Sneed’s Clifford History

Clifford was located due north on Colp Crossroad, and on Big Muddy River. It was in sections 14 and 15 of Blairsville Township.

When quicksand prevented the sinking of Big Muddy Coal and Iron Company’s Mine Number Seven at North Bend, Number Seven was sunk a half mile east of Herrin. A second attempt was made a mile southeast of the North Bend sight. Big Muddy Coal and Iron Company Mine Number Eight hoisted its first coal in 1905. A small camp was surveyed and built around the mine. The clump of company houses were named Clifford for Clifford Garrison, son of O. L. Garrison, who was president of the coal company. The village grew rapidly and the post office was moved from North Bend to the village and the name changed to Clifford. Patrick H. Carroll became its first postmaster.  The post office was closed May 15, 1935.

At the peak of growth, during the First World War. Clifford had a post office, a brick company store, two doctors, a Methodist Church, poolroom, barbershop, confectionary and some four hundred houses. The population was about two thousand. Fourteen of the houses were small two room buildings that were known as the World Fair houses. George Otey was manager of the Company Store. He now runs Otey’s Flower Shop in Marion.

There were over five hundred children in Clifford School. Four rooms of the school and the Methodist Church were used for classrooms. Half the children went to school in the morning and stayed home in the afternoon. The other half went to school in the afternoon and stayed at home in the morning. Augusta Motsinger began teaching in Clifford in 1907. She was known as “Miss Gussie.” In September 1910, Layman E. Davis came to Clifford as school principal. He fell in love with Gussie almost from the first day and Miss Gussie became Mrs. Davis in 1911. Mrs. Davis did not teach that year but Mr. Davis continued to until the close of the term in 1915. Sylvia Davis, sister to the principal, and Miss Mable Jones taught in Clifford.

Some say the Ives family moved down to Clifford from Jasper County and Burl Ives, the famous ballad singer, went to school in Clifford when he was fourteen years old. Burl Ives would not confirm or deny the story.

The doctor was usually a company doctor that was allowed to have a private practice. Doctors Galver and Evans were among the most prominent citizens in the village. D. L. McConnighi was the last mine superintendent. He was deeply interested in the community and did much to better it. He was a backer of church, school and Boy Scouts. His older son, Dysert, was a prominent Boy Scout in Herrin and a promoter of a scout troop in Clifford. He was assistant scoutmaster, under his father as scoutmaster. However, McConnighi was not very active in his scout capacity.

At one time the miners of Clifford rebelled against high prices at the company store. They purchased a tract of land and built their own store. This store was surrounded by company land and the company would not grant an access road to the store. No merchandise could be brought in or taken out. Later the company bought this store building and moved it into Clifford. Here it became a Negro school. Later the building burned and the school was integrated.

The mine was closed in the spring of 1923. The people of Clifford, family by family moved away. During the 1930s the company offered the houses for sale at fifty dollars each. The land was not sold, so the houses had to be moved. A few were moved intact but most of them were torn down for the lumber. Only one house remains. The houses in Clifford were four room hip roof structures.

Streets and yards that were teeming with people are gone. South of the remaining house, across the field, one can see the steps, the filler and the cistern of the school. North of the house is the foundation of the old company store. It is now used as a hog pen. In the woods to the east rises the gob dump. That is all that is left of old Clifford.

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