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 [email protected].