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Macoupin soldier left letters from Civil War

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A surprising number of letters and diaries from Civil War soldiers exist today, particularly from Illinois troops. An example is Duncan Ingraham, who lived in Macoupin County before the war.

Ingraham, who served in the 33rd Illinois, penned a number of letters to relatives that are cited by some Civil War scholars today. The letters are part of the Ingraham family papers, which are held by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

Born on April 10, 1838 in Orange, N.J., Ingraham was listed from Carlinville when he entered  Illinois State University on April 14, 1858. The university was in its infancy, as it was established as the state’s first public institution of higher learning just a year before.  One source called him “a studious and painstaking young fellow.”

Ingraham apparently planned to pursue a career in education, as teacher training was the original mission of ISU. He was not in Carlinville for long, as he joined the rest of his family in Peoria County. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Ingraham’s hometown was listed as the oddly-named hamlet of Robin’s Nest. There, he apparently landed a teaching job.

Muster rolls show Ingraham as standing five-feet, six-inches tall with brown hair, gray eyes, and a light complexion. Ingraham was mustered as corporal of Company B and worked his way up the ranks, first to sergeant major, followed by a promotion to regimental quartermaster on Aug. 9, 1864.

One of Ingraham’s siblings, Edward, was also in Company B of the 33rd. Like Duncan, Edward, who was six years older, left letters of his war experiences, as well as a diary.

The 33rd fought with distinction at the battle of Cache River, Ark. on July 7, 1862 and, the following year, was in the campaign and siege against the Mississippi River stronghold of Vicksburg.

The regiment, however, suffered with the rest of the Union army in the Red River campaign of 1864, a joint land-naval expedition designed to push into Texas. Federal commanders, however, bungled the offensive, as the ground forces suffered a string of defeats, while the naval vessels were threatened by low water as they struggled downriver in retreat.

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Like many other Union soldiers, Ingraham was furious at the hapless command. “We are living in the land of plenty,” fumed Ingraham, “yet on the worst commissary stores we ever had – wormy crackers and stinking beef and pork.”

A year later, the news of President Lincoln’s assassination rocked the Federal armies, including the 33rd. News traveled slowly in that time, and the regiment did not learn of the assassination until May 1, sixteen days later.

“It may be weak,” lamented Ingraham, “…but tears will come this and every time I think of our loved President. For his life I would have given my own.”

Ingraham was finally mustered out on Nov. 24, 1865. From there, his career was described by one account as “varied, but a success.”

His pursuits took him across the country. Like many others, he was drawn to the West, where he eventually settled in 1869. He spent four years as a Unitarian minister, with assignments in Pennsylvania as well as Ripon, Wis. and Santa Cruz, Calif. 

Eleven years were also spent in teaching in California, Oregon, and Washington. In addition, Ingraham worked for five years as a railroad surveyor in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

In 1880, Ingraham made his permanent home in Waitsburg, Wash., where he was appointed postmaster on Dec. 26, 1889. After six years as postmaster, he took up farming.

Certainly, his life was not all happiness. He was joined in Oregon by his brother Edward, who was a doctor in Clackamas. Sadly, Edward suffered from severe mental illness. By 1890, he was twice committed to a state asylum in the state capital of Salem, where he died that July 15.

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Duncan Ingraham outlived many of his comrades in the 33rd. He died at the home of a daughter in Waitsburg on Nov. 5, 1923, two months after the death of his wife of 65 years, Marion. Ingraham, who was survived by four children, is buried in Waitsburg.

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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