Aviston: Early beginnings of the town are 'clear as mud'

News-DemocratApril 28, 2014 

The people in Aviston are excited about the way everyone has pitched in to plan the town's sesquicentennial celebration.

An organizing committee has been planning and holding events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Clinton County town. The celebration comes to a climax June 6-8 with a picnic, dances, music, fireworks and baseball at the city park.

But there already have been events to get things started including a hole-in-one contest and a kick-off dance that was in May 2013.

They even have people from outside town pitching in. Jeff Hollenkamp, who grew up in Aviston but now lives in O'Fallon, sent me a picture from the 1964 centennial celebration. It includes his father, Joseph Hollenkamp, who was part of a big event at the 100th anniversary.

Along with James Rakers, Robert Usselman, Charles Rakers and Richard Markus, Hollenkamp in 1964 bought a 1929 Model A Ford from Mr. and Mrs. Bill Seefeldt of rural Trenton for $100 and restored the car.

The picture features the men with their restored car in old-time clothing.

The car was raffled off for the centennial at 50 cents per chance or 3 for $1. The winner was Edward Zinck of Mascoutah.

Jeff said the family story is that he was at the centennial, but he doesn't remember it. His mother was five months pregnant with him but he said she recalled it was a warm day.

The year 1964 was chosen for the centennial because that was the 100-year anniversary of the cornerstone laying of St. Francis Catholic Church. There is some confusion about the official founding of Aviston and when it, and a nearby town, Hull, officially became one.

The original town of Aviston was laid out in 1836 on what was the Vincennes Trail. Hull was founded just south of Aviston in 1860 and soon had the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad running through it.

Eventually the two towns joined around 1874 and took the name Aviston, after a gunsmith, John Avis, who had settled there, or so the stories go as related in the 150th commemorative book, which admits the early history of the town was "clear as mud."

The sesquicentennial includes many things, including a cookbook, a calendar with old pictures and a 300-page commemorative book.

But the centerpiece is the restored old city hall.

"We're calling it the Vintage City Hall," said Kurt Schmitz, chairman of the planning committee. "It is full of memorabilia from the town."

It has pictures of old events, the way the town used to look, old businesses such as the city mill and dairy business and a lot of items from everyday life. It has features on the schools and old baseball uniforms.

"We're really excited with all the things people brought," said organizer Debi Luebbers. "Someone had an old soda bottle from Aviston. I didn't even know it existed."

The vintage hall exhibit will be open from 10:30 a.m. to noon on two Sundays, May 4 and May 18, from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on June 7 and from noon to 3 p.m. on June 8.

The culmination of the celebration will be June 6-8 with a parade, picnic, carnival rides, baseball game, queen contest, a Civil War encampment, the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, beard judging, fireworks and more.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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