Richland County

1940 Stories from Illinois History


"Trace Road," which passes through Olney, Richland County, to form its main artery, is listed among historic Illinois highways. Years ago, this famous road an Indian and buffalo trail, led from "Bear Grass," now Louisville, Kentucky, to Cahokia, a few miles below East St. Louis, on the Mississippi River. It was one of the much traveled east to west routes during pioneer days, and was followed by early stage and mail lines.


Although cross-country travel in ox-drawn carts or Conestoga wagons was greatly lessened by the expansion of railroads from 1850 to 1870, for a number of years the covered wagon continued to be used as a means of transportation. By the 1890's however, ox-drawn conveyances were enough of a rarity in Illinois to occasion newspaper comment. A dispatch from Olney, Richland County, dated May 15, 1891, stated, "An ox team passed through Olney Friday, bound for Kansas. At the rate they were traveling they will arrive at their destination about Christmas."


Many of the birds common in Illinois years ago have either disappeared entirely or else are greatly diminished in number.

On a summer day in 1871, Robert Ridgeway, famous ornithologist of Richland County, observed 145 species of native and migratory birds in the prairies and woods west of Olney, according to an authority. Among these were Baltimore orioles, warbling and red-eyed vireos, mocking birds, brown thrashers, yellow-breasted chats, field sparrows, chewinks, cardinals, Bob Whites, white-eyed vireos, Bell's vireos, vermilion tanagers, blue jays, red-headed woodpeckers, Dick Cissels, Henlow's buntings, yellow-winged sparrows, prairie larks, meadow larks, swallow-tailed kites, and ravens.

Other writers of the period noted the abundance of wild fowl in the rice fields along the Illinois River, and tell of seeing cranes, gallinules, coots, wood duck, mallards, teals, snipes, bitterns, blue herons, snowy egrets, mud hens, blue-bills, springtails, greenwings, brants, sandhill cranes, white swans, white pelicans, wild geese, and hooded mergansers.

Extracted 25 Oct 2019 by Norma Hass from Stories from Illinois History, compiled by the Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Illinois, published in 1940, pages 32, 60, and 78.

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