Bicentennial plans starting to take shape

Monroe County Clerk and Bicentennial co-chairman Dennis Knobloch holds a mock-up of the two-volume book to tell the story of Monroe County’s 200 years. The book, “From Tablet to Tablet: Monroe County, Illinois, 1816-2016,” may be ordered now for delivery at the conclusion of the year-long event.
(Alan Dooley photo)

Monroe County is 199 years old this year and preparations to properly celebrate its 200th anniversary are accelerating.

A growing group of dedicated volunteers, headed up by co-chairmen Dennis Knobloch and Mike Kovarik, is starting to firm up a calendar, secure finances and make detailed preparations — not just to celebrate, but commemorate the coming year’s events.

The next meeting of the Monroe County Bicentennial Committee will be 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25. Knobloch emphasized the location – the County Annex Building on Illinois Avenue in Waterloo – when he sat down with the Republic-Times last week. The first committee sessions were held in the old courthouse, but public access to that building is being restricted under new security measures being implemented.

Knobloch also emphasized that while committees overseeing special events, outreach and finances were established at the first meeting in January, the groups are eager to accept new volunteers to build momentum and add ideas, especially as the events get closer to occurring.

As a caption on a photo of the original group on the wall entering the county clerk’s office reads, “It’s Up To Us.”

At this point, events are firming up for the first half of 2016. Knobloch said the Aug. 25 meeting should pretty much cement the first half of events for the year-long celebration.

“We’re planning to spread the events across the entire county, featuring all elements of our history, people and places,” he said.

Preliminary estimates call for donations totaling about $100,000 to do things right.  At this writing, roughly $21,500 is in hand.

Donations are being accepted from individuals and businesses in a spectrum of levels connected to local areas. The lowest level has been named the “Boxtown Level” and will garner individual recognition for a contribution of $25. A stepped series of levels up to the $50,000 “Harrisonville Level” are in place and will be recognized with increasingly generous rewards and gifts.

Commemorative Book
Another source of funds will be book sales – actually of a two-volume, slip-covered set of books totaling about 1,000 pages. One volume will list the history timeline of Monroe County. The second will convey historic photos, stories and memories.

Named “From Tablet to Tablet: Monroe County, Illinois, 1816-2016, 200 Years of History,” the two-volume set’s title derives from a history ranging from Native American stone tablets to the modern digital tablets in wide use today.  The set mirrors an earlier history book titled “Arrowheads to Aerojets” that told the story of the county’s first 150 years in 1966.

Knobloch, who showed a mock-up of the book set last week, noted that this set may be more than just a beautiful historic record. The original history documentary published in 1966 consisted of 1,250 copies at a cost of $25 each. This set will contain twice as many pages for $50.

That means there will be no added factor for half-a-century of inflation.

And the original “Arrowheads to Aerojets” has increased greatly in value. A nice clean copy recently sold at auction for $500, Knobloch said. In addition to being a historical record, the new book may very well become a good investment.

Copies of the two-volume set can be reserved by cash or check to the Monroe County Bicentennial Committee, c/o Dennis M. Knobloch, County Clerk, Monroe County Courthouse, 100 South Main Street, Waterloo, Ill. 62298.  Each set will be individually serial numbered inside the cover. Plans call for 2,500 total copies.

Bicentennial calendar
A calendar will include events — some that will require tickets to be purchased — and other free happenings.  Details, including prices, will be forthcoming.

The current calendar calls for three January events in 2016. They will start with a New Year’s Day ringing of all church bells at noon to “Ring in the Bicentennial New Year.” A Bicentennial Birthday Bash is slated for Jan. 16 in Hecker. On Jan. 23, there will be a “Let’s Explore Monroe County” bus tour with lunch and a presentation by the World Bird Sanctuary.

February, normally the height of winter, has no events scheduled.

In March, another “Let’s Explore Monroe County” bus tour is slated to explore and learn about the stone bridges that dot the county’s roads and byways.

Following a quiet April, May 14 will offer another bus tour with lunch and looking into stories of history and mystery in the county.

June will be the most active month currently slated. On June 4, a ceremonial county board meeting will be held in Harrisonville — the county’s first seat of government.  Three days later, a naturalization ceremony for new citizens will be conducted at the Monroe County Courthouse.

On June 21, a Bicentennial plaque will be dedicated as part of the Porta Westfalica Festival.
Finally, June will include a wheat cutting and binding demonstration (either June 18 or 25) on Doug Sondag’s property – farmland once owned by Illinois’ first governor, Shadrach Bond.

Other events still being firmed up include a blow-out celebration in commemoration of an 1840 speech by Abraham Lincoln, a Civil War reenactment band performance, more bus tours, a November Bicentennial gala at Turner Hall in Columbia and dedication of a Bicentennial time capsule at the Kueker bison statue in Waterloo.

Other events and happenings
Earlier this summer, a bus tour was held for county educators to solicit ideas for student participation, and two ideas have been offered up already. One, from Immaculate Conception School in Columbia, is for an educational website highlighting places and events for people to explore.  Each location will feature what is known as a QR code to be scanned by a smartphone and call up a “living historian” discussion of the site and its prominence in county history.

Just this week, a Waterloo Junior High School teacher suggested a program to study and document the architecture of the county, including having students create artistic renderings of historic structures.  Knobloch said the Bicentennial Committee is accepting applications to fund student projects.

“Of course, we’d love to get a corporate commitment for the top sponsorship, the Harrisonville Level of $50,000.  But this is foremost a participatory celebration and we are eager to sign up as many individuals and families at lower levels like the Boxtown Level or $50, $75, $100 and higher levels,” Knobloch said.

If this report whets your appetite to take a role in the coming year’s commemorative events, you are again invited to the meeting on Aug. 25.  Check the Bicentennial Committee’s Facebook site at for continuous updates and information.

Monroe County’s 200th birthday promises to be a memorable one.

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Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.
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