1882 Historical Sketches
Historical Sketches of Jackson County, Illinois was written by Edmun Newsome, published in 1882. Excerpts are provided below.
Mr. Ben. Boone, who was born in this county soon after its first settlement, had taken great pains to gather the facts and dates about the early settlement of the county, intending to publish it soon, but unfortunately, his manuscript was consumed by lire, and Mr. Boone died since that time, therefore the public has lost such a history as can never be replaced, for he was the only man that could have written it. He, however, has furnished the writer with a short account of the first settlement of Brownsville, which is used herein.
Pomona [Page 41]
When the Cairo and St. Louis Rail Road (Narrow Gauge,) was opened through
from Murphysboro to Cairo, a town was laid off in Cave Creek bottom, in
section 28, Town 10 South, Range 2 West, in Ridge Township, and named
Very soon dwelling houses and store houses were built, but no station house
was erected by the rail-road company for some time; they only made a
side-track and platform. Some parties built a sawmill on the west side of
the rail-road, and ran it awhile, but getting into difficulty, the sherriff
levied on the machinery. During the absence of that officer, the parties
took the engine, which was one of those on wheels, and rolled it on a
flat-car, then put on the saw and frame and ran the whole to East St. Louis.
This was long spoken of as "the town where a saw-mill was stolen and taken
Some time afterwards, the company built a station house. Other parties built
a saw-mill and a flour-mill on the west side and near the site of the mill
that was said to have been stolen.
Pomona is now a lively little town and is doing considerable business. A few
years ago, it was incorporated, and elected municipal officers.
Eltham [Page 43]
A station was made where the Cairo and St. Louis Rail Road crosses Cedar
Creek in the northern part of Ridge Township, and a station house was built.
Some parties built a saw-mill there also, and very soon houses began to
spring up in the woods, and it seemed that a prosperous little town would be
the result. The new village received the name of "Eltham."
After running for some time, the mill was destroyed by fire, but another one
was built in its place. Some time afterwards this mill shared the fate of
its predecessor. The station house was also consumed in the same
conflagration. The town was abandoned to its original solitude, with the
exception of passing of trains, and the post-office was removed three miles
farther north, to Gillmore's mill.
Gillsboro [Page 44]
Mr. John M. Gill owned land in the south-east corner of Ora Township, in
section 36. Here he laid off a town on the Cairo and St. Louis Rail Road,
which runs through this land. The town was named, "Gillsboro."
This village had a late start, but bids fair to become a lively place. It
now contains several store houses and dwellings, also a saw-mill and a
About eight or nine years ago, a railroad line was surveyed from Mt.
Carbon to Pinckneyville, and running through the north-west quarter of
section 34, Town 8 South, Range 2 West. This land had been purchased by the
Carbondale Coal and Coke Company which proposed to make the road. The
general financial panic coming on about that time, the project was postponed
A few years ago, the company commenced work again by erecting a long row of
coke ovens on the land before described; they also sank a coal shaft a mile
or so farther westward. They then built a railroad from Carbondale to run by
the ovens and shaft and connect with the Cairo and St. Louis Rail Road about
two miles north of the station at Murphysboro.
The company then built a rail-road from the ovens to Pinckneyville where it
connects with other roads leading to St. Louis. They can now ship coal or
coke directly to that city.
Around the ovens, the dwellings of the workmen form a village called
Campbell Hill [Page 46]
Many years ago, a post-office was established at the cross-roads in
section 9, Town 7 South, Range 4 "West, and was called "Bradley." A store
was opened and goods sold to the farmers living near. The people also built
a church close by. This is just west of the ridge called Campbell Hill.
When the Narrow Gauge Rail Road was built, the people near Bradley
Post-office tried to have a station there, but some other parties tried to
have the station at another place three fourths of a mile farther
north-west, and succeeded. At that place lots were laid off, a side track
made, and two stores and a blacksmith shop built. This new town was called
Meanwhile, Mr. Mohlenbroch, thinking it very awkward to have the post-office
at one place and the station at another, raised the enthusiasm of the people
and by the influence and liberality of himself and others, laid off a town
at the post-office, built a large flour mill, and finally induced the
company to make a station there also. As the other town had already
appropriated their name, they called this town "Campbell Hill."
Soon dwelling houses and store houses sprang up on the ground. One of the
store houses at Bradley was rolled up on two flat cars and by the aid of
mules, moved to the new village. A side track was made and a station house
built; the mill was soon up and in operation, and the town outgrew its
rival. It is now a prosperous little town, while Bradley is forgotten.
Ava [Page 48]
Many years ago, a man named Wright settled at a point on the Murphysboro
and Chester road, in section 25, Town 7 South, Range 4 West, on a high ridge
between the head waters of Kinkaid and Rattlesnake Creeks. Here he built a
saloon near the road, displaying the sign, "Head Quarters." In this house he
dispensed the "ardent" to his neighbors and to thirsty travelers for many
years. The place was known as Head Quarters far and near, and the character
of some of the inhabitants of the vicinity was such as might have been
expected, with a branch of the bank of his infernal majesty in their midst
Some years ago, several houses and store buildings were erected, and Head
Quarters began to look like a town. When the Cairo and St. Louis Rail Road
was built and a station made there, the land owners and the rail-road
company laid out a town and named it "Ava."
After the rail-road was opened, the town began to increase rapidly. Many of
the rowdies in the neighborhood have been brought to justice or run off; but
some acts of violence have been committed since the road was opened, such as
throwing the train off the track. It is to be hoped the influence of the
more moral class of citizens, whose wealth and industry build up the town,
will gradually diffuse intelligence and purify the community.
Ava is now a flourishing town, containing many fine buildings, some of them,
including the post-office, are built of brick. A newspaper has been
published there for several years.
Elkville [Page 50]
About the year 1857, certain land owners, thinking it would be a good
thing to have a town in Elk Prairie, Mr. Ashley, who was then division
engineer of the southern division of the Illinois Central Rail Road, having
assured them that a station would be made there, laid off a town in section
17, Town 7 South, Range 1 West, in Elk Township. Mr. Ashley set men to grade
the side-track. The citizens appointed a day on which to sell lots at public
auction. When the day arrived, a large crowd assembled, and the sale was
progressing in a lively manner, when they were surprised by the scream of an
extra train approaching rapidly from the north. As the train came to a stand
among them, some of the people gathered around it and found that it
contained what rail-road men expressively called the "Royal family," or the
President arid other chief officers of the rail-road company. Mr. Osborn,
the President, asked in apparent surprise, "What is going on here? What does
this crowd mean?" When informed, he said, "There will be no station here.
Stop that sale at ONCE." He was informed that Mr. Ashley had the side-track
graded and was going to make a station there. The President turned to
McClellan, his chief engineer, who was present, saying, "Did you give Mr.
Ashley such orders?" Mr. McClellan denied having given any such orders. The
train returned to Centralia, and the President, in a rage, telegraphed to
Mr. Ashley, asking, “Who gave you orders to make a station in Elk Prairie?"
The answer was, "McClellan." The President replied, "He denies it. Come up
on next train and confront him." Then Ashley was angry, he said to those
around him, "Yes, I will go and make McClellan acknowledge it.” When he met
them at Centralia, he still insisted that McClellan gave him verbal orders
to make that station, and that officer still denied it until Ashley shook
his big fist at Little Mac's nose and made him own to it in Osborn's
presence. It seems that they had made a mistake and wanted to make a
scape-goat of Ashley, but could not succeed. The matter was hushed up, the
town was killed, and laid dormant for many years, until after McClellan had
been commander of armies, when he so gallantly didn't take Richmond, and had
run for the high office of President of the United States, but was defeated
Some time after the war was over, the town plat was revived, lots were sold,
a station house built and side-track made. Then people began to erect
dwellings and store houses. It is a small town, and is not likely to grow
much. There is no hotel or public accommodation for travelers arriving by
DeSoto [Page 53]
DeSoto was named after the Spanish traveler who, in his search for the
Fountain of Youth, discovered the Mississippi River, and was buried on its
This town is situated in sections 16, 17, 20 and 21; but mostly in section
20, in Town 8 South, Range 1 West. It was laid off in the woods at the time
of the building of the Illinois Central Rail Road, about the year 1853. It
is of the same age as Carbondale.
The rail-road company owned land in section 20 and laid off lots west of the
rail-road, also a row of fractional lots east of the road. Other parties
laid off lots on the east side, but the streets in the two plats do not
correspond with each other.
The business part is on the west side except the hotel. Most of the town is
on the west side. The town grew to its present size in a few years then
stopped. There has been very little improvement for many years. A few years
ago a fire destroyed nearly half of the business portion, and very few of
the houses have been rebuilt.
The town is situated in a flat country, with Big Muddy nearly half way round
it; the river being about a mile east of the town, two miles south and half
of a mile south-west.
DeSoto is not much of a business place. Sometimes it has almost the
appearance of a deserted town, many of the front store houses being empty.
There are several churches in the town, some of them are very good looking
buildings. Two flour mills were there, but one has been removed.
Makanda [Page 55]
When the route of the Illinois Central Rail Road was laid off, the
engineers had to follow the valley of Drury Creek through the hilly country
in the southern part of Jackson and the northern part of Union Counties.
This valley has the appearance of a great crack or fissure in the hills,
with mostly precipitous sides, and through this runs Drury. A person can
almost imagine a convulsion of nature that opened a crack running north and
south for miles, making ragged edges and broken rocks tumbling down the
steep sides, then afterwards the gap gradually partly filled up with soil
washed from the hills.
A mile and a quarter north of the county line, in the west side of section
27, Town 10 South, Range 1 West, the company built a water tank and a
boarding house, made a station and called it “Makanda."
Sometime about the year 1863, Mr. Zimmerman laid off town lots on the east
side of the rail-road, and several houses and stores were erected. Mr.
Martin Reynolds had built a mill for sawing lumber and grinding grain in
1861, on the west side of the creek and rail-road, which are here close
together. About the year 1866, lots were laid off by Lummis and also by
Evans on the west side, and afterwards on both sides by T. W. Thompson and
There is quite a romantic looking village nestled in the valley and up the
steep rocky hills on each side, where the houses perch one above another on
ledges. The church is up on a high point overlooking the town. The company
has built two brick tanks and a passenger house at that place.
This town is in the midst of the fruit region, and is an important place in
the fruit season. It would soon become a large town if there was room enough
to build one; but, cramped up as it is in such a narrow valley, there is not
much chance for it to grow.
During several years, a box-factory was in operation in the south part of
the town, which supplied shippers with fruit-boxes, but it was removed. The
mill that Reynolds built near the bridge, was operated for many years by
O'Fallon, but he removed it to Gillsboro a few years ago. Other parties set
up a grist-mill and box-factory on the same site.
The school house is on the west side at the foot of the bluff. The
inhabitants of Makanda and vicinity are industrious and intelligent people.
Boskydale [Page 57]
This is scarcely to be considered a town, but as it has a name, and is
about such a place as Eltham once was, although not a regular station, yet
it must not be omitted.
When the Illinois Central Rail Road was in process of construction, the
builders used a large quantity of stone for culverts and ballast. This stone
was quarried in the north-east corner of section 9, Town 10 South, Range 1
West, in Makanda Township, and half way from Makanda to Carbondale. They
made a track across Drury Creek and loaded the cars in the quarry. After the
road was finished, and the company had quit using the stone, the quarry
track was taken up, but a side-track was left for the convenience in
switching irregular trains out of the way.
When the State of Illinois was erecting the Normal University at Carbondale,
the red sand-stone used in that structure, was taken from this quarry, and
after that was finished, much stone was shipped to distant parts by Mr.
In 1876, Mr. E. P. Purdy brought a saw-mill to this place, setting it up
near the side-track for convenience in loading lumber on the cars.
At the same time, Mr. S. Cleland, who was then owner of the quarry land,
laid oil" town lots on the west side of the rail-road opposite to the mill,
and named the place "Boskydale." Several houses were built and a few
families dwelt there. Mr. Cleland made a business of quarrying stone and
shipping it to distant places for building purposes. He employed a gang of
men in the business.
More houses were needed, therefore Mr. E. M. Hanson laid off an addition in
1877, and several more houses were erected.
The town is in the valley of Drury. It is not likely ever to be much of a
town. It has already gained a bad character for rowdyism. Murder has been
Dorchester [Page 60]
This is one of the towns that was, and is not. It existed only about
seven years. It was a mining town; and when the mines were abandoned, the
miners left the houses vacant.
In the year 1850, the Jackson County Coal Company opened their first mine
three fourths of a mile south of Murphysboro, in the south-west quarter of
section 9, Town 9 South, Range 2 West. Mr. E. Holden was superintendent.
Their mines were all tunnels. The miners were mostly from Scotland,
therefore many persons called the place "Scotch Town." Quite a number of
houses were built for the men to reside in, for most of them had families.
The Scotch were some of them zealous followers of Joseph Smith, but not
of Brigham Young, at least not outwardly. Mr. Edwin Hanson built a store
house and kept store there. The company built a large boarding house and
Mrs. Willis took charge of it and cooked for the boarders. The miners who
had no families and the young men that worked for the company above ground,
For several years this was quite a busy place, and a good market for the
produce that farmers have to sell.
The miners, as usual, were a rowdy sot, especially when they were drunk. One
night the miners were offended at something that Zeri Byers had said, about
them making so much noise that he could not sleep. The next night they got
drunk and danced and swore, and threatened Byres; thus they kept up a row
all night to the disturbance of the whole community. Mr. Kitchen,
a-carpenter, who boarded at another house, heard them, and next day he
reported them to Mr. Holden, who sent for them at once to come to the
office, and to their surprise, he paid them off and told them to leave the
One peculiarity about Holden was, that he would not employ an Irishman on
any terms. He seemed to have a deep seated hatred of that nationality. He
was a perfect gentleman, and treated all well who did their duty, and if
they did not, he would soon pay them off. If he approached a gang of workmen
and found some of them resting, he would go and sit down by them if they sat
still until he came to them, but if they got up and went to work at his
approach, he would discharge them.
The company hauled the coal out of the tunnels to the bank of the river,
about one fourth of a mile, in cars drawn by a mule, on a rail-road made
with wooden rails with straps of iron nailed on them. Valentine Taylor was
the driver of the mule during the first year. This was the first rail-road
in Jackson County. The coal was piled up on the bank of the river where it
waited for water sufficient to float it off.
In the spring of 1851, the Walk-ln-the-Water, a new boat that was originally
built for a ferry boat, had arrived at St. Louis, and the company chartered
her to go up Big Muddy to bring a load of coal. She made her first trip in
May, after the Mississippi had risen considerably, so that Muddy was filled
with back-water. This boat took her load of coal, also two barges loaded
with it, to St. Louis, and the company introduced it to the foundries and
gas-works, where it was pronounced to be the best coal west of Pittsburg,
and it soon became known to the public.
After the boat had brought her first load of coal, the company purchased
her, and then she made regular trips up Muddy one day, loaded during the
night, returned next day and unloaded opposite the town of Preston; thus
supplying the steamboats with coal, for most of them used only wood before
The coal was boated out every summer at the time of the rising of the
Mississippi. The business prospered, but there came a time when for two
years the river did not rise high enough for the boat to cross the Fish-trap
Shoal, and the coal accumulated on the river bank, while their coal-yard on
the Mississippi was empty and their custom lost. They extended their
rail-road past the shoal, but the expenses ate up the profits and the work
was abandoned, the town deserted and the houses removed. It is now only a
farm and is owned by the G. T. M. M. & T. Co.
Mount Carbon [Page 64]
The Mount Carbon Coal Company was organized and chartered nearly forty
years ago, and they commenced to mine out coal that long ago. They opened a
mine where the coal crops out on the banks of Big Muddy River, at Mt.
Carbon, about half way between the upper and lower fords, or where the hills
come to the river just below the bridge. The present rail-road runs over the
mouth of the old tunnel. There was not any large quantity mined in those
days. Sometimes a flat-boat was loaded and floated down the river. Some of
them would sink on the route, for that kind of navigation was very
dangerous. There is one of them sunk about half a mile below the mines, full
of coal; but it is probably now covered with mud.
The company built a mill of several stories in height on the north bank of
the river below where the bridge is now, that was used for the purpose of
sawing lumber and grinding corn. It ran for many years. Richard Dudding was
boss of the establishment.
After some time, the company quit working the mines and the mill also, and
everything was silent and neglected during many years. There were no
buildings at Mt. Carbon except the old mill, (which has long since rotted
down and disappeared), and the ferryman's house, which was just above the
mill. John Minto was ferryman for many years after Dudding had left the
place; and, occasionally, Minto dug coal to supply the blacksmiths. The mine
was so low that every high water filled it and left mud all over it. After
Mr. Minto left the place, Mr. Wilson was ferryman until the bridge was
built, when the ferry was no longer needed.
After the Jackson County Coal Company had built their wooden track
rail-road, the Mt. Carbon Company procured a charter from the legislature of
the state, for a rail-road from Mt. Carbon to the Mississippi River. The
Jackson Company then obtained an amendment to the effect that the new road
would have to cross the older one at the same grade as the latter road. The
two companies, as represented by their respective superintendents, Mr.
Holden and Mr. Dudding, were working not very harmoniously, but sometimes
contrary to each other; yet the two gentlemen became warm personal friends.
The Mt. Carbon Company thus laid silent and quiet as far as working anything
was concerned, for many years, including the whole of the time that the
Jackson Company was at work, except the time when the chartered rail-road
was to be commenced to save the charter, Dudding had men at work a few days,
and in the expressive language of Holden, they "cleared out a turnip patch.”
The old company tried to do nothing more, when sometime about the close of
the War of the Rebellion, they sold out to another company, who obtained a
new charter under the same corporate name, "Mt. Carbon Coal Company."
With Mr. Henry Fitzhugh as superintendent, they commenced work in earnest.
At first, their office was in John Hanson's residence in Murphysboro. They
built a saw-mill near the place where the mill is at present. They set up
the engine that is at No. 2 shaft, and ran a slope, commencing under the old
county road. The engine hauled coal up an inclined plane. The rail-road from
Mt. Carbon to Grand Tower was commenced and pushed through vigorously. The
foundry and machine shop were built, and a small steamer came up the river
bringing machinery and other heavy freight; but much of their machinery was
brought by rail-road to Carbondale, and from thence hauled on wagons to its
As soon as the rail-road was completed, they began to ship off coal to Grand
Tower to supply boats, and to send in barges to St. Louis and other places.
During the time they had sunk several shafts. Two that were sunk in the Hat
north-east of the depot, could not be worked, because there was so much
water and the roof was too thin and covered with quicksand, therefore they
were both abandoned.
A shaft was sunk south of these in the edge of the hills, called No. 1
shaft, and a rail-road track was laid to it. No. 2 shaft was sunk near the
slope, so that the same engine could hoist from both.
During this time, the row of houses between the depot and the bridge was
built, also nearly fifty dwellings in the flat on the north side of the
river. Houses and shanties began to accumulate on the hills; miners came
flocking in. It was but a short time before there was a large population of
miners, and money was plenty in the country. Especially did Murphysboro
profit by it, and began to wake up from a long sleep and grow into city-like
proportions; but, with its growth and prosperity, it also became vain, and
obtained a city charter, including the Mt. Carbon works in the city limits.
This arrangement displeased the company, because they did not want to pay
city taxes, after having furnished the money that had built the city; so the
city and the company pulled contrary to each other for some time.
The company had laid out the fiat north of the river into lots, as an
addition to Murphysboro, but they afterwards vacated the plat, and for a
time talked of removing the houses. They did indeed build fifty houses for
the miners, on the highest ridge at Mt. Carbon. Afterwards, the city charter
was so modified as to exclude all south of the river, thus leaving out all
the works and buildings of the company except those in the flat.
Wishing to ship coal by the Illinois Central Rail Road as well as by the
river, the company extended their rail-road to Carbondale, and there formed
a junction with that road. They next built two iron furnaces at Grand Tower.
About this time the company obtained a new charter under the title of the
"Grand Tower Mining, Manufacturing and Transportation Company" The
rail-road, which had heretofore been called "Mt. Carbon Rail Road," was
afterwards called "Grand Tower and Carbondale Rail Road."
Mr. Fitzhugh died during the first year, and was succeeded by Mr. A. C.
Bryden, after him Mr. H. V. Oliphant had that office; since his death, Mr.
Williamson, the present superintendent, controls the affairs of the company.
The company have been much troubled with miner's strikes; which sometimes
lasted for several months at a time. At one time, during a prolonged strike,
they brought coal from Cartersville, Williamson County, Illinois, to supply
boats at Grand Tower; and from Brazil, Indiana, to supply the iron furnaces.
At another time, after the men had held out on a strike for a long time, the
company sent for fifty colored miners and set them to work. They then
discharged nineteen of the strikers, and the rest soon went to work again,
to prevent their places from being taken by the colored men.
The company became involved in a $200,000.00 law-suit, and their works went
into the hands of trustees, but the work was continued.
During this time they had sunk shaft No. 3, half a mile from the station,
and ran a rail-road track to it.
This company having bought the land that had belonged to the Jackson County
Coal Company, proceeded to make use of it. The site of Dorchester was made
into a farm; the fifty houses on the hill are on that land; so also is No. 3
This company has been much troubled with fires. First, the saw-mill was
burned, and when it was rebuilt, the precaution was taken to place the mill
and the boiler at some distance from each other. The engineer's office at
Grand Tower was burned with most of their plats and drawings. No. 1 shaft
suffered a similar fate, destroying the works on the top and ruining the
hoisting engine. The shaft was never used again. The rail-road bridge across
Big Muddy near Sand Ridge was consumed, but immediately rebuilt. Nearly all
the air-shafts have been burned at times, injuring the ventilation in the
mines for a time. The station-house and store, which were in the same
building, were destroyed, and they were rebuilt separately.
A tunnel was opened west of the first opening, but it was not worked much
for several years. It has been used more recently.
When the panic of 1873 came on, the work was nearly all stopped, miners left
for other places. No. 2 shaft only was worked, and that only two or three
days in a week. This state of things continued or grew worse for several
years. In the spring of 1876, Big Muddy rose so much higher than usual that
No. 2 shaft was filled with water, and it took a long time to pump it out.
The iron furnaces cooled, one of them collapsed; very few boats were running
on the Mississippi, therefore there was not much demand for coal, and for a
while only the tunnel was worked. Most of the large crowd of miners that
used to be there were gone. The houses on "Fiddler's Ridge," which once had
formed a long street, are most of them taken away. Thus the large business
at Mt. Carbon almost came to a stand.
In 1880, business began to revive. The company erected a long row of
coke-ovens on the ground on which Holden stored his coal thirty years
before. No. 3 shaft which had been unused so long, was again alive with
miners, and the subterranean passages once more reverbarate with the sound
of the pick and the shout of the mule-driver. The houses are inhabited, and
prosperity is returning.
Grand Tower [Page 75]
In the year 1673, seven Frenchmen, in two birch-bark canoes, started from
Green Bay, and went down Fox River, then down Wisconsin River, and on the
17th of June entered the Mississippi. The swift current swept them rapidly
down, past the pictured rocks at the mouth of the Illinois River, then past
the Devil's Oven and the “dangerous” Grand Tower.
This is the first mention of the Grand Tower, which is a tower-like rock
rising out of the river near the Missouri shore, and directly opposite to
the south end of the sharp ridge called the "Devil's Backbone. This rock is
considered dangerous to this day. When the water is high, an eddy starts at
a rocky point near the "Tower" and reaches half a mile or more down the
river, the outer edge of this eddy where it joins the main current is full
of whirlpools. When a floating tree gets into one of these, it stands erect
for a moment, then disappears beneath the surging water. Skiffs or other
small craft are served in the same manner, and life has thus been lost. The
danger to steamboats is that they are careened and turned out of their
course, and for the time become uncontrollable.
Sometime in the early settlement of the West, a keel-boat load of emigrants
with their goods, was ascending the river. At this point, the unusally broad
river is quite narrow, being about three-eighths of a mile in width, and
confined between rocky shores, making the current is very swift; the boat
could not ascend easily, therefore the emigrants landed to walk past this
place; the men to pull the ropes, the women and children to go at their
leisure. Suddenly, they were attacked by Indians that had been hidden
amongst the rocks. The emigrants were all killed except a boy twelve years
old, who hid amongst the rocks, near the place where the iron-works were
recently located. On the highest point on the south end of the Devil's
Backbone, graves have been found, but whether of Indians or white men is not
known. That boy that escaped, after he was grown up, pursued that gang of
Indians one by one, until he slew the last one on an island in the river.
Many years ago, Marshall Jenkins settled where the south part of the town is
now. After steamboats began to navigate the river, he kept a landing and a
wood-yard. The place was known as Grand Tower Landing or Jenkins' Landing.
After the death of Jenkins, James Evans married the widow. He built a
warehouse and opened a store, and the place was called
Evans' Landing, but it was always known as Grand Tower. Elisha Cochran
settled near the south end of the Back-bone. The grave-yard was close to the
foot of that hill, between that and Cochran's house. Several other families
lived there, and the school house was sometimes used as such.
The location is suitable for a landing. It is a strip of level ground
between the river and Walker's Hill, which rises just back of it, having
precipitous, rocky sides. This hill is not connected with any other hill,
but is entirely surrounded by low land. The Back-bone before mentioned is a
sharp, rocky ridge, nearly a mile long, running along the river bank; the
southern end being close to the river, and highest; the northern end and the
middle leaving a strip of level land between the hill and the river. There
is also a narrow strip of level ground between this hill and Walker's Hill,
where the two lap past each other. A detached portion of the Back-bone juts
out into the river, forming the "Devil's Oven." Nearly a mile north of this
is the "Big Hill," which is very high, about four miles long and two miles
wide; it is also surrounded by low lands and the river which washes its
western base. Its sides are mostly precipitous, at the north end rising
perpendicularly one hundred and twenty-five feet. The formation of the whole
neighborhood is peculiar, and the impression made on the minds of the early
settlers caused them to name so many things after his Satanic Majesty.
When the Mt. Carbon Company built a rail-road from Mt. Carbon to Grand
Tower, the land owners at the latter place, Jenkins, Evans and the company,
each laid off town lots, and sold them rapidly for a while. Soon a town
sprang up as if by magic. All the river front was built up with stores,
hotels and other business houses; thus the obscure landing place sprang into
a young city at once. Although it is a good location for a town, yet
heretofore, there had been almost no communication with Murphysboro or the
interior of the county. The only road went through four miles of the
muddiest ground that can be imagined, and was absolutely impassible at some
seasons of the year. But the rail-road remedied all that in a short time,
and made a pass way through at all times of the year.
The company began to ship coal on barges, and also to furnish steamboats
with coal. The following: year, the rail-road was extended to Carbondale and
connected with the Illinois Central Rail Road; then passengers and freight
were landed at Grand Tower for various points along that road, and the town
still grew, and extended northward towards the Big Hill, first, by building
that part called "Red Town," afterwards by other additions.
The company built two iron furnaces on that side of the Back-bone next to
the river, and ran a rail-road track through the middle of the ridge where
it is the lowest. Soon another company built a furnace at the southern
extremity of the city. This is usually known as the lower furnace. So Grand
Tower, with three furnaces, one rail-road, and a regular packet to St.
Louis, grew and prospered, until it extended from the lower furnace nearly
to the Big Hill, or almost two miles in length. Then came reverses. The
lower furnace stopped for a long time, then fired up and continued in
operation for a season only to stop again. It remained cold and silent for
many years. The upper furnaces met with accidents. Sometimes one of them
would fall to pieces full of melted iron, which hardened as it cooled, and
it required a long time afterwards to cut it out before they could begin to
repair the furnace. Then the company met with trouble and fell into the
hands of Trustees. For a short time but one furnace was in operation, then
it too became silent and deserted. The company almost quit shipping coal,
and everything became dull. Some of the merchants left the town and removed
to other places. The town had passed its period of prosperity; for, like Mt.
Carbon, it was dependent on the company, and when they almost quit working,
the business of the towns languished.
The upper furnaces have been dismantled, the costly machinery removed and
everything that could be of use taken away, showing the intention of making
no more pig-iron at that place.
About the year 1880, business began to revive, and the town began to resume
something of its former bustling appearance. There was talk of the lower
furnace again being started.
Thirty years ago, a gentleman, looking far into the future, predicted that
the iron-ore of Missouri and the coal of Jackson County, Ill. would meet
near Grand Tower, and along the river bank would be a long row of iron
furnaces. This has been only fulfilled in part; the time is yet to come its
Brownsville [Page 84]
The following account of the early settlement of Brownsville, was kindly
furnished by Ben Boone, Esq.
"Brownsville was incorporated by the Legislature held at Kaskaskia in March, 1819. Jessee Griggs, John Ankeny, James S. Dorris, Dr. Matthew Taylor and William D. Ferquay were Trustees. Brownsville was begun to be improved in the fall of 1816, or spring of 1817.