Digging Up Our Past…Identifying and Celebrating Our Town’s Birth Site

Mascoutah City Manager Cody Hawkins displays the benchmark stone from which “Mechanicsburg” was laid out 180 years ago. Submitted photo

By Marilyn Welch
Mascoutah Historical Society

In our book, ​Remembering Mascoutah…Reflecting On What’s Been Going On In Our Home Town,​ we refer to a stone which was used as a measuring point from which our original town was laid out in 1837, mentionof which can be found in Book I in the Recorder’s Office of St. Clair County. Mascoutah Historical Society president Jack Klopmeyer identifies this as a “benchmark” stone.
Over the years, however, in checking at that corner, diagonally southeast of today’s Zion Lutheran Church, there was no visible evidence of a stone. So, the conclusion was reached that either there was no permanent stone at that spot or the stone had at sometime been removed!
Shouting: ”AHA!”
Fall 2016 saw a number of city sidewalk and curb replacements, including the first block of East South Street. Witnessing the upturned soil and chopped sidewalk at this site awakened an awareness that-just maybe-there could really be a “benchmark” stone somewhere at that location, and it could go unidentified even if it were unearthed.
Mayor Jerry Dougherty and City Manager Cody Hawkins alerted the city engineer of this possibility. He immediately started probing. This led to an exciting phone call one Saturday morning proclaiming, “Guess what we found!”
Following the direction of the “clink” which was struck and digging about 18 inches below the street level at the corner revealed the top of a wedge-shaped point of a twelve-inch square limestone pillar. It continued far beneath the surface of the upturned soil. The linear pointed top aimed one’s sight to the northern limits of our original town.
Sharing the Discovery
Mascoutah Historical Society photographer Gene Schnur had come not only with his camera, but with a scrub brush and pail of water, as well. He quickly took pictures of the unearthed portion of the benchmark stone. Of course, since it had been underground ​for 180 years, it took a bit of scrubbing, which invited a few more photos of this newly-discovered landmark.
Certainly, the identifying marker of the origin of our town would again be covered; however, the city manager decided this, in deed, was worthy of a city plaque to be installed directly above the origin point of Mascoutah.
Celebrating​ ​Our​ ​Heritage
On May 16, 2017, our town will reach its 180th birthday.  This special anniversary mark will be celebrated just one block south of our Springfest site at 5:00 p.m.on Friday, May 19, at the corner of East South Street and Railway Avenue, the point from which our town began.                                                                                                                                           The City has had a plaque prepared to mark this spot with a dedication of this plaque. The Mascoutah Historical Society invites as many as are able to join together at that location diagonally across from Zion Lutheran Church for a brief rededication to our community.
Please join your neighbors and other local citizens in proclaiming, “We are proud of and dedicated to our town!”

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