Sep 28, 2014

Scenes from the Clayville Fall Festival

If you’re not from central Illinois or the Springfield area, you've likely never heard of the Clayville Historical Site.  Even if you are from the area, you may not be familiar with Clayville. 

What exactly is Clayville?  It was a settlement on a stagecoach trail between Springfield and the Illinois River town of Beardstown, Ill., where travelers of the era such as Honest Abe could catch the next flatboat to New Orleans, for instance.  The Broadwell Tavern and Inn served as the village’s stagecoach stop where travelers could get a meal spend the night.  And apparently, the Inn is the oldest original brick building remaining in Sangamon County, dating back to 1824.  But by the mid-1800s, Clayville’s importance was quickly diminishing with the rise of rail travel, and most people in the township had moved on to Pleasant Plains, a community just a couple of miles up the trail.    

Admittedly, in an area where everything historical seems to revolve around Abraham Lincoln, Clayville suffers from a lack of strong Lincoln ties (although Lincoln did reportedly serve as the tavern owner’s attorney a few times).  In fact, Clayville' historical significance would possibly be lost to the ages if it wasn't for a grassroots effort by a local historical society in recent years to acquire and restore the place to some semblance of what it looked like in its heyday.   

Clayville's relative obscurity may also explain why, despite living in central Illinois for a majority of my life, I just made my first visit there a couple of weekends ago for the site’s annual fall festival.   But I had a very good reason.  I had an afternoon free to entertain my girlfriend’s kiddo and wanted to find something different for us to do.  And frankly, fall festival season is probably one of my favorite things about Illinois. 

Besides, what 21st Century kid wouldn't love to live in the early- to mid-19th Century for a day? 

OK, despite this illogical premise, it worked like a charm.  The kid loved the walk back in time. 

The first display to capture the kiddo’s attention was the beehives.  We learned watching bees make honey is cool.  Eating candies made with pure honey is more cool. 

Does that work for hard cider, too?
Next, we explored Clayville's barn, which houses the Pioneer Agriculture Museum.  You wouldn't think this would appeal a whole lot to a young girl, but this kid is full of surprises. 

Moving on, we explored the main cabin on the property, which also contained a gift shop.  One lesson learned from the day:  never buy a paper fan for 50 cents.  It lasts about 50 seconds before it rips off the edges.   

The cabin’s upstairs was a little unusual in that it contained a collection of looms and such for weaving.  The kiddo was quite intrigued by how clothes could be made from these machines without motors.

We later found a weaving exhibit outdoors that helped her get the idea.  But by that time, I think she was more interested in watching the pottery being made and playing in the clay.

After our visit to the cabin and the subsequent gift shop disaster, we checked out the Broadwell Tavern.      

Inside you get a good glimpse into what it might be like to have to make a stopover in a tavern in the 1820s.  There’s also a good history of the restoration efforts for the tavern and the entire Clayville site. 

But the highlight of the trip for the kiddo was probably the discovery of Euclid’s Room in the tavern’s attic.  Named for the tavern owner’s grandson, it’s essentially a 19th Century-style children’s playroom frozen in time.  She would have played with the blocks and wooden marionettes in the room for hours if I would have let her. 

A historically accurate highchair.  The plastic water bottle?  Not so much.
The room even had an antique high chair, which I noticed right away because of its fleur de lis decoration.

And when I was finally able to coax the kiddo out of the playroom, we found the tavern checkerboard in the main area of the second floor.  I imagine quite a few travelers had not much more than this and whatever libations on hand to pass the time.  The checkerboard served its purpose, though. The kiddo and I played two games. 

The campers must have gone inside to get out of the rain.   
Before we realized it, we had spent nearly three hours at Clayville touring the site and participating in a variety of exhibits. Who knew things like broom making and tin punch art could keep today’s kids so enthralled?   I was really hoping to coax her into seeing the rest of the Civil War encampment, but fortunately for her a late afternoon shower intervened, and we decided to head back to town … 

… where we concluded that a glimpse back in time is fine, but a modern-day treat like Baskin-Robbins ice cream is a great end to the day.  

1 comment:

Jim said...

Great one John,I did not know all of this. I especially liked the pics of the"Kiddo".
God Bless.

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