Jefferson County Historical Society, Village, and Museum
Born for community enrichment and educational purposes 71 years ago, the Jefferson County Historical Society mission is to educate about history in general and the history of Jefferson County, Illinois in particular. Details of our organization and management and how to join us are described under membership.
We have been saving memory placeholders for over seventy years now. Many are sure to take you back in time to a person, place, or era special in your memory. Read more about our first 71 years here.
Many of our visitors from around the county, the country, and the world have had nice things to say about experiences during their tours. Some of the visitor comments are listed here.
An outdated but still relevant video shows some of the village features of interest as described by village volunteers:
Open weekends May through October
You are encouraged to tour the village and museum any or all weekends during the Summer months. Docents will be standing by to help you locate something specific you may be interested in finding or to guide you through the main village and museum. You are also welcome to explore on your own at your leisure. You can pick up a brochure at the Welcome Cabin that will help you find your way around the village and identify the main village features.
The village buildings are open from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays, including any holidays during the period. Entrance is always free, but we encourage donations with gift boxes available for that purpose throughout the village and museum.
The village grounds and nature trails are always open to the public even though the buildings are closed from November through April, except during group tours. Village scenes have become popular backdrops for photo sessions. The trails offer an educational and enjoyable change of pace for your exercise routines.
The Carl L. Schweinfurth Museum and Interpretive Center is the educational and entertainment heart of the village. In addition to three categories of displays, it houses the Fern Watson Library, the office, the kitchen, the restrooms, and controlled-environment storage for generations of artifacts. The area inside the main entrance is available for public use and is used for special programs.
Educational and entertaining programs have been developed and presented for public enrichment since 2013. First person portrayals of historical figures such as Betsy Ross, Clara Barton, and Molly Brown, to name only a few, have become popular events.
At least one program is scheduled into the busy village calendar each month. Community citizens and business leaders are encouraged to help support the events by becoming a sponsor or co-sponsor of one or more of the special engagements.
The Prairie Child Program was initiated a few years ago to bring history to life for the younger generation. Popular with parents for a whole day break and with the kids, even the ones who thought they didn't want to go, the program won a state-level award in 2013.
Group tours may be scheduled at any time
Some of our best-trained docents will be happy to open the village buildings and the museum any time you have a group of people interested in a guided tour. We conduct about 20 scheduled tours per year, mostly for school groups. Schools have traveled up to 200 miles for the educational benefits to their students.
When possible, one of the local blacksmiths will be on hand to enlighten tourists and tour guides alike in the nearly lost art of blacksmithing. Always a fascinating stop.
Weddings, group meetings, and special events
The old Mount Olive Church has become a popular site for small to medium sized weddings. The museum auditorium area is often used for wedding receptions, and it is available for other public events at very nominal fees. Call the office for details and to reserve your dates.
An important part of our operation is the planning and conduct of fundraisers throughout the year. These endeavors enable the citizens of the county to support their Jefferson County Historical Village and Museum in an enjoyable, entertaining way. The primary public fundraising events include the February Chili Luncheon, the Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social, the Cedarhurst Craft Fair Booth, the Heritage Festival, and the Chocolate Fest.
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With the combination of programs and fundraisers, there is an amazing amount of activity. We hope you will find your niche somewhere in these varied opportunities and make "the village" a part of your life. You can keep up with the schedule of events by becoming a member and receiving all the updates, or by sticking close to Facebook. Most of the events are also advertised in the local newspapers.
Pathway bricks and marble benches provide a lasting memorial for individuals, families, and organizations. A brick or bench purchase is also one of the many ways you can support your Jefferson County Historical Village and Museum. Pick up a brochure with all the details next time you visit or call the office and we will mail you one.
So we have a lot of effort going into teaching about Jefferson County history and showing off what has been assembled over the past 70 years. Isn't that enough? We're pretty busy just maintaining and fulfilling our mission. But what about the next xx years? What will be left from the now generation for our grandchildren to remember us by? Has progress reached the point that there is nothing new to be invented to replace all the good stuff we think is the ultimate now?
Not on your life!
But our current stuff will need to get a lot older and quite obsolete before we realize we have to save some of it for future generations. Right now, we are behind on preserving disappearing artifacts for a few generations already passed. To keep our history continuous, we urgently need to take action now.
Office hours Monday through Friday all year
The society office, located inside the Schweinfurth Museum through the door behind the Welcome Cabin, is open each weekday afternoon from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding holidays. You might be able to take a quick look through the museum if the folks on duty are not too busy. Best to call ahead.