About Mt. Olive, Illinois
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 685 ft (209 m). Population 2,099 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Mt. Olive is a city located in Macoupin County, Illinois, on Route 66's 1930-1977 alignments, (Map of Mt. Olive).
History of Mt. Olive
People have been living in what nowadays is the state of Illinois for over 11,000 years, since the last Ice Age ended. Later, when the first European explorers (French, coming from Canada) reached the area, they encountered the Illinoisian Indians. This took place in the 1600s.
The Illinoisians were displaced by the arrival of more settlers occupied.
The first settler was John Woods, from Virginia in 1817. The school opened in 1825 and the village was platted in 1835, followed by the postoffice in 1837.
Macoupin County was established in 1829 and was named after Macoupin Creek (the word is a Miami-Illinois term for the American lotus: Nelumbo lutea).
John C. Nieman a Prussian, migrated to the U.S. in 1839 and settled in Macoupin County in 1841, he worked as a farmhand and managed to establish his own farm.
He opened a store in what became known as "Nieman's Settlement" which became the seed of a small hamlet. He was its first postmaster. The town was platted in 1859.
The Name:Mt. Olive
Nieman named it "Oelberg" or "Olive mountain", translated as Mount Olive, after the Mount of Olives in Israel.
He established the Mount Olive Coal Co. in 1874 which by 1879 employed almost 150 miners. This impacted positively on the economy.
His mine was located north of town where nowadays the 1930-40 and the 1940-1977 US 66 highways fork.
Hotels and Motels: Mt. Olive, Illinois
Accommodation and hotels in Mt. Olive
> > Book your accommodation nearby, in Litchfield
More Lodging near Mt. Olive along Route 66
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Heading West in Illinois, more accommodation
Hotels further East, in Illinois
Book your Hotel in neighboring Litchfield
>> Check out the RV campground in neighboring Litchfield
The Weather in Mt. Olive
Mt. Olive may be hit by some 7 tornados every year.
Tornado Risk: read all about Tornado Risk on Route 66.
Seasons in Mt. Olive: summers are long, warm, and humid; winters are short, freezing, and windy. Temperatures may vary on average between 21°F (-6°C) to 86°F (30°C).
July has an average high of 86°F (30°C), and a low of 68°F (20°C). During winter the average low is 21°F (-6°C) in Jan. and the avg. high is a cool 35°F (1.7°C).
Mt. Olive's snowy period lasts for about 4.3 months, with an average snowfall of 22 inch (56 cm) yearly. Rainfall averages 37.5 inches per year (952 mm)
Map of Route 66 in Mount Olive, IL
Check out Mount Olive on our Illinois Route 66 Map, with the complete alignment and all the towns along it.
Below is the color key for Route 66’s alignment in Mt. Olive:
Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment (1940-77)
Orange is the 1926-1930 alignment to the west of town, through Staunton
Blue is the 1930-1940 alignment
Black: missing segments.
Mount Olive Map
Map with the alignment of Route 66 through Mount Olive
Click on this link > > 1930 - 40 US 66 alignment in Mount Olive
Click on this link > > 1940 - 77 US 66 alignment in Mount Olive
Route 66's alignment in Illinois: the Historic Route 66 through Mt. Olive
Route 66 across Illinois
In the state of Illinois, the Historic Route 66 has been designated as a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road.
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Here is More information on US 66 as it goes through the town of Mt. Olive.
Reaching the town of Mt. Olive
You can reach Mt. Olive by driving along Historic Route 66 alignments (1930-40 & 1940-1977) as well as I-55 and taking Exit 44.
U.S. 66 Sights in Mt. Olive
Landmarks and Places to See in town
Historic Context: Route 66 in 1946
In his book, published in 1946 (US Highway 66 Guidebook) Jack Rittenhouse tells us about his journey around the town using the 1940 Route 66 alignment:
He mentions a gas station at the fork between the 1930-40 alignment and the 1940-1977 one, where Max Mullins Salvage is now located (the cafe and gas station was known as "Mill"). One mile west, on the junction with N Poplar St. (then a "graveled road", nowadays a grassy track) he tells us that there were a "few roadside tables at this intersection" and just ahead he reminds us, was the road to the Cementery where 'Mother Jones' was buried.
The town in those days had 2,559 residents (more than now) and had a "garage; gas; small hotel". As most of those in the area it was a farming and coal mining town.
On the south side of town, where both old and new alignments met, he reported "Here there is a side road off (Right) at a tangent, leading to Litchfield. At the Intersection is the 66 Tourist Camp with cabins, gas, etc." This means that he entered town and then left it along the 1930-40 road because the other was on his right at the junction.
Drive into town from the east along the 1930-40 alignment that forks to your left on the eastern side of the city. It curves slowly into town and runs through its built up area. Just before it turns sharply to the south, to your right is a road that leads to a historic site:
The image below shows the orignal roadbed of US 66 (1940-1977) at the point where the 1930-1940 alignment forks into town:
1940-77 alignment of Route 66 north of Mt. Olive, Illinois
The cemetery and burial of "Mother" Jones, which is located between both US 66 alignments on the NW side of town:
"Mother" Jones Monument and Union Miners Cemetery
700 North Lake Street. See this Map showing how to reach the monument from both alignments.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
As the miners killed during the Virden Mine Riot were denied burial in the area's cemeteries the local miner union bought a plot of land to bury them there (1899). The cemetery became the Union Miner's Cemetery and expanded.
Mary Harris Jones requested to be buried here.
Mary Harris "Mother" Jones
She was an Irish-born American (1837-1930) who from humble origins and having worked as dressmaker and teacher became an organized labor activist and representative.
Cofounder of the Industrial Workers of the World she worked with the Knights of Labor and the United Mine Workers union.
She organized miners against exploitation and was feared by the Mine industry tycoons.
She is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive,next to the miners who died in the 1898 "Battle of Virden", who she called "her boys".
The monument that crowns her tomb in pink Minnesota granite with two bronze miners flanking it was dedicated on October 11, 1936, now celebrated in Mt. Olive as "Nother Jones's Day".
Battle of Virden
A bloody shootout in Oct. 1898 between security guards, striking miners involving labor union strife and racial violence (the strike breakers were African Americans). Four guards died and so did seven miners.
It took place at the Chicago-Virden Coal Co. (Virden is on the 1926-30 US 66 alignment NW of Mt. Olive).
Head south (westbound) and two blocks past Main Street (IL-138) to your right is a Historic Icon, the Soulsby's Shell Service Station:
Soulsby’s Service Station
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
201 S. Route 66
Henry Soulsby and his son Russell built the Shell gas station in 1926, even though at that time U.S. 66 ran much further to the west. They expanded it in 1930 when U.S. 66 was realigned right in front of their business.
Russell ran the place with his sister Ola after the death of their father. They closed in 1991. It has been rescued and preserved by a local non-profit organization.
Soulsby’s Service Station in Mt. Olive, Illinois
old oil ramp at Soulsby’s, Mt. Olive, Il. Click for street view
Trivia: oil ramp
Don't miss the steel ramp to the south of the building, which was used for oil changes and repairs. A tree grows through it now.
Detour into downtown Mt. Olive
Go back to Main Street and turn east into the town, it has plenty of red-brick buildings from the early 1900s in good shape. For those interested in history, you can visit the museum:
Friends of Mother Jones Museum
215 A East Main Street
It is a brand new museum that is dedicated to transmit the story and efforts of "Mother" Jones.
Return to Route 66 and turn left, estbound again. Shortly after passing Soulsby's gas station, you wil see another Former Gas Station to your right:
Former Gas Station
339 S Rte 66
You can still see the concrete island but it has no gas pumps. The old building has been very modified building, and you can see its 3 door garage.
Former Gas Station in Mt. Olive, Illinois
Drive west until the junction of this 1930-1940 alignment and the other 1940-1977 alignment on the south (east) side of town. Here is where Rittenhouse mentioned a "tourist camp" with cabins and gas, it has now vanished.
Below is the view of the junction. The Pale Blue arrows mark the Historic Route 66 alignment (1940-77) and the Blue arrow is the 1930-1940 alignment. The gray arrow on the right marks the modern highway. The original roadbed lies to the east of it, and is blocked off; grass grows between the cracks in the concrete. The Red circle marks the two official road signs that mark both alignments. Look for these brown signs on your journey, you won't get lost.
Fork of both US 66 alignments south of Mt. Olive, Illinois
This is the end of your trip. You can return to your starting point by turning right and driving back along the 1940-1977 US 66. At its junction with IL-138 is this motel:
Vintage Motel in Mt. Olive, Illinois
Historic Route 66 in Mt. Olive, Illinois
Route 66 alignments in Livingston & Staunton
1926-1930 US 66
The first alignment of Route 66 followed State Higway No. 4 from Hamel, eastbound. It turned to the north at present Exit 33 of I-55, where the access to Worden is located. And continued northwards into Stanton and from there along IL-4 onwards past Sawyerville and into Bendl. It ran well to the west of Mt. Olive.
The alignment is marked in Orange in the map above.
1930-1940 US 66
In an attempt to make the road shorter, in 1930, the Illinois Division of Highways chaired by Thomas Sheets moved Route 66 eastwards. It ran from Farmersville, Litchfield, and Mt. Olive.
After Mt. Olive it met the previous alignment just south of Stanton.
It is shown in Blue in the map.
This is a map with directions of this segment through Mt. Olive.
1940-1977 US 66
This alignment is now buried beneath the freeway east of Exit 33 on I-55. It resurfaces on the eastern side of Livingston but only appears with its original surface at Exit 41, where it heads north, to bypass the town of Mt. Olive along its western and northern sides. You can see the original roadbed on the eastern side of the modern highway, overgrown concrete, with cracks.
This is a map with directions of this segment around Mt. Olive.
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Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.