Southern Illinois History Page

Important Events and Times
  • Anti-War Protests at SIU-Carbondale
    Katie Laux, an undergraduate history student at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale compares the anti-war protests of the 1960s with the Free Speech Movement at University of California at Berkeley. Her research was previously publised in the on-campus publication, Legacy.
  • California Gold Rush
    Many Illinoisans joined the rush to California to search for gold. Some died on the way, and others managed to strike it rich. Some of those men and women stayed in California, but others returned to their homes in Illinois. This site on the Jersey County ILGenWeb page tells the story of a group of Jersey and Greene county residents who made the trip in 1849.
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears
    The northern overland route of the Trail of Tears entered Southern Illinois at Golconda and traveled westerly through Vienna and Jonesboro - generally parallel to what's now Illinois Route 146. In addition to the above link check out what Rev. Butrick wrote in his diary while traveling with the Cherokees across Egypt. For an overview of the trail story check out Burnett's story. This Cape Girardeau-based site also has more on local trail stories in Southern Illinois and southeast Missouri.
  • Civil War
    The Civil War came fast to Southern Illinois with the invasion by Chicago troops into the region in the days following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Although local secessionists attempted to rally the local residents, they missed their chance by just hours to demolish the Illinois Central bridge over the Big Muddy in an effort to delay the Union deployment. This site contains the final report of the deployment written a month after Fort Sumter during a time when Southern Illinois residents didn't know which side to join.
  • 1968 Earthquake
    This website is a scholarly paper published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America about the South-Central Illinois Earthquake of Nov. 9, 1968. For those who think this might be too boring the site includes pictures.
  • Flood of 1937
    This flood in the midst of the Great Depression is remembered as one of the worst ever to his the Ohio Valley. This is the hero's story of one man, Bob Anderson, and his role in helping Shawneetown reconnect with dry land through his short wave radio.
  • Herrin Massacre
    Professor James Ballowe's site recalls the infamous Herrin Massacre. He has also produced a radio documentary on the event that aired on National Public Radio.
  • Mine Wars
    Actually this isn't the labor-management struggles of the early 10th Century but the violent conflict between the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and the Progressive Mine Workers of America (PMWA) during the 1930s. The link in question is to a transcript of 1972 interview with Henson Purcell of West Frankfort. A retired newspaperman, Purcell covered the troubles including the Battle of Mulkeytown. The transcript also covers items about Charlie Birger and the Shelton Gang.
  • Reverse Underground Railroad
    The Underground Railroad ran both ways in Southern Illinois, but in the southeastern portion is mostly ran to the south as gangs of kidnappers captured free blacks and runaway slaves to sell back into slavery.
  • Sinking of the Sultanna
    The sinking of the USS Sultana in 1865 represented one of the greatest maritime disasters in the country's history. Over 1,700 died in this disaster, including a number of soldiers from Southern Illinois and a niece of John Hart Crenshaw who had been serving as a nurse.
  • Sinking of the U.S.S. Cairo
    The U.S.S. Cairo served as part of the Union's gunboat flotilla on the Mississippi. The Confederates managed to sink her during the siege of Vicksburg. Today, the boat has been raised from the river and is on display at the Vicksburg Battlefield National Military Park.
  • Tri-State Tornado of 1925
    The Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925 still ranks as the worst tornado disaster in the history of the country. The Little Egypt web pages host this review of the event. Carmi Online also hosts an account of the tornado's path which ran north of Carmi. Also, don't miss the new National Weather Service's web site organized just in time for the 75th Anniversary.
  • Vigilantism and the Klan
    The "ancient colony of horse thieves and counterfeitors" that first centered around Cave-in-Rock then spread throughout southeastern Illinois spurred the development of the first vigilante groups, known in the antebellum period as the "Regulators." These groups organized as legitimate forces for law and order, but often became as lawless and the men they sought to destroy. After the Civil War, these groups took on the guise of the Ku Klux Klan. During the 1870s in Hardin County a klan was organized for the public purpose of finding a murderer. In reality, the klan sought to quiet witnesses and to make sure its leader, Logan Belt, was not convicted of the original murder. This is the group of stories printed in a rare issue of the Hardin Gazette about the KKK during that time period. Also check out the The Life of Logan Belt.
  • Winter of the Deep Snow
    The winter of 1830-31 is the worst on record for Illinois. The conditions then and after helped solidify the nickname of Egypt onto Southern Illinois. This story leads out comparing the winter to the Chicago Blizzard of 1967.

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Updated June 7, 1998 by Jon Musgrave

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