by Terry Hogan

Saluda: Time Forgot & History Overlooked

We sometimes grew up learning names of places without questioning their origin. I learned that the name of the road that cut across the west end of Lake Bracken was the "Saluda road." Similarly, that portion of the road that crossed the tip of the lake was called the "Saluda fill." It never crossed my mind to ask the source of "Saluda.".

I now know, or at least believe, the Saluda road relates to an extinct village of Saluda that sat along that road, near the "Abingdon hardroad." This was a pretty clever deduction on my part. However, I know so little about Saluda, I am not sure if the term "village" is correct but I will use it very broadly and hope for tolerance. I have been told that it was a stop on the similarly nonexistent interurban rail line that connected Galesburg to Abingdon. Local farmers and their families used to pick up the interurban to take care of business in Galesburg. Wanting to be sure that Saluda was not another "Utah" (a name with no place), I checked it out in a Knox County map originally published in 1876 by the Union Atlas Company. The map simply shows the existence of "Saluda Sta." along the CB&Q rails in section 4 of Cedar Township. By inference, it must have been a small collection of inhabited structures. The only reference I could find on Saluda was in the History of Knox County Illinois by Albert Perry, published in 1912. Although not listed in the index, Saluda appears on page 25 in a "list of the altitudes at important points in the county." All other locations listed were towns such as Galesburg, Rio, Altona, Rapatee and Dahinda­­ except for two railroad bridges. The rail line the crosses the Saluda road west of Lake Bracken and east of the Abingdon hardroad still bears a sign proclaiming Saluda that is visible from the Saluda road. By the way, Saluda's elevation was listed as 770, well below the towering city of Wataga, that is reported to be the highest location in Knox County­­ towering in at a breathtaking 835 feet above sea level.

I wish I could tell you about Saluda: who lived there; why it was formed; how it got its name; and why it died. But I can't. The dictionary dutifully reports that there is a Saluda River in South Carolina, 200 miles long, flowing southeast to its confluence with the Broad River, forming the Congaree River. It does not, however, tell the origin of the name. I thought perhaps the name had its origin from a local Indian tribe but I found none listed in the Knox County histories that I reviewed.

There are a lot of villages like Saluda in the midwest. If asked to think of dead towns, we generally think of the "ghost towns" in the southwest, many of which owe their birth and death to the discovery, exploitation and depletion of a natural resource. These ghost towns have an aura, a western lore associated with them. The gold miner, the saloon, the soft-hearted barmaid named Kitty. However we don't pay much attention to the ghost towns in our own backyards. These midwestern ghost towns played their part in the settling of America. They no doubt had their stories­­ perhaps less glamorous than their larger-than-life western counterparts.

Saluda failed to sustain itself. Was its failure due to geography? Did it die for being too close to Galesburg? Was it an accident? Did it evolve, house by house, but lacking academic, political, religious, or economic motivation, die the same way? Perhaps it owes its humble birth from a construction site for the railroad?

Saluda had no college at its roots and apparently made no grab for the big railroads that were binding America together. History records no Saludaian attempt to wrestle away the county seat from Knoxville. Saluda was not the birthplace of a famous poet. It was not formed by a religious zealot who brought his followers from New England or overseas. Saluda was not even flooded by the formation of Lake Bracken in order to provide a reliable water supply for thirsty steam locomotives. It was not a site for the Lincoln-Douglas debate, nor was it a key stop on the "underground railroad."

Although Saluda may have never been very large, it is probably safe to assume that people were born, raised, married, and died there. People who by the simple act of living, continued the spark of life passing it on to their children and by so doing, made Saluda important to somebody somewhere.

Imagine a genealogist in the state of Washington coming across an old historical reference that reports his ancestor was born in Saluda, Ill. Out comes the atlas and the Illinois highway map­­ but no Saluda. Well, it must be a typo, so the search for similar names in the atlas begins and ends with no plausible success.

Such is the frustration of the genealogist with the anonymous death of a small village. Its only apparent claim to historical recognition is a local name for a road and a sign along the railroad right of way. We seem to be better at marking the death of an individual than the death of a community. Perhaps the last one to leave Saluda had other things on his mind. It is unfortunate that we may never know what it was.

If you have stories about Saluda, I would appreciate hearing about them c/o Zephyr. Saluda, the village that time forgot and history overlooked.

This article posted to Zephyr online August 7, 1997
Back to the Zephyr home
page.Send us e