Historic Lecture Series for 2022-2023

Thursday, November 10, 2022, marked the beginning of a new series of historical presentations in the historic Effingham County Court House on the second floor.  The presentation focused on a document stored out of State, hours away from the community, for many years.  It was truly an example of hidden history.  The document, a letter written on April 5,1949, dealt with the tragic story of the1949 St. Anthony Hospital fire from a heretofore unknown perspective.  Two presenters told the story of “The Letter.”    

Karen Barnes, who lives with her husband Bruce in Mequon, Wisconsin, was daughter-in-law of the late Vern Barnes, the man who wrote the letter.  She told the story of how the five-page document came to be housed as part of an exhibit on the Museum’s first floor.  The letter was part of a nearly 200 letter collection of Vern Barnes, letters which he wrote to his fiancé, Helen.  Neither of Vern’s two children knew anything about their father’s involvement as a volunteer who just happened to be in Effingham the day after the fire, as he traveled his sales route as an employee of the Ohio Chemical Company.  His clients were hospitals.  The letter came to light only after the deaths of both Vern and his wife, Helen, when the children inherited the material.

Karen contacted the Museum Association in April of this year to see if the group had interest in the document.  She also related a series of events involving numerous seemingly disconnected situations, such as she and her husband stopping in Effingham for overnight lodging while traveling back to their Wisconsin home after a vacation in Texas.  Several other events seemed to indicate that the family should give “The Letter” to the County Museum.

After the Museum accepted the gift of “The Letter,” then having it framed so it could hang in an empty spot on the east wall of the first-floor corridor, on June 13, the framed exhibit became a new addition to the Museum’s displays.

The Effingham County Museum President talked about the insights which the 1949 letter provides into that tragic night, April 4, and the next day, April 5. In a PowerPoint presentation, Donaldson used numerous newspaper clippings to describe the horror of the night, as well as describe how salesman Barnes came to Effingham on April 5, 1949; what he saw when arriving in Effingham, and then the specific content of his letter to the woman who eventually would become his wife.

The evening concluded with the audience asking questions of both Bruce and Karen Barnes, followed by a sharing of the crowd’s memories of that tragic event.

Donaldson reminded the audience that visitors can read the letter and feel the emotions of the fateful night of April 4, 1949, through standing before the framed exhibit at the Museum.

The final presentation for the 2022-2023 season was on March 9, 2023, when Jane Ries dealt with local schools through the county's history.

Hours & Location

100 E. Jefferson Ave.,
Effingham, IL 62401

Daytime Hours:
(January-February)- By appointment only and some special evening hours, TBA
Phone: 217.240.2471 to leave a message

(March through December)
Tuesday and Saturday 10 a.m-2 p.m.

Evening Hours:
6:00-7:00 p.m. on night of lecture series, November-March
Other times by appointment: Call (217)240-2471 to leave a message

ECCCMA Meeting Schedule

Board Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom. For information contact Delaine Donaldson, President at: delainedonaldson@mchsi.com.

General Membership Meetings are held once a month of the second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom.

Our MISSION is to preserve our Historic Register structure, to collect artifacts from county history, and to use them to educate our local and external communities, while immersed in the broader context of American history.

Our VISION is that the 1872 Effingham County Courthouse remains as an architectural gem that instills a sense of community pride and provides a venue to
educate and showcase the history, art, and transportation of Effingham County.

Get Involved

On November 11, 2012, the Museum opened its doors to the public. Currently there are exhibits on the first floor and the second floor. On the second floor there is exhibit space as well as room for lectures and other types of public gatherings.