Cherry, Illinois

John the Barber - Cherry, IL

“Ravioli Alley” 

“King Coal” fully created “Ravioli Alley” in the years just before and after 1900.    Nationwide demand for coal and “Ravioli Alley’s” strategic location at the northern edge of the Illinois coal field enabled thriving towns to rise out of the prairie truly overnight.    An ethnic “melting pot” like never before seen created a special culture whose influences can still clearly be seen today.   The area was able to survive difficult times during the 1930’s (depression) and 1940’s (World War II), leading again to thriving manufacturing driven times all the way up to the turn of the new century.   From 1950 – 1990, the main streets of “Ravioli Alley” thrived as local businesses made a solid living providing goods and services to the local community.    Unfortunately, in recent years, changing economic times and models have seen the main streets of “Ravioli Alley” shrink and even disappear.   In addition, many schools, churches, grain elevators, and even post offices have consolidated and ceased to exist.   Local governments, long focused primarily on infrastructure efforts, often do not have the funding, expertise, or manpower to drive economic development, tourism, or jobs.     

 The Partnership

“Here and Again, Inc.” and “John The Barber Society,” both non-for-profits, are partnering to create what may be a tremendously successful model for small town/rural communities to follow.    The model would see the NFP creating and solidifying “branding” efforts for the area, which will in turn drive tourism and economic development.    In addition, the model will see the NFP’s owning, restoring, and maintaining key commercial and certain residential real estate locations.    As an NFP, they will be able to secure state and federal grant funding for these efforts, while also providing cost effective rental rates to approved retail business partners that are committed to embracing the brand (an incubator for entrepreneurship and jobs).    The NFP’s will also use its dedication, knowledge, and access to grant funding to provide support for non-retail entities such as churches, parks, etc.     

This is what the John the Barber site might look like restored as a community center for the arts.


The Cherry Mine Disaster

1909 Cherry Mine Disaster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cherry Mine disaster was a fire which occurred at the Cherry Mine, a coal mine outside Cherry, Illinois, on November 13, 1909. The fire, which killed 259 men and boys, is the third most deadly mine disaster in American coal mining history.


In 1905, the St. Paul Coal Company opened the Cherry Mine in order to supply coal for the trains of its controlling company, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.[1][2] The mine consisted of three horizontal veins, each deeper than the last. The veins were connected vertically by two shafts set some 100 yards (91 m) apart. Both the main shaft and the secondary shaft contained wooden stairs and ladders. The main shaft was capped by an 85-foot (26 m) steel tipple which controlled a mechanical hoisting cage. A large fan, located in a shunt off the secondary shaft, pushed fresh air into the mine.

The miners included a large number of immigrants, heavily Italian, many of whom could not speak English.[3] Boys as young as 11 years old also worked the mine. Rather than a fixed per-hour wage, pay was based on the coal production.


On Saturday, November 13, 1909, nearly 500 men and boys as well as three dozen mules were working in the mine. An electrical outage earlier that week had forced the workers to light kerosene lanterns and torches.  Some were portable, and some were set into the mine walls.  Shortly after noon, a coal car filled with hay for the mules caught fire from one of the wall lanterns.  The fire went unnoticed by workers for 45 minutes before efforts to move the fire began; however, the worker only succeeded in spreading the fire to the mine's support timbers.

The mine's large fan was reversed in an attempt to blow out the fire, but this only succeeded in igniting the fan house itself as well as the escape ladders and stairs in the secondary shaft, trapping more miners below. The two shafts were then closed off to smother the fire, but this had the effect of both cutting off oxygen to the miners and allowing the “black damp,” a suffocating mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, to build up in the mine.[3]

Some 200 men and boys made their way to the surface, some through escape shafts, some using the hoisting cage. Some miners who had already escaped returned to the mine to aid their coworkers. Twelve of these, led by John Bundy, made six dangerous cage trips, rescuing many others. The seventh trip, however, proved fatal when the cage operator misunderstood the miners' signals and brought them to the surface too late - the rescuers and those they attempted to rescue were burned to death.[3]

One group of miners trapped in the mine built a makeshift wall to protect themselves from the fire and poisonous gases. Although without food, they were able to drink from a pool of water leaking from a coal seam, moving deeper into the mine to escape the black damp. Eight days later, the 21 survivors, known as the "eight day men", tore down the wall and made their way through the mine in search of more water, but came across a rescue party instead. One of those 21 survivors died two days later with complications from asthma.


In 1910, the Illinois legislature established stronger mine safety regulations as a result of the Cherry Mine Disaster. In 1911, Illinois passed a separate law which later developed into the Illinois Workmen's Compensation Act.[1]

A monument to those who lost their lives was erected on May 15, 1971 by the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Historical Society. The centennial commemoration of the Cherry Mine disaster was held in Cherry from November 14 to November 15, 2009. A new monument, located at the Cherry Village Hall, was dedicated to the miners who lost their lives in the disaster

Below are links to the recordings of the Authors Forum

Cherry Mine Disaster

Ron Bluemer Authors Forum Cherry Mine Disaster

Karen Tintori on Cherry Mine Disaster Authors Forum

Sally Walker Author Cherry Mine Disaster Authors Forum

Steve Stout Cherry Mine Disaster Authors Forum


Cherry Mine Disaster Books

“The Cherry Mine Disaster” 1910 by F.P. Buck, M.A. Donohue & Company, Chicago

“Blank Damp:  The Story of the Cherry Mine Disaster” 1979 by Steve Stout, Utica House Publishing


“Trapped:  The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster” 2003 by Karen Tintori, Atria Books


“Oneness:  Angiolina The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster” 2004 by Dean Cotton, Authorhouse


“Fire Below!  The Story of the 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster” 2007 by R.G. Bluemer, Grand Village Press


“The Illustrated History of the Cherry Mine Disaster of 1909” 2020, by Jim Ridings, America Through Time


“Underground Fire:  Hope, Sacrifice, and Courage in the Cherry Mine Disaster” 2022, Sally M Walker, Candlewick


Sally Walker Author Cherry Mine Disaster Authors Forum