MONTICELLO — The Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society had planned a 40th anniversary event last summer, but like most events it was canceled.
But that might have worked out for the best, according to Society President Dee Lund. With the main theme of the celebration being a reveal about the historic Honselman family, postponing until this Saturday afternoon has given the organization time to find out more about Godfrey and Ann (Tenbrook) Honselman.
“It was actually fortunate we got a year extension, because we were able to do more in depth research than what we had originally prepared,” Lund said.
The public is invited to a gathering from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday (June 12) at the Forest Preserve Park pavilion in Monticello to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the organization, and to hear what the extensive research on the Honselman family has unearthed. Registration is not required.
Why the Honselmans? By request, said Lund.
“We collected votes at two of our member meetings, which also involved the public, and then we also put a vote out on our Facebook page. So the public and our members were involved in choosing the Honselman name out of list of 10 we had given them,” Lund said.
“They were some of the founding members (of the county). They were here with the Piatts and related to the Piatts, and that’s a pretty well-known fact,” Lund said. “But we’ve found ties to so many other names within the community that are descendants of them, or married into the family, and different stories that came from them.”
Some of the stories have grown through the years. Lund said the society’s research has also been aimed at separating fact from urban legend, tidbits that will also be shared on Saturday.
She added that, while much is known about the Tenbrook family, not as much has been printed about the Honselman side. It includes the cold case of Godfrey, who died of illness during a trip in 1842 out east, about a decade after moving to Central Illinois. Some facts about that have also been found, though Lund says the case is not completely solved.
Research has also unearthed 30 letters — most sent to Ann — that had settled into the University of Colorado archives.
“There was a treasure we found basically hiding over in the University of Colorado, in their archives,” Lund said. “That gave us a lot of other insight into Piatt County and other events.
“Acquiring those letters not only enhanced the stories of the Honselmans, but it’s going to enhance the story of other people in the community,” she said.
It is not known how the letters ended up in Colorado. One son lived there for five years, but researchers are not sure who donated them to the university there.
Saturday’s celebration will also feature live music, refreshments, and the reading of a proclamation made by the City of Monticello honoring the society’s 40th anniversary.
The Piatt County Museum has also provided artifacts relating to the family and their times in Piatt County that will be on display.
Piatt County has had a historical society as far back as 1918, which had fits and starts through the 1970s. It was late in that decade when members decided to add a genealogical component.
The society officially formed at a meeting on March 1 of 1980, elected officers on March 11, incorporated with the State of Illinois on May 29 and filed its official papers with the county on June 6.
A timeline of the organization:
—On Sept. 11, 1979, the Piatt County Historical Society met and first discussed starting a joint historical-geneaological society. The motion was made by Walter White and seconded by Myrlin Buckingham.
—The society was officially incorporated in Illinois on May 29, 1980.
—The first logo, which included a shadowed shape of Piatt County, was created by Farmer City-Mansfield High School freshman Terry Adair, who won $25 for his effort.
—The society opened an office in the Piatt County Courthouse Annex building at 301 S. Charter St. in 1983, and occupied that space for 29 years.
—In 1984, 100 years of newspapers came into the possession of the society
—A collection of documents rescued by Linda Redmond from the tx assessors office came into the PCHGS’ possession in June of 1992.
—In 1997 the society received its first computers, which were used to create an index for newspaper holdings.
—The PCHGS received a Community Service Award from the Illinois State Genealogical Society in 2000.
—In 2006, Kathleen Foster, Carl Miglin and Lucia Wilkin began recording oral histories, building on what had already been done at the Allerton Public Library.
—The first Cemetery Walk, “Voices From the Past,” was held in September of 2006 at the Old Monticello City Cemetery.
—The society joins Facebook.
—A second cemetery walk was held in 2012, a virtual one at the Monticello Township Cemetery.
—In 2013-14, the society collaborated with the Allerton Public Library – using a grant from the Milligan Trust – to scan local newspapers, which are now available online at http://digitalarchives.monticellolibrary.org/.
—In April of 2015 the group collaborated with others to hold an event that commemorated the death and funeral of Abraham Lincoln.
For more information on the Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society, or to volunteer, email Dee Lund at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 217-762-9997.