Sneed’s Herrin’s Prairie History

Herrin’s Prairie was located between West Herrin Avenue in the City of Herrin and the Herrin Sewage Disposal Plant. The road leads off West Herrin Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets, winding in a northerly direction. It was along this road, which was but a path in the beginning, that some hunters and trappers built their log cabins. It was just south of the scatters of Hurricane Creek where game was abundant. To this nameless settlement came Isaac Herring in 1816. The backwoods Illinoisans never pronounced the final G in any word ending in ing. So he was called Isaac Herrin and the settlement took the name of Herrin’s Prairie. Here John Rankin put up a horse powered tread grist mill in 1819.

Jonathan Herrin set up a cotton gin in 1825. Before that time the people of Herrin’s Prairie had to take their cotton to New Harmony, Indiana to get it carded, or they had to card it by hand. Soon after the cotton gin was established, Rankin built a new mill. It had two sets of stones, one for corn and the other for wheat.

During the decade of the 1830s, the Illinois Legislature laid out stage and post roads in Southern Illinois. Herrin’s Prairie was not on a navigable waterway and the Frankfort to Brownsville post road came through Herrin’s Prairie. The stage route was a boon to the hamlet.

A log schoolhouse was built in 1844 to accommodate the children of the increasing population. This school was abandoned and a new box building of yellow poplar was erected just south of the log school.

In 1864, the community built Herrin’s Prairie Christian Church. The same organization exists as The First Christian Church of Herrin. The following year the Southern Baptist came to the hamlet and after a stirring revival, organized Herrin’s Prairie Baptist Church. This organization still exists as The First Baptist Church of Herrin.

Herrin’s Prairie Post Office was established by D.R Harrison, May 26, 1864. It was in Harrison’s general store and Mr. Harrison was postmaster. Three years later Harrison built a brick store building south of the old frame one and moved the post office there

When coal was discovered at Carterville shortly after the Civil War the Herrins and Harrisons thought there should be coal under Herrin’s Prairie. Land was leased and Big Muddy Coal and Iron Company sank Number 7 Mine three quarters of a mile east of Ephem Herrin’s home, in 1902. The Illinois Central Railroad built a branch line out of Carbondale to the mine. This track was laid half a mile south of Herrin’s Prairie. The station that was set up was named Buck Horn.

Ephem Herrin and George Harrison plotted most of their farms into lots around Buck Horn Station. D.R. Harrison moved the post office on West Cherry Street of the new town. Buck Horn soon absorbed Herrin’s Prairie but it also took the name Herrin.

The red brick store that Dr. Harrison built stood. In the latter part of the second decade it became dilapidated and by the late 1920’s part of one wall was standing. By the middle 1930’s it had gone. A red brick dwelling still stands and is occupied. This house is all that is left of Herrin’s Prairie. The dwelling is on farmland and is known as Elmwood Farm.

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