The 3rd weekend of October is a special time in Illinois’s Pike County. The Fall Color Drive brings visitors to this county known for their large white-tail deer population. While that is a draw, I also found that the county and Pittsfield in particular has a lot of history.
With field work almost wrapped up,we took the Sunday drive and our first stop on the drive was the town of Detroit where at the visitor’s check in information point, I learned that Detroit had been home to the oldest living Civil War Veteran in Pike County who lived to the ripe old age of 102. The site offered a museum with information that Edwin McAllister shared his birthday with Abraham Lincoln. This Pike County Civil War veteran actually met Abraham Lincoln. He was well-known in the area because he shared Civil War stories with school classrooms.
While looking at his picture, I read that the local DAR had located a Civil War Flag. A little bit of digging and I learned that the flag was a 34-star linsey wool flag measuring 54 X 85 inches. According to an article in the Herald-Whig, the flag was made by a group of Griggsville women in 1862 and it was carried into 17 battles.
The flag is now on display in the Pittsfield County Courthouse and it had originally come from Edwin McAllister and Edward Penstone who gave it to the Pittsfield-based Nancy Ross Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1930. Over the years the flag had been misplaced and once found was restored in 2005 and is now on display in the courthouse. For 18 months it was on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.
I was amazed by this fascinating Civil War History of the women that sewed the flag, the veterans that honored it and the DAR that restored it and the County that displays it!
While I saw the flag during the color drive, this is on display during the week at the courthouse which is open to the public. The courthouse itself is a piece of art. Take the time to look up and see the amazing stained glass on the rotunda. The Courthouse was built in 1894 and was designed by architect Henry Elliott with an octagonal shape that makes it quite unique. Log onto http://www.pikeil.org/ for more information.
Pittsfield also offers the fun John Green Shastid House where Abraham Lincoln visited and stayed the night. The story goes that on the day he came that the family had bagged quail for dinner that night and Lincoln lost in thought ate the last one causing John Green Shastid’s grandson Thomas Hall Shastid to yell out, “Abe Lincoln, you’re an old hog”.
During our stop in Pittsfield I had the chance to see the East School Museum, one I have been trying to get to for years. Located in the 1866 school the big beautiful building is filled with people and places of interest. There I spied a pair of pants that Robert Earl Hughes, the World’s Largest Man had wore, some beautiful agricultural equipment a little John Nicolay and John Hay political history and much more. Next door to the East School Museum is the newly opened Pike County All Wars Museum which honors those who served. This museum was quite well done. With a father that fought in the Korean War, I am always filled with admiration for the War Museums that remind us of the sacrifices men and women made for our freedoms.
These are just a few of the sites to stop and see. The town has some beautiful homes and buildings and there is also a historic walking map I picked up somewhere along the line that mentions several other places to check out. The Chamber of Commerce phone number is 217-285-2971 or check out the website listed above.
There is a lot of political history and war history in this neck of the woods. While many only think of hunting in Pike County, I found that this is a great place to plan a day trip and enjoy!