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Celebrating History: Marion County

Celebrating History: Marion County

Posted on 02/01/2022 by Andy Waterman

There is no question that a countless number of communities throughout southern Illinois take tremendous pride in preserving and celebrating the past. You may not know it, but there is a niche of travelers who plan trips around historical sites and attractions – it is called Heritage Tourism. There are folks out there who want to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. 

Marion County in south-central Illinois is home to a few different sites that appeal to those visitors who are seeking out museums and historical artifacts. One of the most famed folks in the history of Salem would be William Jennings Bryan, a well-known politician that was a two-time presidential nominee. Bryan, a Salem native, eventually went on to be named the Secretary of State under then President Woodrow Wilson.  There is a statue of William Jennings Bryan in a park named after him on North Broadway in Salem. What many folks do not know is that this statue was created by Gutzon Borglum, the famed sculptor of Mt. Rushmore. This statue was located in Washington D.C. from 1934 to 1961, and the story of its transit to Salem is definitely one you should research!  

Believe it or not, despite the rich history of Salem and the surrounding area, there was not a venue in town for residents and visitors to go enjoy a wide array of artifacts and memorabilia. Finally, in the summer of 2021, the Salem Area Historical Museum opened its doors – welcoming hundreds of folks from the surrounding area, as well as visitors from other states. There are dozens and dozens of pieces to see, including an entire collection based on William Jennings Bryan. There are also antique sewing machines, military items from several Salem-area veterans, and other on-loan items that will only be on display for a finite amount of time before other displays are cycled in. If you’re lucky enough to visit when Betty Purcell or Luke Purcell are at the Salem Area Historical Museum, you are sure to get one heck of an informational tour! Luke Purcell is the Salem Historical Society President and has helped build the displays from the ground up since the opening. “To finally see this museum come to life is really a dream come true,” Purcell told us during a recent visit. “We have been told by many visitors already that they had a great experience, and hopefully that news will spread to even more people who are interested in area history,” Purcell added. If you are interested in a visit, make sure to check their Facebook page for updated hours.
About fifteen minutes north of Salem lies the Kinmundy Log Cabin Village, another neat place that historians will certainly enjoy. In the 1960’s, Kinmundy resident Erma Ingram started acquiring log cabins from the 1800’s that would have otherwise been destroyed. Over the next several years Erma and her son started dismantling cabins and rebuilding them on a 40-acre plot of land that is known as the Kinmundy Log Cabin Village. These cabins have been furnished with authentic artifacts of the 1800’s to provide a look into the rough and simple lives of Pioneers. The cabins were opened to the public in the 1970’s, along with the establishment of an annual Fall Craft Show, which is still a very popular event to this day. The Log Cabin Village also plays host to an annual Haunted Trail in October, which played host to nearly 2,000 people over two weekends in 2021! If you would like to visit the Kinmundy Log Cabin Village, you will need to contact them ahead of time. They can be reached at (618) 267-2227 or by email at kdylogcabin@gmail.com.
For a detailed look at the Salem Area Historical Museum and the Kinmundy Log Cabin Village, check out the video of our visit on YouTube by clicking HERE

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