The Village of Forrest

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A two-story depot was built where the present Wabash station now stands; and the railroad officials were brought there where they maintained their offices on the second floor of the building. About this time the Wabash purchased the Toledo, Peoria and Western and operated that railroad until 1888. Wabash trains ran from Chicago to Kansas City via the Wabash from Chicago to Forrest and then via the Toledo, Peoria, and Western to Peoria where they then operated over the Jacksonville and South Eastern to Jacksonville, where they struck the mainline of the Wabash Railroad.

In 1885, Carmon Brothers came to Forrest and built a hotel on the Wabash right-of-way, just north of the depot. Five years after the Chicago division of the Wabash Railroad had been completed, the Wabash Railroad Company realized that there must be a hotel for the accommodation of their employees and patrons. Mr. Steele, who was then road master for the Wabash, had formally lived in Mattoon, Illinois, where he knew Carmon Brothers, who were then in the restaurant and bakery business in Mattoon. He succeeded in getting the Wabash Company to allow the Carmon Brothers to erect a hotel on their right-of-way. Therefore, the latter part of November of 1885, the Carmons came to Forrest and began the erection of what ultimately proved to be the Forrest House. The Wabash Company demanded that the structure be erected to a point of usefulness as soon as possible, so a two room, one-story structure was erected in about a month, consisting of a lunchroom and kitchen. The winter of 1885 in 1886 is said to have been the most severe winter ever known in Illinois, and yet, the business done by Carmon Brothers was beyond belief. Besides the regular train and engine crews employed for the operation of the road, construction gangs of all kinds and workmen of all kinds were stationed about this vicinity and had to be fed and housed. On one date during this winter, as a matter of interesting record, the temperature stood at 32 below zero. While it may not be a credit to the town, at that time Forrest is said to have been one of the toughest towns in the United States because of the mixed elements of men employed and residing there. The Carmon Brothers hotel was afterwards enlarged and is today owned by the Ballard and Johnson Co. All of the original structure is there yet, notwithstanding the fact that it is obscure because of the additions built to it from time to time.

In August of 1888, one of the most terrible Railroad wrecks in American history occurred, known as the Chatsworth wreck. The Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroad ran an excursion from Peoria to Niagara Falls, N. Y. The train was composed of 17 cars and two engines including coaches, chair-cars and Pullman sleepers. A small culvert had burned out just east of Chatsworth, and when this train ran onto it, the first of the two engines got over all right, then this engine broke loose from its tender, and the tender of the second engine was literally telescoped; and more than 200 people were killed outright. Just prior to this catastrophe, the Wabash had sold the Toledo, Peoria and Western to a group of financiers; but when the claims incurred were to be paid, it through the road into bankruptcy. The Pennsylvania Railroad System took over the Toledo, Peoria and Western at that time and paid the claims. Mr. E. N. Armstrong, who had been superintendent for both the Wabash and the Toledo, Peoria and Western, continued as superintendent for the latter road until he finally became president of it and remained such until his death shortly after the cessation of the World War.

About 1890, the entire business district of Forrest was destroyed by fire. As memory serves me, at this point, the leading merchants were Dr. Ducket, and his brother Frederick, who owned and operated the drugstore; J. O. Kelly, the jewelry store; Mr. Pawely, who operated a meat market; J. O. Krack and John E. Delatour conducted a general store of groceries and dry goods; E. Brantz operated a general store also; a restaurant was operated by Mr. Igou; a hotel and restaurant was operated by Noble Hoffhine; and Mr. Powley conducted a hardware store and tin shop. The bakery was owned and operated by James L. Moyer. The shoe store of Forrest was operated by a Mr. Geiger, and the two milk dealers were John Christoff and Bronson Smith. In 1886, Dr. Dunham, who had practiced medicine in Forrest for a number of years, sold out to Dr. Whitmire of Metamora, Illinois. Thomas Gray and S. A. Hoyt operated the hardware store. Later Mr. Hoyt entered the lumber business and then into the banking business. I think Mr. Hoyt sold his lumber business to the late W. H. Opie.

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