Everybody who’s ever lived in Makanda, Illinois has a flood story. Seth Jumps remembers as a boy watching Makanda’s library float past his house one day. It never returned.
Everybody in Makanda also has a fire story. Years ago everybody also had a train-wreck story. The lucky fact is, this rural, southern Illinois community of a few hundred people has nearly been wiped off the map so many times—--sometimes twice in the same year—--its modern existence defies initial logic.
Tornadoes also destroyed Makanda three times.
Massive fires burned much of the town in 1882, 1899, 1904 and 1913.
Eclipse in Makanda
Flooding led to a cholera outbreak that killed a portion of the population in 1873. Between 1857 and 1912, nine major train wrecks incinerated much of Makanda when smashed locomotives and wooden cars burst into flames. In 1913, a flood, a tornado and a major fire—--all within five months—--nearly removed Makanda from the map for good.
Somehow Makanda survives today.
Why a small, disaster-prone community would bother to rebuild itself continually for more than 150 years actually can be explained. Makanda happens to be located in a strategic valley where the newly chartered Illinois Central railroad found a workable passage north in 1851. Once the choice was made, the legacy of deadly misfortune began.