New DCFS director met with widespread praise


We have previously talked about Braceville as being a suburb of Braidwood. And for the most part this was true. There were coal shafts dug very early on near Braceville but the miners that worked them, lived in Braidwood and were transported to Braceville by railroad car. There were few, if any, houses for rent in Braceville. But all of that changed very quickly in 1880 when the town incorporated and new coal companies started digging coal shafts.
The old coal companies that came to what was called the “Wilmington Coal Field” had centered their activity near Braidwood, Diamond, and Coal City. Anyone else who wanted to get in on the action had to do it elsewhere. The closest known spot was in Braceville. Entrepreneurs who wanted to get in on the coal business were many. First there was Baird, we read in March of 1880, “Baird's shaft near Braceville has attained a depth of 45 feet, to a strata of sandstone. Things look quite satisfactory, we are told, and the management will look for black diamonds ere long at a depth of about 90 feet.”
Whether from jealousy or not, the Braidwood Republican wrote the following in July of 1880, “The town of Braceville, Grundy County, has been accorded a failure, but a new company of go-ahead business men have purchased of the Bruce Mining Company about 2,700 acres of the finest coal land in the vicinity of the town, and yesterday began to sink a new shaft. The new company styles itself the Braceville Company and are acting in conjunction with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul R. R. They have already contracted for over 2,000 coal cars, and expect to employ 500 men in their mines when fully opened.”
With that announcement, the building boom was on. The fall of 1880 heard carpenters hammers ringing day and night. Merchants from surrounding cities saw there was money to be made and didn't hesitate. Allen from Wilmington was contracted to build twenty houses and the Braceville Coal Company put up another 100 dwellings. But two years later, in May of 1882, we know it was not enough as we read, ““More houses!” is the cry. The demand greatly exceeds the supply. Everyone who can should build. It will be a paying investment.”
Ed Conley, the editor of the Wilmington Advocate, wrote a description of the town in 1882. “Our venerable friend, G. P. Augustine, still holds the post office, the increased business of which is no small item. Among old acquaintances in business there were noticed the following: Ed DeBriae, doing a thriving bakery business; Cook & Frary, a neat drug store; LeCaron & Moon, a well filled drug store also; Sumner Warner, boots and shoes; H. C. Hamill, jewelry and notions; H. A. Crawford, (of Gardner) groceries; Otis House, provisions and groceries; Holmes & Cady, hardware; Mr. Keane, of Braidwood, and Jack, of the same place, hardware also; Fox, of Joliet, clothing; Patterson, of Braidwood, furniture; Miss Ferguson, millinery. Thos. Rae is mining superintendent there, and 'tis said that he fills the bill with marked ability. Scott Allison does a neat banking business. Thos. Young is also an active businessman. Strange to say, we met no candidates no political discussion, and that alone speaks volumes in praise of the people. Probably we have not mentioned more than one-third of the business houses in Braceville, but, reader, the town is a daisy, and is believed to have a prosperous future.”
Social organizations sprang up overnight as well. The Odd Fellows built a new hall, as did the International Order of Foresters. And we cannot forget the saloons that bloomed like dandelions everywhere you looked. All of this was fueled by coal money in one way or another. In 1882 the monthly pay given out by just by the Braceville Company was $38,000, all spent locally.
But as you may imagine, with the influx of so many people, some of them would be bad eggs. We read in September 22, 1882 in the Wilmington Advocate, “Last Friday was payday in Braceville. A Frenchman, among others, was paid off, receiving his own wages and that of his partner, who worked with him in the coal mine. He visited a saloon on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning his lifeless body was found, considerably bruised, near the railroad track. While it is possible that he was killed by the cars, it is more than probable that the man was murdered and robbed, as his pockets were only found to contain two five cent pieces, out of a considerable amount of money which he is known to have had on the night previous.”
Crime had found its way to the little corner of the world that was Braceville, and things would never be the same for that “sleepy little town.”