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Tampico History - Cain

Sterling Gazette
Saturday, April 29, 1944

H. E. Cain Prepares Article on Early History of Tampico

H. E. Cain, venerable Tampico druggist and well-known through-out Whiteside county and northern Illinois for his activities in Democratic politics, and who has been unable to at his place of business for the past year and half due to poor health, has compiled a list of reminiscences of the early days of the village of Tampico.

Mr. Cain, who was born in a log cabin in Thomas town, moved with his parents to Tampico in 1872 when he was four years of age, and grew up with the town. He enjoys recalling the early days, telling of incidents that occurred during the years, and visiting with friends who also remember the earlier times. An account he has prepared follows:

In sitting by the side of the road and watching the world go by one's thoughts turn back to the days when Tampico had three-cornered pants. Some of the merchants and people in that era are listed: Glassburn and Bryant in the elevator and Tim Guinan in the warehouse; D. McMillan in the lumber yard with I. M. Wylie,  clerk, and Joe Dennis as yardman; E. W. High, dry goods; Frank Case, Dry Goods & Clothier; A. Smith hardware; Peter Burke, groceries; James Conroy, Sr., groceries; Joseph Mossheart, groceries, later known as Mossheart & Berry.

W. J. Magee, drug store; Robert Colins, blacksmith; Joseph Kemp, John Van Vulkenburg, Kirk Dunlap, carpenters; and William Metcalf and William Hackett, plasterers and masons; Carrie Cain, millinery, later operated by Miss L. L. Higday; Charles Dorn, harness shop; O. B. Kelsen, shoe shop, afterwards operated by Milt Hixon.


The first school teacher was George W. Appley, who was followed by Miss L. L .Higday; A. W. Bastian, the Bard girls, Mary and Sadie Glassburn, Rose Laughlin and Katie Fuller. The first hotel was run by my father, Eli Cain and was known as the Tampico House. This was later operated by J. B. Barnes.

The first livery was run by C. R. and R. Aldrich and the first dray was operated by Tip Dow. The first fire in the town was at the James Conroy store located about where the Strouss barber shop is today and spread south over half of the east side of Main Street, George Sittler had the first meat market; Buck Miller was the first depot agent; Pete Lannigan was the first section boss and a general store the present Rosene Hall was conducted by a Mr.Hammeker.

The small pox scare was something. Only two persons in town had ever had the disease and they assisted in caring for the sick. A pest house was built in the east section of town where those who had the disease were taken for care. W. J. Maget, who operated the drug store, was also a cabinet maker and built coffins for those who succumbed to the dreaded disease. Interment for the deceased was held in the vicinity of the pest house. Sassafras tea was believed to be a preventative and there was plenty of the tea being drunk for awhile.


The tornado hit Tampico June 6, 1874 - and that was a real blow. Buildings and contents were **** and some people were injured as is the peculiarity of such storms, houses were blown over but mirrors were left unbroken.

The only crossing Main Street had was a plank one, two boards wide crossing the street about at the present drug store. There was no church when the village was first started and Sunday school was held in Dee's Hall on the lot where the Dr. R. Smith store  is now located. The Methodist church was the first church in town and the first minister was a A. B. Medler. Father Gormley was the first Catholic priest. Some of the "old timers' were George Hixon, William Hackett and his boy "Bruiser." George Kilmer and John Swede, the painter.


Culpepper was a town by itself and consisted of a store located on the present Edward Fullerton property on south Main Street. The store was built by a Grange with the idea in mind to later build an elevator and granary but that was never accomplished. It was a big day in town when a sidewalk was built to "Culpepper." The store was later moved into the present business district and is the building now occupied by Harry Hurd, Jr.

When the first fire company was organized the town thought it had something. The men would practice running and the whole town would turn out to see them. They would run 200 yards, raise a 30 foot ladder and a man would climb it. the local department made a run at the Sterling fair of 40 seconds and the record was never lowered. Some of the members were Robert Collins, Henry Denison, A. W. Denison, T. O. Steadman, George Knox (the climber), J. M. Jacobs, H. L. Sheldon, Charles Appley, Albert Ferris and Jake and Aug. Hein.


Tip Dow was the village marshal. He raided a blind pig and had a helper by the name of Brill in the melee which caused much amusement for the town's people. Tip heard some one running in the dark and thinking it was some of a gang went after him, not realizing who he was chasing until he ran Brill to his home. the Tampico Tornado said it was the "Second Bull Run."

Present times are tough, but no one would care to go back, so we can say "Gone are the Days."

TAMPICO AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY - MUSEUM - FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY/RESEARCH CENTER  119 Main St., P. O. Box 154,  Tampico, IL  61283   www.tampicohistoricalsociety.com   tampicoareahistory@gmail.com  We are an all-volunteer organization so your donations are always appreciated!  Sign up to receive our e-newsletter. Thank you!  Visit us on FACEBOOK.