Bunny here at the keyboard with a slightly different sort of adventure today.
It was a bit warm this weekend and Mom and Dad went out to do a few things *gasp* without dogs. I really would have enjoyed seeing Horse Progress Days and the Sugar Creek Arts Festival, and they were both dog-friendly events, but it was pretty hot and I’ll be honest, I really didn’t mind staying home in the air conditioning that much. Still, I wanted something neat to share with all of you, so I did a little research about the town where we live, because it’s kind of an interesting thing to know. I talked Morgan and Küster into joining me so that we can be tour guides in our own city, or village, as the case might be.
Our town is called Roanoke and it’s a small village in the middle of the cornfields in Illinois.
It’s true that it’s a small town and not a lot happens here, but it does have a bit of history. On December 17. 1872, the town was mapped out and lots were put up for sale. There were fifteen blocks in town and two years later, it officially became a village in the State of Illinois. The first building was erected by Henry Franz and the first doctor in town was Dr. John, who also sometimes was the coroner. August 15, 1874 they held the first election for six trustees and they still elect six trustees to this day.
Like a lot of place in Illinois, there are a lot of coal veins that run under the ground here. Apparently humans really like that stuff, and so in 1881, they dug the second mine shaft in our state right here. Miners traveled 480 feet down in the ground to mine the vein that was thirty inches thick. The longest tunnel ran for about two miles. They started another shaft going West, but it had more flinty coal and they didn’t want that, so they stopped mining it. Instead, they used it as a stable for the mules and ponies that worked in the mines.
Apparently, the mules and ponies were pretty popular. Reports say that the miners babied them and brought them all kinds of treats, mostly apples and candy. In the summer, they were farmed out, and then returned to the mines in the fall. A blacksmith named Fred Wolfe used to go down into the mines and shoe them. They used the mules and ponies there until they got electrical equipment in the mines in 1905.
A work day in the mines started at 7:00 am and ended at 3:30 pm. Work started with a blast from the mine whistle every morning. It ended the same way. In the evening, if there were three blasts from the mine whistle, it meant that there was work the next day. One blast meant there was no work. At it’s hay day, the mine employed 300 men and hoisted 500 tons a day. It could be dangerous to work there, though, just like in any mine. I read that in 1906 four men fell 400 feet and died.
Still, the mines did leave behind one of the town’s most famous and remembered landmarks. It’s called “Jumbo” and it’s dirt from the slag in the coal mines. I heard that you used to be able to go to the top, but it’s illegal now. Somebody goes up there, though, because there are different things at the top at different times of year. Right now a flag flies up there, but there’s a star that lights up on the top at Christmas and a cross at Easter time. As far as I know, it’s all that’s left behind of the town’s mining days.
While the past of our town is neat history, it’s also like living in a modern day Mayberry.
The town had its own newspaper until just this year. At first it was called The Roanoke Call, but it changed names several times until it became The Roanoke Review. I sniffed around, but I couldn’t find out for sure if it has really stopped being published or when that happened. I know that the office was just a couple of blocks from our house, but now the sign is missing from the door. The phone number has been disconnected, too.
However, we do still have Caleri’s, which even sells ice cream at night in the summer, our own pool in a very lovely park and The Hunziger Museum. That’s right, there’s a little culture here in town. On top of that, we have the Roanoke Depot which is a preserved train depot where they now house the art guild. There was an art show there during the Independence Day festivities last week, but I didn’t get Mom out of the house in time to go and admire it. It’s a pretty neat place and they’ve done a lot of work on it. We also have a bank that’s inside an old grain mill, and of course there’s a current grain mill that operates, too.
So, those are the highlights of life in my little town. We take our walks through the park and enjoy the slower pace of life in a little town. It’s a great place to hang your leash and I hope you enjoyed me sharing a little bit of it with you. I’d love to hear more about where all of you live, too, now that you’ve been tourists in my town.