2016 History Day and the I&M Canal Award

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Illinois and Michigan Canal, Joliet, IL / I & M Canal Photographs, 1859-1948 (Lewis University) / 2014-01-I&MCanal-0046

The Canal Corridor Association encourages students to compete for the I&M Canal Award on Illinois History Day, May 5, 2016, by using this year’s history theme to explore topics related to the Illinois & Michigan Canal. This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History

Students interesting in pursuing the I&M Canal Award are encouraged to visit the Chicago Metro History Education Center’s I&M Canal History page for ideas and resources on topics to explore.

The I&M Canal Award was established in 1998 to celebrate the canal’s sesquicentennial, the I&M Canal Awards offer cash prizes of up to $300 to outstanding history fair projects in each of the Junior and Senior Divisions at Illinois History Day in Springfield.  Research papers, exhibits, models, performance and media projects are eligible.  To be considered for an I&M Canal Award, a history fair project may:

  • Focus on the life and work of individuals associated with the I&M Canal
  • Explore the influence of the Canal on a specific community, industry or business
  • Examine the construction, working or rehabilitation of the canal
  • Study and compare the I&M Canal and its successor waterways
  • or Tackle other topics that illuminate the I&M Canal’s impact

Entries that explore the early and more contemporary history and themes of the I&M Canal are welcome—its up to students to make the connection!

Every year National History Day frames students’ research within a historical theme. The theme is chosen for the broad application to world, national or state history and its relevance to ancient history or to the more recent past. This year’s theme is Exploration, Encounter, Exchange in History. The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.

The NHD theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time.

Bookmark the Canal Corridor Association’s page on the I&M Canal Award to have access to these resources!

November Dinner Lecture: Dinner & a Little History

Dinner Lecture - Irish

Dr. Eileen McMahon, Professor of History at Lewis University, will discuss the Irish canal digger communities along the canal after a delicious dinner with fellow history enthusiasts at the Lock 16 Center in La Salle on Thursday, November 19 at 5:30pm.

One of the primary stabilizing forces in early Irish life along the I&M Canal was the church. While Irish canal workers, recruited to dig the canal, had a reputation for violence and drunkenness, the desire to settle down and build a community actually arose from within the canal digging ranks themselves. One LaSalle native, William “Billy” Byrne reached out to bishops in St. Louis, requesting priests be sent to the area.

These Irish workers and their families battled frontier conditions, meager or non-existent pay, violent crime and a lack of empathy by their employers.  The legacy left by these Irish pioneers is still visible in the spires of Catholic parishes along the I&M Canal National Heritage Area, specifically between Lemont and LaSalle-Peru.

“The settling of Irish canal diggers in the Illinois Valley is a centric piece of the early days of the canal.” Says Dr. Eileen McMahon of Lewis University. “The Irish created a diversity in the early populations of these canal towns that simply didn’t exist before they arrived. If we are to fully understand the history of our area, that story isn’t complete without the Irish canal digger and his Parish.”

Learn more about this fascinating subject while enjoying an evening of drinks, dining and discussion along the I&M Canal. It’s sure to be an evening to remember!

Drinks are served at 5:30, dinner at 6:00. The lecture will follow at 7:00. Choose from either Lock 16’s deliciously seasoned pork chops with autumn apple stuffing, or a filet of lemon-buttered cod, served on a bed of harvest rice. Both entrees are served with roasted root vegetables, salad, rolls, and a special dessert!

Join us for both the dinner & lecture for $29, or just the lecture for $7. Reservations are required. For more information or to reserve, please call (815) 223-1851.

20150216_090953Dr. Eileen McMahon is Professor of History at Lewis University.  She has published “What Parish Are You From?”  The Chicago Irish Parish Community and Race Relation; Chicago War Chicago: Eyewitness to History Ohio University Press, winner of the Russell P. Strange Book of the Year, Illinois State Historical Society; “Illinois” in The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America.

Dinner & a little history this Thursday in Lockport!

Dinner Lecture - Spies

Dinner & a Little History: Thursday, October 15, 2015: 6pm
Professor Amanda Fesperman speaks on Female Spies of the South
Public Landing Restaurant, 200 W. 8th Street, Lockport, IL 60441

Come for a delicious buffet dinner with fellow history enthusiasts at the Public Landing Restaurant in Lockport on Thursday, October 15 at 6:00pm. Professor Amanda Fesperman will discuss the brave women involved in espionage during the nation’s Civil War.

Hear the stories of the heroic women involved in some of the most pivotal moments in Civil War history. Unexpected plot twists, danger and intrigue all wind together to make an evening of delightful historic content, led by a professor who has dedicated herself to the study of women in antebellum society.

The Civil War provided countless opportunities for heroism, sacrifice and betrayal. Learn more about this fascinating subject while enjoying an evening of drinks, dining and discussion along the I&M Canal. It’s sure to be an evening to remember.

“There are some really fascinating stories here!” Says Amanda. “One woman was not just a double agent, she was actually hired to spy on herself. Another set a personal goal to become engaged to as many confederate soldiers as she could as a way to boost morale!”

When asked how some of these incredible stories have gone unheard for so long, Professor Fesperman adds, “People don’t know these stories because until 20 years ago, women’s involvement in the Civil War wasn’t given much thought in traditional collegiate history departments. This has been, and continues to be, a truly amazing area of study, and I look forward to sharing it with your guests.”

Drinks begin at 6:00, dinner at 6:30. The lecture will follow at 7:30. Dinner is a buffet of Herb Roasted Pork Loin, Citrus Baked Whitefish, Vegetarian Pasta Marinara served with coffee, mixed field greens salad, homemade poppyseed dressing, fresh rolls, chef’s fresh vegetable and garlic mashed potatoes.

Join us for both the dinner & lecture for $29, or just the lecture for $7. Reservations are required. Call to reserve (815) 223-1851.

Amanda Fesperman is a professor at Illinois Valley Community College and has been studying women in politics and history for the past 25 years. Her master’s and doctoral work focused on women in the developing world — particularly sub-Saharan Africa — and women in the Antebellum and Civil War periods in the United States.

This event is sponsored by the Canal Corridor Association, coordinating entity for the I&M Canal National Heritage Area, 100 miles filled with simple pleasures and natural treasures along one of America’s most historically significant waterways. For more information on the historic cities and towns, prairies, parks and preserves that make up the I&M Canal National Heritage Area, visit the Lock 16 Visitor Center, located at 754 First Street in LaSalle, IL, or visit us online at www.iandmcanal.org.

Call to reserve (815) 223-1851.

River Rendezvous Recap!

River Rendezvous Recap

The rain was falling heavily Saturday morning as the British legionaries emerged from their tents in Columbia Woods along the Des Plaines River where they had camped since Thursday. On Friday over 1,000 fifth grade students had been there, rushing from tent to tent; shopping, eating, playing and taking in the sights and sounds of colonial life at the River Thru History – Des Plaines Valley River Rendezvous.

Just before 9am, the rain subsided and the sun began its work. By 10, you’d never know it had rained at all! It was a perfect day.

IMG_3385Fur traders, British, American and French soldiers, settlers and one roaming Catholic priest named Father Marquette made up just a few of the characters we encountered at the River Rendezvous.

Kids lined up to play a selection of colonial board games only to discover that before they could play… chores had to be done! Before they knew it, the kids were up to their elbows in laundry wash buckets, drying the clothes on a line in the morning sun. Everyone agreed that the games were much more fun after a bit of work.

The laughter from the game table could be heard across the clearing, as soldiers prepared a cannon for an afternoon solute. Crowds of 30-40 gathered each time the cannon was fired, learning from a seasoned team of British army re-enactors, the ins and outs of British military life.

IMG_3386As my family and I passed a group of food tents, the scent of “sausage on a stick” blended with the “thunk, thunk” of tomahawks thudding into targets in a fenced area across the way to create a very authentic “early American village” experience. Artisans demonstrated pottery techniques to a gathering crowd, while shop owners hawked their wares to the passerby.

My favorite moment took place on Sunday, when Blue Celtic Grass Music, a local band, began playing for a crowd seated on hay bales near Mama Bear’s food tent. Steel & acoustic guitars, a banjo, an upright bass and tight harmonies carried across the grounds as the sounds of early bluegrass and celtic folk melodies had toes tapping and hands clapping.

IMG_3382Storytellers like Lou Aiello had our boys entranced. Tales of how the sun came to be in the sky, and why the turtle has a cracked shell were brought to life by Lou’s excited and expertly animated style. Our group contained over 60 people, sitting on and around hay bales, laughing, clapping and calling back to Lou when he asked for audience input.

The River Rendezvous was so much fun, so interesting, and so well organized. We’ll definitely be back next year, and might even come in costume!

A River Thru History!

The Des Plaines Valley Rendezvous at Columbia Woods in Willow Springs this weekend!

RendezvousSaturday, September 12 • 10am – 5pm
Sunday, September 13 • 10am – 4pm

Location: 8424 Corcoran Road, Willow Springs, IL

This weekend, join us as we step back 200 years into America’s past at the Des Plaines Valley Rendezvous. It’s an early American party with all the trimmings along the banks of the Des Plaines River!

Bring the kids and enjoy a day immersed in history, laughter and fun in the sun.

Some of the food, fun and festivities available:

  • Music & Entertainment
  • Craft Demonstrations
  • Tomahawk Demonstrations
  • Battle re-enactment
  • Kids Trading Post
  • Frontier Food
  • Ice Cream, Root Beer
  • Skillet Toss
  • Meet DuSable – Chicago’s First Resident
  • Games & MORE!

Time: Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Sunday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Cost: Family $25, Adults $10, Seniors and Children $5
Website: http://www.aRiverThruHistory.com

SEPTEMBER 4, 5 & 6: Meet the Mules this Labor Day Weekend!

Meet the mules this Labor Day!

Come to historic downtown LaSalle this weekend and meet Larry & Moe,
the LaSalle Canal Boat’s intrepid mule team as they pull our 1840’s era
replica canal boat up the I&M Canal!

Friday, Saturday & Sunday
SEPTEMBER 4, 5 & 6
Rides at 11:30, 1pm & 2:30pm

Adults: $14 • Kids 4 and up $8 • Seniors $12 • Kids under 4 are free!

iandmcanalsunsettour smaller

Unwind this Friday night aboard the Sunset Tour on the LaSalle Canal Boat.
At only $7 a ticket, it’s the perfect way to kick off the long weekend!

Call to order tickets today! (815) 223-1851 or visit us online at www.lasallecanalboat.org.