Norris City, Illinois, dedicates historical marker for Big Inch Pipeline

NORRIS CITY, Ill. — About 40 people ventured out in inclement weather Monday on Veterans Day to attend the dedication of an historical marker commemorating the 1943 wartime completion of the first leg of the Big Inch Pipeline in Norris City, Illinois.

The pipeline began in Longview and carried East Texas oil, first to Norris City, then eventually to refineries in the East to aid the Allied effort in World War II.

The commemoration by Norris City, a small town in the southern tip of Illinois, of its part in winning World War II was held at the Enbridge/Texas Eastern pipeline location on East Main Street and Illinois Route 1.

An old newsreel from the original 1943 dedication event played on a television screen, capturing the attention of attendees. Photographs from the time period and other historical documents were on display.

Named the “Big Inch” because it measured 24 inches in diameter, the pipeline’s documented impact on the war effort was tremendous, enabling the safe and timely transport of oil products vital to the Allies. When the war ended, the Big Inch continued in service after conversion to a natural gas pipeline and remains in use now.

North Little Rock Enbridge Area Manager Doug Voth greeted the crowd. Representatives from U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, were hindered from attending by snow and ice in the Maryville, Illinois, area, but local historian Ed Oliver — who spent 1 1/2 years working to arrange the marker and the dedication — said Shimkus has pledged to read the proclamation on the U.S. House floor.

While the weather held back the actual erection of the marker Monday, it was unveiled indoors by Oliver and Enbridge Area Manager Dan Russell. The marker will be mounted outside the property’s fence on East Main Street when the weather permits.

A similar historical marker was dedicated May 17, 1991, in South Longview, where the Big Inch pipeline began. Organizers of Longview’s upcoming 2020 sesquicentennial celebration, called Longview 150, have planned a commemoration ceremony at its Big Inch marker on Jan. 25.