#SmallTownSaturday – Macon, IL

Illinois Central Railroad #14713, a ventilated fruit car dating from 1893.

Today we’ll visit Macon, IL (pop. 1,204) for #SmallTownSaturday!

Located in central Illinois within Macon County, the city of Macon is nine miles south of the county seat Decatur. Situated in the famous corn belt of Illinois, Macon lies midway between Chicago and St. Louis. The low and level prairie was thought unfit for agriculture around its early settlement, but has since become a major producer of corn, along with hay and oats.

The foundations of Macon, and the county itself, are rooted in the development of the railroad in Illinois. In 1834, Governor Joseph Duncan proposed a train line to run through Decatur.… Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Bishop Hill, IL

Jansonist Colony, Steeple Building, Main and Bishop Hill Streets, Bishop Hill, Henry County, IL

The story of this Western Illinois village begins across the ocean in Sweden. There, in the early nineteenth century, a Landberga farmer and flour salesman named Erik Jansson claimed to have experienced two extraordinary events. The first came when Jansson – a sufferer of rheumatism for much of his life – was plowing a field in 1830 and collapsed. Lying on the ground, he began to pray and was miraculously cured. The second event occurred during a visit to the market where Jansson, in his own words, heard the voice of Christ instructing him to “take up my cross and preach my gospel to all who will listen.”… Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Centralia, IL

A share certificate for the Illinois Central Railroad, dated 1899

*Originally posted on November 4, 2017*

This week for #SmallTownSaturday, we’re visiting Centralia, IL (pop. 13,000)!

With an abundance of deer, bears, and elk, the region is thought to have been the hunting territory of the indigenous Tamaroa people prior to white settlement. It wasn’t until 1816 that settlers began to make their homes in the area.

Centralians were focused on agriculture in the early 19th century. Farmers suffered from a persistent problem: a lack of transportation of goods to market that petrified the Central Illinois economy. Advocating the construction of a new railway, Stephen Douglas secured a grant of 2.5 million acres of Federal land from Congress and Pres.Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Riverside, IL

Avery Coonley House in Riverside, Illinois

*Originally posted on October 21, 2017*

Today we’ll visit Riverside, IL (pop. 8,875) for #SmallTownSaturday!

Portages, streams, free-flowing springs, wooded river banks, and vast prairie provided a few types of game to several Native American tribes in Riverside until their forced removal. The Potawatomi were the principal residents, but the Ottawa and Chippewas also lived in the region. Located just west of Chicago’s Ft. Dearborn though, white settlers began to lay their claim to the land as early as 1836.

Riverside was largely undeveloped in the early to mid-19th century. Farms belonging to the Forbes, Egan, and Gage families existed, but little else.

Read More