"According to a newspaper account, in June 1875 the good people of the towns of Lawrenceville and Bridgeport were not getting along. The two had been struggling for several years over which community would become the County seat. Although the decision had been made, the feud continued.
The John Robinson circus was traveling through the area in 1875. Mr. Robinson had selected Lawrenceville as a venue leaving Bridgeport out in the cold.
With the motive of revenge, and to show their disgust at the oversight, some of the Bridgeport townspeople posted signs and placards stating that there was a smallpox epidemic in Lawrenceville, and to stay away… It worked. Hundreds of people refrain from attending the circus that year."
The above article was taken from the South Eastern Illinois Heritage Foundation clipping.
(Hmmm... So this explains the feud...it wasn't about basketball after all.)