The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Horse And Buggy Museum, Celebrating "5" Years

The Horse and Buggy Museum in Biggsville is celebrating five years of business with some exciting new additions.

Five new kiosks have been added to the wireless network making more than 80 videos available for interactive viewing. A 60 inch LED TV has been added to the handicapped viewing theater.

School teachers and young group leaders are encouraged to contact the museum to set up special programs. Nursing homes and other groups looking for an activity are encouraged to plan a visit.

The 19th century Biggsville history display area is being expanded. One of the new displays has over 200 items of Native American Artifacts that Dave Hill, a local farmer, had found on his farms.

The museum's new website ( is being linked to the an expending number of Western Illinois tourist activities by the Henderson County Tourism Committee of the Economic Development Corporation.

The museum was built in 2006 by Jerry and Mary Lynn (Watson) Weibel who farm in Rozetta township, Henderson County.

Mary Lynn's ancestors came to this area to farm in 1837, just 10 years after the first white settlers arrived.

The museum is dedicated to this early pioneer, Elisha Watson, and his descendants.

In 1837, this area was called Warren County.

Henderson County was established in 1841 by splitting off the western portion of Warren County.

The equipment on display represents the horse era in Henderson County. The horse era started about 1820 with the early trappers and lasted until about 1920 when the farm tractor was invented. By 1950 there were few horses being used for farm power.

Following graduation from the University of Illinois, in Agricultural Engineering and Home Economics, Jerry and Mary Lynn were married in 1963 and spent the next 20 years in the Marine Corps.

Upon returning to Illinois they took over the management of the Watson farm and became active in the Historical Society which lead to his demonstrating farm equipment at schools and county events.

For a few years, he and a partner owned a stage coach and entertained in the county and surrounding area.

Also for a few years, he opened his one-room school house and 100 acres of his farm for living history demonstrations as part of the Heritage Trail event.

The primary reason for accumulating most of the museum's equipment was Jerry's desire to pass on to his grandchildren the teamster skills that his grandfather had taught him.

In 1995, he partnered with Ray Defenbaugh and they bought four Percheron mares so the grand-kid training could begin.

At that time, Jerry was spending one weekend each month as a volunteer demonstrating horse farming at the Living History Farm in Urbandale, Iowa.

For several years, Jerry worked with a group of local historians who dreamed of creating a living history farm in Illinois. Toward that goal, Jerry hosted living history demonstrations at his farm during the early 2000's. During the biggest of these show, 97 volunteers demonstrated their skills.

The shows were discontinued when Jerry developed some health issues.

Some of the museum's equipment was purchased specifically for use/display at these shows and was housed in a building on the Weibel farm.

In 2006, Jerry built the museum and moved some of his collection to town where it could be more easily viewed by the public.

Jerry has a strong belief in supporting the local community and to this extent local materials and craftsmen were used in the building construction.

The museum is charted as a non-for-profit cooperation, although completely constructed with private funds.

When Gerald Regan learned about the museum, he contributed 17, 24 x 30 prints of pictures that he commissioned Lavern Kammerude to paint.

Both Gerald and Lavern had intimate knowledge of the horse era and the paintings are, "Worth 10,000 words" in helping visitors to understand the way of life when horse equipment was considered to be state-of-the-art for farming.

Mr. Kammerude received the Wisconsin Heritage Award for his painting of the early farming scenes.

During the fifteen years that Jerry was actively teaching teamster skills to his grandchildren, he found that he had many gaps in his own knowledge and skills.

Dick Brown of Waterloo, Iowa took Jerry under-his-wing and became Jerry's mentor and inspiration.

Marie Brown made for her family a video scrapbook of the fifteen years when Jerry and Dick worked side by side with their horses.

Marie's videos bring to life the equipment on display and help visitors understand the draft horse and the role it played in powering the farm equipment.

In 2011, as part of the, "Agri-Tourism Day" at the State Fair, Illinois Comptroller, Judy Topinka, recognized Mary Lynn and Jerry Weibel, as agricultural leaders whose achievement and continuing dedication has promoted agriculture and tourism.