The Bishop Hill Heritage Association (BHHA) seeks to appreciate and preserve the rich history of the Bishop Hill Colonists and the town they built. The Bishop Hill Colony began in Sweden when a group of religious dissenters dreamed of creating a utopia-a place where they could live in harmony with their beliefs, free from the dogma of the established church. In 1846,Erik Janson and his followers, sailed from Sweden to New York, made their way to Chicago and walked the last 160 miles to Bishop Hill. They established a communal Colony on the prairie that grew in numbers and prospered, even though the Colony suffered a major loss when Erik Janson was killed in 1850. In the 15 year history of this religious collective, over a thousand immigrants journeyed from Sweden to join the Colony. The Bishop Hill Colony was one of the most significant forces in the later immigration of millions of Swedes. The Colony is still evident today in the form of historic buildings and artifacts as well as in its 130 residents, many of whom are descendants of the original settlers.

In the summer of 1961, the abandoned Colony Bakery/Brewery building was demolished by the village of Bishop Hill. This was the catalyst that led to the formation of the Bishop Hill Heritage Association.  In 1962, a small group of descendants met and resolved to preserve their Swedish heritage and ensure that no more colony buildings would be lost. BHHA was organized to preserve and protect the remaining buildings associated with the Bishop Hill Colony (1846-1861). The first of these, the Steeple Building, was acquired in 1963. It is a three story, 24 room Greek Revival structure now housing the main museum, offices and archives of the BHHA. The second acquisition, the Colony Blacksmith Shop, was purchased in 1966 following the collapse of a major truss which allowed the roof to cave in. This building now houses demonstrators, craft persons, and their shops. In 1969, the Colony Store was acquired after one wall and corner of this brick building collapsed. Now restored, it houses the BHHA gift shop. This store features Swedish foods and gift items and provides an outlet for local crafts similar to those produced in the Colony. BHHA acquired the Cobbler Shop in 1971, the Colony Hospital in 1976, the Colony Dairy Building in 1985 and the Colony Apartment House in 1987. All are original Bishop Hill buildings that have been repaired and/or restored by the Heritage Association. In 2012, the 1908 Albert Krans Livery Stable was rebuilt and turned into a museum.

Today, the Bishop Hill Heritage Association provides a variety of services to promote and protect our Bishop Hill and Swedish heritage:

  • Raise funds for the repair and restoration of historic buildings. We also organize and supervise these construction projects.
  • Provide guided tours of Bishop Hill for all large groups. These groups include college classes, educator workshops, international and US tour groups.
  • Conduct family research for individuals seeking information about their Colony ancestors.
  • Assists in the organizing and promotion of most major Bishop Hill festivals, including Ag Days, Christmas Market, Lucia Nights, and the Midsommar Music Festival.
  • Conduct a variety of workshops, such as the Swedish Folk Art Workshop, on Swedish topics.
  • Bring in demonstrators on a regular basis to show visitors the traditional ways of broom making, weaving, spinning, and so on.
  • The Steeple Building has two floors of exhibits that share the story of Bishop Hill to our visitors. The Krans Livery Stable is a recently open 2nd museum that depicts an early 20th century stable.
  • Preserves thousands of Bishop Hill and Swedish artifacts, some dating back to the early 1700’s.
  • Acts as a source of information for people seeking information about Bishop Hill events and businesses.
  • Sell items in our store that reflect our Swedish heritage.

YouTube Video of Opening Ceremony for the BHHA’s traveling Bishop Hill Colony Exhibit in Spring Valley, CA  September 2019:

YouTube Video about the Bishop Hill Colony and Nauvoo called Conflict, Assassination, & Assimilation on the Prairie: Nauvoo & Bishop Hill in Illinois History (by Troy Swanson of Moraine Valley Community College):

YouTube Video about the Bishop Hill Colony (created by Troy Swanson of Moraine Valley Community College):

YouTube Video about Bishop Hill today (by Dr. Adam Kaul  of Augustana College):

Downloadable pdfs of books and articles about the history of the Bishop Hill Colony (from the Internet Archive):

History of Bishop Hill 1846-1946

Western Illinois Regional Studies Fall 1989 Special Issue Bishop Hill

Western Illinois Regional Studies Fall 1978

Centennial Celebration of Bishop Hill

Bishop Hill semi-centennial celebration

Bishop Hill Colony by Michael Mikkelsen

Bishop Hill Centennial Souvenir

Bishop Hill 75th anniversary souvenir

Bishop Hill 1846 by Margaret Jacobson

The Swedish Element in Illinois

The Index of American Design

From Bishop Hill to Pleasant Hill by John Norton

Erik Janssons Second Wife Anna Sophia

John Root Once More

The Swedish Wil(l)sons

Miss Bremer travels down the Mississippi

Diplomat and Dissident_ The Involvement of Chargé H. W. Ellsworth in the Janssonist Emigration

Letter by Stenbo gubben Jonas Olson

Who were the Janssonist immigrants onboard the Ceres

Brodd-Jonas and Brodd-Märta_ Two Bishop Hill Colonists Identified

 Link to online Swedish American Newspaper database (access to over 300,000 pages from 28 Swedish-Am. Newspapers from 1859 to 2007):

A Reminiscence of Jonas Olson given by himself in the 90th year; translated:  A Reminiscence of Jonas Olson translated by Kerstin Lane Jan. 2016

Interview with Dorothy Palm about Flax and Spinning

Interview with Stewey Fahnstrom about blacksmithing

Maurice Laub and sorghum cooking

George Swank and Bishop Hill History

Howard and Ruth Melton talking about Bishop Hill history.

Steve Holden and the Poppy Barn

Bishop Hill Building Practices by Ron Nelson (1990, copyrighted by the BHHA): YouTube Video 1 hour long:

Herbs by Verla Hunter (1991, copyrighted by the BHHA): YouTube Video 1 hour and 22 minutes long:

Where They Were Laid to Rest: a Bishop Hill Genealogical Study by Roy Ostrom (1990, copyrighted by the BHHA): YouTube Video 1 hour and 5 minutes long:

A Johnson by Any Other Name: A Look At On Tune A.D. Johnson by Linda Holden (1990, copyrighted by the BHHA); YouTube Video 51 minutes long:

Dairy Maids of Dalarna by Kerstin Brorson (1991, copyrighted by the BHHA); YouTube Video 57 minutes long:

John Root and the Assassination of Erik Jansson (1990, copyrighted by the BHHA); YouTube Video 1 hour twenty-four minutes long:

Bishop Hill Colony Craft Skills from Sweden by Carolyn Anderson (1991, copyrighted by the BHHA); YouTube Video 1 hour 4 minutes long:

Partial Interview of Oliva Hultgren (August 18, 2003); YouTube Video 29 minutes long:

Partial Interview of Charlotte Falk (August 18, 2003); YouTube Video 29 minutes long: