100 years ago, May 25, 1917

MATTOON -- Organization of a Mattoon chapter of the American Red Cross Society was perfected at a public meeting last night at the First Congregational Church. A campaign to procure 2,000 members will be started next week. The goal is a membership of 3,000. Officials of the Mattoon chapter, elected last night, are Rev. T.Y. Williams, chairman; Mrs. James Sampson, vice chairman; Mrs. H.F. Kendall, secretary; and L.L. Lehman, treasurer. The Mattoon chapter will last for the duration of the European War. After the war, its forces will be used whenever necessary... MATTOON -- Henry Jones made a business trip to Charleston recently and on his way home stopped in Mattoon for a short visit with his old friend, J.M. Mitchell, who was a member of the same company as Mr. Jones during the Civil War. Mr. Jones returned home with an interesting relic of the war, it being a hat Mr. Mitchell was wearing at the battle of Liberty Gap, Tenn., June 25, 1863, in which both Mr. Jones and he were wounded, Mr. Mitchell being shot in the side of the head while Mr. Jones was shot in the leg. The bullet which wounded Mr. Mitchell cut two neat round holes in the hat, but the wound it inflicted was not especially severe, though he still carries a scar. He was confined to the hospital only a short time before rejoining his company. Mr. Jones was laid up by the wound he received the same day for about three months. In September 1863, Mr. Mitchell was captured by southern soldiers and remained a prisoner until the end of the war.

50 years ago, 1967

OAKLAND -- An artist's conception of the features of a youth who robbed Griest's Drug Store at gunpoint last night is being used as one guide in the investigation by the Coles County Sheriff's office. Taken in the 7:20 p.m. robbery of the store located on the southwest corner of the square was $50 in cash. Held at gunpoint was Homer L. Griest, who has owned and operated the store for 40 years. He was not harmed. The youth was described as being about 18 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall and having brown hair... SAIGON -- the U.S. Command announced today that a record number of 337 Americans were killed in action in Vietnam last week, mainly in fighting around the demilitarized zone. The casualty report also lists 2,282 Americans wounded and 31 missing during last week's combat. In addition, 241 South Vietnamese troops were reportedly killed and other allies, mainly South Koreans, reported 50 dead. Communist losses were 2,464 killed. All this made the week by far the bloodiest of the war.

25 years ago, 1992

Memorial Day. No paper.

100 years ago, May 26, 1917

MATTOON --A tornado, dealing death and widespread devastation in its wake, struck the northern portion of Mattoon about 3:15 o'clock this afternoon. At least 38 people are known to be dead, while the injured, many of whom it is feared will succumb from their hurts, will reach into the scores. It is believed the death list may reach between 75 and 100 when the ruins have been thoroughly examined. The path of the storm was about half a mile in width and extended the full length of the city, sweeping all before it and leveling dwelling, barn, outbuilding and tree as if they had been mown down by a giant scythe. The storm seems to have struck the city at a point about 24th Street and Grant Avenue and leveled all before it as it tore its way through the city from west to east. The storm's southernmost extremity appears to have been at Champaign Avenue, as south of that point, dwellings and other buildings were not greatly damaged... MATTOON -- A special train was hastily made up at the Big Four shops, as soon as the damage from the big storm was ascertained, and sent to Charleston for the purpose of bringing back physicians and nurses to assist in caring for the injured. there was a report, however, that Charleston had suffered quite as much from the visitation of the elements as had Mattoon. Although the news was meager, it was reported that the village of Westervelt, near Shelbyville, was wiped out by a tornado at the same time as that which exacted such a terrible toll in this city... MATTOON -- The instances were escape from death were by the narrowest of margins were so numerous that they cannot be enumerated here. Richard Steidl and several boys who were in the Steidl Brothers packing house on North 22nd Street, went into the huge refrigerator, and strange to say, this was the only thing which was left standing and unharmed of the building after the storm had passed. Not one of the occupants was hurt. Mrs. Nash and her daughter, seeking a place of safety, went into a clothes closet and shut the door. Suddenly they heard bricks tumbling down about them, and instantly realizing their danger, sought the only thing near, and ironing board, and held it above their heads. They feel they would have been killed but for this precaution.

50 years ago, 1967

MATTOON -- A baby raccoon, barely a few weeks old, is the pet of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Jones of Mattoon. The animal was found in front of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Henry on Edgar Avenue this week. Henry and his daughter, Mrs. Jones, brought the animal to the newspaper office, proudly displaying it in a blanket and basket with all the ceremony normally afforded a "real" grandchild. The raccoon is being fed sweetened milk by its "foster parents." ... NEOGA -- A Neoga non-profit industrial promotion organization has launched a bid to get Lake Land College located on a 150-acre site at the north edge of Neoga. In a letter to Lake Land, Neoga Industries emphasized the "centralized location" of the proposed Neoga site, and says it has an additional 40 acres available for option. Virgil H. Judge, president of the college, said today all site proposals will be discussed in open meeting after an architect is hired. 

25 years ago, 1992

CHARLESTON -- Seventy-five years ago, a powerful tornado struck Mattoon and Charleston. Sixty-four people died in Mattoon and 35 people were killed in Charleston. Hundreds more were injured. There was no light or gas service available. School was canceled. In Charleston, the storm wrecked the Coles County Fairgrounds and cut a swath eastward and a half-mile wide. SPRINGFIELD -- In his first year as governor, Jim Edgar received gifts ranging from zucchini bread and stadium seats to a videotape of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and a Christmas ornament from Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Edgar, a Republican from Charleston, receives many gifts as the state’s chief executive but he has rejected one of the state’s most expensive: honorary membership in a country club with no black members. Membership in the Illini Country Club in Springfield normally costs from $6,000 to $11,000 annually, depending on whether golf privileges are included. Edgar spokesman Mike Lawrence said the governor declined the membership offer because no African-Americans currently are members… SPRINGFIELD -- The state has fallen behind on payments required by a three-year-old law designed to put state-supported pension systems on solid financial footing for the next century. The shortchanging doesn’t endanger the current benefits of the more than 100,000 retired government workers, judges, lawmakers, college employees and Downstate teachers. But it raises serious questions about the status of benefits in, say, 2012 or 2022. The shortfall now tops $410 million.

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