Sullivan, Illinois has a rich and storied history. From being an important stop along the historic Route 66, to having ties to Abraham Lincoln, to hosting a famous artist, the area around Sullivan has seen many significant events over the years. Here are seven historical events that have taken place near Sullivan, IL.
1. Abraham Lincoln's 1858 campaign speech in Lovington. On September 2, 1858, then-candidate for U.S. Senate Abraham Lincoln made a speech in Lovington, just a few miles south of Sullivan. The speech, given during his famous debates with Stephen A. Douglas, focused on the issue of slavery and helped solidify Lincoln's reputation as an eloquent and principled speaker.
2. The construction of the Illinois Central Railroad. In the early 1850s, the Illinois Central Railroad was built through the area surrounding Sullivan. This brought new opportunities for commerce and travel to the region, and helped establish Sullivan as a hub for both passenger and freight traffic.
3. The establishment of Sullivan as a stop on Route 66. When Route 66 was established in 1926, Sullivan was included as one of the stops along the famous "Mother Road." This brought tourists and travelers to the area, leading to the construction of numerous motels, restaurants, and service stations along the highway.
4. The Sullivan Mine Disaster of 1951. On December 21, 1951, an explosion occurred at the Old Ben Coal Company's Number 16 mine in Sullivan. The disaster claimed the lives of 33 miners and became one of the worst mining accidents in Illinois history.
5. The construction of Lake Shelbyville. In the 1960s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on Lake Shelbyville, which is located just east of Sullivan. The lake was completed in 1970 and has since become a popular destination for fishing, boating, and other outdoor activities.
6. The Sullivan Railcar Plant. In the 1980s, a new railcar plant was built just south of Sullivan, bringing jobs and economic growth to the area. The plant produced railcars for transportation companies across North America for more than two decades.
7. The visit of artist Bob Ross. In 1986, famous painter and television personality Bob Ross visited Sullivan to give a demonstration and workshop on his signature style of painting. Ross, who passed away in 1995, continues to be a beloved figure in the art world and his visit to Sullivan was a memorable event for many in the community.
Sullivan may be a small town, but it has witnessed many significant events over the years. From politics to transportation to tragedy and triumph, the history of Sullivan and its surrounding areas is a rich tapestry of American life.
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