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Elgin: Days Gone By - Table of Contents

Chapter 13

NEIGHBORS

Dundee

The final basketball game between Elgin High School and Dundee Community High School was played in 1983. It closed out a classic David vs. Goliath rivalry between neighboring schools, each with a strong tradition that included state championships. Elgin won in 1924 and 1925, while Dundee captured the title in 1938.In a total of 47 contests, 27 of them during the madness of state tournament play, Elgin won 39 and Dundee 8. This seemingly lopsided summary omits the many close games and upsets and obscures the years between 1929 and 1947 when the Cardunals, coached by Gene DeLacey, beat the Maroons seven games to six.

Dundee knocked Elgin out of the state tournament in 1929. The next year the two schools met again for the district title. Both were champions in their respective conferences. Dundee won again, 32-24, but Elgin was chosen to fill a vacancy in the Joliet sectional. The Maroons' opponent in the first round was their conqueror in the district, and they proceeded to eliminate the Red and Black in a squeaker, 24-23.

Dundee area fans resented this outcome of Elgin's "second chance", but they had to wait until 1932, when the rivals again met in the final game of the district tournament. The Cardunals swept to a 24-11 victory, holding Elgin to only one field goal.

So intense was the opposition of small schools to the goliath that Elgin High School did not enter the tournament in 1933. The Maroons had had a poor season, and Principal William. L. Goble explained that Elgin wanted to be "freed from the stimulation of a rivalry that is not natural."

The neighbors were soon at it again. Elgin beat Dundee twice in 1934-35, and then the Cardunals came back to win a close one, 31-30, in the 1937 regional. In the 11 years between 1937 through 1947, one of the two schools made the trip to the state finals no less than eight times.

On their way to a state championship in 1938, Dundee first had to slip by the Maroons, 32-31. In 1944 Elgin triumphed on its road downstate. In 1945 Elgin had to overcome a 13-1 deficit in the first quarter to win again, 46-40. That game was played in Dundee, where the seating capacity in the auditorium-type gym was only 1, 100, so more than 500 fans gathered in the Elgin High School gym to hear the game by direct wire.

Before the 1946 contest, held in Elgin, a line of zealots formed on Gifford Street four hours before tickets went on sale. Many had to be turned away. Dundee won and continued on to a third place finish at Champaign.

The buildup for the 1947 contest began early as each team headed for league titles. Led by the brilliant play of Don Sunderlage, the Maroons were undefeated in the Big Eight. The Cardunals, paced by Bud Grover, were untarnished in the Little Seven. By tournament time the eleventh weekly Associated Press poll of sportswriters rated Dundee first and Elgin second in the state. Dundee (27-2) was again facing Elgin (19-1) as it had done in nine previous championship games. Dundee smashed the Maroons'hopes, 37-26, went downstate, and finished third.

The roar of fans at an Elgin-Dundee game is heard no more. The joy of victory and the heartbreak of defeat are gone. Only the record remains.

Spaulding

In the area to our east, where boundary lines of the village of Bartlett and the city of Elgin now meet, or come close to meeting, was once a place called Spaulding. The name was derived from that of Shepard Spaulding, an early day pioneer who emigrated from Steuben County, New York, to claim land in Hanover Township. In 1843, be purchased from the government about 240 acres of land located approximately four miles southeast of the little settlement of Elgin.

When the Chicago & Pacific railway (which became the Milwaukee Road and is now the Soo Line) was constructed from Chicago to Elgin through Hanover Township in 1873, a siding was established on the Spaulding farm. It was a convenient access point for the farmers, chiefly dairymen, in the neighborhood.

In 1887, the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern railroad (EJ&E) was projected to form a belt line around Chicago from Indiana to Joliet and then to Waukegan. The original plan assumed that its tracks would enter Elgin, but this was discarded when the North Western and Milwaukee lines indicated a lack of cooperation.
Instead the railroad was routed through Hanover and reached the Milwaukee tracks at Spaulding in June, 1888. Although the city of Elgin did not annex portions of the EJ&E until 1962, local businessmen protested whenever the railroad was rumored to be considering dropping the word "Elgin" from its name.

In 1910 there was talk of extending the local street car line from the Bluff City Cemetery entrance to the Spaulding crossing, which would be renamed "East Elgin", but nothing came of the idea.

A little community arose around the Spaulding junction, including a hotel-boarding house occupied by railroad workers. A three-story oatmeal mill and elevator was built in 1892 by the Elgin Cereal Milling Company. The factory, which employed six to eight hands, passed through financial straits during the general business depression which began the next year. It was not profitable until reorganized as the Elgin Breakfast Food Company, headed by Henry lKirchoff of Bensenville.

A one-room Spaulding school was located on the north side of Spaulding road, about a half-mile east of the railroad station. Before World War I, its bell called about 40 farm children to their lessons.

The Chicago Gravel Company began operating steam shovels and a stone crushing plant at gravel pits nearby in 1903. Spurs running from the EJ&E carried the product to the main lines. Spaulding Road between Illinois 25 and Gifford Road was vacated in 1937 for the widening gravel mines.

The EJ&E provided passenger service for several years. In August, 1889, for example, a large group of Elgin excursionists went to Spaulding via the Milwaukee and purchased tickets to Joliet, where they paid an admission fee of 25 cents each to tour the penitentiary and later attended harness races. The trip from Spaulding, 38 miles, was made in an hour. "For a new road," commented the Daily News reporter, "the Elgin is remarkably well ballasted."

Trains had to slow down for the crossing, and Spaulding became a favorite place among boys for the sport of flipping freight trains by catching hold of the handrail and climbing up the side of the car. The junction also attracted tramps for the same reason.

In 1959, some owners of farm land proposed incorporating Spaulding to control zoning. The boundaries of the proposed village had an irregular shape to keep its limits a mile from those of Elgin and Bartlett. They ranged from the DuPage County line on the south to Highway 19 on the north. Of the 90 residents eligible to vote in the referendum, 39 were against incorporating and 22 in favor.

Fires destroyed the boarding house in 1896 and the mill in 1900. The little district school became part of Elgin's U-46 system in 1951 and was closed. The Spaulding depot was abandoned and later consumed by fire. With the removal of the signal tower in 1988, nothing much is left at the junction today. Passengers on the commuter trains leaving or approaching

Almora

The western limits of Elgin now include what was once the farming community of Almora. It was just east of the country lane (now Randall Road), where the Chicago & North Western and the Milwaukee Road (now Soo Line) tracks parallel just before they cross in the northwest corner of Elgin Township.

The two railroads once had stations here to receive milk from thriving dairy farms. A post office, at first named Padell and then Spring Valley, was established in the C&NW station in 1881. The station agent also served as postmaster. Simon Dumser later gave the Milwaukee Road a depot site a stone's throw awayfrom thatof the C&NW station, with the stipulation that the station be called Dumser.

The proximity of the two stations-Spring Valley and Dumser C caused some confusion and in 1886, the Post Office Department and the railroads agreed to call the place Almora. This violated the arrangement with the Dumser family, who ordered the depot removed. The disagreement was finally settled when the railroad agreed to pay for the site.

Other than the two shipping points and a stock pen, there wasn't much to Almora, not even a school. Farm children attended the Wilson school, about a mile to the west, until 1897, when the area was attached to what became known as the Almora district. Its school was north of the stations in Dundee Township.

What made news at Almora was the train wrecks. In 1889, five Milwaukee Road freight cars were thrown down a 30-foot embankment when two trains collided head on at the west end of the trestle crossing the C&NW tracks. A double header Milwaukee freight was coming through Almora from the west in 1904 when the coupling or drawbar of a car caught the frog of the switch. "Nineteen cars tried to climb one over the other, and most of them succeeded," reported the Elgin Evening Press. "There were fourteen cars of fruit and three of meat and then two of copper bars. The mass crumpled like paper, and fruit, meat and copper flew all over the landscape. . . Farmers and those living in the village of Almora stocked up on California fruit and meat."

The grade between Elgin and Almora is long and steep for this section of Illinois. In the days of steam locomotives, a westbound train of loaded cars was usually aided by a second engine until it reached the crest.

In 1938, a Milwaukee locomotive pulling 100 empties was straining up the grade when it exploded, killing three crew members and hurling massive pieces of debris. Some parts of the locomotive and cab were hurled as far as 1,000 feet. The detonation was heard for miles and vibrated the rails in downtown Elgin. The heavy boiler, estimated to weigh about ten tons, was blown off the tracks. The wreck tore up the railroad bed and disrupted poles carrying telephone and telegraph lines.

The post office at Almora was closed with the arrival of rural free mail delivery from Elgin and the railroad depots are long gone, although a commuter station is nearby on Big Timber Road. The Almora school district was annexed to Elgin School District U-46 in 1948. A portion of the community is now an attractive industrial park, and the name Almora has been preserved in a subdivision west of Randall Road and south of Highland Avenue.

Aurora

The two largest cities along the Fox River, one just south of North Aurora and one just north of South Elgin, once were engaged in a vocal-and not always friendly-rivalry. Their disputes began over the distribution of county offices and patronage and differences in tax assessments. Elgin often mustered more Republican votes than Aurora, although it was always smaller in population, and resented the fact no Congressman was ever a resident of the Watch City.

Although they were both originally settled by Yorkers and Yankees, contrasts soon emerged. Catholic Luxemburgers were prominent among the German immigrants to Aurora, while Protestant Han6verians rose to positions of leadership in Elgin. The down river city attracted railroad shops and other heavy industry; up-stream, many women workers found light industry jobs in the watch and condensed milk factories.

Each community strove to lead in civic improvements. Aurora had the first electric street lights and water works, but Elgin had the first library and electric street cars. In 1891, when Aurora decided to open its library at nine in the morning instead of two in the afternoon, the Daily News was astonished: "Why, Elgin's library, started in 1874, has always opened at 9 a.m." Aurora's larger population prompted the Beacon of that city to refer to Elgin as "the little country town up the river."

All those who lived within 33 miles of Elgin were invited to attend its big Fourth ofJuly celebration in 1878 except Aurorans. They were excluded because "the well-known capacity of their stomachs would overcrowd the streets." Aurorans, on the other hand, were convinced Elgin women had big feet.

An Elgin visitor to Aurora was quick to defend his hometown when informed the brilliant streaks of light in the heavens were the Aurora Borealis. "Well, it'sjust as much Elgin's as Aurora's," he declared. "You people down here can't claim everything."

Responding to Elgin's success in acquiring new industries, the Aurora Express wasn't impressed. "It seems easy for Elgin to get factories employing female labor, probably because watch factory wages are so low such firms can compete with them in price and get necessary labor." The Elgin Daily Courier retorted: "What delicious nerve! Aurora, a city where a dollar a day is big wages-where men wear straw hats in winter-to talk of low wages!"

Hostilities were briefly suspended in July, 1882, when the cities were first connected by telephone. Over the newly installed wire Elgin heard a vocal solo from down river and reciprocated with the playing of a cornet and mouth organ. The respective mayors exchanged cordial greetings, but doubt clouded their sincerity. When Mayor Battles of Aurora recalled how friendly the communities had been in the past and predicted the new device would increase this amity, the Elgin city clerk at the end of the line was certain he could hear Battles wink and wriggle his fingers as he spoke.

The rivalry was extended to the playing field and floor, where fans were ready to express their views with bricks, clubs and pop bottles. "Gun" Clifford, an Elgin newsman, recalled the early baseball games where "the whole idea was to win, and when it came to Aurora it was to win by fair means or foul, just as they did the same thing on their own home grounds."

When a football match in 1896 between West Aurora and Elgin high schools resulted in a hotly disputed tie, the referee gave the win by forfeit to Elgin, and the umpire awarded the win by forfeit to Aurora. Twenty years later another dispute about who really won another Elgin-West Aurora game was so intense, conference officials threw the game out of the standings. *

One year Elgin High School's varsity had a fast backfield. The night before the big game, down at Hurd's Island, Aurora students formed bucket brigades to haul water out of the Fox to make the playing field muddy enough to slow the Maroon ball carriers.

The two cities are no longer confined to Kane County; Aurora has expanded into DuPage, and Elgin into Cook. Both cities are now multi-bigh school communities. The competitive fires don't burn as brightly as they once did, although they often flare up prior to the Republican primaries. Some things ' haven't changed. Aurora is still, as the Elgin Daily News relayed in 1887, "at the other end of the Elgin sewer system."

Carpentersville

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, Carpentersville, Illinois, had a population of about 1,000. Although the smallest of the villages in Dundee Township, it was the site of its three largest industries: the Illinois Condensing Company, the Star Manufacturing Company, and the Illinois Iron and Bolt Company. The township's leading taxpayer, the Bolt works, employed about 290 hands in buildings on both sides of the bridge along the west bank of the Fox River, which supplied the power.

Before Julius Angelo Carpenter acquired a controlling interest in Illinois Iron and Bolt in 1868, the business was small and consisted primarily in manufacturing reapers and mowers. Under his management the plant was expanded and production shifted to thimble skeins for wagons, sad irons, copying presses, seat springs, blacksmith tools, pumps and other articles with a national market. When Carpenter died in 1880-reportedly asking, 'What will become of my men?"-his bereaved employees wore crepe on their left arms and attended his burial services en masse. The business lived on. Its wage payments housed, fed and clothed township families; the taxes it paid helped educate children and pave the streets. When the noon whistle sounded, the villagers went to lunch. Mary Edwards Carpenter, the widow and company treasurer, established a park in her husband's memory and donated the Congregational church building and parsonage.

The Bolt workers had to have muscles of iron to labor ten hours a day, six days a week, forging, welding, and attending the blazing furnaces in the foundry. Many were German speaking. Some of the employees lived in company-owned houses along the race bank, but most were scattered throughout the three villages. The heaviest concentration of their homes was in Carpentersville and East Dundee.

American industry in 1899 was in full recovery from the business depression that started with the Panic of'93, and labor was organizing to press for a share of the higher profits. In the neighboring city of Elgin the emergent unions had united in a local Trades Council. The preceding year the Elgin National Watch Company had the first strike in its history. George P. Lord, who had married Carpenter's widow, was now president of Illinois Iron and Bolt. Eighty years old, he was a resident of Elgin, where he headed and liberally funded the YMCA. Devoutly religious (he had resigned the presidency of the Elgin street car line because of a decision to operate on Sundays), a confirmed advocate of temperance, be did not look with favor upon labor unions.

The conflict that was to arouse hatreds and ravage the three villages had its origin in a reduction in the piecework scale in the blacksmith shop of the Bolt works on February 16, 1899. The company justified this cut by claiming that with more efficient new machinery, wages under the old scale-which had averaged $2.29 for the ten-hour day-would be excessive. The men agreed to try it for two weeks, apparently under the assumption that if their wages did not remain the same, the old rates would be restored. At the end of the next pay period, when their compensation came to only $1.50, the management refused to change the scale and the 18 hands quit work. Talk about forming a union spread quickly. When three leaders of this movement were discharged without explanation, a local, Federal Union No. 724 1, was organized March 7th and applied for affiliation with the American Federation of Labor.

The company responded by granting a five percent pay increase but the union continued to enlist members. The union demanded the restoration of the old rates and reinstatement of those who had led in organizing the union. Management refused to discuss those issues, and on the morning of April 19th, 175 men walked out and marched in a body to West Dundee, where a meeting was held to plan the strike. About 20 skilled moulders and 95 men in other departments remained at work.

Declining to meet with the union or to recognize the Elgin Trades Council, which attempted to effect a settlement, the company began hiring replacements. It was this decision to continue operating the plant during the strike that led to the disorders and violence. The strike breakers, called scabs by the union men, were a rough lot for the most part, found among the floating elements in Elgin and Chicago. The company boarded about 40 in a space off the plant's dining hall. The strikers called this the Lord Hotel or the Hotel de Scab. Others stayed at Hitzemann's hotel in Dundee or commuted from Elgin. The Dundee Hawkeye described them as "being the worst type-men who couldn't hold or even get a job," and prophesied that "the company will see the day they wished with all their hearts they had the old force back again."

As more replacement workers filled the strikers' jobs, the walkout turned ugly. Disorders, assaults, and window breaking became more frequent. Some scabs were waylaid and beaten by the union men, and the replacements antagonized the community with thefts, drunken behavior and other actions, such as standing on the footbridge that connected the upper floors of the two plant buildings and spitting tobacco juice on pedestrians below. To protect themselves, many of the scabs carried knives and revolvers. In early July a confrontation between the antagonists in front of the plant led to stone throwing, and a scab brandished a gun. The fighting was later continued on the streets of West Dundee. Each side accused the other of provocation. The village president of Carpentersville, who was also company foreman and had remained on the job, left town for a long stay in Iowa, and the county sheriff informed the three village governments that he would preserve the peace since they appeared unable to do so. For a time the company confined the scabs to their quarters in the plant to ease the growing tension.

Rumors heightened the emotional conflict among union men, company officials, and those who continued to work. The struggle continued week after week, month after month, dividing families and breaking up friendships. Neighbors who had been congenial for years now passed without speaking. In niarked contrast to the turmoil at the Bolt works, the president of the watch factory in Elgin met with workers to resolve disagreements and allay discontent. The labor force of the Star plant across the river, with similar occupations, remained loyal to their company.

Letters to Elgin newspapers expressed some of the bitterness of the strikers and their many sympathizers in the villages. One writer claimed that Carpentersville had died of "scab rot" and should henceforth be called Lordsville. Ella Obland, one of the correspondents who did not shrink from signing her name, used sarcasm in referring to strike breakers, praising the company for bringing "such good people here to build up the town and fill the church and force out the lawless set who have lived here most of their lives."

Another letter pointed up the difficult choices made by the union men: "Here is Frank Reeves, an old soldier, who has worked in this foundry since the close of the civil war, and Arthur Arvedson, just home from Cuba. The latter's mother is an only niece of the late J.A. Carpenter. They are out of the shops with all the other men and a special trolley car runs up from Elgin with strangers to take their places."

"These men are our neighbors who turned out to a man when the shops were on fire, to assist in protecting the company's property," reminded another writer. "And when the company brings the sheriff here it courts riot."

Management finally met with a union committee in July but would not agree to its terms. Dundee merchants, whose businesses suffered, met with George P. Lord in a fruitless attempt to mediate the dispute. The company offered to allow the strikers to return but would not recognize the union. Those who remained loyal were treated to a family excursion to Lake Geneva, the first such affair in the company's history, while strikers who lived in company-owned houses were given eviction notices.

The union announced a boycott of the company's products, and the American Federation of Labor placed Illinois Iron and Bolt on its unfair list. The Elgin Trades Council gave the union funds it was planning to use for a Labor Day celebration. Although the company claimed in August that it was employing as many men as it could use, the union asserted that both the quality and quantity of the output had declined and the plant

could not fill all its orders. The turnover rate among the replacements was high, and by September the plant manager was calling at the homes of skilled workers trying to persuade them to return.

Samuel Gompers, president of the A. F. of L., invited the company president, union leaders, and a representative of the Elgin Trades Council to meet with him in Chicago. On the day appointed, September 15th, George P. Lord neither appeared nor sent his regrets, and the union then abandoned all efforts to communicate with the management. The boycott was pushed with visits by union men to Chicago factories but had little success.

The strike was never settled by an agreement. As late as January, 1900, 11 months after the beginning of the trouble, violence was still occurring and the union claimed that only about 20 of its members had returned to work. By then most of the strikers had taken jobs elsewhere in the Fox valley. Perhaps as many as 30 of the more skilled pattern makers and moulders had gone to a plant in Marinette, Wisconsin, to make skeins at higher wages in competition with their former employer. Others found employment at a foundry in Stoughton, Wisconsin. The company lost orders and goodwill, the strikers their jobs, and the community its peace. And the name of George P. Lord, the God-fearing philanthropist whose intransigence had prolonged the conflict, remained anathema in the three villages long after his death.
 
 

        



Chapters -

  1  ELGIN NAMES
  2  MEMORABLE EVENTS
  3  FOX RIVER
  4  ANIMAL FRIENDS
  5  VETERANS
  6  FAMILY TIES
  7  GOOD OLD DAYS?
  8  THE UNEXPECTED
  9  IMMIGRANTS & COLONISTS
10  THE SPORTING LIFE
11  ELGINITES
12  LANDMARKS GONE
13  NEIGHBORS
14  MUSIC MAKERS & ARTISTS
15  CRIMINAL ACTS
16  CELEBRITIES AND PRESIDENTS
17  ALL KINDS OF DWELLINGS
18  POLITICOS
19  OUR GAL NETTIE
20  CLUBS
21  BOUNDARY LINES
22  IT TAKES TIME
23  MADE IN ELGIN
24  AROUND TOWN
25  THE END

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