Bizarre Altamont Stories

Reading through old newspaper articles, many news stories can be classified as bizarre or folksy (especially by present-day standards). With today being April Fools, many of these stories are fitting. However, unlike most April Fools stories, these are real.

The Mysterious Grave.

In August 1906, rumors spread throughout Altamont that a group of gypsies, located on the outskirts of town, had fled after burying a human corpse near their camp.

The city marshal called for his assistants to help find and dig up the body. The frightened search party, expecting to find the grisly body of a murder victim, approached the grave with their shovels, spades, and other digging tools. They soon discovered the fresh, mound of dirt covering the grave, and began digging. The men’s tools hit what felt like a body. In a state of panic, they overturned the remaining dirt and discovered the body of a diseased horse.

The Mattoon Daily Journal ended the article with “The laugh was on the city marshal and his assistants, and they tried to keep the story secret, but it leaked out and now there is very little rest for them in Altamont.”

Source: Mattoon Daily Journal August 27, 1902

The Bird Mishap.

The Daily Review from Decatur, Illinois Mar 23, 1895

In March 1895, a trainmaster from the Wabash Railroad named Jenkins, and a local man named Frank Dorwin, had a quarrel. A Shanghai rooster without feet was delivered to Dorwin. Dorwin blamed Jenkins, saying Jenkins bought the rooster because he thought it was a parrot. But when Jenkins couldn’t get the rooster to swear, he changed the address on the tag and sent it to Dorwin.

However, Jenkins had a different story. Jenkins said Dorwin answered an advertisement for a mockingbird and was fleeced. Too embarrassed to admit he received a rooster instead of a mockingbird, Dorwin publicly blamed Jenkins.

Which man do you believe?

Source: The Daily Review from Decatur, Illinois. Mar 23, 1895

The 91-year-old, Corn-Shucking, Machine.

In 1922, G.W. Higgs, against the advice of everyone, challenged his son-in-law, W.N. Dowds to a corn-shucking contest. Higgs was 91 years old, which was a miracle in those days. (The average lifespan for men in the 1920’s was 50 years old). Higgs beat his son-in-law, shucking a total of 33 bushels of corn. The next morning he challenged Dowds to a rematch, but Dowds refused.

Source: The Decatur Herald, Nov. 17, 1922.

One thought

  1. Had never heard these stories. I was born in Beecher City and raised to the ripe age of 14 in Altamont. I have many fond memories. My sister, Ruth Moore, stayed in Altamont. She worked twenty years for the Postal Department in Illinois, and her Husband, Stan Moore drove a bakery truck for an Altamont bakery, later for Sunshine Bread. Mother, Mary Rickett-Vail-Holas had several homes over the years In Altamont.

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