Posted by: Aaron Lisec | December 22, 2011

Christmas Ball, 150 Years Ago

Wiley Collection, John A. Logan Museum, Murphysboro, Illinois

The good people of Anna, Illinois, thirty miles north of Cairo, did not let the first Christmas of the Civil War pass without a traditional Christmas Ball.  Founded several years before along the line of the new Illinois Central Railroad, Anna had hosted a military camp for training recruits since the first month of the war.  Acting Mustering Officer Ulysses S. Grant spent a week there in May 1861, mustering in a regiment that became the 18th Illinois Infantry.  In a May 21 letter to his wife Julia, Grant shared his impressions of “the people of Egypt,” as southern Illinois was commonly known.  Though the local inhabitants, many with roots in the Confederate states, were stereotyped as “ignorant, disloyal, intemperate and generally heathenish,” Grant found instead that these recruits were “the equal, if not the superior, of any of the Regiments raised in the State, for all the virtues of which they are charged with being deficient.”  (The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Volume 2, p. 33.)  Anna remained a military camp for much of the war, and many Illinois recruits spent at least a few weeks there, learning the soldier’s trade, before heading south.

Among the managers listed on this invitation is Robert B. Stinson, “who carried on an extensive barrel factory near the railroad into Anna where he employed 30 men and manufactured 50,000 barrels per year and other packages for shipping fruit and vegetables.” (Lulu Leonard, History of Union County, [1941]).  Stinson, aged 30, enlisted in the army the day before this Christmas Ball and was mustered in seven weeks later as Second Lieutenant, Company F, 60th Illinois Infantry.  He served three and a half years and was mustered out in July 1865.  After the war he resumed his business and was active in the Grand Army of the Republic.  When he died in 1903, he endowed the city of Anna with a fund to build a “fireproof” library.   Through a chance local connection, the library board hired Walter Burley Griffin, architect and chief draftsman for Frank Lloyd Wright, to design it.  The Stinson Memorial Library was dedicated in 1914, just as Griffin left for Australia to design the new capital, Canberra.  Aside from a house Griffin designed for his brother in Edwardsville it is the only example of the Prairie Style school of architecture found in the southern third of Illinois.

Another manager was Wallace Kirkpatrick, who co-founded Anna Pottery with his brother Cornwall in 1859.  The brothers cast everything from sewer pipe to annual jugs commemorating the county fair.  Their temperance-themed liquor jugs, often in the shape of pigs (imbibers drank from the “wrong” end) or jars wreathed by snakes, are prized by collectors and museums as examples of Midwestern folk art.

Dancers at the ball whirled to the music of the Terpinitz String Band, led by Joseph E. Terpinitz, a local jeweler.  Born in 1836 in Austria, Terpinitz studied at the Vienna Conservatory of Music.  In a penciled reminiscence for Professor George W. Smith of the Southern Illinois Normal University in Carbondale, Terpinitz wrote:  “I was a revolutionist in the uprising in Vienna in 1848.  I was only twelve years old, I was seriously wounded by the saber stroke of an imperial cavalryman and was long in the hospital, after which I was spirited away into Switzerland where  I remained until Francis Joseph was placed upon the throne.”  In 1856, Terpinitz emigrated with his father to the Kornthal settlement, a community of Austrians just south of Jonesboro, Illinois.  He became a jeweler and started a band.  During the 1858 Senate campaign in Illinois, Democrats hired the Terpinitz band to play at the Jonesboro debate between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.  Terpinitz described his first sight of Lincoln, during the procession from the hotel to the debate ground.  “[W]e noticed to our left in the path by the road side a tall odd looking man walking along with his hands behind him.  He wore a tall plug hat, rather long tailed coat, and was a person who would attract one’s attention in a crowd.  He seemed in deep meditation walking with his head down. ”  (Vertical File Manuscript 39, SCRC.)

The invitation is part of the Wiley collection, generously loaned to SCRC by the John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro, Illinois.  The invitation accompanies a letter written by Mary Davie Perrine, wife of Thomas M. Perrine (also listed as manager), to her sister, Emily Davie Wiley.  The collection was scanned, uploaded to our digital Southern Illinois Civil War collection (to join our own Wiley family letters), and the originals returned to the museum.

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Responses

  1. Fascinating! New (to this reader) information about Grant and Lincoln -especially the appearance and demeanor of Lincoln – enrich the enjoyment of life today in the Anna area, realizing what Was.


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