This article appeared in the Effingham Daily News on June 6, 2017. Illinois Humanities brings lecturers, performers, authors, and artists to communities throughout the state through the Road Scholars program. You can find the original article here.
EFFINGHAM — Local historians have put together an “Evening at the Movies” to be shown at the Effingham County Courthouse Museum on Saturday.
Several stories will be told through film created by cinematographer Matthew Devall in an event that was partially funded by a grant from Illinois Humanities Council, said Jane Ries, vice president of Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association. All videos will be shown in the newly renovated second floor of the old courthouse.
The museum will open at 6 p.m. and movies will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday. The event is free.
Each short movie runs between 2 minutes to almost 9 minutes long and covers topics that focus on several historic events and people in Effingham County, such as the St. Anthony Hospital fire, Effingham County Railroad, Effingham County soldiers and more.
“We wanted to showcase different segments of Effingham County’s history,” said Ries. “We came up with the topics with feedback from our members and our board members.”
Jo Thomas, 71, of Shumway, portrayed Effingham County activist Ada Kepley, who among many significant accomplishments, was the first woman in the world to graduate from law school on June 30, 1870. However, due to laws in Illinois at that time, she wasn’t issued a license to practice law until years later.
Thomas, said Kepley, who moved to Effingham in about 1866, around age 19, was ahead of her time as a reformer and women’s rights activist. She married a young attorney, Henry B. Kepley in 1867. He encouraged her to go to law school.
Thomas said Kepley was known for many roles, including author, an ordained minister and a newspaper publisher. She also was well known for her temperance crusade.
Devall said the most difficult part of the project was not having 30 minutes in each episode to tell each story.
“Most of these topics could justify having their own half hour PBS program, and our longest video is 9 minutes,” said Devall. “I think we got the job done, though.”
He added the vision for the overall project came into focus as the project developed. But, he had to realize that telling the whole story in most cases wasn’t possible in this project.
“I had the easy part,” said Thomas. “(Cinematographer) Matthew (Devall) had a vision. I just followed his instructions.”
Devall is a graduate of Effingham High School, where he is a product of AHA filmmaking under the direction of Craig Lindvahl and Joe Fatheree. He graduated from Eastern Illinois University and now owns Abintra Media. He resides in Effingham.
“We hope people will learn more about the rich history of Effingham County in a visual way that allows people to watch them at their leisure either in the museum or on our YouTube channel,” said Ries.
Videos to be shown are: “What is the Effingham County Museum?” “Honoring Those Who Served,” “Fire Everywhere,” “Resting at Sea,” “Ada Kepley: A Love Story,” “Angels on the Battlefield,” “Effingham County Rail Road,” and “Restoring Our Culture,” which focuses on renovation of the old courthouse.
VIP seating will be available for those involved in the making of these videos.
The museum has purchased monitors that will be placed throughout the museum and will play a continuous loop in the future.
“We are trying to capture these stories before they are lost forever,” said Ries. “We’re also looking for more stories to tell as we continue to tell the story of Effingham County one picture, one person, and one place at a time.”