Freeburg lies in the fertile
and rolling Southern Illinois plains between the Kaskaskia River and the
mighty Mississippi River. It was platted in 1836 as the town of Urbana by John
Tolin Lemen whose father had immigrated to this area from Virginia around
1800. Apparently, the first settlers of Freeburg were of English
and Irish ancestry if we discount the American Indians who lived here for
hundreds of years as evidenced by the presence of the Mound Builder's culture
in the vicinity.
There were five migratory Indian
tribes that crisscrossed each other in Illinois; the Peorias, Cahokias,
Kaskaskias, Tamaroas, and Michiganics. It is said that Turkey Hill
north of town was a popular Indian campground that also attracted
many early settlers because of the view it provided of the surrounding countryside. The last Indian tribes left this area by 1820.
The big German
migrations to this area started around 1830 and continued quite strong
for the rest of the century. Obviously, the abundance of coal, the
availability of cheap fertile farm land, as well as the proximity to the
frontier city of St. Louis, only 20 miles to the northwest, are what
attracted settlers to Freeburg.
The old "Plank
Road" was built in the 1850's and for 35 cents you could ride from Belleville
to Freeburg in "comfort" without potholes on what is now known as
the old Freeburg Road. Abe Lincoln is said to have utilized this
road on at least one occasion.
In 1851, the post office
came, and when it was found that there was another town of Urbana in Illinois,
the city fathers changed the name in 1859 to Freeburg after the beautiful
city of Freiburg in the state of Baden, Germany, from which some
of the early settlers had come.
The town was incorporated
in 1867 with 808 residents. The railroad came in 1869 and exchanged
owners several times before being sold to the Illinois Central.
In the heyday of independent
coal mines, as many as 1500 miners lived here, and in 1874, there
were 10 hotels for them to choose from if they could not find more permanent
lodging. With the closing of the Peabody River King Mine just east
of Freeburg in 1989, coal no longer played a dominant role in the
remains a conservative, mostly German community with a highly diversified
business economy that also serves as a bedroom community for Belleville
and the St. Louis metroplex, while still providing essential services
needed in any small community.
On clear days, downtown St. Louis
is visible from Turkey Hill. Several small factories are in business
within the township. These include - E.M. Wiegmann & Co., Inc.;
Tower's Fire Apparatus Co., Inc.; Siemen's Mfg., Co., Inc.; and several
small construction, trucking, and engineering firms. Three commercial
orchards are also located in the area; Eckert's Orchards, Schlueter's
Orchard, and Braeutigam's Orchard.