Floodstage! How our Old Gate Road became a life line to higher ground…by Erwin A. Thompson

Bus Run

EVERGREEN HEIGHTS LAYOUT: The Hilltop & Bottom Lands…and the Field Roads


A lesson in the topography of our property would be helpful in understanding how these changes in river levels affected us and the community.

The Riehl farm at that time consisted of a hundred and fifty four acres. The original farm house (the Big Brown House) that E. A. Riehl built is located on top of the river bluffs, probably two hundred feet above the river level.

On the East side of the Big Brown House there’s a small white cottage.


The East line of the property coincides with the East line of Jersey County. This area was always referred to as “The East Bottom.”

The East Bottom had never been flooded except perhaps in 1903. I never could get a truly accurate reading on that on a local basis. In 1993 it was flooded at least half.

There was a little “field road” to it from our house on the hill. This was used also by neighbors needing to catch the steamboat at “Riehl’s Landing” or in later years the train at “Riehl’s Station.”


On the other end of the property was the “West Bottom.”

The West Bottom was bounded on the West by Piasa Creek. There were probably twenty-five acres of overflow ground, tillable when it was not under water of muddy from the receding waters. The West Bottom also had several acres of softwood timber which was also overflowed.


Then there was the “Second Bottom” which meant that it was low ground, but not overflow ground (until 1993). To access this land from our home there was also a “field road” which was used by the person who was farming the Lock property on the east side of Piasa Creek, and occasionally by the people who lived at Lock Haven on the other side of the creek. It was a private road, never opened for public use.

In the 1973 flood the tenants who were living in mobile homes in our West Bottom got together and put crushed rock on this field road so that they could have a better access to their homes during the high water. This road, called “The Old Gate Road” in our famly,” was also used by some of the people on the other side of the creek.

In 1993 the State of Illinois came in and improved it more, along with many loads of crushed rock. It became almost a highway, with people from all over that back country using it.
People came from their homes by boat to where the road went under water there in the West Bottom, and then retrieved their cars and proceeded on to their destination.

Some people parked on top of the hill. I can’t count the cars that I pulled out of the mud because there was no provisions made for parking on a hard surface.

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