This article orginally appeared in the Star Courier
The Bishop Hill Heritage Association will revive a longstanding tradition Saturday, Sept. 7, by hosting the Bishop Hill Chautauqua, a free, family oriented event where re-enactors will tell stories about the historical characters they portray.
“Carl Sandburg,” poet, Lincoln biographer, two time Pulitzer Prize winner and Swedish American will regale the crowd with songs and stories of his origins in Illinois, his life as a hobo and his love of American folk music. Barry Cloyd, as Sandburg, will share some of the Galesburg native’s more famous poetry as well as a few lesser known works. He will sing a medley of the songs that trace America’s story through its music and reminisce about our 16th president Abraham Lincoln. He will share stories of Sandburg’s farm work in the Galva area and his visits to Bishop Hill where his sister was a teacher at the old Colony School.
Through storyteller and author Betty Kay, the audience will meet three Civil War-era women: Galesburg native and nurse Mother Bickerdyke, of whom General Sherman once said “She outranks me;” Irish Immigrant Jenny Hodgers who came to America looking for work as the war erupted and decided on soldiering, becoming Albert Cashier, then living as a man the rest of her days; and the wife of President U.S. Grant, Julia Dent Grant, whose life story mirrors many of the nation’s issues in a personal tale.
Ken Bradbury, the most published playwright in America, will portray himself as he plays the piano and takes the audience on a tour of American history through favorite songs. From old time gospel to modern rock, Broadway show tunes to folk revival classics, the audience will be invited to sing along to the songs that both broke hearts and healed old wounds as important moments in peoples lives were marked by these melodies.
The evening will end with an encounter of two pivotal characters in the earliest days of Illinois history. First, the Chautauqua audience will meet Illinois’ territorial governor during the War of 1812 and the man for whom a local river is named, Ninian Edwards. Because he was responsible for the forced removal of Illinois’ Indian population, Edwards will be challenged by Pottawatomi Chief Gomo, friend of Tecumseh and Black Partridge, who gave a pivotal speech in rebuttal to Edward’s admonitions. Both characters will be portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis so listeners can hear both sides of the story and decide for themselves where the truth lies.
The schedule is as follows:
1 p.m. — Illinois’ first poet laureate Carl Sandburg
3 p.m. — Three Civil War Women: Nurse Mother Bickerdike, Soldier Albert Cashiers and First Lady Julia Dent Grant.
5 p.m. — Dinner will be sold by the Bishop Hill Arts Council