News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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November 2, 2008

Rural Clark County marker official southern starting point of Indiana-Illinois line

CLARK COUNTY, Ill. — The last few minutes of sunlight flicker through the trees along the Wabash River bank.

Bob Colvin isn’t enamored with the scenery, at the moment. He’s bothered, but undeterred by mosquitoes that have just detected a rare appearance of humans in this remote spot, thick with woods, weeds, sand burs and grasshoppers. Colvin uses a golf tee to scrape moss and dirt from an engraved inscription on a stone marker.

Eventually, its message is revealed …

“159 MILES AND 46 CHAINS TO LAKE MICHIGAN.”

Colvin looks up and tells a newspaper reporter, “You’re looking at something very few people have seen — not in a long time, anyway.”

Maybe less than two dozen people in the past 185 years, he estimates.

Yes, one of Illinois’ most historic and relevant landmarks is also all but forgotten. The weathered monument, originally set in 1823, marks the beginning point of the straight, Illinois-Indiana state line. To the north, that border runs 159.359 miles to a far more visible monument in Chicago, just outside the gates of the Commonwealth Edison State Line Generating Plant. To the south, the Wabash River’s lower 200 miles divides the two states until its confluence with the Ohio River takes over that duty.

Now, surveyor groups in Indiana and Illinois want to protect the monument site. That happened at the border’s north end, where the Lake Michigan state line marker was restored and repositioned in 1988, and declared an official Chicago landmark in 2002. The 15-1/2-foot tall obelisk is that city’s oldest existing structure.

At the very least, the Indiana and Illinois surveyors want to set up a fence around the obscure southern state line marker. “It’s something that we want to get done, because we’d lost that point for years,” said Bob Church, executive director of the Illinois Professional Land Surveyors Association.

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