Southern Illinois is home to a rich lineage of history. The below content are a few notable highlights.
For natives of Southern Illinois who grew up with the understanding that this area of Illinois is frequently referred to as “Egypt,” it is understood why many businesses take on an Egyptian theme.
Some say that this nickname was given to Southern Illinois because of the Egyptian names of some of its towns, such as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak. Others say that the name “Egypt” was coined for Southern Illinois by frontier explorers because the delta near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers at the southernmost tip of Illinois looked similar to the land around the delta of the Nile River in Egypt.
Yet the uniqueness of “Egypt” as the nickname for the southern third of Illinois may best be explained by author Baker Brownell in his book “The Other Illinois”.
“… Although the legend probably was invented after the fact, it is persistent. There was a drought in the northern counties (of Illinois) in the early 1800’s…the wheat fields dried up, the streams died in their beds. But in southern Illinois rain fell and there were good crops, and from the north came people seeking corn and wheat as to Egypt of old. Thus, the name Egypt.”
A similar situation is described in The Bible (Genesis 41:57, 42:1-3).
“And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, ‘Why do ye look one upon another?’
“An he said, ‘Behold I have heard that there is corn in Egypt, Get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live and not die.’
“And Jacob’s 10 brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.”
Sources: The Bible. The Other Illinois, by Baker Brownell. The World Book Encyclopedia. Fred Huff, formerly of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Southern Illinois is bordered on three sides by the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash rivers. Several other rivers traverse its countryside, including the Big and Little Muddy, Little Wabash, Saline, and Cache rivers. The southern part of the state is characterized by wooded hills, farms, underground coal mines, strip mines, and low marsh lands.
The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois covers over 277,500 acres of the region. The Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuse contains many different wildlife including deer, geese, ducks, owls, wild turkeys, and many other bird species. Fifteen State Parks, recreation, and conservation areas are located within the region (see Sites and Recreation.)
The earliest inhabitants of Illinois were thought to have arrived about 12,000 B.C. They were hunters and gatherers but developed a primitive system of agriculture and eventually built rather complex urban areas that included earthen mounds. Their culture seemed to die out around 1400-1500 A.D.
The Illini Indian tribes, after whom the state is named, and other Indian tribes arrived in Illinois around 1500 A.D. Archeologists are not certain if these Indians are were related to the previous inhabitants. They left behind all manner of artifact including burial sites, burned-out campfires along the bases of bluffs, pottery, flints, implements, and weapons. Interesting structures that were built by Indian tribes are known as stone forts or pounds. Visitors can see a stone fort built in Giant City State Park near Makanda. At least eight other structures are known in the region.
The French were the first Europeans to reach Illinois in about 1673. When they arrived, the Indians welcomed them. It was French explorers who gave Illinois its name by referring to the land where the Illini Indians lived as the Illinois.
The French explored the Mississippi River, establishing outposts and seeking a route to the Pacific Ocean and the Orient. Because of increasing Indian unrest and warfare in northern Illinois, the French concentrated on building outposts in the southern part. The earliest European settlers in Southern Illinois concentrated along the Mississippi, Ohio, and Wabash rivers at the southern end of the state. Their settlements became important way stations and supply depots between Canada and ports on the lower Mississippi River. Important early outposts in Southern Illinois were located at Shawneetown and Fort Massac on the Ohio River.
The English ruled the Lower Great Lakes region after defeating the French in the French and Indian War and with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Their rule of this area was short lived.
During the American Revolution in 1778, the state of Virginia backed a military expedition led by 23 year old George Rogers Clark. Landing at Fort Massac in Illinois (which was abandoned a decade earlier), his force of 175 soldiers marched across Southern Illinois and defeated the English at forts in Kaskaskia, Illinois and Vincennes in western Indiana. This laid the claim by the Americans to this territory. When news of the conquest by Clark reached Virginia, it claimed Illinois as one of its counties. Virginia ceded the county of Illinois to the federal government in 1784 when it realized that it could not govern so sparsely populated and distant land.
Non-French speaking settlers were slow to arrive in Illinois probably less than 2,000 non-Indians lived in Illinois in 1800. But soon thereafter many more settlers came from the backwoods areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. These early settlers were of English, German, Scottish, and Irish descent. They chose to settle in the southern part of Illinois as its wooded hills reminded them of the mountains they left behind. They found an abundant amount of wood and lived off the land; growing some crops, fishing, and hunting for game.
In 1787, the federal government included Illinois in the Northwest Ordinance that included Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Illinois became a part of the Indiana Territory in 1800. Illinois settlers wanted more control over their own affairs and Illinois became a separate territory in 1809.
On December 17, 1811 a great earthquake awakened the settlers in Illinois with a violent trembling. Fields rippled like waves on an ocean. Trees swayed, became tangled together, and snapped off with sounds like gunshots. In some places sand, coal, and smoke blew up into the air as high as thirty yards. People as far away as Canada and Maryland felt the tremors. It was reported that the earthquake shook so violently that tremors were felt as far away as Boston.
It was reported that this earthquake made the Mississippi River flow backward momentarily. The river changed its course in several spots as a result of the earthquake as new islands appeared and others disappeared in the river. The earthquake is estimated to have been equivalent to an 8.0 on the Richter scale, although the Richter scale did not exist at that time. Fortunately, few people lost their lives because the quake centered in a sparsely populated area. Called the New Madrid fault, seismic activity is a threat to this region today.
There was very little violence in the Illinois frontier. Murders and violent assaults were rarely reported. However, for a few decades there were bandits and river pirates operating along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. On the Ohio River, these bandits and pirates often located in or near Cave-in-Rock, a natural cave facing the river. The bandits and pirates added to the hazards and uncertainties of pioneer life and made settlers eager to have law enforcement agencies nearby.
In 1818 the U.S. Congress approved an Act that enabled the Illinois territory to become the 21st state of the Union. Immigration to Illinois increased after it became a state as more settlers arrived from New England and foreign countries. These settlers tended to migrate to central and northern Illinois, causing a noticeable Yankee influence in northern Illinois as opposed to the southern influence in the southern region due to a majority of settlers coming from southern states. The states population exploded from 40,000 people in 1818 to 270,000 in 1835. The 1850 census reported that 900,000 people lived in Illinois.
Early statehood problems engulfed Illinois. In the 1830s the state was near bankruptcy because of government financing of canals and railroad construction. The national financial panic of 1837 added to the states problems before the prosperity of the 1850s relieved this situation. Railroads, such as the Illinois Central Railroad, were built to allow the state’s agricultural products to be shipped to market.
Sometime in the 1830s, Southern Illinois became known as Egypt or Little Egypt. The most likely reason this region is known as Little Egypt is because settlers from northern Illinois came south to buy grain during years when they had poor harvests in the 1830s just as ancient people had traveled to Egypt to buy grain (Genesis 41:57 and 42:1-3). Later, towns in Southern Illinois were named Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak, just as in the country of Egypt.
In 1830, Congress passed a bill permitting the removal of all native Indians living east of the Mississippi River. For the next 20 years, Indians were marched west to reservations in Arkansas and Oklahoma, including the bands of the Illini Indians in Illinois. In the Fall and Winter of 1838-39, Cherokee Indians were marched out of Georgia and the Carolinas across Southern Illinois to reservations in the west. It was estimated that 2,000 to 4,000 Cherokee men, women, and children died during this 1,000 mile journey west. It became known as the Trail of Tears due to the many hardships and sorrows it brought to the Indians.
The first bank to be chartered in Illinois was located at Old Shawneetown in 1816. The first building used solely to house a bank in Illinois was built in 1840 in Old Shawneetown and was used until the 1920s. The Old Shawneetown State Bank has been restored as an historical site.
Cotton and tobacco was grown in the extreme southern region of Illinois. Cotton was grown mostly for the home weaver, but during the Civil War enough cotton was grown for export since a regular supply of cotton from the South was not available. Enough tobacco was grown to make it a profitable crop for export. Cotton and tobacco are no longer grown for export in the region. Other crops grown for export included maple syrup, honey, grapes, roots, berries, crab apples, plums, persimmons, mushrooms, nuts, fish, deer, fowl, hogs, cattle, and poultry. The invention of the steamboat greatly expanded the profitability of crops exported from Illinois.
The County of Saline was named for its ancient salt works along the Saline River. It attracted deer, buffalo, and antelope that obtained salt simply by licking the mud banks along the river where Indians and the French made salt. From 1810 until 1873 their was commercial production of salt that produced as much as 500 bushels a day. The owner of one of the salt works built a large house in the 1830s on the Saline River near Equality, known today as the Old Slave House. Still standing, its small attic rooms were thought to be used to house slaves or indentured servants who toiled in the salt works.
Even though it was prohibited since the 1780s under the Northwest Ordinance that established the territory, slavery continued in Illinois. Indian tribes were the first to have slaves (usually captives from another tribe) and the French introduced it in the 1700s. Laws were passed in Illinois after it became a territory in 1809 and later when it became a state, which allowed people to own indentured servants in Illinois, an equivalent to slavery, and other laws were enacted that prohibited people from coming to Illinois for the purpose of freeing their slaves. Many of these Black Laws or codes remained on the books until the end of the Civil War.
As many of the original settlers in Southern Illinois came from southern states, many had pro-southern sympathies and a fear that freed blacks would flood into their new homeland. The underground railroad existed in Southern Illinois but was not as active as in other parts of the state. The Civil War caused many families to have divided loyalties.
The Southern Illinois Artisans Shop & Visitors Center, located at Rend Lake, sponsors Arts and Crafts Festival and the Children’s Festival. On display are crafts, souvenirs, and information about natural resources and environmental endeavors of the state.
Cave-in-Rock was a haven for river pirates in the late 1700s and early 1800s who lured unsuspecting travelers on the Ohio River into this den of thieves.
The Shawneetown Bank, located in Old Shawneetown, is the oldest structure in Illinois built specifically as a bank. Constructed in 1840, the structure housed banking operations for a century.
Fort Massac, located on the Ohio River, features an annual encampment festival in October. As many as 20,000 vendors, craftsmen, buck skinners, Native Americans, and military re-enactors participate in the festivities.
The Old Slave House, located in Gallatin County, is famous for housing slaves and indentured servants who worked the nearby salt works in the 1800s.
The Du Quoin State Fair, brought by the State of Illinois in the 1980s, operates in late August until Labor Day annually. The fair includes exhibits, animal shows, festive food, carnival attractions, nightly entertainment, harness racing, and automobile races. Odd baby contests and watermelon prizes are just a few of the fascinating tales compiled in The History of the Du Quoin State Fair (from 1923-2002).
Built as a monument of peace in 1959, the cross at the summit of Bald Knob Hill can be seen over an area of 7,500 square miles when it is illuminated at night. Every Easter Sunday, hundreds of people of all denominations participate in sunrise services at the foot of the cross. The valley below and surrounding hills can be viewed from atop this hill. Built of white porcelain steel panels, it stands 111 feet tall and is 22 feet square at the base. Its arms extend 63 feet horizontally.
The Shawnee National Forest covers over 277,500 acres in the Ozark and Shawnee Hills in the region, covering roughly half of the southern tip of Illinois. About 10% of the Forest has been declared wilderness area. Designated in August 1939 as the Shawnee Forest by President Roosevelt, most of the Forest consists of over-farmed land on which people could no longer make a living. In the 1930s and 40s, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted much of this land to pine trees to prevent erosion and restore the soil. Some advocates have protested the commercial logging of the forest.
The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, near Carbondale, is run by the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It restricts camping and fires, and protects wildlife on the Refuse. The Wildlife Service protects and manages deer, geese, ducks, wild turkeys, owls, quail, and other wildlife.
State Parks and recreational areas include Cave-in-Rock State Park, Cache River State Natural Area, Dixon Springs State Park, Ferne Clyffe State Park, Fort Massac State Park, Giant City State Park, Golconda Marina, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area, Lake Murphysboro State Park, Little Black Slough Heron Pond, Mermet Lake Conservation Area, Pyramid State Park, Rend Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area, Saline County State Fish & Wildlife Area, Trail of Tears State Forest, Union County Conservation Area, and Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.
Union and Jackson counties are home to four award-winning wineries. Together, they make up the Southern Illinois Wine Country, an increasingly popular stopping point for tourists. The four wineries are producing nearly 15,000 gallons of wine a year. The wines are available at the wineries and other local outlets.
Southern Illinois is an exceptionally good place to hunt small game, waterfowl, turkey and deer. It is also the Canadian goose capital of the world. Every autumn hundreds of these geese flock to the region to spend the Winter. Public hunting areas managed by the Department of Natural Resources, along with privately owned hunt clubs, provide water fowling opportunities for thousands of hunters annually.
Fishing opportunities are abundant in Southern Illinois. In addition to stocked strip mine pits and small ponds are the following lakes: Cedar Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Devils Kitchen Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Lake Glendale, Lake Kinkaid, Lake Murphysboro, Lake of Egypt, Little Grassy Lake, Mermet Lake, Pyramid Lake, Rend Lake, and West Frankfort Lake.
Abraham Lincoln wrote a challenge to debate and Stephen A. Douglas accepted. The two men would meet on platforms and clash on issues in cities in seven different parts of the state, all Illinois watching, the whole country listening. By the shorthand writing newly invented, reporters would give the country full phonographic verbatim reports, newspapers told their readers.
Then debaters and shorthand reporters dropped south 300 miles (from Freeport to Jonesboro, IL) to a point south of Richmond, Virginia. The Jonesboro crowd numbered about 1,400- most of them rather cool about the great debate. The place was on land wedged between the Slave States of Kentucky and Missouri; several carloads of passengers had come from those states to listen. The Chicago Times noted: The enthusiasm in behalf of Douglas is intense; there is but one purpose, to reelect him to the Senate where he has won for himself and the State such imperishable renown. As to Lincolns remarks, the Louisville Journal noted: Let no one omit to read them. They are searching, scathing, stunning. They belong to what some one has graphically styled the tomahawking species.
Two men had spoken in Illinois to audiences surpassing any in the past American history in size and in eagerness to hear. Yet they also spoke to the nation. The main points of the debates reached millions of readers. Newspapers in the larger cities printed the reports in full. A book of passion, an almanac of American visions, victories, defeats, a catechism of national thought and hope, were paragraphs of the debates.
A powerful fragment of America breathed in Douglas saying at Quincy: Let each State mind its own business and let its neighbors alone! … If we will stand by that principle, then Mr. Lincoln will find that this republic can exist forever divided into free and slave states … Stand by that great principle and we can go on as we have done, increasing in wealth, in population, in power, and in all the elements of greatness, until we shall be the admiration and terror of the world, … until we make this continent one ocean-bound republic.
Those who wished quiet about the slavery question, and those who didn’t, understood Lincolns inquiry: You say it (slavery) is wrong; but don’t you constantly … argue that this is not the right place to oppose it? You say it must not be opposed in the free States, because slavery is not here; it must not be opposed in the slave States, because it is there; it must not be opposed in politics, because that will make a fuss; it must not be opposed in the pulpit, because it is not religion. Then where is the place to oppose it? There is no suitable place to oppose it.
In Springfield, Illinois in June 1858 Lincoln addressed the Republican state convention saying, If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved– I do not expect the house to fall– but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Source: Carl Sandburg, The Prairie Years & The War Years: a One Volume Edition, Galahad Books, New York, 1993.
By Jan Jacobi, Clayton, Mo., head of the middle school at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School. This commentary appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , February 11, 2000.
After visiting the Lincoln sites in Springfield the idyllic town of New Salem where he spent his 20s, his house, the Old State Capitol and the tomb I always feel incomplete. A unifying thread is missing.
The City Fathers of Springfield have recognized this problem and have commissioned Gyo Obata to design an Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Visitors Center. Preparing for this assignment, Gyo asked schoolchildren what they knew about Lincoln and what they might like to learn about him. One seventh grader wrote, He failed many times at many things.
Perhaps that seventh grader got her idea about Lincoln from a poster in some grade school classrooms. It depicts four presidents and lists their failures. Underneath Franklin Roosevelt’s picture we are told, FDR flunked out of Columbia Law School.
The Lincoln entry reads, Abraham Lincoln’s first business as owner of a dry goods store was a flop. He was later appointed postmaster in his township and had the worst efficiency record in the county. (The latter is news to me. As postmaster, he became an inveterate reader of newspapers, but I didn’t realize that reading the mail rather than delivering it had impaired his efficiency.)
At each stage of his life Lincoln knew failure and defeat.
In his 20s, Lincoln struggled with identity issues. By studying grammar and reading extensively, he acquired knowledge and discovered the rhythms of language. In speeches before the New Salem debating club, he honed his orator’s voice. In the law and in politics, he found the vehicles that engaged his passion and his talent could emerge.
But against this backdrop of self-discovery came discouragement and failure. He lost his first job, as clerk in Denton Offutt’s store, when Offutt’s business enterprises collapsed. Lincoln and Berry, a successor store, failed, leaving the partners in debt. If we give moderate credence to the tale of Ann Rutledge, he was unlucky in love.
In his first campaign for the state Legislature, he placed eighth among 13 candidates. In a campaign document, he had stated that if he were to lose, he was too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.
The middle period in Lincoln’s life was spent in Springfield. There he became a successful lawyer and made a brief foray into national politics.
He still faced identity issues. Abruptly, he broke off his engagement to Mary Todd and, as a result, experienced a profound depression. The core of it was the failure of will that he saw in himself. Helping his friend Joshua Speed deal with similar apprehensions about marriage, he rallied, and a year later reconnected with Mary.
After his term in Congress, his political career languished. The Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 galvanized him into action, but in 1855 and 1858, he experienced two bitter defeats in contests for the Senate. In the 1855 campaign, he came agonizingly close to victory.
Lincoln coveted a Senate seat. It was where he saw himself serving most effectively as the country polarized in the late 1850s. In early 1860, when his name first surfaced as a presidential possibility, Lincoln did not think he was qualified.
He wasn’t. At least not at the outset. As president, no one has had a steeper learning curve, and no one has brought a slimmer resume.
Failure characterized the first two years of the Lincoln presidency. On the battlefield there were few Union victories. McClellan dithered and Lincoln forbore. Support ebbed for his centrist policies. The Radicals pushed him to declare emancipation a war aim while conservatives tried to pull him away from making it a war about the Negro. His party suffered losses in the mid-term elections. David Donald reports he told the Cabinet that at times, ‘he felt almost ready to hang himself.’
Gradually Lincoln grew into the president who saved our country. But even in the summer of 1864, influential members of his party asked him to resign as the nominee for the November election. In August 1864, he wrote a sealed memorandum to the Cabinet stating that, in all likelihood, he would be defeated. It was not until his re-election that the issue of his continuing leadership was firmly resolved.
Why should we emphasize Lincoln’s failures?
If we want Lincoln’s life to be instructive, particularly to schoolchildren, we must give them a flesh-and-blood Lincoln. In giving them a model of perfection, we do a disservice. As a marble icon he is impossible to emulate.
Children need to be taught that failure is often the first step toward ultimate success. Failure is painful, but it can be constructive. Those who fail open themselves to learning and growth.
How did Lincoln cope with these episodes of failure? What kept him going?
He left us no diary entries on this topic. Those closest to him tell us he shared nothing about his inner life. We have to speculate.
The quality that enabled him to cope with failure was his ability to learn from it. If he hit a wall or made a mistake, he turned to logic and intuition, corrected what he could and moved on.
Garry Wills believes Lincoln was a genius. His genius took many forms, but foremost was his ability to read himself and to read others. From the events of his life, we can surmise that he had remarkable powers of self-reflection.
He developed supreme confidence in his faculties. He was ambitious and persistent. He was fatalistic. But, above all, he was a lifelong learner. From that essential element came the capacity to endure.
True Animal Stories by Pool Hustler Rudolf Wanderone
New York pool hustler Rudolf Wanderone, also known as Fats and later as Minnesota Fats after the movie The Hustler portrayed a character by the same name who was strikingly similar to Fats, stopped in Du Quoin, Illinois one evening on his way to hustle pool down south. He had slid on the icy road into mailboxes and wanted to fix his car before traveling on. He met waitress Evelyn Inez and found plenty of gambling action in the area and decided to make the tiny village of Dowell his home. Soon, Evelyn Inez became his wife and pool halls in Southern Illinois were never the same.
A little known fact about Fats was that he loved animals. Reportedly he regularly kept 30 or 40 dogs and cats at his home in Dowell and found homes for hundreds of stray animals. Here’s how he tells it in his book, Minnesota Fats, The Bank Shot and Other Great Robberies. Because Fats had a colorful vocabulary, there are editor’s interpretation for a few of his phrases that are in parenthesis.
I’m crazy about every living creature, it doesn’t matter what it happens to be. I even love insects; in fact, I wouldn’t swat a fly or a mosquito for a whole barrel of gold. One time I drove all the way from Mobile, Alabama to Dowell and it was like in the summertime and my car was loaded with a zillion mosquitoes (ed. interpretation: a zillion is a lot more than a billion) but they didn’t even bite me. It was unbelievable because if you happened to drive from Mobile to Dowell with a carload of pool hustlers, you would get bit so hard and so often that you would need a malaria vaccine and a new bankroll as well. (ed. interpretation: being bit by a carload of pool hustlers means you lost all your money on foolhardy bets)
Animals surpass humans on all counts. They not only never talk back, but animals appreciate kindness and affection in a way that most humans wouldn’t understand to start with. If you can take an animal and tame it and make it next to human by showing it love and tenderness, like the doll with the lion cubs in Detroit, (ed. interpretation: a women with lion cubs) think what you ought to be able to accomplish with a human being who is supposed to have an intellect.
They way I see it, human beings could learn an awful lot from lesser creatures like cats and dogs and even crocodiles. One time a guy gave me a chicken. I didn’t even know the fellow, only he knew how crazy I am about animals of all kinds. So this night I was playing cards in Du Quoin and this guy comes up and throws this chicken in the middle of the card table. I took that chicken home with me. It was real cold like in the wintertime and I didn’t know what to do with the chicken so I went to this great big dog house in the back yard where there was 30 or 40 dogs and cats all sleeping together. So I threw the chicken in the dog house and went in and told Eva-line the story (ed. note: Eva-line is his nickname for his first wife, Evelyn).
“Rudolf,” Eva-line said, “you must be out of your tree. Just because the dogs and cats sleep together, you can’t put a chicken in there, too.” So I told Eva-line, “Is that so? Well, well see. So we tiptoed out there and peeked in and this chicken was sitting sound asleep on top of this big dogs head. That’s on the square.” (ed. interpretation: he swears its true)
Now the reason the chicken was accorded immediate acceptance in the dog house was on account of my dogs and cats are accustomed to total kindness and affection and therefore aren’t looking to touch off any beef jolts, (ed. interpretation: fights) not even at the drop of a live chicken. Out in my back yard everybody is just one of Gods little creatures. There’s no discrimination of any type.
I’ve got this tremendous big old dog named Spotty and he watches over the rest of ’em, like he was a shepherd. I don’t even know what kind of dog he is. He’s just short and stocky with a heavy fur and enormous weight, only he don’t throw his muscle around out back. He just gets up every morning like he’s the top general and the rest of the dogs and cats fall in line like they were privates in the Army and Spotty goes by each one and washes their faces by hitting them a lick with his tongue. Its amazing. The dogs and cats just stand there like a five-year-old waiting for the Mama to come scrub him clean and old Spotty licks every face until he thinks its washed. Then he dismisses the whole outfit for breakfast. Its fantastic beyond compare.
Every one of my dogs and cats lives like the King and Queen of England. When I’m home every night I stop in at the Perfection Club and pick up maybe a 100 or 150 pounds of bones and leftover steaks. Sometimes a patron might leave a whole steak on the plate and Muzz (ed. note: restaurant owner Frank Riggio) drops it in the sack along with the bones. I’m always hustling like that. And when I happen to be on the road, Eva-line drops by to pick up the calories. (ed. interpretation: food)
So now, when all the regulars and the supernumerary strays from the neighbors places are finished, there’s always enough left for any new faces that might happen to be in the vicinity. I always put out like two or three times the normal consumption because you never know who might be coming. In fact, hundreds and hundreds of birds wing down to belt out the off-fallings. In a week there might be a million birds eating out there. There’re crazy about meat and bone and when they get their fill they fly off chirping like a whole choir of sopranos.
A lot of people think its real fun to kill and torture animals, but I’m funny about that sort of thing. I don’t want any animal shot on my property. Like one time in Du Quoin a fella’ pulls up to the poolroom and says “Well, go out in the back of my truck and get yourself a turtle. Now I figure the turtle is dead, only when I get to the back of the truck the turtle is alive and kicking, I mean really kicking. I took that turtle down real quick and put him in a box and when I climbed down out of the truck with this enormous turtle this fella’ says, “Take him home and kill him, Fatty. Hell make tremendous turtle soup.” I told him there was no chance of that turtle getting killed.
So I put the cardboard box on the front seat of the car and drove home, only on the way, the turtle climbed out of the box and I almost tipped the car over trying to get him back in. I told Eva-line I was going to take him over to Big Muddy, which runs into the Mississippi River around Murphysboro, but Eva-line said we should take him down to the branch because it had been raining a lot lately and the water was almost coming over the banks.
The poor turtle looked dry and hungry so I put a little food in the box and me and Eva-line walked down to the branch with him. The water was all brown and muddy and swirling and when that turtle saw that swirling water he went down like a two-year-old. It was a picnic just to watch the way he took to that water. Nothing on earth would have satisfied me more, not a zillion dollars (ed. interpretation: a lot of money!) or even a date with Elizabeth Taylor. Eva-line got a big kick out of it, too. “Hell likely be free forever now, Rudolf,” Eva-line said. “Hell follow the branch all the way down and end up in Big Muddy.”
I always loved animals, ever since the day my old man won Gans, the goose, at the Swiss Verein outing in New York. We always had a dog or a cat around the house, but keeping a pet caged up in New York is brutal beyond compare. Animals have to be free to roam about, just like humans.
Source: Minnesota Fats, The Bank Shot and Other Great Robberies, with Tom Fox, The World Publishing Company, Cleveland and New York, 1966.
Rudolf Wanderone, a.k.a. Minnesota Fats, died on January 18, 1996 at the age of 83 in Tennessee of congestive heart failure. He was almost as good an entertainer as he was a pool player. No one could touch him in either category. Wanderone also was nicknamed Fatty, triple smart, dean of the green, the sultan of stroke and the bank shot bandit. His epitaph read: Beat everybody living on Earth. Now, St. Peter, rack ’em up. Some say the movie The Hustler is based loosely on Wonderone’s life.
By H. Schaefer. This commentary appeared in the Life Times, a publication by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, in September 1998.
I never will forget the time our American aviation hero, Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, was humiliated by a trick played by a photographer in the days of fierce competition among Chicago’s newspapers. I don’t think he trusted any newspapers after that, and you couldn’t really blame him.
The incident occurred in March of 1925, long before he made his famous flight from New York to Paris, which was on May 20 and 21 in 1927. In his early years, Col. Lindbergh was a barnstormer and stunt pilot flying out of Lambert Field in St. Louis. Beginning in April of 1926, he also flew the mail between St. Louis and Chicago. I was working in Tribune Tower for Pacific and Atlantic Photos, Inc., a news photo agency owned by the Chicago Tribune and its sister paper, the Daily News tabloid, in New York City.
I came to work at 8 o’clock on the morning of March 19, 1925 and was surprised to find my boss, Henry Allison, our Chicago bureau chief, already on the job. He was trying to find a pilot for a special assignment.
The morning headlines told the story. The day before, more than 50 people had been killed and millions of dollars of damage had been done by a tornado in Southern Illinois. Murphysboro was reported to have been the hardest hit. The night before the Tribune had sent a photographer on a late night train to Murphysboro with instructions to take pictures as soon as possible after dawn and then call the office. That was before news photography film was available, and we all used the large Speed Graphic cameras with glass plates 4 inches by 5 inches in size.
My boss, Allison, finally arranged for a young stunt pilot known as Slim to rent a plane, fly to Murphysboro for the photos, and then bring them to Chicago. Slim turned out to be Col. Lindbergh, who was told to meet the Tribune photographer at the Western Union office in Murphysboro.
We learned later that when Col. Lindbergh asked for the Tribune photographer in the Western Union office, a man stepped forward immediately, handed him a package, and told him to fly to Chicago.
At the time, the Tribune’s worst competitors were the morning Herald Examiner and the afternoon American, both published by William Randolph Hearst. There was hardly anything the papers wouldn’t do to each other. The competition was so intense that the Tribune sent three bodyguards to meet Col. Lindbergh and escort him to Tribune Tower.
The photo plates were immediately given to our best developer in the darkroom. But he found the plates had been exposed. There were no pictures. Col. Lindbergh and the Tribune had been tricked.
Col. Lindbergh felt so bad that it seemed he might cry. Then, there was a question about whether he would be paid. At least, he must have finally been reimbursed for renting the plane, which cost $100.
Later, we learned that a Hearst photographer in Murphysboro had gotten wind of the Tribune’s plan, and had gotten to Col. Lindbergh first with a package of unexposed plates at the Western Union office.
I have read as many as a half dozen biographies about Col. Lindbergh, and all of them mention his dislike for the press. In my mind, he never got over that early experience at Murphysboro. After that, he resented newspaper people. He never notified the papers about his take-offs, and he didn’t like press conferences.
More information on Col. Lindbergh can be found in the book by Barry Denenberg, An American Hero: The True Story of Charles A. Lindbergh, March 1996.
By H. W. Linsenmeyer-Keyser who is retired and living in Arkansas. This commentary appeared in The Southern Illinoisan in September, 1998.
June 22, 1922- The coal miners were on strike, not unusual during those early struggles for higher wages and better working conditions, and several mines in Williamson and adjoining counties were closed. Except one. The owner of the Lester Strip Mine between Herrin and Crenshaw Crossing, had announced that he would continue to operate his mine and had hired about 50 non-union laborers from an employment agency to produce the coal for shipment to markets. Union officials and the county sheriff warned that there would be trouble ahead, but the mine boss ignored them.
Most local union members owned guns, as hunting was a favorite pastime in this traditionally farming area. Those who did not own their own guns had been supplied with them on loan from dealers or borrowed them from others.
Our dad had warned us to stay home on our farm as there might be some trouble ahead and we would be all right if we stayed put and stayed quiet. Our silence was broken by a series of popping sounds like firecrackers exploding. We huddled still closer together, wondering if dad and our brothers had heard them too and if they would rush home to look after us. They did not as they didn’t return until the sun was setting and the field work was completed.
The popping sounds came closer to our farmhouse and were interspersed with shouts of rage and screams of dying men. They gradually faded as the union miners and their quarry, the Scabs or union breakers, had turned north through a wooded area and were heading toward Herrin. We worked off our anxiety by staying inside, preparing and eating breakfast and starting on the household chores.
In about a half-hour, neighbors appeared to tell us what had happened. These womenfolk had followed their husbands to the road from the Scab-operated mine toward Herrin, and stood watching while enraged husbands shot the Scabs dead. Leaving us with this news, they left for their own homes to wait for the return of their husbands and reflect on what had happened.
By the time our dad and brothers returned home, the Herrin newspaper had arrived, relating bare facts of the day’s event. The following two or more years were spent in investigations, trials and delays in settling the case. The Herrin Massacre had found its place in the history of coal mining in Illinois.
The owner of the Lester Strip Mine later attempted to develop other mines without much success but was moderately successful as a consulting engineer in Indiana. He died in 1935. The miners union survived, however in more recent years, the market in for bituminous coal has given way to the usage of hard coal with little or no sulfur content, as a lesser environmental hazard.
In 1955, I was living in Chicago, working for a publishing company and a fellow employee asked where I was from. Oh yes, she said, I remember Williamson County quite well. My husband and I were just getting started in our own employment office. One day we received an emergency phone call asking if we could provide about 50 laborers to work in a coal mine down there. We could and did. They arrived down there and within a week every one of them was killed in a big fight, and our business folded.
More information on the Herrin Massacre can be found in the book by Paul M. Angle, Bloody Williamson: A Chapter in American Lawlessness, University of Illinois Press, 1952.
Charlie Birger was a bootlegger in Southern Illinois during Prohibition in the 1920s. He and his gang also demanded that rival operations and roadside taverns buy their illegal booze from his gang. Several gangster style attacks occurred in 1926 between Birger and the Shelton gang including bombings of Birger’s hideout and the house of Joe Adams, an associate of the Sheltons.
In December 1926, Birger ordered the murder of Joe Adams, who was also the mayor of West City. Two young boys, Elmo and Harry Thomasson, were chosen to do the job. Young Jesse Cremer and his then girlfriend, Jennie, witnessed the shooting. Jesse and Jennie were later married and she survives today to tell what happened.
Jesse said, Ill take you to where they bombed Joe Adams house, said Jennie. A few blocks from the Adams house, they saw a man walking down the street. He was a regular customer at the store where Jesse worked, so the two waved at each other. Then the young couple were within view of the Adams house where a few days earlier a bomb had exploded.
The timing was perfect, Jennie said. Jesse pointed right to the place (where the bomb had exploded and now) where two fellows stood on a porch. About that time, it was bang, bang, bang- there were so many shots. The screen door opened up and Joe Adams fell. I saw him fall.
After shooting Joe Adams, the gunmen jumped off the porch and began to run. Elmo Thomasson stumbled, then ran behind Jesses car. His brother, Harry, ran past the man Jesse had waved at and shot at his feet. Then he ran in front of a Ford coupe, and stopped in the middle of the street.
He aimed his gun right at us, Jennie said. When the boy raised the gun, Jesse raised his hand and waved. That’s what saved us. Jesse had recognized both of the brothers and they knew him. Amazingly, Harry waved back, then jumped into the getaway car that sped away.
We drove off, said Jennie. I said, go faster, go faster. But Jesse was afraid they would think we were chasing them. Jesse said, Don’t ever tell anyone, except maybe your parents. I didn’t say anything to anyone.
Jennie didn’t tell her parents as she was afraid they’d be angry if they knew where she was at the time of the shooting. She finally told a neighbor. He said not to tell anyone also, she said.
But Jesse had been seen and recognized. When he was questioned by Franklin County States Attorney Roy Martin, Jesse lied because he feared for his and Jennies lives.
Eventually, Jesse told the truth and identified the gunman. In return, States Attorney Martin promised that if it could be avoided, he would not be called to testify. At Jesses urging, Jennie took a job in Chicago, where she lived with her sister. Jesse wanted me to get out of town, she said. He said they would use any method to get me.
Jesse was afraid, too. He said several men hung around the store that he didn’t recognize as customers. I didn’t know anything about Charlie Birger at the time, Jennie said. I lived a sheltered life.
Harry Thomasson eventually confessed to his part in the murder and implicated Charlie Birger as the mastermind behind the plot. The Thomasson brothers received leniency for their cooperation at the trial but Birger was sentenced to be hanged. On a Friday the 13th in April 1928 in the public square in Benton, he became the last person to be executed by hanging in the state of Illinois.
Even though it was an interesting and exciting time, Jennie said it was also a frightening experience. At one time, I was scared to death, she said. I never got afraid until I realized how serious it was. I thought, They wont shoot me. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Then I realized they could come back and finish us off at any time.
Betty Adams is the niece of Joe Adams, the West City mayor who was shot by the Thomasson brothers on the orders of gangster Charlie Birger. Born after her uncle was murdered, she grew up hearing the stories of Birger and his gang.
My dad didn’t talk about it, but my mother did, Betty said. In fact, my dad, Gus Adams, and his brother Joe weren’t speaking to each other at that time. When dad saw what was happening, he went over to talk to his brother and asked him to stop his association with the gangsters.
Betty remembers her mother talking about a time when the men were making rifle shells on the kitchen table. That was the way people solved their problems then, she said. My dad was such a quiet, gentle man. He didn’t live that kind of life at all. It was really unbelievable for me.
Robert S. Rea, current president of the Society for the Historic Preservation of Franklin County describes the gangster, Charlie Birger this way, To many, Birger was a Robin Hood who annihilated the Ku Klux Klan. He was able to dupe a lot of people into believing he was not a hardened criminal, which he actually was.
Sources: The Southern Illinoisan newspaper, December 28, 1998. Paul M. Angle, Bloody Williamson: A Chapter in American Lawlessness, University of Illinois Press, 1952.
The Cherokee Indians were once a great tribe living in and around the Great Smokey Mountains. They were probably the most civilized tribe in America with well established churches and schools that could be compared with any of the whites at that time.
They are credited with an independent development of the log cabin. The Cherokees had their own recorded code of tribal laws with elected officials to govern them. They adopted the white mans ways and Christianity, were skilled at farming and cattle raising. Some even owned Negro slaves like their white neighbors.
Their trouble began in part over gold mines that opened on Cherokee lands. A movement had been gathering since about 1802 for the removal of all Indians to reservations and the discovery of gold had fueled the fire in earnest.
The Georgia legislature ruled to acquire the lands. A law was passed that no Indian or descendants of an Indian shall be deemed a competent witness in any case in court that a white person may be a party.
Other states where Cherokee lands fell adopted similar laws. Many Cherokees were given whiskey by the whites who took advantage of their drunkenness and bribed the Indians out of their land holdings with paltry sums of money and empty promises.
About 2,000 moved west through this trickery. Some 15,000 were not fooled by these methods and were forced to walk the Trail of Tears as it became known for its many hardships and sorrows it brought to their people.
President Andrew Jackson gave his full support to the removal of the Cherokees from their land. An armed force of 7,000 made up of militia, regular army, and volunteers under General Winfield Scott forced the remaining 15,000 Cherokees from their homes in the Great Smokey Mountains and removed them to stockades at the U.S. Indian Agency near Charleston, Tennessee.
Their homes were burned and their property destroyed and plundered. Farms belonging to the Cherokees for generations were won by white settlers in a lottery.
The march of 1,000 miles began in the winter of 1838. Carrying only a few light blankets and wearing scant clothing with daily rations of only salt pork and corn meal, many sickened and died along the way. Medical care was nearly non-existent.
Only the very old, sick, and small children could be carried in wagons or ride on horseback. Over 8,000 were on foot, most without shoes or moccasins. They crossed Tennessee and Kentucky, about the 3rd of December, 1838, they arrived in Southern Illinois at Golconda.
To reach Golconda from Kentucky, the Cherokee had to cross the Ohio River. They were forced to pay $1 a head for a ferry passage on Berry’s Ferry operating out of Golconda. This was rather exorbitant considering it normally cost only 12 and half cents for a Conestoga wagon and all you could carry.
Berry’s Ferry made over $10,000 that winter out of the pockets of the starving Cherokees. They were not allowed passage until the ferry had serviced all others wishing to cross and were forced to take shelter under Mantle Rock, a shelter bluff on the Kentucky side, until Berry had nothing better to do. Many died huddled together at Mantle Rock waiting to cross.
Many contagious diseases spread among the tribe during their journey- cholera, whooping cough, and small pox. The Cherokee were given used blankets from a hospital in Tennessee where an epidemic of small pox had broken out.
Because of the diseases, the Indians were not allowed to go into any towns or villages along the way; many times this meant traveling much farther to go around them. However, one family in Golconda had compassion on them and shared their pumpkin crop with the Cherokee.
While staying near Golconda, several Cherokee were murdered by locals. The killers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government through the courthouse in Vienna, suing the government for $35 a head to bury the murdered Cherokee. They lost their suit and the bodies were thrown in shallow, unmarked graves near Brownfield where a monument to the Trail of Tears now stands.
The Cherokee marched on through Southern Illinois. Their trail is marked by crude camps from Golconda through Dixon Springs, Wartrace, Vienna, Mt. Pleasant, and Jonesboro to the Dutch Creek Crossing. About December 15, 1838, they were forced to spend the winter in the area of what is now the Trail of Tears State Forest.
Floating ice on the Mississippi River made it impossible to cross. Many died there during the long, cold winter. Some were sold into slavery and a few escaped.
Three miles north of Mulkeytown, IL is a shapeless sandstone that marks of the grave of Priscilla, a quadroon slave whom Brazilla Silkwood, owner of the Silkwood Inn, had bought from a Cherokee chief when that tribe was encamped in the Trail of Tears State Forest.
As he hated slavery, Silkwood purchased young Priscilla for $1,000 in gold and took her home to be raised the same as his other 15 children. Priscilla was known for the hollyhock trees she grew from seeds that she had brought with her from Georgia.
Those who escaped the march hid in the hills. Some eventually returned to their land in the Smoky Mountains and their descendents live to this day in and around Cherokee, North Carolina.
Annually they re-enact the tragic events of that winter and their forced march in a play called Unto These Hills. At least 4,000 Cherokee Indians died that winter along with the pride of a nation that may never be restored.
Source: 1999 Visitors Guide, Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau.
By L. Sickler, printed in The Southern Illinoisan on April 9, 1999.
I grew up listening to the stories told by survivors of the Tri-State Tornado. The deadly March 18, 1925 tornado cut a 219-mile swath across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. The official death toll was 689, with 210 killed in Murphysboro alone, but scores more never were accounted for. They were 10 times scarier than any ghost story because they had really happened to people I knew.
But the tornado that had the biggest impact on my life struck December 18, 1957. Actually a series of an estimated 15 twisters, the storm system was unusual in that it occurred during the winter.
The weather conditions were ripe for tornados, with the temperature climbing into the 60s. I was in kindergarten then, and the only thing on my mind was Christmas, which was just a week away. Before the day was over, tornados were reported in Murphysboro, Mount Vernon, Gorham, Rockwood, Chester, Ava, Willisville, Steeleville, Percy, Cutler, an area between Hurst and De Soto, Plumfield and Sunfield.
Twelve people died, many of them children, as a result of that storm. Scores were injured and the property damage reached into the millions.
I vividly remember sitting in the classroom while the sky got darker and darker outside. When it came time to go home, the teacher nervously told us that there were storm warnings, so we should go straight home as fast as we could.
My dad was waiting for me in our car outside the school, which was unusual, because I usually walked home. By the time we got to our house, it was dark because the electricity was out. we lit a lantern and candles, right in the middle of the afternoon.
My mother had a dentists appointment that day. when she left his office, the dentist accompanied her outside to take a look at the sky. They heard a deep roar overhead. My mother immediately got nervous, but the dentist reassured her that it was just jets flying over. It actually was the tornado that destroyed Sunfield, killing three people there.
My grandmother lived in Du Bois in Washington County and had no phone, and my father was concerned about her. That night, we piled into the car and went to check on her. The state police were stopping people traveling on U.S. 51 near Sunfield, but since my dad was a radio operator at District 13 police headquarters, they knew him and let him go through. I vividly remember seeing the total devastation, tree limbs and debris from buildings that had shattered everywhere.
My grandmother and all her neighbors were fine, but told us they had watched funnel clouds dipping and swirling in a field just north of them. It was a frightening experience all the way around for a 5-year-old, and one I’ve never completely gotten over.
By C. Mathis, The Southern Illinoisan , August 14, 2002.
Du Quoin: The little tykes were lined up for judging. It was time for the annual baby contest, but the winner wasn’t the cutest baby.
The winner of the contest was the finest physical specimen, the healthiest baby, said Fred Huff as he recounted tales of baby contests held in the first decade of the historic Du Quoin State Fair. They were judged by a group of Perry County physicians. They even turned over reports to the parents of any weaknesses found in the babies. I found that to be interesting.
He is also fascinated by what he discovered about a push-mobile soap box derby held at the fair in the late 1920s. The winning pusher for the race earned a $9 prize. The winning driver got a 97-pound watermelon.
That was a heck of a watermelon, Huff said. It could have about fed everybody at the fair that day.
I really liked finding out about unpublicized events like that.
Odd baby contests and watermelon prizes are just a few of the fascinating tales Huff has compiled in The History of the Du Quoin State Fair (1923-2002). The spiral-bound volume is being released Friday by Saluki Publications and Public Relations NFP, Inc., Huffs not-for-profit company.
The publication in honor of the 80th Du Quoin State Fair originated in a conversation between Huff and his good friend, Du Quoin Mayor John Rednour. The duo concluded that something should be done to honor of the extravaganza that put Du Quoin on the map.
Rednour appointed Huff as chairman of the 80th Du Quoin State Fair Committee and asked him to gather a group to help. Huffs committee includes Galen Davis, John Alongi, Richard and Mary Haines, Richard Doc Holladay, Jane Hayes Rader, Jerry and Carol Smith and Wilma Walker.
The committee decided that a history book and poster would be the best way to celebrate the birthday.
Huff, who spent 35 years at Southern Illinois University Carbondale as assistant athletic director and later sports information director, retired last year with plans to publish a 100-year history of SIUC athletics. He was eventually persuaded to be the writer of the Du Quoin State Fair history book as well.
Huff says his love for the fair goes way back. He worked for the fair as part-time publicity director from 1960-71 and then as vice-president and general manager for a few years thereafter.
That was really a lot of fun. Talent buying, negotiating with carnivals, handling the horse racing and USAC- it was really an enjoyable job, Huff said. Once you get the fair in your system its pretty tough to get it out.
Huff included in the book not only his own tales and recollections but a brief history of the fair creators, lists of popular entertainers who have performed there through the years along with ticket prices, and a year-by-year fair roundup.
Rader and Carole Hayes Hill chipped in with the Hayes family history. Their grandfather William R. Hayes worked his way up from a poor youngster to become a prominent businessman, horseman and Coca-Cola franchise owner. He also built the Du Quoin State Fair.
Hayes and a group of investors purchased 30 acres in 1923 to establish a State Fair, a dream Hayes had since visiting the 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair. By 1939 Hayes was the sole owner and his family developed and expanded the fair extensively through the next several decades.
It was sold in 1979 to Saad Jabr and then purchased by the State of Illinois in December 1985.
(The book) is a little hodgepodge of anything and everything, Huff said. Its easy reading.
I think its great. You just can’t lay it down after you start reading it, Rednour said. I really liked the anecdotes and stories about the entertainers. Its great reading. Fred has done an outstanding job and Galen Davis has been a big help.
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