Gazetteer of Johnson County, IL
Inventory of Natural Landmarks
Readers of historical articles, old newspapers, maps & even legal documents often find references to archaic proper names for natural features and sites, names that are unfamiliar & no longer commonly used. Some of these names and their origins are already forgotten, and even landowners of some of the natural area sites today may not be aware of their old place names, which feature is meant, how it got its name, or where it is located.
This gazetteer lists, locates, and describes significant natural landmarks in Johnson County that were named on old maps and in documents and in publications and historical writings. A few names are included that were well known locally a hundred years ago, but may never have appeared in print. If known, the source or citation for each name is given, as well as its origin.
Since a few of the names are “official” (Most were only known and used by residents within the locality of the site.) there is no right or wrong name for a site, nor is there a right or wrong way to spell many of the landmark names. To add to the confusion, some of these same sites are known by more than one name, and the same name in several instances has been used to designate different landmarks. The various names, pronunciations, and spellings found in print or reported by knowledgeable people in the area are listed. It is assumed that the older names should be given priority where such is important. A few of the landmarks have been renamed and are now known by different, more modern proper names.
In this gazetteer, only sites with natural features are listed, cultural or manmade sites are not included. Also, as this report is meant to primarily include historical names, some newly named sites are left out as well.
Purpose & Need
Natural features were more important to the early settlers in Johnson County than they are to most of us today. It was the natural features (bluffs, streams, springs, swamps, vegetation, etc.) that determined where our forefathers settled when they first came to southern Illinois; where they planted their crops, built their cabins, and hunted game. Almost every spring known today once had a home near it, as good water was so necessary. Streams were especially important as a means for travel and moving logs, as well as for mill sites. A steep hill was a lot more noticeable to a farmer on a rocky wagon road trying to haul a load of corn up it with a team of mules than it is in our modern 300 Hp vehicles today. The swamps were noteworthy features because of their impediments to travel and as unsuitable places to live or farm. Thus, many of the important landscape features were given names many years ago, and some of those names are still in use today.
A lot of the sites, once with names well-known to everyone in a neighborhood, have been so drastically changed , one would hardly notice anything special about them today. Groves of big trees are gone, naturally meandering streams are now channelized ditches, swamps and natural ponds have been drained, springs have disappeared, even roadways crossing steep hills have been leveled. Thus, the old names for many sites are meaningless. Yet the natural landmarks were an important part of our cultural history and should still be an important part of our heritage today.