Two miles east of Pleasant Grove on the north side of today’s State Highway 146 in Johnson County, Illinois, stands a nondescript, twentieth-century barn that has been weathered by time. Barns are not an uncommon sight in rural southern Illinois, and travelers passing by this one are unlikely to give it a second glance. This barn, however, isn’t like the others. Inside the barn, which is located on private property, stands the remains of a significant piece of history: the Wayside Store.
In the early 1800s, John Bridges and his family immigrated to southern Illinois from North Carolina and later established a tavern and store on the north side of the Golconda-Cape Girardeau Road (today’s State Highway 146). The two-story tavern, constructed of log, served as both the home of the Bridges family and a resting place for weary travelers. The family’s log store, known today as the Wayside Store, served the local community and travelers with supplies and food.
In November 1837, approximately 360 Cherokee under the direction of U.S. Army Lieutenant B.B. Cannon passed by the Bridges’s property en route to Indian Territory. The following year eleven detachments consisting of more than 11,500 Cherokee followed in their footsteps and traveled by the tavern and store on the Trail of Tears. It is highly likely that at least some of the detachments rested on the property or camped nearby. Oral histories from the 1930s indicate that some of the Cherokee from the detachments purchased items from the tavern and store.
Although the tavern is no longer extant, the remains of the Wayside Store were incorporated into a barn in about 1940. Today, the Wayside Store consists of a 20’ x 20’ hand-hewn, single-pen with half-dovetail notches. The original height is unknown as the store is missing its original loft joists, plates, rafters, and roof.
Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) staff first visited the Wayside Store in December 2012 in order to document the site as part of a partnership project with the National Park Service’s National Trails Intermountain Region (NTIR) to survey buildings associated with the Trail of Tears. By this time, Gary Hacker, Ed Annable, Jon Musgrave, John Schwegman, and Dr. Charles Ruffner had compiled a substantial amount of information about the Wayside Store’s history in their report, The Trail of Tears in Johnson County, Illinois: Documenting the Trail of Tears. In 2013, Mark J. Wagner, David Birnbaum, and Ryan Campbell expanded the history of the Wayside Store through further archival and archaeological work in their report, Archaeological and Architectural Investigations at the Bridges Tavern Site, Johnson County, Illinois.
Although these prior reports had thoroughly addressed the Wayside Store’s history, architecture, and archaeological work conducted at the site, they did not offer any preservation recommendations for the building to the current owners. Seeing a need for this, NTIR approached the CHP to complete a Historic Structure Report (HSR) for the building. The final HSR is available to read here.