MEMORIES OF THE CACHE RIVER
By William H. Echols(1919- )
My first memory of the Cache River is when I was very Young, although at the time I didnít think of it as a river. My father H. E. Echols (1893-1925) had a General Store in Ullin, and he owned the land from along the old road out of Ullin to behind where the Cache River is now. The road followed the Illinois Central Railroad below the old ICRR water tower and then left (east) across the Cache River (the old road and bridge are now gone).
Highway 51 had not been built yet (it was built in 1924 and known as Illinois Route 2). I remember going home with my grandparents by wagon and across the old Cache River bridge. The old bridge floor was made of wooden planks. When the highway was constructed, it cut through the old road. The removal of dirt to build the new highway allowed the Cache River to created a slew or water pool which is still there (sometimes called "Blue Hole").
My father was suppose to be paid for some of his land that was used for the new highway. This was finally settled by some payment which went to my grandfather Alonzo Echols (1869-1956), as my father died in 1925. After his death, we moved up town across from the present Methodist Church (the little house is still there today). By this time I was 8-10 years old. We made frequent trips to our Grandpa Echols farm (which was located along the Cache River East of Ullin, now the Walker Farm. My other Grandpa, William Crippen also lived East of Ullin.
To cross the Cache River we would use the old bridge even though a new bridge was now in place. We would climb the steel structure of the old bridge and walk across on the supports since by now there was no floor on the old bridge. Sometimes we would ride across in a boat owned by a black man who had built a shack along the Cache River bank, just above the old bridge (I canít remember his name, but it was just one name). He would take us across the river in his boat and bring us back across, when we returned. The black gentleman was there for several years, until he finally moved into Ullin across from the railroad tracks by the old stock yards.
I grew up on the Cache River and spent most of my summers fishing. I used any old pole & line and always had a few fishing hooks stuck into a piece of cork. I would make a bobber from a piece of tree limb or anything that would float. This was my fishing tackle. I always caught fish! I caught catfish, big gars, large carp, perch, even bass. I set out trout lines and used all kinds of bait. I almost always came home with some kind of carp hanging over my shoulder and the tail almost dragging the ground-although I was pretty small.
We also had swimming holes in the river, but in those days none of us even had a swimming suit! Since I was along the river and the backwaters so much, I caught Malaria several times. We wore only shorts and were barefooted and bareheaded. Most every Fall or after heavy rains, the river would flood. When the Cache River flooded, my brothers Vaughn (1922-1991) and Maurice (1924-1972) and I enjoyed walking along the banks of the river near our grandfathers farm Sometimes we would jump into the strong current and float back to Ullin. I believe my youngest brother H. E. Jr. (1926- ) was too young to join us.
There was always a lot of trees and debris along the banks of the river. During the Summer there were always a lot of snakes. At the time I didnít know they were poisonous. We would pick up a large stick and wade out into the river and hit at them. Sometimes we would get a boat and coast up next to a stump where a large snake would be sunning. We would then terrorize the snake with the boat paddle.
I spent a lot of time on the river up until I was in high school. I finally learned the snakes were poisonous and have been scared of them every since. During World War 11, I served in some of the worst Malaria infested areas and never become infected. I feel it was my exposure to the disease as a child that built up my immunity. This was certainly something that turned out good from my Cache River days. I donít remember where the river starts, but at that time, it entered the Ohio River near Cairo. It was never too wide or deep except down stream. I know it was once used to raft logs down the river to the old sawmill and box factory in Ullin.
Many years have passed since I spent my summers along the Cache River. I often think of those lazy days of my childhood when I spent countless hours playing on the Cache River and realize those were indeed the good ole days!
William Echols is now retired living in Las Vegas, Nevada. He and his late wife Arline (1918-1995), to whom he was married for 50 years, lived in the Dayton, Ohio area where they owned a heating control business. Mr. Echols recently financed an Ullin Veteranís Memorial and established two related scholarships for Ullin residents. He recently assisted the Ullin Civic Club by providing the funds needed to move the old Illinois Central Railroad Depot back to itís original location. He is enjoying his retirement and is currently attending a Las Vegas Junior College. ---Paul Echols
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