There is no question that a countless number of communities throughout southern Illinois take tremendous pride in preserving and celebrating the past. You may not know it, but there is a niche of travelers who plan trips around historical sites and attractions – it is called Heritage Tourism. There are folks out there who want to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.
If you take a scenic drive along Bluff Road in rural Monroe County, nature’s beauty is evident. The bluffs roll on for miles and provide wonderful scenery, especially when the leaves turn in the fall. The other thing you’ll notice is a mausoleum that has been built into the bluffs, and many wonder what in the world it is for, and how to get a closer look. This piece of history and local legend is known as Eagle Cliff-Miles Cemetery and is only accessible by taking HH Road from Bluff Road. HH Road climbs the bluffs, and then you will make a right onto D Road – which is a gravel path. Eagle Cliff-Miles Cemetery is located on the second drive on the right.
Once you make it to the site, this amazing piece of local history is really something to behold. Many call it a window to the past, as the cemetery is the final resting places for more than 450 people. Legend has it that the cliff directly below the mausoleum was once a burial ground for Indians. The site eventually became a place to bury the folks of the American Bottoms who passed away. The mausoleum on the grounds was built by wealthy landowner Stephen W. Miles. According to an article written by Ashley Oberto on the Eagle Cliff-Miles Facebook page, the facility was constructed to house the remains of Stephen W. Miles and his descendants more than 160 years ago. “The mausoleum was built at the cost of $25,000, a small fortune for the time. The vault is covered in Italian marble that was shipped to New Orleans and then brought slowly and costly by steamboat up the Mississippi,” Oberto accounts in her article.
Over the years, vandals really took a toll on the property. Things were removed and graffiti was all over the place, but thankfully it has since been restored and watched over by local volunteers. The site is still open to the public so folks can come pay their respects to Military Veterans who served in a handful of different wars, including the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Our friends with Mission Timber often get out to Eagle Cliff-Miles and post pictures from every season – they especially like to explore the site when there is snow on the ground. Our favorite time to experience this unique piece of local history is during autumn, because the view from the mausoleum over the bottoms is truly breathtaking when all of the leaves are turning!
To check out more pieces of history to visit in our neck of the woods, visit our website at illinsouth.org/Play/History-and-Culture.
**Photo Credits: Mission Timber & Eagle Cliff-Miles Cemetery