Christopher, Illinois

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Location of Christopher in Franklin County, Illinois.
Location of Christopher in Franklin County, Illinois.
Christopher is located in Illinois
Location of Christopher in Franklin County, Illinois.
Christopher is located in the United States
Christopher (the United States)
Coordinates: 37°58′20″N 89°3′10″W / 37.97222°N 89.05278°W / 37.97222; -89.05278
CountryUnited States
 • MayorGary Bartolotti
 • Total1.64 sq mi (4.24 km2)
 • Land1.62 sq mi (4.20 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.04 km2)
 • Total2,382
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,675.09/sq mi (646.89/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)618
FIPS code17-14286
Wikimedia CommonsChristopher, Illinois

Christopher is a city in Franklin County, Illinois, United States. The population was 2,382 at the 2010 census.


Christopher is located 20 miles northeast of Carbondale, Illinois at 37°58′20″N 89°3′10″W / 37.97222°N 89.05278°W / 37.97222; -89.05278 (37.972099, -89.052911).[3]

According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 1.58 square miles (4.1 km2), of which 1.58 square miles (4.1 km2) (or 100%) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.026 km2) (or 0.63%) is water.[4]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)2,717[2]14.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[5]

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 2,836 people, 1,297 households, and 814 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,011.0 people per square mile (776.6/km2). There were 1,436 housing units at an average density of 1,018.3/sq mi (393.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.62% White, 0.11% African American, 0.04% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.11% from other races, and 0.85% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.53% of the population.

There were 1,297 households, out of which 25.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.6% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.2% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 19.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.79.

In the city the population was spread out, with 21.8% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 24.3% from 45 to 64, and 21.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 86.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,045, and the median income for a family was $34,342. Males had a median income of $30,222 versus $18,458 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,141. About 14.3% of families and 19.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.4% of those under age 18 and 9.5% of those age 65 or over.



Coal mining[edit]

In 1906, the United Coal Mining Company No. 1 mine opened near Christopher. An explosion at the mine killed eight men on July 27, 1915.[7] The mine was sold to the Old Ben Coal Corporation, and renamed Old Ben Coal Mine No. 1 in 1916. The mine closed in 1929.[8]

On November 29, 1917, an explosion at Old Ben Coal Corporation's Mine No. 11 killed 17 men.[9][10][11]

Mob vigilantism during World War I[edit]

On March 22, 1918 five men who were accused of being "pro-German" became victims of a mob numbering more than 300 people. They were:[12]

  • Theodore Kunger, a grocer, had been judged by a local court of being disloyal, and ordered to pay a $100 fine. Having no money, he was put in jail. Later his cell was broken into by a vigilance committee. Kunger was carried by the mob to the city square where he was made to kiss the U.S. flag before he was tarred and feathered. He was then returned to jail.
  • W. R. Jones, Kunger's attorney, was abducted five miles outside Christopher on his way home to Benton, Illinois. He was brought to the square and compelled to kiss the flag and praise president Woodrow Wilson, but was spared tar and feathers. He was told to leave town.
  • Henry Timbrock and Henry Wheeler were also suspected of pro-German sympathies. They too were taken to the square, made to kiss the flag and tarred and feathered.
  • The Polish pastor of the local Catholic church, Rev. John Kovalsky, had been accused of making disloyal remarks. He was taken to the square where he was stripped to the waist and coated with tar and feathers.[13][14]

Market Street in the 21st Century[edit]

After decades of gradual decline, Market Street, Christopher's central business district, has seen struggle and rebirth.

In 2005, the citizens of Christopher voted for the city to be a Home Rule government. Shortly after, new lighting and flower pots were placed along Market Street. A historic street clock was restored and placed at a small plaza located at one of the city's main four-way stop intersections located at Market St. & Illinois Route 148.

A few years later, the City of Christopher voted to make Market Street a new TIF district, new businesses began to appear in long abandoned buildings. Some of the new businesses include The Hop Brewery, Thrifty Stores & Services, and Hometown Shirts and Graphics. Other businesses have been able to renovate their buildings such as Kirk's Pharmacy and DiMaggio's Pizza.

In addition to new businesses and renovations, the long abandoned old Christopher City Hall (constructed on the 200 block of W. Market. St. in 1906) was demolished and made way for a courtyard for American Legion Post 528.

Death of Kody Vanfossan[edit]

On May 5, 2019, a fire was reported in the old Christopher Office Furniture/Napa Auto Parts building at 118 W. Market St. According to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation,

Kody Vanfossan died doing what he loved while battling a six-alarm commercial fire in Christopher, Illinois. Christopher Engine 201 was the first on scene, with a report of a squatter possibly being in the building. Kody and his father, a CFD captain, did a primary search of the first floor. After completing the search and knocking the fire down, they proceeded to the second floor. During this time, conditions deteriorated rapidly. His father decided it was time to get out. When they reached the landing, the stairway collapsed. They were trapped in the building, and his father put out a mayday. Mutual aid departments were able to locate and rescue his father within half an hour but were unable to locate Kody. After several attempts, Kody was located at the ledge of the landing, and his body was recovered four hours after the initial mayday call.

Vanfossan was the grandson of Christopher Mayor Gary Bartolotti. The building still stands as of Fall 2020.

Bright Future?[edit]

With a renewed interest within younger generations of seeing a rebirth of Market Street and the City of Christopher in general, there are signs that Market Street may continue to flourish with new businesses. Located in the former Family Outfitters building, The Show Room is an upscale event center that will be available for multiple purposes. In addition, Kirk's Pharmacy was able to make further renovations to the building it occupies after the fire that took the life of Kody Vanfossan.

In addition, the S&S Tavern located at 223 W. Market St. was purchased and, under new ownership, remodeled to ensure this long time landmark will be around for generations to come.

And due to the destruction of the buildings on the 100 block of W. Market St. in recent years, there is available space adjacent to the former Phyl's Antiques that can be developed.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  4. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-05-03.
  5. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  6. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  7. ^ Hinton, Wayne. "Explosion at United Coal Company Mine No. 1". History of Illinois Coal Mine Disasters 1911 to 1920. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  8. ^ Hinton, Wayne (2018). "Old Ben Coal Mine No. 12". Coal Mines of Franklin County, Illinois. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  9. ^ United States Mine Rescue Association. "Old Ben No. 11 Mine Explosion". Mine Disasters in the United States. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  10. ^ Jones, John E. "Explosion in Old Ben Coal Corporation's Mine No. 11". History of Illinois Coal Mine Disasters 1911 to 1920. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  11. ^ Raye, Janet (December 8, 2017). "Hellraisers Journal: Not One Miner Brought Out Alive after Explosion at Old Ben Mine, Christopher, Illinois". We Never Forget. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  12. ^ "Four Disloyalists are Tarred and Feathered," Lebanon Daily Reporter, Mar. 23, 1918.
  13. ^ "Use Tar in Illinois, Too," Kansas City Times, Mar. 23, 1918.
  14. ^ "Tar and Feathers for Four Men," Logansport Pharos Reporter, Mar. 23, 1918.

Coordinates: 37°58′20″N 89°3′10″W / 37.97222°N 89.05278°W / 37.97222; -89.05278