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- 1 1818c.5 English Immigrants from Surrey See Cricket, Trap Ball in IL
- 2 1820s.5 Town Ball Recalled in Eastern IL
- 3 1820s.23 Town Ball Came to Central IL in the 1820s.
- 4 1830s.11 In MO, the Slowly Migrating Mormons Play Ball
- 5 1830s.23 In South-Central Illinois, Teachers Joined in On Town Ball
- 6 1837.7 Canton Illinois Bans Sunday Cricket, Cat, Town-Ball, Etc.
- 7 1837.8 Well, As Goes Canton, So Goes Indianapolis
- 8 1840s.41 Town Ball Recalled in Central IL
- 9 1840c.43 Lad in Southern Illinois Played Four Old Cat
- 10 1846.9 Town Ball in Rockford IL
- 11 1850s.30 Town Ball Well Known in Illinois
- 12 1850s.31 Town Ball Played in Southeast MO
- 13 1851.4 Very Early Game in Illinois Involves Joliet, Lockport?
- 14 1852.8 Adult Town Ball Seen in on a Sunday in IL
- 15 1858.33 Earliest Games in Chicago IL?
- 16 1858.42 In Downstate Illinois, New Club Wins by 134 Rounds
- 17 1858.58 First Chicago Club Forms
- 18 1858.61 IL "Base Ball and Wicket Club" Takes the Field
- 19 1859.42 In Chicago IL, Months-old Atlantic Club Claims Championship
- 20 1860.20 Lincoln Awaits Nomination, Plays Town Ball . . . or Handball?
- 21 1860.37 Late Surge Lifts Douglas' over Abe Lincoln's Side in Chicago IL
- 22 1861.15 First Sunday in the Army: "Ball-playing, Wrestling, and Some Cards
- 23 1861.38 Base Ball at an Illinois Camp
- 24 1864.64 Confederate POWs play baseball at Rock Island
1818c.5 English Immigrants from Surrey See Cricket, Trap Ball in IL
"[S]ome of the young men were gone to a county court at Palmyra, [but] there was no cricket-match, as was intended, only a game of trap-ball." 
"On the second of October, there was a game of cricket played at Wanborough by the young men of the settlement; this they called keeping Catherine Hill fair, many of the players being from the neighborhood of Godalming and Guildford." 
"There have been [p.295/p.296] several cricket-matches this summer [of 1819], both at Wanborough and Birk Prarie; the Americans seem much pleased at the sight of the game, as it is new to them." 
John Woods, Two Years Residence on the Settlement of the English Prairie, in the Illinois Country (Longman & Co., London, 1822), pp. 148 and 295-296.
Thomas L. Altherr, “Chucking the Old Apple: Recent Discoveries of Pre-1840 North American Ball Games, Base Ball, v. 2, no. 1 (Spring 2008), pages 32-33. Note: Tom's account includes the same quotes, but attributes them to the British lawyer Adlard Welby, and sets them in 1820.
Can we reconcile the conflicts in the two attributions?
1820s.5 Town Ball Recalled in Eastern IL
"In the early times, fifty or sixty years ago, when the modern games of croquet and base-ball were unknown, the people used to amuse themselves with marbles, "town-ball" - which was base-ball in a rude state - and other simple pastimes of a like character. Col. Mayo says, the first amusement he remembers in the county was a game of town-ball, on the day of the public sale of lots in Paris, in which many of the "young men of the period engaged."
The History of Edgar County, Illinois (Wm. LeBaron, Chicago, 1879), page 273. Contributed January 31, 2010, by Jeff Kittel. Paris IL is near the Indiana border, and about 80 miles west of Indianapolis.
1820s.23 Town Ball Came to Central IL in the 1820s.
"This game [bullpen, the local favorite] was, in time, abandoned for a game called "town ball;" the present base ball being town ball reduced to a science."
The History of Menard and Mason Counties, Illinois (Baskin and Company, Chicago, 1879), page 252. Contributed by Jeff Kittel, January 31, 2010. Jeff notes that the author was in this passage describing educational conditions in the early 1820s. The two counties are just north of Springfield IL.
1830s.11 In MO, the Slowly Migrating Mormons Play Ball
"Ball was a favorite sport with the men, and the Prophet frequently took a hand in the sport."
John Doyle Lee, Confessions of John D. Lee: Mormonism Unveiled , Chapter 8.
Submitted by John Thorn, 8/17/2004 supplemented 2/22/2006. Note: Are we sure that "1830s" is the right date here? The text may imply a later date.
1830s.23 In South-Central Illinois, Teachers Joined in On Town Ball
"The bull pen, town ball, and drop the handkerchief were among the sports indulged in on the school grounds, and the teacher usually joined in with the sports."
A. T. Strange, ed., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 2 (Munsell, Chicago, 1918), page 792. Contributed by Jeff Kittel, January 31, 2010. Accessed 2/5/10 via Google Books search ("town ball and drop). Jeff's comments: "The author is talking about the history of education in Montgomery County, IL, which is located south of Springfield and NE of St. Louis. It's tough to date this. He speaks of '75 or 80 years ago,' so it's probably the 1830s and 1840s."
1837.7 Canton Illinois Bans Sunday Cricket, Cat, Town-Ball, Etc.
Section 36 of the Canton IL ordinance passed on 3/27/1837 said:
"any person who shall on the Sabbath day play at bandy, cricket, cat, town-ball, corner-ball, over-ball, fives, or any other game of ball, in any public place, shall . . . " [be fined one dollar].
http://www.illinoisancestors.org/fulton/1871_canton/pages95_126.html#firstincorporation, as accessed 1/1/2008. Information provided by David Nevard 6/11/2007. See also #1837.8, below. Canton IL is about 25 miles SW of Peoria.
On January 31, 2010, Jeff Kittel indicated that he has found the text in another source: History of Fulton County, Illinois (Chapman & Co., Peoria, 1879), pp 527-528. Accessed 2/6/10 via Google Books search ("history of fulton" 1879). Jeff, noting that the ban appeared just 37 days after Canton was incorporated, adds:
"It seems that they had a lively community of ballplayers in Fulton County. Obviously, if they're passing laws against the playing of ball, ball-playing is so widely prevalent, and there is such a variety of ball games being played, then pre-modern baseball had been played in the community for some time. It's fascinating that one of the first things they did, upon incorporation, was ban ball-playing on the Sabbath."
1837.8 Well, As Goes Canton, So Goes Indianapolis
Section 34 of an Indianapolis IN ordinance said:
"Any person who shall on the Sabbath day play at cricket, bandy, cat, town ball, corner ball, or any other game of ball within the limits of the corporation, or shall engage in pitching quoits or dollars in any public place therein, shall on conviction pay the sum of one dollar for each offense." [See the very similar #1837.7, above.]
Richard pointed out in 2008 that these very similar regulations give us the earliest citation for the term "town ball" he knows of, but in 2014 he found the very similar 1834 prohibition on Springfield IL at 1834.9.
Indiana Journal, May 13, 1837.
Note: A dollar fine for "pitching dollars?"
1840s.41 Town Ball Recalled in Central IL
"Men had the hunt, the chase, the horse-race, foot-race, the jolly meetings at rude elections . . . pitching horseshoes - instead of quoits, town-ball and bull-pen."
James Haines, "Social Life and Scenes in the Early Settlement of Central Illinois," Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for the Year 1905 (Illinois State Journal Co, Springfield, 1906), page 38. Contributed by Jeff Kittel, January 31, 2010. Accessed 2/9/10 via Google Books search ("quoits, town-ball and"). The author addressed local amusements before 1850.
1840c.43 Lad in Southern Illinois Played Four Old Cat
"We played marbles and we played a game of ball in which there were four corners, four batters, and four catchers, 'for old cat' as it was then called."
Fred Lockley, "Reminiscences of William H. Packwood," The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society Volume 16 (1915-1916), page 37. Accessed 2/9/10 via Google Books search ("william h. packwood"). Packwood was born in 1832 and as a boy lived in Sparta, IL, about 50 miles SE of St. Louis.
1846.9 Town Ball in Rockford IL
"I came West 59 years ago, in 1846, and found "Town Ball" a popular game at all Town meetings. I do not recall an instance of a money bet on the game; but, at Town meeting, the side losing had to buy the ginger bread and cider." [July letter]
"[Town Ball] was so named because it was mostly played at "Town Meetings." It had as many players on a side as chose to play; but the principal players were "Thrower" and "Catcher." There were three bases and a home plate. The players were put out by being touched with ball [sic] or hit with thrown ball, when off the base. You can readily see that the present game [1900's baseball] is an evolution from Town Ball." [April letter]
Letters from H. H. Waldo, Rockford IL, to the Mills Commission, April 8 and July 7, 1905.
1850s.30 Town Ball Well Known in Illinois
"Football and baseball, as played today [in 1918], were unknown games. What was known as townball, however, was a popular sport. This was played with a yarn ball covered with leather, or a hollow, inflated rubber ball, both of which were soft and yielding and not likely to inflict injury as is so common today in baseball. Townball was much played in the schoolhouse yard during recess and at the noon hour."
Charles B. Johnson, Illinois in the Fifties (Flanigan-Pearson Co., Champaign IL, 1918), page 79. Contributed by Jeff Kittel, January 31, 2010. Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search <"illinois in the fifties">. Jeff notes that, while describing Illinois pastimes generally, the author was from Pocahontas, IL, in southeast IL, about 50 miles east of St. Louis.
1850s.31 Town Ball Played in Southeast MO
"The men found amusement . . . in such humble sports as marbles and pitching horseshoes. There were also certain athletic contests, and it was no uncommon thing for the men of the neighborhood to engage in wrestling and in the jumping match. This was before the day of baseball, but the men had a game, out of which baseball probably developed, which was called 'town ball.'"
Robert S. Douglass, History of Southeast Missouri (Lewis Publishing, 1912), page 441. Contributed by Jeff Kittel, January 31, 2010. Accessed 2/10/10 via Google Books search (douglass southeast).
Douglass is not explicit about the period referenced here, but that it is before the Civil War.
Jeff notes that the author is covering small towns in Southeast MO located away from the Mississippi River and isolated from one another.
1851.4 Very Early Game in Illinois Involves Joliet, Lockport?
"There were well established teams throughout the state of Illinois as early as those of Chicago, if not earlier. The Lockport Telegraph of August 6, 1851, tells of a game between the Hunkidoris of Joliet and the Sleepers of Lockport [IL]."
Federal Writers' Project -- Illinois, Baseball in Old Chicago, (McClurg, 1939). page 1. [From GBooks search for <"Joliet and the Sleepers">, 3/28/2013].
This entry appears to be in error caused by a mistake in binding local newspapers, and the cited Telegraph article may have appears as late as 1880.
From a 5/24/2013 email to Protoball from Bruce Allardice:
I've found proof that the 1939 WPA report on an 1851 game between Lockport and Joliet is incorrect. Below is what I've added to the Lockport entry in protoball:
"The book "19th Century Baseball in Chicago" (Rucker and Fryer) p. 13 asserts that the Lockport Telegraph of Aug. 6, 1851 reported on a game between the Hunkidoris of Joliet and the Sleepers of Lockport. The book credits a 1939 WPA report on early Chicago area baseball for this.
The authors are correct in what the 1939 report said. However, the 1939 report was incorrect. I talked to the librarian at the Lockport Public Library who told me that the 8-6-51 issue of the Telegraph was mistakenly bound with a newspaper from many years later, and that the Hunkidoris game article is from a newspaper 30 years later."
I also looked at a microfilm copy of the 8-6-51 issue of the Lockport newspaper, and found no mention of baseball.
Too bad, If it had been true, it would have been the first verified baseball game outside the New York area.
The librarian (now retired, and volunteering at the Will County Historical Society) is familiar with the issue, but can't remember what newspaper or date the Hunkidori game was mentioned in.
1852.8 Adult Town Ball Seen in on a Sunday in IL
"[N]ot a great while ago, [I] saw a number of grown men, on a Sabbath morning, playing town-ball."
"I grieve to say the stores all do business on the Sabbath. We hope, by constantly showing the people their transgression, to break up this [commerce] , the source of so much other sin."
Rev. E. B. Olmsted, The Home Missionary [Office of the American Home Missionary Society] Volume 24, Number 1 [May 1852], page 188.
The location of the game was Cairo, Illinois.
1858.33 Earliest Games in Chicago IL?
 "A match game was played yesterday [7/7/1858] afternoon between the Union Base Ball Club, of this city, and the Downer's grove Base Ball Club. . . . A spacious tent was erected on the Club's grounds, corner of West Harrison and Halstead Streets. The Downer's Grove Club came of (sic) victorious, the 'country boys' being excellent players."
 The Excelsior Club downed Union, 8/29/1858. The score was Excelsior 17, Union 11.
 Growth in Chicago was slow. Although its population was nearing 110,000 in 1860, it still had only four base ball clubs.
"Base Ball Match," Chicago Daily Press and Tribune, vol. 12 number 6 (Thursday, July 8, 1858), page 1 column 4. Posted to 19CBB on 9/11/2007 by Craig Waff.
Chicago Daily Times and Tribune, September 1, 1858, page 1 column 4. Posted to 19CBB on 9/11/2007 by Craig Waff.
 Steven Freedman, "The Baseball Fad in Chicago, 1865-1870," Journal of Sport History, Volume 5 number 2 (Summer 1978), page 42.
1858.42 In Downstate Illinois, New Club Wins by 134 Rounds
"BASEBALL IN ILLINOIS. - The Alton [IL] Base-Ball Club . . . a meeting was held on the evening of May 18, to organize a club . . . . The Upper Alton Base Ball Club . . . sent us a challenge, to play a match game, on Saturday, the 19th of June, which was accepted by our club; each side had five innings, and thirteen players each, with the following result: The Alton Base-Ball Club made 224 rounds. The Upper Alton Base-Ball Club made 90 rounds. Alton IL is a Mississippi River town 5 miles north of St. Louis. Missouri.
." "Base-Ball", Porter's Spirit of the Times, Volume 4, number 20 (July 17, 1858), p. 309, columns. 2-3
1858.58 First Chicago Club Forms
[A] "A team called the Unions is said to have played in Chicago in 1856, but the earliest newspaper report of a game is found in the Chicago Daily Journal of August 17, 1858, which tells of a match game between the Unions and the Excelsiors to be playing on August 19. A few other games ere mentioned during the same year."
[B] "Though baseball match games had been played in Illinois since the very early 1850's, the first Chicago Club, the Union, was not established until 1856."
[C] "There seems to be some doubt as to when the first baseball club was organized at Chicago, but it has been stated that a club called the Unions played town ball there in 1856."
[D] If these claims are discounted, modern base ball can dated in Chicago in 1858 when a convention of clubs takes place and the Knick rules are published.
[A] Edwina Guilfoil, et. al., Baseball in Old Chicago (Federal Writers' Project of Works Project Administration, 1939), unpaginated page 4.
[B] John R. Husman, "Ohio's First Baseball Game," Presented at the 34th SABR Convention, July 2004.
[C] Alfred Spink, The National Game (Southern Illinois Press, 2000 -- first edition 1910), page 63.
[D] "A Knickerbocker," Base Ball, Chicago Press and Tribune, July 9, 1858.
None of these sources gives a reference to evidence of the 1856 formation of the Union Club, so we here rely on the documented reference to a planned 1858 game.
Jeff Kittel (email of 3/9/2013) notes that there is an August 1857 Chicago Tribune article on a cricket club called the Union Club; perhaps later memories confused the cricket or town ball clubs with a modern-rules base ball club?
Jeff also notes that "[A date of] late 1857/1858 fits the time frame for the spread of the game south and west of Chicago - into Western Iowa by 1858 and St. Louis by 1859, with hints that it's in central Illinois by 1859/60. That spread pattern also fits the economic/cultural spread model that we've kicked around."
Can we find any clear basis for the report of 1856 establishment of modern base ball?
1858.61 IL "Base Ball and Wicket Club" Takes the Field
Base Ball -- Ottawa vs. Marseilles
"Some two weeks ago the Marseilles Base Ball Club challenged the Base Ball and Wicket Club of Ottawa to a trial of skill. - The challenge was promptly accepted, and Friday of last week fixed as the day and Marseilles the place for the game. At the time appointed, although the weather was intensely hot, the game was played with great spirit, yet with the utmost good feeling throughout, on both sides...
"J.H. Burlison, of Ottawa, and A.B. Thompson, of Marseilles acted as the Umpires. The time occupied in the game as 3 hours and 40 minutes.
"The Ottawa boys, it will be seen, came out 21 points ahead. The Marseilles boys took their defeat in great good humor, and had prepared a grand supper at the close of the contest, which however, owing to the late hour and their fatigue, the Ottawa boys did not remain to discuss".
A spare box score shows the Ottawa Club winning a three-inning contest, 230 to 207. It appears to have been a game of wicket.
Ottawa Free Trader, June 26, 1858
A wicket club in Illinois? Really?
Jeff Kittel notes: "Protoball doesn't have any references to wicket clubs in Illinois during this period, although there is a reference to a 1857 club in Iowa. Ottawa and Marseilles are in LaSalle County, Illinois, on the Illinois River, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. It's possible that the game experienced a period of popularity in central Illinois and Iowa. Clinton City, where the Iowa wicket club was located, is on the Mississippi, about sixty miles west of Ottawa and Marseilles. Now the headline says that this was a game of base ball, rather than wicket, but the box score, which I attached, is kind of odd - three innings, possibly playing first to 200 runs. Sadly, they don't give us any information on the number of players per side."
1859.42 In Chicago IL, Months-old Atlantic Club Claims Championship
Atlantic 18, Excelsior 16. This "well-played match between the first nines of the Atlantic and Excelsior took place on the 15th ult., for the championship. . . . The victorious club only started this spring . . . . They have now beaten the Excelsiors two out of three games played, which entitles them to the championship.
" "Base Ball at Chicago," New York Clipper September 3, 1859, p. 160
So . . . was this construed as the 1859 city crown, just a dyadic rivalry crown, an "until-we-lose-it crown, or what?
1860.20 Lincoln Awaits Nomination, Plays Town Ball . . . or Handball?
 "During the settling on the convention Lincoln had been trying, in one way and another, to keep down the excitement . . . playing billiard a little, town ball a little, and story-telling a little."
A story circulated that he was playing ball when he learning of his nomination: "When the news of Lincoln's nomination reached Springfield, his friends were greatly excited, and hastened to inform 'Old Abe' of it. He could not be found at his office or at home, but after some minutes the messenger discovered him out in a field with a parcel of boys, having a pleasant game of town-ball. All his comrades immediately threw up their hats and commenced to hurrah. Abe grinned considerably, scratched his head and said 'Go on boys; don't let such nonsense spoil a good game.' The boys did go on with their bawling, but not with the game of ball. They got out an old rusty cannon and made it ring, while the [illeg.: Rail Splitter?] went home to think on his chances."
 Interview with Charles S. Zane, 1865-66: "I was present in the Illinois State Journal on the day when Lincoln was nominated: he was present & when he received the news of the 3d Ballot. Lincoln Said I Knew it would Come to this when I Saw the 2d. Ballot. . . . Lincoln played ball pretty much all the day before his nomination – played at what is called fives – Knocking a ball up against a wall that served as an alley – He loved this game – his only physical game – that I Knew of – Lincoln said – This game makes my shoulders feel well."
 Henry C. Whitney, Lincoln the Citizen [Current Literature Publishing, 1907], page 292.
 Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements About Abraham Lincoln (U Illinois Press, 1998), page 492.
 "How Lincoln Received the Nomination," [San Francisco CA] Daily Evening Bulletin vol.10 number 60 (Saturday, June 16, 1860), page 2 column 3.
Richard Hershberger and others doubt the veracity of this story. He says [email of 1/30/2008] that one other account of that day says that Abe played hand-ball, and there is mention of this being the only athletic game that Abe was ever seen to indulge in. (But also see 1830s.16 on a younger Abe Lincoln and town ball in the 1830s).
Source  above contains other accounts of the nomination story. They support the idea that Lincoln "played ball" the day before the nomination, but it seems fairly clear that the game played was "fives," presumable a form of handball. For a very helpful submission from Steve Gietschier on the content of Herndon's Informants, see the Supplemental Text, below.
A political cartoon of the day showed Lincoln playing ball with other candidates. It can be viewed at http://www.scvbb.org/images/image7/.
Thanks to Kyle DeCicco-Carey for the link.
Is the cartoon dated? Is a location given?
Is the content from source , from 1860, known?
1860.37 Late Surge Lifts Douglas' over Abe Lincoln's Side in Chicago IL
Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Douglas
"Base Ball and Politics. - We do not approve of their thus being brought into contact, but as a match took place at Chicago on the 24th ult., between nine [Stephen] Douglas me and nine [Abe] Lincoln men of the Excelsior Club, we feel in duty bound to report it."
New York Clipper, July 1860.
Tied after eight innings, the outcome was prophetic for the ensuing election (in the state legislature) for the U. S. Senate: Douglas 16, Lincoln 14.
1861.15 First Sunday in the Army: "Ball-playing, Wrestling, and Some Cards
In early May 1861, the new 13th Illinois Regiment assembled in East St. Louis IL. Writing of the first Sabbath in the camp, the veterans later said "There was drill: so the notion of the leaders ran. A better view obtains now. There was ball-playing and wrestling and some card-playing, but that [just the card-playing?] was generally regarded as out of order."
Military History and Reminiscences of the Thirteenth Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry (Woman's Temperance Publishing, Chicago, 1892), page 10. PBall file: CW-122.
This may be the first recorded instance of ballplaying by Civil War soldiers.
1861.38 Base Ball at an Illinois Camp
A 5-16-61 letter sent from Camp Scott, a training facility at Freeport, IL, from a soldier named Tyler in the 15th Illinois Infantry, relates that the solders are playing base ball in camp.
An image of Camp Scott is in Harper's Weekly, June 15, 1861. The camp was located near the modern high school, on grounds used by the Empire BBC of Freeport.
Email from Bruce Allardice, 3/12/2013. No source given.
1864.64 Confederate POWs play baseball at Rock Island
Confederate army prisoners at the Rock Island, Illinois POW Camp, played baseball there. See Ben McAdams, Rebels at Rock Island (2000), p. 68, citing the diary of J. W. Minnich, Private 6th Louisiana Infantry.
Ben McAdams, Rebels at Rock Island (2000), p. 68