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Highland History




Source: Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Monday, May 22, 1854

Messrs. Editors:
Some time ago I had occasion to visit the town of Highland, in the justly celebrated "Looking Glass Prairie," in Madison County. I have traveled all over the Prairie State, but a more charming spot it has never been my fortune to behold within the vast expanse of Illinois. A most fertile prairie, yielding the richest harvest is for miles around the town, checkered as the beautiful mounds, and a gentle range of well-wooded hills forming the northern boundary of Looking Glass Prairie presents a most picturesque background to the neat and handsome town, which reposes on the bosom of the fresh green prairie, and is fanned by cooling breezes even in the hottest days in summer. It will always be a most interesting spot to all true lovers of nature. But in our utilitarian age, a place must present less ethereal and more substantial attractions than mere external beauty, to recommend itself to the favor of the public. And it affords me pleasure to say that such attractions abundantly exist there.

Highland was laid out not more than about sixteen years ago, when the country, north, east and south of it for miles around, was a beautiful but lonesome ocean of prairie. It had no advantages except in the industry, energy and good judgment of its original owners. It is now a town of near fifteen hundred inhabitants, and of all towns in Southern Illinois, the neatest and handsomest. It reminds the traveler most forcibly of a New England town, with its wide streets, brightly painted houses, and beautiful gardens. Most of the dwellings are of brick, and as rock abounds in the neighborhood, many of the foundations, the floors or porches, all the steps, frequently of vast dimensions, consist of rock, which impart a certain solid appearance to even otherwise slight structures. What struck me as very creditable to the place was the fine public school house, erected by private subscription, in which I was informed an excellent English school is taught, the population being especially German, or Swiss (containing also some very excellent families from French Switzerland, Geneva, Vevay and Louisiana, speaking the French with remarkable purity, rare facilities are here afforded to teach young persons both the German and French languages. There are several handsome churches, and a large and beautiful Catholic Church is in course of erection. Flourishing stores exist, as also a mill, tannery (lately carried on by Mr. How, brother of your worthy Mayor), and I was informed that it is contemplated to build another and more extensive mill in a very short time.

But what must soon make Highland an important point, and necessarily call towards it the attention of the business man and of the people of St. Louis, is the location of the Terre Haute and Illinoistown Railroad within one-half mile of it. A station and depot, sufficient to accommodate the business of the place, are to be erected at Highland; and the rich and now thickly settled country around will pour all its produce into the lap of Highland, to be transported thence either to the Atlantic cities or to St. Louis. The citizens of Highland, in order to obtain the benefits of that road, have liberally donated the right of way to the Company for many miles on the route, as also sufficient depot grounds, and have individually subscribed some $20,000 or $25,000 of stock, and paid in their installments promptly. There is a spirit of enterprise and a feeling of harmony in that community, which it would be well to emulate in other places, and which are the surest guaranties for the ulterior success of that garden town. In less than a year, Highland (thirty miles from St. Louis) will be within an hour's ride from the Mound City. Even without its facilities, some of our citizens have chosen Highland and the neighborhood for healthy and delightful summer retreats. You have, probably, been out at the hospitable place of that prince of hosts, Colonel Mudge, which is only a few miles from Highland. One of your business men on Market street has lately purchased some acres of ground, adjoining the town, for a country residence.

There are now good accommodations at Highland; but should it become (as it undoubtedly will) the favorite summer retreat for your crowded city, large and airy hotels will spring up as if by magic; and I should think it would not be long before the excellent water which is found in abundance here would cause the establishment of a hydropathic institution. How many young lives could be preserved, how many hearts remain unbroken, if during the summer months, the families of your business men could resort to such places as Highland, to breathe the fresh breeze of the prairies, and to enjoy a healthful exercise, invigorating mind and body.

I have been induced to say thus much of Highland - a place which deserves to be know - not only because I have a high opinion of many of its inhabitants, whom I personally know, and because I consider the place as one of which Illinois has reason to be proud, but also because I really think it a matter of benefit to your citizens to be made aware of such a beautiful and healthy spot, which the iron rail, for the advantage of both parties, has now so closely united to your city. It is this latter consideration which makes me hope that you will give this short epistle an insertion in the columns of your valuable journal. With great respect, yours, &c.


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