Saline County History
During the Colonial era, the Midwest was claimed by Spain then by France following the exploration of Joliet and Marquette. After the French and Indian War the area was claimed by England until taken by George Rogers Clark in 1778 at which time it became a part of Virginia. Later administrations placed the area in the Northwest Territory, then the Indiana Territory, and finally, the Illinois Territory.
Illinois became a state in 1818. In 1847, Saline
County was created. Saline County was 99th out of the 102 counties founded in Illinois.
The Attorney representing the county application was Mr. Abraham Lincoln.
In 1854, the first slope coal mine began operations southeast of the community of Harrisburg. After the Civil War, coal production became an important Industry in the county. The first shaft mine was sunk in 1873. By 1906, the county was producing more then 500,000 tons of coal annually, with more then 1,000 miners at work.
The Saline Springs: (Namesake for Saline County).
The Saline Springs were an Important early industry brought on by the need for obtaining salt. For people whose diet consists primarily of vegetables, salt is an important mineral to maintain basic health. Salt was also an essential ingredient for tanning hides. Hides, and particularly deer hides, were used as currency by pioneers and frontiersmen. In this culture, there were doe skins and buck skins which eventually gave us the term "buck" in our present monetary system. These springs were so important that they supplied salt for much of the Midwest and were a topic of discussion in planning policy in the national government.
The first springs were near the north side of Eagle Mountain and wells were eventually dug further down the Saline River. Since a great deal of wood was necessary to evaporate the brine, it had to be cut by manual labor which was done by indentured Blacks, or slaves rented out to the enterprise. Although disputed, it has been said that the tax from the sale of the salt sustained the early Illinois government to the point that it may not have survived without it. The influence of the importance of salt was reflected in a movement of 1824 for Illinois to consider becoming a slave state.
A novel first was the use of "pipes" that were made by a horse powered drill to core out the middle of large trees. They were then pointed on one end, hollowed on the other, pushed together and then strapped with metal. This allowed the water to be piped to the location of the wood lot.
The last concessionaire of the Saline Springs was John Crenshaw, then owner of what became known as the Old Slave House.
The Shawnee National Forest: The Beautiful Shawnee National Forest is located in deep Southern Illinois between Cave-in-Rock on the Ohio River and Grand Tower on the Mississippi. It contains more then 277,000 acres with various ecological biomes ranging from bayou wetlands, to hardwood forests, to prairie. Geologically, the area is heavily faulted, being uplifted from east to west raising two mountains at Bald Knob at 1,048 and Williams Hill at 1,064 ft. Although the geology is intriguing, the inspiring vistas overlooking the forest closely resembles those of thousands of years ago.
One of the most unique features of the forest is the diversity of plants. For plants and animals, it is a transition zone between north and south, east and west creating habitat for a wide range of species. On the western edge of the forest, the LaRue Pine Hills area is particularly rich with 1,150 plant species, 24 amphibious animals, 35 reptiles, 173 birds, and about 40 mammals. It is been found there is a greater diversity of plants in the Pine Hills area than all the Appalachian National Forest.
Visitors hike and ride horseback on 338 miles of trails in the forest. Fishing, hiking, swimming, birdwatching, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping and picnicking are also very popular. The 175 mile River to River Trail is nationally known and is a part of the American Discovery Trail that runs from coast to coast.
Harrisburg: James A. Harris, born in Tennessee in 1818, moved to Southern Illinois in the 1820's and established a sawmill and mule barn. Harris and three other early Harrisburg citizens, John Cain, John Pankey, and James P. Yandall, bought land and donated it for the town site, which was platted in 1853. The area was known as "Crusoe's Island" because the surrounding lands usually flooded in the springtime and the area resembled an island. The first business in Harrisburg was a log grocery store operated by James Feazel and was located on the south side of the city square.
Carrier Mills: Carrier Mills is located seven miles southwest of Harrisburg. It was platted in November 1872 for William Housely as Morrillsville, though it was commonly known as Carrier's Mill because of Carrier's lumber and grain mill operation there. It was platted adjacent and north of the newly completed Cairo-Vincennes railroad. In 1873 the first postmaster was appointed to Carrier Mills, (the name the railroad had assigned to the new stop). The Village was incorporated in 1894, and with the advent of the railroad and coal mines, the tiny village amidst timber and farms grew quickly. Today in legal documents it's name remains Morrillsville.
Eldorado: The "City of Daffodils" was founded by Judge Samuel Elder and Joseph Read. Originally named "Elder-reado" legend has it that the name was changed by railroad sign painters who thought the spelling incorrect. The junction of the pioneer Kaskaskia and Goshen Trails was located just south of the city. The Goshen Trail began here and ran along the east side of Eldorado and on to Goshen, a community near the present day East St. Louis.
Galatia: Platted in 1836, Galatia was founded by David Upchurch, William Gatewood and others apparently of the same family. It soon became the center for tobacco production at one point shipping more then 1.5 million pounds eastward through Shawneetown. In 1870, Saline County had the highest tobacco production in the state.
The Galatia firm of H. Webber and Son, one of the largest buyers of tobacco in the area, employed upwards of fifty employees during the handling season and annually exported a million pounds to Liverpool, England for many years.
The American Coal Company's Galatia Mine, east of town is now the largest underground mine in the state.
Lakeview: Lakeview was originally called "The Pond Settlement" because of the wetlands adjoining the area. Lakeview was established by a group of African-American freedmen who immigrated from North Carolina shortly after the War of 1812. They arrived between 1820-1826.
Census records indicate that the first settlers were the Taborn, Mitchell, Evans and Cole Families. These earliest Lakeview residents were most self-sufficient. They depended on a mixture of hunting and farming for their food. The early families had substantial land holdings in the Pre-Civil War era. It was only after the village of Morrillsville, later known as Carrier Mills, was established that some of these holdings were sold off. Whites continued to buy land around Lakeview during the remainder of the nineteenth century, resulting in the breakup of the larger land holdings.
Never a formal community of village, Lakeview covered a series of farmsteads concentrated about 2 square miles; however, the focus of the settlement has always been on the church and school, along what was is now Taborn Road.
Mitchellsville: Platted in 1847 as "Independence" by Stephen Mitchell, who operated a water powered mill nearby on the South Fork of the Saline River. The name was later changed to Mitchellsville. Meal and flour from the mill, salt, pork, tobacco, hides and other products were shipped down the river from here, the farthest point west on the Saline River capable of accommodating flat boats and barges.
In its early history Independence was a thriving trade center with several stores, a hotel, church, a blacksmith, 2 doctors and a post office.
Muddy: Muddy is a small bedroom community north of Harrisburg. Home to about 100 people, the village has the smallest working post office with a lobby in the United States. At one time, Muddy was the home for miners who worked for the O'Gara mines which were in walking distance of the houses built by the company.
Today there are only the remnants of a busier time. Standing alone is a mine tipple constructed of reinforced concrete, the only such structure in the world. It spanned five loading tracks and during its heyday produced 2500 tons of coal daily. The mine did not reopen after the Ohio River flood of 1937.
Nearby is a Russian Orthodox church built in 1917 by European immigrants who came to Muddy to work in the mines. It is without furnishing and no longer has services.
Raleigh: Located on the Kaskaskia Trail, early settlers built a blockhouse (garrison house) to coordinate protection with the Coleman-Brown Blockhouse north of Wolf Creek Church and the Karnes Blockhouse located near Bethel Creek Church. A post office was located in Curran in 1823.
Saline County was divided from Gallatin County in 1847, and a county government met in the settlement of Curran and renamed the town Raleigh after Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh became the County Seat of the newly created Saline County. Following a referendum in 1859, the citizens approved moving the county seat to Harrisburg by only 15 votes, which was nearer to the center of the county. It was said, that the records from Raleigh were "taken" during a midnight transfer in order to insure the move.
The largest industry in Saline County in its early history was tobacco. Raleigh operated seven tobacco barns. During the Civil War and for several years after, cotton was the principle Saline County crop.
Robert Ingersoll, the "great Agnostic" was an attorney in Raleigh until 1858 when he moved to Peoria. Although a private residence now, the building is still intact. At one time he was a nationally known orator with his speech at a child's grave, considered a classic. While serving as a deputy county clerk in Shawneetown, he, along with his boss, engaged in some sharp political fights. Once, after a scathing newspaper column on his boss' opponent appeared in a regional paper, the opponent's son became enraged, entered the office and shot the county clerk who fell dead into Ingersoll's arms. The resulting trial became a 19th Century circus with the killer getting off on a plea of temporary insanity -- the first time ever successfully used in Illinois.
Authentic log homes of the pioneers showing different styles and different functions. The most unique attraction of the pioneer era in Southern Illinois. Located at the south side of Harrisburg.
Raleigh: Settled in the 1820's Raleigh was on the Kaskaskia Trail and was home to such notables as Robert G. Ingersoll, the great infidel who was noted as a national figure as a commanding orator.
Muddy: The smallest incorporated town in Illinois with the smallest post office (with lobby) in the nation. It's position in the area was enhanced when the rest of the couny voted to go "dry" and Muddy remained "wet".
Battery Rock: The beginning of the River to River Trail. Union troops protected the river from the top. Visible cannon ball impact on the bluff above the river. The troops bivouacked in the rock shelters at the base of the bluff. Cannons were strategically placed down and across the river. The film "How the West Was Won" was filmed here. Battery Rock was a landmark for riverboats as early as 1820's. Scenic area-vistas.
Old Shawneetown: An early commerce center, the town had the first bank in Illinois which refused a loan to Chicago because it was too far away. Many noteworthy people lived here for awhile. George Washington's aid, Thomas Posey, is buried at Westwood cemetery west of town. The town was actually a Shawnee village at one time. At that time they lived in cabins and had a network of commerce that early settlers took advantage of. Although flooded many times, the bank building is still standing. The old Kaskaskia and Goshen pioneer trails originated here. A striking memory, is when Lafayette visited here in 1825, 5,000 people, mostly Revolutionary War veterans, stood silently in respect with caps off, as he disembarked.
New Haven: Daniel Boone's brother Joseph built a blockhouse fort and a mill here. The American Discovery Trail, the only east to west trail in the National Trail System, enters Illinois from Indiana at this point, proceeds south and travels the River to River Trail to the Mississippi.
Old Slave House: Built in the 1830's, the house was the center of the only county in the state that allowed slave trading. Slaves (indentured servants) were used to work the salt springs. Slavery was apparently indulged because the tax revenue from this enterprise was important for the new State of Illinois. Many articles used in the slave business are on display. It has been recently found that there was a "reverse underground railroad" run from this house by John Crenshaw. He kidnapped freed Blacks and sold them back into slavery. National Register of Historic Sites. A unique site in our country and is a must see.
Saline Springs: As Route 1 passes over the Saline River there is a marker commemorating the salt Industry. Salt was a necessary ingredient for the preservation of food, tanning hides, and for human health. Slaves were used in the labor intensive evaporation process mostly for chopping wood.
Rock Creek: A store and a house is all that remains of a community of several hundred people and is referenced as one of the ghost towns in Southern Illinois. It is near where Anna Bixby lived. She discovered the cause of milk sickness fifty years before anyone else. and helped communities avoid this dreaded disease. Very interesting and tragic story. Anna Bixby helped organize the Rock Creek General Baptist Church here. See the H Tree in the church yard. River to River Trailhead. The Rock Creek Segment is very scenic. There is a scenic vista before you come into town.
Ford's Ferry: An all weather ferry and road beckoned pilgrims to cross the Ohio River by a horse powered treadmill/ferry operated by a slave. An invitation to stay the night could end up with the whole family being murdered. Ford was eventually dispatched by local regulators.
Rosiclare: A picturesque river town. Contains a fluorspar mine and museum. Fluorspar was mined no where else in the United States until its recent closing. Fluorspar is made from super- saturated minerals at great temperatures and pressures deep in the earth. When driven through faults they congeal into the mineral rich deposits of fluorspar, the state mineral of Illinois.
Rose Hotel: The oldest hotel in continuous use since 1812. A commanding view of the River.
Iron Furnace: Iron ore mined from the nearby hills was mixed with charcoal and smelted down to "pigs." These were then shipped to Mounds during the Civil War and were used in constructing the Union Iron clad boats used to keep the rivers clear during the Civil War.
Trail of Tears: The disposed Cherokee along with Creek, Choctaw and other tribes were forced from their homes in the east and south and forced to migrate to Oklahoma in 1839. The trail of Tears as it came to be known entered Illinois at Golconda and then divided near Anna-Jonesboro before entering Missouri. The worst winter was at the encampment near Vienna in which almost 5000 people died. Many Southern Illinois families proudly trace ancestry to Cherokee people who left the trail during that time and became absorbed into the pioneer cultu
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