A Very Special Place: Pere Marquette State Park, a talk by Richard C. Keating

Pere-Marquette-BookScholar, educator, and author Richard Keating will describe the history, natural beauty, and importance of Pere Marquette State Park at Farley Music Hall, Elsah, Illinois, on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The lecture is part of the Hosmer-Williams Lecture Series for 2017, sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and sponsored by Liberty Bank, Godfrey, Illinois. The author will autograph copies of his new book, Pere Marquette State Park, Jersey County, Illinois: An Unofficial Guide to History, Natural History, Trails and Drives, available that evening.

Keating’s book includes discussions of the park’s origins and amenities, including cabins, campgrounds, and equestrian and boating facilities, along with vehicular drives and hiking trails that invite exploration. Color maps and photographs illustrate some of the park’s features.

The area is often described as being first “discovered” in 1673 by a group led by map maker Louis Jolliet and French missionary Father Jacques Marquette. The group also wrote the first-known account of paintings of the Piasa Bird. When the park was established more than two centuries later, it was named in honor of one of the area’s early explorers.

The original park was about 1,500 acres, but has grown with time through various land acquisitions. The architecturally-renowned lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is made of limestone and massive timbers, and features a 50-foot vaulted ceiling, handmade chandeliers and a huge 700-ton stone fireplace. A small museum is open to the public.

Keating retired as a biology professor from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Illinois.  During his several decades in the river bend region, he and his family became fascinated by these natural landscapes. Having long realized the unusual value of Pere Marquette State Park, he felt inspired to help others to better appreciate the history, natural history, and importance of this rare Midwestern landscape.

The lecture is free and open to the public, at Farley Music Hall, 37 Mill Street, Elsah, Illinois. Reservations are not required. Parking is available. Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

For additional information, contact Tim Tomlinson, Historic Elsah Foundation, at 618.374.1518.

Invitation to Evening Following the Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail

Godfrey Trail FlyerYou are cordially invited to join in a magical evening following the Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail on Thursday, October 12, 2017, from 6–10 p.m. at Trimpe Hall, Lewis & Clark College.

Watch as Benjamin Godfrey’s life unfolds before you.

Stroll the trail. Enjoy a libation from the cash bar, as you see and hear about the nine trail sites, followed by a delicious period dinner.

Listen to the stories of Captain Godfrey and Reverend Theron Baldwin as they relate the “ups and downs” of their lives.

Purchase and enjoy:

  • Coasters portraying two of the sites,
  • A book titled, “Seymour Bluffs and Benjamin Godfrey,” by two local authors,
  • A video telling the Benjamin Godfrey story.

Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/northaltongodfreybc

Advance Reservations Required

$50 per person, offered at the following locations:

  • Liberty Bank, 2403 Homer Adams Parkway, Alton
  • Alton Regional Tourism Bureau

Or by mail:

Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail
PO Box 306
Godfrey, IL 62035

Make checks payable to, “Benjamin Godfrey Legacy Trail.”

Reservation Deadline

October 5, 2017


The Great Chautauqua Fire, a talk by Betsy Dugan

Chautauqua Fire

Long time New Piasa Chautauqua resident and environmentalist Betsy Dugan will speak on, “The Great Chautauqua Fire,” at Farley’s Music Hall, Elsah, Illinois, on May 25, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. The lecture is part of the Hosmer-Williams Lecture Series for 2017, sponsored by Historic Elsah Foundation and underwritten by Liberty Bank, Godfrey, Illinois. The theme for this year’s series is, “local, local, local.” Refreshments will be served following the lecture.

The Chautauqua community on the Great River Road is one of ten remaining historic Chautauqua communities in the country and the last of such communities in Illinois. Founded in 1885 as the “Western Chautauqua,” the community will celebrate its 132nd year in 2017. Buffeted by floods and other natural disasters over the years, the “Great Fire” of March 19, 1957 severely tested the community’s resolve and resiliency. It destroyed 17 family cottages. Although several area fire departments, including Principia College volunteers, helped fight the fire. many had little or no knowledge of the community. The Alton Fire Department didn’t even know the way to Chautauqua. Local news reports described the fire in hyperbolic terms, stating the flames burned tree branches fifty feet above the ground, and that the reflection from the fire was visible in the pre-dawn sky from a distance of 13 miles.

Betsy Dugan will describe the Great Fire in words and pictures. Dugan is a long-time resident of the Chautauqua community, and has served in a leadership capacity on various Chautauqua community boards. A teenager in 1957 when the fire broke out, she visited the scene almost immediately after the fire with her father. Her family cottage was one of the 17 lost in the fire. Dugan’s family responded to the fire in the same manner as most of the families who had lost cottages in the fire, by rebuilding. Her talk will feature photos of the fire and its aftermath as well as images of the 1950’s setting of Chautauqua and surrounding riverscape.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. Parking is available.

Attention media, print and otherwise, for additional information, contact Tim Tomlinson, Historic Elsah Foundation, 618.374.1518.

Cemeteries, Public and Private, in Our Midst

Beth McGlasson, Vice President of the Jersey County Historical Society, will speak on Cemeteries, Public and Private, in Our Midst. Beth and her husband have spent a great deal of time researching old records in Jersey County, and in cataloguing public and private records. When driving the back roads of the County it is not unusual to come across a small group of gravestones. What’s the story behind them? The talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session. Refreshments will be served.

March 23, 2017, 7:30 PM, Farley Music Hall, 37 Mill St., Elsah, Illinois.

The Hopewell People, by Dr. Andrew Martin

hopewell_exchange_network_hroe_2010The Hopewell culture was the first pan-american culture that stretched from Kansas to New York, Canada to Florida from 200BC to 500AD.  It was an enormous culture with many local expressions that traded ideas and artifacts with each other over vast distances. The people who lived in Elsah were at the very southern edge of the Havana Hopewell – one of these local expressions, but also one of the main cultural centers, together with the Ohio Hopewell – in North America. Artifacts from as far as Yellowstone, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and Florida were found in elaborate burial mounds that lined the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers along the bluffs. The talk will explain a bit about the development and history of the Havana Hopewell and touch on few of the possible reasons why it was so prominent in North America. [Map source]

martin-aDr. Andrew Martin is an associate professor at Principia College, teaching archaeology, anthropology and art history.  He received his PhD from Cambridge University in England, having done his research on the Hopewell mounds along the Lower Illinois Valley near Kampsville.

This talk takes place Thursday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m. in Farley Music Hall, and is part of the Hosmer-Williams Lecture Series, sponsored by Liberty Bank.