Grandpa McArdle

My grandfather Clifford McArdle (1916-1943) died young in a tragic accident. He was quite a character though! (and he came from a family of unique individuals) My grandfather McArdle lost his mother young (at 6) and was raised by his father (who was trick shooter, moonshiner, and all around character – if I remember the story correctly Elmer McArdle was even friends with Buffalo Bill Cody). He drowned in 1943 when my mother was only three while swimming at Ellsworth Park.

Grandpa McArdle

Most of the stories I’ve heard about him involve his ‘wild’ young days… plus one that involves him sitting in a creek with a high fever ‘rowing his little canoe’ while his sister Hattie Jane was caring for them.

Most of the stories include antics that my grandfather did with his brothers that were everything from dangerous to illegal. Stories include everything from running moonshine, with Clifford driving a decoy car to my uncles burning down a barn. My Uncle Frank chose to go to the military for that one and my Uncle Ralph went to jail. Ralph was released when they found he had TB. He passed away shortly after being released. Stories even include them breaking my grandfather out of the little jail in Belgiumtown Illinois that isn’t there anymore – they pulled the side off from what I remember.

The stories are like things you would hear as tall tales. Clifford McArdle even took a guitar and billy club from a policeman’s car one evening…. Hard to believe it’s true, but I’ve actually seen the guitar and billy club. I have no idea where they are now, but at the time they were being passed down through the family.

Another story included my grandfather going to a dentist during the depression and not paying. He had given a false name and knew the dentist wouldn’t find him. – I wonder how that worked since it’s such a small town you would think everyone knew each other!

Stories from growing up included my great grandfather Elmer expecting the boys to learn to shoot – setting up a small hoop and a bell and expecting them to shoot through the hoop and ring the bell. My grandfather and his brothers would also run around in my great grandfather’s house and reset all his clocks – he was determined to have lots of clocks, all set to the same time). They devoted a lot of time to pulling off pranks.

My grandfather died in 1943 when swimming at Ellsworth park by one of the spillways. The story I had always heard was that he was swimming with my mother and brought her to the shore and sat her down before venturing out into the river again. He was on the spillway when someone opened the gates on the dam upriver. The undertow from the spillway held him underwater for several days before finally releasing him. His hair was a bright red color and finally made it easy to find his body stuck in the trees with the sun shining on his hair.

Picture Memories?

Picture Memories?

IMG_4530 IMG_4939 Last weekend I visited home.  I thought it would be nice to drive through the town that Edward Corbly help create and take a couple pictures.  The school I attended from K – 4, the post office/store where I would stop and get a candy bar when walking from school to the church, the church that I attended vacation bible school (not even my religion, but a lot of my family goes there, so I went each summer and even sang in the choir sometimes).

As I drove through town, I did see a town that is still really small.  Population 200 according to one of the signs I’ve found.  One of the homes has a sign that says “Drive like your kids live here” (love that)….  I took a few pictures quickly with my cell phone thinking I would come back.  Driving through with my mother driving.  This was in my mother’s car, a car that has driven through town many times in the past…

I won’t post the rest of the story as this apparently caused quite an uproar.  I will say I drove through Belgiumtown w13535981_10154898825719186_1544286479_nith mom (outside Westville) and didn’t have anywhere near the reaction….  So my question or pondering really comes down to, what is the proper way to record memories and history.  Downloading and using others pictures really should not be used for anything you will publish – even on a blog.  For anything to be published you should take your own pictures.  For historic records you must have permission to publish the pictures unless they are within certain constraints (not a lawyer, don’t know what they are).

There are SO many things from history that I wish had been recorded, both people and places!  Many were before pictures were easy to take like they are now, but pictures are such a great way to bring back memories and record history – I try to take them when I can. I even try to throw in video once in a while.  When going on trips I try to include people in the pictures also.  There are many family members that I miss immensely and seeing them in places at certain times brings it all back.

So what’s appropriate?  Do you feel that pictures of your house by former residents are inappropriate?  Pictures of public places?  What about in a small town?  And what about if it’s a house that was a public building in the past?  – It’s gone now, but friends lived in the one room schoolhouse that my father went to school in.  To top it off the larger school (Fithian Grade School) that I went to school in was being converted to a home the last time I heard anything about it….  So pictures?

Keep in mind what I’m talking about involves standing or being in a car and taking pictures from a public location.  Pictures that are all of things that can be seen from a public place.  I’m not talking about taking a drone and flying up to take a picture in a second floor window… that would be creeeeeepyyyyyy!

Some tips that I try to stick to:

  1. If anyone asks, speak to them and explain what you are doing – they may have stories.
  2. If you share the pictures, be respectful.  Remember it may have been your location once, but someone else cares about it now….  Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong
  3. Try to avoid getting people in pictures of private locations if you going to use the pictures later.
  4. Don’t trespass on private property (get permission)
  5. There will always be some people that are overzealous about privacy and may not understand your desire to document your history.  Additionally some areas may have turned into the ‘bad’ area of town.  Be vigilant.
  6. Join the local history groups for your home towns.  I was able to post and ask questions to find out some great information.  Additionally I met some great people that knew my grandmother, mother, and great grandmother – and even family I hadn’t met before!


I have to admit I wasn’t the one that posted the picture that got the negative comments, but I did take it and I did send it to a friend that had asked for it.  It took a while because I came in late to the game to even figure out which picture had caused trouble…  When I found out, it turned out it was a picture I had taken of a foundation for me to research later what had been at that location.  I’ve been looking for the train depot in town and a foundation seemed like something to look into….

For taking pictures I have my cell phone and I have a nice Cannon camera.  I usually will take any quick pics with my phone and anything that I want to keep for good I take with my good Cannon camera.  I have a Wifi connector for my camera making it easy to transfer the pictures and an eyefi card also.

So thoughts?

Spending time with Family? Too Late?

Judy and Diane McArdle

Judy and Diane McArdle

My cousin Judy passed away last Friday. The story I remember best about her was one my mother told about Judy going to get her Phi Beta Kappa Key from the University of Illinois.  Judy was smart, VERY SMART, but she looked like a sorority girl.  The long bright red hair, Hawaiian shirt, and always ready to go out and have fun attitude.   Well, Judy got in line to receive her key, and was told by the person in front of her that she must have the wrong line!   Why?  Because it was an honor society, not a sorority.  Judy belonged there probably more that many of the people in line, but her looks, and maybe even the generation (and she was a woman)…. led her to be suspect to being in the wrong line.

Judy went on to get her PhD from University of Illinois in Clinical Psychology and work at Adolf Meyer Health center in Decatur Illinois up until it closed.   She originally wanted to work with kids, but the job was with adults, and every time she tried to quit they just kept giving her a raise.  (At least that’s the story she told us)…..  I remember calling her while I was working on my degree in Psychology at EIU in Illinois and asking about my plans as I questioned my career choices.  She talked to me and advised me “Don’t go into Psychology”.  I did go on and get my Bachelors, but taking her advice – I became a computer programmer even before I graduated and never used my degree – going on to get a Masters in Business.

The last time I had spoken to her, it was a while back, but she was evaluating workers for mental stability at the nuclear power plant.  I always assumed there would be more time to see Judy again. We plan to move home after we retire, giving us time to see everyone then……  but is it really.  Judy’s passing was a sad thing, and occurred way before it should have been her time to go.  It’s now impossible to turn back the clock and get more time…..


Dr. Judy A. McArdle, of Westville, passed away at 3:17 p.m. Friday, April 8, 2016, at her home.
She was born on Aug. 18, 1944, in Danville, the daughter of Frank and Ruth (Wilson) McArdle, both deceased.
Judy graduated from University of Illinois and received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and worked as a Psychologist. Judy had a passion and love of animals. She was always rescuing strays and a supporter of the local humane society. She had four cats who were family, Gracie, Wolf, Opal, and Tom-tom, and encouraged everyone around her to rescue animals. Not only was Judy a brilliant academic, but a supporter of the arts. Judy loved to draw, listen to music, and was a voracious reader. She was a runner, mushroom hunter, horse-back rider, and had a green thumb that could grow anything. She will be missed by all, especially by friends in Decatur.
Judy will also be dearly missed by her brother, Gary McArdle of Westville; her sisters, Diane Saddler and Brenda Erickson, both of Danville; her nieces and nephews, Dr. Tracy McArdle, Dr. Amber McArdle, Brock McArdle, and Jenna Maxian, whom she was extremely proud of and of their accomplishments and was a huge advocate for education.

Source: Commercial News, Dr. Judy McArdle Obituary 4/11/2016

Military Service

My Uncle Frank was always full of stories… surprisingly none ever were things ‘he did’.  His favorite comment was ‘I don’t know if the statute of limitations is up on that yet.’  My mother would tell stories of my uncle making moonshine and having my grandfather drive a decoy car while another car with a false backseat would take the ‘good stuff’.  There was also a story about my uncles breaking my grandfather out of the westville jail by pulling the side off of the jail.  I may have to ask my mother for more details about that.  I don’t remember ever hearing why he was there or what happened after.

The story that was told the most though involved how my uncle ended in the military, how my uncle Ralph got TB and passed away, and a barn in Grape Creep.  From my memory the story goes that my uncles were disagreeing with someone and it ended with them deciding to burn his barn down.  As frequently happens they were caught and brought before a judge.  My uncle Frank and my uncle Ralph were given the choice of the military or jail.  (I was never completely clear why my grandfather wasn’t involved)  I haven’t found the actual record from the courts or documentation of the fire yet, but I have documentation of my uncle Frank in the military in Feb 1943 (Sggt E5) and my uncle Ralph’s death May 18, 1943.  My mother retells the stories of my uncle Ralph being found sitting under a tree and how he had been released from jail to die after getting TB in jail.  My grandmother and grandfather were living in a small ‘building’ put together by my grandmother’s brothers at the site of the mine my grandfather and his brothers were mining.  At the time my mother wasn’t even 3 years old yet and was sleeping in a drawer my grandmother had pulled out of a dresser.ralph

My grandfather’s death was just one month later when he drown while swimming on Flag Day (June 14, 1943).  My grandmother moved home to live with her mother shortly after and my uncle Frank was left as the only brother left.  (They did have a sister Maude that survived until the year 2000)

My uncle Frank survived until the year 2004 and after the military had went on to sell manufactured homes on the property that his father originally owned.  His stories though were always interesting.  One even included riding a motorcycle across a beam where a bridge had been located.   When hearing his stories you can almost picture all the old shows with ‘good ole boys’ running through the country.  Even the name Hawbuck, Illinois sounds like a place where ‘good ole boys’ will be running around.

Guns in Family History…..

My great grandfather had guns that belonged to Wild Bill Hickok and to Buffalo Bill Cody (as well as a hundred others).    Elmer McArdle would perform shows until he died in a fire in 1951.  Elmer would ride in the Westville Illinois parade every year and my mother has stories about her childhood visiting him.

Elmer McArdle

Elmer McArdle

Elmer McArdle Article upon Death.

Elmer McArdle Article upon Death.

My uncles would tell stories about him trying to teach them to sharp shoot.  He would set up a bell with iron rings in front of it.  My grandfather and uncles would have to shoot through the ring and hit the bell.  My uncles being the pranksters they were, would set it up to hit the bell from the side making it look like they hit it – making  it impossible for my grandfather.  My grandfather and uncles were serious trouble makers.  Stories include them breaking out of jail, stealing a billy club from a police officer, and running off from a dentist without paying….  My uncles ended up burning down a barn and one was sent to the army (Frank) while the other went to jail (Ralph).  Ralph ended up dying of tuberculosis a short time later.

Elmer McArdle, April 15, 1916

Elmer McArdle, April 15, 1916

Stories also include my great grandfather having a collection of clocks throughout his house, my uncles and grandfather would sneak in and reset the clocks when he was out.



When Elmer passed away he was found in the ashes from the fire that destroyed his home and his gun collection.  At the time he was over 80 years old and still living on his own in Hawbuck.

There is so much talk about gun violence anymore, I am brought back to the memory of sometimes a gun is just a piece of history.