Agricultural History in Southern IL

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img_3338When I learned that there was a historic agricultural tour taking place in Southern Illinois from Carol Hoffman of the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau, I was hooked and knew I had to go.

Amy Erickson of SI Treasure Tours (front and center in the picture) teamed up with Professor and author Jane Adams (far right) to narrate the history of agriculture in southern Illinois.  My friend Rose Hammitt (2nd from the left) and I have traveled often to Southern Illinois in pursuit of the beauty of the hills and stories of this lovely land.

Amy Erickson of SI Tours was amazed by the history this beautiful country has to offer and she  has been taking tourists like Rose and I and Chris (on the left) and Jean (2nd from the right) on tours since 2013. This though was the first agricultural history tour. She started out with one about the Heron Massacre, a Labor dispute of international fame.

After Rose and I spent the night in Carbondale, shopped the night away and dined with her fun cousin, we met up with Amy the next morning and set out on what Amy calls, “An Adventure in Discovery”.

We bumped our way through the Shawnee Hills Jane told us about the pre-revolutionary stock of Irish, Scotts and Germans that settled the area coming from Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.  Jane said they came bringing their “southern back country culture”.

They settled the hilly terrain and soon found that this area with the loess, windblown soil was perfect for growing fruits and vegetables. Orchards sprang up and once the railroad came through and with Park Earle’s invention of the refrigerated box, the farmers started sending their crops to urban markets in St. Louis and Chicago.

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In Cobden, Illinois where we stopped and ate at the wonderful Yellow Moon Café, there is also the Union County Museum where we  viewed the history of the fruit and orchard days that were at their peak in the early 1900’s, a time Jane Adams called, “the golden age”.

The Union County Museum is in a former box and barrel factory and while there, I heard the story of one of the volunteers who remembers loading fruit onto a train car at one of the Cobden docks.  The museum also has some amazing examples of Kirkpatrick pottery that was made in nearby Anna, Illinois.

During our tour, we also went to Pamona Winery and Rendelman Orchard. We attempted a stop at the beautiful Longshadow where they make ornamental garden containers, but they were closed.  Most of all though we listened to the stories and history that Jane imparted.

If you get a chance, you may want to either try to recreate this tour yourself,  or better yet, sign up for one of S.I. Treasures Tours, they have a variety of them and they transport you, feed you and provide you with some amazing information.

We stopped at the revamped Bald Knob Cross, and Rose and I got another glimpse of the lovely Shawnee Hills.  I bought a necklace with a picture of the cross as my souvenir take away.

What better way to spend a night and day with a good friend, some agricultural history that will be in an upcoming issue of Farm World, and a day in the beautiful Shawnee Hills!

Log onto www.treasuretourssi.com for more information about upcoming Treasure Tours.