Centralia, IL


Centralia is a city located in Marion and Clinton Counties in Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 14,136. The town was founded because it was the point where the two original branches of the Illinois Central Railroad, built in 1856, converged. The town is named for the railroad.

On March 25, 1947 the Centralia No. 5 coalmine explosion near the town killed 111. The Mine Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor reported the explosion was caused when an underburdened shot or blown-out shot ignited coal dust. At the time of the explosion 142 men were in the mine. Sixty five men were killed by burns and violence and forty five by afterdamp. Eight men were rescued but one died from the effects of afterdamp.

The Centralia High School basketball team became known as the "Orphans" in 1936 because upstate sports reporters thought them shabby upstarts to be competing at the state level. However, the name became prophetic after the No. 5 disaster; at one time, all the players had lost a father in the mines. However, despite the nickname, the high school is the winningest team in Illinois high school basketball, a distinction that many residents are obviously proud of.

Several notable personalities were born in Centralia including James Brady (born August 29, 1940), Dike Eddleman (born December 27, 1922) and Gary Gaetti (born August 19, 1958). Eldo "Dick" Garrett (born January 31st, 1947) was drafted out of Southern Illinois University in the second round of the 1969 NBA draft by the Los Anegeles Lakers. He also played for the NBA's Buffalo Braves and Milwaukee Bucks.

Centralia's Foundation Park is a scenic 235 acre park that features hiking trails, an exercise trail, an ice skating pond and two fishing ponds both stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. The park also sports a restored prairie, a Chapel in the Woods, the Hall Shelter, the Sentinel Shelter, The Bowl (an outdoor amphitheatre), Moose Oven and the Miner's Memorial.

Foundation Park is the site of the annual Balloon Fest, a hot air balloon festival. Recent events have had about forty balloons and drew 40000 visitors.

Centralia is home to Kaskaskia College.


Centralia is located at 38°31'31" North, 89°7'57" West (38.525257, -89.132548). This is approximately 60 miles (as the crow flies) east (actually slightly to the south as well) of St. Louis, Missouri. Centralia is on the border of south-west Marion County with portions of the city located in Clinton, Washington and Jefferson counties, and is 10 miles north of exit 61 of I-64 and 10 miles west of exit 109 of I-57. Centralia is one of three Illinois cities with portions in four counties, the others being Barrington Hills & Aurora.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.8 km2 (7.6 mi2). 19.4 km2 (7.5 mi2) of it is land and 0.4 km2 (0.1 mi2) of it is water. The total area is 1.83% water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 14,136 people, 5,784 households, and 3,568 families residing in the city. The population density was 727.7/km2 (1,884.4/mi2). There were 6,276 housing units at an average density of 323.1/km2 (836.6/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.50% White, 10.34% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 1.71% from two or more races. 1.20% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 5,784 households out of which 28.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.3% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.3% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 85.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,905, and the median income for a family was $39,123. Males had a median income of $30,511 versus $21,967 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,174. 14.6% of the population and 11.2% of families were below the poverty line. 23.1% of those under the age of 18 and 8.6% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.