times. After each fire, they rebuilt bigger and better department stores. Many Fairbury businesses were spawned from the Walton Bros. department store. Walton’s would add a new product line, then spin it off to their employees that ran that business.

William T. Stackpole of Fairbury, Illinois

Mr. Stackpole was one of early Fairbury’s most interesting characters. During his life, William was a gold prospector, pioneer, farmer, merchant, grain speculator, oil field worker, real estate sales person, inventor, writer, publisher, and visionary. His home still exists on West Maple Street, at the southeast corner of Marsh Park.

William T. Stackpole’s 1849 Journey from Illinois to the California Gold Fields

Before he came to Fairbury, Mr. Stackpole caught the “gold bug” and headed to California during the 1849 Gold Rush. He kept a diary written in longhand using a steel cartridge ink dip pen. His diary still exists in the Yale Research Library. Copies of his diary were obtained, and his longhand was painstakingly transcribed into modern text. His journey to California and his return trip is a fascinating story. Mr. Stackpole was one of the few prospectors that actually struck it rich in the California gold fields.