CHERRY JANUARY 03 History takes a back seat to paranoia and disrespect. History tumbles down at
the Cherry Mine Site.
A phone call from my Dad informed me that some sort of work was being done on the Cherry Mine Site. I quickly called Charles
Bartoli to see what was going on. Several months earlier Charles and I talked about when the work was to be done and to see
if the remaining remnants of the mine could be left intact. However when I phoned Charles that frigid Saturday afternoon of
Jan 18th 2003, he said that I wouldn't like what has been done on the site. I then made the trip to Cherry to see
for myself. I had my camera in hand and snapped a few photos, basically of dirt. Gone forever is the brick structure, which
once was part of the fan house buildings. It was like a knife through the heart. A total disrespect of history has been perpetrated
As I walked toward the Main shaft there was nothing but a dirt pile. No more steel girders standing in the prairie winds
to remind those who visit that this was the location were miners entered the mine and were the twelve heroes came up on the
fiery cage. There is no more escape shaft cover to see, for it is buried too, beneath a good heap of dirt. No more can we
show people that this was the exact spot where the fire began, 315 feet below. The northeast wall of the Boiler house has
been knocked down leaving only the back wall and some foundation. The reason for saving the back wall of the boiler house
is because Charles has a shed attached to it for storage. Basically Mr. Bartoli's hands were tied and he really couldn't tell
the state what to do. They came in with their big trucks and starting resurfacing the landscape. The smaller original hills
first created by the miners are leveled too. The two large hills are still there of course.
The Illinois Department of Natural resources is taking precautionary measures to prevent fires from any acid mine runoff,
carbon or other refuse left behind by past mining operations. (really? The brick structure and girders could not cause
any harm. The cover for the escape shaft needed some reinforcement but that was about it.) The paper says they are digging
up soil to cover up the areas where refuse has gathered over the years. They are doing some "minimal" shaping and filling
of the airshaft and the air hoist that had 15ft voids in them. (what the heck is an air hoist? There was no hoist to lift
air. I think they meant to say the Mainshaft) They say it is a "safety issue" There was very little reason for concern
and I find it hard to find even a little bit of truth in what they were saying, but I think paranoia has gripped them like
the rest of the country. If they wanted to do this right, they should have made any reinforcements in covers, structures,
land etc. If you respect the history that has unfolded here, once upon a time, then you preserve what is left, you don't destroy
it. It seems the whole country has got its "flag tangled up in a tree" Also, everywhere I look another grain elevator is being
torn down in the name of safety. I seen them tear down the Peterstown elevator which was on this Milwaukee Road Line between
Ladd and Mendota. I seen first hand how sturdy those things are built. The lumber used in constructing them was most impressive
and still in great shape. The Cherry grain elevator was also recently torn down. It could just be a tax issue. Taxes are another
reason why so many historically significant structures that dot our landscape of America are being torn down. Taxes and paranoia
are destroying the quality of life for us. On this page you will see a picture of the house that once was the mine managers
house. In the tree a flag is tangled up so badly and it reminds me of how our country is tangled up too.
Those who seen and photographed the last remnants of the fan house bldg were lucky. And those who took the tour of
the site in Nov 2002 were very lucky! No tour there will ever be the same again.
|When these walls did speak, I listened.
|But never again can they speak, nor shall the setting sun shine on those brick walls.
The little brick structure meant a lot to me personally. Each time I visited the historic site I would take a few more
photographs. One particular warm afternoon I was by myself and it was almost as if the structure was talking. Imbedded in
its walls are all the emotions of the people who suffered that great loss. I envisioned the scenes in my head and all the
chaos of a disaster unfolding so quickly. Like a thief coming deceptively in the sunlights warmth of that fine autumn day.
The gentle breeze slipped through the open large windows and doorway. Once in a while, I would step inside the little building,
and many deep thoughts would run through my mind. I really felt the experiences with the small brick edifice was very personal
and educational. I learned so much when I walked around the site, but that building which still was intact gave me a great
perspective as to the orientation of the mine site. It appeared to be in fair shape. The concrete ceiling could have used
some reinforcement to be safest although I seen no signs of weakness. It was probably erected in 1903, perhaps in the springtime.
If it could have been left alone by human ignorance it could have seen its 100th birthday. It just dawned on me
that 2003 marks the 100th anniversary of when the St. Paul Co. came to Cherry to build the mine workings. In 2009
we will mark the 100th anniversary of the disaster of course.
I am disappointed about the building being torn down and the other sites attractions being buried for good. It grieves
me that we live in an age where history is trampled under foot. The future of many of these small towns is their history.
Well, what is done is done. I can share with you the photographs I have taken of the brick building on this web site. Well,
it will never be the same again at the mine site. There are countless others who feel the same. If I were a rich man I would
rebuild the entire site with working trains in all (life size scale this time) and it would be quite a spectacle to see.