The city of Belleville this week inducted two additional individuals to the Belleville Walk of Fame, which honors people who have made significant contributions to the city’s history.
The 2020 honorees are Theodore Erasmus Hilgard and Ruth A. Sterling.
Justice Hilgard, 1790-1873, was an advocate for democracy and developer in West Belleville. For Germans yearning to live in a freer land, Hilgard of the appellate court of Rhenish Bavaria encouraged scouts to immigrate to the United States to locate favorable places to settle. In 1833, they began the Latin Farmer migration, bringing to St. Clair County university-trained professionals with a knowledge of Latin who desired to farm. Hilgard followed them here in 1836, buying 134 acres adjoining Belleville to farm. He subdivided this land and sold it to develop the village of West Belleville. He donated land for a public school that later was incorporated into the Belleville school system. Before he returned permanently to Germany in 1854, Hilgard published both political studies and poetry.
Belleville native Sterling, 1905-1994, was a pioneer business executive who graduated from Belleville Township High School in 1922 and worked as a stenographer. By 1925, she was an assistant secretary at the Belleville Casket Company and rose through the ranks to become company president in 1953, serving until 1972. In 1968 she was elected treasurer of the Casket Manufacturers Association of America. During her early years at the company, Sterling played center on the Belleville Turner Society’s all-girls basketball team. She was a founder of the Belleville Chapter of the St. Clair County League of Women Voters in 1943 and a frequent officeholder. She was a member of the Belleville School District 118 Board of Education from 1947-1953 and served as chairman of the finance committee.
The Walk of Fame, which began in 2014 in honor of the city’s bicentennial celebration, is located at the northwest quadrant of Belleville’s Public Square. Past inductees include Robert “Bob” Goalby, Christian “Buddy” Ebsen, Lyman Trumbull, Ninian Edwards, George Blair, Julius Liese, Edward Daley, Gus and Sophia Koerner, Les Mueller, and Carrie Alexander Bahrenburg.