Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Good Home-Town Coverage

The Marion Daily Republican's Cherri Flinn covered a recent book signing for Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw: The Real Story of the Old Slave House.

The article focuses on my interesting incident with a violent drunk driver.

MARION — Although writing a book and getting it published is extremely difficult, promoting it can be equally as challenging. For local author Jon Musgrave a strange twist of fate landed him in the hospital curtailing his holiday book promotion.

Musgrave had planned to use the month of November to publicize the reprint of his book, "Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw," from paperback to hard cover. However, an assault by a drunk driver who beat him with a shovel, fractured his elbow with a laceration to the bone, which caused severe nerve damage to his left hand.
Here's what the rest of the week looks like.

Wednesday, Dec. 21
11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – The Book Worm in Carbondale.

Thursday, Dec. 22
9 a.m. to noon – Waldenbooks in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.
6 to 9 p.m. – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Friday, Dec. 23
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Cata’s Books in the VF Outlet Mall in West Frankfort.
3 to 6 p.m. – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Saturday, Dec. 24
9 a.m. to noon – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.
1 to 4 p.m. – Waldenbooks in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Commen Sense

It just seem so appropriate for this day and age.

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it should. American patriot Thomas Paine wrote this December 23, 1776, in a series called The American Crisis.

Thanks to the Power Line blog for the reminder.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Book Signings

Between physical therapy three times a week and book signings I'm planning on staying busy now through Christmas.

Saturday, Dec 10
12 to 4:30 p.m. – Ice Age Symposium at Southeastern Illinois College at Harrisburg

Sunday, Dec. 11
1 to 3 p.m. – Barnes & Noble in Carbondale.

Wednesday, Dec. 14
7:30 to 10 a.m. – Latta Java in Marion.

Thursday, Dec 15
9 a.m. to noon – Cata’s Books in the VF Outlet Mall in West Frankfort.

Friday, Dec. 16
11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – The Book Emporium in Harrisburg.
2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. – Waldenbooks in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Saturday, Dec. 17
12 to 3 p.m. – B. Dalton in Fairview Heights.

Sunday, Dec. 18
1 to 4 p.m. – Waldenbooks in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Monday, Dec. 19
11. a.m. to 1 p.m. – The Buzz in downtown Benton.
2 to 5 p.m. – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Tuesday, Dec. 20
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Cata’s Books in the VF Outlet Mall in West Frankfort.

Wednesday, Dec. 21
11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – The Book Worm in Carbondale.

Thursday, Dec. 22
9 a.m. to noon – Waldenbooks in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.
6 to 9 p.m. – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Friday, Dec. 23
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – Cata’s Books in the VF Outlet Mall in West Frankfort.
3 to 6 p.m. – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Saturday, Dec. 24
9 a.m. to noon – Gospeland in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.
1 to 4 p.m. – Waldenbooks in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hate-filled Rhetoric

Got an interesting, if not creatively spelled e-mail today, taking me to task about the section on IllinoisHistory.com concerning Indian massacres in Southern Illinois.

I happened to run across the S. IL. website about Native American History of IL. I was shocked and appaled that you had a section on Indian Massacres. Why don't you list all the GENOCIDAL Massacre of almost all the Native Americans In Il. by the white Invaders ,Murderers and Rapists?!! I suppose if adolph hitler won WW2 there would only be a handful of people today who would know about the Holocaust. I'm going to send this blatant RASCIST website to many many Native American organization and other Human Rights groups. Think about IT!!!

Since the writer's e-mail bounced I'll share my reply.

I don't appreciate being falsely maligned as a racist, especially from someone who has trouble spelling the word.

If you are willing to apologize I'll discuss the matter with you. If not, it's your loss.

I have no doubt that Indians were unfairly attacked at times. Two of the leading Indian-haters in the region in the early 19th Century were murderers Thomas Griffee who lived in what is now Williamson County and the infamous Col. John Moredock of Monroe County.

The trouble with the e-mail writer is that history simply doesn't support the idea of "the GENOCIDAL Massacre of almost all the Native Americans In Il."

The only attack on an Indian village in the region that I've found is Vernon H. Crest's version of the Battle of the Long Ridge between Equality and Harrisburg. Though his version of the story doesn't mention it, this incident from February 1813 came just after the Mound City Massacre that set off the Creek Civil War. It may be the basis for the vague recollection I've come across from locals referring to a "White's Massacre".

Leonard White of the saltworks at Equality led the American forces at the Long Ridge so the two incidents may be one and the same. It should also be noted that I've never found a 19th Century account of this event.

The closest incident of attempted genocide took place in the late 17th Century during the Iroquois Wars when the Iroquois massacred a great number of Illini Indians at the Battle of Kaskaskia near modern-day Peoria in 1680.

The Illinois Confederacy had already lost to the Winnebago and would eventually tick off every other neighboring tribe much to their detriment.

One of the remaining unsolved mysteries in Southern Illinois is what really happened to the Indians. Intrigingly there's a growing amount of evidence that many simply assimilated into the backdrop of the Shawnee Hills, especially the Shawnee.

In the Cache River Valley it appears that Cherokees settled into the area more than three decades before the Trail of Tears. They were joined by members of other tribes over the years including at least two Lakota Sioux youth who fled their tribe's village on the Little Big Horn in 1876 a day after Gen. Custer's last stand. (One of those teens later served as a deputy sheriff in Pulaski County in the 1920s.)

Up near St. Louis to the north in Calhoun County it appears that after the Tamaroa signed a treaty to go west, most simply returned to their homes and still maintained a distinct identity until the early 20th Century. Native speakers could still be found up into the 1970s.

I guess my point is to not jump to conclusions when dealing with history you know little about.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

First Thanksgiving Letter Revealing

Edward Winslow's letter of December 11, 1621, remains the only near contempory account of the first Thanksgiving by the Pilgrims.

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after have a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

Book Signings

With the holiday shopping season approaching I have a number of book signings set up.

Friday, November 25
  • 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. — Gospeland bookstore in the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.
  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. — Cata's Books at the VF Outlet Mall in West Frankfort.

Saturday, November 26
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. — B. Dalton bookstore in Times Square Mall in Mount Vernon.

Tuesday, November 29
  • 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. — Taylor's Mini Mall (formerly The Book Daddy) at Fairfield.

I'll likely be at Gospeland bookstore later this Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon as well, it's just not on my official calendar.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Making Bloody Progress

This morning between the hours of midnight and 4:30 a.m. I finally was able to make some progress on wrapping up my latest book, The Bloody Vendetta of Southern Illinois.

I'm still a couple of chapters away from completion.

This was supposed to have gone to the printers earlier this month, but a drunk drver changed my plans.

Between the pain medication that's prevented me from concentrating to the one-handed typing, it's been diffiucult to get back in the mode of writing.

I'm still shooting for the book to be available by early to mid-December in time for Christmas.

From the back cover:

In the 1870s the Bloody Vendetta wreaked havoc in the heart of Southern Illinois leaving a half dozen men assassinated and property values in freefall. As a defense attorney Milo Erwin represented many of the suspects involved. Following the trials of 1875 and 1876, Erwin published the first detailed account of
the Vendetta. Now Jon Musgrave pieces together the rest of the story, combining Erwin's work with contemporary newspaper accounts as well as modern research. From the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan as they took advantage of the chaos, to the
events of what happened after Erwin wrote his book, Musgrave connects the dots from the Vendetta to the Civil War era Aiken Gang to the second generation of outlaws including the ill-famed Jennings Gang of the Wild West and later Hollywood, to the
robberies and murder in the Carterville and Carbondale area of the mid 1890s.

The book will be a 6" x 9" paperback, at least 224 pages and will retail for $14.95. (ISBN: 0-9707984-6-6)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Illinoize Gearing Up for Illinois Politics

Rich Miller with Capitol Fax is starting a new group blog on Illinois politics and has asked yours truly to participate.

Go, check it out. It's at capitalfax.blogspot.com.

Wild Things

Watch your back boys. them Texas roadkill critters are on the way to Egypt.

The Daily Egyptian is reporting thatb armadillo sightings are on the rise herer in Southern Illinois.

Armadillos provide several services. They eat insects, help till soil, and in a pinch, they can make a tasty meal.

Hitching rides in railroad cars and barges up from the south, armadillos have begun to migrate to southern Illinois. The armored animals, often the victims of collisions with vehicles, were originally native to Central America, but in the 1800s, they appeared in the United States, according to Joyce Hufmann, a research scientist for the Illinois National History Survey.

Clay Nielsen, wildlife ecologist for the Cooperative Wildlife Research Lab at SIUC, said although it's too early to find out if these creatures are here for good, there is nothing to worry about.

Friday, November 18, 2005

SIU Tabs Poshard to Helm System

Congratulations go out to former U.S. Representative Glenn Poshard whom the SIU Board of Trustees announced this morning as the new president of the SIU system.

Congrats also go out to the trustees for not dragging the selection process out any longer than necessary. We all knew Poshard was the favorite.

There's a better picture of Poshard than the one above. The Marion Daily Republican has it here. It shows him ready to roll.

Confluence Gains New Work of Art?

At the risk of sounding like some old over-medicated fuddy-duddy, will someone explain to me the purpose of the stainless steel thingy unveiled Wednesday at Cairo.

This is art?

This is supposed to honor Lewis and Clark?

According to the article in today's Southern Illinoisan the 30 or so people present gave it "high marks". Really.

Please, I want to know what the locals really thought. Cairo is home to some real pieces of public art that have withstood decades of weather and still stand as a monument to the craftsmanship exerted in their creations.

Please America, stop foisting second-rate modern art onto historic sites and memorials.

Monday, November 14, 2005

L & C Sculpture Dedication Wednesdasy

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale officials and Cairo-area citizens will gather at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers this week to celebrate discoveries old and new.

Dedication ceremonies are set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16, for the Lewis & Clark Memorial Sculpture, installed in August at the confluence of the two mighty rivers in Fort Defiance State Park.

A reception will immediately follow the dedication at approximately 10:45 a.m. at the Cairo Custom House Museum, site of a Lewis & Clark exhibit. The public is welcome at both events.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Peoria Plans Big Museum Push

The Associated Press has a good piece today on Peoria's grand plans for a new museum.

By decade's end, one stop in downtown Peoria could land you at the controls of a giant Caterpillar Inc. earth-moving machine, behind the plate calling strikes at a high school baseball game or on a time-bending walk along the Illinois River dating back to the ice age.

All those could be part of an eclectic mix of historic, hands-on and high-tech fixtures at a proposed $100 million museum complex near the river's edge in this central Illinois city.

There's a reason better than just civic pride behind the idea.

Museum and tourism officials predict a hefty tourism payback - about $14 million a year - as they scurry to raise money that would put the facility on track to open in 2009...

Officials estimate 350,000 visitors a year would flock to Peoria-based Caterpillar's first worldwide visitor center, the first Illinois High School Association museum and hall of fame and new facilities for Peoria's Lakeview Museum and African American Hall of Fame.

What's driving the plan is this:

Culture has been a catalyst for cities from Denver to Tampa as U.S. museum visits surged from 486 million in 1989 to about 860 million today, pumping about $220 billion into the nation's economy annually, said Ed Able, president and CEO of the American Association of Museums.

The popularity rise parallels a shift over the last two decades from stodgy, static displays at museums to high-tech and hands-on exhibits that have made such facilities "intellectually accessible," Able said.

Here's a link to a synopsis of the plan. The headline above links to the main story.

Friday, November 11, 2005

White Wants Vets to Tell Their Stories

Illinois' top librarian and archivist is launching a new program to get veterans to record their war stories for future generations, as reported by WBBM 780.
Some of the most interesting history is in the details.

That's the premise of Secretary of State Jesse White, who is asking veterans to take part in the Illinois Veterans' History Project.

White remembered his own paratrooper training.

"Jumpmaster said, 'Southern jumpers die more often than Northern jumpers.'

We were kind of at a loss for that, and so one of the gentlemen from the South asked, 'Sarge, could you tell me, what do you mean by the Southern jumpers die more often than the Northern jumpers?' He said, 'When you exit the aircraft, you put your feet together, your knees together, hands on your reserve, and you count one-thousand, two-thousand, three-thousand, four-thousand, then you push your risers outward to make sure your canopy is fully inflated.

"'What the Southern jumpers do, they count one thousand-one, you all. One thousand-two, you all...."

Details can be found on White's office website.

Charlie Birger's 1920s Home Torn Down

The oft-overlooked refuge of 1920s gangster Charlie Birger bit the dust last week following a planned, but still violent, confrontation with a backhoe.

The homeplace for Birger's family stood just southeast across the highway from the Route 13 Huck's convenient store on the west side of Harrisburg.

Riding past it today I noticed the empty lot, but couldn't recall what exactly had stood there. However, thanks be given to Josie Brooks of The Book Emporium, for clueing me in to what I missed. She mentioned Brian DeNeal's article about the demolition.

HARRISBURG - The house of prohibition-era gangster Charlie Birger collapsed Wednesday under the claw of Roger Angelly's track hoe.

The house, across West Poplar Street from Hucks Convenience Store, is the future site of Central Hospital for Animals, now operating on Sloan Street.

Bill White, owner of nearby White's Florist, said the house had been in the White family since the 1940s and leaks began the steady destruction the track hoe completed.

White was too young to know the Birger family when they lived there from the early 1920s until April 19, 1928, the day of Birger's hanging at Benton.

Birger's death sentence was the penalty for Birger's orchestration of the murder of West City Mayor Joe Adams. The house was the site where Birger was arrested for the final time, 6 a.m. April 29, 1927, by Franklin County Sheriff Jim Pritchard and 11 deputies, according to Curtis G. Small's book, Mean Old Jail.

According to the story the only surprise came when the backhoe uncovered a cistern no one knew was there.

BTW, DeNeal is the son of Gary DeNeal, the biographer of Charlie Birger in his book, A Knight of Another Sort.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Illinois History Video Fair set for Nov. 30th

As part of its 26th annual Illinois History Symposium, the Illinois State Historical Society will host the 2nd Annual Illinois History Video Fair in the Carnegie Room at Lincoln Library in Springfield, 326 South Seventh Street, on November 30.

Five feature documentary films will be shown throughout the day beginning at 9:30 a.m. The Illinois History Video Fair is free and open to the public. Teachers, students, seniors, and school groups are welcome to attend.

The Video Fair includes the premiere of The Sangamon River: A Sense of Place, at 7 p.m. This 54-minute program, produced by the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Television Office, examines the people, ecology, history, and economy of the Sangamon River Valley. Filming for The Sangamon River began in January 1994, and features many residents of Sangamon, Menard, and Macon counties.

Documentaries include:
  • Expo — Magic of the White City: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (12:30 and 4:30 p.m.) is a 2-hour film narrated by Gene Wilder that explores the 400th anniversary celebration of Columbus’ discovery of America. Features hundreds of archival photographs and dramatic reenactments.

  • Artifacts & Heavy Timber: The Reconstruction of Fort Massac (9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.) is a one-hour documentary that explores the $4.7 million, three-year rebuilding of the frontier military fort in Metropolis, Illinois, which was completed in 2003. Included in the film are historical works of archaeologist Paul Maynard, whose 84-year-old findings provided a blueprint for the historically accurate replica. Springfield archaeologist and preservationist Floyd Mansberger, who worked on the project, is featured.

  • The Macomb Story (10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.) is a re-mastered and updated video version of a film of the same name, produced in 1984. This pictorial history about Macomb, Illinois, includes older material from the first film and picks up where it left off by focusing on Macomb’s growth and development since the film was first produced.

  • Prairie Tides: The Building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal (11:30 a.m.) chronicles the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and its impact on Illinois as a frontier state. The film documents how the canal helped transform Illinois into a state of commerce and industry.

  • The Sangamon River: A Sense of Place (7 p.m.) profiles the ecological, economic and cultural history of the Sangamon River, and features interviews with commercial fishermen, farmers, environmentalists, poets, and merchants who’ve made the river valley their home. Charles Schweighauser, the producer of the film, will introduce the program and lead a discussion afterwards.
For more information about the Illinois History Video Fair, the Illinois History Symposium, or the Illinois State Historical Society, call (217) 525-2781, or visit the Society’s website at www.historyillinois.org.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

First Responses

The pre-orders for the revised and expanded hardcover edition of Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw went out last week. So far I'm getting positive responses.

... received your hard cover copy of "Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw" today. Thanks. I shall read it in awe of the things that was going on in my part of the country.
— Paul C.

Got the books Jon, and they are great! Thanks a lot for doing all the work on these. I'm sure you enjoyed most all of it.
Take care, Eric W.
Jon, I received the books today. The Hardcopy is very nice. It was worth the wait.
— Larry D.

A Drunk, A Shovel, My Elbow — Ouch!

Got hit by a drunk driver Friday night wielding a shovel.

Only got out of the hospital last night. Can't use my left hand.

Blogging updates will be slow, but book orders are still going out.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

HeritageFest set for this weekend

Southeastern Illinois College is hosting its 28th Annual Heritage Festival this weekend at their location a few miles east of Harrisburg.

I'll be there both days with my books. Come by and buy one or two (or maybe one for everybody on your Christmas list). Autographed books make great presents.

You can also order online here

Expert Volunteers Redo David Davis Ceiling

There are at least a few people in IHPA willing to look outside the box for solutions when the budget is tight.

Way to go to those who volunteered!

From an IHPA news release ...

BLOOMINGTON, IL – What do you do when the ceiling falls in, and the repair bill will put your budget through the roof? If it’s the 102-year-old painted canvas ceiling at the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington, you let the experts fix it – for free.

“We are overwhelmed by the response from the Bloomington-Normal skilled labor and business community,” said Robert Coomer, director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which administers the Davis Mansion. “A mere expression of thanks doesn’t seem enough.”

The saga began July 21, in the middle of the hottest summer in recent memory, at the 1872 vintage David Davis Mansion, one of Bloomington’s most popular historic tourist attractions. A malfunctioning air conditioning unit in the second floor of the Victorian mansion spilled twenty gallons of water that seeped through the floor and saturated the ceiling of the formal parlor below. An original, intricately painted canvas mural adorns the ceiling.

“It couldn’t have picked a worse place to leak,” said Davis Mansion Site Manager Marcia Young. “The canvas collected all of the leaking water and then pulled away from the plaster ceiling. We were absolutely sick when we discovered this one-of-a-kind piece of art sagging water-logged in the middle of the room.”

The estimated cost to repair the ceiling was $30,000. The work requires special knowledge and techniques that are rare and expensive. Unfortunately, the budget to fix the ceiling was in the basement; tight state finances allowed little leeway for repairs of this magnitude.

But the word got out concerning the Mansion’s predicament. Soon, craftspeople and businesses in the Bloomington-Normal area began offering to donate the skilled labor and materials to repair the ceiling. Marc Svensson, owner of the painting and wallcovering business in Bloomington that bears his name, reinstalled the canvas, prepared it for painting, and applied the solid background color that encompasses most of the canvas. Svensson is a graduate of the American School of Paperhanging Arts. Decorative artist Richard Schaad of Normal assembled the restoration team and did the fine-arts repainting of the floral art work in the mural. Mel Wollenschlager, master plasterer from Bloomington, removed and re-plastered the mildewed areas of the plaster substrate. John Svensson, Marc’s brother, and Michael Henning, decorative artist from Normal, assisted with the canvas reinstallation.

Experts from across the country in wallpaper hanging, historic adhesives and other technical crafts, inspired by the local labor and materials donations, offered to provide free advice and guidance so the project would follow approved historic preservation and conservation methods. Mansion officials even received assistance from the man who installs period wallpapers at the White House. “The result is more than just a repair,” said Young. “It’s the accurate and appropriate restoration of a one-of-a-kind, hand-painted piece of art.”

The donated labor and materials did not stop at the ceiling. Associated Constructors of Bloomington donated the painters’ scaffolding and Don Smith Paint and Wallpaper of Bloomington donated the metal bracing system. In addition, employees of a local corporation have donated their personal time to survey the Mansion’s climate control systems and make recommendations for retrofitting and maintenance to prevent leaks from happening in the future. Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 99 is donating the services of skilled craftsmen to repair the moisture-soaked insulation and leaking valves that partly contributed to the problem.

The Davis Mansion canvas, made of hemp and covered with six layers of paint, is a 1903 post-fire replacement of the original 1872 ceiling, a decorative mural painted directly on plaster by St. Louis artist August Becker. Becker’s original artwork can still be seen on the other plaster ceilings of the mansion’s first floor. The 1903 replacement is a 400-square-foot canvas that was glued to the ceiling and then painted in place by a Bloomington painting contractor, C. E. Russell. The decorative design consists of a border of multi-colored stripes with corner floral motifs.

The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site is located at 1000 E. Monroe in Bloomington, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for free public tours. It was built in 1872 for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Davis, a close friend and associate of Abraham Lincoln, and Davis’ wife, Sarah.

New Lake County History Almost Ready

The Gray's Lake Review is reporting that Lake County Board Member Al Westerman's new pioneer history of Lake County is almost done.

I hate the "almost finished" category. From personal experience I know that part come sometimes take the longest time.

Westerman discussed his research with the Warren Township Historical Society Tuesday at Gurnee's Mother Rudd House. Westerman said he was inspired to create his own reference book after becoming frustrated with the resources he came across during other research. Older reference books, he said, are hand-written with hand-drawn maps, misspelled names and a lot of blanks.

"There is so much misinformation (in some Lake County history books)," Westerman said.

Still, good luck to Westerman in his work. Illinois needs more research done on the local level as what's remembered isn't often what's exactly correct.

Illini Takes a Look at Modern-Day Peoria

That's Peoria as in the Peoria tribe at Miami, Oklahoma, rather than the Illinois city.

The article not only focuses on what the Peoria tribe is doing today, it also takes aim at just how unimportant the Chief Illiniwek debate is to real Native Americans.

Meanwhile, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale kicks off its celebration of Native American Month.

This is What I'm Talking About

Just came across this article from the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky.

The headline reads, "State parks improve under Host" with a secondary head of "System isn't profitable, but none in county is".

The article focuses on the departure of Kentucky Commerce Secretary Jim Host who conceded that his promise of making the Kentucky state parks turn a profit by 2007 won't be met.

"That was too rosy," said Host, a former sports marketing executive whose last day is Friday.

"What I didn't know when I got here was the unbelievably bad condition of the parks," he said. "I'm used to running my own business and turning things around in two weeks. Well, it doesn't work that way in government."

However, the financial news from state parks is hardly dire.

They aren't profitable — no state parks system in the country is — but because of higher prices, new fees, better advertising and upgraded facilities, the parks now bring in millions of additional dollars and support themselves better than they used to.

While only two of Kentucky's state parks turn a profit, that's two more than most. In Illinois, few sites could claim that, though the Illinois Artisans Shop at Rend Lake does operate in the black.

Illinois right now doesn't charge admission to its historic sites or state parks. It should, at least to a limited extent. Sites like the Old Slave House, which operated with an average ticket price of $4.50 when under private ownership, could pay for its day-to-day operation.

It's like I told the Daily Eygptian last week.

"The state needs to look at how we manage historic sites. It expects them to operate without admission fees," Musgrave said. "It's better to charge admission than to keep it free and keep it closed. That's almost criminal neglect, especially with counties down here hemorrhaging jobs."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wolves and Coyotes and Deer, Oh My!

Lonny Stark writes for this week's Rock River Times in Rockford about coyotes, Illinois largest natural predator (or at least the largest the wildlife biologists at DNR are willing to admit).

It's an interesting take on the difference between coyotes, coy-dogs and wolves.

In the Boy of Battle Ford, William S. Blackman recalled a wolf attack on his family's farm in the southern part of Saline County about 1846 when he was six years old.
The animal most hated by man and beast was the wolf. His tribe encompassed hill and valley, wood and field — anywhere, everywhere. He could howl as a single wolf or as half a dozen wolves at once, just as he pleased. He caught domestic fowls and small animals and sometimes chased the dogs to their homes for protection.

I can remember well an experience of that kind which was very unpleasant to me. In some way the few sheep owned by my mother were not penned that night. An hour after dark the wolves found them at the farthest part of the little field, where they had chosen to camp, 150 yards away, and the cunning wolves hemmed them there and selected the largest lamb in the flock. The remained ran for dear life towards the house. The dogs met them, but passed rapidly on till near the wolves. But on meeting an army of wolves, the dogs did well to get back. They did not stop till they went round the house and saw the wolves running back to the dead lambs. The dogs bravely ran to them again, to be turned homeward as suddenly as they went. The wolves, being hungry, were not willing to forego so rich a repast as the lamb furnished them, and the dogs were not in the habit of vacating their own premises at the will of intruders and robbers. Only the great outnumbering of the dogs caused them to retreat rather than to fight to the death. The wolves came within ten yards of the dwelling each time and ran back again till the lamb was devoured, and then they went away. The next morning we ventured to the place where the killing was done, but there was not a bone to be found nor scarcely a lock of wool.

During the races between the wild dogs and the tame dogs, as our family had no gun, no one would venture to even open the door, much less go out and aid the home guards. And as for me, my head was covered from the beginning of the fray till quiet reigned again. In continuing my head under cover, ostrich-like, for safety, I suffered much for want of breathing air; but I feared to uncover my head with that awful contest raging so near our door. Such a running and jumping and clawing and scratching and grunting and whining and yelping and snapping as greeted our ears that night was well calculated to give a little six-year-old boy a fright to remember.
Stark notes that wolves were eliminated in the state, or at least northern Illinois, by the 1860s.

Down here, they were hunted. As the wolf population grew, counties raised bounties of a dollar per hide. In Williamson County several men became professional wolf hunters. Milo Erwin, whose father platted Crab Orchard, wrote about the last of the frontiersmen who continued to hunt for the county.
They had dogs trained to jump the wolf and then run backward, the wolf following to where the hunter lay concealed.
The best of the hunters could average 15 wolves a day.
In storms, the ravens were seen winging their way to cover; the bench-legged coyote quickly trotted to his hole; the piercing cry of the wolf was born upon the winds, but the fearless hunter was not disturbed, for then he was sure of game.
Erwin also discussed wolves in passing describing deer.
Sometimes the breathless stillness of the forest would be broke by the crack of a rifle, and hundreds of wolves would hold their midnight carnival over the remains of one of these noble animals.
Rich Miller took a break from political coverage in his Capitol Fax blog to post some date from DNR's news release about deer-car collisions.
In 2004 there were 23,438 deer-vehicle accidents reported in the state, down 9% from 25,660 the year before, according to preliminary statistics compiled by the Illinois Department of Transportation. [emphasis added]
Miller commented, "That's an unreal amount of accidents. I had no idea."

It's also why DNR dropped plans to even study the reintroduction of elk in Southern Illinois about a decade ago.

Most people forget that deer had been all but wiped out of the state.

Here's Erwin again, writing from Marion in 1876:
... deer were here in large droves as late as 1848, and even yet are some wandering ones found. In an early day they were seen in great gangs, feeding on the rich adn verdant herbage that carpeted our emerald meadows.
The state re-introduced deer back in the early 20th Century and accounts from the 1930s and 40s from the Shawnee Hills sound as quaint as a car from that era. Numbers of the deer in the eastern Shawnee National Forest were under 100.

Today, there's probably that many deer-car collisions each year in Pope County alone.

Somewhat surprisingly even though it's the most populated county in the state, Cook County tops the list of deer-car collisions. DNR has the news release available on their site.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Decatur's Mayor Targets Lincoln Visitors

Decatur Mayor Paul Osborne wants to jump on the Lincoln bandwagon by moving something known locally as the Transfer House back to its original location at Lincoln Square.

Don't know exactly what he is talking about, but his basic idea appears to be sound. In the last few days Mayor Tim Davlin of Springfield has noted that the capitol town's sales taxes grew $315,304 in the first five months of this year compared to last.

Davlin credits the opening of the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as the reason.

Decatur's Osborne is smart to mine his town's heritage to develop its tourism. That generates jobs and revenue. It also helps preserve, and in this case enhance, his city's downtown and quality of life.

Tourism Packs Big Impact in Illinois

OK, the article deals with Kentucky, but the Illinois figures are at the bottom.

The Travel Industry Association of America is reporting that direct tourism expenditures in Illinois last year (2004) grew to $22.2 billion.

Now if we can just figure out a way to get better preserve our state and local historic sites using some of those expenditures we'll have it made.

Tribune covers Egypt's wineries

The Chicago Tribune did a good story on Southern Illinois' wineries last week. The link above is by way of AzCentral.com, an Arizona website.

As the newest winery with the biggest investment yet it appears, at least in their initial buildings, Blue Sky Vineyard takes the initial focus on the story. The winery is located in the northeastern corner of Union County, though it has a Makanda address.

Blue Sky is one of a number of wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail that's been so successful.

How do we know the wineries are a success? Well Caleb Hale from the Southern Illinoisan recently reported that Union County now has 15 bed and breakfast lodging establishments and could have 19 up and running by the end of the year.

Landmark Sought for Civil Rights Church

Civil Rights leaders in Chicago are pushing the city to give landmark status to the church where the family of 14-year-old Emmitt Till held his funeral a half century ago in September 1955.

Till was a Chicago teen-ager who was brutally beaten and lynched while on a visit to relatives in Mississippi. His mother's decision to hold an open casket funeral to show the world what had happened to her son galvanized the African-American population as thousands paid their respects in person and thousands more saw the pictures in Jet magazine.

Book Signing Today

The SIU Bookstore in the Student Center will be hosting me today from 1 to 3 p.m. at a booksigning. I'll have the new hardcover edition of the Old Slave House book there, Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw.

Free Frank's Descendent Digs Town

Today's Toledo Blade has a good story on a descendent of Free Frank McWorter and the African-American settlement of New Philadelphia that once stood on the Illinois prairies.
The town Mr. McWorter settled, New Philadelphia, Ill., isn't on any maps today, but the story of its existence has been handed down from generation to generation and from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters.

In August, with the help of family members, a grant from the National Science Foundation, and work of archaeologists and students from the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, what has been McWorter family lore is now a part of American history.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

My Frightening Research

I make a cameo appearance in the Southern Illinoisan's cover story today.

Three reporters and a photographer from the paper did a story on spending time in a local house in Marion thought by its owners to be haunted. In order to test their theories the paper brought down two ghost hunters from St. Louis to do check the place out.
The pair pulled into the Sackmans' driveway in their trademark black Chrysler PT Cruiser, the "Haunt Rod," at precisely 8 p.m. They joined what was becoming a fairly crowded party, consisting of our reporting team, the Sackmans, their daughters Marla and Stephanie, and local historian Jon Musgrave, who had clued us into the home's haunted history and was along to do research for a possible new book.
I'd met Mrs. Sackman last December after hearing a story from a relative about the house. It does have an interesting history, according to the tax records it was built just a decade after the Civil War in 1875.

At least one former owner, Sam Casey, the editor of the old Marion Evening Post had a heart attack and died in the foyer. More ominously is what happened to his daughter's family. She, her husband and both of their adult children ended up at the state mental asylum in Anna where they all died.

More Shaggy Beasts Roam the Shawnee

It's big shaggy beast weekend at the Associated Press.(See the previous post for the prehistoric kind turning up.) Now Jim Suhr has a story on 250 bison ranging on 800 acres of hills and valleys near Cobden, in Union Co., Illinois.

Historically, I can't find a reference to the last bison in Union County, though the county history written in 1883, mentions a buffalo road that crossed the county about a mile south of Jonesboro.

To the northeast however, according to the Milo Erwin's History of Williamson County, Illinois bison were last seen here in 1810.

The new bison herd belongs to Clifton and Kim Howell who are hoping to catch onto the growing demand for lean bison meat.
According to the Department of Agriculture, 16,225 bison were processed in federally inspected plants during the first half of this year, up from 14,377 slaughtered during the same period last year. Since 2001 - the first year the USDA tracked bison production - processing of the meat has nearly doubled.

Advocates point to bison's healthfulness: A serving of buffalo meat has about 2.42 grams of fat, compared with 8.09 grams for select beef or 7.41 grams for skinless chicken, the bison association says.

Great Beasts of Prehistoric Illinois

The Associated Press today offers a combo story on the multiple mastadon and mammoths remains that turned up across the state in September. I'd read about a few of the findings about a month ago in the Chicago Tribune.

For the first time though, I've actually read what the difference is between mammoths and mastadons, both of which to me resemble a huge shaggy elephant. Here's what paleontologist Jeffrey Saunders explains.
"Mastodons browsed off trees and lived in wetlands, so they were occupying their own burial grounds, and we often find fairly complete specimens," he said. "But mammoths were grazing animals that haunted the grasslands where the glaciers had just retreated. They lived and died in open fields, and their remains were scattered. Streams often carried their teeth and bones into wetlands and gravel pits."

Saunders said that while both mastodons and mammoths were quite prevalent in Illinois until some 10,000 or 11,000 years ago, there's no way of knowing what their total populations were. And although both animals resembled modern elephants, they were not closely related to each other.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Who's a Wall Flower Now?

Bob Ellis interviews state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, following the passage by the Illinois House of his bill to ban riverboat gambling in Illinois. This is the same man Rod Blagojevich called a "wall flower" for being such a back bencher.

“When we started this in the House they said I’d never get it on file. Then, we would never get it to committee and, if we did, we’d never get it out of committee. Of course, they claimed we’d never get it to the floor of the House and we certainly wouldn’t get it to a vote, and finally, of course, we would never pass it.”

It doesn't have a chance to pass the Illinois Senate, but it's creating a bit of angst in the Capitol as there are forces who want to see gambling expand in the state, or at least allow Chicago access to the 10th riverboat casino license that's setting in judicial limbo.

Here in Southern Illinois, Republicans Mike Bost of Murphysboro and David Reis voted in favor of the bill. Bradley's fellow Dems, Brandon Phelps of Norris City who represents Metropolis and its Players Riverboat Casino, and Dan Reitz of Steeleville, who also represents counties along rivers that could potentially get a riverboat someday, voted no. Only Kurt Granberg of Carlyle proved the closest Democrat to support the bill.

Surprisingly, and probably what is causing the angst in Springfield and Chicago is that Mike Madigan, the Democratic Speaker of the House, voted in favor as well.

Check out the full vote here.

I guess Bradley can mulch up the wall flower designation given to him by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Panthers in the Shawnee?

Brian DeNeal of the Daily Register in Harrisburg has a good story today about an Alaskan backpacker who just finished the River-to-River Trail across the region.

What struck me was the following:

Approaching Giant City State Park, the two took some time to look at names in Antioch Cemetery. They walked a few miles more before they camped for what became a spooky night.

"We heard the most sounds and calls we can't explain. We thought, 'That definitely sounds like a child crying,'" Hage said.

"In Alaska at night you are going to hear an owl or a wolf, but never multiple owls."

The "sounds like a child crying" reminded me of another story.

Full of life, the girl went skipping and hopping along the path through the forest. It was near the close of a serene day in autumn time, and all nature seemed calm and peaceful. There was nothing in the surroundings to suggest danger, even if the sun was getting low.

But hark! What was that? It sounded just like a baby crying! For a wailing sound had reached the girl's ear. She paused. Again came the sound, seemingly from a clump of brush near the path. She went to investigate, but on reaching the spot, the sound was deeper in the forest. Thus was the panther luring the girl to her death by its human-like cry. Again, she followed the sound, unaware of the awful doom awaiting her.

She peered here and there through the underbrush, but no one was there. Then suddenly there was a savage growl in the branches of a nearby tree. Looking upward, the girl was terror-stricken to see a large cat-like creature crouched on a low limb, ready to spring. Its teeth bared, its fierce eyes ablaze, its ears laid back, and the end of its tail weaving to and fro.

Will W. Husband wrote about this panther attack in his 1943 book Old Brownsville Days now available in Murphysboro from the Jackson County Historical Society. Husband's grandfather had served in the search and rescue party that went looking for the young girl.

Of course, the possibility of the crying sounds coming from a panther or cougar should be surprising since the backpackers had just traveled through the Panther's Den and Crab Orchard National Wilderness Areas.

When I mentioned DeNeal's story to my uncle tonight he recalled two other panther sightings in the eastern part of Williamson County in what used to be called Rock Creek Precinct (now the eastern two-thirds of Crab Orchard Township).

The first sighting was one he remembered his grandmother Abbie (Harris) Angel recalling. She told him her family heard an awful screaming one day. When the family went outside to see what it was, they saw a panther on top of the chicken coop. Either during that incident or another time, at the sound of a panther scream, the horses ran out of the lot and into the barn.

My great-grandmother was born in 1893 so that would put the story around the turn of the 20th Century.

The second sighting my uncle dated to 25 or 30 years ago (1975-1980). He was taking up corn in a field south of what's now Old Route 13 about a mile or two south of Jourdan's Curve when he saw a panther run across the cornstalks in front of his combine. He later saw the cat's prints around a deer carcass he had noticed that had been drug for about 150 feet from where he first saw the dead deer.

Kinkaid Mounds offers new finds

Pete Rosenberry has a new story on what's keeping SIU archeaologists busy at Kinkaid Mounds down near the Ohio River on the Massac-Pope county line.
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Work this summer by archaeologists at Southern Illinois University Carbondale suggests a well-known prehistoric mound site dating back nearly 1,000 years is larger and possibly more complex than originally believed.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

They're Here!

Finally, after months of delay, the hardcover edition of Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw: The Real Story of the Old Slave House and America's Reverse Underground R.R. has arrived back from the printers.

The delay wasn't the printer's fault, but rather mine, as it's been a tough year to focus on my writing due to a number of setbacks and false starts.

Still, if you are interested in what really happened at the Old Slave House and the nearby saltworks, the intersection of dirty politics and the organized crime of the "ancient colony of horse-thieves, counterfeiters and robbers", you will definitely enjoy the book.

The hardcover is an expanded and revised edition with 96 more pages making it a total of 608 pages. Part of the added page count is due to a slightly larger font and margins designed to make the book easier to read for more folks, but I've also added new information and tweaked just about every chapter in the book as well as add new back matter. There's also numerous additional photographs which now total more than 65 inside the book.

You can either order online or by mail.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I'm Back


It's been three months since my last posting. Much has happened, including tragedy as I lost my father in April.

I'll add a link here, eventually, to the older posts.


Go to the old blog page for the previous posts.