A classic story of a young man’s journey to adulthood, The Boy of Battle Ford covers Blackman’s years growing up in early post-settlement Illinois, where he gave in to temptations such as drinking, gambling, and the lure of prostitutes before joining the army, finding God and becoming a preacher. Blackman, who notes that he is determined to “write facts” in this book, peppers his story with the sordid details of the sinful times of his life as well as with discussions of faith and of struggling to understand his God and his beliefs.
The Flag on the Hilltop
Mary Tracy Earle Southern Illinois University Press, 1989 Library of Congress PS3509.A63F5 1989 | Dewey Decimal 813.4
Early in the Civil War, two young brothers boldly flew the Union flag from a tree atop a hill between Makanda and Cobden. This was a towering act of courage in an area teeming with Copperheads.
Theodore and Al Thompson, 18 and 20 years old at the time, raised the flag in defiance of the Knights of the Golden Circle, a secessionist group that operated throughout the Midwest. Controlling its membership through terror, this secret society condemned betrayers to death by torture. The Knights, whose goals included capturing a Union prison and liberating the rebels, triggered the Civil War riot in Charleston, instigated anti-draft movements, and aided Northern deserters.
Theodore Thompson, who later owned much of Makanda, Giant City, and the land that became Southern Illinois University describes the tree as a "tall tulip poplar between 3 and 4 feet in diameter at the trunk and some 60 feet to the first limbs. This noted tree could be seen in some directions 15 or 20 miles away."
This first-ever pictorial record of the people and methods of the Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar District from the 1900s to the 1990s covers early and modern means of extracting, hoisting, processing, and transporting the mineral from mine mouth to end user. Nearly one hundred images carefully selected by author Herbert K. Russell show early pick-and-shovel extraction and open-flame lighting as well as primitive drilling methods and transportation by barrels, buckets, barges, mule teams, and trams, in addition to the use of modern equipment and sophisticated refinement procedures such as froth flotation. Russell also provides an overview of the many industrial uses of fluorspar, from metal work by ancient Romans to the processing of uranium by scientists seeking to perfect the atomic bomb. Preserving what is known about the industry by miners, managers, and museums, this detailed and fascinating pictorial history looks both above and below ground at fluorspar mining.
Southern Illinois Coal: A Portfolio
C. William Horrell. Edited with an Introduction by Herbert K. Russell. Foreword by Jeffrey L. Horrell Southern Illinois University Press, 1995 Library of Congress HD8039.M6152U645 1995 | Dewey Decimal 305.9622
The coal mining photographs of C. William Horrell, taken across the southern Illinois Coal Belt over a twenty-year period from 1966 to 1986, are extraordinary examples of documentary photography—so stark and striking that captions often seem superfluous.
Horrell’s photographs capture the varied phenomena of twentieth-century coal mining technology: the awesome scale of surface mining machines and their impact on the land; massive machines forced into narrow passageways with inches to spare as they carry coal from the face to conveyer belts; and, more significant, the advent of continuous miners, machines that can handle four previously separate processes and which have been a fixture in underground or “deep” mines since the mid-1960s.
Horrell was also intrigued by the related activities of mining, including coal’s processing, cleaning, and transportation, as well as the daily, behind-the-scenes operations that keep mines and miners working. His photographs reflect the beauty of the commonplace—the clothes of the miners, their dinner pails, and their tools—and reveal the picturesque remnants of closed mines: the weathered boards of company houses, the imposing iron beauty of an ancient tipple, and an abandoned building against the lowering sky of an approaching storm. Finally, his portraits of coal minersshow the strength, dignity, and enduring spirit of the men and women who work the southern Illinois coal mines.
In The State of Southern Illinois: An Illustrated History, Herbert K. Russell offers fresh interpretations of a number of important aspects of Southern Illinois history. Focusing on the area known as “Egypt,” the region south of U.S. Route 50 from Salem south to Cairo, he begins his book with the earliest geologic formations and follows Southern Illinois’s history into the twenty-first century. The volume is richly illustrated with maps and photographs, mostly in color, that highlight the informative and straightforward text.
Perhaps most notable is the author’s use of dozens of heretofore neglected sources to dispel the myth that Southern Illinois is merely an extension of Dixie. He corrects the popular impressions that slavery was introduced by early settlers from the South and that a majority of Southern Illinoisans wished to secede. Furthermore, he presents the first in-depth discussion of twelve pre–Civil War, free black communities located in the region. He also identifies the roles coal mining, labor violence, gangsters, and the media played in establishing the area’s image. He concludes optimistically, unveiling a twenty-first-century Southern Illinois filled with myriad attractions and opportunities for citizens and tourists alike.
The State of Southern Illinois is the most accurate all-encompassing volume of history on this unique area that often regards itself as a state within a state. It offers an entirely new perspective on race relations, provides insightful information on the cultural divide between north and south in Illinois, and pays tribute to an often neglected and misunderstood region of this multidimensional state, all against a stunning visual backdrop.
Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society, 2013