By Kevin Williams
The first time I ever visited Arthur, Illinois was when I was a 21-year-old journalist on assignment for AAA's Home & Away Magazine. I was going to stay for a few days and do a really nice story about Arthur's Amish community, Illinois's largest. Mission accomplished. And back in those days it was the only Amish community in Illinois, now there are at least a half dozen.
Several hours after I left my hometown in Ohio, headed for Arthur, I realized I had forgotten my suitcase which had my camera packed away. That was a big problem. Man, I look back and I was one resourceful kid. What I did next was to think of some way to get my suitcase to me quickly and cheaply. I thought of a Greyhound bus. So I called Greyhound from a pay phone to see if my suitcase could buy a ticket from Ohio to Mattoon, Illinois where I was staying. They said that was possible, so my parents dropped off my suitcase at the Greyhound station, paid $15, and several hours after I arrived in Mattoon, my suitcase did too. When I think back to that, I was a really resourceful kid. I mean, orchestrating that would be tough today even with a smartphone to look information up on, but to coordinate that all from a pay phone? Yeah, I was good at that sort of stuff.
I don't remember a ton about my stay in Arthur and I can't find the article I wrote. I do remember that Mattoon - about 15 miles from Arthur - seemed like a rough little town and that Arthur was a pretty conservative Amish community. During that visit I made some good friends, learned all about Arthur, and really loved my stay there... but then I left and never returned. Until yesterday.
And in some ways, Arthur hasn't changed a bit, in some ways it has.
Stay tuned in the days ahead to my dispatches from Arthur, Illinois, the largest and oldest Amish settlement in the Land of Lincoln.