On September 7th, 2013, The Bishop Hill Heritage Association will revive a long standing tradition by hosting The Bishop Hill Chautauqua. You are probably wondering…What is a Chautauqua?

President Teddy Roosevelt called the Chautauqua “the most uniquely American thing in America.” It is an entertaining celebration of American History and Music where the community is invited to meet famous characters from our past. Comedians, authors, popular songwriters, Civil War soldiers, and First Ladies step out of the pages of history to regale us with their life stories.

A modern Chautauqua is a free family oriented event where you get to hear important voices, inspiring storytelling and engaging musical performances. Folks are invited to spend the day in this enchanting village where historical re-enactors will be strolling the streets. People participate in living history programs, brought to life through stories and music. Hear the true tales of what shaped us as a nation from the people who lived it.


Carl Sandburg, poet, Lincoln biographer, two time Pulitzer Prize winner and Swedish American will regale you with songs and stories of his origins in Illinois, his life as a hobo and his love of American folk music. Barry Cloyd, as Sandburg will share some of his more famous poetry as well as a few lesser known works. He will sing a medley of the songs that trace America’s story through its music and reminisce about our 16th president Abraham Lincoln. He will share stories of his farm work in the Galva area and his visits to Bishop Hill when his sister was a teacher at the old colony school.

Through Storyteller and Author Betty Kay you will meet three Civil War Era Women: Galesburg native and nurse Mother Bickerdyke, of whom General Sherman once said “She outranks me;” Irish Immigrant Jenny Hodgers who came to America looking for work as the war erupted and decided a soldiering she would go, becoming Albert Cashier, and then living as a man the rest of her days; and the wife of President US Grant, Julia Dent Grant, whose life story mirrors many of the nation’s issues in a very personal tale.

Ken Bradbury, the most published playwright in America will portray himself as he plays the piano and takes you on a rollicking tour of American History through your favorite songs. From old time gospel to modern rock, Broadway show tunes to folk revival classics, you will be invited to sing-a-long, or at least tap your toes and swoon to the songs that both broke your heart and healed old wounds as important moments in your life were marked by these beautiful melodies!

The evening will end with an encounter of two pivotal characters in the earliest days of Illinois history. First, meet our Territorial Governor during the War of 1812 and the man for whom our local river is named, Ninian Edwards. Because he was responsible for the forced removal of Illinois’ American Indian population, Edwards will be challenged by Pottawatomi Chief Gomo, friend of Tecumseh and Black Partridge, who gave a pivotal speech in rebuttal to Edward’s admonitions. Both characters will be portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis so you can hear both sides of the story and decide for yourself where the truth lies.


The formal program starts at 1:00 pm, but folks are encouraged to come early for lunch, 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.

1:00 Illinois’ First Poet Laureate Carl Sandburg

3:00 Three Civil War Women:

Nurse Mother Bickerdike, Soldier Albert Cashiers and First Lady Julia Dent Gran.

5:00 Dinner will be sold by the Bishop Hill Arts Council

6:00 Ken Bradbury’s Melodious Tour of American Music

7:00 Two Faces of Illinois History: Ninian Edwards and Chief Gomo

All programs will be held at the gazebo in the town square. Please bring a folding chair. In the case of inclement weather we will move to the VaghnHall Galleri, in the Prairie Arts Center.

This FREE family program is sponsored by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, with funding also provided by donations from the public, by the Illinois Arts Council, and by the Illinois Humanities Council.  Additional assistance provided by Fox Tales International.