Friday, July 15, 2016

A Few Sights and a Little History – Christian County Illinois

These postings are a little out of order since my last post involved our dinner in Springfield Illinois… In any case, as we neared our overnight stop in Springfield, via US Hwy. 51 and IL Hwy. 49, we passed through a couple of towns in Christian County. 

There is almost always something historical and/or interesting to look at…

We rolled on into Pana Illinois and then we sought out the former combination railroad depot that was built in 1927.  It was shared by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad as well as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  For a while the old depot was being used as a business but it looks abandoned now.

Pana was a major railroad hub beginning in the 1850s with 4 tracks for 4 railroads that involved a rare double crossing.  The other 2 railroads that passed through Pana were the Indianapolis and St. Louis and the Illinois Central Railroads. 

Back in the boom days of railroading, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad operated a divisional maintenance headquarters in Pana.  That facility included a machine shop with a power plant, 16-stall roundhouse, transfer table, a 2-story car shop, turntable, blacksmith shop, and offices.

This is the Louis Jehle house at 511 East 5th Street in Pana.  This impressive classic Queen Anne Style home was built for Mr. Jehle, a local businessman,  in 1895.  As of 1995 when it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the home only had 4 owners including the current resident.


·       At one time, Pana came to be known as the City of Roses.  Many major florists and growers set up operations here.  There were 109 greenhouses in Pana!

·       The township of Pana was originally named “Stone Coal District”. 

·       The Pana riot, or Pana massacre, occurred on April 10, 1899, resulting in the deaths of 7 people.  The riot occurred after coal mine owners brought in black ‘scabs’/replacements in order to break an ongoing strike by union miners.  It’s an ugly story!  Check it out at

Laurie and I had driven through Taylorville Illinois on many occasions back in the late 1970’s and as late as 1980.  But we’d never stopped to look around at all… Those trips were really weekend visits to check out my Loss Prevention operations at several Illinois and Iowa Venture Stores.

In any case, this time we actually took a few moments to look around for some historic places.  This is the Christian County Historical Society’s “Settlement” on the edge of Taylorville.  Unfortunately the settlement was closed that day and I ended up taking photos through the fence.

The first building on the left is the original Christian County Courthouse.  There also is a school, a railroad depot, a 1820s log cabin and at least 3 other historical structures in this open air museum.  The Historical Society’s website is and they are on Facebook at

Of course I was searching for the railroad depot!  This little combination depot was moved to the museum from Owaneco Illinois, a small village in Christian County.  Owaneco’s population peaked in 1940 at 366 residents but they did have a depot!  I couldn’t find any information on this little Baltimore and Ohio combination depot, but I noted that the Historical Society is in the midst of researching the history of this facility.

This is the former Chicago and Illinois Midland Railroad depot in Taylorville.  This railroad never had more than 100 miles or so of track, it never served Chicago and it’s still a shortline railroad...  In 1996 this railroad became part of the Genesee and Wyoming family of shortlines and its name was changed to the Illinois and Midland Railroad.  The ca. 1925 depot is now being used as offices for that the railroad. 

As for the name of the Chicago and Illinois Midland Railroad, the railroad has roots dating back to the Pawnee Railroad of 1888 which connected Pawnee Illinois with the Illinois Central Railroad some 15 miles to the west. In 1905 the Pawnee was purchased by coal-related interests for the express purpose of moving coal from central Illinois coalfields to their coal-fired power plants located near Chicago.  The 2 companies were the Chicago Edison Company and Illinois Midland Coal Company.  Hence the name Chicago and Midland Railroad reflecting its ownership by these two companies.

This is the Christian County Courthouse.  The stone Romanesque Revival style courthouse, which was constructed in 1902, forms the centerpiece of the roughly 14 block Taylorville Courthouse Historic District.  The courthouse cost $100,533 to build, or roughly $6,000,000 in today’s dollars.

The county was organized in 1839 from parts of Macon, Montgomery, Sangamon and Shelby Counties.  It was first named Dane County, in honor of Nathan Dane, one of the framers of the Ordinance of 1787.  However, since the majority of early settlers came from Christian County Kentucky, this name was finally adopted.

FYI…The Ordinance of 1787 was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States that created the Northwest Territory, the first organized territory of the United States, from lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains.


·       Edward Mills Purcell was born in Taylorville.  He discovered nuclear magnetic resonance (MRI) and won the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics.

·       Yvonne Craig, the actress who appeared in the Batman television series as Batgirl, was born in Taylorville.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. You always manage to dig out the interesting info for the places you visit. Just four owners in over 100 years is impressive for the house.

  2. The Pana depot you have pictured is actually the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad depot.

  3. Hi Dave, I've enjoyed reading your blog. Here are some updates websites for the Christian County Historical Society & Museum in Taylorville.
    We are located at 325 Abes Way PO Box 254
    Taylorville, Illinois 62568 phone 217-824-6922
    Hours: Apr. 1 thru Dec. 1, Thurs. - Sat. 10am to 3pm
    Dec. 1 thru March 31, Sat. only 10am to 3pm.
    The Christian County Historical Society & Museum is a proud partner in the Looking for Lincoln – Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. The National Heritage Area is a 42-county region in Illinois dedicated to preserving and sharing the legacy of Abraham Lincoln with visitors from around the world through authentic historic attractions, stories, and special events that capture the essence of Lincoln’s 30 years in Illinois. Looking for Lincoln, the coordinating organization for the National Heritage Area, represents a coalition of organizations, communities and individuals dedicated to sharing the life and times of arguably one of America’s most loved presidents. For more about Looking for Lincoln and the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, go to