History

The first to settle in and around Kinmundy were English, Scottish and Irish Protestants who came from the southern and southeastern states in the 1820's. In the 1840's Catholicism was brought to Kinmundy by the later Irish and German settlers.

The origin of the name "Kinmundy" is shrouded in clouds of doubt and misconceptions. The old story of "I kin’t Sunday, but I kin Mundy", is dispelled by an 1868 Illinois Central Directory of towns along the railroad. The directory lists the town as "Kilmundy". This was the original name given the settlement by a London representative of the railroad who named the site after his hometown in Scotland. Somehow the name was transformed into "Kinmundy". However, this change came about, Kinmundy has the distinction of being the only community in the United Sates with that name.

The city of Kinmundy was incorporated on March 26, 1867. In 1868, the IC Directory wrote well of Kinmundy possibly because the railroad still had plenty of land for sale there at $7 to $13 per acre. The directory listed Kinmundy as having a population of 2,000. This may have been exaggerated since no other town along the railroad had a population of more than 1,200.

The directory also attributed Kinmundy with having a railroad office, two attorneys, a barber, a blacksmith, a carpenter, a dentist, two druggists, seven dry goods and general merchants, a flour mill, five grocers, two hardware stores, a hotel, three livery stables, a lumberyard, four millineries, a house and sign painter, four physicians, a saddle and harness shop, a newspaper, three saloons, two shoemakers, a stationary, and a wagon and carriage maker. Also listed in the directory were a sawmill, a tobacco factory, a woolen factory, a sorghum mill, cabinet makers and coopers.

Kinmundy had all the makings of a city. To promote culture, Kinmundy boasted an Air-Dome (an open-air movie) and Hayworth’s Opera House. Class plays and graduations were held at the Opera House. Also performing there were stock companies who toured in the days before radio, movies and television. Colored lantern slides were shown at the K.P. Hall to the delight of Kinmundy residents.

The first newspaper in Kinmundy was the Kinmundy Telegraph which started March 13, 1867. The Kinmundy Register followed in 1879, printing 26 issues. Advocating the greenback policy was the Reform Leader from Sandoval in 1881. The Kinmundy Express started printing on November 8, 1883.

In the late 90's, Kinmundy had a ‘light plant’ which furnished electricity from dusk to 10 or 11 p.m. Since at that time, residents heated their irons, cooked on coal or wood and cooled with ice, electricity was not needed during the daytime. It only was needed to furnish light until bedtime. The light plant provided DC current made by a dynamo which was turned by a coal fired steam engine. One hundred customers were served by the plant. The city of Kinmundy also had electricity to light their street corners with carbon lamps.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, north and southbound trains stopped in Kinmundy both morning and evening. This was the common mode of transportation. Many passengers traveled the rails. Also, salesmen brought new merchandise into rural areas by train.

IC Wooden Water TowerA large lake was built in Kinmundy to provide water for the steam powered locomotives. This further enhanced the Kinmundy train stop.

As the railroad helped to build the small towns such as Kinmundy, the railroad also aided the decay of these same towns. Shopping excursions on the train became the rage. Centralia merchants would buy a round-trip ticket with the purchase of $25 or more in merchandise. The train would go down at 9:30 a.m. and return at 8:22 at night. Not only did the shopper get the goods he wanted, he also was treated to the excitement of a journey. Mail order houses also were offering a more extensive line of merchandise at cheaper prices than the local stores. The small towns could not compete.

In 1903, Kinmundy was ravaged by fire. Almost all of the downtown area was destroyed. Some of the businesses rebuilt, but others already failing, gave up in defeat. Still enough people remained in Kinmundy to rebuild and form a city again.

The above information was written by Anne McCarty in an article entitled: Kilmundy original name of Kinmundy

This article can be read in its entirety on the Kinmundy Historical Society website.



Snowy Wooden Water TowerIllinois Central Railroad Wooden Water Tower

Built in 1883 by the Illinois Central Railroad this 100,000 gallon tower and the newly built 32 acre lake helped to modernize rail traffic by eliminating four stops by the steam engines between Centralia and Effingham.

The City of Kinmundy purchased the water tower and the lake in 1961 and used both in the water system for the City until 2001, when the new 107 acre lake was built.  The tower was then retired after 118 years of continuous service.  It has been completely restored.  The Illinois Central Wooden Water Tower was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 12, 1998.

Tourists travel from miles around to visit and photograph the frigid winter scene by our water tower in the winter.