Shiloh, Illinois . . . History . . . Under the Red & White Tower
by Brenda Kern, Village Clerk
Shiloh was originally called Three Springs by the Indians who camped near this location and used the “three springs” as a source of water. Shiloh named its park on Frank Scott Parkway “Three Springs Park” to acknowledge this part of its history.
The community of Shiloh got its start with Methodist camp meetings held at Three Springs. Settlers were first recorded in the area about 1785. In 1793, Joseph Lillard, the first Methodist preacher to visit the area, formed a class and appointed Captain Joseph Ogle, an area Methodist and pioneer (arriving in 1785), to lead it. This class was the first Methodist class in Illinois, although not considered an organized church. The group met in homes in the winter and in the summer in the grove known as Three Springs. On June 10th, 1807 the group (19 settlers) met at Ogle’s home and voted to erect a “meeting house” in the grove. Paul Kingston donated the land. The group then cut and hauled logs for the church and used them for the platform and seats to host an 11-day revival camp meeting which began on July 26, 1807. After the assembly, on August 10th and 11th, 1807, construction began on the 18 x 22 log Meeting House which became the first Methodist church in the county and second in the Illinois Country. This meeting house was also the start of what was to be the longest-organized United Methodist Church in the state of Illinois. The church was named Shiloh Church, because of ancient Jewish and Christian translations of the word “Shiloh” interpreted to be the Messiah.* The log church was replaced 3 more times, the current church being erected in 1875. During the dedication of the original log cabin Bishop McKendree reminded church members, “Do not forget your anti-slavery pledge, but labor for and encourage the cause of freedom for all men by means of kind words and orderly methods.” Three members of this church played significant roles in State government in the effort to prevent slaveholding from gaining a foothold in Illinois.
An early historian noted that the first hooped skirt and first lampshade ever used in Illinois were results of an incident at a Methodist organizational meeting in 1807. He wrote, “One evening there were no lights to be had on the campgrounds, and it was very windy. An elderly lady volunteered to meet the difficulty. Accordingly, she stepped aside and doffed her white cotton skirt which she suspended as a lampshade. Then she caused it to be expanded by means of a twig bent in a circular form, a suggestion of hoops, which had not been thought of in that early day. Then, for the light, she scooped out a large turnip, which she filled with lard. She twisted a wick of cotton and, rubbing it in the lard, set fire to it after it had been suspended inside the hooped skirt. By this light Jesse Walker was able to preach that evening.”
The name “Shiloh” began being used to describe the Village and Township that grew up around the Shiloh Church.
In 1802, three brothers and their spouses settled in Shiloh. They were James & Sarah Scott, William Jr. & Mississippi Scott, and Joseph & Nancy Scott. Note: All three had come to the area with their father William Sr. who settled in what was called Turkey Hill (the old radar site on Rentchler Road.)
Joseph Scott erected a small grist and powder mill on a branch of Silver Creek. It was a log building and was propelled by an undershot water wheel. For a number of years, he continued the manufacture of fine quality powder procuring the nitre in the caves on the Gasconade River in Missouri (which was hostile Indian territory at that time.) This was undoubtedly the first powder mill in the State. Mr. Scott furnished the rangers, hunters, and sporting men of St. Louis with powder but never sold it to the Indians.
The first schoolhouse in St. Clair County was a one-story log house established in Shiloh in 1811 behind the Shiloh Methodist Church. The windows were greased paper to admit light. A large fireplace extended across the rear of the room, to warm it on cold days. The benches were made of logs that were split in half and mounted on wooden pegs for legs. There were no maps, charts, globes, nor blackboards in the schoolroom. The writing was done with goose quills.
The Shiloh Cemetery on Main Street has graves dating back to the 1814s. See footnote.**
Shiloh was home to some of the first German immigrants in the State. In 1833, German Revolutionaries who attempted to rebel against the German Confederation to create unity and freedom for their country became outlaws in Germany. They fled to the U.S. Four of the individuals, Gustav Bunsen, George Engelmann, his brother Theodore Engelmann and Gustave Koerner, came to live in Shiloh on the property along Shiloh Station Road. They originally planned to settle in Missouri, but they stopped in Kentucky and saw the evils of slavery, and decided they could not live in a slave state. When they arrived in St. Louis they contacted earlier German scouts who convinced them to live in what is now Shiloh.***
Frierdich Engelmann purchased the farm property in 1833, establishing the Engelmann Farm. This was not just another farm producing corn and other crops. The farm became known as “the refuge of righteousness on the Mississippi River” because those German exiles would resupply and rest there while en route to settle the American frontier.
Theodore Engelmann published the first newspaper in Illinois.
George Engelmann, was a renowned botanist. He helped to develop the Missouri Botanical Garden using plants that he grew on the farm in Shiloh. This acreage today represents the last “old growth” forest in Shiloh Valley.
Gustave Koerner married Sophie Engelmann (Frierdich’s daughter); he became Illinois Supreme Court judge and lieutenant governor of the State.
Gustave Koerner’s family is believed to have brought the first Christmas Tree to the area. Mr. Koerner wrote in his journal in 1833 that “his daughters took the top of a sassafras tree which still had some leaves on it . . . dressed it with waxed candles, ribbon and bits of colored paper and the like and hung it with little red apples and nuts and all sorts of confections made by their Aunt Caroline and decorated it for the Christmas season. Perhaps this was the first Christmas tree that was ever lighted on the banks of the Mississippi.”
Today, the Engelmann property is a St. Clair County Park. The County bought it to preserve its history. Besides its unspoiled habitat, there are two historic homes on the property as well as the Engelmann family cemetery.
In 1834, Dr. Adolph Reuss emigrated to the US and purchased a 200-acre farm in Shiloh, Illinois. Dr. Reuss was a physician and zoologist, known for his work in the fields of herpetology and arachnology. He worked as a farmer and maintained a successful medical practice (making all of his calls to the sick on horseback.) His home was often used as a hospital. His estate grew to 450 acres.
Shiloh had the first library in the area. On August 14, 1836, it started with a collection of ninety-three volumes. By the end of the year, it had grown to 346 books. On February 22, 1839, the library was incorporated by the General Assembly of Illinois with papers signed by Governor Theo Carlin. By this time the collection had grown to 1,906 volumes. In 1853, the books were moved to Belleville to create a larger library, creating Belleville’s current library, which is the oldest library in Illinois.
In 1845, Jacob Haege came to Shiloh from Germany with his parents when he was 21 years old. While in Germany, he acquired a liberal education and learned the blacksmith’s trade. In Shiloh, he operated a blacksmith and wagon shop, as well as a sawmill. Jacob Haege also acquired a reputation as an inventor as well as a mechanic. He invented and patented among other things a gang and the walking plow, cultivators and other horsepower machinery. He also perfected a fire escape. Many of these items were manufactured and sold in his own shop. He was said to have made a considerable fortune from these endeavors, but he was generous and loaned much of his surplus to his friends and therefore lost a small fortune. He moved to Western Kansas in 1878.
In 1845, the first home was built in what is considered the original portion of what was to become Shiloh. It was just south of the Methodist Church. This home was followed by a store, a blacksmith shop and a steam sawmill.
In 1848, the Village was platted and recorded in the St. Clair County Courthouse.
John Philip Hage described his trip to America and settling in Shiloh in 1849. Click here to read the letter.
Shiloh Village School’s first building was built in 1850 and was located on the same site as today’s school (125 Diamond Court.) This building was replaced in 1950. The current school has had several additions and a Middle School was built on Wildcat Drive. Because of annexations outside the original Shiloh area, there are also students that attend Whiteside Elementary & Middle School, Central Elementary School, and Wingate (Mascoutah) Schools. Public High School includes O’Fallon, Belleville East & Mascoutah.
In 1850, the Shiloh Post Office was established but was moved to O’Fallon in 1854. The Shiloh Post Office was re-established in 1858. In 1911, the Post Office was closed again with residents getting rural delivery out of O’Fallon. Today, Shiloh has 4 zip codes in its corporate limits – 62269, 62221, 62226 & 62225.
Built around 1860, Shiloh’s Glen Addie Mansion on Lebanon Avenue was believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. Colonel James L. Morrison, a Civil War Army Colonel, who sympathized with the slaves, built his $60,000 mansion in honor of his wife. This mansion, containing 26 rooms, 12 fireplaces, and an enormous ballroom was later turned into St. John’s Orphanage. In 1952, the mansion was torn down.
Two brick houses next to each other, on top of a hill, on Green Mount Road were also believed to be used to hide slaves. Little was documented about the location of underground stations because the railroad was illegal and any printed information could have incriminated an abolitionist.
Gustave Koerner presided over the 1860 Illinois Republican Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln; he garnered German support for Lincoln as the Republican nominee for President.
In 1862, in the basement of the Shiloh Methodist Church, General Ulysses S. Grant recruited the Co. 1, 117th Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry for the Civil War (1862-1865.)
By 1880, Shiloh had two shoe shops, two general stores, two hotels, a blacksmith shop, and a sawmill.
Shiloh Valley School was built on Shiloh Station Road in 1880 (This building is now gone.) There were no school districts at that time so the schools gave students a choice of where they wanted to attend.
In 1886, a toll gate was erected on the newly “paved” road between Lebanon Avenue and Hartman Lane (Belleville to Shiloh.) A homeowner at the location passed a bucket out the window for the tolls.
On June 20, 1905, Shiloh was organized as a Village. It had 51 residents – 47 voted for incorporation and 4 voted against.
Much of the land in Shiloh has or had coal underneath it. There have been at least four coal mines in Shiloh or its immediate area. Rentchler Mine was at Rentchler Station, the Davis Mine (which was along Illinois 161 – 1938-1968.) Little Oak Mine (by the Southern Railroad – 1903-1948) & the Shiloh Coal Mine (was on Shiloh Station Road – 1900-1932.) Today, there are few traces of the coal mines and railroads which originally led to Shiloh being incorporated as a Village in 1905. (Note: A seam of coal mined in what is now known as Shiloh was first discovered by the French Explorer, LaSalle in 1679. He was the first recorded explorer to use it for fuel during his trip on the Mississippi River. And, Silver Creek which drains the eastern part of Shiloh was named for the silver ore found there by Phillip Renault in 1719. The mine was later abandoned because of hostile Indians.)
In 1913, Shiloh’s second church, Corpus Christi Catholic Church, was constructed. In the years since eight more churches have made their home in Shiloh.
In June 1917, the War Department selected a square mile near Shiloh for training aviators. Ten thousand dollars was appropriated by Congress for construction and 2,000 laborers and carpenters immediately went to work constructing an installation. The field was named in honor of Corporal Frank S. Scott who was the first enlisted person to die in an aircraft accident, and the only Air Force Base named for an enlisted member. In September 1917, the first four airplanes arrived. Captain Jack W. Heard was the first commanding officer. By 1919, Scott Field had trained approximately 500 pilots for WWI. That same year, the War Department purchased Scott Field and by 1921, the installation was approved to become a lighter-than-air station. Today, parts of Scott Air Force Base are in the corporate limits of the Village.
Click Here for an Illustrated History of Scott Air Force Base
In 1978, the Shiloh Water Tower was built. It stands 145 ft. tall and is also on one of the highest points in St. Clair County. Many think it resembles a giant red-and-white-striped peppermint candy. The FAA chose its color scheme for flight safety reasons because of its close proximity to Scott Air Force Base. It is the most recognizable symbol of the Village. Click here for more information.
In the late 1980’s Shiloh began annexing property mostly to its west making it the size we know today. Today, the Village is approximately 11 square miles.
A significant archaeological find was discovered at the Frank Scott Parkway East Extension in Shiloh in 2000. The traces of twenty-two houses and quite a few huts are believed to date back the Mississippian era. The era occurred between 1000 A.D. to 1400 A.D. Broken pots, stone tools and animal bones were found at the site.
In 2001, Shiloh’s first shopping development was built at the corner of Frank Scott Crossing and Green Mount Road.
In 2004, at the entrance of the Shiloh Community Park, a September 11 Memorial was constructed. This monument tells of the many different people and professions that helped in the aftermath of the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001. Each side of the memorial represents a different group of people, including police, firefighters, EMS personnel, and military personnel, as well as lost loved ones.
In 2016, Shiloh welcomed Memorial Hospital East to the Village. It is a 94-bed state-of-the-art facility located on Cross Street.
In 2021, Shiloh had the honor of having the first “Freedom Rock” in the State of Illinois. The artist creates unique murals highlighting area military history as his way of thanking those who serve. It is located at the corner of Main Street and Shiloh Station Road in our Freedom Park.
Shiloh’s history is alive and growing – always looking forward. Out of the world of today, will come the history of tomorrow.
*Origin of the name Shiloh:
Genesis 49:10 (NASB) “The scepter will not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
1 Samuel 3:21 (NASB) “And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh because the LORD revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.”
**Buried in the Cemetery:
Veterans: 98 recorded. Some dating back to the Revolutionary & Civil Wars.
Famous Entertainers buried in the Cemetery:
1. Mary Wicks (Wickenhauser), who died in 1995. Born in 1910 and died in 1995. She played roles in many films, including “White Christmas,” “Music Man,” “Little Women,” “Sister Act,” “Sister Act II,” and “Postcards from the Edge.” Also, on TV shows such as “I Love Lucy,” “The Father Dowling Mysteries,” and “Murder She Wrote.”
2. Russell (Russ\Rus) Conklin. Born in 1909 and died in 1983. He played in the Lone Ranger, Ten Commandments, & Unconquered to name a few of the 30 roles he played during a 15-year career.
***Information taken from the book “Wanderers Between Two Worlds: German Rebels in the American West, 1830-1860” by Douglas Hale, Ph.D.
The 2010 Census shows Shiloh having 12,651 residents. Demographics are not yet available.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 10.1 square miles, of which, 10.1 square miles (26.0 sq. km.) of it is land and 0.04 square miles of it is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,643 people, 2,778 households, and 2,080 families residing in the village. The population density was 760.2 people per square mile. There were 2,928 housing units at an average density of 291.2/sq mi. The racial makeup of the village was 82.14% White, 13.32% African American, 0.27% Native American, 1.79% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 1.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.62% of the population.
There were 2,778 households out of which 40.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.8% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.1% were non-families. 20.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the village the population was spread out with 27.7% under the age of 18, 10.7% from 18 to 24, 34.6% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 102.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.0 males.
The median income for a household in the village was $57,692, and the median income for a family was $67,054. Males had a median income of $42,083 versus $30,843 for females. The per capita income for the village was $25,550. About 6.1% of families and 7.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.1% of those under age 18 and 1.6% of those age 65 or over.
A special annual event for residents of Shiloh is the Shiloh Homecoming. The Homecoming is a two-day celebration with various amusements and rides, held the first Friday and Saturday after Labor Day every year. The end of the Friday celebration is marked by a fireworks display.
At the entrance of the Shiloh Park and Police Station is a September 11 memorial. This monument tells of the many different people and professions that helped in the aftermath of the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001. It is a memorial of those who were born to live, lived to help, and helped to live.
To commemorate the date that the 2004 Shiloh Homecoming Picnic fell on, members of the Village’s Improvement Association organized a special event for all those lost during the terrorist attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
A 9-11 memorial was unveiled during a ceremony on September 11 at 4 p.m. near the entrance to Park Drive.
During Picnic planning meetings, Shiloh resident, Wes Kern, suggested constructing a 9-11 Memorial. Doug Karius, a member of the Shiloh Village Improvement Association, responded by coming up with an idea for the monuments’ design. It features a pentagonal-shaped brick memorial to represent the Pentagon, and two lights on both sides for the World Trade Center’s twin towers. The landscaping that surround it represents the Pennsylvania field where one of the high-jacked planes crashed that dreadful day.
Each side of the memorial represents a different group of people, including police, firefighters, EMS personnel and military personnel, as well as lost loved ones. In the future, the association hopes to add benches so people can be seated while reflecting on the memorial.
Click here to view photos of the memorial dedication.
For more information on purchasing a plaque, call us at (618) 632-1022, click here to download the form, or stop by Shiloh Municipal Building.