Title: Images of Evansville: Montgomery puts history of Rock County city on display
Author: Gina Duwe
Publisher: Gazette Xtra
The history of Evansville unfolds throughout the pages of a new book by local historian Ruth Ann Montgomery.
The photos and captions tell stories of everything from Dr. John M. Evans--after whom the city was named--to the Rock County Fair, which was held in Evansville from 1899 to 1927.
"I really hope that it will start conversations about those stories that people remember about these places and people, that they will pass those stories on to others in the community that may not be as familiar with Evansville history," Montgomery said.
"There's a lot of stories that can't be told in a book of that size."
Montgomery, a native of Richland Center, has long been a wealth of knowledge when it comes to Evansville's history. Her latest project is available for purchase Monday: the "Evansville" edition in the "Images of America" series.
The 128-page book from Arcadia Publishing features more than 200 photographs captioned by Montgomery. Many of the photos came from Montgomery's own collection of about five albums of photos and postcards that she's collected over the years at auctions, on eBay and from people who gave them to her.
Completing the book are contributions from the Eager Free Public Library, John and Barbara Willoughby, Donovan Every and other personal collections, she said.
"It was really a community effort," she said.
Montgomery's day job is director of Arrowhead Library Systems in Janesville, but she loves doing research in her spare time.
"Researching and writing about Evansville history has become a passion," she said.
The publisher recruited her to do the book, likely because of her Web site, which features the history and photographs of Evansville, she said. Montgomery has authored history books on her church, St. Paul's Catholic Church in Evansville, for its 100th celebration in 2006, and one in 1989 on the history of Evansville from settlement up to 1920.
Photos of agriculture and businesses operated by women are among Montgomery's favorites in the new book.
One photo features a milliner, or hatmaker, standing among her summer stock of hats, laces, artificial flowers, feathers and other ornaments for hats.
The woman is typical of women at the turn of the century who were independent and operated their own businesses, Montgomery said.
"I think that's a little-known part of any community's history--the women who were operating businesses," she said. "We hear too often about the men. There were women out there (working)."
Other photos show the importance of the railroad depot, which had a livestock area. Farmers had such good crops and cattle that they put the city on the map, she said. Animals would be sent by railroad to packing houses in Chicago, and farmers would travel west to buy animals to sell to the markets, she said.
"If it weren't for the strong agricultural businesses surrounding Evansville--the good farm land and the good farmers who were operating those farms--Evansville would not have been as successful as it was," she said.