1974, Energy: The “Y”

Energy: The “Y”

Energy was once called Fordville

Energy, a half mile south of Herrin and two miles north of Rt. 13, once just a stopping place for travelers is coming into its own as a town.

The "Y" in 1904

The “Y” in 1904

Before 1904 Energy was once known as the “Y” because the Coal Belt Electric Railway Co. chose the future town to split the tracks north to Herrin, southeast to Marion and southwest to Carterville. The streetcar line was laid in 1902 and served the mines in the heart of the Black Diamond Coal region for 25 years.

The town was incorporated in 1904 as Fordville. Wiley Ford, Herrin, built the first subdivision in the town so they name it after him.

In 1913, the Taylor Coal Co. moved to Fordville and asked the village board to change the town’s name to Energy to serve as the company’s trademark.

“I was in Chicago just a while ago and saw a sign, Energy Coal Co., Energy, Illinois. They still have the trademark,” Charles “Bill” Walker, 63, form village president say.

In the early days, the surrounding mines produced plenty of business for Energy’s four saloons and its small concrete jail. Because it was a stopover for the streetcar passengers, the town accommodated the drinking habits of many of the miners.

The saloons were full from 6 to 10 every night. Marion and Carterville were dry so the men had to do all their drinking before they caught the last streetcar home at 10 p.m.

The jail began filling up about 8 p.m. with most of the patrons escaping in time to go home. The town’s old timers used to tell about a part time resident of the jail. He came from Happy Hollow and people said he was so thin he would squeeze out through the chimney flue.

A new jail built in 1908 by Price Watson was made escape proof, but the mines began to decline around the same time. Without the hordes of miners swarming the streets and with the coming of prohibition, the need for a strong jail declined. It was used approximately three times in 53 years.

Kathryn Lindauer, 29, village clerk, remembers playing in the old building as a child. She says the place was ruins then. And the jail was finally leveled to clear the way for a new post office in 1964.


The town saw plenty of excitement in addition to that of the saloons. Walker said the Egyptian Powder Company Plant near Energy blew up “at least once a year.” Many Energy families lost members that way.

Blanche Braden, 64, remembers the Herrin Mine Massacre in 1922 at Crenshaw Crossing.

Mrs. Braden, 13 years old at the time, and her family were living on “Powder Row” near the powder plant. The Energy Culver Co. now occupies the area.

Across the field at Creshaw Crossing she saw a group of men being chased by another group of men. Mrs. Braden said she went into the house to avoid seeing the results.

Union men that day shot and killed 17 strike breakers from a Crenshaw mine.

Life was not all rowdiness and bloodshed in Energy’s early days.

Mrs. Braden remembers the Energy Grade School, just three rooms then but it took students from first to eighth grade. After graduation Energy children went to Carterville High School.

Walker remembers that a student could exchange places with a student from another high school. “If you found someone from Colp who wanted to go to school in Carterville, you could change places with them,” he says.

The school usually was cold in winter and Mrs. Braden says she often sat in the building with an overcoat on all day. She and her brothers would get their lunches at Flener’s Store across the highway from the school. Cornelius Flener, the owner, would fix a lunch for them in the morning before school began.

The town supported two other general stores, Ritchey’s and Barnes’, plus the Taylor Coal Co. store. The miners and their families could get credit at the company store for whatever they needed.

The expanded Energy Grade School is on the original site.

Children still attend the first eight grades there. The school district was annexed to Herrin in 1964, so all the students attend Herrin High School.

Ice Cream Supplies

The First Baptist Church of Energy held ice cream suppers for the townspeople, Mrs. Braden says. The church was a small frame building located where Adam’s Taxidermy is now, just off Rt. 148.

Social Life

The Odd Fellows hall sponsored dances and dinners for the town. Most of the social life of Energy residents took place outside of twon.

When the streetcar line was running, Mrs. Braden says she used to spend Saturdays in Herrin or doing chores at home.

It cost a dime to ride from Carterville to Energy. Walker can remember paying six cents to go to Herrin, but that was reduced fare for children under 12 years old.

Mrs. Braden never worried about the fare. Her father worked for the railroad so she rode the trolley for free.

The roads of the town parallel the streetcar tracks. There were only three places where the tracks were crossed by roads. Since the line closed November 25, 1927, the tracks have been removed.

Front Street, once the main road, owes its existence to the trolley tracks. The street did not exist on any map.

The location of Rt. 148 was the original railroad plan, but the road got too muddy, so people began following the streetcar tracks, Walker says.

The mines surrounding Energy peaked in 1918. When the streetcar shut down, Rt. 148 took its place and Energy once again became a way station for tourists and workers.

The saloons were kept out by a $6,000 per year liquor license. Energy tried being dry and like it.

When the underground coal seams gave out, the coal companies began strip mining the ground. The Forsyth Energy Coal Co. operated by the Peabody Coal Co. wanted to strip mine some of the land within the village limits. The village board stopped them in 1946 by banning the use of explosives within the city limits.

One Mine Left

One strip mine remains to the northwest of the village. It is abandoned with the familiar barren pile of slag and dirt stretching high above the surrounding ground.

One section of Energy got its name from the Pentecostal Church at Alexander and Taylor Streets. The church is long gone, but the area is called Happy Hollow (pronounced Holler) because the church members had such a good time at the services, Walker says.

Energy’s way station days seem to be over. The population is just over 1,000 by now. The addition of the Mattingly Nursing Home brought 150 people. The home employs a staff of 78 persons.

Energy snagged its first industry in 1971 when the Energy Culvert Company constructed a $100,000 plant. The plant manufactures corrugated pipe culverts ranging from 6 to 96 inches in diameter. The industry employs seven men, most of who are from outside Energy.

The Central Supply and Heating Corp. later opened a shop in Energy, with $100,000 worth of inventory, Walker says.

There are more than 30 businesses in Energy including three gas stations, two taxidermists, an upholstering shop, a veterinarian, two appliance dealers, specializing in television sets, a combination clothing and shoe store two antique dealers, a garden nursery, an automobile body shop, a bowling alley, a discount store, and a barber shop.


Energy’s restaurant, the Polar Whip, is a transplant from Herrin. John Nesler, the owner, was in Herrin for 20 years and moved to Energy five years ago. Inflation finally forced his 10 cent hamburgers up to 15 cents early this year. Half of his trade comes from Herrin and the rest of his customers are just passing through, he says.

Energy’s Food Center closed in June to make way for the Tot-Land Day Care Center. Mr. and Mrs. Lindell Coriasco and Mr. and Mrs. Leon Perrine, all of Herrin, are transforming the food center into a day care center.

Coriasco closed the food center because the competition with the larger stores got to be too much. His wife, Peggy and Perrine’s wife, Corina, will be day care center supervisors.

They had considered making the buildings into apartments, but Mrs. Coriasco said they felt there would be more need for a day care center.

Rt. 148 plays a major part in their plans. The couples are hoping parents who work outside Energy will see the center as a convenient place to keep their children for the day.

Energy women have begun to give teen agers a place to socialize. The Energy chapter of the Business and Professional Women’s Club chartered in January, plans to use the village hall as a gathering place for young people.

The organization will provide soft drinks and snacks after school ball games.

Fire Department

The group has contributed to the new volunteer fire department and has been raising funds for some of their programs.

Mrs. Lindauer says one of the projects will be to do something special for the eighth graders graduating from Energy Grade School. She says the students had yearbooks and graduation exercise when she graduated. The BPW hopes to make future eighth grade graduations memorable.

The volunteer fire department was established in January. There are 19 volunteers in the department.

The Herrin Fire Department receives all of Energy’s calls and relays the information to the Energy firemen by radio. The department has a 1946 model fire truck purchased from Johnston City’s fire department.

Walker, like most of Energy’s residents, works outside the village. He is a machinist for the Norge Division Plant, Herrin.

Many of Energy’s young people remain in the town. Some, like Walker’s son Gary and daughter-in-law, Gayle, are binding their time waiting for the chance to move somewhere else.

Others, like Larry and Kathy Lindauer, decided to raise their family in Energy.

The town is governed by a village board composed of a village president, a clerk, a treasurer and six trustees. The Energy board seems unique because of the age and education of the members.

Two of the trustees are college graduates. Two have master’s degrees. Two have had some college training. All of the trustees are less than 40 years old.

Walker says he appointed several of the board members to fill vacancies. “I tried to get the best people in town.”

Energy has a merchant policeman, George Bethel, who is on call 24 hours a day. Energy’s strip of Rt. 148 is radar patrolled to keep the area quiet and more like a village street than a highway.

The village board is discussing zoning procedures, though Walker says the legal fees would be prohibitive at this time.

He said a certain element in the town wants to keep Energy the quiet, stable community it has been for the last 50 years.

“But you can’t stop expansion. You might as well get with it. Norge is expanding and people are going to be moving in here. We can accept them or not, but if we don’t it’ll hurt us, not them.”

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(Southern Illinoisan, July 29, 1973, Page 20)