Museums and History
The best way to explain the connections with our museums and Carmi's history is with the Ratcliff-Robinson-Webb-Stewart-Hargrave, etc family tree.
The WCHS was founded in 1957,
established its first museum in Carmi when the Ratcliff Inn was saved
destruction in 1960. Abraham Lincoln stayed in the Inn in 1840, and its
original owner served in many county offices from 1818 to 1848. The
Historic Preservation Agency awarded the society a grant in 2001 to
the heating system, add plate glass windows, and remove soft bricks
were thought to be wicking moisture into the first floor. It turned out
that soft bricks were not the major cause of the building's moisture
but that the foot of dirt and rubble that had settled on the original
floor of the Ratcliff basement was causing much of the problem. A
was dug around the basement with tiling used to draw off wetness. The
also found a lack of a proper vapor barrier on many interior surfaces
plaster covered bricks. Problems with moisture persist in the building.
Lots has changed in Carmi since the Inn was constructed in 1828,
the depth of streets and sidewalks.
The first floor of the museum
one room with the parlor furniture of Mose and Carrie Day, donated by
daughter Vivian. James Ratcliff's bookcase sets off the front hallway,
which has a number of plaques and pictures relating to the museum. The
other downstairs room is being used for meetings and events. Upstairs
museum has many artifacts from the past, including Senator James
cloak, glassware from the Damrom House, firearms, quilts, fans, and a
with rope bed.
1814 Robinson-Stewart House was donated to the society in 1966 by its
owner, Miss Mary Jane Stewart, granddaughter of a U.S. Senator from
All of the home's furnishings, many of which date to the 1830s, were
given to the society, including a desk originally used in the Ratcliff
at which Lincoln might have worked during his stay at the Inn, and a
drinking cup which Lincoln used as he accompanied little Patty Webb of
Carmi to Mt. Carmel on the stage coach trip north. This building has been getting lots of work the last few
such as painting the exterior and fence, removing the crumbling rug in
the parlor and reupholstering one of the sets of parlor furnishings.
building got a new roof in June 2003, using donated funds and
labor and materials. In June, 2002 the society hosted several members
the family of William Stewart, a revolutionary war veteran and ancestor
of Miss Mary Jane. We determined that the silver-topped cane in one of
the display cases is the same one that William had in the photo taken
before his 1856 death. I give several tours of the building each year,
and have even started wearing Victorian clothing during special events.
L. Haas Store museum (built 1896) was purchased in 1992 to house the
growing collection of artifacts. It now contains everything from native
american artifacts (on loan from the Rebstock family) to a circa 1918
rig to hundreds of tools, photographs, and vintage clothing. One
highlight are the hanging tools of Hawthorne township farmer Phil
"the humane hangman", who ended the life of Southern Illinois' most
or infamous outlaw, Charlie Birger. Hanna presided over many early 20th
century executions. The Haas Store building is a wonderful
of a cast iron storefront, and is located directly across from the
Inn. The museum underwent repairs in 2001 and has
organized with church and kitchen areas, communications, homelife,
American, medical, military, and Carmi sections. In November and
2005 the museum hosted a Smithsonian Exhibition on Food throughout
history, called Key Ingredients.
In May, June and July 2010 the
society hosted another Smithsonian, on music, called
New Harmonies. Several concerts accompanied the traveling
and local exhibits. It was great to see large crowds at the Elks Lodge and Presbyterian Church for history lessons.
The State of Illinois
the Society in 1994 about a covered log cabin located along the right
way of Illinois Route 1 and in 1996 the Matsel Cabin was opened to the
public. The state provided research and moving services on the
located approximately three miles south of Carmi. The society
a lot next to the Old Graveyard, which had been deeded to the society
its trustees in 1990, and secured a $20,000 grant from the Illinois
of Commerce and Community Affairs to restore the structure. In
process we learned a lot about 1850's era log cabins, which were built
with the logs as a frame and were generally meant to have clapboard
The front room was painted with milkpaint and furnished in the manner
the Matsel family would have lived in the 1850s. The kitchen, which was
added in the 1890s and is constructed of "beaded board", a form of
and grove siding, was restored to that era.
Ratcliff Inn is shown at the top of the page, and the Matsel Cabin is
above. Past President Gary Edwards, who died early in 2001, made these
attractive line drawings. You used to be able to see photos
of these and many other historic structures of the area at CARMI
the site has been redesigned and the pictures are currently unavailable.
there anyway to learn more about Carmi. Please contact me if
background interferes with your use of the page.
The society also maintains Carmi's Old Graveyard, which saw its last
burial in 1966. There are supposed to be hundreds of unmarked graves of
early residents, and many of the weathier families had fenced plots.
is a great book on the cemetery commissioned by Claire Williams,
of the Shannon and Williams family.
For the year 2003 the society's
and library were open in May and June without getting much
so they are only open by appointment. All buildings are be open on Corn
Day. As mentioned above, the Key
Ingredients exhibit was our big event for 2005. The Ratcliff Inn
a quilt show and craft demonstration in 2001, as part of Illinois
Heritage Weekend..We hosted an interesting quilt show in 2016 as a Carmi Bicentennial event.
General membership meetings
held in the spring and fall, with the latter featuring the annual
House Award presentation. The background of this page is the Heritage
Plaque, and I have added a listing of all 32 houses honored since 1971,
Call or e-mail us for more
Members receive a quarterly newsletter, which features queries and
which helps to link our 350 members from all corners of the US and
foreign countries. We had some good info about the 1925 tornado
a recent issue, and usually run a page of corrections to Harriet
cemetery books. Barbara Hughes is the editor. The photo below is of
in the 1920s or 30s, apparently taken from the current location of the
Carmi city building. The Ratcliff is in the foreground, while the
building in the background is the old Hay-Webb bank, which was called
Radio Building by the time I knew it. The structure was destroyed in a
spectacular fire around 1984.
The Society's ongoing projects
working on our old buildings, especially the Robinson Stewart, spring and fall dinner
meetings, spring teas for 2nd graders and pioneer days for 5th graders in the fall, and openings for Corn Day and Its a White County Christmas. We are working with the Southern
of Museums, the Illinois Association of Museums, and AASLH on marketing, preservation and tourguide training.
Read about the outlaws of
Illinois, and other historical high/lowlights at The
Birger Gang before you visit the Haas Store Museum which contains
Hanna's hanging tools. The page I was using is long gone, but information about Charlie Birger is still out there.
Visit White County on the
Included are weekly genealogy columns from the CARMI TIMES,
a short history, and look-up information. Here is the page for our
to the south Gallatin
Don't forget the Rootsweb home
where you can find a wealth of information : Rootsweb
Last updated 9/4/2018. Please
corrections and comments to [email protected]
Your help will be appreciated.