A few miles east of Springfield on Rt. 54 is the Village of Spaulding. Although the name Spaulding is synonymous with Lake Springfield and CWLP, before the family was involved in public works, they were nurserymen. In the 1800's, J. B. Spaulding and his children operated a large nursery north of Riverton.
The Spaulding Nursery occupied ground that fronted present day 7th Street in Riverton and Main Street in Spaulding. Many acres of trees and shrubs were planted and sold around the country. According to a memorial leaflet for Charles Spaulding, the village “got its railroad station because of the volume of foliage, plants, shrubs and trees shipped from the J.B. Spaulding Nursery”. The same leaflet stated that “the old gingko trees and the enormous cucumber trees (Magnolia acuminata) on (the lawn of what is now the Chesapeake Seafood House on Clear Lake Avenue) were nurtured in the old Spaulding nursery”. The family also owned the Spaulding Orchard near present day Chatham, giving the name to Spaulding Orchard Road.
As mentioned in the leaflet, the present day Illinois Central Railroad bisects the town from east to west. The railroad station and post office were located at the intersection of Rt. 54 and Main Street. In addition to freight, residents could board passenger trains at the station.
The nursery was not the only enterprise in town. From 1883 to 1913, a coal mine was in operation where the Spaulding Park is today. This mine had 8 different names and closed when a fire destroyed the entire top works of the mine.
A local landmark for many years was Gathards Corner, a general store, cafe, gas station, and garage. Many of conversations were held over coffee at the counter there. A half mile west of Gathard's was a gas station, garage and motel, who's name has been lost to time. The building is currently occupied by Docker's Tavern.
Another landmark, though not as well loved, was the wooden bridge on Allen Street over the Illinois Central railroad. This one lane, arched structure gave more than one motorist the willies. Being a blind approach, meeting another car at the top led to a standoff on who would back up. Wet or icy weather made the traverse quite the adventure. The bridge experienced a few fires of questionable origin and was eventually closed to vehicular traffic. It is still in use today as a pedestrian bridge.
The Spaulding Grade School was located on Raylots street in the village. When a fire destroyed the original wooden structure, a new school was constructed at the same location. After graduating from the grade school, students attended high school in Riverton.
A new Veterans Memorial has been constructed in the Spaulding Village Park. This park, in addition to being the site of the mine, was formerly a State of Illinois rest area for Rt. 54.
The 2010 Census determined that Spaulding was the fastest growing municipality in Sangamon County, with both new subdivisions and annexations. The village is in the Riverton Area Fire Protection District and is a part of the Riverton water system. Nascar Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier is a Spaulding native, as is the late Baseball Hall of Fame Umpire Al Barlick.
by Chuck Stone