With a theme of “Uniquely American”, folks are invited to Bishop Hill to meet Harriet Tubman, Moses of her People, Merewether Lewis and his Corps of Discovery, Fanny Crosby, The Queen of Gospel Song Writers, and Woody Guthrie, Dustbowl Troubadour. On September 6th, 2014, from 11:00 – 6:00, The Bishop Hill Heritage Association will once again revive a long standing tradition by hosting The Bishop Hill Chautauqua.

President Teddy Roosevelt once called the Chautauqua “the most uniquely American thing in America.” Pronounced shuh-TAW-kwuh, this traditional form of entertainment is a celebration of American History and Music where the community is invited to meet famous characters from our past. Political leaders, authors, popular songwriters, and American innovators step out of the pages of history to regale us with the stories of their life and times.

This modern Chautauqua is a free family-oriented event where you can hear important voices from the past with inspiring storytelling and engaging musical performances. Hear the true tales of what shaped us as a nation from the people who lived it.  Folks are invited to spend the day in the enchanting village of Bishop Hill where historical re-enactors will be strolling the streets.



Merewether Lewis: The Comic Mis-Adventures of The Corps of Discovery 

Imagine an evening at an Inn along the Natchez Trace among friends, where Merewether Lewis shares the true stories of his glorious moments and gut-busting guffaws in this humorous and informative blend of stories and song, journal excerpts and American Indian folklore. Lewis reveals for the first time many of the scientific discoveries of the Corps of Discovery. Encountering grizzly bears and collecting soil samples, capturing prairie dogs and eating bitter roots, Lewis catalogued 122 new animal species, 178 new plants, and spelled the word mosquito 12 different ways! The expedition was first and foremost a scientific expedition and this program brings the scientific process to life with humor and wit. Performing as Lewis, our host and artistic director, Brian “Fox” Ellis has participated in more than a dozen of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial events from Fort Massac, Illinois to Fort Clark, North Dakota.

Fanny Crosby: Queen of Gospel Song Writers

Blind since infancy, Fanny Crosby never let it slow her down as she was a major player in much of America’s early history: tracing her roots to the Mayflower and the founders of Harvard, she attended church services with preacher and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher; P.T. Barnum and John Quincy Adams were fans of her poetry; and she was the first woman to address the joint houses of Congress. Crosby wrote more than 8000 hymns under hundreds of pseudonyms, was an advocate for blind education as a ray of hope, and spoke on the original Chautauqua circuit 100 years ago. Bing Crosby is a relative. Virginia Nelson brings Fanny Crosby to life in this musical program.

Harriet Tubman: Moses of Her People

Civil War Spy and Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman will take you on an unforgettable journey through the struggles of a former slave who risked her life again and again because freedom meant something to her. Portrayed by Kathryn Harris, the Director of Library Services for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Harriet will be both an old friend and your personal hero before the program is through.

Woody Guthrie, Dustbowl Troubadour

Woody Guthrie, a true Dustbowl Troubadour, chronicled the stories of America’s struggle through the Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II through his heart-felt songs. In this original presentation, Barry Cloyd tells Woody’s uniquely American story through the eyes of Gypsy Davey, one of Guthrie’s boxcar riding traveling companions. Cloyd is a consummate folk musician who brings to the stage all of the passion of the man who wrote, “This Land is Your Land” and hundreds of other iconic American folk songs.



The formal program starts at 11:00 am, but folks are encouraged to come early to visit the unique shops, talk to working artists, and explore the six museums that make Historic Bishop Hill a modern Utopia on the Prairie.

11:00 Merewether Lewis: The Comic Mis-Adventures of The Corps of Discovery 

12:00 Lunch at one of three local restaurants

1:00 Fanny Crosby: Queen of Gospel Song Writers

3:00 Harriet Tubman: Moses of Her People

5:00 Woody Guthrie, Dustbowl Troubadour

All programs will be held at the gazebo in the town square. Please bring a folding chair. In the case of inclement weather, the program will be moved indoors.

This FREE family program is sponsored by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association and The Twinflower Inn, with funding also provided by donations from the public, the Illinois Arts Council and Illinois Humanities Council.