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Downtown Marion, Illinois, in 1910

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Corrected Link
I've corrected the link to the Old Slave House page over on the left side. Sorry, but I had left off the ".com" in the address.

Friday, June 27, 2003

2 down, 100 to go
Saline County joined with Gallatin County last night and unanimously passed a resolution in support of our plan of action to reopen the Old Slave House. Now we just have 100 counties to go to make it unanimous through the state.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Executive Attention
We're starting to get some attention from the governor's office. Not only did a get another call back from the person to which I sent the plan of action, but also a local staffer from Blagojevich's office called out of the blue this afternoon. Too bad I was out of town. But there's always tomorrow.

Media Attention
Almost as good as executive branch attention is the attention we're getting from the media. I sent out a news release on Tuesday's rally earlier this week. It made the front page of the Gallatin Democrat today and Travis DeNeal wrote his own story for yesterday's Daily Register. WSIU-FM aired something earlier this week and both Clear Channel and Zimmer Radio will be airing something on their talk channels next week before the rally. We made the Evansville Courier-Press last Sunday and are online for three weeks in a row this Sunday. The more attention we get in the media, and the more phone calls the governor's office gets from them as well, should tell the governor there's broad interest in this fight and he should climb on board.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Updated logo
I've added a sketch of the Old Slave House to the group's logo, so people can see what we are talking about. Here it is.
Open it NOW! Friends of the Old Slave House -- new logo with picture

Monday, June 23, 2003

Sorry for the lack of updates over the weekend.

Attention in Springfield
Tim Hickmann returned my call Friday morning. He's the man in charge of land management at DNR and oversees the state park system. I had made a courtesy call to him earlier in the week letting him know our plans since they involve his agency. We had a good conversation and I sent him more information in the afternoon.

Andrea Preston, a reporter for the Evansville Courier-Press also stirred the pot for us in Springfield. In preparation for her Sunday story in the paper about last Thursday's meeting she made the rounds calling the press secretaries of the governor's office, DNR and IHPA. None of them had heard about it, but it did get them started asking questions. At one point the somebody in the governor's office was asking somebody in DNR exactly what law allowed them do to what we wanted them to do. We sent the information to Andrea who I presumably forwarded it to whoever had asked. The legal reference is (20 ILCS 805/805-300):

Sec. 805-300. Public accommodation, educational, and service facilities. The Department has the power to develop and operate public accommodation, educational, and service facilities on lands over which the Department has jurisdiction and to lease lands over which the Department has jurisdiction to persons or public or private corporations for a period not to exceed 99 years for the construction, maintenance, and operation of public accommodation, educational, and service facilities. Those public accommodation, educational, and service facilities include, but are not limited to, marinas, overnight housing facilities, tent and trailer camping facilities, recreation facilities, food service facilities, and similar accommodations... (Source: P.A. 91-239, eff. 1-1-00.)

Open it NOW! Rally
John O'Dell of the Saline County Tourism Board got us permission to rally at the courthouse steps in Harrisburg. I think we'll start at 11:30 a.m. We'll have more on this as we get it developed.

Resolution Updates
The Saline County Board has the resolution on its agenda for this Thursday night. Ron Wilson of the Gallatin County Historical Society has it on the Village of Ridgway's agenda for Tuesday, July 1. He also called me this morning to say that the historical society has also endorsed the plan.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Tonight's meeting was a success. There were a bit fewer people, but we didn't have as much publicity. However we did accomplish our objectives.

First off, we did agree on a name. We're calling our group...
Open it NOW! Friends of the Old Slave House

What do we want? Open it NOW! Open what? The Old Slave House! You get the picture.

I came up with the name while typing up an agenda earlier tonight at the library. After some discussion of it and some alternatives, Ron Wilson, president of the Gallatin County Historical Society, moved that we accept the name. Hazel Pate, who represented the Gallatin County Tourism Board tonight, seconded the motion. During our discussion some pointed out that we didn't mention the Old Slave House, so it was suggested that we add the second line "Friends of the Old Slave House." Ron and Hazel agreed to amend their motion and second. All voted in favor.

I think the name really says what we want to do. Everything else on how we run the site, etc., doesn't matter if we can't get the governor's office to take action now. This group is a transitional group. When we get the green light from Springfield as far as reopening goes, then we'll look at what we need to do next.

We also heard from Jed Nelson of Harrisburg that his boss, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, has come out in support of the plan of action and has written a letter to the governor. Blagojevich and Shimkus served together prior to the last election as members of Illinois' Congressional delegation. Here's a public thank you to Rep. Shimkus, who also operates a local office in Harrisburg in the City Hall. Let him know you support his efforts (and ours) by sending him a thank you at his web site.

Our next event will be a public rally and news conference on Tuesday, July 1, in downtown Harrisburg. We'll have more on the time and actual location in the next few days. Tell your friends and neighbors, and make plans to be there.

I think I discovered part of the problem for displaying these updates. Some of you are still using Internet Explorer 5.0 which is 1999-era technology. I think it's time to upgrade. It shows up fine on my computer, but I'm using IE 6.0. The computer I'm working on right now still has IE 5.0 and it looks a bit screwy.

I'm writing this from the Harrisburg Public Library just trying to take up some time before tonight's meeting. College officials have moved us to B102, I think, rather than the private dining room, but they say there will be signs posted.

I had to come over to Gallatin County earlier today. Evansville's NBC affiliate WFIE 14 interviewed me (and hopefully others) on our effort to get the Old Slave House reopened. It should be on tonight's 6 p.m. newscast.

I also had a chance to meet with state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City, this afternoon at his Harrisburg office. Filled him in on the latest. He supports the plan of action and will talk to his contacts in the governor's office about it. From a political standpoint he knows it's important to have the Legislative Black Caucus on board. In general they are, but we still have to get most of the members updated on the specific plan of action we adopted last Thursday.

The Chicago Defender, one of the oldest African-American-owned newspapers in the country, covered the Black Caucus leadership's efforts in trying to save the Old Slave House in a cover story last month. One of their columnists will be running something else about this house in this weekend's edition. He's aware of the plan of action.

Yesterday I met with Bob Barnett, one of the three county commissioners in Williamson County. He agreed to introduce the resolution to the county board at their next meeting July 8. It's at 10 a.m. at the courthouse if anybody local would like to be there and show their support.

In publishing news, the B. Dalton booksellers in Mount Vernon and Fairview Heights are going to start carrying my Handbook of Old Gallatin County and Southeastern Illinois. Same for the Waldenbooks at Fairview Heights. I'm also hoping to set up a book signing in Evansville, Indiana, next month. I'll be at the Book Fair at Benton High School this Saturday from 10 to 4. Local authors are going to be speaking every 30 minutes. I'm lined up for 10:30 a.m.

Saw in today's Mount Vernon Register-News that another local author is holding a book signing this Saturday. Max Thackrey, Sr., will be signing copies of his book, That Dash of Life, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Times Square Mall in Mount Vernon. Max's book is about growing up between the rural Hamilton County communities of Bungay and Blairsville. Mary Kaye Davis wrote the article. Check it out.

MT. VERNON — Ever since he was a child, Max Thackrey Sr. had been logging ideas in his mind for a book. He’d always talked about writing one but kept dismissing the idea as impossible.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

We've made contact with the governor's office this morning and sent them more information this afternoon. The push is on. Don't forget about our second meeting tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Southeastern Illinois College.
I think I have the site problems fixed. If this page looks screwy to you let me know.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

State Rep. Gary Forby, D-Benton, took the oath of office today as the new state senator in the 59th Legislative District. This is important for the Old Slave House because Forby is now the local lawmaker in the Senate (the fourth since the site closed). The local state representative remains Brandon Phelps (the third state rep since the site closed). I met with both men three weeks ago in Springfield and have invited them to attend our meetings. Both have said they support the site and want to see it open.

On a side note, I'm in the process of trying to fix this page. It looks ok on my computer, but I discovered last week it doesn't look good on others. Tonight I was told by someone they that their system wouldn't even show these updates. The mistakes are mine. I bought a new HTML book tonight and should have it figured out sometime this year.

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Marion City Council became the third unit of local government to endorse the Old Slave House Plan of Action. One county down, 101 to go.
We're on again for 7 p.m. Thursday in the private dining room off of the cafeteria at Southeastern Illinois College east of Harrisburg. Everyone is invited. We're going to talk about the progress made so far and what needs to be done next.

The Gallatin County Board endorsed the proposed last Thursday night and I know some people have already dropped off resolutions to other counties and communities. Let me know when one gets passed. Also Brian DeNeal wrote up another article in The Daily Register about the meeting.

Sunday, June 15, 2003


I've just added a new page entitled "Local Authors". It includes either web or e-mail links to local authors such as Gary DeNeal, Taylor Pensoneau and Harry Spiller.

I'll be back later with information on Friday's meetings in Chicago, and should have confirmation tomorrow on the location for this Thursday's meeting concerning the Old Slave House. This will be our second meeting and everyone is welcome to attend.
The Evansville Courier-Press carried a story on the effort to reopen the Old Slave House. It's on page B1 if you can get a hard copy, or you can check out Andrea Preston's story online:
EQUALITY, Ill. - By early August, the Old Slave House should be open to the public again, serving as a reminder that slavery is part of Illinois' history. That is, if Gov. Rod Blagojevich buys into Jon Musgrave's free "four-point plan" to revive the site that once drew crowds upward of 38,000 a year.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Well I'm off to Chicago to spread the word.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Don't have much time, but tonight's meeting turned out to be a success.

I think we had between 40 and 50 people there from at least seven different counties here in Southern Illinois. We adopted the proposed plan of action and folks took home copies of resolutions to take to their own communities to get passed. Here's a sample resolution. I'll upload more later on the plan of action. We are encouraging calls of support to local elected officials and the governor office. I promised to put up the phone number to the governor's office. It's (312) 814-2121. That's the Chicago number, but that's also where the key people are.

The basic plan of action is this:
  • Move the Old Slave House from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Combine the Old Slave House with the existing nearby Saline County Fish and Wildlife Area (Glen O. Jones Lake) and create a new state park called Eagle Mountain State Park.
  • Have DNR to lease the operations of the Old Slave House to a non-profit group who can develop it into an educational facility (i.e. museum) that would pay for its operations through an admission fee. (This is why we need to change agencies, IHPA doesn't have this authority).
  • Do all of this to get the site reopened by the Eighth of August, which is historically the traditional celebration of Emancipation Day in Southern Illinois and western Kentucky.

    The plan also calls for the creation of a local citizens advisory committee that would meet at least quarterly to provide input, build support and help further the development of the new state park.
  • Wednesday, June 11, 2003

    It's been a busy day. I did WJPF AM in the morning followed by News Three which did a VO/SOT for this evening's newscast. Also, the Gallatin Democrat came out today with a repeat of Brian DeNeal's article. Should get more coverage tomorrow.

    Tonight the Board of Trustees of the Village of Equality unanimously passed a resolution calling upon the governor to act now in order to get the Old Slave House reopened this summer. The resolution backed the plan of action that will be presented in full tomorrow at the meeting at Southeastern Illinois College. Remember: 6:30 p.m. in the private dining room off of the cafeteria. I hope to get more local governments throughout the state to endorse the proposal. Equality passed a resolution that was specifically geared to their situation as the home town for the site. I'll have a generic resolution ready for people to pick up tomorrow night. It will eventually find its way to this website for folks to download.

    Meanwhile the rain continues. Southern Illinois got a month's full of rain last night, and nearly doubled it again today. More rain is forecast every day into next week. It won't be fun to drive in Friday. I have a meeting about the Old Slave House in Chicago at 1 p.m. I'll let everyone know how it goes.

    On a lighter note, if there is anyone out there who is trying to be the next state senator in southeastern Illinois that I haven't contacted about tomorrow's meeting, consider this your invitation.

    The word on the street (or at least among political junkies and journalists who follow this sort of thing) is that there was a secret meeting last week of Democratic county chairman, except that the chairmen of Franklin and Williamson counties weren't invited. Those two counties control around 45 percent of the vote and have already stated their support for 117th District state Rep. Gary Forby of Benton. Yet, the meeting's purpose was to build support for 118th District state Rep. Brandon Phelps of Norris City. It's been years, if ever, that a state senator in the 59th has not come from Franklin or Williamson counties. Word is that they don't want to give it up.

    Meanwhile new faces are emerging as rumors surface that Forby is backing off and will stay in the House. The Marion attorney slated to replace him, John Bradley, is now looking at the senate seat, but so is rich trial lawyer Ron Osman, the man who's won a big federal whistle-blower case as well as represented Jo Ann Argersinger in her legal fight against SIU-Carbondale. Others mentioned include Williamson County Sheriff Tom Cundiff, former Williamson County Board Chairman Rex Piper and area businessman and former legislative primary candidate Carl Ortale, who's considering a run in the GOP primary if the Democrats don't slate him. Play him or trade him as someone put it.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2003

    The Daily Register of Harrisburg is the first out of the gate in reporting Thursday's meeting. You can read Brian DeNeal's article at their website. He starts off perfectly:
    While the state awaits money before it can open the Crenshaw House, locally known as the Old Slave House near Equality, some in the area are losing patience.

    I must admit though, Brian may be a bit biased. His father is Gary DeNeal, publisher of Springhouse magazine and full-fledged fellow "Crenshaw Rascal". Brian is also a musician and member of the Woodbox Gang.

    I also had the chance to spend the afternoon today with Charlotte Crawford, a former lawyer turned filmmaker. She learned about the Old Slave House about five or six years ago while working as a legislative liaison for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. There she met then-U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard, now a vice-chancellor for administration at Southern Illinois University, and then-U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Bruan, now a contender for the Democratic nomination for president. The two were working to insert the Old Slave House as a "reverse element" part of the national Underground Railroad initiative passed by Congress. She's now trying to produce a documentary on the Old Slave House. Here's hoping that it will be successful.

    I'll be on WJPF tomorrow morning at 7:20 a.m. to talk about the Old Slave House meeting.

    I've also added some new stories and links here at the website. In terms of the Old Slave House, I've added the Lost Story of the Old Slave House, an account written in 1920 about the legends surrounding the house around the turn of the 20th Century. It's the first time those stories ever made print. However, it was a piece that was long forgotten and ignored. For more on the saltworks, I've added Jacob Myers' 1922 account of the History of the Gallatin Salines. Myers based his paper on George W. Smith's 1904 article and kept some of Smith's mistakes like completely leaving out John Hart Crenshaw's role in the saltworks.

    In terms of outside links I've added a two-part account of King Neptune, a World War II era porker that helped raise thousands of dollars for U.S. War Bonds. The pig has a marker at the state welcome center at the northbound rest area on I-57 just north of the Anna exit. Ben Gelman wrote these stories as part of two columns. Here's the first part, and here's the second part.

    Monday, June 09, 2003

    Go to to see the news release for Thursday's meeting.
    Old Slave House - Public Meeting

    There will be a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, June 12, at Southeastern Illinois College between Harrisburg and Equality. The meeting will be held in the private dining room off of the cafeteria. The goal is to develop a plan of action that can be endorsed and presented to the governor's office to get this site reopened. As it stands now, the site could be mothballed for years. Meanwhile, it remains in danger of being vacated and unprotected for vandalism. Yet, there is a way to get it reopened without using state funds and do it this year -- this summer even. If it is reopened and can attract 100 additional visitors a day to the region we're looking at the creation of 60 new jobs in the region. Keep in mind it was doing that in the mid 1980s.

    Stay tuned to this site for more information. I'll be adding updates.

    If you are interested in the Old Slave House, preserving history, developing tourism or the economy of southeastern Illinois, you are invited.

    Saturday, June 07, 2003

    Just got back from the second book signing this weekend.

    Below is the news release sent out for it and published in various local newspapers. I'll be back at the Marion Waldenbooks next Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. for anyone out needing a good Father's Day present.

    Also, in two weeks I'll be speaking at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, for the Book Fair at Benton High School that runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Friends of the Library in Benton are hosting the event. A number of local authors will be present. Some will speak, some will sign books and some will be just be there to sell theirs.

    The authors include Judge Brocton Lockwood (Operation Greylord), Gary DeNeal (A Knight of Another Sort and Springhouse magazine), Taylor Pensoneau (Brothers Notorious), as well as Joy Rainey King, David Goss, Gordon Pruitt of SIU Press and before that Crossfire Press, Linda Settle, Carol Jennings, Harry Spiller, David Kidd, Dixie Terry, Jim Kirkpatrick, Ted Harmon and Ann Marie Legan. There will also be other book sellers there as well as special exhibits.

    Local historian to hold two book signings
    MARION — Area historian Jon Musgrave will hold two book signings the first week of June in conjunction with Waldenbooks’ Local Interest Week.

    Musgrave’s book, the Handbook of Old Gallatin County and Southeastern Illinois, highlights the 19th Century history of Southeastern Illinois while focusing on Gallatin County, which once stretched from the Ohio River to the Big Muddy.

    “Most people don’t realize just how much territory Gallatin County covered,” said Musgrave. “On the east it stretched from the mouth of Lusk Creek opposite Golconda all the way north to just a few miles shy of Vincennes, Indiana.”

    Ranked No. 1 in the Marion Waldenbooks local interest section, both the Marion and Carbondale stores will be offering readers the chance to purchase it and a few other local interest books at a sale price of 15 percent off.

    Musgrave will be on hand at the Carbondale store in the University Mall from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 6, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at the Marion store in the Illinois Centre Mall.

    The Handbook includes a reprint of the 1887 History of Gallatin County plus two new sections compiling anecdotes and military history of the region. In addition, more than 250 biographies of early Gallatin County men and women are included. The book is fully indexed.

    Musgrave is a native of Marion and earned two degrees at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, including a master’s degree in Telecommunication. He currently teaches journalism and photography at Shawnee Community College, as well as practices real estate with Paul Wilson Realty in Marion.

    His interest in Gallatin County started nearly seven years ago when he joined the research team uncovering the real history behind the Old Slave House near Equality. A few years later he took over the Gallatin County ILGenWeb genealogy site.

    In addition to the Handbook and working with state officials in an effort to get the Old Slave House reopened, Musgrave is also working on the publication of a second book, Egyptian Tales of Southern Illinois, which he hopes will hit the shelves later this fall.

    The Handbook of Old Gallatin County and Southeastern Illinois can also be purchased at The Book Worm and Barnes & Noble in Carbondale, The Book Emporium in Harrisburg and direct from the author at or by writing to, PO Box 1142, Marion IL 62959.

    Friday, June 06, 2003

    Won't know on the meeting site until Monday, but definitely mark you calendars for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12.
    Still awaiting word on the meeting site.

    Breaking news though — the 59th Legislative District is almost officially without a state senator. I say almost, because if I understand the law correctly, the Senate President has to officially determine there's a vacancy before there is one. News Three is reporting (or will be shortly) that state Sen. Larry Woolard has sent in his much anticipated letter of resignation. He's leaving the Illinois Senate to become what Gov. Rod Blagojevich described in April as Southern Illinois' "Economic Czar" at the new Department of Community & Economic Opportunity (the old DCCA).

    If there is any money for the Old Slave House from the state this year it will come from the Senate Democratic Caucus legislative initiative funds. As of last Thursday, May 29, both Woolard and state Sen. Donne E. Trotter, the Senate Democrats' point man on the budget, thought that there was some funds left from an old unspent legislative initiative. It's a long complicated story, and after two days of meetings no one is completely sure of the amount. Basically, I learned that when you enter the murky world of legislative initiatives it's best to forget everything you learned in high school civics and the YMCA's Youth in Government program (heck, even forget what you read in the Illinois Constitution). It operates on its own unpublished rules.

    Just who will replace Woolard is not completely clear. Both the Franklin and Williamson County Democratic Central Committees have endorsed state Rep. Gary Forby, D-Benton, for the position. That's almost all the votes needed, but not quite. Forby would still need at least Union County if he can't pick up more than one county. Others I talk to say state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Norris City, has all the rest of the votes wrapped up. If so, and if the number includes Union County's, then he would be the winner. While in Springfield I heard a third choice may appear, but it won't be the third choice I've heard about (a former Democratic legislative primary candidate). Last night I heard it might be former Williamson County Board Chairman Rex Piper.

    Who knows? The Democrats have 28 days following the Senate President's finding that a vacancy occurs to fill the spot. I don't know will be the next senator, but all who are interested in helping southeastern Illinois are invited to attend next week's meeting on the future of the Old Slave House.
    Still waiting confirmation on a meeting location. Will post info as soon as it becomes available.

    Meanwhile I have the first of two book signings this weekend for the Handbook of Old Gallatin County and Southeastern Illinois later this afternoon from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Waldenbooks store at the University Mall in Carbondale. The second one is tomorrow from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Waldenbooks at the Illinois Centre Mall in Marion.

    Thursday, June 05, 2003

    The next step in saving the Old Slave House will take place next Thursday. I've got a call in to use a place in Equality. I'll know tomorrow if it is OK. If so, I'll be sending out notices to everyone. The goal is to reach a concensus on what needs to be done with the Old Slave House. If everyone is fine with IHPA controlling it and possibly reopening it in a few years or so, then we don't have to do anything. On the other hand if we want to see the site opened this year and start developing our tourism potential in southeastern Illinois we need to act. The purpose of the meeting will be to agree on a plan of action. I've got a plan in mind, but I'm still working out details.

    I talked with John O'Dell and Jane Thomas Baglio this afternoon as well. They are the chairs of the Saline and Gallatin County Tourism Boards. The fact that I'm involving John should be a clue to my idea of what I want to do. Without going into details until the meeting, I'm basically looking at killing two birds with one stone as the old saying goes. If we're going to get the governor involved, let's ask for as much as possible, especially since we aren't going to be asking for money.

    How does Eagle Mountain State Park sound?

    Obviously, I'm talking about more than the Old Slave House, and if anyone has listened to me for the last decade, I've brought this idea up before.

    One week ago I was in Springfield visiting both our local lawmakers as well as the leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus. I had met with all of them two days earlier and state Sen. Donne E. Trotter, head of the caucus, set up a meeting for 9 a.m. Thursday morning with him, myself as well as the director of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Maynard Crossland, who also brought along Bob Coomer, director of the Historic Sites and Preservation Division of IHPA. They admitted the following:

  • They don't have any funding for the site sitting around anywhere
  • They don't have a plan to react when George Sisk moves out of the house
  • Even if they get money, there's a number of capital projects they want to finish before they open the site up.
  • and, there's a lot they have do to before deciding on how to interpret the site.

    Basically, nothing they said was improper, it just didn't reflect the desire of many folks to see the site reopened.

    I still contend that a regionally-based non-profit group can immediately reopen the site and pay for its operations out of admission fees. That had been the 'Plan B' the state had been considering until April when the agency's lawyer decided that while IHPA could lease the site to a non-profit group, they couldn't allow the non-profit group to charge admission.

    The proposal I'm going to make works around that obstacle as well as takes advantage of some other tourism possibilities.

    That's enough for now.
  • Wednesday, June 04, 2003

    Just a test.

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