Illinois History Minutes

November 17 Illinois History Minute


It’s November 17th. And on this day in 1909, people in the northern Illinois town of Cherry were still waiting for underground coal fires to subside, so that they could bring out the victims of one of the nation’s worst mining disasters.

Four days earlier, 259 men and boys had died in the St. Paul Coal Company’s mine at Cherry, when kerosene lanterns started a fire that spread throughout the mine. The tragedy inspired Illinois lawmakers to pass stronger mine safety regulations and the state’s first workmen’s compensation law. 

Lawyer and politician William L.D. Ewing was born on this day in 1795. Ewing moved from his home state of Kentucky to be a lawyer in Shawneetown. He served as Illinois House speaker in the 1830s and was later appointed governor and U.S. senator.
I’m Jim Meadows. Illinois Public Media.