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History of Roxana, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

In 1917, the Roxana Oil Company decided to build a new refinery on land referred to as “Wood River Field,” just south of Wood River in Wood River Township. Previous to this time period, the area was mostly farmland, due to the rich soil of the American Bottoms. While the refinery was under construction, the bones of fifteen skeletons were unearthed. The skeletons were found whole, in an upright position, and appeared to be male and female, young and old. The teeth were in good condition, but the skulls appeared to have a small dent, which may have been made by a club. The bones were taken away to be studied at an unknown location.

After completion of the refinery in 1918 [Shell Oil], houses were erected for the refinery workers. In 1921, the village of Roxana was incorporated, and was named after the oil company that took up most of the land within the village. C. C. Martin was elected president of the village, with trustees Harry C. Chaffer, Walter Dipple, J. B. Williams, Fred Isaminger, Edwin Laatsch, and George A. Molique being chosen by the people. Charles M. High was elected the village clerk, and Reid Bivens was elected treasurer. W. W. Davis was elected police magistrate.
                                                1927 map of the Roxana, Illinois area
A Baptist Church was organized in September 1921, and land purchased in 1922 for construction of a church. The first services were held December 3, 1922, with J. A. Wilson serving as the first pastor.

The Roxana village hall was constructed in 1938. It houses the Village President and Treasurer, Water Department, Clerk’s office, fire and police department, village board room, and a municipal gymnasium.
Roxana Cine Theater
In 1940, a large Art Deco-style theater was constructed at 400 N. Central Avenue. First called the Roxana Theater, it was owned by Albert Critchlow. The name was later changed to the Roxana Cine. Critchlow and his family lived in an apartment above the lobby. In 1949 a tornado took the roof off the theater, but it was repaired. Critchlow operated the theater until 1965, when Bloomer Amusement Company of Belleville purchased it. They re-opened the theater in 1968. It was later owned by Kerasotes, before it closed in 2002. The theater is now owned by the Church of the Nazarene.

Early Roxana Schools
The first school in the Roxana area was held in a Shell Oil Company staff house on East Tydeman Avenue. In 1918 a schoolhouse was constructed on Edwardsville Road, between Walnut and Tydeman, facing the Standard Oil Refinery fence. This school closed in 1926, and the property sold to a trucking company.

The Edison School (built in 1926) was constructed at the southwest corner of Tydeman and Central Avenue in Roxana, across the street from the First Baptist Church of Roxana. Six years later a gymnasium and stage were added to the school. Edison School was a two-room junior high school, which was later converted into a primary grade school. After its demolition in the late 1960s, the Roxana Public Library was constructed on the site in 1970.

The Burbank School was constructed in 1936, and was named after botanist Luther Burbank. The school was constructed as a WPA project. An addition to the school was constructed in 1966. The school closed in 1983 and was sold to a local chiropractor. The building was given to the city, and razed in 2009.

In 1939, citizens of Roxana and eastern Wood River voted to form a new school district, called the Roxana School District 156. The Roxana High School was constructed in 1941. This school had three stories, with twelve classrooms, a main office, a library, and a gymnasium. A larger gym was added in 1954.

Today, the refinery in Roxana is owned by ConocoPhillips.

 

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