Wednesday, February 03, 2010
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Elkhart to host 'Tales of Hog Marches and Cattle Kings' March 12

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[February 03, 2010]  ELKHART -- The Elkhart Historical Society will present "Tales of Hog Marches and Cattle Kings," the first of their 2010 dinner lecture series, on March 12. Two speakers will talk about how our local cattle and hog industries were influenced by the historic individuals who raised and sold livestock in central Illinois.

InsuranceBill Kemp, librarian and archivist at the McLean County Museum of History, will begin the evening with a talk on "Pioneer Cattle and Hog Driving." Before the coming of the railroads, farmers marched livestock to markets as far away as Chicago and Cincinnati from McLean County. Can you imagine driving 2,000 hogs 120 miles to Chicago in the wind, ice and snow of November? Kemp has gathered tales to share from Isaac Funk and other influential livestock farmers.


Kemp has a master's degree in history from Illinois State and a master's in public affairs from the University of Illinois Springfield. He has published articles in the Journal of Illinois History and Illinois Heritage and writes a weekly column on local history in The Pantagraph, Bloomington's daily newspaper.

"John Dean Gillett -- Cattle King of the World" will be the topic of the second talk of the evening. For many years in the late 1800s, the town of Elkhart was one of the largest shipping points on the Chicago & Alton Railroad, due to the large stock farms of John Dean Gillett. Noted for importing Durham cattle from Scotland and developing the shorthorn cattle breed, Gillett shipped over 2,000 head of cattle and 1,000 head of hogs to Europe annually. The London Gazette dubbed him "The Cattle King of the World." The speaker, Gillette Ransom, is a direct descendent of Gillett and a resident of Elkhart.

Currently John Dean Gillett is featured in the exhibit "Illinois Stories -- How Vast and How Varied a Field ... The Agricultural Vision of Abraham Lincoln" at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield. The exhibit continues until Aug. 31 and includes a brief biography, as well as several artifacts such as ledgers, a branding iron and a cattle registry.

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The dinner lecture series will be at the Wild Hare Cafe in historic downtown Elkhart. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. and the talks are from 7 to 8 p.m. Reservations and prepayment are required, and space is limited. Cost is $17.99, or $13.99 for a meatless entree. The dinner package price includes the meal, dessert, drink, tax and gratuity. The reservation deadline is March 4. For information and the online, printable reservation form, see, or call 217-947-2046.

Future talks in the Friday evening dinner lecture series have been scheduled. Bill McClain will give presentations April 16 and 23 on "Elkhart Hill: The Biological and Cultural History of a Prairie Grove." To complement his talks, McClain will lead the Wildflower Nature Walks on Elkhart Hill on April 17 and 24. On July 16, Bob and Chuck McCue will speak about "Lincoln's Life on the 8th Judicial Circuit" and the "DAR 8th Judicial Circuit Markers." The next day, July 17, there will be historical tours of Elkhart Hill.

[Text from file received from the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County]

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