Blackburn College Receives Donation of Farm in 1915
©1997 Larry Clark

Gillespie Land in Macoupin County IL donated to Blackburn College

The following article submitted by Larry Clark, was published in the St Louis Post Dispatch in 1915 and reproduced with permission (see end of article). The article concerns the Blackburn College land located in Gillespie Township and just north of the Gillespie Lake which was donated by John Woodson to Blackburn College. In 1997, Blackburn College still owns the land.


Land Bequeathed to Carlinville (Ill.) Institution by John M. Woodson, a Former Resident. John M. Woodson, 3114 Pine street, a retired lawyer and farmer, has given a 920 acre, stock farm with underlying coal deposits to the Blackburn Presbyterian College at Carlinville, Ill., because the people of Macoupin County, where the school is situated, are "friends of his and gave him many honors."

He was the first mayor of Carlinville and was a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1862 and state senator in 1867 from that district. He is 85 years old and has no near relatives. He has lived in St. Louis since 1869.

Blackburn College has approximately 150 students. The farm will be held as a part of the endowment fund and the income will be used to erect, establish and maintain a memorial hall, library and museum of fine arts building which will serve a memorial to Woodson's father, the late Judge David M. Woodson, of Carlinville, Ill. The building will be known as the Woodson Memorial Building.

Farm Valued at $75,000.

The tract, as a stock farm is valued at $75,000. Woodson says that between 13,000,000 and 15,000,000 tons of coal underlie it. There are no mines on the place, as it has been used a stock farm, but it is surrounded by coal mines. The deed stipulates that the land shall not be leased unless the college receives a royalty of a least one-eight of the tonnage. Should the estimate of the underlying coal prove accurate this gift would be worth more than $500,000.

When asked why he gave the farm to Blackburn College since he is a graduate of Center College, Danville, KY., Woodson said he wanted to do something for the town. He continued that he was in Carlinville several months ago and tried to give the farm to the county to be used as a home for reputable white persons more than 60 years old, who were not able to support themselves. The County Court held that it could not accept the farm with those stipulations, but would accept it if the farm could be used to take care of all the county's poor, negroes and younger persons included. Woodson refused to consider this and was persuaded to give the land to the school instead. He will receive the rents as long as he lives.

Bronze Tablet for Father. The deed declares that a bronze memorial tablet shall be erected in the building stating that David M. Woodson was Judge of the First Judicial District of Illinois. The elder Woodson ran against Stephen A. Douglas for Representative of the Fifth Illinois District in 1843, but was defeated by the "little giant." Woodson studied law in his father's office, although he received a degree in civil engineering from Center College. As a surveyor he worked on the St. Louis & Iron Mountan Railroad. He went to Carlinville in 1862.

Shortly after he came to St. Louis he was appointed managing attorney for the St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern Railroad, now the Wabash, and was local attorney for the Chicago & Alton, the St. Louis, Alton & Terre Haute railroads and the East St. Louis Ferry Co. He retired from active law practice in 1878 because of failing health. He purchased Illinois land and improved it. He says that he has cultivated more than 2000 acres of land since his retirement. He does not know the plans of the college regarding the building, since the income is not available until after his death. The college has been overcrowded this year and has turned away all applicants since Aug.

This article reproduced with permission of the St Louis Post-Dispatch and is copyrighted by the St Louis Post-Dispatch. POSTnet, an Online Service of the Post-Dispatch and Pulitzer Publishing.

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