Discover the Tragic Past of This Ghost Town in Illinois

Jennifer Geer

(CHICAGO) America is home to countless ghost towns. These abandoned and forgotten places were the casualty of events such as mines drying up, the gold rush going bust, or railroads and highways being rerouted.

Here in Illinois, we have our share of forgotten towns, many of which were deserted when mines were closed or the railroad was diverted.

One former town, not too far from Chicago, has a tragic history. You can still visit the former location today and view its historical marker.

Cardiff: An Illinois ghost town

About 90 minutes southwest of Chicago, located in Livingston County, is the abandoned and mostly forgotten town of Cardiff.

Cardiff began as a coal mining town in 1899. Named after the very successful mining town of Cardiff, Wales, the population boomed. Within the year, homes were built, and businesses thrived as miners and their families flocked to the Illinois town.

By 1903, 400 miners were working daily. The town had a school, a saloon, a supply store, and a hotel.

A mining tragedy
Monument at Cardiff, Illinois memorializing a series of mine explosions that occurred in March 1903 which killed nine men.Photo byCowman0912, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1903, from March 12 to 16, a series of explosions in the mine killed nine men. An additional nine men had lost their lives in previous explosions. According to the inscription from Cardiff's memorial marker, three men remain entombed in the mine.

This, however, wasn't the ultimate demise of the town. The original mine was destroyed. However, a second mine was constructed, and Cardiff grew even larger than before. At its peak, there were 2,000 residents, two banks, a soft-drink bottling plant, two dance halls, and numerous other businesses.

A railroad depot was built to haul away the coal production. However, by 1910, the mine was less profitable and closed in 1912. The railroad stop was closed, and people began to move away from Cardiff. Local businessmen bought some of the homes, dismantled them, and moved them to nearby towns.

Almost as quickly as it had sprung up, Cardiff was abandoned.

What's left of Cardiff
Monument at Cardiff, Illinois.Photo byCowman0912, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, you can find sidewalks leading to nowhere and two large hills that have formed from the mine waste. You can also find a memorial to the men who lost their lives in the explosions.

In 2007, a historical marker was erected by the Herscher Area Historical Society and the Illinois State Historical Society.

You can visit the marker in Livingston County at the intersection of County Roads 2900 North and 3400 East. Cardiff is about 80 miles (90 minutes) to the southwest of downtown Chicago.


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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL

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