In August 1852, Daniel Harmon Brush, John Asgill Conner, and Dr. William Richart bought land between two proposed railroad sites and two county seats. Brush named Carbondale for the large deposit of coal in the area. The first train through Carbondale was on the main line on Independence Day 1854.
On April 29, 1866, one of the first formal Memorial Day observations was held at the city’s Woodlawn Cemetery.
By the time of the Civil War, Carbondale had become both a regional center for business and transportation, and an educational center with the founding of Carbondale College (which became Southern Illinois College in 1869). Carbondale won the bid for the new teacher training school for the region, and Southern Illinois Normal University opened in 1874. This gave the town new industry, new citizens, and a supplement to public schools. In 1947, the name was changed to Southern Illinois University which now has 21,000 students enrolled.