KT Dunn is a Midwest native with a lifelong interest in history and mystery.
The Moore Mansion
The big old house sat quietly deteriorating on the north edge of Clinton, Illinois, for many years, even though it was home to a great deal of history involving both DeWitt County and the nation. John and Minerva Bishop built the original part of the house in 1867, utilizing the finest of materials and fashionable design. Following the death of Mrs. Bishop, it was sold to her brother, Clifton Moore, a prominent local attorney. Mr. Moore oversaw the addition of an elaborate two-story library wing, completed in 1887, to house his vast book collection.
Mr. Moore, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Lincoln
Clifton Haswell Moore (known as C.H. Moore) partnered with Abraham Lincoln in his downtown Clinton office building for a time (1856-1858). He had moved to Clinton in 1841 and practiced law in the Eighth Circuit, both locally and traveling from town to town for regular court sessions, as did Lincoln. Moore supported Lincoln’s political aspirations, but did not pursue politics himself. Together with Eighth Circuit Judge David Davis of Bloomington, Moore invested in land purchases in several states, which helped secure his wealth. A large trust estate was established upon his death in 1901.
DeWitt County Museum
219 East Woodlawn, Clinton, IL 61727
The Museum Association Finds a Home
In the fall of 1968, a little over one hundred years after the house was built, a preservation group held a fundraiser for the purpose of beginning restoration of the old mansion as a museum. It was a luncheon/social type thing, typical of small towns. No one could have foreseen the growth of the DeWitt County Museum Association's Apple ’n Pork Festival since that time.
The Apple 'n Pork Festival
Every year after that first festival, more rooms in the house were completed, tours expanded, and the grounds further renovated to welcome increasing numbers of visitors. From the beginning, the festival rules prohibited commercial or non-homemade goods from being sold on the museum property itself, but gradually a large festival weekend flea market grew up on the adjacent fairgrounds north of the property. Up and down the streets of the surrounding neighborhood, booths sprang up during festival time, offering everything from sandwiches and drinks to jewelry and craft items.
During the last full weekend of the month of September, the museum property became the focal point for a community celebration of the harvest season featuring traditional foods and skills. Each year the festival itself grew a little larger, with ever-changing features and exhibits. Cauldrons of ham and beans and apple butter cooked over open fires. The newly reconditioned barn became the center of operations for distribution of ham and bean dinners served up with fresh cornbread, while other food tents and booths offered pork sandwiches and corn on the cob, as well as funnel cakes, caramel apples, and other treats.
Demonstrations of folk arts such as spinning, chair caning, and woodcrafts, as well as music and dancing, took place on the expansive lawn. Down past the barn, in the area where farm museum buildings were later added, log-sawing and meal-grinding took place powered by antique engines.
Across town to the west, an antique mall and adjacent craft store near the high school became the center of yet another antique flea market. Meanwhile, shuttle buses began operating between the high school parking area and the town square, where tractor-drawn trams were available to convey visitors the remaining few blocks to and from the museum grounds.
All of this has evolved and changed in the 50 years since its inception, but much remains the same. The festival has settled into a familiar pattern and an annual tradition for the townspeople and tens of thousands of visitors.
Visiting the Festival
Book your hotel as far in advance as possible. Options for accommodations in Clinton are few, and you may want to consider staying in the nearby towns of Forsyth, Decatur, Lincoln, or Bloomington. Wear comfortable shoes for walking, and clothing appropriate to the weather.
Best Option for Parking
The high school parking lot at the west edge of town offers paid festival parking (currently $5), and shuttle buses leave from there approximately every 15 minutes, taking passengers to the town square. Traffic is monitored by the local police department, allowing for easier access to the parking lot as well as to the antique mall grounds across the street from the high school.
Shuttle and Tram
A shuttle ticket/wrist band (currently $2) purchased at the bus stop in the high school parking lot buys a bus ride to the square and also allows access to the tram once you arrive at the square. Tickets may also be purchased at the tram stops on the square and in front of the museum if you arrive there first and wish to shuttle out to the antique mall.
Once you arrive at the square, you may board a tram on the north side of the square and ride down North Center Street to the museum. Or, if you prefer, stroll down North Center to enjoy the craft and food booths set up in front of homes along that street on your way to the museum just a few blocks away. You can then catch the tram at the museum to make your way back to the square if you wish.
Visit the many booths, exhibits, and demonstrations set up on the lawn and in and around the carriage barn, as well as the farm museums behind the house.
During the festival the house is open for self-guided tours with a small admission fee (currently $5 for adults, $2 for students). Members of the museum association, dressed in period costumes, greet visitors at the door and are available to answer questions. The house tour includes the basement museum spaces.
Lunch and snack foods are available in several locations on the museum grounds and nearby, during festival hours.
Cross the covered footbridge to reach the flea market area (4-H fairgrounds) north of the museum property. In addition, a large flea market on the west side of town across the street from the high school is easily reached from the parking area there.
Today the Apple ’n Pork Festival hosts approximately 80,000 to 100,000 visitors throughout the weekend, running from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Saturday and Sunday, on the last full weekend of September. The museum and gift shop are open much of the year for tours and special programs. The DeWitt County Museum and the Apple ’n Pork Festival have become important contributions to the town of Clinton, both economically and in the preservation of its history.
Tuesday-Saturday 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Sunday 1:00 PM to 5:00
Closed on Mondays and Holidays
Kent Collection and Museum Spaces
A museum space in the basement of the house features the collections of Emmett Kent (1892-1985), a local businessman, World War I veteran, and charter member of the DeWitt County Museum Association. In the early years of the museum, Mr. Kent himself greeted museum visitors who came to see his collections of war relics, Native American artifacts, and numerous other antique items of interest.
The DeWitt County Museum also features an antique doll collection on the second floor of the house, a gift shop on the first floor, and a log cabin replica in the basement, as well as farm museums and a memorial covered bridge on the grounds.
- Stites, Helen. (2006). Finding Lincoln in DeWitt County. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
- Fraker, Guy. (2012). Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.