The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Treasured Memories As Historical Society President

by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner

John Allaman of rural Rozetta, retired in May of this year as President of the Henderson County Historical Society, a position he had held for 36 of the past forty years.

It was John Bigger and a group of interested county citizens who started the first Henderson County Historial Society.

Allaman said it was organized "for the purpose of bringing together the people of the county interested in the history of Henderson County, especially the history of Henderson County, giving them a better understanding of our state and nation, and promoting a better appreciation of our heritage."

The first official meeting was October 11, 1962, forty-six years ago in the Henderson County Courtroom in Oquawka. The first officers were:

John Bigger-President

Eugene "Mac" Pogue, 1st V.P.

Frank Butler, 2nd V.P.

Elbridge A. Fort, Rec. Secretary

Margaret Barron, Corr. Sec.

Woodrow Salter, Treas.

Membership dues were only $2 a year and $5 for families where it remains today.

Other Presidents of the Society have been Clarence Gibb, Loren Siverly, Mac Pogue, before John H. Allaman was elected in 1968.

Allaman served one 2-year term and then Jim Cook and Bob Gray each served two-year terms then Allaman served as its President ever since, until May of 2008.

Allaman said the group became inactive and were later reorganized in 1975 in preparation for the country's Bi-Centennial celebration in 1776 from the influence of Clarence Neff, who John said, "can give a pretty good arm twist when he wanted to."

One of the first goals of the group was to establish a county museum in which to house items pertaining to the history of Henderson County.

The Raritan Elementary School was purchased and opened on July 4, 1976 when over 1000 people toured the first weekend it was open.

The Raritan Museum now consists of five buildings, the brick Raritan Grade School building, the gymnasium building, the blacksmith shop, the Graham one room country schoolhouse, and new agriculture museum.

In 1977, the Society organized the first annual Henderson County Heritage Trail which is held the last full weekend of September. The festival is to celebrate the history of our county.

In 1982, the Historical Society acquired the Alexis Phelps House and succeeded in having it placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1984, the Historical Society was instrumental in organizing the reconstruction of one of Henderson County's main tourist attractions, the Henderson County Covered Bridge which had collapsed during a flood in 1982.

This is probably the most dear to John's heart. John's love for history stems in part from the accomplishments of his great grandfather, Jacob Allaman who had built this bridge.

Through John and the diligent and self-sacrificing efforts of community leaders, volunteers, and legislators, it was rebuilt in its original form using most of the original timbers, and is a cherished historical treasure of Allaman's.

Other highlights under John's leadership are:

1986: $10,000 grant restoring the exterior of the Alexis Phelps House; Other funds used in restoring the building obtained by dues, private donations, Society fund-raisers.

1990: Asked to be a host for World Wide Country Tours a nationally known tour agency. The tour is each August with tours of the Henderson Covered Bridge and the Twomey Gladstone & River facilities.

1992: Tom Clapp donated the Carriage House which stood on a lot south of the Jail and north of the old Bank of Oquawka. The building was moved to its present location by members in the fall and the stone foundation was put under the building in 1994 by JTPA workers under the direction of Fred Dixon.

1994: Awarded a matching Tourism Attraction Grant for $15,000 to complete restoration of the Phelps House. Matching funds included $10,000 from the Twomey Foundation. Since the completion of the house members of the Gillette Dixon family (Joyce Dixon Adair, Joanne Dixon Klossing and Don Dixon) have maintained the house and hosted many luncheons, receptions and other events in the building.

1994-95: The Pioneer Cabin was moved from the Russell Sanderson farm south of UHS (now West Central Schools) to the Phelps House area. Fred Dixon and JTPA workers laid the foundation stone in 1995.

The Carriage House and Pioneer Cabin were wired in 1996. The Pioneer Cabin was first opened to the public during Heritage Trails of 1996. The fireplace in the cabin was restored in 2001.

May 13, 1996: The Raritan Museum was severely damaged by a tornado. By use of the insurance money, generous donations, and much volunteer work, the old school building and Morton building were repaired and a new Agricultural Museum was built on the north side of the street

A new roof was put on the Blacksmith's Shop.

1997: The Graham School was moved into Raritan and restored. It was featured in the Heritage Trail Festival in that year. Through the efforts of Historical Society volunteers and members of the Henderson County Retired Teachers, the school is now an excellent representation of Henderson county's past one-room country schools.

Many school kids have come to visit this and the other Museums each year.

John married Mary Lou Rinker, of Monmouth. They have two daughters Mary Reed, Administrator of two health departments in Henderson and Mercer County, and Anita McKelvey, Monmouth who teaches at Yorkwood

The Alexis Phelps house is in Oquawka, beautifully situated on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. This is another proud accomplishment by John Allaman and the Henderson County Historical Society. Allaman said they were going to tear this house down and he thinks it is the oldest house in Oquawka built in 1833. Phelps and his brother were fur traders with Indians and they also built the county's courthouse, the most prominent one left. Phelps laid out the town of Oquawka and died in 1846. They were friends of Lincoln, and he visited them here.

Retired Historical Society President, John Allaman, sits near one of his most treasurered memories of Henderson County restoration and preservation, The Henderson Covered Bridge, built by one of his ancestor Jacob Allaman.