Sneed’s Fredonia History

Eight Mile Prairie was so named by travelers who went eight long miles without seeing a house or any other signs of civilization. Damp in fall and winter and infested with rattlesnakes, the prairie was not a pleasant land in which to travel.

Long before the travelers, a group of French trappers and adventurers came here in early autumn. The whole prairie was yellow with Spanish needle in full bloom. The bees were working and the whole prairie seemed to be one continuous buzz. The French called the prairie “Fredonia”, meaning the Buzzing.

William T. Ryburn entered land here in 1833 and opened a general store. He opened Fredonia Post Office in the store May 27, 1837. It was named for Ryburn’s nine year old daughter who in turn was named for the Prairie. Fredonia is an Anglicization of the French word Fredonne.

William Burns had a village plotted in the northeast quarter of section 5, Township 9, Range 1 east. A horse tread grist mill had been established in 1838 and the village was surveyed March 4, 1839. It consisted of four blocks of 16 lots each. The plat is recorded in Book of Deeds B, page 166 in the Franklin County Courthouse. Williamson County was but five days old and no records were made in Bainbridge that early.

William Ryburn’s house was made the polling place for Eight Mile Precinct.

Boyd Ryburn, a captain in the Black Hawk War, became the second postmaster. It was moved to the farmhouse of Hugh H. Richart and Richart was postmaster. The post office was closed and relocated in the new town of Carterville, December 18, 1871.

Fredonia declined as Carterville grew. Then a coal mine was sunk at Fredonia. Fredonia Mine supplied coal for the plate glass factory in Christal City, Missouri. Then the post office was reopened. Barbra Burr Hubbs says the Fredonia Post Office was last in the home of Phillip Jefferson Russell, at Russell Corners (Carterville and Cambria Road). This is now the home of Mr. Simpson of Lake View Nursery.

Carterville increased and Fredonia declined after the mine closed. The Fredonia depot stood on the west side of the rood and south of the railroad just south of Cambria. Today the spot where Fredonia stood is farm land. It stood just east of Odum Concrete Products Plant. The public road that was the main street is no longer in existence. The Spanish needle that gave Fredonia its name still blooms in early autumn. These yellow blossoms are undoubtedly the descendants of those the French saw more than two hundred and twenty-live years ago.

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