Sneed’s Canaville History

William H. Willeford is said to have established the first printing press in Williamson County. It was in his home in the south central part of section 11, Township 10, Range 3.

The Illinois Central Railroad built a branch line from Carbondale to Brookport in 1888. A station was located at the Willeford farm. The station was named Willeford. Mr. Willeford built a house and store at the station. He became postmaster at Creal Springs in 1884 and knew how to secure a post office. The post office was opened in his store May 31, 1888 and named Cana, for the Cana Baptist Church that stood half a mile west of the station. The name of the post office was changed to Willeford February 12, 1906 and it was discontinued December 20, 1912. Mr. Willeford was its only postmaster.

Canaville village was laid out and the plat recorded December 26. 1889. The town was named Willeford but the post office was Canaville. The village grew rapidly. It had three general stores, a grist mill, a saw mill, a blacksmith shop, depot and freight house. Two passenger trains and two freight trains ran daily. The blacksmith, B.G. Caplinger, was unusually skilled in his trade and drew much trade to the town. Mr. Willeford bought mine timber and railroad ties. Canaville was a thriving trade and shipping center.

During the late 1920s Canaville began to decline. State highways were built and trucks began to take most of the small freight. Automobiles took most of the passenger traffic. Local freight and local passenger trains were discontinued. Mines worked less or shut down. Mine timber was in less demand. The tie plant at Marion bought fewer ties. The Grange was disorganized and the two story brick hall was sold to Mr. Willeford who ran a store on the ground floor and lived upstairs. The post office closed in 1912. Canaville declined rapidly.

The Great Depression dealt a death blow to Canaville. The Illinois Central Railroad tracks were taken up. The buildings stood empty and unused for a while and were torn down. Today one house stands at the bend of the road. That is all that is left of Canaville.

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(Ghost Towns of Southern Illinois, by Glenn J. Sneed, published 1977)