The Wabash County Museum, located at 320 N. Market Street in Mt. Carmel, IL is one of the best museums in Southern Illinois. It has been in business at this location for 15 years and for 13 years at the previous location in a historic house.
The museum has a wide appeal to locals who can learn about many subjects of local interest: early settlers, the oil industry, the railroading industry, country schools, the Allendale tornado, river industries, rural life, fire history, church history, military history, history of the businesses in Mt. Carmel, and general history of the county juxtaposed with state and local happenings.
The newest expanded exhibit is “Hi-Yo Silver” which of course is about the Lone Ranger program, from its inception at radio station WXYZ in Detroit and continuing through the television and movie years. The emphasis is on Brace Beemer, the longest radio ranger and his host and narrator, Fred Foy with extensive collections from both men. Brace Beemer was born in Mt. Carmel and the family keeps in close contact with Beemer’s family and the Fred Foy family. Wendy Foy, Fred’s daughter donated his entire collection in 2018 so the old exhibit was moved and expanded. Among other things it features the original door for radio studio WXYZ and several pieces from the first studio. Donors and viewers come from across the United States to see the exhibit.
Another new exhibit of vintage furniture, quilts and clothing from the Margaret Rue Stansfield Barnes Youngren collection will rotate the clothing and quilts from the Youngren collection.
A grand opening of the Hallock family artifacts will be scheduled for summer of 2021. Fund raising in the community makes possible professionally designed exhibit panels which tell the story of how the Hallock family traveled from New Jersey in 1838 to produce castor oil on the farm then went on to produce other large volumes of crops in order to make a good living. Artifacts from the farm are borrowed from the Illinois State Museum on a long-term basis to illustrate how the family lived. Using Mary Hallock Shearer’s diary, published in 1967, the story of this brilliant entrepreneurial family is fascinating.
The museum’s website is located at www.museum.wabash.il.us and was re-invented this year to give an overview of permanent and new exhibits. An audio tour, made possible using smart phones, allows any visitor to hear more about objects and exhibits in the museum using firstname.lastname@example.org. This phone app can be used at home or in the museum.
The museum has handicapped accessible bathrooms and the lower level (usually accessible by stairs) can be seen by entering through the back door through the alley. Currently visitors are asked to wear masks and for the time being the children’s toy area does not have hands on activities. Regular hours are Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m. During winter hours (after the time change) hours are 2 to 4 p.m. The museum’s phone number is 618-262-8774 but most information can be found at the website, including the museum store and the blog/stories.