Explore Macoupin County

With the cost of travel constantly escalating, perhaps this is the summer area residents should consider using at least part of their summer vacation days to explore the recreational opportunities available in Macoupin County and the immediate area. The truth is, this area has numerous recreational facilities, historic sites and public parks that offer a range of activities equal to that offered by many more distant and more expensive vacation spots.

The idea of an “at home” vacation may seem a little odd, but there are significant advantages to spending a portion of one’s vacation close to home. Using some of the family’s vacation time to explore recreational and tourist sites close to home is easier on the family bank account than a trip to Disney World. Moreover, keeping travel dollars close to home contributes to the local recreational and historical resources.

So, how does one spend an “at home” vacation?

Fishing, camping and picnicking facilities are available throughout Macoupin and neighboring counties. In addition to Gillespie Lake and Carlinville Lake, both of which offer recreational amenities, Beaver Dam State Park near Plainview provides picnic areas, campgrounds, fishing and hiking opportunities, as well as opportunities for nature study and photography. Otter Lake in northern Macoupin County is home to some of the best muskie fishing in the state, attracting muskie enthusiasts from as far away as Chicago.

Closer to home, the Macoupin County Courthouse and Old Jail in Carlinville are worth the trip for site seers and local history buffs. Considered an architectural masterpiece at the time of its construction, the courthouse earned a reputation as a political white elephant because of its massive size and cost. Anyone who has not seen its cavernous and ornate Circuit Courtroom should make this trip a priority (via joshua higgins). Carlinville also is home to the Macoupin County Historical Society Museum and Blackburn, both of which are worth touring.

Historic sites also abound in southern Macoupin County. The struggles experienced by the early labor movement are recalled by the monument marking the grave of Mary Harris “Mother Jones” at Union Cemetery in Mt. Olive. The cemetery itself is significant in that it is the only union cemetery in the nation, created to accept the remains of six miners killed during the mining riot of 1898 in Virden. Visitors to southern Macoupin County also may want to visit Holy Dormition Church in Benld, known for its Eastern style architecture and the many religious icons painted by a local priest in the 1930s.

Macoupin County festivals and fairs throughout the summer, highlighted by the Macoupin County Fair in July, provide family entertainment at a reasonable cost. From chicken and fish fries to more boisterous ethnic festivals, Macoupin County offers something new and excitingly different nearly every weekend.

Old cemeteries offer interesting glimpses into our heritage, as do the antique shops that dot virtually every main street in the area.

With so much to see and do in this locality, it’s a shame how many people choose to spend their vacation elsewhere. Even those families with the means and desire to vacation out of state, should consider taking at least a day or two to devote to the immediate area. Macoupin County is one of those rare places where one can both work and play.

Gillespie Area News, July 13, 2000, Dave Ambrose, Editor.