Thursday, December 03, 2009

Illinois' Slave History Talk Set for Dec. 12

Union County historian Darrell Dexter will offer an intersting presentation on Sunday, December 12, 2009, about the history of one particular slave family from Union County. Descendants of both the slave and the slave master's family are expected to attend.

The Southern Illinoisan has an article:
Dexter has traced the life of Daugherty, who was brought into Illinois as a 5-year-old slave in 1810. His master, Owen Evans, was a tavern keeper and territorial legislator who had settled around 1807 in the western part of what is now Union County. Evans became indebted and began selling his slaves in 1819. He took Harry's mother north and sold her to pay some of his debts. A few years later Owens moved to Tipton County, Tennessee, taking Harry along.

In 1833, Harry ran away from the Evans plantation in Tennessee and headed north to find his mother. He was captured in Southern Illinois and turned over to Owen Evans' brother, George, in Union County. Harry filed a freedom suit in Johnson County, but a judge in Vienna ordered Harry to be auctioned off to pay debts that Owen Evans had left behind when he moved from Illinois.

Harry's lawyer was John Dougherty of Jonesboro, who later became an Illinois lieutenant governor. Dougherty purchased Harry at the auction in front of the courthouse for $33.

Dexter's presentation will be at 2 p.m. during the monthly meeting of the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois in the library at John A. Logan College in Carterville, Illinois. The public is invited.

Dexter, who edited Saga, the society's quarterly prior to going back for his master's degree, has long researched the history of African-American settlements in Southern Illinois, through the mostly-forgotten court records that have survived in our region's courthouses.

I found his early work published in Saga as well as a new history of Union County, extremely helpful in my work on researching the Old Slave House. He has a new book coming out sometime next year based on the work he did for his thesis. The book's title is Bondage in Egypt: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in Southern Illinois. Southeast Missouri State University Press is the publisher.

CORRECTION - Actually it's SEMO's Center for Regional History that's publishing the Dexter's new book. While they are already taking pre-orders ($20, plus, $4 s/h), the book won't be out until "early next year".

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nashville Artist's Music Mines Region's History



The song's story may be fictional in terms of the disaster at the Muddy mine, but the sentiment certainly is real for the coal mines of that era. Also, the photographs in the video come from the Saline County Historical Society in Harrisburg.

The singer-songwriter behind this is Rocky Alvey, a Saline County native who's now the assistant director at Vanderbilt's Dyer Observatory just outside Nashville, Tennessee.

He's got more of these Southern Illinois songs, including Hardin County Line, Shawneetown and Grand Pier Creek, just to name a view. All are on his latest album, Blackberry Jam. Listen to some of the songs on his MySpace page.

If Blackberry Jam focuses on Southern Illinois places, his next project mines the history of the region's bloody 1920s history. Although the title song hasn't been released publicly, it's really good I can tell you. He's also getting good reviews on it from others in the Nashville music industry.

In the video below he talks about the Muddy song.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

French Colonial Era Movie Set to Premiere



The Marion Cultural and Civic Center will host the Marion premiere of Under These Same Stars: The Celedon Affair later this month on Tuesday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m.

The film, set in 1773 during the French settlement of Illinois and Missouri, was filmed on location in Southern Illinois and the Ste. Genevieve, Mo., area.
Under These Same Stars - the Celadon Affair is a brand new, feature length, independent film from CĂ©ladon Films LLC of Webster Groves, Missouri and Alto Pass, Illinois.

Based on a true story from 1773 and shot in the historic homes of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, in Cahokia, Illinois, and at rural locations across Southern Illinois, Under These Same Stars tells a tale of CĂ©ladon, a mixed race hunter and his struggles with love, loss, and his dual life in town and in the Ozark wilderness. This is set in a time of Native and Black slavery and French, Spanish and English colonial rule along the central Mississippi Valley.

The Southern Illinoisan has covered the project during filming as well as last month when announcing the premieres. Their first story ran in May 2008, and the second story ran last month.

Tickets are available at the civic center box office at $7 for adults and $5 for students. As a history junkie and someone interested in films from Southern Illinois, I plan to be there. Hope you will be to.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Herrin Massacre Song Recalls Era

I just found a neat video on YouTube about the Herrin Massacre. It was just posted this summer by a folk singer from Southeast Missouri. Here it is.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

89th Anniversary of 19th Amendment

Today's the 89th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution giving women the right to vote.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Many states had already allowed women to vote in state or local elections, including Illinois, which was the first state to ratify the 19th.

One of the earliest, if not the first, woman elected in Southern Illinois was Emma Rebman, county superintendent of Johnson County. Her 1912 biographical sketch in the G. W. Smith's History of Southern Illinois tells the story.

On her return to Illinois in the spring of 1910, Miss Rebman's large circle of acquaintances were glad to take advantage of the opportunity of offering her an important office of public trust. She was elected superintendent of Johnson County schools, by the largest majority any nominee of the county had ever received. The heavy duties of her office have been discharged with exceptional efficiency and a rare quality of discrimination which is the result of her wide experiences, keen pedagogical instinct and her logically practical mind.

In addition to her educational expertise, she's probably better remembered today for her homeplace. She operated Ferne Clyffe as a private campground which she later sold to the Greater Egypt Association following World War II to hold until the state could purchase it for a state park.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Book, New Human Remains at Cahokia Mounds

The idea that the residents of the ancient metropolis at Cahokia Mounds were somehow more civilized than their blood-thirsty cousins south of the border takes a major hit in a recent new book as the Chicago Tribune reports

Exhibits at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near Collinsville have shown ancient peoples as hunters, fishers and pottery makers.

But Tim Pauketat's new book highlights a darker side, saying it appears they also practiced large-scale human sacrifices.


The book is Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi. The link above is to a much longer story in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Meanwhile in related news, construction crews uncovered 800 to 900-year-old human remains last week while digging a foundation for a new home in Collinsville. Experts believe them to be from the Mounds civilization.

IHPA To Remain Free, Independent & Improverished

Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 88 into law last Friday which represents a legislative pardon for plans to merge the financially-strapped Illinois Historic Preservation Agency with the Department of Natural Resources.

The bill was titled the "Lieutenant Governor Vacancy Act" and mostly dealt with issues from the elevation of Quinn to the governorship. Under Illinois' Constitution, no replacement is named for the lieutenant governor's seat when it becomes vacant. However, by statute certain programs are assigned to the office.

The bill also transfers the Illinois Main Street program from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity back to the lieutenant governor's office.

Now we'll wait to see what happens.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

1905 Boeheim House Recognized in DuQuoin

The DuQuoin Historic Preservation Commission recognized Jane Minton last week with its historic preservation award for her home her grandfather grandfather built in 1905.

The DuQuoin Evening Call as the story.

The home is located at 223 E North Street in DuQuoin, Illinois.

Congratulations Minton and the DuQuoin Historic Preservation Commission.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bloody Williamson Firepower Returns

Two keys pieces of the firepower used during the days of Bloody Williamson have returned to Southern Illinois for the first time in more than 80 years.

S. Glenn Young was famous for his Thompson machine gun, his World War I era rifle, and his pearl handed revolvers. As head spokesman and gunman for the Ku Klux Klan in this area from 1923 to January 1925, Young ranks was one of the leading figures of that violent era.

Two of his weapons were recently bought from his daughter and grandson, the latter I had the opportunity to meet in June. Look for an announcement or two in the next few weeks as to what museum will take them on display.

I know the answer of course, but it's not my place to make the announcement. The revolver was last fired on the night Young was killed.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lincoln's Breakfast in Southern Illinois

In the process of cleaning up my office I found a couple of Springhouse magazines I had set aside for the articles inside.

One dealt with "Bloody Herrin", a pro-Klan pamphlet by Rudolph Lasker published in 1925 shortly after the great European Hotel shootout that killed Klan gunman S. Glenn Young, anti-Klan leader Ora Thomas (who was also the chief deputy sheriff at the time), and two of Young's gunmen.

As a journalist you always want to get both sides. The same is true as a historian, but I have to admit it's been a bit strange for me this summer to talk with the grandsons of both men, at least one of whom killed the other (the grandfathers, not the grandsons). As to which one killed whom, that's debatable as both sides published their version of what happened that January night in 1925.

As to what I think happened, you'll have to read my new book coming out this fall, War in Egypt: Southern Illinois in the Days of Bloody Williamson.

As to the second issue of Springhouse I found in my stacks of books and articles, it was Gary DeNeal's, "My Very Own Lincoln Discovery" from the Vol. 2, No. 6 issue in 2005. What I found interesting was a Lincoln in Southern Illinois story Gary thought he'd seen no where else, which I agree with him.

The story came from J. W. Watson, an artist and writer who told his story to the North American Review, the first literary magazine published in the United States back in 1815. Watson's recollections were printed in November 1888 under the headline "With Four Great Men".

...[Lincoln] related how, when he was a young man, after traveling all night, cramped up in a stage, in southern Illinois, he stopped at a small wayside Inn, where he had fried chicken, buckwheat cakes and coffee for breakfast.

"Such coffee, sir I have to say nothing of the buckwheat cakes and chicken, I had never before tasted. It was delicious, and as I found out afterward was simply made from parched rye."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Herrin Massacre Novelist to Discuss Story Saturday

The Roaring 20s remains a popular subject for both historians and writers. There are a number of projects in the works, some announced, others not. I'm working on some of them, but there are others as well.

Tomorrow, Saturday, July 25, University of Illinois instructor John Griswold will be signing copies of his new novel, "A Democracy of Ghosts", which is based on the 1922 Herrin Massacre. The main character Bill Sneed, is based on his real-life grandfather William J. Sneed, who was Williamson County's state senator at the time and as well as the District 12 president of the United Mine Workers of America.

The historic Sneed was out of town on the day of the massacre, which I'm sure was a calculated decision. According to testimony in the subsequent murder trials, District Vice President Hugh Willis was the instigator of the riot at the power house as he rallied the miners to shoot their replacements. However, Griswold tweaks the history to put the fictional Sneed in the middle of the action.

Griswold will speak about his book at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Bookworm bookstore in Carbondale's Eastgate Shopping Center at 618 E. Walnut.

Scott Doody of Anna, formerly of "The Working Man" show on WXAN-AM is also working on a documentary about the Herrin Massacre. I haven't talked to him for a few months when he came into the Williamson County Historical Museum while I was there doing some research. It's supposed to be ready sometime this summer or early fall.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Is the End Near for IHPA?

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announce plans to merge the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency into the Department of Natural Resources during his first budget address to lawmakers.

The move isn't surprising. I told a staffer in the then-Lt. Governor's office that I didn't expect IHPA to survive intact. The agency's Historic Sites Division has lost 60 percent of their staffing since 2000. Even if Quinn restores the cuts made by Gov. Blagojevich last fall, that means there's a 40 percent cut in staff.

While many people feel state government is bloated, I can assure you that IHPA is not the agency where you are going to find a lot of fat. That's been trimmed along with a lot of muscle.

Even with a restoration of recent cutbacks which would reopen the French Colonial sites in Randolph County there's still seven IHPA-owned sites in southeastern Illinois from Lawrenceville down to Golconda that don't have any staff.

Even if all of the late Ryan-era retirements and the Blagojevich-era cuts were restored, there would be just one state employee for those seven sites.

IHPA's heyday occurred during the Thompson Administration when it was spun off from state parks in the Department of Conservation. During the 1990-91 recession Jim Edgar had to slash state spending and IHPA took hits from which to this day they have never recovered.

Historic sites are forgotten assets that need to remembered. I don't see Quinn's move as good or bad for the agency, just expected. What comes next is what will really be important.