Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tri-State Tornado Program Offered Nov. 12

DeSoto Public School following the March 18, 1925 tornado.
Angela Mason, author of Death Rides the Sky, will join speakers Charlie & Jann Keisel for a program on the March 18, 1925, Tri-State Tornado that tore through Missouri and Illinois before finally loosing strength and cohesion in Indiana.

The program will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, November 12, 2015, at the Knox County Public Library Fortnightly Building at 421 N. 6th St., in Vincennes, Indiana. [Click for Map]

The 2nd edition of Angela's book came out last week and will be available for purchased at the event, or can be ordered directly from the new publisher,, or by clicking the link below.

The book's subtitle tells it all. In the late 1990s, Angela started interviewing survivors across the three states to learn their stories of incredible survival from what's still America's worst tornado.

Monday, October 12, 2015

New website for Primitive Baptist research in Illinois

While going through my e-mails this afternoon I found an update from Robert Webb, director of the Primitive Baptist Library in Carthage, Illinois. Their new website is

The site links to a number of materials on early Illinois history involving the Baptists, particularly here in Southern Illinois.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Benton, Mt. Vernon book signings set for Tuesday

Jon Musgrave at Giant City Lodge last Sunday afternoon.
Southern Illinois historian Jon Musgrave of and Shelton Gang granddaughter and novelist Ruthie Shelton will be signing books next Tuesday, Sept. 1, in Benton at The Buzz during lunch time and at King City Books in Mount Vernon later that afternoon.

Bruce Cline, founder of the Little Egypt Ghost Society and author of History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois published by, will also attend the signing at The Buzz.

The first sign will run from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Benton and the second will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. in Mount Vernon.

Ruthie and I came out with Inside the Shelton Gang: One Daughter's Discovery two years ago after a number of years of research individually, and then working together. She is the daughter of "Little Carl" Shelton, one of the nephews involved the Shelton Brothers gang that ruled downstate Illinois crime from the end of the Prohibition Era to the 1940s.

Since then she has written two small novels that have been inspired by her father's generation in the mid 20th Century.

Dubbed The Untold Story series, Volume 1, Death, Deceit and Discovery introduces the Callahan family, once considered to be the most influential, violent, and prosperous crime organization in the Midwest. Vol. 2, Shadows, Siblings & Suicide picks up the story a decade later when the wrongs of their pasts leads to insanity, murder and suicide in the present.

I will have all of my published books there except the one on the Old Slave House. That one is out of print at the present. What I will have include the following:
  • The Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois - Co-authored with Milo Erwin this prequel to Bloody Williamson covers the post-Civil War violence in the region and the first generation of the Ku Klux Klan that wrecked havoc with their enemies.

  • Secrets of the Herrin Gangs - Co-authored with Ralph Johnson, the business manager for Ruthie's uncles in the Shelton Gang in Herrin during the 1920s. At the end of the Gang War he needed to get out of town and needed some money so he went to St. Louis and sold his story to the newspapers that eventually went nationwide in a 10-part series. Half of the book is his insider account of the Klan War and the Gang War of the 1920s and the other half is my research into Ralph's actual identity and criminal history as he was writing under an alias.
I also will have three books that I've edited.
  • The Boy of Battle Ford - Written as an autobiography by W. S. Blackman at the turn of the 20th Century, this book cover his growing up on the Southern Illinois frontier in the 1840s and 50s, but mostly focuses on his time during the Civil War as a Union soldier. I've added a new introduction, footnotes and an index.

  • Handbook of Old Gallatin County - This includes the 1887 history of Gallatin County plus everything we could find from other 19th and early 20th Century history books about the parent county of most of southeastern Illinois. It's great for genealogists. More than 250 biographical sketches are included.

  • Lincoln: Fresh from Abraham's Bosom - This collection of stories told by America's 16th president was first compiled and published in 1864 when he ran for re-election. I've added a new introduction, footnotes and an index.
In addition to all of the above books I will also have James T. Carrier's five books that he's written on aspects of mostly-Franklin County history, though a couple of titles are also of a more general interest.

Mr. Carrier is a retired 95-year-old educator and writer who lives in the county but no longer gets out much. has been distributing his books since last year. His books are as follows.
  • A Little Bit of Heaven and a Whole Lot of Hell - covers growing up during the Depression in a small coal mining settlement.

  • Black Christmas Mine Disaster - focuses on the 1951 Orient No. 2 Mine disaster outside West Frankfort.

  • Killer Tornado - includes interviews with family members and survivors of the 1925 Tri-State Tornado that ripped through Franklin County, as well as an earlier tornado that hit Pershing.

  • Them Good Old Wild Greens - combines an edible plant guide with stories from the Great Depression.

  • Wilderness Survival - combines a practical guide to living off the woods with stories and activities from surviving the Great Depression in the Southern Illinois. 
If you can't make either event you can always order the books here on the website by just clicking the book link on the side, or going to If you order direct all of my books will always be signed.

Monday, August 24, 2015

For the first time since Cata's Books moved out of the outlet mall at West Frankfort (which the city is now trying to purchase) I have another place selling my books in West Frankfort.

I want to welcome the new Main Street Baking Co. & Mercantile at 328 E. Main St. in West Frankfort, to the network of fine establishments in the region carrying books published and distributed by

Besides rolling in the dough with loaves of fresh bread and sandwiches they offer everything your sweet tooth desires, except donuts. For that they will point you down the street.

That's Owner Darla Dawson on the right and her manager, Esther Willis, on the left. The Benton Evening News had a nice profile piece on Darla earlier this summer.

Everyone can also purchased books directly from this site though I have to admit sweats aren't included.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Few Seats Left for Saturday's Herrin Massacre Tour

If you ever wanted to learn more about the Herrin Massacre now is the time. Our last tour of the summer will be Saturday starting at 9 a.m. with the bus leaving from the Williamson County Jail Museum at 105 S. Van Buren St. in Marion.

S.I. Treasure Tours conducts the tours and yours truly, Jon Musgrave of, serves as the guide. The tour includes visits to the jail museum, Station Carbondale railroad museum and the Herrin City Cemetery, as well as lunch at an area historic site.

Go to to reserve your seats now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

DCEO Privatization Bill Passes w/o IHPA language

As the budget stalemate percolates in Springfield the Illinois House of Representatives today amended and passed a bill (HB 574) that would privatize some of the economic development functions of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The first amendment passed today (Amendment 2) replaced an earlier amendment that would have moved management of the state's historic sites from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency over to DCEO as part of a new division that would have included tourism, the Illinois Film Office and whatever would be left of IHPA after splitting off the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library into a separate agency.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it has to be approved before being submitted to Gov. Bruce Rauner. What will happen then is not known, but I wouldn't bet on it getting Rauner's signature.

Today's move on the DCEO bill was believed to be part of a trade that would involve giving Chicago Public Schools a temporarily reprieve on a massive pension plan payment that they can't afford. However, that bill failed to pass. With House Republicans generally voting present on the DCEO bill which normally they would support, it would seem that the governor has not signaled his support.

Meanwhile the ultimate fate of IHPA and the state's fiscally malnourished and neglected historic sites remains unknown. At the end of the spring session the General Assembly did pass a bill to make the presidential library and museum a stand-alone agency and move the Illinois State Museum's five sites over to IHPA from their current home in the Department of Natural Resources.

See my earlier post for details.

In other words, the standoff continues.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Lawmakers Pass Bill to Split IHPA

Despite failing to pass a balance budget, take up pension reform, creating a new capital projects bill, dealing with state revenues or at least improving the job climate in Illinois, lawmakers did send pass SB 1728 over the weekend that would split the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from its parent Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Doug Finke and the State Journal-Register has the story.

Because the bill wasn't HB 574 which supposedly had the support of Gov. Bruce Rauner, but a Senate version without elements he wanted, we can probably expect a veto of sorts as well.

The spring session may have ended Sunday, but overtime will begin later this month. Until then, prepare for the fireworks in the forms of campaign style ads and mailers.

But back to IHPA. The bill that passed differed greatly from the one I wrote about last month. While House Speaker Michael J. Madigan got what he wanted in an independent presidential museum and library, it didn't offer the governor what he wanted.

First, it doesn't move what's left of IHPA to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity placing historic sites under a division that would also include state's tourism and film offices. Second, and more important to the governor's agenda, it doesn't include the creation of a new public-private partnership that would take over much of the state's economic development efforts.

One thing the new bill did do that I somewhat like is move the Illinois State Museum and its various components out of the Department of Natural Resources and added them to the smaller IHPA. There's a certain logic in that. The state museum which includes Dickson Mounds, a prehistoric archealogical site that has long been a part of a different agency from the one that operates Cahokia Mounds.

Without knowing the history of the state agencies it makes no sense. However, the state museum is basically a natural history museum, or at least that's been its roots. For a long time it was part of the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources, back when state parks and even historic sites were part of the old Department of Conservation. Historic sites got split off as their own agency under Gov. Jim Thompson. Later, a new Department of Natural Resources combined what was left of Conservation and the ENR agencies.

Under this new law Dickson Mounds would finally be under the same agency as Cahokia Mounds which does make sense. Even adding the main state museum in Springfield would be a good fit. However the other three state museum sites, the artisan centers in Freeport, Chicago and Rend Lake add a cultural twist that IHPA doesn't currently possess. I should note that under the Blagojevich and Quinn administrations those sites were already step-children to the agency brass in DNR, even going to the extent that the agency's public relations staff would not send out news releases as to what the centers were doing. That I experienced personally at some of the worst promoted book signings in which I have ever participated.

Rauner's people have already indicated he's likely to veto the new bill and Senate President John Cullerton has filed a motion to reconsider a vote, a technique used to hold up actually sending the bill to the governor. There are good points and bad when it comes to combining historic sites with tourism, but IHPA has been neglected for far too long. A combination of tourism, historic sites, the state museum and state artisan centers make sense too.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Changes Coming for State Historic Sites

Plans could impact future of Old Slave House

While on WJPF-AM this morning talking about the new Twin Wars of the 20s tour from SI Treasure Tours, host Tom Miller asked about any updates on the Old Slave House.

There's nothing new locally that I can talk about, but at least in Springfield there's legislation that will shift the state's historic sites from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency into a new division within the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity that will include tourism, historic sites and the state's film office.

The bill would also spin off the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum into its own separate agency and allow DCEO to create a new public-private non-profit partnership to promote the state's economic development efforts.

The legislation (House Bill 574) has the support of Gov. Bruce Rauner as well as House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. It's expected to pass though it's currently in the House Rules Committee.

Some agency folks in Springfield disagree with the move and I respect their positions, but the legislation offers a lot of possibilities for future improvement.

One thing I told Tom this morning about the new move is that the state tourism director, who I also think will be the head of this combined division, already knows about the house. More importantly, he knows how historic sites and tourism can intersect for economic development (and as a Springfield alderman, he's seen this firsthand.)

About a month ago I was in the Capitol in Springfield and had a chance to speak with Cory Jobe, the state's new tourism chief. He formerly served as chief of staff for Judy Baar Topinka in the state comptroller's office.

He remembered meeting me a number of years ago when I gave him a tour of the Old Slave House back when Ron Nelson, Gary DeNeal and I were still researching the site. I knew his name was familiar and that we had crossed paths somewhere else as well.

Back home I checked my notes and discovered that in December 2009 while working for the Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office, I was called to a meeting in Springfield with my regional counterparts, two people from the state tourism office as well as Cory and Maynard Crossman of Peoples Economic Development Corporation and Peoples National Bank to discuss a new historic preservation tax credit legislation that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration was planning to back in the next session of the General Assembly.

Cory had come from Topinka's state treasurer office where he had worked on a tourism related program, and Crossman was the former director of IHPA for the last year or two of George Ryan's term.

I remember the meeting vividly because on the way to Springfield I turned on the radio and learned that FBI agents had been seen taking the governor out of his Chicago home in handcuffs. Talk about the elephant in the room an hour later during our meeting, or in this case, a donkey.

Needless to say the Blagojevich administration didn't push the tax credits bill very much that year so it didn't go anywhere. Over the years various versions of the legislation get re-introduced, each year a bit more watered down than the last. I sat in on a presentation last year at the Herrin Chamber of Commerce offices about the then latest version.

The current version of the legislation is House Bill 240.

One more item on the Old Slave House, for those who need a visible reminder of the site, check out Ghosts of Old Shawneetown's page of pictures from the house back in the 1990s. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Ancient East St. Louis Was Bigger than Cahokia

Archaeologists working on the site of the new Stan Musial Bridge across the Mississippi River at St. Louis are finding clues that will rewrite Illinois history. Apparently the civilization that existed there 800 years ago rivaled and even temporarily surpassed the size of prehistoric city at Cahokia Mounds.

To put that in perspective we're talking about centuries that Robin Hood, if he existed, fought the minions of King John in England, and a couple centuries after the Vikings colonized Greenland and Newfoundland.

There's a lot archaeologists still don't know about the American Indian culture in our region.

But they're analyzing what they found during a dig to clear land for the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge — and they're ready to share.

For one, East St. Louis was a bustling city chock full of immigrants. Around 1000 A.D., it was bigger than nearby Cahokia Mounds site and it thrived for about 150 years.

Mary Cooley of the Belleville News-Democrat has the rest of the story (although the link is to the Southern Illinoisan).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last Surviving Member of the Shelton Gang Passes

In 2013 Jimmy Zuber holds one of the rifles his
uncle Earl Shelton purchased for him and his
cousins should they ever get the chance
to kill their family nemesis Charlie Harris

My Inside the Shelton Gang co-author Ruthie Shelton texted me the news this morning. James Shelton Zuber, better known simply as Jimmy Zuber, nephew of the Shelton Brothers, died last week in Florida on the 19th. He was 84, and probably the last surviving member of the notorious Shelton Gang. He was the youngest of the three nephews involved in their uncles' gang.

Jimmy was 17 and still in high school in 1947 when gunmen ambushed his uncle Carl Shelton in the Pond Creek Bottoms in Wayne County. His cousin, and Ruthie's father, "Little Carl" Shelton, collected him from school to tell him the news.

While he was never a gunman for the gang, he did serve as a bagman for a bit. After Carl's death his brother Earl took over the duties, but when he moved back to Wayne County to focus on farming, Jimmy got the job. As he told Ruthie and me a few years ago, one of those deliveries was an envelope full of cash to the governor himself in the Illinois Statehouse.

Most interestingly it wasn't to Dwight Green who historians already knew had connections to the gambling rackets, but his successor and later presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. While remembered as a reformer, Stevenson didn't start to shake up Springfield until towards the end of his second year in office, about the same time the Kefauver Hearings brought their investigators to Illinois.

Jimmy was the son of the Shelton's sister Lulu. Following his parents' divorce the Sheltons later kidnapped and brought him back to Illinois to be raised. He wouldn't see his father again until after he reached adulthood. Although the three Shelton brothers known as the gang had step-children at different times, it would be their sister's son and brother Dalta's two boys, "Little Earl" and "Little Carl" that they groomed to be successors.

Zuber never indicated his involvement in any of the gang's violent crimes, as those opportunities were quickly diminishing with Bernie's assassination in 1948, Roy's in 1950, and the multiple attempts on the lives of his uncle Earl, his mother and stepfather, as well as his cousin "Little Earl" in the late 1940s.

Once in Fairfield he had his own close call with the family nemesis Charlie Harris who declined to shoot the then still teenager. Later his uncle Earl gave all three nephews rifles with the instruction to kill Harris if they ever had the chance. Ruthie's father had long since parted with his, but Jimmy proudly showed us his which he still had.

After the extended Shelton clan fled Fairfield for Florida (but not after sneaking his mother Lulu who was recovering from being machine-gunned by Harris out a hospital window), Jimmy went into construction in Florida. He and his wife raised a family and left the Illinois past behind them mostly.

In the late 1990s he became a source of family information and photographs for Taylor Pensoneau when he researched the Sheltons for his book, Brothers Notorious. Years later I approached Taylor at a book signing for his Charlie Harris book, "Dapper and Deadly," with the intention of getting Jimmy's contact information. Instead he told me about another Shelton family member doing research for a book. That person turned out to be Ruthie.

I know Ruthie met with or talked with Jimmy by phone numerous times as she researched her family history. In the summer of 2012, I had a chance to meet with him at his home as well. He was a delightful subject to interview with his wife surprising us with additional photo albums and he really exciting Ruthie when he mentioned the rifles. (The only frustrating moment that day was him not being able to find the key to the gun cabinet. Ruthie had to wait a few months and another trip before she could hold it.)

His obituary noted that he was cremated. He was a good guy, and will be missed.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Check out James T. Carrier's Books

James T. Carrier is a 94-year-old retired educator from rural West Frankfort who's written a number of books, including the five below. Now for the first time, these books are available here at

I'm running a special of all 5 for $48 which is 20 percent off the price if you buy them separately. Click on this link if you're interested:

Here's a bit about all the books which generally fall under the categories of surviving killer tornadoes, the Great Depression, mine disasters or Franklin County in general.

A Little Bit of Heaven and a Whole Lot of Hell

160 pages. 5.5" x 8.5"
Rev. ed. 2nd printing
Paperback. $9.95
© 1998

A Little Bit of Heaven and a Whole Lot of Hell covers the story of a coal mining village and its people with emphasis on the Great Depression years focusing on the communities known as 18 Patch, Deering City and Caldwell.

Killer Mine Disaster

ISBN 0-9705471-7-X
130 pages. 5.5" x 8.5"
Paperback. $15.
© 2002

Killer Mine Disaster tells the story of the December 21, 1951, methane gas explosion at the New Orient Mine No. 2 outside West Frankfort. The disaster killed 119 coal miners, and remains one of the worst mine disasters in American history.

Killer Tornado

ISBN 0-9705471-0-2
112 pages. 5.5" x 8.5"
Paperback. $9.95
© 1998

Killer Tornado Hits Coal Mining Village tells the story of how the world's largest tornado -- the Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925 -- caused deaths, injuries and destruction in a rural coal mining village of Caldwell, in Franklin County, Illinois, with firsthand accounts of survivors. Contributors include Emogene Moore Swain, Vernon Dotson, Hosea Thomas, Sr., Pauline Kerly Wall, George Hand, Dorothy Stagner Maki, Arlena Stagner Reid, Eugene Reid, Robert Earl Pease, Genieve DePriest Nolen Coar, Ceble Willmore and Annamary Chance Stagner Jent. In addition Edd Wall, Marie Ford Payne and Mrs. Harry Neibel provided additional information.

The book also includes a story of the 1912 tornado that struck near Pershing, Illinois.

Them Good Old Wild Greens

100 pages. 5.5" x 8.5"
Paperback. $9.95

Them Good Old Wild Greens tells the story of "Hard Times" in the mining settlement of "18 Patch" in Franklin County, Illinois. Mr. Carrier grew up in those days and this is his own firsthand account of the struggle mine families had when the mines shut down or remained idled for lack of demand for coal.

Wilderness Survival

110 pages. 5.5" x 8.5"
Paperback. $9.95

Wilderness Survival is a story of how sons of unemployed miners avoided starvation and survived the Great Depression of the 1930s. It comes with practical tips and illustrations to show modern-day readers who to survive in the wilderness as well.

History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois

Here's another Christmas idea for those who like to read about our region's supernatural past.

History, Mystery and Hauntings of Southern Illinois pulls straight from the case files of the Little Egypt Ghost Society led by founder Bruce Cline. The book covers their investigations and research of the supernatural throughout the 618 region.

This expanded and revised edition combines the first three volumes of Bruce's books into one. Each county is its separate chapter in this 320-page fully-indexed paperback. It's not too late to get one before Christmas.

Copies can also be purchased from booksellers around the region including the Book Emporium in Harrisburg, the Bookworm in Carbondale, The Country Porch in Marion inside the Illinois Centre Mall, The Buzz in Benton and the new King City Books in Mount Vernon.

I've also got books at GenKota Winery in Mount Vernon, the Dusty Attic in Equality, Harbison's Grocery down in Hardin County, Herrin Drug and Thornton's Market in Herrin, D & E Books in Olney, Shawnee Winery and From The Past Antiques in Vienna, the Rend Lake Artisans Shop off of Exit 77 at Rend Lake, the Little Egypt Arts Gallery on the Tower Square in Marion, and The Artisans Galleria in downtown Shelbyville.

To the north Taylor's Mini Mall in Fairfield carries my titles and the libraries in Flora and Olney have a few books left on consignment from our recent book signings.

I can always be reached at

For a list of all the books available check out the list of books.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Edition of Boy of Battle Ford Now on Sale

For more than a century W. S. Blackman's, The Boy of Battle Ford has served as a classic when it comes to descriptions of antebellum Southern Illinois and as well as life as a soldier during the western campaigns of the Civil War.

Blackman turned 21 just weeks after the fall of Fort Sumter and the start of the American Civil War. More than four decades later he used his war journals as the basis of his autobiography.

From his boyhood years on the Battle Ford farm in Southern Illinois to his own life and death experiences on the battlefield, Blackman finds the lessons of life in his own struggles for bothy physical survival and spiritual faith.

The new 2014 abridged paperback edition is edited by Jon Musgrave with a new introduction, footnotes and a full index. The 240-page book retails for $18.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Brits Took Revenge 200 Years Ago Today

While we wait for ISIS to figure out which large city they want to target in the United States - Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., it's important to remember that it's not just New York City in 2001 or Pearl Harbor in 1941, that have been targeted by our enemies.

Today, August 24, 2014, is the 200th anniversary of the burning of our nation's capitol by the British in the War of 1812 (and the few years thereafter).

Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post tells the story.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Herrin Massacre Bus Tours Offer New Perspectives

The infamous barbed wire fence inside the Power House Woods where four dozen men were lined up and shot on June 22, 1922. Williamson County Historical Society photo.

After two successful tours in July and a long waiting list the organizer of the new Herrin Massacre Bus Tours has announced four more dates for August.

Amy Erickson of Carbondale, my former intern at the Williamson County Tourism Bureau, and later interim office manager at the Southern Illinois Tourism Development, came up with the idea earlier this year and is operating the tours out of the educational non-profit group CAPS (Connecting All Parents to School) with support from the Williamson County Historical Society.

The dates are this Friday, August 8, which still has some openings; Saturday, August 9, which is full; Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 23. The tours are $45 per person, but there's a Family Friday discount where extra family members can join the tour for just $25. Get your tickets at or call Amy at (618) 751-2924. The price covers the bus tour, admission to the museums and lunch as well as souvenirs and giveaways.

Both tours are the same, but due to parking issues Friday tours start at the Williamson County Airport and the Saturday tours from the Williamson County Jail Museum behind the Marion Civic Center at 105 S. Van Buren St. I, Jon Musgrave, will once again be serving as the historical guide for all four tours.

The bus tour follows the events of the two-day outbreak of violence on June 21-22, 1922, from the ambush of guards and replacement workers at Fozzard Bridge, now under Crab Orchard Lake on the morning of the 21st, to the all-out battle outside the mine later that afternoon that would fatally injure three union men.

The next morning four dozen men inside the mine surrendered with the understanding that they would be marched to Herrin and put on a train. Instead, increasingly larger mobs would stop them on the way into the city, eventually leading to an order to line them up against a barb wire fence and start shooting.

Some got away only to be shot and hung in the Harrison Woods immediately southeast of the city while six others were recaptured and taken to the Herrin City Cemetery where they were repeatedly shot and cut with knives in the presence of witnesses including big city reporters who had just arrived to cover the violence from the day before.

Another 20 men would die that day or later from their wounds received on the death march.

Barring a funeral taking place the bus will stop at the cemetery where recent research and excavations have confirmed the location of 17 of the original burial sites of the victims in the city’s former Potter’s Field in what was then Block 15 in the southeast corner of the original cemetery. Twelve of the victims are believed to be still buried there.

The tour also includes a stop at the Miners Memorial in downtown Herrin with a presentation from the Herrin Area Historical Society before returning for lunch and a tour of the Williamson County Jail Museum where the defendants were held later that year.

Personally, I think it's amazing what happened that day back in 1922, but even worse was the travesty of justice that took place afterwards when two trials ended with nothing but acquittals due to outright bribery of the jurors and the purchase of alibis for the defendants.

That breakdown of the rule of law led to an easy journey setting up the stage for the Klan War and Gang War that followed which eventually left more than six dozen deaths in its wake over the next five years.

One of the July tour participants recently e-mailed Erickson with a review.

"I'm from a coal mining family, a coal miner's daughter, and so connected to coal industry through my husband, my dad and mother's family. We are all involved. A friend read the article, and I immediately called, I wouldn’t be alive without U.M.W.A. It's a continuing struggle. I was enriched by taking the trip. Someone [who] hasn't read the book (Bloody Williamson) would really benefit."

I will also have my books and posters available for sale at the end of the tour or from my website at

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Dec. 7, 1941 - An Infamous Date - In Color

Seventy-two years ago today was a date which has lived in infamy. The video below shows the only color film of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

85 Years Ago - Gang War Heats Up

It's the 85th Anniversary of the Gang War between Charlie Birger and his men on one side and the Shelton Brothers on the other. Just one of the five main reasons why my home county is known as "Bloody Williamson."

The blood started spilling (in the Gang War) on Aug. 22, 1926, with a three-way shootout that left Harry Walker and Everett Smith dead at Thetford's roadhouse just north of Marion's Rosehill Cemetery on Illinois Route 37, yet still south of the J.W. Reynolds Monument Co. office on the east side the road.

No one took credit for the shooting though Harry's brother Ray was certain of the identity. Family members of the proprietor later told the story he had received a phone call warning him that the two men were there to kill him.

One of the more interesting tidbits about the incident involved the ethnicity of one of the band members. He was Hawaiian.

Early in the morning of Sept. 12 two gangsters Gary DeNeal's sources thought were Birger and Fred "Butch" Thomason opened fire at another two members of the Shelton Gang at the roadhouse on what's now Stotlar Road just east of the Burlington Northern R.R. crossing.

William "Wild Bill" Holland was hit and killed. Max Pulliam and his wife Mildred were wounded and taken to Herrin Hospital. Ray Walker and his wife were still inside the roadhouse when it happened and likely were the ones who took the Pulliams to the hospital.

Two days later Pulliam's family tried to sneak him out of the hospital in a hearse or ambulance (same vehicle was used for both) though it's not certain if they were trying to stage a funeral procession. Just outside Benton Birger and his men caught up with the ambulance and forced it to stop. If it wasn't for Pulliam's mother using her body to protect her son from Birger's blows, he likely would have been killed as well.

Later Birger would even admit to his role in the attack, "I and my men drove up and conked that fellow (hit him on the head)  until he fainted away. We showed him."

A day later on the 17th, Birger's men picked up another Franklin County felon named Lyle "Shag" Worsham they thought was snitching to the Sheltons. Newspapers had already identified Lyle's brother "Satan" Worsham as an associated of the them. Birger's men took Worsham south of Carterville where the machine-gunned him down in the road before taking him to an abandoned house by Pulley's Mill where they burned the body and house around it.

Meanwhile the Shelton Gang reconfigured one of their beer-running fuel trucks to an armored car. They debuted it on Oct. 4, with a machine gun attack on Birger's Shady Rest, a drive-by shooting of Art Newman and his wife in a car in Saline County, and another drive-by attack on Shaw's Gardens, a Birger-aligned roadhouse between Johnston City and West Frankfort on the Franklin-Williamson county line.

On Oct. 13 (or 14th according to some sources), Birger's men attacked the Shelton's main joint north of Herrin on what's now Illinois Route 148. On the 16th they raided the fluorspar mine in Rosiclare in order to steal their two machine guns they had locked up.

For more information on the Gang War and what happened next, check out my books Secrets of the Herrin Gangs co-authored by the Shelton's business manager and Inside the Shelton Gang co-authored and published earlier this year with Ruthie Shelton, the daughter of "Little Carl" Shelton, one of the nephews involved in that family's infamous activities.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Great Song and Just Had to Share

While looking up some antebellum songs for an upcoming project tonight I came across the great Mavis Staples singing Stephen Foster's 1854 classic, "Hard Times Come Again No More."

The year 1854 saw the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act that opened the territories to slavery, an act that ended the Whig Party and saw the creation of the Republican Party later that year. In Illinois anti-Nebraska Democrats like my fourth-great-uncle Col. E. D. Taylor, split with our U.S. Senator Stephan Douglas who had sponsored the legislation. Instead he joined former Whigs and emerging Republicans like Abraham Lincoln in beating back Douglas'-backed Democrats for the state elections that year. Some 21 years earlier Taylor had beat Lincoln in the latter's first race for the state legislature.

The triumph of the moderates like Douglas signaled the quickening march that would end with the start of the Civil War seven years later. From that point forward slavery would become the major issue of the day and the defining position between the parties.

Meanwhile, Foster managed to write a song that remains true and vibrant even to the present day.

Here's the lyrics. Feel free to sing along.

Verse 1.
Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There's a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh hard times come again no more.

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary,
Hard Times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door;
Oh hard times come again no more.

Verse 2.
While we seek mirth and beauty and music light and gay,
There are frail forms fainting at the door;
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more.

Verse 3.
There's a pale drooping maiden who toils her life away,
With a worn heart whose better days are o'er:
Though her voice would be merry, 'tis sighing all the day,
Oh hard times come again no more.

Verse 4.
Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave,
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

'Inside the Shelton Gang' Plugged This Morning

WSIL-TV had me on bright and early this morning plugging "Inside the Shelton Gang," the new book by Ruthie Shelton and myself.

We will both be at Bookworm this Saturday, April 20, from 1 to 3 p.m. at a book signing, and at the Flora Public Library next Thursday, April 25, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Click on the Books link to order it and my other books online. Books ordered over the next few weeks will go out with Ruthie's autograph as well as mine.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Inside the Shelton Gang Book Out Saturday

Inside the Shelton Gang: One Daughter's Discovery will have its debut Saturday at the Wayne County Press office in downtown Fairfield, Illinois, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The book is written by Ruthie Shelton, daughter of "Little Carl" Shelton and grandniece of the infamous Shelton Brothers, and co-authored by Jon Musgrave of

Inside the Shelton Gang tells the true story of what happens when a father’s wall of secrets begin to crumble and a family’s lost heritage of violence erupts from the front pages of history. For daughter Ruthie it’s a discovery that will forever change her life as she learns what it meant to be a Shelton in the days of Prohibition and the decades following, to be a member of a crime family that rivaled Al Capone’s for control of Illinois. 

While written from Ruthie's point of view, she's added stories passed down from her father and other relatives, as well as from folks she's met over the last few years researching the book.

I met Ruthie while researching for my ever-expanding history of Southern Illinois in the 1920s. We joined forces and is publishing the book. My role has been to flesh out the historical research she started on the gang, especially in the gang's early years in the 1920s.

It's been quite the experience and I think readers will enjoy the more personable approach to non-fiction writing that Ruthie brings to the table.

Books are available to order now at or simply click on the Books link at the top of the page.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Faces Lead Historic Preservation Agency

After a few years of little contact with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency that's changed with the resumption of the Illinois Amistad Commission. There's a number of new faces now.
  • Sara Meek is the new legislative liaison for the agency. She started Feb. 18 and made the news this week as she's the first person to hold that position in the agency which has been fraught with budget cuts over the last decade or so. She has a close relationship with at least one lawmaker, her mother, state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur. I had a chance to meet with her last month at the first meeting of the new Amistad Commission in Chicago. She offered good first impressions and should help the agency. It's not just funding issues that the agency faces. At some point there will need to be legislative solutions if the agency will still be able to fulfill its missions.

  • Amy Martin is the relatively new director that I also got to meet for the first time at the Amistad Commission meeting. She started last May. She had previously served as acting deputy director of regional outreach for Illinois Main Street in the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs. First impressions: I like the fact she doesn't hesitate to say what she thinks, or at least what she thinks should be said when it comes to her agency. I also like what I've read about the new directions she wants to take the agency. More on that below.

  • Alyson Grady now heads the Historic Sites Division which oversees the Old Slave House among other sites. I have not met her yet but hope to do so soon. There's already been one major change in historic sites that makes sense from both a management and a tourism perspective. Grady announced last month that all five state-owned historic sites in Springfield will be under the management of a single site superintendent. More on that later as well.

  • Kristy Bond started Feb. 11 as the agency's new marketing director. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum used to have a position, but Bond's new job not only covers the museum but the agency's other locations statewide. 
Also in terms of personnel changes, Evelyn Taylor, the agency's long-time Constituent Services Division Manager who oversees the educational programs and publications is retiring. Her last day is today.

The 2012 Annual Report for the agency was her last major project.

In her previous position at the Illinois Main Street program Martin worked with communities to expand local economies at the intersection of economic development and historic preservation. That is an attitude greatly need in IHPA.

(It's not so much that her predecessors were opposed to it, but were more focused on maintaining whatever they could of the agency's core mission and responsibilities. Today the agency has suffered more in proportion to its budget and staffing than any other agency in the state. Martin, it seems, is ready to think outside the box.)

Here's what she told the State Journal-Register when she was hired last year.
"One of the things I hope to continue (at IHPA) is by generating revenue at all of the historic sites – it's important, especially important for us, to bring in that essential funding during these tough economic times," Martin said.

Martin declined to go into specifics about her plans, saying she will confer with her staff and review their accomplishments.

Martin said she applied for the IHPA position because of her Main Street background.

"I am very interested in how historic preservation can be used as an economic development tool," Martin said. "Through my efforts with that program at DCEO, I worked a lot with IHPA staff and historic preservation."

Did you notice that part about "generating revenue" at historic sites. That's been a major roadblock agency. They've not been expected to generate revenue. In fact, the General Assembly whether as individual lawmakers making threatening phone calls, or acting collectively, have actively discouraged the agency for generating revenue through one-time event fees or admission fees.

The historic sites division has gone from 148 to around 67 staff members in the last decade. That figure is a year or so old so it is probably worse now. Many historic sites, if they are still open, are down to just one full-time person. Obviously, the trend can't continue or the agency will be forced to close down additional sites.

Not only is that bad for history, but for local economies that rely on tourism to be a part of their economic mix. It's also bad for efforts to re-open the state's other sites which have been stuck in limbo for years if not decades. We're starting Year 13 of state ownership of the Old Slave House with no plan in site to re-open it. Even worse, it's around Year 67 for the Shawneetown State Bank historic site that remains closed.

That Martin actually recognizes the role her agency plays in economic development represents a major step forward. My biggest disappointment with 1990s-era Brent Manning at the Illinois Department of Conservation was his reluctance, and even denial, that state parks somehow didn't have a role in Illinois tourism.

I had a conversation regarding these themes a few years ago with Justin Blandford who's now tasked with overseeing five state historic sites in Springfield. At the time, he was with the Old State Capitol site, but was also acting as the interim director of the Historic Sites Division at the time. Coming up from a well-visited historic site he understood the issues of lack of coordination between sites and the simple fact that Springfield tourists who come to see Lincoln sites don't care about the administrative make-up of the agencies involved, they just want a coherent, entertaining and educational experiences.

He's explained the current moves at the start of the year to the Springfield paper.

"What we will be moving toward is where we have the flexibility to assign staff among all the sites," said Blandford. "While that seems like a very simple action, that did not happen very much in the past."

He said administrative staff also can be assigned to more front-line duties. "I also see myself doing more at all the sites," said Blandford.

Blandford, who is moving his office from the Old Capitol to the Dana-Thomas House, said the changes should not be noticeable in the day-to-day experience of visitors.

Operating hours remain the same, and a variety of special events, including the “History Comes Alive” living history program, will be scheduled again this year. Each site also will retain its unique look and identity, he said.

"We want to make sure people understand what this is not. This isn’t any quick and fast changes of these sites," said Blandford. "We hope this uplifts the confidence the volunteers, the community members, the business sponsors and the staff have in these sites.

"That's a major component of this: continuing to support morale and to give new confidence that all these sites are solid for what they do for the community, both economically and historically," Blandford said.

The staff cuts aren't so good but the agency appears to be responding in the right direction.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Video Shows Old Slave House Dig

The Illinois Archeology Survey posted a video earlier this year highlighting three digs from 2011, including the Old Slave House at Equality and the Cahokian complex near East St. Louis where the new interstate bridge will cross the Mississippi River.

The 13:13 minute video shows Illinois archaeologists out in the field.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

WBEZ Offers Nice Feature on Hull House

WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago offers a nice feature on the origins of Jane Addams' Hull House. John R. Schmitt has the story.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Herrin Massacre still stands out 90 years later

Today's the 90th anniversary of the Herrin Massacre on June 22, 1922.
HERRIN — It's been 90 years today since 20 replacement workers and guards died at the hands of a mob organized by the United Mine Workers of America in what's still the largest massacre of workers initiated by a union in America's history. A driver for the mine, later died from a separate ambush the day before, bringing the count to 21.

Three U.M.W.A. miners are also counted among the victims bringing the total to 24. They died following an attack on the Lester strip mine the previous day as well. The mine stood about a half mile north of the present-day Williamson County Pavilion and then halfway between the county's largest community of Herrin and the county seat of Marion.

The attack of June 22, 1922, quickly became known as the Herrin Massacre and helped blacklist nationwide the county as Bloody Williamson where more than 70 men, women and children were killed during a five-year period as Klan violence and a gang war followed in its aftermath.
For the rest of the story check out Part 1 of my five-part series can be found at the 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tom's Place Owners Celebrate 15 Years at Historic Eatery

Lasse and Maryjane Sorensen, owners of Tom's Place, arguably the premiere food establishment in Southern Illinois, will celebrate their 15th year as owners of the historic restaurant in 2012. With the anniversary will come additional improvements.

The Southern Illinoisan ran a nice feature Sunday on the former 20s roadhouse. Today, Tom's Place "one of 3,000 worldwide to have earned a Wine Spectator Award and was awarded a five-star Award of Excellence from the North American Restaurant Association."

It's come along way since Tom Endsley opened his place around 1923 one and one-miles north of DeSoto on the hard road that was then Illinois Rt. 2, now U.S. Rt. 51. Fried chicken and frog legs topped the menu then. Now, "the menu will often feature items like guinea fowl, Boston lobsters, oysters from the Pacific Northwest and fish from both coasts."

This year, the Sorensens have many special plans for celebrating 15 years in the business, including special events geared at introducing new customers to Tom's Place by offering a lower price point. A calendar of events for the year will soon be released on the restaurant's website.

Among the highlights are a prime rib night, the annual Easter breakfast buffet, weekly wine dinners, a morel mushroom feast and an evening of Spanish cuisine.

The article didn't have nearly as much history as I would have liked, so here's a bit more from my Bloody Williamson research.

During Prohibition agents raided the roadhouse a few times, but unlike other establishments, Endsley focused on the food and entertainment.

On July 6, 1928, a prohibition agent visited Tom’s Place pretending to be a former druggist wanting to sell his stock of medicinal alcohol to Endsley. After they talked for a while Endsley brought out a couple of beers for the two men to drink.

A few days later a larger group of prohibition agents arrived and confiscated several bottles of “alleged home brew” from his ice book. The Murphysboro paper noted that the “men were socialable, bought cigars and sandwiches for themselves and some patrons who happened to be in there at the time. They called Tom by his first name and were congenially inclined.”

Endsley asked one of the agents why they raided him so much. “We told him he should just sell to his friends.”

In 1929, he advertised "Tom's New Place," though it's not clear if he meant a new location or just a new addition to the building.

The raids didn't bother his business. By the end of the decade he was hosting the Carbondale chapter of the Business & Professional Women's luncheons, as well as regular weekly dinners for bridge clubs. He added a miniature golf course no later than 1930 and three outdoor bowling lanes in 1931.

Endsley sold the restaurant to Joe Moroni in 1940, who took over Sunday morning, Sept. 1. Here's how The Daily Independent in Murphysboro covered it on Aug. 28.

Thomas Endsley, proprietor of the tavern for 17 years, verified reports of the deal today and said that “everything will be turned over to Mr. Moroni next Sunday morning.”

Mr. Endsley spoke of Moroni as an experienced caterer who formerly had the management of The Villa, a tavern not far north in State Route 3 of the Colony Club, near the Cape Girardeau “Y.” He expressed the wish that his patrons continue to favor the tavern of their preference.

Mr. and Mrs. Endsley intend to rest for several months. Then Mr. Endsley will turn his attention to some other pursuit, he said.

“Tom’s Place” was built on its reputation for fried frog legs and chicken, and good management. Mr. Endssey, who has been county supervisor for years from De Soto, for some time had intended to retire from the business. He had erected a splendid home at DeSoto with this in mind and enjoys a 150-acre tract for fishing and hunting in the “wilds” of the strip mine country, which he is developing.

Mr. Endsley said Moroni intends to retrain the present tavern personnel.

Moroni had a long history in the hospitality industry. His father Louis had previously operated the Ozark Resort at Creal Springs in the 1920s and 30s. Before that his father and uncles ran taverns throughout the country both before and during Prohibition.

Moroni ran the restaurant for nearly 28 years until he sold it to F. M. "River" Hewitt in April 1968.

Note: Post corrected on Nov. 6, 2013, changing P. M. Hewitt to F. M. Hewitt, the year of the sale to 1968, and Frank Moroni to his brother Joe Moroni.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Carmi — As It Appeared in 1928

While researching a query for someone tonight I just came across these videos linked from the White County ILGenWeb site.

I'm not familiar with downtown Carmi enough to recognize these buildings, but these films of scenes from 1928 provide a wonderful glimpse of life in the early 20th Century of Southern Illinois.

Here's Part II of the video, the only part I'm able to embed. This part includes residential sections, the First National Bank, the cemetery and golfers hitting the links at the local golf course. There's a school, presumably the high school as it's fairly large, and speaking of fairs, next up is the racetrack and grandstand at the fairgrounds.

Follow the link for Part 1 (17.11 minutes)

Thanks to Cindy Birk-Conley for offering the film to be uploaded to YouTube.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Feast fit for a governor, Egyptian-style, 61 years ago tonight

While researching the story of a young Herrin woman dating a member of the Shelton Gang back in 1920s, I came across this story of a feast prepared by her boss, Nick Tudoff, some 14 years later for Illinois' governor.

The woman in question had been shot during a robbery of Tudoff's restaurant and the neighboring confectionery where she worked as a waitress. Interestingly, her suitor had been shot and killed the night before east of Herrin.

The Daily Independent of Murphysboro carried the following story on Dec. 19, 1940, about an Egyptian feast prepared for Gov. John Stelle, who was from Southern Illinois and was later buried at McLeansboro.

It's late as I write this. I'm full, but still my stomach's growing with anticipation.

Murphysboro and Herrin Men Carry Foods to Governor

Stelle in Role of "Pharoah" Receives From Egypt Rich Morsels and Red Wine

SPRINGFIELD, ILL., Dec. 19 -- (UP) -- Gov. John H. Stelle played the role of "Pharaoh" last night when a delegation of legionnaire friends appeared at the executive mansion bearing baskets laden with food from the "Little Egypt" area of Southern Illinois.

The food, it was said, consisted of the Governor's favorite dishes. Main course was Italian ravioli cooked in broth made from the "fat of the lamb of Egypt" and served with a sauce seasoned with "spices grown down Egypt way."

Other dishes included thick bacon rolled in corn meal, Italian garlic sausage, Italian peppers seasoned in wine vinegar, Egyptian corn crust bread, Egyptian peaches and red wine.

Supervising the final preparation of the food was Chef Nick Tudoff of Herrin. Others present included:

Loren Margrave, Tom Shannon, John Bandino, Harry Calcertino [probably Calcaterra], Frank Felts, Harvey Yuill, Harry Pollock, W. D. Toll, C. V. Walker, Paul Harris, and James Bailey, all of Herrin; and Ray Hubbs and Gordon Franklin of Murphysboro.

Some time ago the Herrin-Murphysboro boys asked if they could expect "Governor John," Illinois' first Legionnaire governor, to take time out for a feed on genuine Italian ravioli, pork in a corn meal jacket, pickled peppers, salad, meat, and the wine that is read in "Little Egypt,"-- meaning the wine of the grape as the American boys with forebears in sunny Italy know how to make it.

"John" said: "Come arunning," and the delegation left by car Wednesday afternoon with provisions in great hampers dispatched ahead of them.

The state's "First Lady" promised to look in on the party last night.

Governor Stelle has many Legionnaire and other friends down south in Illinois.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Interstate 57 Marks 50 Years of Traveling

MARION, Ill. (Sept. 26, 2011) -- Today marks the 50th anniversary of first dedication of Interstate 57.

On Sept. 26, 1961, Gov. Otto Kerner dedicated the first 30-mile stretch of the Chicago to Cairo superhighway. At the time motorists could drive only from Marion down to Dongola.

The Southern Illinoisan quoted Kerner at the time claiming the route through the Shawnee Hills as “one of the most scenic to be found in the entire 41,000 mile national interstate system.”

Illinois had 1,589 miles of planned interstates, but only about one-third ready and open to the public.

Kerner bragged that when completed, the interstate system “would make it possible for motorists to leave the point where we are assembled today and drive from coast to coast and from border to border without encountering a single traffic light.”
Work on the interstate began in the 1950s. At the time engineers priced the 50-mile stretch “though the hill county of southern Illinois” at $21 million, according to an Oct. 17, 1959, article in the Mt. Vernon Register-News.

Interstate 64 was part of the original plans for the state’s interstate system, but not Interstate 24. Originally, planners called for I-64 to cross the region from Vincennes, Ind., to St. Louis, intersecting I-57 at Salem. Only due to strong pressure in Indiana to move the interstate closer to Evansville helped pulled the route down to Mount Vernon.

Although not part of the original system, U.S. Rep. Ken Gray hinted at the future I-24 as early as Mar. 8, 1960, according to the Register-News.

By using a southerly alignment of Route 64 it may be possible to utilize Interstate 57 from a point south of Mount Vernon, Ill., to Pulley’s Mill south of Marion, Ill., and a newly constructed road from Pulley’s Mill across the Ohio River to Nashville, Tenn., and points south,” Gray said, accurately predicting the eventual route.

When I-57 opened in 1961, only the 20-year-old Motel Marion stood close to the interstate, luckily for them as a new Route 13 had opened along DeYoung St., on the north side of Marion a couple of years earlier. The four-lane portion of Route 13 only ran from Fair Street on the east side of Marion west to Illinois Route 148. From there it was just two lanes to Carbondale.

The Motel Marion added a new pool and completely rebuilt their rooms to compete for interstate travelers, bragging about Georgia cypress paneling, glass shower doors and lavanettes in the bathrooms. The sleeping rooms included walnut furniture, brown and tweed carpeting, television sets and colored telephones.

Marion Castellano broke ground on the first modern multi-story hotel on DeYoung St. in the summer of 1960. It opened eventually as the Travelodge in Nov. 1962. It later became the Family Inn and then the Heritage Inn before closing in the 1980s.
Rep. Gray’s brother Ralph Gray opened up the Marion Gray Plaza motel in the summer of 1963.

Ralph Gray and three Harrisburg businessmen developed the 101-room Ramada Inn on the east side of the interstate in Marion which opened in July 1967. The coffee shop had half barrels in the ceiling and became the city's first Cracker Barrel when it opened. Today the inn is operated as a Days Inn.

Carbondale Holiday Inn owner Stan Hoy announced plans for a new Marion hotel in 1968. The new Holiday Inn with then just 100 rooms opened in June 1969. It later became a Travelodge and finally an Executive Inn before closing in the last decade. A new Holiday Inn Express is currently under construction in the city up on The Hill.

Gov. Kerner came back to the region on Nov. 1, 1962, to open the next stretch of I-57 from Marion to Johnston City. The West Frankfort interchange opened the following year and by 1965, the interstate opened for traffic as far north as Mount Vernon.

One interesting tidbit about the original construction. when the state bought the land for Exit 30, the I-57 interchange with Illinois Route 146 east of Anna, a small park had to be relocated. Known as King Neptune Park, it was the final resting place of a 700-pound hog whose patriotic duty during World War II helped generate $19 million in sales of war bonds.

Eventually, his remains and a marker was placed along Route 146 a few miles east of the interchange. In recent years though a new marker has been placed at the Trail of Tears Welcome Center along the interstate just north of the interchange.

Dedications and ribbon cuttings continue 50 years after the interstate opened. State and local officials will open Marion’s newest ramp onto the interstate off of Morgan Avenue this Thursday.