The Shawnee National Forest Headquarters, on U.S. Route 45 on the south side of Harrisburg, is currently hosting a new photographic exhibit prepared by Charles H. Hammond of Southern Illinois’ Historic Ozark Tours.
The exhibit previously was on display at Eldorado Memorial Library.
The Ozark Tours were the result of Lindolph Oscar Trigg, known to most as Col. L.O. Trigg, who was very vocal in his insistence that Southern Illinois needed a national forest.
In 1931, Colonel Trigg — owner of the Eldorado Daily Journal and other smaller newspapers in Southern Illinois — developed an idea to highlight the potential for tourism in Southern Illinois that might provide a well-needed boost for the area’s failing economy.
Although the Great Depression officially began in 1929, Southern Illinois had already been suffering economically for more than a decade as a result of falling prices for farm produce following the end of WW I. In an attempt to get the local economy moving again, Colonel Trigg called upon family, friends, local dignitaries and politicians to participate in a three-day camp-out across southern Illinois. Meals were prepared each day by church ladies and other women’s groups. At the time of the first tour in 1931, Col. Trigg had begun to lobby the U.S. Forest Service hard for a national forest in Southern Illinois while also building local support.
The first trip began on July 27, 1931, with 20 men in the back of a flat-bed truck. Three days later, the “Explorers” had visited such well-known places as the Stonefort stone fort, Jackson Hollow, Bell Smith Springs, the Iron Furnace, Buzzard’s Point, Cave-in-Rock, a railroad tunnel and a fluorspar mine.
The Colonel made daily and hourly journal entries for each year’s tour called "Road Logs” and always had a camera around his neck to capture the day’s events. The journal entries were used to prepare the “Ozark News,” a chronicle of each year’s tour. The Ozark Tours continued until Col. Trigg’s death in 1949 and intermittently after that.
The influence these tours had on the establishment of the Shawnee was vital as his vision came to fruition in 1939 when the Shawnee National Forest was created and it became part of then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s initiative to preserve the nation’s eroded and overworked farms as renewable national forests that would contribute to the nation’s economy for decades to come.
The Shawnee NF Headquarters Office is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information concerning the exhibit and/or information regarding Colonel Trigg’s work, please contact Mary McCorvie, Heritage Program Manager, at 618-253-7114.