toltonFather Augustus Tolton is known as the first African American priest in the United States. Born a slave in Missouri in 1854, his family eventually reached the free state of Illinois.

At the age of 16, Tolton felt called to the priesthood but he was denied acceptance by every Catholic seminary in the country. With the help of two Quincy priests and Catholic benefactors, Tolton worked odd jobs and in tobacco factories over the next 10 years until he was able to save enough money to travel to Rome to attend a seminary there.

After completing his courses in Rome, Tolton was ordained on April 24, 1886. He expected that he would be sent to an African mission, but he instead returned to Illinois to serve the African American population.

Tolton’s first assignment was Saint Joseph’s church in his hometown of Quincy. During his two years there, he gained enormous respect from many of the German and Irish parishioners. However, he also endured humiliation, isolation and condemnation from fellow priests who would not accept him.

Read more ...

snowfallDid you know? The biggest snowfall in Illinois history happened on February 28, 1900.

It’s been recorded as the biggest snowfall within a 24 hour time period to ever cover the state of Illinois.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association documented 36 inches of snow fell on the cold brisk day. The highest snow depth ever logged in the state was also associated with that storm.

In Astoria, 41 inches of snow were measured. Recordings have challenged those measurements throughout the years but none have broken the record.

On average, Illinois experiences five severe winter storms between the months of November and April. These storms may only consist of heavy snow, or be a mix of snow and ice.

If you ever find yourself caught in a snowstorm the best thing that you can do according to The Weather Channel is to see if there is a building close by. If there isn’t a building in sight, you should stay in your vehicle and turn the car off. Turn the car on every once in a while to heat it up, and then turn it back off to conserve gas while you wait for help.

For more information on what to do during a snowstorm click here.

Bachelor's grove

It is rumored to have been the most scandalous dumping ground for Chicago’s organized crime families during the 1920’s and 30’s. However there has been no evidence proving these claims.

Legend has it that the cemetery got its name because only men were buried in the graveyard. However, the name actually came from a family who settled in the area. Over the years, the cemetery’s name has been changed several times.

The first thing many visitors notice about Bachelor’s Grove is the destruction. It is overgrown with weeds and gravestones have been moved or broken by grave robbers and vandals. It is now surrounded by a chain-link fence to keep out trespassers. The cemetery sign disappeared many years ago, and due to the rate of vandalism, police are often present at night.

One of the most famous sightings in Bachelor’s Grove is the large ghost house. Most visitors have described it the same way: a white, two-story Victorian farmhouse, with a soft light glowing from the inside. Some say it appears further away as you walk closer to it.

If you would like to check out the cemetery for yourself there are plenty of ghost hunts and tours that bring groups to explore the cemetery at night.

640px Texas Army National Guard Hurricane Harvey ResponseThere has been a great effort around the state to send supplies and support to Texas and victims of Hurricane Harvey. One Springfield native, Brad Milliman, not only took it upon himself to get involved, but included his friends, family, and community. Milliman decided to drive to Texas so he could more directly be a part of the relief effort.

Before leaving, Milliman thought that it would be a more productive trip if he transported as many supplies as he could. His grassroots effort started small, with a couple of text messages to family and friends asking for donations. Before long, he had the support of local schools, businesses and individuals. Milliman delivered the supplies he collected to a staging area in Dallas, Texas.

Other communities around the state are also taking action to help in any way they can.

Chicago State University paired with Houston Texans defensive end, JJ Watt, and his Foundation to provide basic necessities along with coloring books and board games. These enjoyable alternatives can offer a much needed distraction to the realities victims of the hurricane are facing.

Small communities are making an effort as well. There is a semitractor-trailer sitting in front of City Hall in the small town of Carlinville for community members to bring donated supplies. Also, at the Glenwood High School football game versus Rochester High School, community members were encouraged to bring bottled water to help the relief effort. Opportunities like this and others have allowed teachers, students and parents to get involved in the nationwide effort.

The Peoria based 182nd Airlift Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard is also playing a role in the recovery effort. The 182nd has sent one of it's C-130 Hercules aircraft along with a crew to assist with relief efforts.

flag map of IllinoisQuestions

Q1: What Illinois community was the first planned industrial town in the United States?
Q2: Why is O’Hare’s airport code ORD?
Q3: How many square miles are in Illinois?
Q4: Today, it’s East St. Louis, but when it was founded in 1816, what was its name?
Q5: What town marks the geographic center of Illinois?
Q6: How many square miles of water are in Illinois?
Q7: Cairo, Karnak and Thebes make up the area dubbed what?
Q8: At 1,235 feet, what is the highest point in Illinois?
Q9: The sale of liquor was banned in what city from 1853-1971?
Q10: Sandwich, Illinois was named after “Long John” Wentworth’s hometown which was in what state?
Q11: In July 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas met in what town to plan their famous debates?
Q12: A 1908 race riot in Springfield led directly to the founding of what national organization?
Q13: Father Jacques Marquette founded a mission at the Kaskaskia Indian village in 1675 near the present site of what Illinois town?
Q14: The Mississippi River doubles in volume at what point/town?
Q15: What French holiday did Chicago observe in 1917 as a wartime gesture to France?
Q16: When it opened in 1855, what Illinois hotel was considered “the finest hotel west of New York City?”
Q17a: While working here as a rail-splitter and farmer, Abraham Lincoln made his first political speech in what town?
Q17b: How old was Lincoln when he gave his first political speech?
Q18: What county’s name comes from the Native American word for “white potato?”
Q19: What was the name of Nauvoo before Mormons settled there in 1839?
Q20: How many miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan does Illinois have?
Q21: Where was Illinois’ first state capital?



A1: Pullman—employees of George Pullman’s sleeping-car factory lived here
A2: It was originally named Orchard Field
A3: 56,400 square miles
A4: Illinoistown
A5: Logan, twenty-eight miles northeast of Springfield
A6: 652 square miles of water
A7: Little Egypt—the area was dubbed this because of its fertile soil and similarity to the Nile Delta
A8: Charles Mound
A9: Evanston
A10: New Hampshire
A11: Bement
A12: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
A13: Utica
A14: Cairo, where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi River
A15: Bastille Day
A16: DeSoto House in Galena
A17a: Decatur
A17b: Twenty-one years old
A18: Macoupin
A19: Commerce
A20: 63 miles of shoreline
A21: Kaskaskia—from 1818-1820