A ghost town is a town with few or no remaining inhabitants. Towns become ghost towns for a variety of reasons, but some of the main reasons are due to natural disasters or lack of economic activity. Like all states, Illinois has a variety of ghost towns. We’re taking a closer look at four Illinois ghost towns and their stories:
Cairo is a living ghost town. It is located in Southern Illinois...actually, it is the most southern city in all of Illinois. This place was absolutely booming in the 1920's and 1930's. But the Great Depression hit Cairo pretty hard. People turned on each other, and Cairo had the highest murder rate in the state of Illinois in 1937. The population was around 15,000 with 1,000 of them working as prostitutes. Some fires spread through the town in the early 1940's, and high unemployment after World War II led it to become a hotbed of organized crime. Racial tension and blatant racism led many to leave the town after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Today, the population is 2800 people.
Shawneetown (now referred to as Old Shawneetown) was established in 1748 by the Pewoki Shawnee. Lewis and Clark (yes, that Lewis and Clark) are said to have stopped here wayyy back in the day. The town had the first chartered bank in Illinois. The problem for Shawneetown was its location. It was located right on the Ohio River, which had a tendency to flood--a lot. In 1937, a huge flood completely inundated Old Shawneetown. Only a few hundred people still reside here.
3. Belnd (Macoupin County)
This town was developed for coal mining. The name derives from its founder, Benjamin L. Dorsey. It was once booming. Now, only 1500 people reside here. Some Belnd trivia: it is one of the few towns in history where a meteorite hit a manmade object. The Pontiac that was hit by the meteorite is on display at the Field Museum.
Buda is a railroad town through and through. It was named after Buda, Hungary by railroad authorities. The other major industry was wheat production. This town is still "alive." Residents, who are very knowledgeable about the town's history, do live here. There are about 538 residents in Buda. And the railroad depot still remains. However, many of the buildings are boarded up, making this a ghost town.
Know of any other ghost towns in Illinois? Take any fascinating pictures? Let us know in the comments.