Virden, Illinois: all about it
Trivia, Facts and Useful Information
Elevation: 681 ft (208 m). Population 3,425 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Virden is a city in Macoupin and Sangamon counties is pronounced "Verd-n"; see this Map of Virden.
The History of Virden
The first inhabitants of what is now Illinois, arrived when the ice sheets retreated some 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. These Paleoindians were the ancestors of the modern Kickapoo, Illinois and Miami natives that were the historic natives encountered by the first European explorers in the mid 1600s.
France claimed the region as part of "New France" (now Canada) but lost it to Britain during the Seven Year War (1763). The independence of America (1776) saw the land change hands again; it became a territory of the U.S.
Pioneers arrived in the mid 1810s and early 1820s, as farmers around the time that Illinois gained statehood (1818). The first settler in the region was John Woods, who came from Virginia in 1817. 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).
The Chicago and Alton railroad was completed through this area in 1852, and the town was founded that same year by Heaton, DuBoise, Chesnut, Hickox and Keiting. Its first building was John Virden's hotel.
The name Virden
Virden was named in honor of John Virden, who for a number of years had kept a popular stage-stand some two miles south, and was the proprietor of the hotel. The surname is a locational name "of Verdun" the town in Meuse in north-east France.
In 1869 a coal shaft was sunk and was operated by J. W. Utt. The 31 mile long Jacksonville & South-eastern Railway shipped out coal of the Virden Coal Company, to Jacksonville.
Route 66 was aligned through the town along the original State Highway, SBI 4, in 1926. Four years later it was shortened and made straighter: it was realigned further east through Litchfield, bypassing Virden.
Virden, its Hotels and Motels
Lodging & accommodation in Virden
> > Book your hotel close by, in Springfield
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Hotels further East, in Illinois
On Main US 66
Hotels, Westwards in Missouri
>> Check out the RV campground close by, in Springfield
Virden's climate is a "humid continental type", its summers are humid, long and hot. Its winters are short, very cold, with a lot of snow and quite windy.
Its average yearly temperature is around 52.4 °F (11.3°C). The winter averages (Jan) are: low 21°F (-6°C) and high 35°F (1.7°C). The average summer (Jul) high is 86°F (30°C), and a low is 68°F (20°C).
Snow falls during more than 4 months with an average snowfall of 22 inches (56 cm) yearly. Precipitation is 35.3 in. (895 mm) on avg. each year.
The are around Virden may get around 7 tornado strikes each year.
Tornado Risk: learn more about the Tornado Risk on US 66.
Map of Route 66 through Virden, Illinois
Display Virden Route 66 Map
Click Map will appear below
Color key for Virden's map:
Pale Blue: The later (post 1930) Historic Route 66 alignment east of Virden.
Orange: the 1926-30 alignment between Staunton and Springfield through Virden.
Black: missing or abandoned segments.
Close to St. Louis Missouri, the different alignments have their own color codes. Please check each town in that area for exact alignments.
Route 66 in Illinois: Historic Route 66 in Virden
Route 66 in Illinois
Read this detailed description of Route 66 in Illinois.
Below we provide More information on US 66 in Virden (the 1926-30 alignment).
Route 66 is listed in the National Register of Historic Places on two segments of this 1926 alignment north of Virden in Auburn and south, from Girard to Nilwood.
How to get to Virden
Drive along IL-4 into Virden or via Virden Ave. from Historic U.S. 66 and I-55.
Virden's Route 66 Landmarks
Some Attractions and Sights
As you drive into Virden along State Hwy 4 from the north, stop to see the Mural:
Virden History Mural
N Sprignfiedl and E Jackson
On the NE corner is the mural. It is on the western brick wall of the Sav-Mor Building.
It is the work of John Hubbell (2004) and is 52 by 19 feet. The mural has four panels, one depicts a scene of a settler on the prairies, the second has John Virden and his hotel. The third portrays Melvin Vaniman a Virden native aviator and photogrpher. The last panel shows the downtown area, a train a Route 66 sign and an old car.
Virden History Mural in Virden, Illinois
Turn left along E Jackson and visit the town's square (Don't miss the Historic bandstand). It has a monument to those brave men who fought in World War I (1914-18) and the Virden Miner's Memorial:
Virden Miner’s Riot Memorial
Virden Square NE corner of E Jackson and N Dye Streets
This central park has a memorial dedicated in 2006, it is a granite slab with a bronze bass-relief depicting the events of the Miner's Riot of 1898.
In 1898 there was a dispute between the owners of the Chicago-Virden Coal Co. who refused to honor a nationwide agreement signed with the United Mine Workers: the company said that paying 40 cents per ton per day and accepting an eight-hour work shift would lead to bankruptcy.
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The miners went on strike and the company hired non-unionized African-Americans from Alabama. The miners blocked their entry in September, but a second attempt in October, with a fortified stockade around the mine protected by 50 armed guards led to a gunfight between guards and miners.
This 10-minute clash is known as the "Battle of Virden", in which 13 men were killed: eight miners, four guards hired by the mine and a and Chicago and Alton Rialroad employee.
Mary "Mother" Jones (1837-1930) a labor union activist, sided with the miners, and is buried with some of the miners killed in the riot at the Historic Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive on the 1930 Route 66 east of Virden. Read More on Jones and the historic cemetery.
Below is a "Then and Now" sequence of the corner across the street from the Memorial:
The tracks in the foreground of the old photo are those of the the Illinois Traction (or Illinois Terminal Railroad). It was a heavy duty interurban electric railroad with passenger and freight service. It passed through Virden on its Springfield-Granite City line (which ran between 1904 and 1956). The tracks have been removed.
North side of Square 1950s in Virden, Illinois
North side of Square nowadays in Virden, Illinois
And this is the end of your Virden City Tour.
Historic Route 66 in Virden
Historic background: Pontiac Trail
The Pontiac Trail symbol shield, www.ebay.com
The predecessor of Route 66 was the "Pontiac Trail". The use of automobiles grew in during the early 1900s and this led to a public demand for better roads, suitable for cars.
Dirt trails used by carts with deep ruts, which became muddy traps during the rainy periods were not suitable.
A private association was formed in 1915 to promote the Pontiac Trail which became a "solid surface road" that linked Chicago with St. Louis. It was named for the famous Ottawa Indians chief. The B.F. Goodrich tire company marked its milage posts with its custom shield sign (see image).
The state government took over and issued a bond in 1918 which created the State Bond Issue (SBI) Route #4, which was mainly aligned along the Pontiac Trail.
This highway was paved between 1923 and 1926, and that same year, 1926 when U.S. Highway 66 was created, it was aligned along the new IL-4 roadbed.
1926-1930 US 66
This first alignment of Route 66 south of Springfield had a winding course following the former county lanes and lot demarcation trails. It had many sharp 90° curves. This made it unsafe and also longer.
Route 66 after 1930: realigned
Marked in Pale Blue in the map above.
Seeking a straighter alignment the Illinois Division of Highways led by Thomas Sheets moved Route 66 eastwards through Mt. Olive and Litchfield and Divernon.
This new 1930 US66 split from the 1926 alignment in Staunton and met it again, further north in Springfield, bypassing Virden.
Original 1926-1930 alignment Thayer to Virden
The short 2.5 mile trip from Thayer to Virden is shown in this Map. This is shown in Orange in the Google map above.
> > See the previous segment From From Auburn to Thayer (east)
> > See the next segment Virden to Girard (west)
Banner image: Dead Man's Curve, Laguna New Mexico by Perla Eichenblat.