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Roxana, Illinois, Newspaper Clippings

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser




Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, March 21, 1917
That the deal for the sale of a large tract of land to the Roxana Oil Company, which has been forecasted is about to be closed, is indicated by the presence in Alton of two representatives of the Roxana Oil Company. From their representations to contractors whom they have been consulting with regard to erecting buildings to serve as a nucleus of the big refinery that is to be erected somewhere in the vicinity of Alton, it is indicated that the Roxana company plans to build a refinery that will be as large, if not larger, than the Wood River refinery. The men in charge here are seeking homes for their families. The statement is made that the tests of the ground where it is proposed to erect the plant have been made, and the ground was found satisfactory. It is expected that the deal for the purchase of the land will be closed very soon. The site selected is on ground belonging to the Bowman family, and is said to be similar to the ground that the Standard Oil Co. bought for the Wood River Refinery. The Roxana company operates a subsidiary company known as the Shell Oil Company, and it is cards of the Shell company that are presented by the representatives who have been interviewing Alton building contractors. It is intimated that there is hardly a chance of the deal falling through, and that before very long work of constructing the big refinery will be under way. The site will be not far from the site of the new tannery that is in course of construction. Still another oil company, it is reported in the St. Louis papers, the Indiahoma, has its eyes on a site near Alton. It is becoming evident that Alton, as an oil refining center, is to become a very important place, with one refinery established at Wood River, another about to buy a site, and a third having its attention glued to the Alton situation. R. B. High, who is here representing the oil company, has opened an office in the Mineral Springs hotel. He said to a Telegraph reporter today that he will spend at least a month here looking over sites. He said that no deal had been closed as yet.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, May 11, 1918
A burial place of the original old settlers, antedating the American Indians in Madison County, was today affording interesting study to students of ethnology and archeology. Workmen excavating on a small hill just inside of the Roxana Oil Refinery at Roxana yesterday unearthed the bones of fifteen skeletons. On previous occasions other skeletons were uncovered in that vicinity and the discovery of the additional skeletons yesterday helps to demonstrate that at some time there must have been many people buried in that neighborhood. Many of the skeletons were found almost whole, in an upright posture in the soil. The skeletons appeared to be both male and female, and of old and young persons. The skulls were well preserved, and the teeth were in good condition. On each of the skulls on the right side there appeared to be a small dent, which might have been made by a savage's war club. The skeletons are not of Indians, for the large jaw bone of the Indian and the large joint bones, which characterize the Indian skeleton are lacking. Ethnologists have frequently declared that at one time a highly developed race lived in America before the Indians, and that they were slain by the Indians.

The finding of the skeletons gives rise to the belief that there must have been a massacre of an entire tribe of highly civilized prehistoric men at that place by the Indians, and that they were all buried together in a heap, which is now the site of the Roxana Oil Refinery [former Shell Oil, now Phillips 66, at Hwy. 111 and Madison Street]. This supposition is strengthened by the fact that in the memory of the old settlers at Roxana, no cemetery was ever located in that vicinity. Frank Smith, whose grandfather secured the Smith land, which was sold to the Roxana Oil Refinery, says that his grandfather secured the land from the government on a homestead claim, and that in his remembrance there was no cemetery there at that time. The fact that the bones are not those of Indians would prove apparently that the skeletons belonged to some prehistoric race, which evidently were later killed off by the Indians.

On numerous occasions specimens of the finest pottery made of pulverized mussel shell, and cemented with a substance, the nature of which chemists of today cannot duplicate, have been found in that neighborhood, and this lost art of mussel shell pottery is believed to belong to that prehistoric race. H. H. Clark, cashier of the First State and Savings Bank at Wood River, who is interested in ethnology and archeology, went to Roxana this morning and secured a number of the skull and thigh bones found at the refinery. He also took along several well-preserved specimens of teeth found in the jaw bones, beside several specimens of the mussel shell pottery, which was found nearby. The find was made just inside of the Roxana gate, where six of the fifty houses to be erected for workmen at Roxana are being put for the foremen of the plant. At that place there is a small hill which rises up inside of the gate, and it was in the side of the hill that the skeletons were found. The discovery has attracted a great deal of interest, and many from Alton and Wood River went down to Roxana today in automobiles on learning of the finding of the skeletons. Many of the bones were taken away as relics and will be carefully preserved.

I have no further information on this archeological find, or what happened to the remains of these people. Although the newspaper had the opinion that these weren’t the remains of Native Americans, they probably were, as records show that the area was dotted with small mounds which held Native American remains. Too bad this discovery was thoroughly examined by archeologists and the remains preserved in a local museum. In early days, the remains of Native people ended up in a St. Louis or Springfield, Illinois museum.


Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 6, 1921
A blast of fire which accompanied an explosion in a new department of the Roxana Petroleum Co. refinery at Roxana, last night at 6:20 o'clock, caused the death of one man and the burning of four others, who were taken to St. Joseph's hospital for treatment. Other men suffered minor burns. The new still which blew up was wrecked. The dead man, H. C. Prochazka, of Milwaukee, a few days before had come to take employment in the place. He was 32 years old. His body was frightfully broken by the explosion, as well as burned by the flame and oil. The more seriously injured were J. S. Miller of Upper Alton; C. P. Dubbs, president of the Universal Oil Products Co., L. E. Nackus and T. L. Harvic, also of the same company. The explosion occurred in a new high pressure still in which a patented process of refining gasoline is done. The Universal Oil Products Co. has the patent rights on the process and had interested the Roxana company in trying it at their plant. For more than six months the Universal company has had a force of employees there building the still and it has been in operation. It was being given its final test last night when the explosion occurred that wrecked the still and caused the injury of perhaps a dozen people and the killing of one. Standing around the still at the time of the accident were about two dozen men. The test seemed to be progressing satisfactorily when, without any apparent warning, there was a blast, and burning oil and gas flames were blown about while fragments of the still went in all directions. Fortunately, the still was remote from any other property and no damage was done except to it. The still had a large capacity and there was a large amount of oil in it when the explosion occurred. One story had it that hot oil was being drawn off and cold oil was being admitted rapidly to the still and some attributed the explosion to that fact. The process was being watched intently by the men connected with the company which had set up the still, which was known as the Dubbs plant, being named for the inventory, Mr. Dubbs, who was one of the men burned. Prochazka was closer in than the others which accounted for the fatal effects of the explosion in his case. Aside from the four men who were hurried to St. Joseph's hospital, there were perhaps three others who were badly burned and others who had minor burns or whose hair was singed by the blast. Mr. Dubbs departed for Chicago on the 10 o'clock train to get into a hospital there. He wished to reach his wife before she would be informed of the accident, but it is doubtful that he succeeded in reaching home before she learned of it. The three other men remained in the hospital at Alton for treatment. It was said today that the new still had not been accepted by the Roxana Company. Deputy Coroner Streeper took charge of the body of the dead man and will hold an inquest. The body of the victim of the explosion will be shipped to Milwaukee tonight. The inquest will be deferred until the other men injured by the explosion are able to testify.


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