June 11, 2009
We headed out of
Our first stop was Virden, a town with one traffic light—a flashing red—which is not working. Virden was the site of a miners' riot in 1898. A large bronze relief on the town square commemorates the Battle of Virden with a scene depicting police with drawn guns at the top, cowering miners at the bottom, and a poster recruiting "175 colored miners" from
We paused in Carlinville to photograph the
was a $50,000 project when it was begun in 1867. By its completion in 1870, it had ballooned into one of the largest courthouses in the nation, with a price tag to match--over $1.3 million. At the opposite end of the luxury spectrum, Carlinville boasts the largest collection of Sears and Roebuck mail order houses in the country. Standard Oil Company built 156 of them for their miners in 1918, and 152 of them are still standing (although just about all have had additions and improvements made to them since they were built, so the sense of uniformity that the neighborhood must have had when it was built is lost in history).
Litchfield is home to the oldest café on Route 66, so we had to stop there for lunch. The Ariston Cafe has been family owned for over 80 years, and in its current building since 1935. It is a classic 50s restaurant, with a display case of sumptuous desserts greeting us at the door, a long lunch counter across the front, booths lining the walls, and tables in the middle covered with white tablecloths. We turned on the little yellow fluorescent light fixture on the wall of our booth to optimize the ambiance as we ate our lunch.
The union workers who died in Virden could not be buried in local cemeteries (the Lutheran minister didn't want "murderers" in his churchyard, and the person who owned the other cemetery objected to union ceremonies on his land), so the union purchased land in Mt. Olive where they could bury their martyrs and other miners. The entrance gates to the cemetery bear the words "Resting place of good Union people." Mother Jones, the diminutive grandmotherly woman who dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of union workers, is buried in the cemetery—she said she wanted to rest with her boys. A monument to her, "the martyrs of the Virden riot of 1898," and to about a dozen other named martyrs of the Progressive Miners of America "who have given their lives to the cause of clean unionism in
Our next stop was
(the water tower of the Brooks Catsup Company), then headed to a more meaningful stop on the other side of town.
Cahokia Mounds is the largest historic Native American settlement in the
We climbed 140 steps to the top of Monk's Mound (named for monks who came here long after the Indians with the intention of building a monastery at the top of the mound). We could see all the way to
We noted that exactly one week ago today we were visiting
That's it for Route 66 today.
But, there's more . . . we found a few more places of note after we left 66.
The first was the house in
The second was a monument in