INTRODUCTION

The presence of people at Rocky Glen has been documented to the late 19th Century. Although the unique box canyon and upland meadows would have been of interest to Native Americans, there is at present no evidence of their presence at Rocky Glen. Nearby Peoria was established in the 1670s composed of Native Americans, French voyageurs and African Americans.

Coal mining and recreation have occurred side by side at Rocky Glen as the CHRONOLOGY shows below.

 

The first accidental miner death (which were frequent in the coal mines), is buried at nearby Pottstown Cemetery. The Vicary family-owned Rocky Glen and operated the large coal mine until the early 1920s. The mine entrance is made of reinforced concrete and had narrow gauge railroad ties for coal cars. The surrounding area around the horizontal mine shaft is deeply covered in tailiings, the unusable portion of coal that was hand sorted (usually by women and children), from the coal and discarded. The mine entrance is visible within Rocky Glen, south of the main trail and marked with an informational sign.

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1880s     The property is purchased by George Vicary and coal mining begins. 

 Coal miners from local mines meet secretly at Rocky Glen to organize for better working conditions and wages.  The oldest carved date in the Rocky Glen sandstone walls is 1887.

 

1900s      Rocky Glen becomes a popular picnic and hiking area, located Just to the north of the mine area. Thanks to Wendy Stevens and Marilyn Voss Leyland for photos!

 

1921        Coal mining ends at Rocky Glen.   Take a look at the truck that used to haul coal from Rocky Glen.

 

1930s      The upper sections of Rocky Glen continue to be farmed and a steep road from the west is built. This road will eventually become part of the hiking trail from the parking lot eighty years later.

 

1935  Horse Shoe Bottomsa novel by Tom Tippett, is published. Tippett, a local coal miner, coal miner’s son and union activist, received a Guggenheim grant to allow him time to write this fictional and autobiographical story. He describes Kickapoo Creek coal mining, the harsh lives of the miner families who lived on site, and the exploitation they experienced from the mining company. Tippet also describes the attempts and eventual success of union organizing along Kickapoo Creek, describing Rocky Glen as the first location for the miner’s secret meetings.

 

1940s       Friendly on-site tenant with permission of the Vicary family supervises a constant stream of visitors. Children from Peoria’s West Bluff and South Side often hike to Rocky Glen.  Letters in the newspaper suggest the Peoria Park Board should become the owner.

 

1954         Harold Connaughton purchases the property from George Vicary.  His two sons fence the abandoned upland farm to develop horse pasture. Farming stops. Visitors are no longer welcome.

 

1970s       Peoria Park District buys 55 acres of adjoining property.

 

2010        The Friends of Rocky Glen (FORG), a Federal non-profit organization, is formed.  With permission from Jim ConnaughtonFORG leads free monthly hikes and organizes fundraising events to build public support to purchase and preserve Rocky Glen. Many local businesses especially Jimmys Bar and the City of West Peoria lend their support.

 

2012        The City of Peoria purchases the 70 acres of Rocky Glen from Mary and Jim Connaughton.

 

2013        The City of Peoria transfers ownership to the Peoria Park District. Rocky Glen becomes open to the public from dawn to dusk, every day and is very popular. Restoration workdays begin at Rocky Glen Park.

 

2017         A parking lot is built in part with FORG donations.  Design and construction of the hiking trail and signage begins and is completed using FORG funding, volunteer labor and PPD staff.

 

2017        Horseshoe Bottoms Committee is established to work with the property owners of 140 acres of cornfield and wooded hillsides east of Rocky Glen Park to expand conservation and recreational value. Free monthly hikes and workdays begin.

 

2018  October 20 Grand Opening or Rocky Glen parkng lot (see pictures). FORG fundraising team begins selling native plants on Mothers Day which becomes an annual event.

 

2021 FORG decides to expand its vision beyond Rocky Glen Park and Horseshoe Bottoms to promote conservation, recreation and sustainable land use in the entire Kickapoo Creek watershed. The first Kickapoo Creek Festival is organized and held at Wildlife Prairie Park in August. FORG partners with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission to apply to fund a holistic technical study to identify pollution improvement opportunities within the KC Watershed.

 

2022   FORG begins a series of Urban Stream trash cleanups and educational workdays within the KC Watershed.

FORG funds a new workshop with digital equipment for Wildlife Prairie Park called Your Watershed and You (see pictures).

 

The second Kickapoo Creek Festival expands to two days and is again held at Wildlife Prairie Park July 29 & 30 ( see pictures).

 

Friends of Rocky Glen

Restoration is a primary activity of FORG volunteers on site along with trail maintenance. Monthly workdays occur year-round, please see Volunteer section for more information. Guided hikes are available by appointment. Liability waivers are required of everyone. Hikes usually last 90 minutes to two hours.