Filthy History | Historical Look at Sanitation and Quincy’s War on Rats

Quincy has had a number of city dump locations since it’s beginning in the 1800’s. One of the locations included a site between foot of Harrison and Monroe streets in southwest Quincy. The area around the dump was known as “Dump City” at the time, as there

Approximate Location of Quincy, Illinois 1st City Dump Site

was a number of shacks that had been constructed by squatters. The area was purchased by the Wabash railroad and evicted all residents living there in 1908 with plans to raise the area to above the high water line for tracks.

Approximate Site of 5th & Cherry City Dump Site. Washington School was located at 6th & Cherry

Another city dump was located across from Washington School (then at 6th & Cherry) between 4th and 5th on Cherry St. When conditions became unbearable for students in the school due to the dump located nearby, a campaign was established to move the school to a new location. The campaign proved to to be a success as a new Washington School was constructed on North 8th St.

Photo showing close proximity of Washington School to the City Dump at 5th & Cherry

One of the more gruesome tales from Quincy’s dumps was that of a find by a police officer on patrol. “A human skull and a section of vertebra was the gruesome find of Officer Tim Ford yesterday at the dump between 8th & 9th between Vine and Elm streets.” Officer Ford brought the skull back to the police station and after examination by several officers, they determined it had been discarded by local physicians after they had concluded their dissection of the body.

One of the challenges of maintaining city dumps in earlier times was that of rats. At one point in the 1940’s the number of rats in Quincy outnumbered the population of the city! An estimated 80,000 rats were living in the city and city dump. Property damage caused by rats was estimate to be around $75,000 in 1929, adjusted for inflation that would be $1,180,679.82 in todays economy.

Boys proudly display a rat they killed at the 18th & Spruce Dump Site

Spreading disease was a major concern of health department officials at the time. So much so that a war on rats was declared. Citizens were instructed on the proper method of trash handling to eradicate rats from homes, and city dumps were poisoned to help control the growing number of rats.

As a better understanding of sanitation and the handling of refuse evolved through the 1900’s, Quincy’s dirty history is thankfully in the past!


Research Articles / Resources | Washington School Decription | Washington School 6th & Cherry

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