Friday, June 10, 2011

Ronald Reagan Trail: Monmouth

Reagan home, 1918-1919,  Monmouth, IL
After several hints over the last few days, I'm ready to inaugurate my Ronald Reagan Trail travel series. Reagan of course was born in Tampico, Illinois 100 years ago, although Tampico will be one of the last stops I'll feature. Geography dictates that I start in Monmouth, in west-central Illinois.

I drove the entire trail in one day. I left Morton Grove at 4:15am on Monday, I returned at 10:30pm. Although this is a Reagan-focused trip, items of interest that I encountered along the way will be covered.

The Reagans lived in Monmouth from 1918-1919. In his autobiography, An American Life, "Dutch" had this to say about his stint in the town:
Not long after I completed the first grade, we moved to Monmouth, a college town not far from Galesburg [My note: more on that town later], where my father took a job at the town's biggest department store. I'll never forget Armistice Day in downtown Monmouth: The streets suddenly filled up with people, bonfires were lighted, and grown-ups and children paraded down the street singing and carrying torches in the air. I was only seven, but old enough to share the hopes of everyone in Monmouth that we had fought the "war to end all wars." I think the realization that some of those boys to whom I'd waved on the troop train later died on European soil made me an isolationist for a long time.
Monmouth, "Born on the Prairie," with Earp poster
The Reagans lived at 218 S. Seventh Street in Monmouth. The home is not open to public viewing, in fact, it appears to be vacant. Perhaps it is being rehabbed. I could only find two other pictures of the Reagan house on the internet, a white-picket railing lines the front porch in those shots. The retail outlet Reagan's father, Jack, was employed at was the E. B. Colwell & Company Department Store.

The 40th president is the most famous person to have lived in Monmouth, but its most celebrated resident is Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp, who was born in there in 1849 and is honored in the lower mural. Earp will be the subject of my next post.

UPDATE June 29: I just discovered the Reagan Trail YouTube channel. The Monmouth entry recalls his 1977 there, although technically he was not a presidential candidate at that time, as the video claims.

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