The Village of Rockbridge will be celebrating 150 years of existence on August 7th with a host of food, music, games, and historical presentations.
The town of about 175 people is situated in the southeastern corner of Greene County just off of Illinois Route 267.
The first settlers to the region arrived in 1819. John and Ambrose Taylor and Benjamin Allen created homes on what would become known in the early history of Greene County as “Taylor’s Prairie.” The first major building erected was a grist mill on the Macoupin Creek in 1826 by John Hardcastle and Moses Stephens. Over the next 30+ years, the mill changed hands and a cluster of cabins sprung up around it along the creek. A covered bridge to cross the creek was built just south of the mill in 1845. A separate settlement with a Catholic Church sprung up a half-mile west of what was known as Rockbridge in the early 1850s known as Dublin. The only remnants of the settlement is a cemetery. A post office called “Rockbridge” was established in 1849. George D. Randle, the first postmaster, operated the office out of his log cabin.
Things changes for the settlement in 1870 when the Rockford-Rock Island-St. Louis Railroad laid down tracks through the area. The village was moved a half mile northwest of the old mill. The “new town” was laid out by G.T. Sheffield and George Hudson on July 18, 1871, and the railroad company named the location “Sheffield” according to the founder. That would be the town’s name until the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Company purchased the line and returned the moniker to Rockbridge a few years later. The name of the post office, though, has never been altered. With the railroad and movement of the town came businesses, a bank, schools, and new homes. The Village of Rockbridge would be formally incorporated in 1885 when they installed a board and village president.
The town would reach its height of population around 1910, with about 275 residents recorded in the federal census that year. Like many small prairie towns, the Great Depression destroyed businesses, small banks, farms, and lives causing a decline. The building of the highway system in the 1950s and the decline of passenger trains also didn’t help.
Despite the hardships of the past, Rockbridge lives on as a thriving center of agriculture for a small group of families in Greene County.
The Sesquicentennial Celebration will be held Sunday, August 7th from 11AM-5PM, with a catered meal to be served by the Brass Door Restaurant of Carrollton from 11:30AM-1PM. Tickets for the catered mill are required and are available for purchase until July 31st. Cost is $10. Inquiries for tickets can be made by calling Dennis Price at 618-407-2489 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Sherry Freer at 618-535-4768 or Theresa Walden at 618-339-8122. Tickets may also be purchased at Wagner Seed & Supply.
Food trucks will also be on hand if you are unable to purchase a ticket. The keynote program will begin at 1PM and feature former Rockbridge resident Mike Adams. For more information, visit Rockbridge IL Sesquicentennial on Facebook.