Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Museum artifacts stolen
The Associated Press is reporting that hundreds of Indian artifacts have been stolen from a Meridosia museum in upstate Illinois.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Williamson Co. Museum Reopens
The days are getting longer and spring is almost here. It must be time for area historical societies to reopen their doors.

The Williamson County Historical Society, Museum, Book Store and Genealogy Library is open to visitors Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and every third Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Members of the WCHS receive a discount on copying cost and also receive the quarterly "Footprints In Williamson County, Illinois."

The museum is located in the old Williamson County Jail at 105 S. Van Buren in Marion a half-block west of the square behind the new civic center. Tours are available for individuals or groups. For more information please visit their website at

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Book Signings/Presentations
I've got a number of events scheduled for March.

I've got two book signings this Saturday, March 5. One in the morning at the B. Dalton book store in Times Square Mall in Mount Vernon from 10 a.m. to noon and then from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Taylor's Mini Mall in Fairfield.

The next speaking engagement is set for Saturday, March 12, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Saline Creek Pioneer Village and Museum at 1600 S Feazel in Harrisburg.

I'm also doing a book talk and signing at the Barnes & Noble store in Evansville, Indiana, from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 26.

Of course, you can always order direct from me by clicking on the book cover to the left at the top of the page or by going here.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Musgrave for City Council
Hopefully I won't be history Tuesday after the city primary, so I need your vote. That is, if you live in Marion, Illinois.

I'm running to fill the remaining two years of the four-year term that had belonged to the late Jimmy Stewart who died last spring. The council got to appoint a commissioner to fill in the vacancy until the next election. Now we're here and it's the voters' turn.

Today's Marion Daily Republican has their candidate profile on me online. It's headlined, "Musgrave says more planning is needed in city."

Basically I call for a full-time city planner position to help Marion both deal with the existing growth and prepare for future expansion. Any city that's considering a special census to count its rapid population growth ought to be planning and preparing ways to deal with it.

For the most part Marion isn't. We've never had to deal with it before, but if Marion is growing as fast as the Census Bureau thinks and we keep up the rate of growth then the city would double in population by 2058, or in 53 years. No reason to hurry.

However, if Marion is growing as fast as the general consensus thinks it is, then Marion could double in population as early as 2023, or just 18 years. We're already experiencing growing pains at 16,025 people (as counted in 2000), what will it be like when we are 32,000-plus residents?

There's too much unemployment in the region to say Marion ought just to slow down. There are only a few hot areas in Southern Illinois and the highway system pretty well designates what those areas will be.

The polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Funding for the Old Slave House?
Just got an e-mail that the Daily Register in Harrisburg is reporting this afternoon that there's money in the budget for the Old Slave House.

The article isn't online yet but according to the editor Terry Geese, they had a call this morning from state Rep. Brandon Phelps' office that there were two line items of interest in the budget unveiled earlier today by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The first is $150,000 for the Old Slave House and the second was $325,000 for Sahara Woods a DNR site in western Saline County. Geese didn't know if these were capital line items or general revenue money - an important distinction on whether or not the state intends to open the sites.

Capital money can only be used for building projects and the like. Phelps had worked to include $100,000 in last year's capital budget, but it never passed.

I'll add more when I know more.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lincoln Museum Festivities Set
Just received the following news release from Springfield concerning the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.
SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich today officially announced the schedule of activities for the grand opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, to be held this April. The four-day public celebration will recreate “The Great American Story” of Abraham Lincoln’s life through exhibits that employ state-of-the-art technology never seen before in a presidential museum.

Four days of activities will mark the museum’s opening, including a public dedication April 19th, hosted by the Governor and attended by other prominent state and national figures.

"The debut of this new world-class institution and the exploration of our shared national history gives Springfield and Illinois ample reason to celebrate," said Gov. Blagojevich. "These festivities offer a tremendous opportunity to showcase the new museum for a national audience and to raise the Land of Lincoln’s profile in the process."

The museum joins the already-open library as part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) complex in Springfield. Museum opening events begin on April 16 with "Looking for Lincoln," a two-day historical block party in downtown Springfield. The celebration will feature Lincoln era re-enactors, music, theater troupes, church choirs, folk dancers and artists from the Springfield area. Most events are free to the public; the full schedule is available at

Some of the other major activities planned for the grand opening include:

  • Scholarly Conference "Lincoln in the Twenty-First Century" – (April 17 and 18, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library) – A two-day Lincoln Scholarly Conference will examine Lincoln, from his attitude toward race and his domestic life to his wartime
    leadership and assassination. The conference will conclude on the 18th with a panel hosted by C-SPAN founder and CEO Brian Lamb and will feature three generations of the world’s foremost Lincoln scholars — David Herbert Donald, Harold Holzer and Matthew Pinsker.

  • Interfaith Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Abraham Lincoln – (April 17, 11 a.m., Union Square Park) – The community will come together and find strength in the celebration of religious diversity in a public service led by various community religious leaders.

  • Recreation of Lincoln’s Farewell Address and Torchlight Parade – (April 17, 6:30 p.m., Old Train Depot to Union Square Park/ALPLM)

  • Outdoor Concert, Fireworks and Laser Spectacular – (April 17, 8 p.m., Union Square Park) – A public concert by the 312th Army Band.

  • Recreated Lincoln White House State Dinner – (April 18, 7:30 p.m., Springfield Renaissance Hotel) – This fundraiser for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation will feature a Lincoln-era menu and 19th-century music courtesy of the 312th Army Band. The first David Herbert Donald Prize for Excellence in Lincoln Studies will be presented to its namesake, the author of the definitive one-volume Lincoln biography.

  • Public Dedication – (April 19, 11 a.m., Union Square Park) – Gov. Blagojevich and other prominent leaders will speak at this hour-long event signaling the official opening of the museum, with music provided by the 312th Army Band. In addition, the winner of a student essay contest sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and C-SPAN will read his or her modern-day version of the Gettysburg address to the crowd.

    The museum’s grand opening will follow the dedication, giving the public the opportunity to experience firsthand the museum’s 46,000 square feet of permanent exhibits – twice the size of any other presidential museum. The galleries, which employ 21st-century technology to make the 19th century live again, are the result of collaboration among the State of Illinois, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), Burbank, Calif.-based BRC Imagination Arts, and a distinguished panel of renowned historians.

    "The opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum will be a popular celebration of public history at its best," said Richard Norton Smith, the museum's executive director. "Just as the exhibits inside invite visitor participation, so will the events outside. Like the Museum, they will recreate another time, even as they remind us of what is timeless. It will be, literally, a time to remember."

    For more information about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, or about the slate of opening activities, visit
  • Not mentioned in the release is that the opening will come just days after the 140th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination on April 14, 1865. The first day of events, the 17th, is also the 164th annivesary of Virginia's secession.

    Thursday, February 03, 2005

    Last WWI Veteran Dies in Illinois

    I just got to the local section of the Southern Illinoisan today and they have a story on Warren V. Hileman who died Sunday at the age of 103 at the Anna State Veterans Home.

    Hileman was believed to be the last veteran of the Great War still living in Illinois. He served not in Europe as most might expect, but in Siberia in the often-forgotten campaign against the Bolsheviks.

    He saw action at Posolskaya, not against the Red Army, but when the Cossack leader Semanov opened fire on boxcars of sleeping doughboys.

    Hileman was part of the 27th Infantry which earned the nicknamed "Wolfhounds" during their time in Russia.

    The National Archives's website has a good article on the reasons for American intervention and the activities of the American Expeidionary Force entitled "Guarding the Railroad: Taming the Cossacks."

    Not Mentioned
    Gov. Rod Blagojevich has concluded his 2005 State of the State Address and guess what wasn't mentioned — the state of the state's finances.

    Depending on whom you ask, the state is facing anywhere from a $1 to $2 billion shortfall, maybe more. That's basically, where the state was at when he did his first State of the State Address in 2003.
    DNR Memo
    Today's Southern Illinoisan reveals the official position taken by IDNR concerning the budget cuts may not be the truth after all.

    After repeated claims that the cuts in staff won't affect programs, this memo from one of the division chiefs within DNR makes clear that programs will be affected.
    The memo said staff and budget reductions would affect a wide range of services including: Reduction in fish production; deer and wild turkey harvest reporting; chronic wasting disease surveillance; natural area stewardship (including eradication of invasive species); and monitoring, management and recovery of threatened and endangered species.

    "The recent layoffs and proposed budget cuts seriously jeopardize ORC's and DNR's ability to administer and implement critical programs such as CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program); Illinois Rivers 20/20 and Farm Bill programs," the memo stated.
    So much for the official line — and we still haven't heard the truth about cutbacks in the land management division which includes state parks.

    Oh, and by the way, the Governor is probably set to announce more cuts in about 15 minutes when he makes his State of the State Address.

    Monday, January 31, 2005

    Miller Grove Program
    Just got this news release from Shawnee Community College...
    ULLIN — Shawnee Community College, the United States Forest Service, and Shawnee National Forest are joining together to sponsor a local history presentation on Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the Shawnee Community College Main Campus Educational Center. The presenters include Marlene Rivero, Mary McCorvey, and Vicki Marlen.

    The trio will focus on Miller’s Grove located in Southern Illinois. The program will begin at 9 a.m., with repeat programs at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm. All three performances will be held and are open to local school districts, grades 4 through 8 and teachers. The 12:30 p.m. performance is open to the public.

    For more information or to make reservations, please call Gae Morris at 1-800-481-2242, extension 3323 or 618-624-3323.
    What the release didn't mention is that Miller Grove is the site of an early multi-racial community in northern Pope County. It was the scene of the Sides Robbery, an early kidnapping attempt that better remembered for the money the robbers stole.

    It's also the site of the last resident slave emancipated in Illinois (as far as anybody can tell). That took place as late as 1854. The site of the settlement is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and has been the focus of several years' worth of archealogical excavations.
    Organized Crime and Cook County Courts
    The former judge who wore a wire for the feds in "Operation Greylord" will speak about his experiences tomorrow night (Feb. 1) in Harrisburg.

    Brocton Lockwood, then a judge from Williamson County and now in his second stint as a circuit judge this time from Saline County, will be speaking to the Saline County Historical Society at 7 p.m. at the Saline Creek Pioneer Village and Museum.

    In the 1980s he served as a Williamson County Circuit Judge who was transferred to Cook County to help deal with the overload of cases up there. Finding widespread corruption in the court system itself he wore a wire for the FBI in what they called Operation Greylord. The investigation eventually sent more than seventy people to prison.

    Afterwards he wrote a book about his experiences, "Operation Greylord: The Brocton Lockwood Story".

    I've got to teach tomorrow night or I would be there. Lockwood has also written about Delos Duty, Williamson County's prosecutor after the Herrin Massacre back in the 1920s.

    Thursday, January 27, 2005

    Call for Papers II
    Besides the Illinois State Historical Society's conference, there's a second historical conference operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. While it's not known if that agency will even exist by this October, it appears that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Theme Park (oops, that should be Presidential Library) will be around to sponsor the taxpayer funded Seventh Annual Conference on Illinois History set for October 27-28, 2005.

    Editor's note: I'm an advisory board member to the Illinois State Historical Society and therefore somewhat biased against the state's overwhelming desire to destroy our organization and replace all of our functions with their expensive taxpayer-subsidized duplications of service.

    Editor's note II: The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library has a great building and should improve the visitor's access and enjoyment in researching Illinois history, far better than the basement quarters under the Old State Capitol where the previous Illinois State Historical Library was located. The theme park critique belongs to my former professor, friend and Old Slave House nemesis, Dr. John Y. Simon of the U.S. Grant Association.

    On the other hand while the Historic Sites Division of IHPA is down about 50 staff positions, which still isn't enough to include staff at sites like the Old Slave House, the state is planning to create 70 new positions for the presidential museum in Springfield. In other words the site superintendent's position at Shawneetown Bank State Historic Site has been replaced with a checkout counter job at the museum's gift shop in Springfield.

    But still, the conference is legitimate. It offers a chance for historians to shine and for educators to get continuing ed credits for attending and participating. So back to IHPA's release...

    Proposals for individual papers or panels on any aspect of Illinois' history, culture, politics, geography, literature, and archaeology are requested for the Conference on Illinois History. The Conference welcomes submissions from professional and avocational historians, graduate students, and those engaged in the study of Illinois history at libraries, historic sites, museums, and historical societies.

    Each proposal should include a summary of the topic and a one-page resume of the participant. The summary should specify the major primary and secondary sources used in the research. Proposals should be for formal, footnoted papers. The deadline for proposals is March 7, 2005. Send proposals to:

    Thomas F. Schwartz, State Historian
    Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
    112 North Sixth Street
    Springfield, IL 62701

    Phone 217/782-2118, Fax 217/558-1574

    You can also check out the conference website.

    Monday, January 24, 2005

    Call for Papers
    The Illinois State Historical Society invites proposals for the 2005 Illinois History Symposium, which will be held at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Springfield on December 2-3, 2005.

    The Symposium is open to papers, presentations, panels, and workshops on any aspect of the state's history. Proposals are welcome from professional historians, students, teachers, amateur researchers, and exhibitors.

    Each proposal should include a summary of the topic and a one-page resume of the presenter. The summary should include the primary and secondary sources used in the research.

    The deadline for Symposium proposals is April 1, 2005. Individuals will be notified of the Symposium Committee's decision in mid-May.

    Send proposals to: The Illinois State Historical Society, 210 1/2 South Sixth Street, Suite 200, Springfield, Illinois, 62701, or via e-mail at For more information, call 217-525-2781.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Benton Story
    The Benton Evening News story on the tomorrow's book signing is now online. The story ran with the headline Books at the Buzz to host signing for local author.

    Linda Settle wrote the article. Also want to thank Jennifer Clinton for the heads up on the story being posted. Nice to know that has readers too.
    Book Signing
    I'm doing a book signing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Buzz at 601 Public Square in Benton tomorrow on Inauguration Day. Come by for a nice hot chococlate and a book.

    The Benton Evening News did a nice story on the book yesterday, but I can't link to it because it's not online.

    I've also going a "talk" on the Old Slave House and my new book, Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw, at Cata's Books in the West Frankfort Outlet Mall from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, January 30.

    For those of you in southeastern Illinois who want to learn more about the house and/or the book, I'll be giving a presentation for the Hardin County Historical Society which meets in the Rosiclare Craft Mall in Rosiclare at 6:45 p.m., Monday, February 7.

    If you have a group or class that would like me to visit and talk about the Old Slave House or some other aspect of Southern Illinois history, drop me an e-mail.

    UPDATE 2:
    It's a couple of months away, but I also have a gig lined up at the Saline Creek Pioneer Village and Museum in Harrisburg for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, March 12.

    Friday, December 24, 2004

    Something Fishy at DNR
    The Southern's Les Winkeler has another chapter in what's wrong with the layoffs at IDNR, this time in the office of land reclamation, which is funded entirely by the feds.

    Les' article is titled, "Two IDNR Employees Question Layoff Reasoning."

    Layoffs during budget cutbacks are understandable, but the outright lies emanating from Springfield that the layoffs won't affect services is despicable. Check out the next to last paragraph.
    AFSCME said that despite claims that no parks will be closed, the I&M Canal Visitor Center in Lockport and the Spring Grove State Fish Hatchery will be permanently closed.

    Thursday, December 09, 2004

    Kinkaid Metropolis
    Archeologists are pushing up population figures for the Kinkaid Mounds complex on the Pope-Massac county line.

    An article in today's Southern Illinoisan quotes figures of 1,500 residents rather than 600 as researchers think they've discovered a new mound site.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2004

    Broken Promises
    When it comes to preserving our region's natural heritage nothing so better represents the broken promises made to local residents than the Cache River Wetlands in southernmost Illinois.

    The cypress swamps and sloughs of the Cache River Basin provide some of the most diverse wildlife habitat in the country. They've even been recognized as a "wetland of international importance" under the international Ramsar Treaty and the United Nations.

    It should be preserved and restored as it's part of our stewardship of this planet for which we will all find ourselves one day to be judged. Yet, as we switch the land from agricultural uses back to wetlands there are economic considerations that come into play.

    More than a decade has past since the creation of the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. During the public meetings held leading up to the refuge's creation, supporters argued that agricultural jobs lost could in part be replaced with tourism jobs, both directly created and indirectly supported through the dollars spent by visitors.

    One of the promises made consisted of a federal interpretive center for the wetlands. More than a decade later that has not happened. Instead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rents space on the "rustic campus" formerly known as "plywood tech" at Shawnee Community College, which is near the refuge, but not even on it.

    Originally, backers proposed a joint interpretive center and headquarters to house both the state's offices for the Heron Pond/Little Black Slough on the upper Cache and the USFWS offices for the federal refuge on the lower Cache.

    About 12 years ago discussions centered on locating the center on the northwest quadrant of the I-57/Ullin Road interchange. A service station and modern hotel graced the south side of the road and the state police had their district offices a bit farther down. The north side was a field backed up to a beautiful cypress slough. A hardwood forest along the banks of the Cache River itself served as the backdrop.

    Not only was it almost at the midway point of the Cache River it was right on the interstate, a perfect location to draw travelers off for a spell. For some reason that didn't happen.

    I've been told that some feared if they put it there, a McDonalds might open next to it.

    But that's the point! Jobs through tourism! Tourists can't spend money out in the woods. They can't spend money on the boardwalk out in Heron Pond, they can only drop their wallet in the water and that doesn't do either the tourist or the region any good. For tourism to create jobs, the tourists have to spend money locally.

    Had DNR been interested in helping the local community rather than building a new office for the site superintendent at Giant City State Park, that new interpretive center would have been located somewhere in downtown Makanda near the boardwalk just outside the park boundary, a natural stopping place for tourists to spend their money.

    Likewise, an interpretive center at the Ullin interchange would boost the fortunes, as bleak as they are, in that corner of Pulaski County.

    By the way, Pulaski is one of five counties in Southern Illinois along the Ohio River that doesn't have a fast food restaurant, which is to say that a McDonalds would be an improvement and an attraction that could pull off interstate travelers.

    Instead we have the Henry Barkhausen Cache River Wetlands Center located in Johnson County backed up to a flooded field that one day will be pretty in a wild sort of way, but for now is still in its infancy. It's in the middle of nowhere though at least it is on a state highway, an improvement over the existing site office.

    Gov. Jim Edgar broke ground on the building that was finished under Gov. George Ryan's administration. Now two years into Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration it is still closed.

    Yesterday I picked up at a heritage meeting that DNR will finally open the center in January. That's the good news.

    The bad news is that it won't be open seven days a week and for the most part won't be staffed. You see, at the same time they plan to open the site the governor is laying off the two-thirds of the site's staff so the site superintendent will now be by himself somehow doing his job, his two assistant's jobs as well as run a new interpretive center on Tuesdays through Saturdays.

    Well maybe they can bring staff from another site you say? The state site adjacent to the Cache River is the Tunnel Hill State Trail that has a spur that runs to the center. The trail office is in Vienna in its own office/interpretive center. And guess what? The state is laying off the site superintendent there.

    Meanwhile over at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency they have no money for either site superintendents, site technicians or site interpreters for any of the five sites they own along the Ohio River.

    Something needs to be done and the first thing is that the leaders in Springfield and Chicago needs to recognize that a problem exists.
    Trail of Tears Chief Praised
    A letter to the editor in yesterday's Southern Illinoisan praised the long service of Andy West, the site superintendent of Trail of Tears State Forest and one of the nearly 90 employees of the Department of Natural Resources being laid off.

    The letter is the second one on the page.

    Besides superintending the state forest, West is also involved in the effort to locate, mark and commemorate the Cherokee Trail of Tears, which as one might come to expect in Illinois, doesn't actually go through the state forest, but just near it.

    Laying off the people who manage the sites in the field rather than the layers higher up only will hurt Southern Illinois' efforts to create jobs through tourism.