First Black Church in Illinois featured in latest issue of Historic Illinois

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Also featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois are the deadly tornadoes of 1917 and 1925, and Eads Bridge over Mississippi River
 
Springfield, IL – The first black church in Illinois, the deadly tornadoes of 1917 and 1925, and the Eads Bridge connecting Illinois and Missouri for nearly 140 years are featured in the latest issue of Historic Illinois, a publication of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA).
 
Established in 1809, the Flat Creek Missionary Baptist Church in St. Clair County is believed to be the oldest black church in Illinois.  Located in East Carondelet, the church was originally named for the flat creek bottom where those original members of African and Native American descent would congregate.  These members came from three of the first settlements in the area:  Cahokia and Prairie du Pont on the Illinois side and Carondelet on the Missouri side.  Flooding from the Mississippi River was always an issue for congregants, and after many struggles, a generous land trade in 1876 gave Minister Frederick Luance the deed for a new church property, where parishioners built their new wood-framed church.  This site is still the home of the congregation today, with the church celebrating its bicentennial last year. Efforts are ongoing to establish the adjacent cemetery as a state archaeological site and a massive cleanup effort is currently underway.
 
The deadly tornadoes of 1917 and 1925 that devastated large areas of Illinois brought on major changes in the ways storms are tracked and damages prevented.  In May 1917, a tornado that began near Quincy began moving east, killing 211 Illinoisans and causing nearly $61 million damage in today’s terms to Charleston and Mattoon. Another tornado began in a similar fashion in 1925, covering three states and killing 695 people in Illinois alone.  This ranks as the highest tornado death toll in the United States. These storms lead to new rules and regulations that were put in place to prevent these massive financial damages and loss of human life.  Insurance coverage was altered to cover storm damages; residents began building underground storm shelters; and volunteers flooded local radio stations to help alert communities of incoming severe weather – this effort in particular led to the establishment of storm sirens in Illinois. 
 
Novice bridge designer James B. Eads defied the odds and created a bridge that has connected Illinois and Missouri across the mighty Mississippi River at St. Louis for almost 140 years.  Steamboat owners did not want the bridge to be developed and tried to stall the project by bringing forward near-impossible specifications for what must comprise the bridge.  Eads took these and set about designing a bridge that would carry rail and vehicle traffic.  His proposed bridge of steel with supports resting on bedrock met some resistance from steel giant Andrew Carnegie, who did not want to provide the type of steel Eads desired.  Moreover, Eads’ inventive design led to dangerous working conditions resulting many workers’ deaths.  The project prevailed, however, and the seven year construction effort ended on July 4, 1874 when famed Civil War General William T. Sherman drove the last spike and pronounced the bridge open.  The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in both Illinois and Missouri in 1963 and declared a National Historic Landmark a year later.
 
Historic Illinois is a bimonthly IHPA publication that features historically significant sites in Illinois. Subscriptions are $10 per year, which includes six issues of Historic Illinois and one full-color Historic Illinois Calendar. For more information, call (217) 524-6045, visit www.Illinois-History.gov, or write Historic Illinois, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701-1507. 

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