Pike County Year in Review
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Pike County’s 2021 was, of course, altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, life went on, and the county witnessed many newsworthy events – both for the good and for the bad. Here is a look back at the past year.
■ Jan. 2021
Hunters and other gun enthusiasts in Pike County and around the state were frustrated by the delays in receiving their Firearms Owner Identification (FOID) card. Some who had applied had waited months. In September 2021, the Illinois State Police, who oversee the FOID card system said it had reduced backlog by 89 percent for renewals and 75 percent for new applicants.
Pike County’s federal, state and local elected officials voiced united disapproval of the Jan. 6 Washington D.C. riot, which sought to interrupt the approval of the election of Joe Biden as president.
Autopsy results of Nathan J. Embree found that he died of natural causes. He was found on Liberty Street in Griggsville on Jan. 13.
Local law enforcement officials were critical of a bill that passed in the Illinois Legislature that required body cameras, no-bail release for many crimes, and advanced record keeping on those convicted of crimes.
■ Feb. 2021
The Pittsfield Community Center renovated its kitchen and basement to improve aesthetics, usability and sanitation at the 224 W. Washington St. facility. The space holds many community meetings and private events. In addition, businesses rent the commercial kitchen to produce saleable food items. Renovations were undertaken by Petty Construction and Damon’s Plumbing.
The Pike Press Building on Jefferson Street in Pittsfield was sold by Campbell Publications to the First Christian Church. The church undertook extensive renovation efforts and intend to use the space for youth programming and other activities.
The Pike County Sheriff’s Department received an anonymous $13,000 donation toward body cameras for deputies as required by the new law.
County Clerk Natalie Roseberry was excited to announce, due to updated technology, couples could apply for marriage licenses on-line. Couples start the marriage application online, wait for the County Clerk’s Office to reach out and schedule a video call, and then finish the process remotely.
Gas prices skyrocketed during the month of February, especially over the course of six says during the month, when an ice storm in Texas affected the supply chain. The crisis occurred during a time when the city was hit with arctic temperatures. Both Pleasant Hill and Pittsfield were hard hit by the catastrophe as they are served by Panhandle. Griggsville and Barry had Ameren Gas, which was not hit by the problem. Rural customers mostly use propane. Payment plans were set up for residents to pay their bills.
■ March 2021
Brenda Booth of near Pearl, saw what was discovered to be bear tracks in her yard during the last snow of the season. Booth said other neighbors in her area had seen indications or heard noises that could be attributed to a bear, Sightings were later reported.
Pittsfield City Police Officer Mitchell Barton was presented with a plaque at the March 16 city council meeting. According to Pittsfield Police Chief, Michael Starman, Barton went above and beyond during a police chase of an individual suspected of having a gun. Barton took a head-on hit, to stop the chase with no thought to his person.
Illini Community Hospital held a community vigil Saturday, March 13, to remember the lives and experiences lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. The vigil was led by Illini administrator Kathy Hull and pastor Greg McClain.
U.S. Representative Darin LaHood visited Perry’s John Wood Community College Orr Agricultural Education Center on Monday, March 15. LaHood toured the facility, led by JWCC staff and administrators, as well as University of Illinois staff and researchers.
Nearly five inches of rain fell in Pike County the week of March 14, stopping all planting. Several roads flooded and were temporarily closed.
Perry native Elmer Bradbury celebrated his 101st birthday by riding, dressed as a clown, in the Jacksonville St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Bradbury is the last remaining member of the Perry High School class of 1938.
At its Monday, March 22, meeting, the Pike County board hired McKenzie Ballinger as the county’s new animal control warden and Kasey Kendall as county ambulance administrator. Ballinger replaced longtime warden Debbie Lambeth, and Kendall replaced outgoing ambulance administrator Josh Martin.
A Nebo trailer home fire claimed the life of eight-month-old Dallas William Dean Mooney. All other family members escaped the fire. The community conducted fundraisers to support the family in the fire’s aftermath.
William Poor, on March 25, pled guilty to the murder of Joshua Witherbee and was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
The Pittsfield Fire Department honored Keenan Smith as its 2020 Fireman of the Year at the department’s annual award ceremony. In addition, Trent Bernard and Rob Seybold were honored for 10 years of service; Jim Shade, Chief Jason White and Rom Reinhardt were honored for 25 years of service.
The Pittsfield Golf Cart’s Easter Parade was a huge success and attracted many spectacularly decorated golf carts as well as streets that were packed with viewers watching the parade.
April is sexual assault awareness month and Gianni’s participated in promoting prevention by placing stickers on each pizza box delivery. Students in the high school also participated in several actives promoting the cause.
Pittsfield city council approved the purchase of a new self-contained breathing apparatus fill station for the Pittsfield Fire Department. According to Fire Chief Jason White, the new industry standard is 4,500, and the department has packs to accommodate nearly that, but the current fill station cannot keep up. It runs constantly and overheats. There was also a danger of it catching fire. The PFD paid for the machine from its own funds.
Gary Mendenhall was elected as the new mayor of Pittsfield, and incumbents Sean Rennecker of Barry, Kent Goewey of Griggsville and Craig Robinson of Pleasant Hill were all re-elected.
Howard Sibley celebrated his 100th birthday Feb. 22. He was honored at the Pike County All Wars Museum on Friday, April 9. Sibley, a native of Calhoun County, lives just north of Pittsfield near the airport and is one of the few living WWII veterans still living in the county.
The Pike County Chamber of Commerce, Picture Pittsfield and Illini Community Hospital partnered to sponsor a countywide, drive-through Community Wellness Expo at Lake Pittsfield on Saturday, April 17. 28 vendors and exhibitors set up booths around Lake Pittsfield Drive, and more than 250 residents attended the event.
Zack Ferguson was selected to succeed outgoing Pittsfield High School football coach Paul Petty. Ferguson is a 2009 graduate of PHS.
■ May 2021
Gary Mendenhall was sworn in as mayor, Wanda Martin as treasurer, Ann Moffitt as city clerk, Beth White, Chris Little, Kevin Ketchum, Kevin Ketchum and Robert Wilson as alderman at the Pittsfield City Council meeting.
Bruce Kendall, citing health issues, stepped down from the Barry city council. Kendall was honored at Barry’s Monday, May 3, city council meeting with a plaque presented by Mayor Shawn Rennecker.
Former Pittsfield McDonald’s owners Pat and Pam Cooney, who retired and sold the business to a Missouri-based ownership group, were honored with an 80-vehicle parade led by the Pittsfield Fire Department. The end of the parade was hastened by a fire call.
The Pike County Chamber of Commerce held ribbon cuttings to recognize the openings of three new Pike County businesses between May 4 and May 8. The businesses were CJ’s Café in Milton and Pike Nutrition and Roots Market in Pittsfield.
Competing against 11 other schools, Pittsfield High School’s first-ever bass fishing team captured the title of sectional champs at Lake Jacksonville. From the team, Wyatt McClintock and Liam Bonnett advanced to the state bass fishing tournament held at Carlyle Lake in Clinton County.
In what was believed to be the first legal challenge to involuntary quarantines. The courts ruled in favor of the Pike County Health Department and against the parents, who brought the suit.
The Lions Club announced its decision not to hold 2021 Pig Days due to COVID-19 concerns.
Picture Pittsfield hosted a clean-up day at King Park and the walking path was nearly half finished. Since then, the trail is completed, circling the entire park.
Pleasant Hill FFA members planted a time capsule at the school to celebrate Pike County’s 200th birthday. Items included in the time capsule are a PHHS yearbook of 2020, pictures of each class pre- k through eighth grades, notes from the high school English classes, decorated face maskss from several classes, a book presented from Steve and Gina Rylander and a memorial to Sara Steinkamp, a teacher who died earlier in the school year. The capsule will be opened in 25 years.
On Saturday, May 29, 68-year-old William H. Farnsworth died following a single-vehicle accident, where his pickup careened off a 150-foot bluff above the Illinois River.
■ June 2021
After taking a year off due to COVID, Mounted Angels was once again offering horseback rides to special needs children. This was the 32nd year for the program in Pike County, which depends on donations for insurance and supplies.
Hundreds of reenactors and visitors flocked to Lake Pittsfield on June 5 and 6 for the annual Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment, which is sponsored by the Abe Lincoln Project/Looking for Lincoln in Pike County, as well as the City of Pittsfield. Reenactors at the event played out the events of the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.
Twenty women from Pike County, Scott County and Missouri celebrated Women’s Golf Day at Old Orchard Country Club on Tuesday, June 1. The international celebration is intended to empower and support women and girls through the sport of golf.
The Pike County Fair started June 9 with family night and was to run through the 12th. Actives include pageants, a carnival, truck and tractor pull, entertainment and a demolition derby.
The Western Illinois Fair also was held in June. It too had pageants, a carnival, a food stands. The bus derby was postponed due to heavy rains making the track unfit for use.
Pike County learned the county would be in another legislative district after re-districting as mandated by the state legislature every 10 years. Neither of Pike’s state legislators were happy with the new maps and several others across the state agreed. Lawsuits are underway to have the maps redrawn.
The Pittsfield High School Lady Saukee track team earned 8th out of 144 teams at the IHSA state track meet. Olivia Campbell earned first place in discus and fourth in shot-put. The school’s 4 x 400 meter relay team, along with Katie Cox in the 300 meter hurdles, earned third place in their respective events.
The Pike Press was acquired by Better Newspapers, Inc. when the Mascoutah-based company purchased the newspaper – along with the Calhoun News-Herald, Greene Prairie Press, Scott County Times and the Jersey County Journal. Prior to the purchase, Better Newspapers owned and operated 31 newspapers in Illinois and Missouri.
The Pike County government was without telephone service and reliable internet service for several weeks, following late June lightning strikes. Over $20,000 in damage was reported from the strikes.
For the first time in over a decade, the Pike County Board had to postpone a board meeting for lack of a quorum on Monday, June 28. Board President Jim Sheppard said the last time a meeting was cancelled was a budget hearing in 2004 or 2005.
■ July 2021
The Pittsfield City Council received an Automated External Defibrillator and voted to place it at King Park. The council discussed buying additional units for the lake, near the soccer fields and one for the city maintenance building.
Harlee DeCamp was crowned the queen of the Pleasant Hill 4th of July pageant. She is the first young lady to be crowned Pleasant Hill 4th of July Baby, Little Miss, Princess, Junior Miss and now Queen.
Pike County was awarded $28,000 from the Illinois State Board of Elections to improve voter access to polling locations in Perry and Pleasant Hill. The funds will ensure polling locations in the communities are accessible to disabled voters. Wheelchair ramps and automatic doors will be installed at each of the voting location.
The membership in AFL/CIO Operating Engineers Local 965 of Pike County government employees in the offices of the circuit clerk, county clerk, supervisor of assessments, treasurer and state’s attorney was decertified by the union – removing the collective bargaining power of the employees.
A Valley City dog that had been missing for 14 months was found across the Illinois River in Scott County. According to Scott County Dog Rescue President Becky lashmett, the dog likely crossed the river on the Norfolk Southern Railroad bridge, which she said has been done by at least one other dog in the past. The dog was subsequently reunited with owner Angie Johnson of Valley City.
Hull’s 82-year-old Ron Abney, who had been missing, was found dead in Two-Mile Creek. The cause of death, according to Pike County Sheriff, was accidental. No autopsy was conducted.
■ August 2021
Stephen Watkins, a retired member of the Air Force recently lost his service dog to health issues. Watkins wanted his military flag buried with the dog. A motorcycle group from mid- Missouri replaced the flag for Watkins in a Sunday afternoon ceremony on the courthouse lawn.
All Pike County Schools were scheduled to open on the announced dates, although masks would be required, causing protests from some parents.
Covid cases were back on the rise in Pike County with 219 cases being reported in July. The county was averaging 32 cases the preceding four months.
It was announced the Richard Gray Trust would donate $450,000 toward the new multi-purpose agricultural facility at the Orr Research Center.
The 1970 Saukee football team, Brad Hamilton, Tim Fisher, Glenn Smith, Harold Voshall, Gary Woods, Greg Willard, Matt Powell and WBBA Radio were all inducted in the Pittsfield High School Hall of Fame invidious divisions.
The Orr Corporation, JWCC and the University of Illinois held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 24,000 square foot multipurpose agriculture building at the JWCC Agriculture Education Center on Illinois Route 104, west of Perry. The new facility will house an exposition hall, classroom/office space and an animal care wing. The $2.2 million facility is being paid for by private donations raised by the Orr Corporation, the JWCC Foundation and the JWCC Ag Alumni Association.
Pike County’s population, according to the 2020 census, fell to 14,739. Previously, the 2010 census showed a population of 16,430. Under state statute, the drop in the population below 15,000 triggered the county board’s ability increase in the county’s tax levy from .0027 to .0037. The board subsequently carried out the levy increase.
At its Aug. 30 monthly meeting, the Pike County board elected to not bid out the health insurance plan for county employees. Instead, the board kept the existing plan with the Hope Trust.
■ September 2021
The Pike County Chamber of Commerce’s “Tenderloin Trail” kicked off Labor Day weekend. The trail included stops at 12 Pike County Chamber of Commerce member businesses that feature fried tenderloin sandwiches on their menus. Hundreds of residents took part in the promotion, and many visitors from neighboring counties and Missouri participated. Dining at least nine of the participating restaurants was required to qualify for prizes at the end of the event.
With harvest season approaching, Pittsfield Fire Department was holding grain bin rescue training.
Pike County’s corn and bean harvests were in full swing by the first full week of September. Ideal growing conditions this year allowed Pike County farmers to cash in on near-record commodity prices. Prices were driven up, according to Pike-Scott Farm Bureau’s Blake Roderick, by high global demand and low levels of grain in storage.
On Monday, Sept. 13, the New Philadelphia Association celebrated Free Frank McWorter Freedom Day. McWorter, in 1836, became the first African American to plat and register a town in the United States. The celebration took place at the New Philadelphia town site, located between Barry and Baylis, and was attended by dozens of residents, elected officials and descendants of McWorter. At the event former Quincy Mayor and current Chair of the Illinois State Board of Elections Charles Scholz, on behalf of Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, presented a proclamation officially declaring Sept. 13, 2021, as Free Frank Freedom Day.
After being held virtually in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions, the annual JWCC Ag Alumni Association’s livestock judging competition was back in-person in 2021. 260 students from 20 Illinois and Missouri school districts participated in John Wood Community College’s Ag Alumni Association 18th Annual Livestock Judging Invitational on Friday, Sept. 17. The contest was back in-person after being held online last year. Students from Pittsfield, Griggsville-Perry and Pleasant Hill competed in the event.
Mandated vaccinations for certain professions were causing controversy and some employers were offering testing to allow non-vaccinated employees to stay on the job.
The Pike County Sheriff’s Department announced they had made six arrests over the past few months regarding violations of the Sex Offender Registration Act. Sheriff David Greenwood announced his office would continue to be aggressive in monitoring those on the list.
On Friday, Sept. 24, the Pike County Endowment Fund presented grant awards to the Abe Lincoln Project and Two Rivers RC&D to sponsor projects within Pike County. The Abe Lincoln Project is using the grant to produce a play, which portrays the role of Pike County in Lincoln’s life.
Two Rivers RC& D is using the funds to help with its Access Food program, which processes deer harvested by Pike County hunters and distributes the meat to county food pantries.
■ October 2021
Pleasant Hill High School FFA was competing in the Illinois High School Association’s Pigskins and pork chops competition. The school received short notice about their inclusion and had no homage’s after the announcement and did not advance to the second round of competition, but still swears their pork chops they sell at football games are the best.
Bow Lake and Lake Pittsfield disc golf courses held the second Big Buck Classic Disc Golf Tournament Saturday, Oct. 9. Dozens of professional and amateur disc golf competitors from Missouri, Illinois and Iowa took part in the tournament.
Hundreds of visitors took part in Fall Pickin’ Days on Oct. 16 and 17. Residents in communities throughout Pike County held yard sales, and pop-up vendors and food trucks set up to do business over the weekend.
Two men who interfered with the Spring Creek Fire Department as the department was on their way to a fatal fire had their charges dropped to a class C misdemeanor and paid $500 fine.
Pittsfield Saukee Golfer, Jameson Noble, advanced to the Illinois High School Association’s golf tournament.
The Pittsfield Golf Cart Club held their second Halloween Parade. Some of the carts and participants were decorated and dressed appropriately for the holiday.
In preparation, for draining and dredging, the fish of the King Park Lagoon were removed by IDNR and City of Pittsfield employees. Sport fish were relocated to Lake Pittsfield. Of the fish removed from the lagoon, two were approximately 55 pound Flathead Catfish, which had been living in roughly three feet of water.
The final service at St. James Episcopal Church took place at the end of October. The decision to close the church was made by the Chicago Episcopal diocese.
Dozens of Halloween-costumed dogs and dog owners took place in a fundraising dog-walk on Saturday, Oct. 23. The dog-walk was organized by Picture Pittsfield and the Pike County Rotary to raise funds for a dog park at the site of the former tennis courts at Pittsfield’s King Park.
■ November 2021
Following the 2020 census, redistricting resulted in Illinois losing a U.S. congressional seat. As a result, Pike County found itself in the 15th Congressional District, which is represented by Rodney Davis. Pike County is currently represented by Darin LaHood.
Pike County Chamber of Commerce coordinated the annual Girls Night Out on the Square in Pittsfield on Thursday, Nov. 4. The event was cancelled, due to COVID-19 restrictions, in 2020. Girls Night Out brought more than a thousand attendees to businesses throughout downtown Pittsfield. Many attendees were visitors from neighboring counties and Missouri. Chamber member businesses from throughout the county were also invited to participate in the event.
Not forgetting COVID, but, wanting to avoid a flu epidemic, the Pike County Health Department was offering flu shots for both adults and children. People at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease; and people 65 years and older were encouraged to get the shot.
Members of the Pleasant Hill student body assisted the Pleasant Hill American Legion in placing flags around the perimeter of Crescent Heights Cemetery.
The high number of active COVID cases and quarantines was forcing an early dismissal in Pikeland Schools. The early release would allow teachers the opportunity to prepare remote learning materials for those not in school due to illness or quarantine.
A stabbing in a local establishment left one man injured and another in jail. James Heatherly was airlifted to Springfield with what was feared to be life-threatening injuries, but was later deemed less serious. Curtis Williams was arrested in connection with the assault.
Don Kirk was recognized by the Community Foundation of Northeast Missouri and Western Illinois as a “Friend of Philanthropy” on Thursday, Nov. 18. Kirk was recognized for his role in establishing the Pike County Endowment Fund, which benefits non-propfit organizations in the county. Kirk was presented with a check for $1,000, which he donated to the Pike County Endowment Fund.
Demolition began on the JB United Mill on Pittsfield’s N. Madison St. Jonas Petty has purchased the property and has not committed to a plan for the future use of the space, although he indicated the brick and concrete structures would remain intact.
A Hull man set fire to his own home and four others. He also burned a car. Brian Morris was arrested shortly after the fires were set. His own home was seriously damaged as was the vehicle, but the other four had only minor to moderate damages.
Picture Pittsfield hosted the annual ‘Deer Santa’ Festival on the courthouse grounds on Nov. 28. Hundreds attended to take part in shopping specials at businesses around the square. In addition, the event served as a grand opening for the Pike County Art Guild, which has a new meeting/gallery space at 117 ½ N. Madison St. in Pittsfield.
The building envelope of the new 24,000 square foot multipurpose agriculture building at JWCC’s Perry Orr Agriculture Education was largely completed by the end of November. The building – which will house office/classroom space, a livestock exposition hall and an animal care wing – is slated to open ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.
An accidental fire claimed the Pittsfield home of Scott Koch on Nov. 28. Pittsfield, North Pike, East Pike and Griggsville fire departments all responded to the blaze. The fire restarted overnight and Pittsfield firefighters had to come back to contain the fire.
■ December 2021
Tracey Allen, a third grade teacher at PCS, was named as Pittsfield’s South Elementary School Principal.
Pike-Scott Farm Bureau Executive Director Blake Roderick announced he would retire in May, 2022. Roderick has served in his role as Pike County Farm Bureau Director since Dec. 1, 1981. The Pike and Scott farm bureaus merged in 1987.
The Pikeland Community School Seventh Grade Girls Basketball Team captured the hearts and support of most of Pike County as the team made up of sixth and seventh grade girls played for the state title. The score was tied with less than one second on the clock, when a Eureka player scored giving the Lady Braves second place.
An Atlas couple is remodeling the building on the southeast corner of the 4-way stop at the U.S. 54 and Rt. 96 Highway. The building will house a bar, dining and a game room when completed, hopefully in March.
Deer numbers from archery season were down, but, observers say when the archery numbers are totaled, the harvest will remain about the same. The numbers were down across the state.
On Monday, Dec. 20, former Pike County Board Chairman Andy Borrowman was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Rodger Hannel. Hannel resigned the position and subsequently passed away, following a protracted battle with cancer. Borrowman will also fill Hannel’s committee roles and his role as vice-chairman for the board.