CYPRESS -- On Saturday, author Todd Carr told how the Shawnee National Forest came to exist thanks to the efforts of several people in the region, particularly the former publisher of the Eldorado Daily Journal.
L.O. Trigg was part of a group of men from Saline, Gallatin, Hardin and Pope counties who worked to make the federal government aware of the opportunity to create what now is the Shawnee National Forest.
Trigg had been an avid journalist at a young age, constantly creating publications, Carr said. Later, as publisher of the Eldorado newspaper and a member of the committee to promote the creation of a national forest, he used his position to be the marketing arm of the effort.
Trigg created a series of tours that featured some of the unique and impressive areas of the region.
Trigg's Ozark Tours, as they came to be called, hauled area businessmen, politicians, judges -- anyone with influence and interest -- on the back of a flatbed truck to local points of interest.
"There were no roads to these places. You had to know someone who knew how to get there," Carr told the audience.
The tours were mostly in July and August, Carr said, during the hottest part of the year. Campers often slept under the stars on a blanket or sheet. Arrangements were made with local churches near the sites visited for lunches or dinners.
Though initially passed over for consideration, in September 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared certain purchase units to be the Shawnee National Forest. Originally, the plan was to make the Shawnee a national forest in what is now the eastern portion, and a separate national forest in the western portion of southern Illinois, plus a third national forest. However, all the purchase units in the southernmost part of Illinois became the Shawnee National Forest.
Carr chronicles Trigg's efforts in his book "Trigg's Ozark Tours at Shawnee National Forest."
"It's an incredible story of the amount of effort it took for us to have the Shawnee National Forest today," Carr said.