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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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John Russell
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40° and two chimneys; it is partly overgrown with roses or ivy (hard to distinguish in the somewhat murky picture). The front door is arched with a fanlight. It is the James Hobson House near Carrollton, Illinois.]

Lyle D. Stone

James Hobson House, Near Carrollton, Built 1820's.

 p40  English Architecture

A few miles west of Carrollton, seat of Greene County and center of a long-settled agricultural region near the lower reaches of the Illinois River, stand several interesting old houses which survive from the time when, more than a century ago, a group of English colonists settled in this region and called their community Mount Pleasant. This name has since become obscure and most of the settlement's original houses have disappeared, but what few remain give evidence of English architectural origins.

One of the best of these, not only for its architecture and setting, but also because four generations of the same family have lived in it continuously, is the old Hobson house, located just west of Carrollton on the original Hobson farm. Living at the time material was gathered for this book was Mrs. Lansing A. Dickson, great-granddaughter of the builder and kin to the founder of Mount Pleasant. Because of her antiquarian tastes, Mrs. Dickson had preserved such a collection of family heirlooms as is rarely seen in old houses of the state. The house was a veritable museum of pioneer furniture and other household belongings.

The story of the origin of this house goes back to 1822 when Mrs. Dickson's great-grandfather, James Hobson, and his family, together with several other families, all of Cumberland County, England, decided to set sail for America. They embarked at Liverpool in the brig Yamacrow and made the voyage to New York in forty-seven days. Then, by wagon and flatboat, they came to Illinois and acquired tracts of land just west of Carrollton, which had been founded only a few years earlier.

From all available evidence, it appears that James Hobson erected his brick house some time in the 1820's — which places it among the oldest brick dwellings in Illinois.

"Except for a few minor changes in the interior caused by the adding of electrical equipment, a water pressure system, plumbing, and a furnace, this house is just as my great-grandfather built it," said Mrs. Dickson. "All of the brick used in its construction was made by hand on the farm, the work being done by masons, carpenters and glaziers after they had completed work on the Robert Black home down the road. This house still stands and is the oldest in the county. Robert Black was one of the men who came over from England with my great-grandfather."

In the various walnut-trimmed rooms of this comfortable two‑story dwelling were many Hobson family heirlooms — a trundle bed, four generations  p41 of wedding dresses, five generations of peacock fans, marble-topped walnut tables, a cupboard made by Mrs. Dickson's grandfather in which no nails were used, four-poster beds, numerous old-fashioned chests, oval-framed family portraits, crockery, ancient trunks, and pioneer traveling bags.

Throughout the house were beautiful hooked and braided rugs designed and made by Mrs. Dickson herself. Especially interesting, both historically and artistically, was the wallpaper of the parlor. Here, Mrs. Dickson designed and executed by hand a paper which contained Directoire wreaths and inside each wreath were engravings of early scenes in Greene County taken from an old county atlas, dated 1873. Over the fireplace was an engraving of her own house, taken from the same atlas.

The exterior of the abode is of mellow red brick with white stone lintels, and over portions of it climbs English ivy. The style of architecture is markedly English. An attractive doorway, with fanlight and sidelights, gives entrance to a large hallway, flanked by the drawing room and a pleasant living room. And in the flower garden under a great old tree grow narcissus bulbs which were brought from England by Mrs. Dickson's great-grandmother more than a century ago.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 07