Map shows location of the villages of Paradise and Etna.

This is a transcription of a "history," written in 1955, of a church in Paradise.
About halfway down:
"A parsonage was built in Paradise at the same time. In 1874, when the Wabash Church and parsonage were built, preachers went there to live and the parsonage in Paradise was sold for use as a residence. It is presently the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Matthews." And I wonder if this is my great Uncle Billy?

"The Wm. Matthews mentioned herein was my Uncle on my mother's side. The house was brick and was still standing until just a few years ago.
Dry Grove cemetery is south of Mattoon just west of Route U.S. 45. Actually, it abuts the Lake Land College Campus on the west side and is maintained somewhat by Lake Land grounds personnel. My Benefiel grandparents are buried there.
Camp Ground cemetery is northeast of Paradise "on the way to Mattoon." My parents are buried there as are my Matthews grandparents and the aforementioned Wm. Matthews and his two wives. (No, he wasn't a bigamist.)"

"My Dryden ancestors stopped briefly at Paradise during their move from Tennessee to Illinois in the 1840s. But they soon moved from Paradise to the Lerna area for some reason but could have been because they were devoted Presbyterians and as is noted the Paradise area was much Methodist.
Dry Grove Cemetery is among the most historical in Mattoon. When I was a high school Senior at Neoga High, the Mattoon American Legion called to ask if I could play Taps at a veteran's funeral at Dry Grove, It was a cold, gloomy, almost scary, gusty day but at a proper time far removed from the grave site, I started and finished Taps but, of course, I destroyed the Taps high note. As I left, never knowing who I had honored. someone handed me a dollar bill."


Photo 1
Map of Etna in 1869 courtesy of JIm and Martha (Kraft) Wilson.
"On the Etna map, the Masonic Lodge / store building was on the N.W. corner of Walnut and Orange Streets.
 (My first recollection of the proprietor of the south store was Earl Ellis (Pete Ellis' brother [Jack Ellis' uncle]. ) (He later moved his store to a building on the west side of the ICRR tracks in Neoga.)  Fred Louthan ran the store prior to World War II and it was closed for a few years.  Oscar Abel ran it for a while and a Henderson family did for some years.
 There was a Christian Church on the S.W. corner of Walnut and Hickory Streets.  It burned probably before 1930.
 The elementary school in Etna is at the S.E. corner of Pine and Hickory Streets.  The Methodist Church is at the S.E. corner of Pine and Orange Streets.
 I grew up on the S.W corner of Pine and Maple Streets.  I sold the six lots on Maple Street between Pine and Chestnut Streets to Mike Roy, who re-built and expanded my parents' house.
 Dortha (Montgomery) Greeson lived on the east side of Walnut Street, one lot south of Orange Street.
 Frank Lowe and his offspring had a general store at the corner of Railroad and Orange Streets.
 All of these street names have been changed in later years.  (They now have names as part of the city of Mattoon, I guess for mailing addresses.)"

RLY Note:
1. From this map it is seen that all the houses had alleys behind them.
2. My Great Grandparents, Mary and Samuel Anderson, attended the Etna Christian Church referred to in the preceding until the early 1920s when they retired from the farm to Neoga and transferred their membership to the Neoga Christian Church.

"Etna did have a U.S. Post office through, at least, World War II with its own Etna postmark. It was in the ICRR station and the ICRR station agent was also the postmaster. The waiting room for the railroad and the lobby for the post office were the same room. We had a mail lock-box there. At one time, the railroad had passenger service out of Etna. Later, the mail, in a bag, was dropped off as the trains sped through. Bob Blomquist's dad probably was serving on some of those trains.
In the late 40s, the mail was delivered once each afternoon by auto (a Ford Model A) from Neoga. I've forgotten the name of the guy who made that delivery. After WWII, the railroad closed the station in Etna and the agent, Tom Cather, moved to Neoga. The postal service was moved to Lowes' grocery store. I guess that Essie Lowe served as lady postmaster. It wasn't too long until the Etna post office was closed and Etna became R. R. #2, Mattoon. Then everyone had to put up a rural-type mailbox."

Photo 3:
Benefiel's Etna Church. From Benefiel:
The steeple has been removed from the church of my boyhood. The bell is on the "porch."

Photo 4:
The Etna School of Benefiel and Dortha's Time is The Building on the Left While the Building on the Right is the Result of the Closing of the One Room Country Grade Schools in the Late 1940s

From Robert Benefiel,
"The building on the right of the Etna school building was the Buttermilk building.  It was moved to Etna, set on a new foundation, and a lunchroom, kitchen, and rest rooms were built  between it and the original Etna building.
After that, 4th, 5th and 6th grades were in the south room (building) and 1st. 2nd and 3rd grades in the north room.
Rita Benefiel was the teacher in that 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade room during the 1954-1955 school year.
Dortha Greeson's mother, Ferne, cooked at that school for several years, and my mother, Grace, cooked there for several years later on.  My mother went to Neoga's NEW elementary building when it opened as cafeteria manager and head cook, the Etna kids went to Neoga, and the Etna building was closed and later sold to Bob Green.  Some of the kids from Buttermilk went to Etna and some to Mattoon when Buttermilk closed.  The Mattoon district (#3, maybe) extended down to just north of Etna also.
The Etna building closed when the NEW Neoga building opened."
From Nancy Bode, Daughter of Robert and Rita
"Mr. Young - I do enjoy "thumbing" through your webpages about Neoga and the surrounding communities and life back in your high school days and the email exchanges between you and my dad that he occasionally shares. It gives me a new perspective on my mom and dad, seeing what they were like in their youth.
As for the Etna school -- As a child back in the 1950s my Grandmother Benefiel was a cook at the school, and there were a couple times when my brother Bob and I were staying with her and she took us with her when she went to work. We were about 4 and 5, and we thought it great fun to go with her. We got to play with the school kids, and the teachers even let us sit in during classtime. One just doesn't take preschoolers to one's place of employment these days. I know my grandmother was happy that my Uncle Judy (L.K. Voris) hired her as a school cook. And she certainly was an excellent cook. I have her recipe book that she used to prepare those school lunches .... it should come in handy if I ever need to mix up something that will make 60-70 servings. Nowadays, at least here in Champaign,
the meals are prepared by a catering crew and served on styrofoam trays. No recipes needed - just remove from the freezer and heat."
From Tom, Son of Robert and Rita
I really wish my aunt, Agnes Worland Voris was an on-line participant.  Since her husband, LK (Judy) Voris was the superintendant when the Etna school closed and folded into the new building (I take it this is the "Pioneer" school you mention, Dad) and she was also teaching in the district, she would have some dates.
 PS - Dad tells of stories of how Uncle Judy would "somehow" need to make an inspection out in Etna around lunchtime because he liked the cooks and what they were serving... my Grammie!"
More from Tom:
"That's good stuff. Mr. Young loves the history. So do I.
Why don't you relate your money borrowing for the '47 Plymouth (?) and how the elevator owner carried the check around for a year when you paid him off!! Would coincide with your "scads of money" comment.
This sounds excpetionally dumb... but if somebody won $250 mil in the lottery and wanted to blow $200,000, they could buy the Etna school from Bob Green, tear it apart, and rebuild it making it a country school museum. Probably could use the same foundation on the center and north portions.
You and Dortha Greeson could be consultants, and someone could get history majors from the U of I, EIU or SIU to do research for credit to provide the exhibits. (Fun to dream.) I always thought it would be nice if there was a playground in Etna (named after my Grammie... huh-huh)
You said the north wing was brought in from the country and was "what" school? Then they added the kitchen between the buildings.
Maybe you should tell Bob Young about how that school came together in its present form. It would also be an excellent addition to his webpage."

Photo 5:
1953 picture of our Neoga High School Building and the new Gym addition with modifications to the old Building including photos of the grade schools served including Pioneer on Route 121 near Long Point (where Lambert, Maple Grove, Bee Hive and other nearby one room country grade school students transferred to after consolidation), Neoga (near Jennings Park), Trowbridge and Etna. Later further consolidation led to the preceding four grade schools being closed.

Photo 6:
The preceding photo was part of the program celebrating major modifications of the old high school building and the addition of a new gym in 1953. Note the several former principals and state and local dignitaries who attended the event.
"I do enjoy reading your history of Neoga and surrounding areas.  I do not have much to add, however I saw Wayne Hance's name (he was principal of NHS when Donna Ellis and I were there and she and I got out of school to assist him in running for School Superintendent - and he won) - I also remember while he was principal he got angry and pulled the telephone out of the wall and we did not have a phone at NHS for some time.  Wonder what a school board would say about that today??"

Photo 7:
The Etna School Today. From Benefiel:
"The Etna School building still stands. It is owned by Bob Green, a farmer, and was used for storage (fertilizer, etc.). Probably, it hasn't been torn down because he needs it for storage. With an excellent well there, it would be a good site for building a house."



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