Monday, September 5, 2016

The End of Our Journey

Our journey this past June to visit family took us to Omaha Nebraska and then on to St. Louis Missouri.  The drive home is usually a sprint from St. Louis…but I couldn’t resist one more stop to check out a little history along the way!

I diverted from our drive south on I-24 in southern Illinois into the town of Vienna.  Vienna is the County Seat and this is the Johnson County Courthouse.  The courthouse was built from 1869 to 1871.  Apparently county records are unclear on the matter and the courthouse was either the fourth or fifth built in the county and the second or third in Vienna.  This Italianate style structure has served continuously as the county courthouse since it opened…145 years as of this year!

Johnson County Illinois was named for Richard Mentor Johnson, the 9th Vice President of the United States.  He served with Martin Van Buren from 1837 to 1841.  At 26 years of age, Johnson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1806.  He became allied with fellow Kentuckian Henry Clay as a member of the War Hawks faction that favored war with Britain in 1812.  At the outset of the War of 1812, Johnson was commissioned a colonel in the Kentucky Militia and commanded a regiment of mounted volunteers from 1812 to 1813.  Johnson participated in the Battle of the Thames.  Some reported that he personally killed the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, which he later used to his political advantage. 

The Vienna Public Library, (a Carnegie Library), was built in the Classic Revival Style in 1911.  The building provided a permanent home for Vienna's library program, which was established in 1895 and had rotated through a number of local buildings prior to 1911.  County medical services have also been based in the library. The American Red Cross used the building as its headquarters during the 1917 influenza outbreak.  The building has also been used as a gym, a headquarters for city services, and a meeting place for several women's organizations as well as the Johnson County Historical Society.

Back to Richard Mentor Johnson… In addition to serving in the Kentucky Legislature, Johnson also served in either the US House of Representatives or the US Senate for 30 years!  Add in the Vice Presidency and his time serving in Kentucky... he spent over 41 years in politics. 


·       Johnson County has an interesting population track, rising and falling over the years.  In 1900, there were 15,667 residents.  By 1960, there were only 6,928.  However the estimated population in 2015 was 12,762!  The population resurgence may have something to do with employment at the 2 major penitentiaries in the county

.     Of course, as it is one of my missions in life, I was searching for the 2 railroad depots that I’d researched that were located in Vienna.  With the ramp on the side and those 2 freight doors, I thought that this might be one of them.  It is a nice old building now serving as an antique store…but it wasn’t railroad related.

I’m not done with Richard Johnson!  He was an interesting and polarizing character for his time…  After his father died, Richard Johnson inherited Julia Chinn, an octoroon slave (one-eighth African, seven-eighths European in ancestry).  Johnson began a long-term relationship with her and treated her as his common-law wife.  They were prohibited from marrying because she was a slave.  Johnson and Chinn had two daughters, Adaline Chinn Johnson and Imogene Chinn Johnson, whom he acknowledged and gave his surname.  He provided for their education.  Both daughters married white men.  Johnson gave them large farms as dowries from his own holdings.

Due to his open relationship with a slave, he barely received enough nominating votes from his party to run as Vice President.  When the Electoral College met to cast their votes after Van Buren and Johnson won the popular vote, so many southern electors refused to vote for Johnson that he has the distinction of being the only Vice President that had to be ‘elected’ by the US Senate under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment.

Finally!  This is the first of the railroad depots that I was looking for in Vienna.  Although trains haven't passed through Vienna for many years, the town is fortunate that the old rail corridor was converted into the popular Tunnel Hill State Trail.  From what I can gather, this replica railroad depot in Vienna serves as trail headquarters.  I did find photos or postcards showing a similar looking structure in Vienna when the railroad was still active…

The Cairo and Vincennes Railroad was first built as the Cairo and Vincennes Railroad.  It was constructed between 1870 and 1874.  After a series of mergers and reorganizations via the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway in 1881; the Cairo, Vincennes and Chicago Railway in 1889; the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway; and the New York Central Railroad in 1906, the line ended up under ownership of the Southern Railway, who abandoned this portion of the line.

This original and completely restored depot was moved to Vienna from a location near the old town site of Forman, several miles to the south.  The Forman Depot was built about 1900 by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad and was at the junction of that railroad's track and that of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway.  Following World War II the amount of traffic through the Forman Depot decreased to a level that the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy chose to close the depot.

A local farmer convinced the railroad to sell him the depot rather than tear it down.  He moved it to his farm where it remained for more than 50 years. In 1998 the depot was given to the Johnson County Genealogical and Historical Society and in 2002 the depot was moved to Vienna City Park and the restoration of the depot was started. The depot now is a railroad museum, Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Vienna Tourism Center.

To learn more about the Vienna Railroad Museum, you can go to

This is the skyline of downtown Nashville Tennessee.  At this point we were only about 2.5 hours from home!  The Nashville Metropolitan Area is home to about 1.8 million residents and of course, it’s the home of Country Music!

This is Nissan Stadium, the home of the feckless (so far) National Football Team, the Nashville Titans.  This stadium used to be called the LP Stadium as per a 10-year agreement with Louisiana-Pacific Corp, a building products company.  Nissan is one of middle Tennessee's largest employers with the Nissan Smyrna Vehicle Assembly plant opening in 1983.  It employs more than 8,400 employees and Nissan moved its North American headquarters to Franklin Tennessee in 2008.

From here it was a relatively short drive home…after a couple of weeks on the road.  We had a great time, but it’s always good to be home!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Hey Fellow--You didn't take a picture of the skyline when you got to GORGEOUS Crossville, TN.... HA HA HA HA....

    You confused me when you said that Johnson was the 9th PRESIDENT.... I think you meant VICE Pres.. In fact, I know you meant that.... He was an interesting character and one I don't know anything about....

    Thanks for sharing Vienna and Johnson County with us.


  2. Like always nice and interesting pictures Don :)