Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
South Watertown Road, between Chana and Daysville, Ill.
This stone marker attests to the lawlessness that pervaded Ogle County in the early 19th century. In the 1830s and ’40s, the Driscoll Gang was part of a string of bandittis – horse thieves, robbers and counterfeiters who operated from the Ohio River to the Mississippi and as far north as Michigan. Led by John Driscoll, its members included his sons, Pierce, William, David and Taylor; brother-in-law Stephen Brody and Brody’s sons.
In 1841, with the construction of a new courthouse in Oregon, Ill., folks in Ogle County hoped for an end to the crime wave. But on March 22, the eve of the grand opening, the Driscoll Gang burned the courthouse to the ground, in a failed attempt to free imprisoned gang members and destroy evidence against them (but the circuit clerk had taken all of the evidence home with him the night before).
In April 1841, angry citizens formed their own vigilante group, called the Ogle County Regulators. In response, the Driscoll Gang undertook a campaign of terror that caused the resignation of first Regulators leader, and then its second. The third, John Campbell, refused to bow to intimidation and even secured a promise from the Driscolls to leave Illinois in 20 days. Instead, as evening fell on June 27, David and Taylor Driscoll shot and killed him at his home in Washington Grove.
John Driscoll was jailed, and William and Pierce were taken to Campbell’s home, where his widow said they were not the murderers. However, on June 29, Regulators broke John out of jail and took him to Washington Grove, where 500 angry people had gathered for a “mob trial” of the three bandittis. After a jury of 120 convicted the Driscolls, Pierce was released due to his young age, but John and William were sentenced to death. The pair begged to be shot rather than hanged, and a firing squad of 111, split into groups of two, accommodated the request.
Today, on South Watertown Road, between Chana and Daysville, Ill., this stone and a sign mark the spot of the executions.
Hwy. U, past Rennick Road, Shullsburg, Wis.
Shullsburg has many claims to fame: as the birthplace of George Safford Parker, who invented the fountain pen and founded Parker Pen Co.; as the home of Shullsburg Creamery; as the home of the Badger Lead Mine & Museum; and as the site of Gravity Hill.
Yes, Gravity Hill. A place that defies gravity, where a car placed in neutral will roll uphill.
Although listed on the city’s website and in its brochure as an attraction, there are no signs leading to or marking the exact spot, but if you ask a local, you’ll get the directions.
First and foremost, Gravity Hill seekers must remember that this is a public road, so they must be aware of traffic.
Take Hwy. U south about two miles, just past Rennick Road, which is a T intersection on the left. Here, Hwy. U plunges down a steep hill, across a low area, and curves up a steeper hill. Stop your car about three-quarters of the way down the first hill, just short of the 25 mph sign for the curve going up the other side, the flattest spot that appears to still be going downhill.
Again, being watchful of traffic, place your car in neutral and take your foot off the brake. Your car will begin to roll uphill, even gaining speed as it does.
Around 30 countries list “gravity hills,” including Cyprus, Guatemala, Jordan, China and the Czech Republic. In the U.S., 23 states lay claim to this mysterious feature. Most have general names such as Gravity Hill, Magic Hill, Magnetic Hill and the like.
Spoiler Alert! The phenomenon is really just an optical illusion. A gravity or magnetic hill is a place where a slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. The lay of the land creates an erroneous – not magical – visual perception.
President’s Park, Lincoln Statue Drive, Dixon, Ill.
Located on the north bank of the Rock River between Dixon’s two bridges, this statue is the work of French sculptor Leonard Crunelle, who studied under Lorado Taft at The Art Institute of Chicago.
Crunelle, who also sculpted the stately and serious “Lincoln the Debater” in Freeport, Ill., here shows a much younger Lincoln, as a captain in the Illinois volunteer militia during the Black Hawk War of 1832.
This is said to be the only statue of Lincoln in military dress, but the sculptor depicts the 23-year-old in the civilian clothes he most likely wore when he left his home in Sangamon County to enlist. He carries an overcoat over his right arm and grips a belt with his right hand. Under his left arm is a sword hanging from the belt – the only hint of anything military.
Commissioned for Dixon’s centennial celebration in 1930, the statue marks the spot of Fort Dixon, hastily erected for the Black Hawk War, where Lincoln’s company was located during the conflict. Lincoln himself saw no fighting, but is said to have assisted with militia burials in the aftermath of two battles, Stillman’s Run in Ogle County, and Kellogg’s Grove in Stephenson County.
The 10-foot bronze statue is mounted on a 7-foot granite base, a plaque on the back commemorating city founder “Father” John Dixon. A plaque behind the statue describes Lincoln’s service in the Black Hawk War.