DeWitt County Museum Gives a Taste of History – and Apple n’ Pork
Journey to Central Illinois and you’ll see more than Abraham Lincoln’s home and museum. An hour northeast of Springfield in DeWitt County, you’ll learn about the special friendship Mr. Lincoln had with land baron C.H. Moore. You can take a peek into a different side of our 16th president – before he moved to the White House – and learn about his life as a circuit-riding lawyer.
Abe Lincoln and C.H. Moore formed a friendship that has lasted through the ages. And like friends today, they shared meals, work concerns and a love of the land.
They met when Lincoln worked as a traveling attorney. Lincoln would sometimes spend a week at a time in a particular town mingling amongst the people, staying in homes and eating in local taverns. Moore lived in the area and often opened his doors to the traveling Lincoln.
That took place in 1841, just after Moore had passed his bar exam. He and Lincoln even became law partners, often doing legal work for the Illinois Central Railroad. Moore preferred to be paid in land, but Lincoln preferred currency. As co-counsels in the courtroom, they worked on cases together and as opponents. To prove there were no hard feelings, Moore later became a political supporter of Lincoln.
The building where Moore and Lincoln shared an office still stands on the square in Clinton today, currently occupied by one of Moore’s descendants. When Lincoln went to Washington, D.C., Moore made sure the taxes on farmland Lincoln owned in Iowa were paid each year. Showcasing their friendship, the Lincolns’ family photo album prominently displayed two photos of Moore.
“Lincoln was a very familiar face in the DeWitt County community,” says Joey Woolridge, director of the C.H. Moore Homestead/DeWitt County Museum.
The museum in Clinton includes Moore’s restored Victorian mansion, the original carriage barn, gardens, replica of an Indiana-style covered bridge, working blacksmith shop, three barns filled with antique farm equipment, tools, buggies, sleighs, autos, railroad items and a working telephone display.
No tax money goes to support the museum – it receives all of its funds through memberships, donations and fundraisers, including the famous Apple ’n Pork Festival, which celebrates 50 years this fall.
Apple ’n Pork Festival Celebrates 50 Years
“The festival began as a way to restore this big home,” Woolridge says. “It all started with a kettle of soup and a stack of sandwiches on the lawn. It celebrates harvest and our agricultural roots.”
Why Apple ’n Pork amongst farmland that sprouts corn and soybeans? Both apples and pork relate to autumn and the traditional harvest season, Woolridge says.
“Apples ripen in the late summer/autumn, and when the weather cooled off, hogs could be butchered. Both were staples in self-sustaining pioneers’ diets,” she says.
No matter that few apple trees or free-range pigs dot the DeWitt County landscape anymore. With a bit of nostalgia in every succulent bite, this event represents a period of time in the early- to mid-19th century.
The festival’s featured signature dish: ham and beans, cooked in large kettles on an open fire, and served with cornbread slathered in butter or even a dollop of freshly made apple butter.
Observers can even watch the corn being ground into meal with vintage farm equipment. “The freshly ground cornmeal tastes great on fish (for a coating) or in hot cornbread,” Woolridge says.
But that’s not all – you can sink your teeth into thick ham sandwiches made from pork smoked in a smokehouse on property. Most festivalgoers can’t leave without souvenir apple butter. The menu brings back old-fashioned foods and memories of days gone by, taking travelers into a time capsule of the mid-1800s. No corn dogs, deep-fried Snickers or other carnival foods – those came many years later. A trip to the Moore homestead focuses on tradition.
Touring the Historic C.H. Moore Homestead
That history comes alive at the mansion, with furnishings representing Moore’s years of residence – the 1880s and 1890s. (Note: The mansion open for touring isn’t where Moore hosted Lincoln, but it is where Moore lived.)
Inside the home, decorated Victorian-style, elaborate furnishings speak of a well-to-do Moore. Imported French brocade window hangings decorate the music room. Cut glass prisms sparkle on the antique chandelier. A Steinway piano fills the center of the room.
Typical of the era, each bedroom heats with a fireplace, with the master bedroom’s hearth made out of marble. A stroll through the formal, wallpapered rooms transports the visitor to a time less hurried. A graceful Italian inlaid design table and matching pier mirror show off the formal front parlor.
In the kitchen, bins for flour and sugar, and drawers for spices beckon the cook in all of us to get busy on a homemade pie or cake.
And there’s more – three of the large buildings on the grounds display farm machinery from the beginning of prairie farming up to the 1950s or ’60s – a replica of the McCormick reaper, old plows and horse-drawn equipment.
“It shows what agriculture was like during that time, and the struggle of being a farmer, all the way to what it’s become now,” Woolridge says. “We attempt to interpret the period of C.H. Moore’s lifetime, preserving the entire span of history and the heritage of DeWitt County.”
[infobox alignment=”full” title=”If You Go…”]
C.H. Moore Homestead/DeWitt County
Museum Location: 219 E. Woodlawn, Clinton, IL 61727
Phone: (217) 935-6066
Admission: $5 for adults; $2 for ages 12-18. Ages 11 and under get in free.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays from April through December. Closed Mondays and holidays. [/infobox]