This week in Illinois history: April 2-8
April 2, 1956 - Illinois. The soap opera “As the World Turns” debuts with its Illinois connection was forged through the fictional town of Oakdale. This long-running soap launched the careers of Meg Ryan and Julianne Moore before its cancellation in 2009 after more than 13,000 episodes were aired.
April 2, 1908 - Belleville. Birthdate of actor Buddy Ebsen. Though he’s most closely associated with the role of Jed Clampett on the 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Ebsen was long active in Hollywood. Other notable roles include TV detective Barnaby Jones and a supporting role in the Audrey Hepburn film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
April 3, 1839 - Brimfield. The builders for Jubilee College lay its cornerstone. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the college “was one of the earliest educational enterprises in Illinois.” The college closed in 1862, and in 1933 the state was presented with the college's 93 acres. Since then, it has added more than 3,000 acres to the site to create Jubilee College State Park.
April 4, 1898 - Carbondale. Birthdate of actress Agnes Ayres. Although Allmovie.com says Ayres’ role in the 1921 silent film “The Sheik” was meant to catapult her to stardom, it was co-star Rudolph Valentino who stole the show. While the two paired again five years later for “Son of the Sheik,” Ayres settled for comedy and supporting roles until her death in 1940.
April 5, 1955 - Chicago. Richard J. Daley elected as mayor. In his 1976 obituary, The New York Times called Daley the “last of the big-city bosses” and helmsman of the city’s Democratic party. By the time of his death, he was serving a sixth mayoral term, the culmination of a career that began in the 1950s that saw involvement in President John F. Kennedy's 1960 election and the rancorous 1968 Democratic National Convention.
April 5, 1949 - Effingham. A hospital fire ignites nationwide fire code upgrades. Seventy-seven people -- including 12 infants -- died in a fire at St. Anthony Hospital, described by a Herald & Review writer as a “plain, white-trimmed brick building” dating to 1876. The hospital was replaced in 1954 with a structure outfitted with alarms and other safety features, the Herald reports.
April 6, 1860 - Amboy. Joseph Smith III founds the would-be successor to the Mormon church in Illinois. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints formed after the controversy surrounding the original Mormon church in the 1850s led to the religion splitting. Smith replaced his father as prophet-president, according to Brigham Young University’s website.
April 6, 1866 - Decatur. The Grand Army of the Republic forms. Former soldiers who battled for the North during the Civil War heeded the call of Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson and formed this group, laying the groundwork for recognizing Memorial Day, according to the Herald & Review.
April 6, 1926 - Chicago. Mayor steals national headlines with a campaign speech for a senator. William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson gained national attention with his 30-minute speech endorsing outsider Frank L. Smith for U.S. Senate against incumbent W.B. McKinley. Thompson performed a vaudeville-style comedy act in which two caged rats bore the brunt of his verbal barrage, which sent the audience into hysterics, WBEZ-FM blog reported. The strategy worked, with Thompson re-elected in 1927 and Smith winning the Senate race.
April 7, 1832 - Oquawka. Chief Black Hawk tries to reoccupy land in Illinois. The 1804 Treaty of St. Louis deeded 50 million acres of Native American land to the United States, but that didn’t sit well with Chief Black Hawk, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. His army -- 2,000 men, women and children strong -- attempted to reoccupy land near Rock River, according to the town of Wheatland, Wisconsin's website but soon found resistance was futile.
April 8, 1674 - Utica. Christian mission founded by Father Jacques Marquette. Despite waning health, Marquette was determined to reach the Kaskaskia tribe settled near the Illinois River, according to an archival report on the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy website. Enduring a snowy trek with two assistants to the region, he performed two final Catholic masses “before an immense crowd” before his death a month later.