131st Bomb Wing – Missouri ANG Community
Responding to settlers’ outcries for better transportation and easier contact, in 1805 Indiana Territory’s government drilled a straight east-west post road between Vincennes, Indiana, and St. Louis that forded the treacherous Kaskaskia River in what would become Clinton County. The wagon road that followed in 1808 crossed the Kaskaskia by ford or by ferry at little Carlyle, which would be elevated to county seat when Clinton County was pulled together from pieces of three other counties in 1824 and named in honor of New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton, father of the Erie Canal. In 1958 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threw a dam across the Kaskaskia north of Carlyle to create Carlyle Lake, at 26,000 acres the biggest man-made lake in Illinois. The lake, used for flood control and for recreation, lies mostly in Clinton County, which has as well the popular Eldon Hazlet State Recreation Area and South Shore State Park.
The first known business in Carlyle was John Hill’s toll ferry across the Kaskaskia River (1811), but settlers already had begun filtering in after 1809’s creation of the Illinois Territory, and by 1819, the community, now with town lots and the name “Carlyle,” had a post office. The town got its big break in 1859 with construction of a suspension bridge over the Kaskaskia, the only suspension bridge of its kind in Illinois. It was restored in 1951 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For much of its life it was called the “Swinging Bridge” but was renamed the General Dean Memorial Bridge for Medal of Honor winner Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, who was born in Carlyle in 1899. It served travelers for almost 70 years. The town’s Parks Department operates five city parks, a pool, three playgrounds, a stocked fishing pond for the kids, tennis courts and baseball diamonds, and pavilions. Annual events in this lively town of over 3,000 people include the Great Kaskaskia River Duck Race, Christmas in Carlyle, the Clinton County Fair and Parade, the 4th of July Dam Jam, the IHSA Bass Fishing State Tournament, and majestic bald eagles, which can be observed from five viewing towers.
Founded in 1855, Breese was named after one of Abraham Lincoln’s colleagues, jurist and Illinois Sen. Sidney Breese, a statesman who early on practiced law in Clinton County’s Kaskaskia community. At more than 4,500 residents, Breese is the largest town in the county. Original settlers in 1816 were augmented by a flood of German farmers in 1835, drawn by the area’s level, rich soil. The Mississippi and Ohio Railroad came through in 1855, thanks to Sen. Breese, and by 1905, Breese was considered a city, with a mayor and volunteer fire department and within a year, electric lights. Illness, though, took a terrible toll on the progressive community in 1914 and again in 1918, first with a scarlet fever epidemic that hit children so hard all the schools closed, and then with the universal 1918 influenza pandemic that killed between 20 million and 40 million people worldwide, more than the Black Death. These days HSHS (Hospital Sisters Health System) St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese, served by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, provides regional health care. The 18-hole golf course has a lighted driving range and a clubhouse and is open from April through November. Military and seniors get a price break at the pool in this family-friendly community, and the Breese Public Library has programs for all ages, including Reciprocal Borrowing that “unlocks the doors to every public library in Illinois.”