Carterville, the city in the township of the same name, was so designated in honor of Laban Carter, who opened the first commercial coal mine in the county. The original plat of the village lay in the southeast corner of section 3, with the first mine shaft one-half mile east in section 2. The community has grown; additions have been platted and built up, until Carterville occupies part of each section cornering the original town.
Laban Carter (1822-1889) came to Illinois in 1863 after serving with a Tennessee regiment in the federal army. He bought one hundred acres in Carterville Township during the fall of 1864, began its agricultural development, discovered coal, and set about realizing the industrial possibilities. The completion of the Carbondale and Shawneetown railroad into Marion January 15, 1872 was a material aid to Mr. Carter’s plans. For years coal had been taken in small quantities from an outcrop of the seam on the Carter farm, but in the spring of 1872 he entered into a ninety-nine year lease with the Carbondale coal and coke company. Asgill Conner, one of the founders of Carbondale, was interested in the concern and Andrew C. Bryden was mine manager. The latter s daughter, Miss Agnes Bryden, was the company bookkeeper. They had a capital stock of $50,000 and began operations during November, 1872. Dodd shaft was sunk about sixty feet, and coal was shipped over the railroad, later the Illinois Central.
Meantime George Monroe McNeill, who lived west of the Carter land and across the country road that became Division Street, had a town site surveyed on his forty acre farm. Mr. McNeill was a son of John A. and Wealthy (Walker) McNeill, who married and made their home in the neighborhood of Hurricane Church, of which Mrs. McNeill was a charter member.
When their oldest son was seventeen, he replaced his sick father as a soldier in the Union army and served until the end of the Civil war. Illness attacked George McNeill also, and during the Grand review at Washington he rode down Pennsylvania Avenue in a hospital wagon behind his regiment, the 9th Illinois infantry.
When it was time to name the town, Laban Carter suggested McNeill, because of the land’s ownership. But Mr. McNeill demurred, said the town didn’t sound well applied to a town, and suggested Carterville, in honor of his friend and neighbor.
Surveyors William H. Bundy and Hezekiah L. Beasley recorded their plat of Carterville February 21, 1872. The papers were notarized by L. D. Crain, justice of the peace at Crainville and a petition drawn for a village charter. The incorporation was granted April 10, 1872 and an election held at Crainville. The officers chosen for the new village were: president, Jonathan (“Jon”) Bandy; clerk, John D. Herrin; treasurer, Laban Carter. The trustees were George M. McNeill, William Tranbarger, V. S. Harris, E. C. Jones, and James Blair.
A post office was secured by transferring the old office of Fredonia to the town site. This office was renamed Carterville December 18, 1871. George M. McNeill was the first postmaster, and kept the mail in his farmhouse which was also the first hotel in the village.
The mining company opened a store and then Benjamin F. Tranbarger became the first independent merchant. Mr. Tranbarger came from a farm near Blairsville to open his store in 1873 and continued in business until 1926. He secured the appointment as postmaster and built the first boxes for individual mail, crude homemade affairs without locks. He was in truth an independent merchant, and many a customer received the treatment accorded a man who rushed in at closing time to ask, “Got any white beans?”
Mr. Tranbarger continued the business of locking up, turned the key, and started toward home. When the question was repeated he answered conversationally, “Yes, tolerable white,” and went on to supper.
With a mine, a railroad, and a post office, business boomed in Carterville. Frank Chapman and James Reid formed a partnership in a general store. John D. Herrin opened a store with his cousin, D. R. Harrison, as partner, the Carterville store a branch of the Harrison store on Herrin’s prairie. The railroad built a station the same year.
The first residences in the town were built by Robert Warren and V.S. Harris, but others quickly followed. James M. Washburn, a member of the legislature at the time, came to live on the farm just west of town that was later the home of Dr. H.V. Ferrell. Judge Washburn operated a grist and saw mill. Colonel James M. Landrum had a mill and lumber yard at his residence near Crainville. J. B. Samuel entered the lumber business at Carterville in 1885, with a capital of $120.
School was first taught on the street east of the mill. William H. Bundy, son of the doctor who made his first Williamson County home near Gum Springs Church, and Miss Alice Tranbarger were the first teachers. Miss Tranbarger became the wife of George M. McNeill in 1875. Another early teacher in Carterville was James W. Turner, founder of Crab Orchard Academy.
In November 1884 F. C. and W. H. Zimmerman bought the general store operated by the Carbondale Coal and Coke Company. Their father was a foundry man, and both “Charley and Henry” had worked with Mine Superintendent Bryden as bookkeepers. The Zimmerman store was burned in the fire of 1898 but they reopened at once.
The Carterville Herald has been published regularly since 1889. Its original name was the Carterville Tribune.
All this activity soon changed the village into a city. The city charter was obtained March 8, 1892. The first officers were: G. C. Phillips, mayor; M. W. Sizemore, clerk; J. B. Samuel, treasurer; C. A. Bandy, attorney. The aldermen were Walter W. Snyder, P. J. Tetes, John Bevard, J. C. Riley, Dave McFadden, and T. J. Moake.
Carterville was in these days a place of beginning for business organizations that spread out through southern Illinois. Elles, Walker, and Vick are among the names that first became important at Carterville, and then became part of the business life of many another towns.
The first Elles store was opened in 1877, five years after the first Carterville coal was shipped. Albert K. and Edward A. Elles were the founders, but Charles F. and Louis T. Elles joined them to form the Elles store company. The four brothers came from Belleville. Branches were opened in nearby towns as the coal field developed, and the Herrin branch established in 1897 is now the Herrin supply company.
J. V. Walker (1858-1913) founded at Carterville in 1884 a clothing store that trained his three sons, Fred, Carl, and Jo Walker. The business grew until the four Walkers and their associates had stores in eleven Southern Illinois cities. The second generation extended the field to Ohio in 1928, where four stores operated. “Vince” and Warren Walker, grandsons of the pioneer in whose home, Hurricane church was founded, were first partners in a combination clothing and grocery store in Carterville. They separated, and Warren Walker continued in the grocery business.
The Vick group of the Cline-Vick drug chain had its beginnings in Carterville. Snider S. Vick (1881-1937) opened a drug store in 1903, which he turned over to his brother Jay Vick in 1918. They were sons of Dr. John Vick (1849 1938), who began practice at Carterville in 1882, and planted the shade trees along the streets. Doctor Vick was president of the school board and of the board of health for twenty years, and practiced in Carterville for more than half a century.
An earlier drug store in Carterville was that of R. H. H. Hampton, who came to the new town in 1876 as a clerk for the coal company. He became a merchant in partnership with Albert K. Elles, and then founded the drug business that is still conducted by his widow.
Soon after the Vick drug store was opened the private bank three doors away was organized into a state bank. Charles H. Denison and John H. Burnett of Marion opened that first banking business, with Samuel H. Bundy as cashier. Mr. Bundy became president when the Carterville state and savings bank was organized in 1904, with J. B. Samuel as vice-president and M. W. Sizemore as cashier. This bank is still in operation and is now the oldest in the county. A national bank was opened in 1905 with A. K. Elles and Dr. H. V. Ferrell as president and vice-president. A. J. Guerrattaez was the first cashier, succeeded in 1910 by Mike Ferrell, the doctor’s son. But this bank succumbed to the difficulties of the depression.
The reputation of Carterville coal, established when the first carloads were shipped on the old Carbondale and Shawneetown railroad in 1872, was responsible for all these activities. Now the coal is mined out, so far as it can be done economically at present, but the foundations of Carterville were built soundly and the city outlives the mine that called it into existence.
(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)