Friday, August 21, 2009

The Resolutes Come To The American Bottoms

The first annual picnic of the Resolute Base Ball Club, which was to come off at Long Lake Station, August 13, is postponed until Sunday, August 20. Cars leave Terre Haute depot at 8 o'clock, A.M.
-St. Louis Daily Press, August 18, 1865

Tobias mentions that the Resolute Club was among "the very first of regularly formed clubs in St. Louis..." and they were active during the antebellum era but it's unknown what the club was doing during the Civil War. Obviously, once the war ended, the Resolutes were playing baseball again.

The location of the picnic is something that intrigues me. While I can't prove it, Long Lake Station and the Terre Haute Depot imply that the event was held in Illinois, just a few blocks from where I live. If this is true and the Resolutes played a game during the picnic (and I'm seriously speculating here) then this would be the first evidence of baseball played in Granite City, Illinois. At the very least, it would be the first recorded visit of a baseball club to Granite.

Let's see if I can explain this without doing ten thousand words on the early history of Granite City:

Between a flood in 1844 and a cholera epidemic in 1848, what population existed on old Six Mile Praire in the American Bottoms was pretty much wiped out. The area is repopulated by German farmers and the town develops as a satellite trading post. While modern Granite City would develop on the site of Six Mile Praire in the 1890s as an industrial town, during the Civil War period the area was known as Kinder or Kinderhook and there would have been plenty of wide open farmland to picnic on.

In 1858, two railroad companies build a station in Kinderhook at what today is the intersection of Pontoon Road and Nameoki Road in Granite City. The station is located about two miles south of Long Lake and a few miles north of the Terre Haute, Alton, and St. Louis Railroad and the St. Louis, Vandalia, and Terre Haute Railroad facilities in East St. Louis. Therefore, it seems logical that you could take a ferry from St. Louis to the East St. Louis depot of one of the trains going to Terre Haute and get to the Long Lake Station in Granite City. It would be about a six mile trip, one way.

Okay, there's no easy way to explain the early history of Granite without launching into the early history of the American Bottoms (see above map) but I gave it a good try (and it probably took me a good forty-five minutes to write the preceding two paragraphs). But the point is that I can make a (convoluted) argument that the Resolutes came to the Granite City area in 1865. And I've been looking for 19th century references to baseball in the area for several years with no luck. So just let me have this one and we'll move on.

No comments: