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Legends & Lore of Southern Illinois (Shawnee Classics)by John W. Allen
Synopses & Reviews
In the 1950s and 60s, John W. Allen told the people of southern Illinois about themselves—about their region, its history, and its folkways—in his series of newspaper articles, It Happened in Southern Illinois.” Each installment of the series depicted a single item of interest—a town, a building, an enterprise, a person, an event, a custom. Originally published in 1963, Legends & Lore of Southern Illinois brings together a selection of these articles preserving a valuable body of significant local history and cultural lore.
During territorial times and early statehood, southern Illinois was the most populous and most influential part of the state. But the advent of the steamboat and the building of the National Road made the lands to the west and north more easily accessible, and the later settlers struck out for the more expansive and fertile prairies. The effect of this movement was to isolate that section of the state known as Egypt and halt its development, creating what Allen termed an historical eddy.” Bypassed as it was by the main current of westward expansion and economic growth, its culture changed very slowly. Methods, practices, and the tools of the pioneer continued in use for a long time. The improved highways and better means of communication of the twentieth century brought a marked change upon the region, and daily life no longer differed materially from that of other areas.
Against such a cultural and historical backdrop, Mr. Allen wrote these sketches of the people of southern Illinois—of their folkways and beliefs, their endeavors, successes, failures, and tragedies, and of the land to which they came. There are stories here of slaves and their masters, criminals, wandering peddlers, politicians, law courts and vigilantes, and of boat races on the rivers. Allen also looks at the regions earlier history, describing American Indian ruins, monuments, and artifacts as well as the native populations encounters with European settlers.
Many of the vestiges of the regions past culture have all but disappeared, surviving only in museums and in the written record. This new paperback edition of Legends & Lore of Southern Illinois brings that past culture to life again in Allens descriptive, engaging style.
About the Author
Born in an Illinois log cabin in 1887, John W. Allen grew up in Hamilton and Saline counties. After graduating from the eighth grade at Hardscrabble School, Allen served as a teacher and an administrator in southern Illinois public schools for twenty-seven years, and as the historical director of the University Museum at Southern Illinois University for sixteen years. From 1953 to 1967 Allen wrote a weekly series of articles about southern Illinois that were circulated by more than three hundred newspapers.
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