WCHS Held Annual Christmas Lunch

The annual Christmas lunch for the Williamson County Historical Society was held on December 3, 2014 at Bennie’s restaurant in Marion. The society typically gathers to share a meal prior to the season’s holidays and celebrate the year’s work.

At the lunch, long time society President, Bob Jackson, was awarded a plaque to commemorate his twelve years of service as President of the historical society, having served in that position from 2003 to 2014. Jackson was awarded the plaque by Sam Lattuca, incoming 2015 board President.

Also recognized at the lunch was museum coordinator, Sharon Vansaghi, who was hired by the board in March 2014. The new position was created so that the museum could stay open 6 days a week through the warm months of the year allowing increased public access to the museum. This position was made possible by a stipend paid by the Marion city council and has paid off. The museum this year saw approximately 1,400 visitors. Many of the visitors were genealogy researchers from not only out of the region, but out of the state, having come from Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, Canada and many other locations to research lost ancestors and historical events.

Southern Illinois Heritage Expo kicks off Dec. 6

HERRIN – The Southern Illinois Heritage Expo will kick off its inaugural event Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Herrin Civic Center featuring Chris Vallillo, a nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and folk musician, and Ruthie Shelton, author and heir of the infamous Shelton Brothers.

Vallillo makes the people and places of “un-metropolitan” America come to life in song by weaving songs and narratives into a compelling portrait of the history and lifestyles in the Midwest. He will be performing such songs as “The Death of Carl Shelton” plus his own 2013 release, “Bloody Williamson”, a song telling the Herrin Massacre story from a UMWA miner’s viewpoint. Continue reading

What’s Going on at the Museum

There are a number of projects in the works at the Williamson County Historical Society which we hope to have implemented over the winter months as follows:

  • Online membership applications and renewals will be made available on our website through a secure PayPal account which means you can use your PayPal account or a credit card to join or pay your dues.
  • Indexes for all of our Williamson County records related to divorce, chancery, criminal, common law, partitions and injunctions will be made available online and the ability to purchase the contents of these files using a credit card or PayPal account will be made available online.
  • Our bookstore list of items we sell will be improved dramatically with photos and complete descriptions of each book or article. Orders will be able to be placed and paid for online instead of having to rely on regular mail and sending a check.
  • Numerous federal, state, and private grants are being looked into to improve the museum and preserve and display its artifacts. This has become an ongoing project that is taking a lot of volunteer time, but hopefully will pay off eventually down the road.
  • A digital media project is now underway and will hopefully be completed over the winter. This project is related to the inventorying and cataloging of all photos and pictures contained within the museum. All photos are being scanned, cleaned up and catalogued into a database which will allow searches for specific people, places and things. An earlier failed attempt to get this done under an Illinois Humanities Council grant only resulted in the resolve to get it done anyway. As much data as can be known about each photo will be retained in the database.
  • The new Marion High School in Marion is going to have some very large murals in it which will be collages of historic photos related to the Marion High School past in various areas such as athletics and art. The museum has been helping the company involved find plenty of photos for them to use on the project.
  • There is an attempt being made to encourage volunteer museum workers to develop areas of expertise related to our counties history such as Civil War, the depression, prohibition, etc. If you have an area of expertise already or wish to do research on a particular area of interest, please contact us.
  • We are seeking volunteers who can help field answers to queries on this website.

As always, we really need volunteer help for our organization to work and, of course, a number of us are stretched pretty thin. If you have a skill set related to research, grant writing, website or computer expertise, fundraising or video production, we could use your help. Use the Contact Us page to volunteer.

Ghost Hunters Spend Night at Museum

The Southern Illinois Ghost Hunters Society, S.I.G.H.S., spent the night at the Williamson County Museum located at 105 S. Van Buren Street in Marion, Sunday night. The group arrived at the museum at 7 P.M. Sunday night, November 9, and departed at 3:30 A.M on Monday morning. They were hosted at the museum by Williamson County Historical Society board member, Sam Lattuca, who sat with them through the night. This was the third time that the society has spent the evening in the historic museum setting up devices to try and catch paranormal activity.

The group consisting of Justin Timmons, Donna Smith, Briana Smith, Hayley Triplett, Ashley Kunkel, Jon Reed, Bethann Cline and Erin Settle try to regularly visit historic sites such as historic buildings, cemeteries and residential homes. They have invested in EVP recorders to catch unearthly voices, infrared cameras to detect normally invisible objects and events and a host of other tools to tease the paranormal to reveal itself.

Three cameras were set up this time, one in the Sheriff’s master bedroom on the second floor, the jury sequester room on the third floor and a second floor jail cell in the jail portion of the building. According to Justin Timmons, the group had prior paranormal activity in these locations which included spontaneous hair pulling and EVP activity. One of the group members reported that she had taken a photo from outside the building and the photo revealed a figure standing in one of the first floor windows which could no longer be possible since the windows are not accessible from the inside any longer. Pickings were a little slimmer on this trip as the group documented only one unidentified noise and a handprint that appeared on the bed upstairs.

The old county jail museum was built in 1913 and has certainly seen its share of strife, including a hanging by suicide in one of the jail cells, a prisoner death related to a fall down stairs and a legal hanging which took place in Paradise Alley just outside the jail in 1927.

The group plans on reviewing all of their data for more activity and will report back to the museum of any new findings.