John C. Knudson was our longest mayor serving 20 years from 1983 to 2003. John was a Marseilles native and graduated from MHS. He did very well in high school being a National Honor Society member and a star in athletics. He married Jeannie Wright of Marseilles; they have three sons. John was a Viet Nam Veteran and a long-standing member of our local Union 393. He served on the Volunteer fire department until his first term as mayor.
George W. Smith’s term was from 1895 to 1897. George was born in New York and later married Antoinette. George is listed as a Funeral Director and Furniture Store owner in the 1900 census. They lived at 521 Union Street and had two daughters and one son. He died in 1930.
I. N. Baughman was mayor from 1931 to 1935. The 1940 census lists him as a farmer. His wife was T. Jane Trumbo, and it is her jacket and dress we have on display today thanks to the Kuiper family. Mrs. Baughman’s mother, A. Letitia Trumbo lived with them on Clark Street. He was also a member of the Shriner’s club.
He lived in a house where the post office is. He ran a hardware store then a grocery store on Main. He was married to Caroline Keesler and they had one son and one daughter. Before becoming Marseilles’ first mayor, John served 3 years as Township Trustee. Then served as mayor from 1891 to 1895. He died on December 8, 1912
He was president of the E911 Board for 20 years, a member of the Marseilles Planning Commission from 1998 to 2005 and served on the Manlius Township Planning Commission during the same time. He was a life member of the Marseilles Lions Club for 45 years, where he served as president and treasurer. Jim also served on the Board of Directors at the Lions Club. Jim and Sandi have three children, 2 girls and one boy, seven grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.
During his five terms he was instrumental in various city projects. John was influential in getting the new Illinois Bridge built. Through his efforts going to Springfield to persuade then Governor Edgar, and with the help of Frank Matinio and Pat Welch he was successful. As mayor, he was able to pass the TIFF District which brought in Nucor, The Marseilles Brick Factory, and Infra-Metals. As the city outgrew the sewage treatment plant, John was able to get grants to help build the new sewage treatment plant on Commercial Street. John got curbing and gutters done on Bratton Avenue during the 80’s. He was also instrumental in getting funding for Marseilles’ athletics. As a veteran he was one of the first chaperons on the Honor Flights to Washington D.C. for WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam veterans. He did two flights a year over a five-year period. John passed in June of 2018 but his contributions throughout his life to his county and his community will long be remembered.
The Museum hosted a Marseilles Mayors History event August 14, 2022. Watch the videos below to hear a brief history of our mayors.
George Sterrett was born in 1880 and served as mayor from 1927 to 1931. He and his wife, Pearl, lived on east Bluff. Before serving as mayor, he was a city commissioner in 1921. He lists his occupation on the 1910 census as a millwright at a glass factory.
David Guthrie held the office of mayor for two different terms. From 1951 to 1955 and then again from 1959 to 1971 for a total of 12 years. He was born in 1902 and worked as a power operator at the paper box factory. His wife Amelia and daughter Delores lived at 906 Washington Street according to the 1940 Census. In 1960 the Chicago Daily News carried a story about Marseilles’ 125 Birthday stating that Mayor David Guthrie was chairman of the event.
John married Edith and according to the 1940 census lived at 445 Union Street. They had two sons and one daughter. John served on the local school board, the Building & Loan Board, and the Community Hospital Board. He was instrumental in building the current Methodist Church in 1958 and was an active church member until his death in 1987.
Earl Butterfield was mayor from 1939 to 1947 and was born in 1892. He and his wife, Carletta, and one son and one daughter lived at 693 E. Bluff Street. Walter, his son, was a newspaper boy according to the 1930 census. Earl worked for the paper mill as a millwright. In 1944 he was a guest of Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, which manufactured the LSTs in Seneca, to tour the BIG CITY Chicago. This was a newspaper article in the Chicago Daily Times dated April 7, 1944.
Even after his service to Marseilles he spoke against a passage of a measure concerning waterways. In 1912 the January TIMES received a pamphlet showing that the water-power scheme for the Upper Illinois River was impractical and would prove unprofitable to the state if built. His estate in 1928 was a 240-acre farm in LaSalle County purchased by the state for $125,500 for a canal two hundred foot wide from the Marseilles’ damn to the locks as listed in the Daily Illinois State Journal of July 12, 1928.
F. P. Tisler became a citizen in 1854 after immigrating from France as a child. He married Scheridecker in 1865. Tisler was mayor from 1909 to 1913. He was a carpenter by trade. He and his wife had five daughters and one son. They lived at 254 Best Street. F. P. was the longest subscribed customer according to the August 5, 1922, Ottawa Free Trader. He first subscribed in 1866.
Patricia “Patti” Schank Smith was Marseilles’ first and only woman to be elected mayor. She served from 2011 to 2015. Patti was a lifelong resident of Marseilles and a member of the Marseilles Methodist Church. She married Fletcher Smith in 1966 and settled on Canal Street in what has always been known as “Matchtown”. Patti was the Director of Illinois River Chamber of Commerce and worked with the Sutton family on the clock on Main Street in memory of Doctor H.K. Sutton. Patti will be remembered for her many contributions to Marseilles and the community.
Donald Bolatto served as mayor from 2003 to 2007. He married Patricia Murphy in 1952. They have three daughters. Patricia passed in 1979. Don worked at the Marseilles Post Office and retired in 1992. He remarried in 1986 to Jackie Keneipp. During his tenure Mayor Bolatto was able to seal the agreement in 2004 on the Middle East Conflict Wall which is dedicated to all the fallen heroes.
Grant C. Stebbins born in 1862 was mayor from 1899 to 1903. He and his wife, Kate, had 2 daughters and one son. In 1902 he unsuccessfully ran for State Representative.
Frank Simmons was born in 1893 and was mayor from 1947 to 1951. He married Stella Bateman in 1916. He worked at CertainTeed Products for 10 years and in the office of National Biscuit Company for 34 years. In 1922 he served as a Masonic officer. Later in 1960 he became the Director of Public Relations & Drive Fund for the LaSalle County Chapter of Crippled Children and did all the publicity for Easter Seals.
James H. “Boots” Trager was born in 1938. Jim graduated from Marseilles High School in 1956 and married Sandra Faletto in 1961. Jim started his career in government in 1975 when he was elected as Commissioner of Public Property. After completing a four-year manufacturing training program, he became a tool designer for Caterpillar in Joliet. Jim worked at CAT for 38 years. Jim was mayor from 2007 to 2011 and elected again in 2015 serving until his death in December of 2017
W. H. Spicer won First Place at the 1913 State Fair for best boar under 6 months. William H. was mayor from 1915 to 1919 serving as the first mayor under Commission form of government. In previous years Marseilles was under the Aldermanic form of government. William and his wife, Louise, resided at 445 Washington street with their daughter and three sons according to the 1910 census.
William H. McIntyre’s term was from 1903 to 1905. There is not a lot written during his tenure. One of the first projects of his term was to set up the fire department under the city. He also paved Main Street with bricks in 1904.
Governor Stratton attended the celebration. In February of 1962, the Rockford Moring Star reported Mayor Guthrie declared astronaut John Glenn an honorary citizen of Marseilles. Again, in the Rockford Morning Star in April 1962 he was asking for the canal flow of water to be increased at Marseilles and Seneca. David Guthrie died in November of 1979.
John A. Kelso served a Marseilles mayor from 1919 to 1927. He was born in 1893 and according to the 1920 census was General Manager of the Crescent Paper Mill. His wife Blanch and his Aunt Gwynn Alice, who was a trained nurse, also lived on Clark Street. During his time as mayor, he did a great deal of traveling whether for work or the city the newspaper did not say. Mayor Kelso went to Chicago as a delegate for the Masonic Lodge in 1921.
John H. Spicer served three terms as mayor from 1971 to 1983. A member of a long-standing family of Marseilles, John’s great-grandfather settled in Marseilles in 1876. Elijah H. Spicer was Manlius Township Supervisor for eight years and the Illinois State Legislature for two from 1874 to 1876. John’s grandfather, William H. Spicer was also mayor of Marseilles, and according to records, the Spicer men were highly active in community affairs.
Clarence E. Fifield. Born in 1895 served as mayor from 1935 to 1939 during the great depression. His wife Bess, 2 sons and 2 daughters and mother-in-law , Cora Farrell lived on Scott Street. He worked as a Stock Clerk for the roofing office (Certain Teed Roofing). Becky Fox’s mother, Coralie Fifield Fox shared stories of helping her mother, Bess, preparing food for hungry neighbors and other residents in need.
In 1913 William H. was elected as secretary- treasurer of the Marseilles Military Band. He also served on the School Board in 1917 and tried to relieve the coal shortage in November of 1917. The Ottawa Free Trader listed him as a member of Modern Woodman of Shabbona Camp in 1922.
Herbert B. McKahin was born in Pennsylvania in 1869 and served from 1905 to 1907. His wife, Mattie, 2 daughters, mother and servant resided in Rutland Township. His profession was an Assistant Secretary of Agriculture. He and Mattie had 1 more daughter and 2 sons when they moved to Moline around 1920. He was the manager of John Deere in Marseilles and Moline.
Clarence DeMoss was mayor from 1955 to1959. Born in May of 1895 in Iowa, he has a draft card on file from 1942. Clarence was 46 years old at that time. He was married to Blanche P. Peterson and in the 1950 census lived at 1095 Union Street in Marseilles. They had one daughter and three sons. He lists his employer as a dynamite factory and his job as a stationary engineer. Clarence DeMoss died in July of 1976 and is buried in Riverview Cemetery here in Marseilles.
Ebin J. Ward was born in 1854 and served two separate terms as mayor. His first term from 1897 to 1899 and then again from 1907 to 1909. His occupation was a civil engineer which proved to become quite lucrative for his heirs. He did drainage canal contracts of LaSalle County according to the Chicago Record of October 7, 1893, and attended an Anti-Sewage convention in Joliet in February of 1890 where he was elected as assistant secretary. The Anti-Sewage convention was trying to prevent Chicago Stock Yard from putting sewage into the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
James Hollenbeck born raised in Seneca, graduating in 1971, attended IVCC and University of Illinois Police and Fire Training Institute in Champaign. He came to Marseilles and started his law enforcement career with the Marseilles Police Department on February 14th 1975. Serving as patrol officer, juvenile officer, and investigator. He was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police in May of 1979 served acting Chief in 1984. In March of 1985 he went to work for the State of Illinois as an Arson Investigator in the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
John R. Galloway was born in December of 1839 and settled in Marseilles in 1871 and was in the business of farm implements. During his administration 10 factories and industries came to town. Marseilles land and waterpower company, Marseilles wrapping paper company, W. D. Boyce paper mill, Marseilles roller mills, Marseilles manufacturing, Huggard furniture company, match factory, brick yard, western egg case company, Marseilles straw board co.
Marseilles’ founder, Lovell Kimball, recorded the plat that was laid out by a surveyor on June 3, 1835, and is still on file. Later in 1856, Marseilles incorporated as a Village and then in 1891 as a city.
That brings us to our first mayor of Marseilles...
He served in various roles starting the Arson Detection K-9 Program and Commander, Internal Affairs, Criminal Investigations, FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Retired as a Commander in the Investigations and Intelligence Unit in 2015 with 30 years of service. Joined the Marseilles Fire Protection District July 1st 1977 coming up through the ranks and currently serve as Deputy Chief, Arson Investigator, and EMT. He ran and was elected to the city council in 2007 served as Commissioner of Public Health and Safety, Accounts and Finances, and was appointed Mayor in 2018 when Mayor Jim Trager passed away while in office. He was elected Mayor in 2019 and is completing his first term. He is married to Sheila “Austin” Hollenbeck has 4 children Michael, Aaron, Kenneth and Ashley Hollenbeck Smith. Has 5 grandchildren Cameron, Cade, Aadyn, Konnor, and Holden. Since 1979 he has also operated a snow removal, ice control, Bob Cat and Excavating Service with his partner Anthony Caselli.
Albert Deane served from 1913 to 1915. According to the 1880 Census he was working in the paper mill and was 16 years old. By 1920, at the age of 56, he was a superintendent in the Paper Mill . His wife’s name was Mary E. H. Deane.
The first white family to settle near Marseilles, James Galloway came here in 1824 then brought his family back in 1826, John was his son. His younger brother George was the first white male born in LaSalle County. They are all buried in the Galloway cemetery