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The Bones of Siloam

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20 miles east of Quincy lies 3,500 acres of what some call "the most beautiful state park in Illinois" - Siloam Springs.

But long before it was a state park, it was a community of about 100 people.

As you drive into the depths of Siloam Springs State Park in Adams County, you may come across a spring house.

Back in the 1800's, people came from all over the world to visit Siloam for its five mineral springs.

"Back in the 1800's, people were still using spring water like they found here for medicinal purposes," said Linda Riggs Mayfield.

Quincy Resident, Linda Riggs Mayfield, received an undergraduate degree in History and she also happened to marry a man who's family came from Siloam Springs.

It became her passion to learn about her husband’s ancestors and today, she shares that with us.

When the mineral springs were discovered at Siloam Springs, the land owner decided to sell and ship the spring water across the country.

"It was kind of interesting, two dollars or five dollars a barrel for the spring water," Mayfield said.

After a lot of success, a three story, 40 room resort was built - The Forest Hotel.

Since its grand opening in 1887, travelers from across the world came to stay and take advantage of the spring water.

"I found records and both Barnum and Bailey circus and Wringling Brothers circuses, when the circus was in Quincy the owners were out at the hotel and they signed into the guest book," Mayfield added.

The community started to build itself around the hotel.

It became a thriving community for a long time.

"There was a post office here, my husband's grandmother was the post mistress, his father was the lifeguard at the pool down at the end of the valley. There were a couple of livery stables, one or two stores, perhaps a dozen houses here in the valley itself and then a large number of farms with homes and barns all scattered throughout the hills. The Happy hallows school was a one room school and all of the children in this valley attended school at the Happy Hallow school," explained Mayfield.

Today, you can still see one restored spring house and the original foundation of the Forest Hotel - but that is all that remains of old Siloam.

"The state purchased all the land in the 1940's. They had a land auction in 1943 and in one day sold every structure and anyone who purchased a structure had two weeks to remove it. From that afternoon in 1943 to the present there have been none of the structures left," said Mayfield.

Many of the Siloam residents then moved to Quincy.

"The history of a place like this becomes the history of all of us. The heritage of this little valley contributes to who we all are, who live in this county and this is the only state park that we have in our county so it really belongs to all of us," Mayfield says.

If you are interested in more history on Siloam Springs, many artifacts, including the Forest Hotel guest book, are kept at the Historical Society in Quincy for everyone to see.

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