The Old Clock Tower: Icon of a City

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Big River Magazine.

Clock Tower Building
Clock Tower Building

When the Army announced plans to raze an aging limestone warehouse at the Rock Island Arsenal, around the time of World War I, locals who viewed the building with great affection convinced the Army to save it.

The building, known as Storehouse A, had exceeded its planned lifespan and played a diminishing role in the arsenal’s mission. In 50 years, the structure, whose construction had been fraught with delays, cost overruns and shoddy work, had evolved into a local landmark rising above the floodplain and had become a part of the lives of the many people who consulted its clock during their daily routines.

In July 1862, in the midst of the Civil War, Congress authorized the creation of three new arsenals: at Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; and Rock Island, Illinois. At Rock Island, the new commander, Major Charles Kingsbury, received a plan for the first building, a warehouse for weapons and ammo to be called Storehouse A. The building, nearly identical in design to the storehouses at the other two arsenals, would be constructed simply to provide storage for the Army in the remaining years of the 19th century, explained Park Ranger Don Bardole during a tour of the building and its history.

Construction began on September 3, 1863. The foundation was excavated by November. From that point on the project proceeded in fits and starts.

Construction during wartime was complicated by skyrocketing inflation, the scarcity of reliable contractors, and shortages of labor and materials that were exacerbated by the construction of a prison nearby for captured Confederate soldiers. Stone for the building was quarried from nearby LeClaire, Iowa, then floated downriver on barges, but historically low water on the Mississippi River slowed delivery. (The 1864 water level is the reference point used to calculate a river level of 0 feet.) After only the foundation and some of the first floor had been completed, Major Kingsbury, deeply discouraged by the slow progress of construction and a lack of support from higher ups, requested a transfer, which was granted in June 1865.

His successor, General Thomas Rodman, replaced faulty girders and iron columns, and brought Storehouse A to completion in 1867. Rodman made several changes to the design of the building, such as adding a gabled roof and palatinate windows at each end. Rodman’s changes shifted the basic design aesthetic from Greek Revival to Italian Renaissance. The finished structure was an impressive sight: a building with thick limestone walls 180 feet long by 60 feet wide, with a tower rising six stories high.

tn_Rock Island Arsenal IL Clock Tower Interior08
Old Graffiti

While impressive, it would be just another warehouse were it not for the six-story clock tower. The tower was originally built to support a hoist to lift supplies up to other floors. Two other hoists were installed at the east and west ends. The east one is still visible, complete with wheel, winch, rope and hook. To complete the tower, Rodman purchased a clock from renowned New York manufacturer A.S. Hotchkiss. At the end of 1867, Hotchkiss himself traveled to the arsenal to install the clock and train its first operator, W.J. Pratt. In 1907 Pratt’s family immortalized him by noting his service with a bit of graffiti on the west wall: “Carrie Passig and daughter Ruth and Hattie Pratt come with Papa Pratt to see him wind clock. Papa started to wind clock in 1867 and missed winding 3 times in 1867 to 1907.”

The original clockworks
The original clockworks

This remarkable clock, original parts still intact today, has operated nearly perfectly for 140 years. The works sit in a cast-iron frame behind a wood-and-glass enclosure. The clockworks connect to a central gear in the middle of the room that drives four spurs with a rod to each of the four clock faces. Each face is 12 feet in diameter (twice the size originally planned) with six-foot minute hands and five-foot hour hands. Each clock face has 12 round glass windows at the hour points through which one can watch the hands move (and get great views of the Quad Cities). The clock’s pendulum sinks nearly two stories deep, gently swinging a 350-pound weight.

The clock was originally wound by hand, a process that took two men 20 minutes once a week. The winding is now done by an electric motor that was installed in the 1950s. When Hotchkiss installed the clock, he set it to local time (the actual time based on the sun), even though most surrounding towns used railroad time (aka “Chicago time”). As a result, the Arsenal clock was typically 13 to 15 minutes behind the clocks in neighboring towns. (When the clock was installed, the United States had some 100 different time zones. National time zones were not officially adopted until 1918, although the railroads established time zones much earlier to facilitate cross-country travel.)

Clock Tower from above (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Clock Tower from above (US Army Corps of Engineers)

Ironically, the space provided by Storehouse A was no longer essential by the time it was finished, because it stood outside the gated grounds of a much larger armory to the east that had been designed by Gen. Rodman. Completely empty by 1930, the Army Corps of Engineers began using the storehouse in 1931 to house workers building Lock and Dam 15. In late 1934, the building became the headquarters for the Corps’ Rock Island District. It now provides office space for nearly 300 employees.

The Corps’ district library is tucked away in a corner of the basement, just past the break room. The library, one of the under-appreciated assets in the region, is housed in a nondescript room with a very low drop ceiling. Most of the collection is stored on 11 compact shelving units that run about 16 feet long and fill about a third of the library. Bob Romic, district librarian, said the library is a rare resource, even within the Corps: “Only half of the districts have a library, and half of those are contracted out.”

Founded in 1975, the library contains a serendipitous collection of items, some long-forgotten and rescued from dark corners of government warehouses and some donated by long-time employees. The core of the collection is an assemblage of film, photos, and documents from the construction of the lock-and-dam system. Most of the library’s 500 photo albums are from that era. The library also has a number of photos of the Upper Mississippi River before construction began, including dozens from the 1910 book Views of the Upper Mississippi. Other gems include several original photographs of the Mississippi Valley shot by Corps draftsman Henry Peter Bosse at the end of the 19th century. Unfortunately, few of his glass negatives have survived. The library also has an impressive collection of navigation maps that go back to the 1800s, including a few that were hand-drawn by Bosse.

Old employee newsletters provide a glimpse into work life at the Corps. In 1934, The Safe Channel published updates on lock-and-dam construction, injury reports, health tips and small-town-newspaper-style accounts of employees’ personal lives. In contrast, the World War II-era Clock Tower Post was probably an unofficial newsletter, judging by the front-page image of a woman sitting on a colonel’s lap.

This structure conceived for temporary storage grew into the role of timepiece for the region before attaining landmark status and a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The current owner, the Rock Island District of the Corps, is working to ensure that it will be around for future generations of Quad Cities residents to enjoy, according to Bardole.

View from the clock tower
View from the clock tower

The Corps leads tours through the Clock Tower periodically, but reservations are required (800-645-0248 or 309-794-5338). You can also arrange tours for other times, if you have a large group and book in advance. In winter, the Corps hosts eagle viewing events in the Clock Tower (eagles nest in the slough west of the building). Top floors are not heated, so be prepared for cold temperatures and climbing several sets of stairs. The views from the tower are the best in the Quad Cities.

Appointments to use the archives are strongly recommended (309-794-5884). The library is open weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., except for federal holidays. Many of the photos and maps have been digitized, but they are not yet available online.

With the new security procedures now in place at the Rock Island Arsenal, visitors must show a photo ID at the gate and wait for a background check to be completed. Arrive at the Arsenal early enough to allow for the extra time to complete this process.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2010, 2016

Recycling Hope

It feels like the world has been full of nothing but bad news lately, but, as often happens around the Mississippi, just wait a bit and something will come along to lift your spirits. That was the case this week, when a crew of six explorers/activists floated into Alton on some trash from New York.

One of the hulls
One of the hulls

That trash has been repurposed into a raft built from hundreds of discarded plastic bottles held together by wood, most of which was salvaged from old docks. The crew, called Recycled Mississippi, is on a mission to remind us to treat our rivers better—which is a great cause but kinda sad that we need to be reminded to do it—as well as to nudge us to reduce the amount of crap we throw away.

The boat, a catamaran, took over two months to build. The twin hulls are filled with hundreds of plastic bottles to provide buoyancy. Prepping the bottles for repurposing was a labor-intensive act. Each bottle had to be cleaned and checked for leaks and was then filled with about a tablespoon of dry ice and sealed. As the dry ice turned to gas, it expanded, filling the bottle and turning it rock hard.

The hulls are connected with an open deck outfitted with a mast and sail, although that sail probably won’t get a lot of use on the river. The skipper controls the outboard motor from a command podium that is decorated with a map of the Mississippi where they mark their progress on the trip.

They are taking their message to the Mississippi Valley and beyond by traveling the river from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico, a journey of some 2,000 miles. Because floating on a boat made of trash isn’t difficult enough, they are trying to do the entire journey without creating any new waste themselves. These are folks who are familiar with taking on big challenges, though.

The crew
The crew

They come from around the world and each brings a lot of hands-on experience advocating for better human-environment relations, whether by building kayaks from plastic bottles or founding an organization to advocate for sustainable waste management or trekking across the Sahara or running ultramarathons or participating in cleanups in Serbia. They don’t mess around.

They are inspiring, for the effort they put into this cause, for their willingness to challenge themselves, and for their drive to make the world a better place.

You can follow their trip here and feel a little better about the world while you do.

©Dean Klinkenberg, 2016

Enduring Benefits of the CCC and WPA

In 1932, the US Gross National Product dropped a record 13% and nearly one-quarter of the adult population was unemployed; in three years 40% of American banks had failed. In the first few weeks after his inauguration in March 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt launched a series of ambitious public works programs to get people working again. While economists debate the value of such projects in recovering from hard economic times, we still reap benefits from many of those projects today. You can still see quite a few of them, if you travel the Great River Road.

One of Roosevelt’s first programs was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), created under the authority of Emergency Conservation Water Act. It quickly became one of the most popular New Deal programs. Between 1933 and 1942 three million men worked on reforestation, soil conservation, flood and fire control, and constructing state and national parks. In 10 years they restored nearly 4,000 historic structures, developed over 800 state parks, and planted 3 billion trees, among other things.

In the Upper Mississippi River Valley, the CCC was responsible for dramatic make-overs at several state parks, including Perrot, at Trempealeau, Wis.; Pike’s Peak, at McGregor, Iowa; Mississippi Palisades, at Savanna, Ill.; and Black Hawk State Historic Site, at Rock Island, Ill.

Enrollees were mostly men between the ages of 18 and 25, but separate companies were eventually created for older men who had served in World War I. The men lived in camps that mimicked life in the Armed Services, with a military officer officially in charge but with civilians providing the daily leadership. Enrollees received free room and board plus $30 a month, with the expectation that they would send $25 home to help their families. While at the camp, men could get additional training and education for basic skills such as reading and writing, as well as for technical skills like accounting, carpentry, or vehicle repair. Like the rest of the US at that time, the CCC was not integrated. The integrated crew of World War I veterans at Black Hawk Park—now known as Black Hawk State Historic Site—was a rare exception.

At each park, the CCC groomed trails, planted trees, and built a number of park buildings. At Black Hawk the CCC also built two-thirds of the Watch Tower Lodge. The limestone edifice—actually three separate buildings connected by a covered walkway—was designed by Joseph Booten, who also designed several other Illinois park lodges of that era. The lodge now shelters a series of displays about the work of the CCC and daily life at the camp (1510 46th Avenue; 309.788.0177; call to confirm when the lodge is open).

With the economy still in a funk in 1935, Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) by executive order; it would become the largest of his alphabet soup public works projects. During its 8-year run, the WPA spent $11 billion (nearly $200 billion in 2008 dollars) employing over 8 million people in a wide range of projects, from building some 650,000 miles of local roads and highways to improving over 8,000 parks to writing local histories and creating public art.

Along the Upper Mississippi, WPA employees built a levee at Prairie du Chien; Riverview Stadium (now Ashford University Field) in Clinton, Iowa; Municipal Stadium (now Modern Woodman Park) in Davenport, Iowa; the stone shelter atop Grandad Bluff in La Crosse, Wisconsin; and several stone structures in Clinton’s Eagle Point Park, including the crenellated watchtower on the south end of the park.

WPA scribes working for the Federal Writer’s Project created local and regional guidebooks such as Galena, Illinois: A History (reprinted editions are still available). The WPA hired artists like Otto Hake, who completed two paintings inside the lodge at Black Hawk State Historic Site.

Wisconsin’s Wyalusing State Park, back when it was called Nelson Dewey State Park, benefited from both the CCC and WPA. Between 1935 and 1937, the CCC built roads and trails, began construction on the Peterson Shelter, and performed a variety of conservation activities including erosion control. Trails created by the CCC survived 70 years before portions were washed out in the flash flooding of 2007. The WPA worked in the park between 1938 and 1941 and built several stone picnic shelters, stone walls at lookout points, and finished the Peterson Shelter.

Even with a long list of accomplishments to their credit, the work of the WPA at Dubuque’s Eagle Point Park stands out. The park was created in 1909 but did not take its current shape until Alfred Caldwell, a fan and student of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School of Architecture, was hired to lead a WPA-funded overhaul of the park. Caldwell completed the design for the renovations in a single day, including the buildings and the terraces along the bluff, then supervised most of the construction.

Other federal programs of the era have stood the test of time, as well. The US Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture funded a competition to decorate some of its buildings. Iowa artists Bertrand Adams and William Bunn, friends from the University of Iowa who had each studied with Grant Wood, were selected to paint murals in the Dubuque Post Office after winning such a competition. Their murals, painted a couple of years after the post office opened in 1934, still decorate the interior of the building.

In the midst of one of the worst crises in our country, federal programs like the CCC and WPA reshaped our parks and communities, creating tangible benefits that have lasted for generations. Many of these projects probably would not have been undertaken otherwise.

NOTE: This article originally ran in the May-June, 2009 issue of Big River Magazine. It has been slightly modified and updated for this post.

©Dean Klinkenberg, 2009,2016

Pleasant Hill

Population (2010)
966

History
Brothers Belus and Egbert Jones were among the first Europeans to move into this part of the county, arriving in 1821 when Many Native Americans still lived in the area. They built a log cabin about four miles southeast of where Pleasant Hill is today and opened the county’s first tavern. Getting that tavern licensed was the first agenda item for the first session of the Pike County Commissioners’ Court, which awarded it for a $3 fee.

Early taverns typically served two roles, as both a place to stay and a place to hang out. The hotel portion didn’t make much money, so the owners relied on booze as their primary way of making a profit (some things don’t change). Some taverns were quite small, little more than a log cabin, while others had multiple rooms for rent and a separate room for the bar. Crude signs often alerted travelers to their presence. One sign might read “entertainment for man and beast”, while another touted “whiskey and oats.”

Belus Jones was soon appointed county constable, the first person to occupy that role. It was apparently a job he could do on the side when he wasn’t serving drinks or turning down beds. Egbert Jones lived the rest of his life in Pike County, but Belus eventually moved to Hamburg in neighboring Calhoun County. James Galloway, an early farmer, lived near the Jones brothers. Galloway’s family moved to Pike County from Missouri in 1832. He was a pretty tough dude. In one book he was described as “…a very strong man. Even at the age of 60 years he could in a wrestle throw men of 24 years of age, and at the age of 72 he made a full hand in the harvest field.”

[from History of Pike County, Illinois; 1880; p. 729]

The village was platted in 1836 as Fairfield by Eli Hubbard, Charles Hubbard, and John McMullen, but the village had to come up with a new name ten years later when folks realized that Illinois already had a village called Fairfield (in Wayne County).

Baptists started the first church in Pleasant Hill in 1855. Among the Rules of Decorum adopted in 1857 were the following:

Rule 9 – No brother shall speak more than twice to any subject without permission from the Church.
Rule 10 – There shall be no laughing, talking, or whispering in time of public service. Nor shall there be any ungenerous reflections on any brother that has spoken before.
Rule 15 – We consider it disorderly to attend frolics, plays, horse-racing, grog-[sh]ops, and charivaries.

[from History of Pike County, Illinois; 1880; p. 726]
Harman House Museum; Pleasant Hill, IL
Harman House Museum; Pleasant Hill, IL

Pleasant Hill had a station on the Chicago & Alton Railroad, on the line between Chicago and Kansas City. The first train rolled through town in 1871, just two years after Pleasant Hill incorporated as a village. The Chicago & Alton was among the first to put sleeping cars into service (beginning in 1859) and the first to put a dining car in regular service (in 1868); both were built by the George Pullman Company.

The village stayed pretty small through the 19th century, fewer than 400 residents, but started to grow in earnest after World War II. No doubt some of that growth was due to a new gas pipeline that came through the area. A number of people also found work in the industries across the river at Louisiana and Clarksville, Missouri. Pleasant Hill’s population peaked in 1980 with over 1,100 residents but has since fallen back under 1,000.

Exploring the Area
For a peek at the history of Pleasant Hill, check out the Harman House Museum (208 Harman St.; by appt.). The 19th century house has three floors of artifacts to explore, including a veteran’s memorial wall, cool vintage dresses, old photos and newspaper clippings, and antique medical equipment that will cure your longing for the past. If you wish to visit, call one of the people listed on the board next to the front door or try the Pike County Chamber of Commerce for the most current contacts (217.285.2971).

Pleasant Hill hosts the annual Pike County Fair (201 W. Clay St.; 217.754.2456) in July. Spectator events include a demolition derby, live music, and tractor pulls.

Pleasant Hill is one of the communities that participates in the Pike County Color Drive, a chance to enjoy fall color and small town charm as you drive around the countryside. Each community offers something a little different for visitors, like crafts, food, or maybe a town-wide yard sale (Oct).

Heading upriver? Check out Atlas.

Heading downriver? Check out Belleview.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2016

Pike Station

Pike Station sprung up near the foot of the Champ Clark Bridge that connects Louisiana, Missouri with rural Illinois,  a small community that is even smaller today than it used to be. The first bridge crossed here in 1873; the Champ Clark Bridge opened in 1928. Before there was a bridge, there was a ferry crossing and a few more houses.

In March of 1823, county commissioners issued a license to John Burnett to run a ferry to Louisiana, Missouri from here. The ferry had previously been run by James McDonald, but he had been murdered at the landing the year before, so there was an opening. To get the license, Burnett had to pay a $5 tax plus clerk’s fees. He also was required to publish a fee schedule: a single person or horse would be charged 25 cents; a wagon would cost 50 cents for the crossing, while a two-wheeled carriage would have to pay 75 cents.

The community, like the county, was named after Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, who was sent on a mission to explore the Upper Mississippi around the same time that Lewis and Clark went west along the Missouri River. Pike’s mission wasn’t the success of the Lewis and Clark expedition, but that didn’t stop folks from naming places after him.

Pike County was organized in 1821 and included far more land than it does today. Much of the land in the county was deeded by the federal government to veterans of the War of 1812, but many chose to sell it rather than settle on it. The early group of Europeans to arrive in the county was a pretty mixed bunch: Yankees (especially from Massachusetts), Southerners (particularly from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee), plus new immigrants from Europe (British, Irish, Germans).

Early Pike County was pretty remote, and the folks who lived there weren’t seen as especially sophisticated, which may be part of the reason that Pike County became “…a generic term for the outréism of the unsophisticated, outspoken, and outlandishly frank westerner…” (The Boyhood of John Hay, by A.S. Chapman; Century Magazine, July, 1909; p. 449)

The county, like many others on the frontier, had a burst of activity that included a whole bunch of false starts. Between 1834 and 1837, twenty-three towns were platted; only Atlas had been platted prior to that. Much of this activity was fueled by speculators eager to profit from the new Illinois-Michigan Canal that connected the Great Lakes to the Illinois River (and the Mississippi); many of the towns never developed, though.

Before the Civil War, Pike County had four Mississippi Landings: Douglasville (across from the river from Hannibal), Cincinnati Landing (in Pleasantvale Township), Gilgal Landing (in Atlas Township), and Odiorne Landing (1 ½ miles downriver from Gilgal Landing). Cincinnati Landing was the busiest of the four, but, like the others, it couldn’t survive repeated flooding and the arrival of the railroads.

At the dawn of the Civil War, the hottest issue in the county was whether or not pigs should be confined (they roamed freely around the streets of every village and some people thought they were a nuisance). In May 1860 the free-range hog lobby carried the day on the ballot. The Pike County Journal the following week proclaimed:

…the anti-shut-up-hog ticket carried by 35 majority. The momentous question is now settled. The hogs are free and the Union is safe.
Copperheads, Black Republicans, and Bushwackers: Pike County, Illinois and the Civil War. Walter S. Waggoner; 1999; p. 8.

In the presidential race of 1860, the county supported Douglas over Lincoln (the strongest support for Douglas was in the townships along the Mississippi River). Even though county residents had divided loyalties, Pike County still sent over 3,000 men to serve in the Civil War, or about 10% of the county’s total population.

Where to Sleep
Camping
Two Rivers Marina (13495 US Highway 54; 217.437.2321) has 24 full-service sites, with showers and WiFi.

Camping is also permitted at Gosline Access, just off Highway 54 and downriver of the Champ Clark Bridge; there are no services.

Heading upriver? Check out Atlas.

Heading downriver? Check out Pleasant Hill.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2016

Atlas

Atlas is the oldest community in Pike County, founded in 1823 by Colonel William Ross, the same year it was chosen as the county seat, which was also the same year its fortunes peaked.

The Ross family arrived here from Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1820 and ended up building their homes about where the village of Atlas is today. The clan included Colonel William Ross, Captain Leonard Ross, Dr. Henry Ross, and Clarendon Ross, all married and with families in tow.

William Ross
William Ross

For reasons that should be obvious, the site was first known as Ross’s Landing, but when the village was platted, William Ross and Rufus Brown chose Atlas as the name. It’s not entirely clear why, but there’s an old story in the Ross family that once they reached their new home, they were extremely worn out, and someone in the family exclaimed “home, at last.” That expression of relief was then turned into the name Atlas.

Like the Ross family, Ebenezer Franklin moved to the area in 1820, living in a tent with his family for a little while. Daniel Shinn, like Franklin, came in the spring and also pitched a tent for his family. Both men got around to building log cabins when the weather warmed up. Most of the early Europeans who put down roots in the township came from the Northeast (New York and Massachusetts, primarily), like the Rosses.

Before the bottoms were cut off from the river by the Sny levee, Atlas could be reached by boat through Sny Carte Slough. Living in the bottoms had its downside, though. In the summer of 1821, a lot of early settlers died from disease, probably malaria, including the wife of William Ross.

Atlas was on the winning side of an early battle for county seat. The clash pitted John Shaw, an early kingmaker, against the upstarts at Atlas. Shaw was infamous in the area as a powerbroker; folks called him The Black Prince. He won the first round, getting the county seat at his community, Cole’s Grove in 1821, but two years later, as the county’s growing population diluted Shaw’s influence, the legislature voted to move the county seat to Atlas.

Shaw didn’t give up, though. In 1825, as vast Pike County was being split up into several, more manageable counties (over 50!), Shaw convinced the legislature to lop off the southern portion of Pike County to create Calhoun County. Cole’s Grove was then renamed Gilead and christened the seat of the new county. Shaw stuck around for a couple more decades, farming and founding the village of Hamburg. Sometime in the early 1840s, though, Shaw boarded a steamboat that he owned and named in honor of himself, headed downriver and never looked back.

Even with the county seat, Atlas was far from a boom town. It wasn’t in an especially advantageous location, on the western edge of the county and not far from much larger cities (Quincy and Louisiana, Missouri). It also lacked the easy water access of Rockport, although it got all the benefits of being near a swamp, like an abundance of mosquitoes and occasional outbreaks of disease.

In March of 1823, county commissioners licensed a tavern in Atlas to Rufus Brown. Like the ferry operator, Brown had to agree to a very specific set of rates: 25 cents per meal; 37 ½ cents per night for horse keeping; 12 ½ cents per night for human keeping (overnight lodging); 12 ½ cents for a half pint of whiskey; 25 cents for a half pint of rum or gin; 50 cents for a half pint of French brandy; 37 ½ cents for a half pint of wine. Brown would also establish the first tavern in Quincy.

As Pike County grew, residents and officials realized that a more central location for the county seat would serve their needs better, so in 1833 commissioners approved moving it to newly established Pittsfield. William Ross knew what was coming and apparently went with the flow. He loaned money to the county so they could buy the land to plat Pittsfield. In return, he got to name the new village, so he chose the name of the place he had left in Massachusetts. Atlas lost its mojo after that, as many businesses and residents moved on. Even William Ross eventually moved to Pittsfield. By 1880, Atlas was little more than a few houses with a post office, a general store, and a blacksmith.

Most of the land around Atlas was farmed, especially after the levee was built. Even with the levee, though, the land still wants to be wet. Jon Payne, who grew up in Atlas Township, wrote:

The land where we lived was soggy, swampy, marshy. I thought it unremarkable that each spring brought the threat of a nearby river—in our case, the Mississippi River—flooding where people lived and farmed…I assumed that most people everywhere had, as we did, water over the local roads in spring.
One Boy’s Pike County; Jon Payne; 2011; p. 18

Atlas today consists of just a handful of houses at the intersection of two main roads. One of those houses, though, dates to the town’s early days, to 1823; it is still a private home today.

Exploring the Area
Atlas is one of the communities that participates in the Pike County Color Drive, a chance to enjoy fall color and small town charm as you drive around the countryside. Each community offers something a little different for visitors, like crafts, food, or maybe a town-wide yard sale (Oct).

Heading upriver? Check out Rockport.

Heading downriver? Check out Pleasant Hill.

Or, detour west to Pike Station.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2016