Sunday, July 1, 2018

Lost Towns of Illinois - Strasburg in La Salle County.

The Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company (Frederick Matthiessen and Edward Hegeler aka M & H Zinc) site was located in LaSalle County, Illinois, with a portion of an off-site residential area called "Strasburg" in 1910, a suburb of the City of LaSalle (See hand-drawn map). Not the same town as Strasburg in Shelby County, Illinois. 
Strasburg, Illinois in 1910 - Click the map for a full-size view.
The M & H Zinc operated a zinc smelter on the industrial portion of the site from 1858 until 1961. The company added a rolling mill to its operations in 1866 to produce zinc sheets. The M & H Zinc declared bankruptcy in 1968, and only basic rolling mill operations took place from 1968 until 1978. The site also includes the Little Vermilion River and a 6-acre slag pile (identified as the M & H Dump on the map) located along the river containing metals such as cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, nickel and zinc.

Strasburg was home to about 10 different families. The homes that once stood in Strasburg were made of stone. All the houses sat below the hill and on "shelves" part way up the hill. Most families living in Strasberg were employed by M & H Zinc. Some explosives were stored under the bridge for easy access to blow up land in search of natural minerals.

This land was rented to the families of Strasberg by M & H Zinc for the rate of $1 a month for each individual lot to protect the company against the tenants claiming squatters' rights. No trace of those houses exists today.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 
Map tweaked by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

By EMIL WYLEPSKI, who remembered the area from his childhood. 

1. Marchekowski family house and barn. The family owned the only horse in the valley and was able to cross Vermillion creek at a shallow point when the water was low.

2. This was a stone house of the Thomas Wylepski family. All the houses sat below the hill; some were on level "shelves" part way up the hill and cut into the bank.

3. The Vincent Plochocki family house.

4. The home of the Baron family.

5. Emil was unable to remember the family that lived there.

6. The Grubich family house. Because all of the houses were relatively low, they occasionally flooded as the spring runoff was too much for the tunnel beneath the bridge to handle. The Grubich house, being nearest to the bridge, was always the first to be flooded.

7. The M & H Zinc Company's pump house.

8. The Moskalewicz family house.

9. Emil was unable to remember the family that lived there.

10. Emil was unable to remember the family that lived there.

11. M & H Zinc Company dam. The dam broke on one 4th of July, flooding the whole works. A new dam was later built downstream.

12. A small plank footbridge anchored with cable and supported in the center with a sawhorse.

13, 14, 15. These three houses were already covered by the slag pile by the early 1900s.

16. The M & H powerhouse where explosives were stored. This sat above the hill.

17. Oakwood Cemetery.

18. Gardens on flatlands above the hill worked by the community's families.

19. Stone arch bridge on Fifth Street spanning the Little Vermillion River. 

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