From the Monticello Female Seminary Archives: The Civil War Letters of Captain David W. Norton to Mary (Mollie) Chapman

This talk is canceled for now for the health and safety of the speaker and community.

Have you ever wondered what Civil War soldiers wrote in personal letters to parents, family members and friends back home? What did they reveal about what they saw or how they felt during fearful extraordinary times in battle and during routine daily events in camp? 

In his presentation, “From the Monticello Female Seminary Archives: The Civil War Letters of Captain David W. Norton to Mary (Mollie) Chapman,” Springfield writer Mark Flotow will tell us about one such correspondence between a young lady attending Monticello Female Seminary and an Union Army officer stationed in Tennessee. 

Mark’s presentation draws from his recently published book: In Their Letters, in Their Words: Illinois Civil War Soldiers Write Home. He discovered the letters written to Mary—she called herself Mollie—in the Monticello Archives in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. He also found more tidbits about Mollie in her student writings and letters to home in Jerseyville. 

In addition to writing the book, Mark is a volunteer interviewer for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s Oral History program. He is a past member of the advisory board for the Illinois State Historical Society and has written several articles for the Society’s magazine, Illinois Heritage.

The presentation will take place Thursday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Farley Music Hall in Elsah. It is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following Mark’s presentation.

This presentation is one of this year’s Hosmer-Williams Lectures sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and underwritten by Liberty Bank: A United Community Bank.

Attention media, print and otherwise, for additional information, contact George Provenzano, at gprovenzano@lc.edu, or visit our website, historicelsah.org

Photographers – “Meet and Greet” and “Walk Around Elsah”

Farley

Saturday morning, March 7, from 9 a.m. to noon, individuals and photography clubs are invited to a special Elsah Meet and Greet at Farley Music Hall and “on-your-own Photo-Shoot session” around the valley. This activity is being held to encourage participation and answer questions by youth and adult photographers about the Village of Elsah Museum 21st annual Photography Exhibit. The exhibit theme is “My Favorite Window.” If it is raining on March 7th, the activity will be canceled. 

The Meet and Greet for photographers at the Farley Music Hall provides an opportunity to meet and ask questions of the Village of Elsah Museum committee members and former winners, Marty McKay, Karen King, and Carolyn Schuelter. Participants will be coming and going, as well as taking part in the photo shoot. If participants have submissions ready, they will be accepted at the Meet and Greet at Farley Music Hall. There will be another opportunity for delivery later in the month. 

The Village of Elsah Museum will hold the 21st annual Elsah Photography Exhibit from Saturday, April 4, to Sunday, August 2, 2020. The theme is “My Favorite Window.” The exhibit will be held in the Museum building, Elsah Village Hall, at 26 LaSalle Street, Elsah, Illinois. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, April 4, 2020 during which the winners are announced. 

Submissions are due by Monday, March 16, 2020. Delivery of entries can be done in person at the Meet and Greet on Saturday, March 7 at 37 Mill (Farley Music Hall) and at 26 LaSalle (Village Hall) on Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15, 2020 from 1 to 4 p.m. Mail and delivery by appointment are also options for entries. For full details, see url: www.escapetoelsah.com. Questions should be directed to historicelsah@gmail.com

Photographers, amateur and professional, are invited to make submissions to the exhibit and participate in the purchase prize portion of the exhibit. As in previous years, the photographs will be for sale and the photographers will retain all proceeds. 

The Prizes include: 

  • the Village of Elsah (taken at a location in the Elsah valley area) purchase prize of $200 that includes permission rights to use the photograph in publicity for the photography exhibit; 
  • the Greatriverroad.com (taken at a location in the surrounding area, or representative of the larger Elsah area) purchase prize of $200 that includes permission to use the photograph in publicity for the photography exhibit; 
  • the Green Tree Inn will donate a one-night stay for two to the winner of the Village of Elsah (valley) purchase prize winner; and 
  • the Youth Section Prize (taken in either valley or surrounding location) of $100 for a photographer between 12 to 18 for the best submitted photograph taken by a youth; 
  • additional recognitions may be awarded.

Full rules may be found here.

Antislavery Activism on the Illinois Frontier: The Story of the English Prairie

In 1823, fourteen years before the murder of abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy in Alton, a fierce wave of antislavery sentiment among pioneer farmers in the Wabash River Valley prevented Illinois from becoming a slave state. These early settlers of our state were instrumental in voting down a referendum for a constitutional convention that would have undoubtedly legalized slavery Illinois. 

These frontiersmen were followers of two English idealists, Morris Birkbeck and George Flower, who sought to establish utopian communities that were free from what they regarded as the economic and political tyranny of emerging industrialization. But Birkbeck and Flower soon came to realize they could not achieve their goal in an environment where slavery existed, and both men took steps to halt the advance of what historians now refer to as the ‘peculiar institution.’ 

Historian Caroline Kisiel will tell us about this largely forgotten but momentous episode in Illinois history in a presentation, “Antislavery Activism on the Illinois Frontier: The Story of the English Prairie,” at Farley Music Hall, 37 Mill Street, in Elsah, Thursday, November 14, at 7:30 pm. 

Caroline Kisiel is coming to Elsah courtesy of the Illinois Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, a program of the Illinois Humanities. Illinois Humanities is a non-profit organization that promotes public dialogue and examination of issues important to sustaining democracy. 

George’s presentation is one of this year’s Hosmer-Williams Lectures sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and underwritten by Liberty Bank: A United Community Bank.

The program is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

Attention media, print and otherwise, for additional information, contact George Provenzano, at gprovenzano@lc.edu.

The Semples in Elsah

In 1851 at age 53, General James Semple (his Illinois Militia rank from the Blackhawk War) moved his family from Vandalia to Jersey County, Illinois. In his words, Semple “settled in the woods, at Jersey Landing,” a village he later renamed, Elsah.

In this picturesque region of rolling hills and majestic bluffs, four miles from the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, Semple set about rebuilding his much depleted personal wealth. He purchased large tracts of land, built a family home called Trevue (Tree View), and for the remaining 15 years of his life, this prairie entrepreneur successfully engaged in businesses in land and transportation development, freight transfer and farming.

Just before moving to Elsah, Semple had abruptly abandoned a long career in public service. Four years in the U.S. Senate left him bitter and dissatisfied with the pettiness of party politics. He declined to run again for the Senate; he rebuffed being nominated to run for governor. In Semple’s mind, his achievements in public office had come at too high a price to his family and his fortune.

Local historian, George Provenzano will tell the story of “The Semples of Elsah,” at Farley Music Hall in Elsah, Thursday, October 17, at 7:30 pm.

He will present new insights into the lives of the General, his wife, and six children obtained from dozens of family letters written during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The letters relate how the lives of the Semple parents changed as their children married, left home and started families of their own. Be prepared to hear some surprises.

With this program, Historic Elsah Foundation will reopen Farley Music Hall for public events for the first time since May when the Great Flood of 2019 backed up into Elsah and seeped into Farley. The HEF Board has worked very hard to bring this antique building back to life. A new floor and wainscoting and exterior painting have put the venue back into its old, glorious form. Please come see for yourself.

George’s presentation is one of this year’s Hosmer-Williams Lectures sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and underwritten by Liberty Bank: A United Community Bank.

The program is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

Attention media, print and otherwise, for additional information, contact George Provenzano, at gprovenzano@lc.edu.