This week in Illinois history: Oct. 22-28
Oct. 22, 1983 — Marion. Inmates killed two prison guards at the U.S. Penitentiary. Despite its status at the time as the federal prison system’s most secure facility, inmates were nevertheless able to plot and carry out separate attacks on guards. Officer Merle E. Clutts was attacked at 10:30 a.m. by a white supremacist serving time for armed robbery, as the BBC reports. The same day, Officer Robert Hoffman was killed as he tried to break up a fight between two other prisoners.
Oct. 23, 1999 — Cuba. Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan became the first sitting U.S. governor to visit Cuba since its Communist revolution. An audience with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and a meet-and-greet with Cuban citizens were highlights of the trip, according to The Miami Herald. Ryan, a champion of ending the U.S. embargo against the island nation, also donated $1 million toward humanitarian causes, the BBC reported. Ryan later earned notoriety for commuting the death sentences of dozens of prisoners to life imprisonment and for serving time in federal prison for corruption.
Oct. 24, 1907 — Henry County. The Hennepin Canal was filled with water and opened. The canal, which took 15 years to build, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and represented key engineering achievements, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Today the Canal is a tourist destination, with “155 miles of hiking/biking fun from the Illinois River to the Rock River,” the website states.
Oct. 25, 1995 — Fox River Grove. A commuter train slammed into a school bus, killing seven high-school students. The deadly accident occurred after a 70-mile-an-hour Metra express train caught the back end of the bus as it transported students to Cary-Grove High School. A memorial, Friendship Circle, which features seven evergreen trees and a bench, was built after the accident and remains in place at the school, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Oct. 26, 1946 — Chicago. Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak was born. The TV host, as his entry on History.com reports, worked his way to game show stardom from more humble beginnings. Early jobs included DJ-ing for the Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam (he was an enlisted man) and serving up weather forecasts to viewers in Los Angeles. In national syndication since 1983, Wheel of Fortune made him and co-star Vanna White “pop-culture icons,” History.com states.
Oct. 27, 1873 — Dekalb. Joseph Glidden applied for a patent on barbed wire. Historians say the invention transformed “the face of the American West.” Like many inventions, Glidden’s improved upon another manufacturer’s design, doubling the wire filaments anchoring the barbs. The invention is credited with making easy fence construction possible, a requirement for secure homesteading.
Oct. 28, 1905 — Bureau County. The Village of Cherry is incorporated. Just a few years after its founding as a company town for the St. Paul Coal Co., the community became the site of the nation’s third-worst mining catastrophe. The 1909 Cherry Mine disaster claimed 259 lives. Today, the village is home to 468 residents, according to City-Data.com.