In The News

Fourth of July in Effingham County

This article appeared in the Effingham Daily News on July 4, 2017. This article mentions the work of our one of our grantees, the Peoria Public Library. You can find the original article here.

4th of July, 1832 in Effingham County

Now I’m going to take you back in time to the first 4th of July celebrated in Effingham County. Judge John Broom was noted for celebrating the first 4th of July in what had just become Effingham County in 1831. John Broom was born in 1809. He was 22 at the time of the first 4th of July celebration. I found this description of it in the 1883 county history as retold by Dr. James Newton Matthews. Although Dr. Matthews was not yet on the scene in 1832, the following “you were there” account of the celebration was no doubt the result of many sessions of reminiscences with the Judge. Here is Dr. James Newton Matthews retelling of that early 4th of July celebration involving John Broom.

“On the Fourth of July, 1832, a grand barbecue was instituted by Judge Broom and a few of the Vandalia boys, at Ewington. Bear meat and venison smoked upon the spits, whiskey toasts were drunk freely in tin cups and gourds, red-hot speeches were made, and the American Eagle flapped his wings and flew with patriotic pride above the hills of the Wabash. Judge Broom was selected to read the Declaration of Independence, and he did so, standing on an old cottonwood log just north of the bridge. He says he couldn’t spell half the words of the sacred document, and to this day is in total ignorance as to how he blundered through it. But nobody was competent to criticize him and nobody laughed. The Judge pronounces that the happiest day of his life. Of that jolly band of celebrators, he is the sole survivor in Effingham County. They have all dropped away, weary of the march, long ago.”

Judge John Broom died on February 9, 1886 and is buried at Mason Union Cemetery in Mason, Illinois. Many descendants of the Broom family still live in Effingham County. If you get a chance, stop by Mason Union Cemetery and pay your respects to Judge John Broom. You can find a picture of him in the museum too. He also helped build the National Road in Effingham County.

4th of July in Effingham County in 1965

4th of July is a holiday that I loved as a kid. I was patriotic then and I’m still a very patriotic person. Let me take you back to the 4th of July when I was 10 in 1965. I stood when the flag passed by and I always put my hand over my heart. Teach your children to do the same.

During the day before the fireworks started at Community park, we made do with our own little 4th of July display. Back then I was fascinated with snappers and snakes. They were a nickel a pack at Tolch’s grocery store. In the weeks before the 4th of July I scrounged for pop bottles to sell so I could purchase my share of poppers and snakes. When I’d raised enough money I hopped on my Schwinn and headed to Tolch’s store to make my big purchase.

Fireworks were best if you shared with a friend, so I’d gather my buddy Sus and we’d head out to the sidewalk in front of the house. You had to throw those snappers hard onto the sidewalk to get that loud “BOOM”. They were smaller than marbles and basically just made a loud sound and a little puff of smoke, but oh how we loved them! With the snakes, we started out lighting one at a time, but soon we succumbed to temptation and piled a whole pack of snakes together and lit them at the same time. Our eyes bugged out as a snake started to grow that was the size of a real one! The air filled with the smoke and stayed that way leaving a filmy haze in the air. All up and down the street you witnessed other kids with snappers and snakes doing the same thing. It was a glorious sight to see!

When evening came, Mom and Dad loaded us into the station wagon along with a big blanket for us to sit on. We waited patiently for the baseball game to end because the fireworks wouldn’t start until it was over. As soon as the game ended people spread their blankets out in the grassy areas and waited for the fireworks. Once the fireworks started the air became smoky and the sounds of “Oooohs” and “Awwws” filled the air. People nearby honked their car horns in appreciation of the fireworks. When the grand finale came people stood and cheered and everyone shouted, “Great job! Happy 4th of July!”

From 1832 to 1965 and on into 2017 may we all still think of the 4th of July as a holiday that reminds you to celebrate the United States of America!

The evening of June 10, 2017 was a great evening at the museum. That was the night we premiered all eight of our videos that we had worked on for a year. If you were unable to attend that night, I invite you to the museum where you may watch each video on a monitor. If you are unable to visit the museum you can watch them on our You Tube channel, Effingham Museum. You can also find the videos on the museum’s Facebook page. It was the culmination of a year-long project, and the night was a success!

I want to thank all of the people who participated in the making of the videos. None of this would have been possible without the creative genius of Matthew Devall of Abintra Media. He filmed it all and wove the footage into amazing stories. Those who appeared in our videos are: Betty Bailey (Mason), LoElla Baker (Effingham), Kurt Becker (Altamont), Jill Boone (Edgewood), Reuben Boyajian (Effingham), Corey Dasenbrock (Teutopolis), Robert Devall (Effingham), Delaine Donaldson (rural Effingham), Michael Dupske (metro St. Louis area), Marilyn Heuerman (Teutopolis), Jerry Katz (Effingham), Lorean Loy Macklin (Mason), Dean Manuel (Altamont), Charles McWhorter (Dieterich), Steve Miller (Altamont), Calvin Mitchell (rural Effingham), Eldon Ooton (Effingham), Jane Ries (Effingham), Linda Ruholl (Teutopolis), Greg Sapp (Effingham), David Storm (Effingham), Jo Thomas and Russ Thomas (rural Effingham) and their grandchildren (Effingham), Gary Tipsword (Beecher City), Marylene Ries Weishaar (Island Grove), Allen Westendorf (rural Effingham), Jane Westjohn (Dieterich), Patty Winn (Effingham). and Dan Wormhoudt (Effingham). This project was partially funded by a grant from Illinois Humanities.

On June 24, 2017 we had another grand event with out Ladies’ Tea hosted by Susan Hoelscher and Sandy Richardson. Everyone enjoyed Linda Ruholl speaking as the Civil War nurse, Mary Newcomb, and the Civil War fashion show was delightful to see. On behalf of ECCCMA we thank everyone who helped to make this event happen and all who attended.

We had a vision to make the museum something that all in our county would be proud of and we are doing our best to make that vision come true. We truly appreciate your support. Remember, we’re always looking for volunteers to help at the museum.

If you need to contact the museum, call (217) 540-8655 to leave a message and we will get back to you. We offer tours for groups of all ages, so contact us if you would like a tour. If you have a veteran you would like honored or remembered or a school picture to add to our museum email me at or call me at 217.821.2427.

Thank you all for helping us to tell the story of Effingham County one picture, one person, and one place at a time. History happened here!