EARLY YEARS

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EARLY YEARS
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James Lansing Birthplace - Greenridge Illinois
Photo © and Courtesy Carolyn Bettis

 

 

The above photo is of Greenridge Illinois circa 1910. It is a place that time has completely erased. However, for a few brief decades, it was a small, vital mining community that would become the birthplace of James B. Lansing.

The town was founded in 1894 with the sinking of a mine shaft to tap the rich coal reserves in the area. At the time the Martini family lived there, it had a population of around 300 people. There were 65 houses, a post office, store and school. Most of the buildings were painted bright green and this gave rise to the name - Green Ridge.

The mine struggled even though the coal reserves were plentiful. Difficult financial times and corporate consolidations resulted in the closure of the mine in 1923. Over the next few years, the residents slowly drifted away until it was completely abandoned by 1930. Today, there is only one abandoned farm house in the vicinity and the entire town site has been reclaimed by rows of tall corn.

© 2001 Don McRitchie based on information provided by Carolyn Bettis

Relatively little is known of the early years of James Bullough Lansing, and the data presented here are taken from personal recollections provided by Bill Martin, one of three surviving brothers at the time of this interview in 1981. Jim Lansing was born James Martini, 14 January 1902, in Greenridge, Nilwood township, Macoupin County, Illinois, the ninth of thirteen children of Henry Martini (born in St. Louis, MO) and Grace Erbs (born in Central City, IL).

Henry Martini was a coal mining engineer with responsibilities that took the family to many locations throughout the Midwest. At one point during his teens, Jim lived briefly with the Bullough family in Litchfield, IL, and he later took their name when he changed his surname to Lansing.


A Young James Lansing
© and Courtesy Lois K. O'Neil

Lansing graduated the eighth grade from the Lawrence Middle School in Springfield, IL, and attended high school in Springfield. Even as a ten-year-old he was mechanically and electrically inclined and at one point built a Leyden jar which he used to play tricks on his friends. At about age twelve he built a small radio transmitter, which apparently reached as far as the Great Lakes Naval Station. Government representatives were soon at the family door to make sure that the set was completely dismantled.

As a young man he attended a small business college in Springfield, IL, and worked for a time as an auto mechanic specializing in precision repair work. In those days, spare auto parts were hard to come by, and Lansing developed the necessary skills in the machine shop to make many of these parts himself. At one point, the dealer for whom he worked paid his tuition for several courses at an automotive school in Detroit.


Lawrence School
© and Courtesy Donald Wilson

Lansing’s mother died 1 November 1924 at age 56, and at that time Lansing decided to move on. As best we can determine he went directly to Salt Lake City. Glenna Peterson, his wife-to-be, tells of meeting Lansing in 1925 while he was working for a radio station in Salt Lake City. About this same time Lansing met his future business partner, Ken Decker.

© 1981 John Eargle
(updated 2003)

 

 
 

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