How many years has Braidwood been a city?
Discovery of Coal
The accidental discovery of coal underneath the surface in the region afterwards named Braidwood, stirred the community as never before and started an industry that lasted over a half century, making Braidwood renowned throughout the state. The coal vein was small, but loomed large in the minds of the early settlers and operators. It averaged about 3 1/2 feet thick, lying but 60 to 100 feet beneath the surface. Coal mining reached it peak in the Braidwood area in 1872 with increasing production until the 1880s, when the big operators, after gaining invaluable experience here, as well as big interest on their investment, moved to adjoining communities, and later to Central and Souther Illinois.
The Pioneers came from the Pennsylvania coal fields, and from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Bohemia, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. The integration of these industrious people made Braidwood what the United States is acclaimed to be, a “melting pot”. In the beginning of the coal mining days, the workers saw little sunlight form Thanksgiving Day until Easter, except for Sundays and holidays. They would work from seven in the morning until in the evening everyday in the winter.
First Mine Shaft in Braidwood Area
Located south of Coal City Road and between North Center Street and Novy Road, there is still in existence a small slag hill created by the excavation of the “coal well” on the Thomas Byron farm, currently the Bergera farm.
United Mine Workers of America
Braidwood is the home of the Mine Workers’ Union Local #1 which was the first Miners’ Union in Illinois. It led to the unionization of all states that mined for coal. William D. Ryan, born in Braidwood in 1861, was a founder of the UMWA. He served many years as Secretary-Treasurer of Local District 12, and legislative representative of the Unions. In 1897 he became a member of the Executive Board of State District 12, and worked to organize the workers in Souther Illinois and in Kentucky. John P. Mitchell, born in Braidwood in 1870, was called the “Father of the Miners’ Union”. Mitchell joined the UMWA when it was formed in 1890, and served as President of the UMWA for 10 years. Mitchell was elected Vice-President of the Union in 1898 and, in 1899, was unanimously elected President. As President, Mitchell enlarged the membership and led the strike in the anthracite field of East Pennsylvania.
Fossil History of the Braidwood Area
The Braidwood area is world famous for it’s fossils. The Fossil Ridge Public Library has large fossil collection displays. Many fossils are on display at the Braidwood Museum as well. Fossil Ridge Public Library District was chosen as the name of the library district because the communities included all have fossils as a common denominator. The Mazonia Wildlife Area issues fossil-hunting permits, so interested people still have the opportunity to hunt and find fossils that are over 300 million years old. Braidwood-Mazonia Area Fossils are found on display in the Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
US Route 66 History
Braidwood’s location was on a direct line through the state from Chicago to St. Louis along the right of way of the Chicago and Alton Railroad from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi Valley. In order to encourage Illinois tourism on the old “Mother Road”, the State of Illinois placed “Historic Route 66” signs along the old route about 1995. The signs are along Rt. 53 through Braidwood.
City of Braidwood
Main: (815) 458-2333 | 9am – 5pm
After-Hours: (815) 458-2341 (Non-Emergency)
141 W. Main St., Braidwood, IL 60408