William B. Young, 1885-1886

By Rachel Jenks

William B. Young was mayor of Monmouth, Illinois, from 1885 to 1886. During this time, the United States was moving toward industrialization. The nationwide railway system had been completed, new inventions made work more mechanized, and there was more immigration. During the 1800s, 5,248,568 immigrants came to the United States with the majority being from northern and western Europe.[1] William Young’s parents immigrated from England and Scotland. Most of these immigrants looked for work in the factories and mines. With the growth of factories came the formation of labor unions. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, formed in 1881, became in 1886 the American Federation of Labor. The Unions’ main duty was to protect workers who were working in appalling conditions for low wages. Conflicts between labor and management led to strikes like the Haymarket Square Riot, in Chicago in 1886, and another major strike that same year at the McCormick Reaper plant. Another area of conflict was over alcohol. Life became more regulated, and the frontier was closing: with the Temperance movement becoming even more important.

Four time zones were created to regulate the clocks across the country. These standardized time zones helped the railroad system operate efficiently. The railroads also carried farmers out to the prairies. The last Indian uprising was put down in 1886. The Oklahoma Land Rush in 1889 opened the last frontier to settlement.

Technology was taking off with more inventions. In 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, the longest suspension bridge in the world. The first electric automobile was invented in 1887. Refrigerated railway cars made transportation of cold foods possible and changed the American diet. Coca Cola entered the scene in 1886. Sears, Roebuck and Montgomery Ward started the mail order businesses. In 1882 Thomas Edison started Edison Electric Illuminating Company. Also appearing were the flat iron, electric fan, petroleum jelly, safety razor, and fountain pen. All of these changes made for a very dynamic time that could be seen in even small towns like Monmouth, Illinois.

In the federal census of 1880 the City of Monmouth had a population of five thousand with a large majority of those being white. Warren County had an overall population of 22,933 with the split almost equal between males and females. The largest occupation was agriculture and Warren County had 2519 farms that were valued over twelve and a half million.[2] The main vegetable production was in Indian corn and oats. Other vegetables produced in large quantities were rye, wheat, hay, and potatoes. Livestock was another major source of income with the largest of these being swine and cattle and lower numbers of horses, mules, and sheep. The products from livestock like milk, butter, and cheese also were big.[3] The next largest occupation was professional and personal services which included occupations like barbers, dentists, and lawyers. Manufacturing followed with agricultural implements creating the most capital followed by brick and tile, flouring gist and mill products, and slaughtering and meat packaging.[4] The expanding population and the influential agricultural dominance of the county had a large impact on Young’s mayorship, and his policies demonstrated this.

Monmouth still remained agriculturally dominated, but it too was seeing changes. The agricultural industry was being aided in transportation by the new railway systems that were being built that connected Monmouth with surrounding towns like Rock Island and Burlington, and to smaller nearby rural communities. Electricity was also being introduced first in the city and then to the entire county. Unions were also formed. These circumstances changed many aspect of daily life, making it an interesting time to grow up in.

William Young was born in St. Clairsville, Ohio, to Alexander and Lucy Young in 1846. Two years later a daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie), was born. Alexander moved the family to Monmouth, Illinois, for seminary work while William was still young. William and his sister attended the preparatory school, the Academy, which was a part of Monmouth College. Once William passed the Preparatory School successfully, he attended Monmouth College and graduated in 1864.[5] William obtained the degree of A.B. by completing the Classical Course and passing the final examination. He was a member of the Philadelphian Society, one of the first debating societies formed at Monmouth College.[6] Elizabeth was a graduate of Monmouth College in 1866, also obtaining an A.B; she became an instructor in German the following year at the college. While in attendance, she had been a member of the Amateurs de Belles Letters Society.[7]

Both William and Elizabeth had strong ties to Monmouth College because of their father. He was a United Presbyterian Minister who was connected with Monmouth College in its early years and the United Presbyterian Theological Seminary while it was located at the college. [8] The Reverend Alexander Young was head of the Seminary department and also taught Hebrew and Greek. When Alexander came to the college, it consisted of one small building with one hundred and seventy-two students, with eight of those being in the Seminary. The name of the school was the Theological Seminary of the Northwest and its objective was to “make students familiar with the Bible by requiring them to read considerable portions in both Hebrew and Greek, and to prepare them for the ministry by delivering public sermons twice a year.” The Seminary continued until 1874 when due to Monmouth College’s financial problems, it returned to Ohio to be consolidated with the seminary at Xenia.[9] The Reverend Young was also involved with the local Presbyterian Church. The Second United Presbyterian Church of Monmouth was organized by Dr. Wallace, W. J. Thompson, and William Gowdy on October 25, 1862. The twenty charter members were all former members of the First Church. The arrangement was made for Dr. Wallace and Alexander Young to co-pastor while maintaining their work at Monmouth College. The services were held at the home of A.Y. Graham and at the college chapel until a building was constructed in 1867 on the corner of South Eight Street and East First Avenue.[10] Young took over full charge once Dr. Wallace retired in June of 1871.[11]

Straight out of college William Young registered for the Union Army in Henderson County in 1864, enlisting in the 138th Infantry in Quincy, Illinois, at Camp Wood on May 2 for one hundred days service. This was true of many of his fellow Monmouth College graduates and especially those who were members of the Philadelphian Society.[12] He was in Company D along with eighty-three other men and was mustered into the United States service on June 21 as a private. The commanding officer was Colonel J.W. Goodwin. The Regiment was given orders on June 26 to go to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and report to General Samuel R. Curtis. Fort Leavenworth was on the Indian frontier and had been built to protect those settlers moving west. That was its main duty, but its garrison never saw any real action during the Civil War. The 138th Infantry “contained many veterans, whose discipline did not fail to give it the character of experience, and whose previous honorable service infused into its ranks a spirit of praiseworthy and patriotic emulation.” At that time the counties around the Missouri border were full of bands of guerrillas and bushwhackers. These groups were under the infamous Bill Anderson, Cy Gordon, and Coon Thornton. Company D never saw action against these bandits, and Young remained on garrison duty at Fort Leavenworth. Companies C and F, in contrast, fought almost daily against the guerilla and bushwhacker groups and by early September cleared the area of them. The Regiment was sent back to Camp Butler to muster out on October 14, 1864. Only thirteen men were lost and all to disease.[13]

Young returned to Monmouth after his service and became a book-keeper at the National Bank of Monmouth.[14] He was twenty-four years old and still living with his parents. The 1870 census showed that his parents were both fifty-four and owned real estate valued at $10,600 and a personal estate valued at $1000. He also help form the society the Supreme Council, Order of the Golden Rule. Its inception was on April 18, 1872 with Young being one of the officers. Its objective was to “unite all persons of a moral character into a social, benevolent and fraternal society, with the principles of the Golden Rule as its foundation, and to aid its members in the struggles of life in any way that may be suggestive by common feelings of humanity.”[15] Funds were collected to aid members in leaving provisions for their families if something should happen. In 1873 Young left Monmouth to become an accountant in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, for two years. He returned in 1875 to become cashier at the National Bank of Monmouth while boarding at the Commercial House.[16] There was only one cashier at each bank which made it an important position. Young was also involved in the Agricultural Society and held the office of Treasurer. A fair was held in 1884 with a good turn out and the “exhibition of stock was exceedingly good.” Along with cows and horses being shown, races were also held and art displayed.[17] In 1885 Young was elected mayor of Monmouth on the Republican and anti-license tickets, winning 573 votes, with Beck getting 321 and Pattee 217. Also winning on the Republican and anti-license ticket was E. J. Clark for clerk and J. W. Smith for marshal. W. K. Stewart won on the democratic, anti-license and citizens’ tickets for attorney. Henry Patterson won for treasurer on the democratic and citizens’ tickets along with Joseph Dunn for street commissioner. Also D. Babcock was chosen alderman from the first ward, J. S. Firoved from the second, L. C. Nott from the third, and J. W. Gaul from the fourth, and James McMillen from the fifth. The election itself was “a lively one” with four tickets running—those being the straight Democratic, straight Republican, anti-license, and citizens or high license. The newspaper said of the election that the vote cast was not a very full one, and though considerable talking was done, not as much interest was manifested as was expected.[18]

The anti-license or citizen tickets were for temperance. The Temperance movement supported prohibition which was getting more and more support across the country. The majority of supporters were women who blamed alcohol for most societal evils. The movement also had a very strong religious background. In The Monmouth Review, a week prior to the election an article ran “Temperance” called for all “anti-citizen” and anti-saloon men to band together. The article stated, “Let there be no strife among temperance men; no voting for license, as some threaten to do, out of spite for St. John.” The article goes on to say “temperance is of more importance to our city than party politics” and that it was crucial to save the city from the “threatened saloon curse.”[19] The anti-license and citizens’ ticket was very successful in the city election of 1885. It won all of the major offices including Young for mayor.

At the city council meeting held on Monday, May 4, 1885, Mayor Burlingim gave a short farewell address then W. B. Young took the oath of office and gave an inaugural speech. The rest of the meeting was committed to forming permanent committees for auditing, finance, miscellaneous business and gas, ordinances and printing, streets and alleys, police, and cemetery. Also, appointments were made for fire marshall, first assistant, second assistant, sexton, weighmaster, and policemen.[20]

A large majority of the ordinances passed involved the construction of sidewalks. One such ordinance was passed in May of 1885, stating where and how each new sidewalk would be built.

“northeast corner of lot one in block 24 (east edge of town) going west along the North sides of said lot one and lot two in said block twenty-four to the Northwest corner of said last mentioned, in the Old Town Part of the City of Monmouth, county of Warren and State of Illinois, and along the east side of lot one in block ten (North-east part of town) in the Old Town Part of the said city commencing at the southeast corner of said last named lot and running to the northeast corner of the same lot, of two-inch plank not less than eight inches wide, laid upon oak stringers not less than three by four inches, to be placed not to exceed four feet apart, with the ends resting upon stone, said sidewalk to be six feet wide. And along the east sides of lot fifteen in block eighteen (west edge of town) and lots one, four, five, and eight in block forty-seven, commencing at the northeast corner of said lot fifteen (east part of town) and running to the southeast of said lot eight, and along the east side of lot one in block twenty-two (east part of town), commencing at the northeast corner of said lot one, block twenty-two, running to the southeast corner of the same, all in the...And along the north side of said lot one block twenty-two in the said Old Town Part of said city, commencing at the Northeast corner of said lot, running to the northwest corner thereof, …Materials under the supervision of and subject to approval of the Superintendent of Streets of said city.”[21]

The ordinance stated that the over half of the cost of the construction of the new sidewalks would be paid by a special taxation of the lots or parcels of land that touch upon the line of the proposed sidewalks and the rest to be covered by the funds raised by general taxation. Seven more ordinances were passed during Young’s term of office that involved the construction of new sidewalks.

Another ordinance involved privies and water closets. It introduced the new Dry Earth System within the city limits. It stated that all privies and water closets that existed within the fire limits of the City of Monmouth had to be reconstructed upon the plan known as the “dry earth system” within thirty days of the passage of the ordinance. The Board of Health would be in charge of making sure that “each and every dwelling house, tenement house, store house and other private building and each public building in the city limits have suitable privies and water closets.” The new privies and water closets had to be at least two feet from any adjoining lot and at least fifty feet from every street, lane, alley, square, court, or avenue. If the above orders were not followed, a citizen would be fined no less than three dollars but no more than one hundred dollars for every offense.

In June an ordinance made it unlawful for any person to ride or drive in or through the public parks in the City of Monmouth. It also made it illegal for a “person to hitch any animal to or to climb into, or in any manner injure any of the trees or shrubs growing in and about the public parks.” Anyone found guilty of the above violations would be fined five dollars for each offense.

Another related ordinance passed on the same day that made it illegal for animals to be tied out to graze on the streets, alleys, and public places of the City of Monmouth. It stated that “any cow horse, mule, or other animal and any person violating shall be fined not less than one but not more than fifty dollars for each offense.”[22]

A new office of City Scavenger was created with the tenure of office being one year, with the appointment being made by the mayor with the consent of the city council. The scavenger’s duties involved collecting garbage slops and the content of privy boxes, drawers, and pails, along with any earth system whenever a member of the Board of Health required it or any person needing such service, then disposing of the waste wherever specified by the Board of Health. The scavenger had to provide his own means of collecting and dispersing which involved a water-tight box or vehicle. The fees for the different services were forty cents for forty-two gallons, twenty-five cents for a half barrel, twenty-five cents for one pail, seventy-five cents for eight cubic feet and an additional five cents for each additional cubic foot. The fees were to be paid by the person requiring the work.[23]

An ordinance regulated the weighing of hay, coal, and other such commodities. Those who used scales had to keep accounts of the loads weighed and charge the same fees as those fixed by the city ordinances. Half of the fees had to be paid over to the city and monthly reports had to be made to the city council of the number of loads weighed, with receipts handed over to the Treasurer. An ordinance made it unlawful for any person on Sunday to “engage in any ordinary labor, trade or business, or to keep open any house of trade, shop, saloon, store grocery, or restaurant or any place of business or amusement or to sell or traffic in any article.”[24] The fine was to be of no less than five dollars. In 1886 another ordinance made it illegal to “engage in any amusement or exercises of dancing, jumping, skating, running horses, playing at ball, billiards, cards, marbles, or other games, wrestling, boxing, hunting, or any amusements or exercises of like nature with a fine of not less than three dollars.”[25] These particular ordinances were direct results of industrialization. Businesses needed to be regulated and not everyone liked the changes in society.

Other ordinances showed the growth of the city at that time. One included the extension of Oak Street (today Ninth Avenue), from south Main Street west through Morgan S Second addition, to intersect West Avenue with it being the same width as the already existing road.[26] There was also an ordinance that created new subdivisions of the City of Monmouth.[27] Brooklyn Electric Construction Company and Thompson and Houston Electric Light Company were granted permission in an ordinance to put up poles and string electric light wires along the streets and alleys.[28] The city was growing, so obviously were the number of houses. An ordinance required those houses within the city limits be numbered within ten days of receiving a notice from the city. The ordinance set up a system for numbering the houses:

“Main Street was to be the dividing line for numbering houses on all streets or avenues running east/west. Broadway was the base for north/south streets and avenues. The first number of each side of Broadway was to be one hundred and progress north and south at the rate of one hundred to the distance of each block from the dividing line. The first number on each side of Main Street shall be one hundred numbers and progress east and west at a rate of one hundred numbers to each block from Main Street. Odd numbers were on the east and south sides and even numbers on the west and north sides.”[29]

The ordinance that showed that Young kept to his campaign promise was passed on May 11, 1886, regulating the sale of intoxicating liquors in the city. It stated that “no license shall be issued to any person or persons to keep a shop in any place underground, or in any cellar or basement or in any room above the first or ground floor.”[30] Young had run on the anti-license ticket, and he was able to get laws passed along those lines. He was maybe too effective, though. The next election showed that not everyone wanted stricter alcohol laws. The anti-license ticket did not fare as well in 1886 as it had in 1885.

The election in 1886 according to The Review was a “regular ‘eye-opener’ to the temperance workers, and some valuable lessons for the future may be drawn from it.” The party lost many of its positions and the paper went on to say “saloons will be run in full blast for the next two years.” The reason for the defeat of the anti-license ticket was due largely to their inability to organize. Mistakes were also made in the prior year that caused many to vote license instead because respectable druggists were denied permits to sell spirits for legitimate purposes while ginger-ale shops were allowed to remain open until the end of the year.[31] The elections of 1885 and 1886 show how big of an issue temperance was in the county. The county was divided over the issue and if even a few voters did not show up for one side it was devastating. Young did not run for re-election in 1887.

While mayor and cashier at the National Bank of Monmouth, W.B. Young boarded at the Commercial House.[32] Young was a cashier at the National Bank until he resigned in 1899, when Williard C. Tubbs of Kirkwood, Illinois, was elected to take his place.[33] During this time he lived at various places around the city; by 1874 he was staying at the Northeast corner of Broadway and Center (today is Sixth Street), some time in the intervening years before 1890 he moved to Hotel Richardson (where today Security Savings Bank is located). By 1893 he was boarding at 226 East Broadway. By 1897 he was staying at the National Bank itself. He remained there until he resigned to become a capitalist.[34]

His capitalistic endeavors involved real estate and farming which he continued until his death.[35] Young along with W. W. McCullough and S.S. Hallam “applied for a franchise from the city council of Monmouth to build and operate a street railway.” The Monmouth Traction Company was given its license on August 7, 1899. This street railway system remained for awhile and was even incorporated on March 13. 1902. It was responsible for building the Rock Island Southern line between Monmouth and Galesburg.[36] The Rock Island Southern Railway Company was franchised in 1905 and extended the route from Monmouth to Rock Island. Young’s name is not mentioned as one of the officers, but his two partners acted as manager and attorney. He most likely was one of the capitalists that helped finance the building of the road but chose not to remain directly involved in the business. The northern line between Rock Island and Monmouth later became a steam road once automobiles made railway systems less popular. The Southern line to Galesburg changed names to the Galesburg and Western Railway Company but remained as an electric road. [37] Young retired in 1913 and remained living in Monmouth at the suite in the National Bank.[38]

His father, Alexander Young, passed away on December 5, 1894, in North Pomona, California, from overexertion. He had retired a few years prior to his death. Lucy Young, his mother, passed away a few years later, in July of 1902, also in California. William had been called out to California because of her serious illness but did not make it there before she passed away.[39]

William B. Young passed away in February of 1929. His obituary ran in the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas on Monday, February 18. Young died at the federal hospital for disabled veterans in Danville, Illinois, from an illness he had suffered for several years. His body was returned to Monmouth and services were held on February 20. The service was at two o’clock at the Turnbull Funeral Home on South Main Street. The Elks were in charge of the proceedings and the address was given by V. H. Webb. Pallbearers were Dell Cable, Arthur Tubbs, Fred Gayer, W. B. Weird, Frank Hallam, and Glenn Soule.[40] Young was buried in the Monmouth Cemetery.[41]

William B. Young lived during a time when everything was changing especially in small, rural towns like Monmouth, Illinois. Young spent the majority of his life in Monmouth and adapted very well to the changes occurring to the city. He was involved in business by being a cashier for more than a quarter of a century and agriculture by running a farm of his own. He also had interests in the emerging railroad system and took great interest in the city itself by being its mayor for two years. Young is a good example of how his times mixed the old with the new. The United States was emerging from an agrarian society into an industrialized one. New inventions were transforming society but not all at once. Emerging men like W. B. Young showed that the new ways could be mixed with the old and have a favorable outcome. These men provided a positive outlook for the future.


Rachel Jenks wrote this biography in her historiography class at Monmouth College in the fall of 2005 under the direction of William Urban.

[2] Tenth Census 1880: Statistics of Population, p. 820 and Tenth Census 1880: Compendium, p. 698.

[3] Tenth Census 1880: Compendium pp. 762-763, pp. 854-855.

[4] Tenth Census 1880: Manufacturers General Statistics, p. 222.

[5] Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, February 18, 1929.

[6] Monmouth College Catalogue 1864; p. 6, Society Catalogue, p. 14.

[7] Monmouth College Catalogue 1886, p. 6; Catalogue 1867, p. 5; Society Catalogue, p. 6.

[8] OBITS from Moffitt Book, Vol. VI, Jan 1893 – July 1897.

[9] Daniel Meyer and Jeffrey D. Rankin, “A Thousands Hearts’ Devotion: A History of Monmouth College” (Chicago: the Conventry Group, 2002), p. 11.

[10] The building cost around $10,000 and was replaced in 1879 to build a brick structure around $15000 that is still used.

[11] Luther E. Robinson (Ed), Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County Illinois Vol. I (Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company, 1927), pp. 113-114.

[12] Monmouth College Catalogue 1886-1896, Society Catalogue pp. 67-68.

[14] Monmouth College Catalogue 1886, Catalogue 1866, p. 30 and City Directory of Monmouth, 1874-1875.

[15] Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County, Illinois (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1886), p. 767.

[16] Federal Census of 1870, found at the Warren County Public Library; Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County Illinois, p. 50.

[17] Portrait and Biographical Album of Warren County, Illinois, p. 710.

[18] The Monmouth Review (April 24, 1885).

[19] The Monmouth Review (April 10, 1885).

[20] The Monmouth Review (May 8, 1885).

[21] City Ordinances, passed on May 11, 1885 and approved on May 11, 1885, found at City Hall.

[22] City Ordinances, passed on June 10, 1885 and approved on June 11, 1885.

[23] City Ordinances, passed on July 6, 1885 and approved on July 13, 1885.

[24] City Ordinances, passed on December 7, 1885 and approved on December 11, 1885.

[25] City Ordinances, passed on July 5, 1886 and approved on July 6, 1886.

[26] City Ordinances, passed on November 2, 1885 and approved on November 12, 1885; City Directory Information, Moffitt Vol. “B” and “C”.

[27] City Ordinances, passed on April 5, 1886 and approved on April 15, 1885.

[28] City Ordinances, passed on March 1, 1886 and approved on March 11, 1886.

[29] City Ordinances, passed on March 7, 1887 and approved on March 8, 1887.

[30] City Ordinances, passed on May 10. 1886 and approved on May 11, 1886.

[31] The Monmouth Review (April 23, 1886).

[32] City Directory of Monmouth, Illinois 1885-1886, found at the Warren County Public Library.

[33] Hugh R. Moffet and Thomas H. Rogers, ed. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Warren County Vol. 2 (Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company, 1903), p. 50.

[34] City Directories of Monmouth, Illinois, 1897-1898.

[35] Monmouth College Catalogue 1896-1902, Catalogue 1902 , p.105.

[36] Monmouth Daily Review Atlas (February 18, 1929).

[37] Historical and Biographical Record of Monmouth and Warren County Illinois, p. 172.

[38] City Directories of Monmouth Illinois, 1913-1914.

[39] Early Newspapers, Vol. 6, 2 June 1901 to 1 April 1903

[40] Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, (February 21, 1929).

[41] Warren County Genealogical Society, Monmouth Township Vol. I Monmouth Cemetery found at the Warren County Public Library.