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1838-1925: Where History and Archeology Meet

Representatives of the Wabash County Farm Bureau Foundation recently made a generous contribution to the Wabash County Museum to sponsor a panel in the new exhibit titled “When Archeology Meets History: The Hallock Family Farmstead”.

Artifacts from an archeology dig in the winter of 2018 will be on display and 8 to 10 exhibit panels telling the story of how the Hallock family moved from New Jersey in 1838 to make castor oil on the farm they bought northwest of Mt. Carmel. The farm was located about 1.5 miles west of Conservation Lake but was razed in the 1980s and has now been mined for coal. The archeology dig was done in advance of mining to find any significant artifacts which would document the history of the Hallock farm.

Mary Hallock Shearer grew up on the farm. She had an eye for the details of daily life and wrote them down in her journal. After Mary’s death her granddaughter Clara Pixley edited and published the journal in 1967. Mary’s journal left archeologists with an interpretive guide to the excavations. In addition a descendant recently donated a daybook from the 1840s. The daybook gives an accounting of expenses and payments made during that time including the names of local farmers who sold castor beans and who traded labor for goods in the Hallock store. The daybook is one of the best records found to date of the residents of that area.

Some of the panels in the exhibit will cover westward migration, the archeological excavation, Hallock family genealogy, the farmstead buildings and layout, manufacturing castor oil, making cider and vinegar, flat boat shipment of hay and cider downriver, family life and neighbors in the Ogden and Centerville communities. Much of the information will be taken from Mary’s first-hand account.

Donations for the exhibit are still needed to make it a reality. Each donor at the $2,000 level or above will be recognized by the donor name on a panel in the permanent exhibit but donations at any level are accepted and may be mailed to Wabash County Museum, P. O. Box 512, Mt. Carmel, IL 62863. Claudia Dant can be contacted for more information at or by calling 618-298-2042. To date about $10,000 more is needed to build the exhibit.

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