Carbondale is a city in Jackson County, Illinois, United States, within the Southern Illinois region informally known as "Little Egypt". The city developed from 1853 because of the stimulation of railroad construction into the area. Today the major roadways of Illinois Route 13 and U.S. Route 51 intersect in the city. The city is southeast of St. Louis, Missouri, on the northern edge of the Shawnee National Forest. Carbondale is the home of the main campus of Southern Illinois University.
As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 25,902, and it is the state's 20th-most-populated city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area. In addition, the city is the most populous in Southern Illinois outside of the St. Louis Metro-East region, and the most populous city in the Carbondale-Marion-Herrin, Illinois Combined Statistical Area and the Metro Lakeland area. The CSA has 126,575 residents, the sixth-most-populous Combined statistical area in Illinois.
In August 1853, Daniel Harmon Brush, John Asgill Conner, and Dr. William Richart bought a parcel of land between two proposed railroad station sites (Makanda and De Soto) and two county seats (Murphysboro and Marion). Brush named Carbondale for the large deposit of coal in the area. The first train through Carbondale arrived on Independence Day 1854, traveling north on the main line from Cairo, Illinois.
By the time of the American Civil War, Carbondale had developed as a regional center for transportation and business, surrounded by agricultural development. This part of Illinois was known as "Little Egypt"; some believe because it was a farming area.
The city became an educational center with the founding of Carbondale College (which was renamed as Southern Illinois College in 1869). Carbondale also won the bid for the new state 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. It has become the flagship of the Southern Illinois University system. This institution, now recognized as a national research university, has nearly 18,000 students enrolled (as of 2014) and offers a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate specialties.
On April 29, 1866, one of the first formal Memorial Day observations following the Civil War was held at the city's Woodlawn Cemetery. Local resident, General John A. Logan, gave the principal address.
In the early 20th century, Carbondale was known as the "Athens of Egypt," due to the expansion of the college and university, and the region's moniker of "Little Egypt." The phrase dates to at least 1903, when it appeared in a local paper. By 1922, the Carbondale Free Press was using the phrase on its flag.