Steve and Carol Culbertson created a garden railroad for their backyard at 243
West Main Street. The track was laid in the fall of 2005. Then they created a
community representing their family history.
First they added landscaping, then a mill pond, hotel, sawmill, dairy farm, general
store and post office, blacksmith shop, and a model of their own house. Some of
the buildings were purchased. The Main Street and mill were created from scratch
by Carol and Steve.
The Culbertson Station Garden Railroad includes Culbertson Station, a model
representing a railroad depot south of Covington, Kentucky, on land where the
Culbertson family settled in 1812.
Campbell’s Mill in the garden railroad was designed to look similar to the Evansville
mill that was once located at the east end of Mill Street. The model is named for
the John Campbell Sawmill located in New Milford, Illinois, 1855-1868.
The Carpenter Dairy Farm represents a dairy farm in Boone County, Illinois
operated by Carol’s grandfather, Stanley Crabbe Carpenter, from 1915 to 1955.
The general store and post office represent Burton’s General Store and post office
in Fairdale, Illinois. An ancestor, William S. Burton operated the business for 24
years from 1911 to 1935.
Another ancestor, John Shetter, operated a blacksmith shop in McFarland,
Wisconsin from 1852 to 1870.
Other businesses are named for their grandchildren, Ryne’s Drugs, C. A. Ashley,
DDS, Amber’s Café and Hotel Austin.
The Culbertson home will also be open for the tour. Parts of the interior of the
house are under construction and visitors will have an opportunity to see this work-
The house at 243 West Main was built in 1881 and is represented in the
Culbertson Garden Railroad by a yellow house and barn. The architectural style
of the house is Victorian Vernacular. The name is used to designate houses and
commercial buildings built during the time period of Queen Victoria’s reign in
England. The buildings defined as vernacular are usually designed from pattern
books that were readily available to builders. The style does not have strong
identifying characteristics but incorporates various elements from the popular
styles of the time, Italianate, Stick, Queen Anne, Gothic, or Second Empire.
Today the property is described on tax records as the east 57.75 feet of lot 5 and
the west 8.25 feet of lot 6, Block 6 of the Original Plat of Evansville. For many
years, the lot was vacant and sold as part of a larger parcel of land.
Then in January 1881, Almeron Eager purchased this lot from Alex Wilson’s large
parcel and the Evansville Review reporter wrote. “Mr. Eager has bought the vacant
lot next east of Albert Snashall, of Alex Wilson and intends putting a tenement
house thereon in the Spring.
However, Eager had an opportunity to sell the vacant lot at a small profit. Eager
had purchased the lot for $212.50 and sold it to Edward Sargent in April 1881 for
$275. In the spring of 1881, Sargent began excavating for the foundation of his
new home. In 1882, he borrowed $1,000 from Lansing Mygatt to perhaps make an
addition or complete the payment for work on the house.
Sargent was a tinner and worked for the hardware firm of F. A. Baker & Co. The
store was located in the Magee block. Their advertisements were typical of
hardware stores of the time. In addition to hardware, they carried tinware,
shelfware, stoves, agricultural implements and cutlery. Baker advertised that he
had a tin shop at the store and would do tin work at the lowest prices. The shop
cheese and butter factory machinery.
Sargent was often sick. He suffered from rheumatism and his symptoms were
often so severe that he could not work. In December 1888, the Evansville Tribune
said that Sargent had been unable to work for several days. “The disease has
become chronic with him and he has suffered more or less from it for several
years, but it is hoped by his many friends that he will soon recover.”
Sargent soon decided to work for himself. Since Evansville already had several
hardware stores, he sold his house to Lansing Mygatt in December 1891 for
$1,750. Sargent moved to Garner, Iowa and opened a hardware store. He often
returned to Evansville to visit family and friends.
One of his last visits was in December 1892 when the Review reported: “Mr. Ed.
Sargent, who is in the hardware business at Garne, Iowa, spends Christmas at
home. Everybody glad to see Ed. and shake a warm hand with him.” Sargent died
in 1893 and his body was returned to Evansville. He was buried in Maple Hill
Mygatt had no intention of living in the house, when he purchased it from Ed
Sargent. Mygatt was a hardware merchant in business as Snashall & Mygatt and
was a real estate investor. He owned several rental properties and lived in a house
at the northwest corner of West Main and Second Street.
Mygatt used the house at 243 West Main as a rental property and after his death
in 1894, his wife, Cecelia, inherited the property. Cecelia Mygatt held onto the
property for six years after her husband’s died. She sold it to Fred L. Franklin in
1900 for $1,750.
From 1900 to 1944, the house was owned by a member of the Franklin family.
Fred Franklin was a clerk in the Grange Store and he was unlucky in love. Twice
he was a widower. A few years before he purchased the house at 243 West Main,
Fred married Mary Davenport and on Valentines Day in 1892 she died, just a few
hours after the death of their first child.
Three years later, Fred Franklin was a young widower when he married Annie M.
Stauffacher in July 1895. Fred and Annie were living in the house on West Main
Street in 1900, according to a city directory from that time.
Annie died on October 10, 1902. “She leaves many warm friends and a kind
indulgent husband. Her mother, one brother and sister were present at the funeral
which was held at the Baptist Church, “ her obituary printed in the Evansville
After Annie’s death, Fred sold the house to his brother, Leon E. Franklin for
$1,900. Fred married for the third time in 1912 and continued to work at the
Grange Store. Leon was a born in Union township in 1868. In census records,
Leon’s occupation is listed as carpenter.
In 1914, the Franklin’s added a new porch to the house. The 1920 census lists
Leon and his wife “Missa” living in the house at 243 West Main Street in
Evansville. His occupation is given as house carpenter.
Leon ‘s first wife, Artemisa Fairbanks Franklin, died in 1926. Two years later, he
married Jessie Ivis and moved to Darien.
The house became a rental property as Leon and Jessie Franklin are listed in the
1930 census as living in Darien. James B. Coleman and his wife Bonnie were
listed as residents of the Evansville property on Main Street.
According to the deed records, Leon’s second wife Jessie Franklin was given joint
tenancy of the property in April 1942. His obituary indicates that he became very
ill at about this time.
Leon and Jessie Franklin sold the house to George E. and Cora Smith and their
son Ray Smith in August 1944. Leon died the following year on May 27.
George and Ray Smith operated a meat market at 17 West Main Street. In 1920,
George Smith and his son, Ray purchased the market and named it the City Meat
Market. The Smith family advertised that they featured "home-killed" pork, beef,
veal, and mutton.
The local butchers were competing with assembly-line Chicago meat packing
plants that shipped pre-cut meat to grocers. Smith ads told the advantage of
buying from a local meat processor. Their ads told their customers that their meat
was much fresher than any that was shipped in from a distant city.
For 38 years, the Smith's operated the business at 17 West Main. Customers
were urged to try one of "Smitty's" quality steaks with the assurance that "our
meats assure you a successful dinner." At Christmas time they offered "home-
grown and picked" poultry.
The father and son team worked together for many years. In the 1930s and 40s
they operated under the name Geo. Smith & Son. After George Smith died in
1954, Ray continued to operate the meat market.
Ray Smith was also the local bookie, placing horse racing bets for local gamblers.
The gamblers found young boys to act as couriers to carry their bets to the
bookie. The gamblers placed the bets in paper, handed them off to the courier so
that they arrived at the meat market, in time to be delivered to the depot. The bets
were sent via the railroad and placed on the train making the run to the Chicago
area race tracks.
In 1958, Ray sold the business and went to work for Chapins Grocery as a meat
In 1969 Ray Smith sold the house to Donald and Mary Ann Schroeder. The
Schroeders lived in the house, selling it to Ronald & Terri Hyne in June 1976.
A little more than a year later the Hyne’s sold the house to Leo Bruenig. Bruenig
owned the house from September 1977 to January 1990 when he sold it to Dale R.
Mann. After Mann’s death, the Culbertson’s purchased the property from the
Mann estate in 2003.
243 West Main - 2007
The Culbertsons restored the exterior of the house by painting and putting in long
windows in the second floor. They removed a doorway from the front hall into the
living room and papered the entry way.
The second floor hallway floor has been restored to its original level. Trim that
had once decorated the bedroom was discovered under the flooring in the
had been laid across the rafters as spacers to raise the floor. Another unexpected
find was a crow bar left behind between the rafters. Using the pattern from the old
trim, the Culbertsons were able to duplicate the trim and restore the decoration in
the two bedrooms and hallway.
On the first floor, Carol and Steve removed the soffit from above the kitchen
cupboards and added trim across the top of the cupboards. Carol displays
collectibles and some of her rosemaling above the cupboards. The Culbertsons
also replaced an orange countertop that was part of a previous owner’s kitchen
A small bathroom was added to the first floor in 2007. The project was hurried
along after Carol broke her leg and could not maneuver the stairs.
One of the current projects is the remodeling of a large bathroom on the second
floor. One half of the old bathroom is under construction for a walk-in closet. The
other half of the room is getting new plumbing for a bathroom, with a door located
closer to the bedrooms.
On the first floor, beneath the second floor bathroom remodeling project, is a room
used as an office. Once the plumbing in the bathroom is completed, the office will
be remodeled. A previous owner lowered the ceiling in the office and the
Culbertson’s will restore the ceiling to its original height and cover the ceiling with
Each of the bedrooms is decorated with artifacts collected from Carol and Steve’s
families. Carol frequently gives talks about her Norwegian heritage. Items from
Steven’s family are displayed in the master bedroom and items from Carol’s family
are in the guest room.
Although the basement will not be open, there is work going on in that area as well
as in the rest of the house. The late Bud Peterson, a popular brick and stone
renovation artist, taught Steve how to cement the stone walls. It is Steve’s
intention to build an HO train layout in the basement.
Another project in the planning stage is the stripping and refinishing of the living
room woodwork. The woodwork is all original and a previous owner stripped and
antiqued the trim. The Culbertsons want to match the color of the original finish
that can be seen on the woodwork in the dining room.
Carol and Steve would like to find pictures of the house from the early 1900's.
|243 West Main
Researched and Written
Ruth Ann Montgomery