November 19, 2015

Editor’s Note.

            Sixty-one months after I first sat behind my computer with a notepad next to me, this version of The Eagle and the Journal has come to an end. What began largely as a vanity project, something to do while finishing my dissertation, has come to dominate my mind and my research. I was approached in the fall of 2010 by Marty Fischer, a civically- and historically-minded gentleman in Macomb, with the concept of republishing a few stories a week in the McDonough Voice, the current newspaper in Macomb and created by the combination of the Eagle and the Journal that same year. The idea of the project was simply to connect the citizens of Macomb with its past. The electronic version arose from the fact that the Voice did not post the articles on their website, and I wished to show friends and family that I was indeed doing something with my life. The Voice dropped the series at some point in 2012; I have carried the project forward from there. Marty confessed at several points that he never expected much from the project, mainly due to the fact that Macomb was a farm town, and he was not alone in the preconceived notion that while some articles might touch on war news, necessarily farm stories and crop prices must dominate the pages of these two publications.

We all of us could not have been so wrong.

Indeed, you have been witness to my findings. A town with an incredibly active political life that proved the adage that “all politics is local.” Political divisions so deep that one publication never felt like it truly supported the war or her native sons fighting in the army; divisions so vicious that more than once I have concluded that Macomb was a town torn asunder by the war, with friendships and families victim to things far worse than rebel bullets or moldering disease.

While I no longer physically live in Macomb, I have spent so much time with the records of her citizens that in some way I feel connected with that city still. I am perhaps more comfortable mentally with the inventory of S. J. Clarke’s Book Store, or the prospect of walking into the offices of either the Journal or the Eagle than I am with other factors in my life. I have lived the last five years on the Square and along the streets of a small Illinois town dealing with war and dissent, and in some respects I may know many of those men better than I do those whom I work with today. Already, within an hour of finishing the final transcription, I feel a certain hollowness within me. What will I do without the weekly work nagging at me to keep this blog going?

What will I do? I will let the blog sit for a few weeks. I need to deal with a couple of other irons that are heating in the fire. Once that happens, this blog will essentially serve as a note source, for the next step is publication. In some form or another, be it article or book, I want to spread the work and words of the history of Macomb even further. I unearthed a rich resource of materials, most an untouched and unknown bedrock of history never tapped before. The Eagle and the Journal will move forward after a short hiatus.

It would also be prudent to thank those who assisted this project in any number of ways. The Special Collections Department of the Western Illinois Library suffered my presence gracefully, and allowed access to the microfilm versions of both papers. The first two weeks of the blog were transcribed by pencil and paper from the brittle, bound copies of the original 150 year old materials. Once it became clear that the project would continue, I was lucky to have access to a computer and scanner that allowed me to collect six months’ worth of materials at a time from microfilm. To Kathy Nichols and the staff of Special Collections, a special thank you.

To Marty Fischer, Don Bath and Linda Cox, I owe thanks for the moral support to keep things going in the early days of the blog. I had the pleasure to meet all three during the scant days of the West-Central Illinois Civil War Round Table that we attempted to create in Macomb. Unfortunately, we lost Don two years ago. It’s my hope that he knew how much I appreciated his friendship and help through the years.

Finally, I wish to thank my wife and friends for their support as well during the creation of this blog. Your words kept this project going during the times that I felt that no one was reading. Thanks to all of you.

Let’s see what the future brings now.

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4 responses

  1. Randall C, Gibbs | Reply

    Robert. I can truthfully say I have enjoyed these accounts of Macomb’s life that you have provided for us! I also can truthfully say I have been to Macomb less than the fingers on either of my hands in my 63 years on this planet. But the feel of every day life that you have written about can be imagined, pictured if you will, for the small square of the local town many of us may have grown up in or lived close to. The two dimensional became fleshed out and vibrant with many colors as we read of horse carriage accidents, new clothing lines and hardware stores wares, the loss of fortunes and the smells of fresh baked breads for the returning Boys in Blue. I thank you for all of this and know that it will provide you a cornerstone to build from for future endeavors. Again, well done sir!

    1. Thank you, Randy. I’m glad that you found as much enjoyment in the project as I did. It’s a rare experience to become this connected with the history of one small town and its people. It was a wonderful chance to attempt, in some small way, to experience the war the same way they did.

  2. I’m crestfallen! This has been a remarkable series and I was looking forward to watching the community’s post-war life play out.

    In any case, I am personally indebted to you for this series. My Civil War ancestry runs through McDonnough County and your work has brought them to life in my mind.

    Thank you.

    1. Unfortunately, all things must come to an end. I chose Magie’s departure from the Journal as the end point because he was the one person familiar to readers for the longest period of time (a driving personality, really); without his continued involvement, the cast began to change too much to be familiar. Additionally, I just couldn’t take this on forever. I can tell you that the Hainline family came to figure very promptly in town, and one became a future editor of the Journal. He published his war memories in the 1880s in a manner similar to Magie.

      Thank you for following the blog, and thank you for deeply appreciated compliment. You achieved exactly what I hoped for. reliving the newspaper experience to the day of original publication. I’m glad that in some small way I was able to connect you to your family’s past in a deeper way.

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