In between rain drops, Bishop Hill's storied past is recalled

Doug Boock
Paul Collinson of Galva displays a wood piece bearing the name of Reynolds Johnson, one of his Bishop Hill colony ancestors, during the featured speech of the Sept. 13 Bishop Hill Old Settlers Day program, held in Bishop Hill Community United Methodist Church due to rain.

Cheryl Wexell Dowell, president of the Bishop Hill Old Settlers’ Association, welcomed the brave souls who ignored the damp weather and gathered Saturday in the Bishop Hill Community United Methodist Church for the 112th anniversary of the organization and the 162nd anniversary of the Bishop Hill Colony.

“It’s not in vogue to come to ‘speaking’ meetings,” she noted, as the modern trend is toward on-line involvement.

Craig Hawkins, a Bishop Hill Community United Methodist Church lay speaker, gave the invocation. His reference to “ancestral blessings” set the tone for the rest of the program as the other speakers looked for their own interpretation of “ancestral blessings.”

Dowell gave a brief review of Old Settlers’ history beginning in 1896 with the 50th anniversary reunion of the Bishop Hill colonists and their descendants.

Judy Middleton provided entertainment as she preformed an historical reenactment from the perspective of colonist Karen Danielsdotter.

Paul Collinson gave the descendant presentation, a tradition started in 1996. He outlined his personal family history from his colony ancestors Olof Lind and Reynolds Johnson.

Collinson reminisced about how an eighth grade history lesson from Emmelyne Hedstrom led to his life-long interest in history along with many traditions of the past.

He said several things he’s learned, he learned in Bishop Hill. Things such as: learning the value of volunteer work, becoming fascinated with steam power, tracing his family’s ancestry, learning broom making and blacksmithing, and speaking Swedish well enough to be complemented by a native Swede.

“These things are not essential for life,” he stated, “but they’re important for me.”

“We take history for granted sometimes,” Collinson added. “I’m grateful for all the restoration efforts and for the fact that my family history comes through such a special place.”

Vicki Rabas gave the necrology. This last year saw the passing of Willard Lindbom, Evelyn LaMaster, Clarice Hepner Scott, Janet Swanson Nordstrom, Roger Wexell and Lucille Bennison. Darlene Swan was also recognized because of a donation from her estate.

Lowell Bjorling sang the Swedish verses to Halsa Dem Dar Hemma. He explained that the song was meant to send greetings to the folks at home, or the old country, in a time when travel for the average person was nearly impossible.

Hawkins concluded with the benediction and everyone was invited to the Colony School for refreshments.