Sneed’s New Denison History

A community of freed slaves sprang up in section 34 and 35 of East Marion Township sometime around 1840. It was never a village but a cluster of small farms, known as the Ellis Community. Two Negro families still live there and the Ellis Cemetery, on the Ellis farm, is all that remains of the community.

The tombstones in the Ellis Cemetery bear the names Ellis, Tony, Lucus, Johnson and Sneed. The most outstanding stone is that of Anna M. Johnson. She was born September 14, 1807 and died October 28, 1907.

The Chicago, St. Louis, Alton and Terre Haute Railroad passed through Ellis, and were having difficulty securing right of way. Charles E. Denison, a Marion attorney who owned land in section 34, gave right of way through his farm. In gratitude for Mr. Denison’s generosity the company established a station there and named it Denison. Mr. Denison plotted 40 lots in the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 34. A store was opened and an application for a post office was presented. The Denison Post Office was denied because Illinois had a Denison Post Office. The second application naming the post office New Denison was accepted. New Denison Post Office was opened in the store. Samuel W. Walker was appointed postmaster. Mr. Denison never lived in his village but resided in a large house in Marion where the Marion Memorial Hospital now stands.

Welborn Brothers of Attila built a large building and opened a general store there in 1900. The brothers dissolved partnership and Edward Welborn took the New Denison Store in 1909. The New Denison Baptist Church was organized and a house of worship was built.

The post office was closed December 15, 1919. The Welborn Store was closed during the 1930s. The depot and freight house were torn down and the railroad tracks taken up in the 1940s. Today New Denison is a cluster of nine houses around the New Denison Baptist Church. One might drive through it without realizing it was the remains of a once prosperous village.

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