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  • Fairbury News staff

Ghost towns remembered

Dale Maley speaks to the Fairbury Rotary Tuesday afternoon.

The boom-to-bust story of Cardiff, a small Livingston County ghost town, was shared with members of the Fairbury Rotary Club Tuesday afternoon.

Local historian Dale Maley explained the town had 2,500 citizens and that number was down to almost nothing by 1920. There are three houses in that area currently.

“Coal was found at 250 feet,” Maley explained.

The town was named after one of the richest coal mining regions of the world in Wales. A large mine explosion in 1903 triggered more explosions in the following days and the mine was a total loss. Maley heard the only way to extinguish the fire was to flood the mine with water.

“They dug a new mine shaft in 1903,” said Maley.

Devastating news came in 1910 when the town’s biggest customer, the Wabash Railroad, said it was no longer purchasing Cardiff coal. The town was only there about 20 years and Jim Ridings wrote two books about it in the past 10 years.

During his research on the topic, Maley came up with 58 ghost towns in Livingston County, the two biggest being Cardiff and Avoca.

“In Livingston County, many towns were started but got abandoned when the railroad failed to go through their town,” Maley added.

Avoca had a post office from 1838-72 and the McDowells settled where Avoca Cemetery stands currently. When the railroad came through the area in 1857 and chose to come through Fairbury, this marked the end of Avoca where there is nothing left today except for the cemetery.

Maley did a book on the McDowell family who also founded McDowell and helped find Gibson City and Fairbury, Nebraska.

In addition to serving as president of the Fairbury Improvement Group and vice president of the Echoes Museum, Maley is also president of the Livingston County Historical Society.

“I’ve written 16 Fairbury history books,” Maley told the Rotarians.

Those books are available at the Walton Centre or Amazon. Maley has written 50 history stories for The Blade and is working on his seventeenth book which is about Honegger’s.

“It’s a case where I’ve got too much material,” Maley admitted.

At the start of Tuesday’s Fairbury Rotary meeting, a moment of silence was observed for Dean Moser who passed away last week. A thank-you note was shared from World War II veteran Ray Mishler for the handmade quilt he was presented with for his service.

Christmas cards were shared from the Fairbury Fair and Julie Dobski. Also, President Joan Smeltzer reminded members that there will be no Rotary meetings the next two weeks due to the holidays.

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