‘This book will be read a hundred years from now:’ Authors to be honored with award for book on Johnson County, Ill.

Heartland book authors, Max Hutchison and Joseph Ashbey, to receive award at SIU Carbondale
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 9:07 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 3:48 PM CST
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Two southern Illinois natives are about to be honored with an award from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Ahead of that event, co-authors Max D. Hutchison and Joseph L. Ashby appeared on Heartland Afternoon November 16 to talk about their decades-long journey to publishing.

Hutchison and Ashby, cousins and life-long friends from Johnson County, Ill., said the actual writing process only took about a year and a half to complete once they started working together. They researched over the phone and online, since Ashby now lives in Montana.

The pair published the book this year, with a goal of highlighting the beauty of the place where they grew up. They said they share a grandfather from Johnson County, and often stayed with him as children.

According to their website, the book, “A Gazetteer of Johnson County, Illinois: An Inventory of Natural Landmarks,” compiles the locations locals know and have visited, and also places they may never have heard of, or only know about through older relatives.

Southern Illinois authors to receive award
Southern Illinois authors to receive award(KFVS)

On Friday, November 17, Hutchison and Ashby will be presented with the 2023 Friends of Morris Library Delta Award at SIUC.

Part of that event includes a ceremony from 5 to 7 p.m. at the John C. Guyon Auditorium at the campus library. It’s free to attend and open to the public.

A reception and book signing will follow in the first-floor rotunda.

The 350-page book has more than 550 photographs and maps featuring natural and historic landmarks, bluffs, caves and waterways, along with “quips and quotes from early settlers” to current residents, according to a release from SIU.

Judy Travelstead, Delta Award committee chair, says Hutchinson and Ashby’s book earned the award for “the comprehensiveness of what they have done to record the natural landmarks in the county with such precision and historical background.”

The award makes 120 Delta Awards given annually since 1976 by the Friends of Morris Library to individuals who have contributed significantly to the southern Illinois region, either by their writing, or by other service, according to the release.

Hutchison and Ashby said they hope people will pick up their work and enjoy it, whether by reading it cover-to-cover or just casually taking in the vivid photos of historic natural beauty they’ve compiled therein.

The project is also about preserving a rapidly-disappearing resource: the memories and knowledge of people who’ve lived their whole lives in a single area.

“Even some of the old-timers that could remember, and told us of places, were gone during the time we were working on the book,” said Hutchison. “History is gone forever when a lot of the folks that remember it are gone.”

Ashby said a lot of effort went toward producing a high-quality end product, in hopes their work will endure long into the future.

“A professor that we know of history stated that this book will be read a hundred years from now. And we hope that is the case,” he said.

Hutchison and Ashby’s book, “A Gazetteer of Johnson County, Illinois: An Inventory of Natural Landmarks,” can be purchased through their website by clicking here.