George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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fields in which the trees have been girdled, the trunks still standing,
having been partially consumed by fire.

Saw mills were plentiful forty and fifty years ago, but now they
are few. The best timber in Southern Illinois was used up to supply
the first railroads with bridge and framing material. Tens of thou-
sands of beautiful young trees were taken for piling. In recent years
the walnut, oak, hard maple, and a few other growths have been cut
for furniture. Hard wood finish in residences has been popular and
the price of good oak flooring for such use is now from five to eight
dollars per hundred feet.

Nothing so well represents the rapid disappearance of our best
Southern Illinois timber as does the establishing of "tie preserving
plants" in several of our cities. Fifty years ago when railroads
began to thread our state the builders would have nothing but the
best white oak ties. Now there is no longer a supply of timber for
this grade and the railroads are under the necessity of providing sub-
stitutes. This is done by introducing a scientific process by which ties
of the common woods are rendered longlived.

Arbor Day, which the law recognizes, has, through the public
schools, done much and will do more toward creating public sentiment
favorable to the conservation of our forests. And it is building up
an aesthetic taste in the planting and cultivating of flowers, shrubs,
and cultivated trees. Since the advent of concrete and steel in con-
struction there is no longer the great need of timber that there was
in the early days.



Nothing has brought Southern Illinois more material prosperity
than has the coal deposits within her limits. Coal was known to exist
about Belleville, and on the Big Muddy, probably as early as 1826, or
possibly earlier. Governor John Reynolds built a railroad from the
bluffs near Belleville across the American Bottom to the Mississippi
in 1837. He says: "I had a large tract of land located on the Mis-
sissippi Bluffs, six miles from St. Louis, which contained inexhaustible
quantities of bituminous coal. This coal mine was the nearest to St.
Louis of any on this side of the river." In 1835 the legislature of
Illinois granted a charter to the "Mount Carbon Coal Company."
"Hall Neilson and his associates, successors, and assigns" constituted
the company. In 1836 Mr. Neilson, who lived in New York city, adver-
tised the "Mount Carbon" property for sale. The property was fully
described. The mines were located near Brownsville, the capital of
Jackson county, thirty miles from the Mississippi river in a bluff adja-
cent to the Big Muddy river. The seam of coal is described as six
to seven feet thick, "mines easily, in large blocks, and does not crum-
ble or form much slack or dust." Each hand could mine and deliver
on the wharf one hundred bushels a day. Wages were $10 to $15 per
month. It was figured that the coal could be put on the barge at two
cents per bushel. "For several years past coal has sold in New Or-
leans, during the winter season, at 37 y 2 cents to 62y 2 cents per bushel.
The supply at New Orleans is derived from Pittsburg and Wheeling.
Mount Carbon is only half as far away and the quality of the coal
decidedly better." Mr. A. B. Waller of Washington, D. C., visited
this mine in the interests of a prospective purchaser and reported that
the coal had been mined back from the face of the bluff about fifty
feet and that ' ' the quality of the coal is superior to any bituminous
coal I have ever seen, except perhaps the Cumberland."

Although the presence of coal in Southern Illinois was known from
the early '30s, little was done or could be done toward developing
this resource until railroads became an established fact. The only
way of transportation prior to 1854, when the Illinois Central was
completed, was by river. A few mines were opened in the vicinity
of the rivers, but the only use for coal in the interior was for black-
smithing, and even in this instance charcoal was very generally used.
The first engines used on the railroads burned wood. The railroads
have been the most direct factor in opening up the coal mining busi-
ness in Southern Illinois. The Illinois Central reaches the coal fields
in Jackson, Perry, Washington, and Marion. The Mobile and Ohio
reaches the mines of Jackson, Randolph and St. Clair. The Chicago
and Eastern Illinois serves the mines in Johnson, Williamson, Frank-
lin, Jefferson, and Marion. The Big Four passes through the counties
of Johnson, Saline, White, and Wabash. The Baltimore and Ohio
Southwestern reaches the mines in Gallatin, White, Marion, Clinton,
and St. Clair. In addition to these five more extensive railroad sys-
tems, there are several short independent lines which act as feeders
to these five larger roads.

The whole state is divided into ten mining districts of which four
are located in Southern Illinois. In the Seventh District are the coun-
ties of Bond, Clinton, Madison, and Marion. The Eighth District


contains the two counties of Randolph and St. Glair. The Ninth Dis-
trict includes Franklin, Gallatin, Jefferson, Perry, Saline, and White.
The Tenth District comprises the counties of Jackson and Williamson.
The total output from these four districts in 1911 was 25,000,000 tons.
The supply of coal is of course not inexhaustible as was formerly
thought. The area of the coal field in Southern Illinois is in round
numbers about 6,000 square miles or 3,800,000 acres. It is estimated
that one square mile will produce 1,000,000 tons of coal for every foot
in thickness of the seam. Dr. David Dale Owen estimated the entire
thickness of the twelve coal seams of Southern Illinois at thirty-five
feet. Each square mile then would produce 35,000,000 tons, estimat-
ing that all the coal could be mined. But it is liberal to say we mine
only about eight feet of this thirty-five. There are then only eight
million tons available per square mile. Not over three-fourths of this
estimate is removed, making only about six million tons per square
mile. Our annual production runs about twenty-four million tons for
Southern Illinois. This gives the result of an annual consumption of
four square miles, and our coal will last 1,500 years.


No other portion of the state is so rich in stone, oil, and gas. The
geological formation has already been given, but it will be necessary to
repeat some facts in dealing with these resources.

The two general classes of rock which are economically valuable
are the sandstones and the limestones. The chief use made of these
stones is for building purposes. Limestone is burned into lime in many
localities in Southern Illinois. And probably in some a fair grade of
cement is manufactured, but there are no noted instances. Crushed lime-
stone has been extensively used as ballast for railroad beds, and as the
foundation for the macadamizing of the public highway. In many
places along the railroads, stone crushers have been erected and quite
an industry built up. In the larger towns and cities of Southern Illinois
there has grown up the spirit of permanent improvement and many
cities are paving the streets. This is usually done by establishing a grade
setting curbing of sandstone or of concrete and then placing on the
grade crushed limestone to the depth of four or five inches upon which
is placed a coating of sand and paving brick, or finer crushed stone and
some "bonding" material of a bituminous nature. Another economic
use made of the limestone is that of constructing building blocks of
crushed stone and cement. This same material is used as above indi-
cated for curbing. Then there is a rather recent use of crushed lime-
stone in the construction processes, namely : The use of concrete in
railroad culverts, archways, retaining walls, and in the construction of
walls of great buildings, the floors, stairways, and foundations. Fence
posts, gate posts, and watering troughs are some recent innovations on
the farm, of the concrete material. It has also been used as flooring
in dairy barns, livery stables and for the bottom and sides of grain

But perhaps the most far reaching and important use made of lime-
stone is the use the farmers are making of it as a fertilizer. The soils
of Southern Illinois are what the agricultural chemist calls sow. That
is, there is a large quantity of humic acid in the soil which renders the


soil unfit for the production of most agricultural products. This humic
acid is found wherever there have previously been large accumulations
of vegetable matter, resulting in what the chemist calls humus or vege-
table mold. Under the leadership of the College of Agriculture of the
State University, the farmers are now applying crushed limestone to
their soils in quantities ranging from 800 to 1,000 Ibs. per acre. This
crushed limestone is attacked by the humic acid in the soil and new
chemical combinations formed which provide the needed foods for the
growing crops. One may see carloads of crushed limestone upon the
siding of the railroad tracks in the villages and towns of Southern
Illinois. If one will watch for a day or so he will see the farmers com-
ing with their wagons prepared to haul, and distribute this material
over their farms.

The state has done much to assist in the investigation of the value
of this crushed lime when applied to the sour farm lands of this end of
the state. An experiment station has been established at the Southern
Illinois State Normal University and experiment farms are located at
several points within our territory. To lessen the cost of procuring
this crushed limestone the state furnishes it from the penitentiary at
Chester almost free of charge, the farmer paying the freight.

Lime is burned in many portions of Southern Illinois where lime-
stone deposits are found. Large quantities of lime have, in previous
years, been made in the vicinity of Alton. In fact, from Alton to
Cairo, along the bluffs, there are outcroppings of limestone and in many
localities lime has been burned. It is said the best quality of lime is
produced near Prairie du Rocher. The limerocks about Chester and
in Union county are used for the manufacture of lime. St. Clair county
has an abundance of limestone and quantities of lime are burned and
some cement made. Near Falling Spring, in the southwest part of St.
Clair, a high grade white lime has been manufactured. It is said lime
was burned near Alton as early as 1815, by collecting large logs into a
heap, piling thereon the limerock. When the logs had been burned
the limestone had been converted into lime. Shipments in barrels be-
gan in 1847.

Fine qualities of limestone for building purposes and for lime are
found in Pope and Hardin. In Johnson county building stone, both
limestone and sandstone for ordinary building purposes, is found in
abundance. Sandstone of a very excellent quality is found in Jackson
county on the Illinois Central Railroad, four miles south of Carbon-
dale, at a small place known as Boskydell. Here quarries were opened
as early as 1855. In the construction of the Southern Illinois Normal
University, large quantities of this brown sandstone were used. About
the same time or perhaps shortly previous, the present capitol at Spring-
field was in process of building. The reputation of the Boskydell brown
sandstone had become so general that the building commission author-
ized the use of the Boskydell sandstone in the great columns on the
north, east, and south of the great capitol, while the trimmings on the
fronts are of the same stone. The capitals and cornices are from the
white sandstone quarries of Grand Tower in Jackson county. In 1883,
a Mr. Rawles, a stone merchant in Chicago, purchased these Boskydell
quarries and installed about forty thousand dollars worth of modern
machinery, including steam drills, saws, hoisting machines, dressing
machines, a gravity railroad from the quarries to the Illinois Central

Vol. It


Railroad, and other modern machinery. Cut stone was sent into all
the great cities and for a time was used extensively, but the presence
of numerous deposits of iron and the lack of uniformity in color, worked
against the general use of this stone and the quarry was abandoned
and the machinery rotted and rusted away.

The discovery of gas in Southern Illinois occurred at Sparta in
1888. Some progressive citizens organized a company for the purpose
of prospecting for natural gas. The first well put down, struck gas at
a depth of 848 feet in a bed of light grey porous sand. The pressure
was strong and steady. A new company was organized and began
boring in earnest. In 1894 there were twelve wells producing gas and
supplying four hundred domestic fires besides a number of manufac-
turing establishments. The total production per year when the wells
were at their best was eight million cubic feet. It is estimated that
the equivalent of the fuel capacity of one ton of coal is twenty-three
thousand cubic feet of gas. This would give a saving in coal per year
of three thousand five hundred tons in the Sparta gas field.

In addition to the wells sunk by the company mentioned above,
there were many wells sunk by private parties. The gas was known
as the "sweet" or "petroleum" gas which to many was a sure sign of
the presence of oil in this region. Since 1894 the wells have weakened
and in many there is little or no pressure, and no recent borings have
been made. The total number of wells bored was twenty-two. The
territory covered by the borings was less than two square miles.


The earliest travelers and explorers discovered traces of salt in va-
rious places in Southern Illinois. There can be little doubt that the
Indians were accustomed to either evaporate or boil the salt water
which was found in the form of springs. The most noted place in
Southern Illinois where salt was manufactured in an early day was
on the Saline river in Gallatin county near the present town of Equal-
ity. On the Big Muddy in Jackson county near the old forgotten town
and county seat of Brownsville. In several places in Madison, Monroe,
and probably in Bond and in some of the Wabash river counties salt
was made, not on any great scale but for local market. The making of
salt at Equality was such an extensive industry that its description has
been given in a separate chapter.

In 1856 a town was laid out by the county surveyor a mile or so
north of the present city of DuQuoin. It has never grown to any size.
In 1857 an iron and coal mining company was organized and engaged in
coal mining until 1867 when W. P. Halliday of Cairo purchased the
stock of the company. In 1870 in boring into the lower strata to de-
termine the value of the coal layers there, at the depth of 940 feet salt
water was discovered. At this time the great salt works at Equality
were not being well managed, and Mr. Halliday saw his opportunity.
In 1873 he put in a complete plant costing several thousand dollars for
the manufacture of salt. Additional wells were sunk and the work
was extensively carried on. At the time of their greatest prosperity the
works turned out 150 barrels per day. The product was shipped south
mainly. By 1890 the production had begun to decline, though they
continued to operate for ten years, but for the past few years the works


have been abandoned and ere long the spot that knew a thriving industry
will be marked by old foundations and rusting machinery.

Lead is found in such apparently inexhaustible quantities in the
territory west of the Mississippi river, that the few traces of lead found
in Southern Illinois seem very insignificant. However, we ought never
despise small beginnings. Lead was known to exist in the northwest
corner of the state in a very early day. Mining began about 1827.
These mines in their palmy days produced about one-fifth to one-fourth
of the output of the world. In 1845 the mines were at their best and
from that date to the present the production has greatly diminished.

In 1839 lead was discovered in the digging of a well on the farm of
Mr. James Anderson one mile below Rosiclare on the Ohio river in
Hardin county. In 1842 Mr. William Pell discovered spar and lead
about three-quarters of a mile back of the river at Rosiclare. Com-
panies were organized and a number of "diggings" opened. As many
as nine shafts were opened for the mining of lead. In going down, the
shafts pass through beds of fluor spar to a distance of ninety feet.
The lead mines were operated with small or no profit, and in 1851 the
"diggings" were abandoned. In several other places in Hardin county
lead has been discovered, but not in quantities which would justify an
attempt to produce it for the market. Traces of lead have been found
in other counties, but no diggings have been opened.

The clays of Southern Illinois will yet prove of great value, but up
to the present time no industries on a large scale have been established
to develop the clay resources, except for the manufacture of brick. The
various uses of the different kinds of clays found in Southern Illinois
are the manufacture of common red brick, fire clay brick, paving
brick, terra cotta, drain tile, sewer pipe, crocks, jugs, jars and finer

Common red brick are manufactured in great quantities in all sec-
tions of the state. In the early days the home-made bricks were used
for outside as well as for inside work. In many towns in this territory
the older brick buildings show the old fashioned hand made brick, but
in the better class of business houses as well as in modern Brick resi-
dences they use "pressed brick." These have been manufactured in
large quantities in the penitentiary at Chester, the hand made products
being used for inside walls and for "filling."

Fire brick clay is often found closely associated with the seams of
bituminous coal in this section. Throughout Randolph county there are
two deposits of fire clay, one at a depth of 70 or 80 feet and another at
the depth of 120 feet. The same layers of fire clay are also found in St.
Clair county. In four oil borings in the Sparta oil field, fire clay was
found at a depth of 125 feet. The layer was found to be from two to
eight feet thick. Some fire clays are found in Johnson, Pulaski, and
Pope counties.

Paving brick are manufactured in Murphysboro and in Albion.
The demands for paving brick are beyond the supply furnished by these
two paving brick plants. At Albion a second company has been or-
ganized, and is working its way into the favor of municipalities where
paving improvements are going on.

Drain tile clay is not of a very high grade in Southern Illinois and
no large factories have attempted its manufacture into drain tile. Local
factories have sprung up here and there, but usually of short life. No
sewer pipe is manufactured in this territory.


Potter's clay has been found and small factories have engaged in the
making of jugs, crocks, and jars in Anna and in Metropolis, and in
McLeansboro, and probably in other localities. But all these industries
are gone and only dilapidated sheds and rusting machinery are left.

It may not be generally known that Southern Illinois has rich beds
sf a very high grade of clay suitable for the manufacture of porcelain
wares. These fine clays are found in the region of the Ozark hills. In
the World's Fair exhibit, in the Illinois building, were "some very
pretty dishes of Vhite and decorated faience, made of clay and silica,
from Union county the only articles of white table-ware ever made out
of purely Illinois materials. The following is the chemical analysis
furnished by the Rostrand Porcelain Works at Stockholm, Sweden.
The first sample was taken from the clay pit, Mountain Glen, Union
county. This clay is called Ball Clay :

Silicic acid 57.71%

Titanic acid trace

Alumina 32.75

Oxide of iron 1.93

Lime 53

Magnesia 19

Potash 96

Soda 24

Water and organic matter 11.69

Total 100.00

Another analysis made by Harold Almstrom of earthly silica from
the mine of the Chicago Floated Silica Company in Union county, is as
follows :

Silicic acid 97.82%

Alumina and oxide of iron 1.08

Lime 50

Water and organic matter 42

Alkalies and loss 18

Total . 100.00

Samples of clay from Pope county are very similar to the two above
samples. Some very fine samples of queensware have been made from
the Pope county clays.

It has been stated that the deposits of fluor spar found in Hardin
and Pope counties are the only ones found in the United States. But
there are said to be traces in Kentucky. At Rosiclare, a little village
on the Ohio river in Hardin county, just where this county joins Pope,
there are apparently inexhaustible quantities of this mineral. It is
found in connection with lead ores and with silver. It is sometimes
free and presents the most beautiful tints of blue, yellow, red, and
green. Two or more companies are now operating in this locality. The
spar is used for various purposes, but chiefly as a reducing agent or
flux in the reduction of ores. It is shipped from the mines by way of
the Ohio river.



Nothing in the New World was more interesting to the Europeans
than the broad prairies. In 1817 Governor Edward Coles, then a young
man, when returning from a diplomatic mission to Russia stopped
in France and in England. He was a Virginian but he had traveled
through the west, and had himself been greatly charmed by the broad,
rich prairies. The French and the English never tired of his beautiful
descriptions of the prairies. Among those who were charmed by his
story of the western prairies was Morris Birkbeck who was a very
prosperous tenant on a large estate in England. Mr. Birkbeck came
to America and settled the City of Albion in Edwards county. In later
years when England's prince of letters, Charles Dickens visited Amer-
ica he was anxious to see a prairie. His wish was gratified as the
reader will understand by reference to his Notes on America.

The French who of course were the first Europeans to reach the
Mississippi valley, were amazed at the great sweeps of timberless areas
and they immediately applied the French term prairie, without change
in the spelling, to designate these meadowlike regions. The word was
first applied by Hennepin and later by other French writers. The
term was first used to describe the "bottoms" or valleys adjacent to
the rivers and bounded on opposite sides by the ' ' bluffs. " As a proof
of this we need only to study the early French names, as : Prairie du
Chein, Prairie la Forche, Prairie la Crosse, Prairie du Pont, and Prairie
du Rocher. Nor is this application of the term scientifically inap-
propriate for it is shown by Professor Leo Lesquereux that the for-
mation of the prairies of central Illinois was identical in character
with the formation of the bottom lands along the Mississippi and other
similar streams. It is said the English had no name for that peculiar
formation which we call prairies, because they had no such formation.

"These are the gardens of the Desert, these
The unshorn fields, boundless and beautiful,
For which the speech of England has no name."


It is said that it was a very difficult thing to convey to the mind of
the unimaginative Englishman any adequate conception of the great
prairies of America.

When our forefathers came originally to the Illinois country, they
found about one-fourth of it timbered and about three-fourths timber-
less or prairies. The early settlers designated the largest treeless area
the "Grand Prairie." Its location corresponds almost exactly with a
great divide or watershed which separates the drainage of the Missis-
sippi from the drainage into the Ohio. It reaches from the north-
western side of Jackson county through Perry, part of Williamson,
Washington, Jefferson, Marion, Fayette, Effingham, Coles, Champaign,
and Iroquois, crosses the Kankakee river and extends to the southern
end of Lake Michigan. Another extensive prairie region extends from
Kankakee county west and northwest, crosses the Illinois river and oc-
cupies a very large part of the territory between the Illinois and the
Mississippi rivers.

The origin of the prairies has been a debatable question for many


decades. Three general theories have been advanced to account for

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 6 of 65)