Roadside History of Illinois

Roadside History of Illinois

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Roadside History of Illinois

Stan Banash - Special Introduction by Dee Brown

Illinois comprises more than 1,200 incorporated cities, towns, and villages, each with a
history of its own. Writing about each municipality would be a Herculean task, and I
had to omit many more stories than I would have liked. The communities selected for
this book were associated, for the most part, with people and events that helped to mold
and define our state. I established criteria for each choice—perhaps a prominent person
was born there, lived there, or contributed in a significant way to local, state, or national
history, or maybe it was the site of a major event.

     When I began researching this book, I found myself asking: Is it possible that one
person—Abraham Lincoln—actually made such a profound impact in all corners of
Illinois? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Lincoln’s role in this state’s history was monumental,
and his influence extended the length and breadth of Illinois. Among Lincoln’s
many contributions were his service in the Black Hawk War, as a traveling attorney in
the Eighth Judicial Circuit, as representative in the state legislature, as a campaigner for
Whig presidential candidates, as a representative in the U.S. Congress, as a participant in
seven statewide senatorial debates, and as an American president.

     I believed it was important to include troubling events along with positive ones.
Slavery and its prejudicial laws; the Trail of Tears; Indian depredations Fort Dearborn,
Hutsonville, Wood River, and other early settlements; the Haymarket Square Riot; the
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; and many more distasteful happenings are still subjects of
heated debate and intense emotion. Yet the innovations that came out of Illinois were
momentous: the G.I. Bill of Rights; the Plan of Chicago; Hull-House; modern dentistry;
and myriad agricultural inventions as well as cultural creations from the Ferris Wheel
to the fly swatter and from Raggedy Ann to Dairy Queen. All, for good or bad, were
part of our state’s history, and all have the potential to help us better understand the past,
appreciate the present, and plan the future.

     As with the other titles in the Roadside History series, this book is organized along
roadways. Some trips stick to major interstates, others follow official scenic byways, and
a few wind along county roads. Many of these routes trace old Indian trails, wagon roads,
military roads, or railroad lines. The view from some of these roads has not changed
much in more than a century, rolling through the same countryside where early settlers
drove their wagons and livestock. Along the way, the contributions of hardworking pioneer
families are reflected in small communities and modern cities alike.

     Depending on the season and locale, travelers may enjoy verdant fields of corn and
grazing cattle, gentle prairies blanketed with wildflowers, placid lakes edged with mosscovered
limestone, wide rivers rushing through narrow canyons, or cypress swamps
where the tip of an ancient glacier ended its southward descent thousands of years ago.
In addition to its abundant natural beauty, Illinois contains hundreds of historical sites,
museums, and cultural landmarks.

     This book’s tours are designed to help both visitors and residents discover and savor
the historical, cultural, and ecological opulence of this great state. It is my hope that
readers will find Roadside History of Illinois entertaining, informative, and even enlightening.
If it inspires just one person to further explore the Prairie State and its remarkable 
history, then it will have served its purpose.

Dust Jacket Blurbs
Stan Banash has diligently recorded Illinois' rich history...A unique guide to Illinois and its history as Americas crossroads and the home of Abraham Lincoln.
- Adlai E. Stevenson III
Former U.S. Senator, Illinois
There is a vital need for a new "biography" of the Land of Lincoln.  Stan Banash of Chicago has masterfully supplied that need through years of research...Mr. Banash writes with a keen sense of style and verve, making for an enjoyable and informative read.  This large volume is a most welcomed addition to history bookshelves, far and wide.
-Wayne C. Temple, PH.D.
Chief Deputy Director, Illinois State Archives

Book Reviews
“It isn’t often that a reader finds it enjoyable to read a history book from cover to cover, but the contents of a new Illinois history book is interesting enough to promote such an undertaking. The book, Roadside History of Illinois by native Illinoisan, Stan Banash, includes a chronology of the state from before 300,000 B.C. to 2011, some Illinois facts (such as 2010 population and state bird), some Illinois ‘originals, (e.g., the first Dairy Queen shop in Joliet in 1940), a brief history of Illinois, and then a virtual tour of the state’s seven regions (Southern Illinois: Between the Great Rivers; Western Illinois: Utopia on the Prairie; Central Illinois: Lincoln’s Legacy; Eastern Illinois: More Than You Expect; Northern Illinois: Rock River and Beyond; Greater Chicagoland: Metropolitan Diversity; and Chicago: City of Neighborhoods). . . . Illinois history becomes entertaining as well as informative—especially if visits to the state’s sites result from reading about them.”
Commercial News
Danville, Illinois
Joan Griffis
“This hefty volume (475 pages including extensive index), is one you can keep in the vehicle for reference as you travel throughout Illinois, or do as I did, and take a trip while sitting in your armchair. . . . This of course is the ‘Land of Lincoln’ and you’ll find the influences of that great American President reach throughout the state. Banash doesn’t stick to the feel good stories about the state, as he also recounts some of the more ‘troubling’ episodes—such as the Haymarket Square Riot, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and Indian depredations at Fort Dearborn.”
The Fence Post
Candy Moulton
Encampment, Wyoming
“The new book ‘Roadside History of Illinois’ provides everything you didn’t know about the Prairie State and then some in 496 fact-filled pages. . . . This is a book to browse during a rainy evening. Wherever you live in Illinois or wherever you were born, you’ll find some mention.”
Herald Review
Decatur, Illinois
Bob Fallstrom
“Anyone with an interest in the history of the cities and towns in Illinois will enjoy Stan Banash’s new book, ‘Roadside History of Illinois,’ which is both informative and entertaining. Written almost as a tour guide, the book identifies Illinois’ cities and towns in seven regions: Southern, Western, Central, Eastern and Northern plus Metropolitan Chicago and Chicago’s Neighborhoods. . . . Readers of any age will find his new book most instructive and interesting.”
The News-Gazette
Champaign, Illinois
Joan Griffis
“. . . Tex Banash knows Illinois. From Cairo in the south to Springfield in the center, to Galena in the northwest and to Chicago in the northeast, Banash thoroughly covers the state, giving vignettes of the history of every city, town and hamlet, as well as some that are no longer there. If you live in, visit, like or are just interested in the Land of Lincoln, Roadside History of Illinois is just what the doctor ordered.”
Roundup magazine
Western Writers of America
Thom Nicholson
“The Roadside History of Illinois by Stan Banash is a 496-page compendium providing the reader with a unique history of this remarkable state using its systems of roads and highways to tour its historical places and attractions. Enhanced with black-and-white historical photos and numerous line drawings, the Roadside History of Illinois is informed, informative, superbly organized, deftly presented, and highly recommended for personal and community American History collections in general, and Illinois History supplemental reading lists in particular.”
The Midwest Book Review
Wisconsin Bookwatch
The American History Shelf
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
“Roadside History of Illinois comes from a native of the state who describes its diverse history and byways, accompanying routes and maps with local color and even a hundred historical and modern photos to round out the presentation. Any either visiting the state or who have an interest in regional events will find this engrossing, blending a travelogue with local tips on places that hold much historical background. Without this book in hand, it’d be all too each to drive by some of the state’s lesser-known wonders: but by planning a route with history in mind, Illinois’s  past comes to life.”
The Midwest Book Review
California Bookwatch
The Travel Shelf
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
“This latest in a series of guidebooks is an entertaining and informative tour of the Prairie State’s historical places. It contains hundreds of brief “I didn’t know that” stories—who knew that the Ferris Wheel, processed cheese, the fly swatter and the dishwasher were all invented in Illinois?—and scores of historically oriented automotive day trips.”
American History magazine
Richard Ernsberger, Jr., Senior Editor
“OK, so Illinois is not in the West as we now know it, but this book (illustrated with 120 blackand-white photos) is loaded with information about the Prairie’s State’s historical places. And, of course, not all Westerners were actually born in the West. For instance, Ronald Reagan…was an Illinois native. Also born in Illinois were two of the wild West’s most famous lawmen…James Butler ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok (and) Wyatt Earp. Banash clearly took to the road often to produce this well-researched book, which like others in the series is organized along roadways. But even die-hard Westerners should enjoy this roadside visit to the state that produced Hickok, Earp and ‘Tex’ Banash.”
Wild West magazine
Greg Lalire, Editor
Leesburg, Virginia
“Staff Recommendations
"Described as a compendium of many lesser-known details of Illinois history, this delightful volume breaks Illinois down into 7 regions and suggests routes for short trips throughout Illinois.  From Metropolis to Chicago, Nauvoo to Danville, its full of historical facts and interesting tidbits.  Do you know about the original apple orchards in Barry?  or the Prophet of Prophetstown?  Have you heard of the Handy Writers Colony in Marshall?  Whether you actually hit the road or not, you'll find plenty of Illinois trivia in the Roadside History of Illinois.  Safe travels."

The Newberry

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