Henderson County Museum at Raritan, Illinois
The Henderson County Historical Society was organized in 1962, but was active for only a few years. In 1975 there was renewed interest in preserving the county’s history and the Historical Society became active again. A museum committee was formed, a storage facility located and on Memorial Day, 1975, Howard Pruett and James Cook were put to the task of acquiring artifacts.
The original building is the old Grade School located on East Main Street in Raritan, Illinois. The Raritan Grade School was built in 1925. In 1954 the Morton building was added on. The school building was no longer used in 1973. Three years later the Historical Society was allowed to use the building to house the artifacts they had acquired. In 1979 the Southern School District sold the building and surrounding lots to the village of Raritan. In turn, they sold the building to the Historical Society. Today the buildings house the Church room, General Store, Post Office, Doctor’s Office, Kitchen, Bedrooms, Voting Booth, Military Uniforms, and much, much more.
Directly across the street is the Agriculture building and Blacksmith Shop. When it was donated to the Historical Society in 1981 by Orville Robeson, it was a seed corn dealership with the Methodist Episcopal Church attached to it. In 1995 a tornado destroyed the building. A great deal of material was saved from the building and has been recycled into many displays. The Ag building that we see today was built and now houses farm implements from the 1800’s-1900’s and displays life on the farm-a horse barn, milking shed, chicken house, grain room, even a fire engines and buggies.
In the back of the property is the Black Smith shop. Inside you will see the set up and tools used by the smithy. There are also many wood working tools and a lathe. During special events you will find a modern day smithy giving tours. Ancestors of the last blacksmith (Richard Knapp) still live in Raritan today.
The last building on that lot is the Graham School House. The Graham School originally was located on the Biggsville/ Media township line. It was moved to the Stronghurst Fairgrounds and later moved to Raritan and placed on an existing foundation. You are taken back in time when you enter the one room school. It has been set up to exhibit everything you would find in the one room school house, right down to the recitation desk, books, and the pot belly stove. The Henderson County Retired Teachers are always on hand during special occasions.
The Henderson County Historical Society has done very well in preserving the county’s history and treasures. The buildings house over 2,000 artifacts and you will find them lovingly displayed. The buildings are open for tours from spring to fall. As the museum’s administrator, James Cook is always changing the displays, so the exhibits are different from year to year.