Archive for August, 2016


Vandalia in 1836, by John Matthew Heller. The mural hung in the restaurant at the Hotel Evans in Vandalia from 1954 until the hotel burned in 1969.

My first book was a history of my hometown when it was the Illinois capital, entitled High on the Okaw’s Western Bank: Vandalia, Illinois, 1819-1839 (University of Illinois Press, 1992). Mostly researched in 1975-1979, while I was in college, the book’s first draft was completed in 1983-1985. The publisher liked it but requested a reorganization of the manuscript, which I did in 1989-1991. By then I was also writing my doctoral dissertation in theology.

The following PDF file (a print-out from our old Kaypro computer on which my wife Beth and I worked back then) is a list of all the businesses I could discover that operated in Vandalia while it was state capital. This was to be an appendix to the book but, instead, I published it separately in a 1985 issue of Fayette Facts—the quarterly of Vandalia’s genealogical society—and in the book I discussed the businesses and what they reflected about the local and state economy as well as local settlement.

This material may still have importance for genealogical and historical purposes, so I’m adding the file to this blog—which has gotten quite a lot of views from genealogists during the past few years.



Read Full Post »

Mary Burtschi (1911-2009) lived in my hometown, Vandalia, IL, for most of her life and was a beloved teacher in nearby Effingham, IL. She was also an author who wrote books about early Vandalia history and the life and career of Western author James Hall (1793-1868). My wife Beth wrote her master’s thesis at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville on Mary’s life. She got to know Mary well and conducted interviews with her on numerous occasions.  In 1997, Beth published three articles about Mary in Springhouse magazine, a periodical to which I’ve long contributed (including several posts on this blog). Here are PDF files of the articles, published in the August, October, and December 1997 issues.






Read Full Post »