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Look back: Help for soldiers, a railroad crash

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for 175th anniversary (2012) Aurora. | AurorHistorical Society

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for the 175th anniversary (2012) of Aurora. | Aurora Historical Society

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Updated: September 14, 2012 6:03AM

Aurora is celebrating its 175th birthday this year. More information is available at To commemorate the anniversary, The Beacon-News is revisiting stories from 50, 100 and 150 years ago. Here’s what The Beacon-News reported about this week...

... in 1862.

The employees in the Aurora workshops of the CB&Q railroad had begun a fund to help the families of railroad men who volunteered to serve with the Union Troops. Each employee offered a portion of their monthly salary, according to the shop manager.

Through these donations, the railroad shop expected to be able raise $400 a month. With this money, the railroad expected to be able to give $30 to every family each month so they would not need any further assistance. The railroad manager hoped other community members would help raise even more money.

… in 1912.

An 11-year-old Aurora boy had lived near the North-Western railroad tracks for months. Train conductors had taken a liking to the Lawrence Gillman, occasionally giving him rides to Geneva and back. But on a Saturday afternoon, Gillman — tired of seeing the same old things — decided to open a switch “to see what would happen.”

What happened was that minutes later a passenger train came through and smashed into a freight train that was on a side track. The boy hid his face as people jumped out of the cars. A fireman who was a passenger on the train broke two ribs. Fortunately, he was the only person hurt.

In order to draw a confession from the boy, Aurora’s police chief told Gillman the fireman had died. Gillman began sobbing violently and hugged the chief at the knees, and the chief stopped his questioning lest he do permanent damage. Gillman provided a detailed confession, but police had not decided whether to charge the boy.

… in 1962.

One month before his heavyweight title fight with Floyd Patterson, boxer Sonny Liston set up his training camp at Aurora Downs. Liston was preparing to fight Patterson, the heavyweight champion, at Comiskey Park on Sept. 25. Two rings were built near the Aurora Downs grandstand and a dining room was installed on the first floor. A press room was set up on the second floor so boxing writers could file dispatches from Liston’s training headquarters. The public could pay 99 cents to watch Liston train.

Liston was running three miles on Aurora roads every day at 5 a.m. He ate twice a day: steak and green things, but no milk. He was in bed every day at 10 p.m.

With 600,000 people watching at Sox Park and in theaters, Liston would win the eventual fight with Patterson in a one-round knockout.

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