McLean County celebrates 200 years of Illinois history
Since 1822, when people began settling the land that would later become known as McLean County, the county and its citizens have helped shaped the history of Illinois. From being home to Illinoisâ€™s first public university (Illinois State University), aiding Abraham Lincolnâ€™s rise to the nationâ€™s highest office, leading the way in agricultural innovations, to producing and training internationally known circus performers, the citizens of McLean County have made an indelible mark on almost 200 years of Illinois history that is worthy of celebrating.
These voices will not only share stories that helped create 200 years of Illinois History, they will help us continue to educate members of our community about the historical importance of cemeteries, and the need to treat them with respect and reverence. We hope to inspire direct action amongst members of our community so that they can help us spread our important message and educate others as well.
Every year the Evergreen Cemetery Walk brings the voices of McLean County's history to life. Costumed actors portray individuals representing all walks of life from the county's past on the beautiful grounds of Evergreen Memorial Cemetery. This event serves over 3,500 people (mostly students) every year. To date, we have featured 172 different individuals from all walks of life, whose stories illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had on history â€“ locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. In addition, the impact of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk can be felt throughout the state and nation. This award-winning, nationally recognized interpretive program is often referred to as the "granddaddy" of all cemetery walks. Put on your walking shoes and bring your family to participate in this fascinating, outdoor theatrical program.
Evergreen Memorial Cemetery is one of the richest historical resources in our community. People from all walks of life are buried in this over 150 year old cemetery. Rich, poor, famous, infamous, loved or forgotten alike, they are all buried here. Evergreen provides an honorable resting place for all members of our community.
This annual event is a collaboration between the McLean County Museum of History, Illinois Voices Theatre Echoes and Evergreen Memorial Cemetery.
The McLean County Museum of History is pleased to announce that all students participating in the School Tours of the 2018 Evergreen Cemetery Walk will attend for FREE. We are committed to reaching out to diverse communities and removing barriers so that we can help as many students as possible discover our local history. Through the generosity of this year's sponsors,Evergreen Memorial Cemetery and Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, and support from our members, admission fees for students and chaperones to attend the 2018 Evergreen Cemetery Walk have been waived.
Please note that you will be walking approximately 1 mile, and standing listening to the actors for 5-7 minutes each. Each tour lasts 1.5-2 hours. We will have a limited number of wheelchairs and seat canes available to borrow for free, but if you have your own please bring it!
Weekend presentations will feature a performance by the Brass Band of Central Illinois at 1:00 p.m. each day.
Evergreen Memorial Cemetery
302 E. Miller Street, Bloomington. (three blocks east of Gene's Ice Cream Drive In)
Featured with Francis Cahill
"Gussie" was born in Germany, and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was only five years old. In her early years, she worked as a housekeeper, received some training as a nurse, and taught kindergarten and first grade, experiences that aided her in her 30-plus year career as a housemother at the ISSCS.* While there, Becker tended to the younger girls in Logan Cottage and had as many as 50 charges there in the early years. Weekend Performances Only.
To read Gussie Becker's biography, click here.
Featured with Augusta "Gussie" Becker
Cahill was the eldest of four brothers born in Chicago. He was sent to the ISSCS* in Normal, IL at the age of eight after his parents’ separation. As a teenager, he was part of the lightweight track and field team of Felmley Junior High. In 1936, Cahill double lettered in both track and baseball, proudly joining the popular Letterman’s Club. Sadly, his life was cut short at the age of 16. While picking beans for a local farmer, he began experiencing severe stomach pains and quickly succumbed to a ruptured appendix. Weekend Performances Only.
To read Francis Cahill's biography, please click here.
Stevenson served as Governor of Illinois from 1949-1953. He proved to be a popular public speaker, gaining a national reputation as a spirited intellectual, with a self-deprecating sense of humor to match. Principal among his achievements as governor were reforming the state police, cracking down on illegal gambling, and improving state highways. He sought, with mixed success, to cleanse the Illinois state government of corruption. Stevenson's push for an improved state constitution began the process of constitutional change, which was later realized in 1970, five years after his death. Featured in 1997 and 2014.
To read Adlai E. Stevenson's biography, please click here.
Though not related to the well-known family that founded Funks Grove, Henry Funk had a similar connection to the rich, fertile land of the Prairie State as a well-known horticulturist. Around 1914, Funk came to be in charge of the Lilly Orchard, an established company just outside the town of Mackinaw in Tazewell County that grew high grade fruits and nuts for market. Funk was also a longtime beekeeper and raised prize-winning poultry for a number of years.
To read Henry Funk's biography, please click here.
Featured with Clyde Noble.
Noble showcased her singing and dancing talents as a young girl throughout her homeland of Great Britain. At the age of 14, Noble embarked on the next stage of her career by joining the Kaufman Bicycle Troupe, eventually earning the title of “the world’s most accomplished lady bicyclist.” In 1904, while her troupe was performing with the Ringling Brothers Circus, she met her future husband, Clyde Noble, a fellow circus performer. They were married in 1908 and 15 years later, after having settled in Bloomington, helped found the Bloomington Community Players. First featured in 1997.
To read Emily Noble's biography, please click here.
Featured with Emily Vecchi Noble.
A jeweler’s apprentice as a teenager, Clyde Noble readily took to aerial acrobatics in 1904, following in the footsteps of his older brother Charles. It was in the circus that Noble met and married Emily Vecchi. The couple then embarked on a long career together until their retirement in 1918, when they settled in Bloomington and Noble resumed his work as a jeweler. Noble had a long and honorable record of civic service in Bloomington-Normal, working for the McLean County Chapter of the American Red Cross and helping organize Bloomington’s Community Players Theatre.
To read Clyde Noble's biography, please click here.
Jane Hendryx came to Illinois at the age of 17 via a covered wagon, arriving at a two-room log cabin on a farm being carved out of the wilderness. She recalled there were still “plenty of Indians,” and her family traveled 30 to 60 miles for provisions. Hendryx considered her new home “a very wild country.” A devout Methodist, a young Jane often accompanied her father on horseback when he preached his circuit. When she died at the age of 95 years, she was living in a city teeming with industry and commerce.
To read Jane Hendryx's biography, please click here.
"Anna" Clark was a woman of great pride, independence, and intelligence. Born in Kentucky, her parents died when she was five, leaving her to be raised by her older sister. After coming to Bloomington in 1916 and working first as domestic help, she operated a Workingman’s Social Club with her first husband, followed by 12 years at Livingston and Son’s department store. In the early 1940s, Clark began a 20-year career at the ISSCS.* During that same time, she opened up a boarding house for black men attending Illinois State Normal University, as they were not allowed to reside on campus.
To read Anna Clark's biography, click here.
To read biographies of past cemetery walk characters, visit the biographies page of our online resources.