Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Black Hawk Battlefield Park/War Monument
Blackhawk & Monument roads, Kent/Pearl City, Ill.
On a ridge overlooking the Yellow Creek Valley in Stephenson County stands a memorial to a brief yet intense conflict fought solely in the Old Northwest Territory – the Black Hawk War. The monument is located on the site of the former settlement of Kellogg’s Grove, established in 1827 along a wagon route between Peoria and Galena.
On June 24, 1832, Sauk warrior Black Hawk and 200 warriors attacked Apple River Fort. As the siege wore on, Black Hawk sent group of his men to gather food and supplies from nearby settlers. The following day, this group reached Kellogg Grove and ambushed soldiers there. They were in turn attacked by a nearby militia force. The skirmish resulted in the deaths of 14 whites, including eight militia, and at least nine of Black Hawk’s warriors.
The next day, a company of Illinois militia arrived, among them a young Abraham Lincoln, who helped to bury the slain men.
The monument was built 54 years later, the project initiated by J.B. Timms, who had survived the Apple River Fort attack as a child. Timms’ family relocated to Kellogg Grove in 1835. Timms had walked the battlefield as a boy, noting the unmarked graves of the fallen. In 1886, these bodies were disinterred and buried in an enclosure at the foot of the monument; a plaque on the base lists the names. The remains of three other soldiers, casualties at the Battle of Prairie Grove, were also relocated there. The monument’s official dedication was attended by 2,000 people.
When the grove was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, wagon ruts from the original trail were still visible. A log cabin was relocated here in 1981. The 1.5-acre site includes a shelter, playground and picnic area.
Loveland Community House, 513 W. 2nd St., Dixon, Ill., (815) 284-2741.
This building was a gift to the community from George C. Loveland, to honor ancestors who came to Dixon in 1837. Since opening in 1940, Loveland Community House has hosted hundreds of events, from quilters guilds and Boy Scout banquets to wedding showers and art shows.
In 1946, a museum was established on the top floor, and it continues to operate today, with exhibits chronicling the history of Dixon and Lee County. One entire room is dedicated to hometown hero President Ronald Reagan.
Octogenarian Fran Swarbrick, a former Dixon Telegraph and Register Star reporter who met Reagan three times, has been curator for the past 17 years. She can talk at length about every exhibit and item in the museum, from autographed Reagan photos to dioramas, some of which she had a hand in constructing. She’ll also relate stories of past events like clamming on the Rock River or the bridge collapse that killed 42 people.
Items on display include a market basket used by Dixon’s founding father John Dixon; 19th century farming and kitchen implements; a pioneer bedroom and kitchen; a razor used by Abraham Lincoln; Civil War weapons and medical equipment; a switchboard from the local Nachusa House Hotel; even a natural history section.
Many items have been donated, and the collection continues to grow. “Every week, we get something new from somebody,” says Swarbrick.
Hours: First Saturday of the month, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Wednesdays, Fridays and other Saturdays, 1-4 p.m. Group tours can be scheduled.
Minhas Craft Brewery
1208, 14th Ave., Monroe, Wis., (608) 325-3191, minhasbrewery.com
In this quaint town, just five miles north of the Wisconsin/Illinois border, is the second-oldest brewery – and currently the 15th-largest – in the country, with tours, a gift shop and beer museum.
It began at its present site in 1845 as the Monroe Brewery, brewing a few hundred barrels a year, and only in winter. Over the years, several other owners built the business, and by 1857, it was putting out 1,200 barrels annually. The brewery suffered a major fire in 1875, which took seven hours to extinguish – with green beer. It rebounded, and by 1885, revenues were $12,000 a year.
Purchased in 1892 by Adam Blumer, who brought electric machinery into the process, the brewery operated as Blumer Brewing Company. During Prohibition, the Blumers produced ice cream, soda and “near beer” and rented out the brewery’s cold cellars for cheese storage. In 1938, Fred Blumer sold his interest to a group of “cheese magnates” from Monroe and Milwaukee.
In 1947, Joseph Huber, a Blumer Brewery employee, purchased brewery interest from this group and renamed it Joseph Huber Brewing Co. Here, he created Augsburger, the first craft premium beer in the U.S. He sold the brewery to two former Pabst executives in 1985, but bought it back in 1989, partnering with Chicago restaurateur Herman Berghoff to introduce the Berghoff craft beer brand.
Sold again in 1994, the brewery was modernized and upgraded by its new owners, who also expanded the Berghoff line and introduced many new beer and soda flavors. They also supplied beer to other companies, one of them the Canadian-based Ravinder Minhas, which bought the brewery in 2005 and renamed it Minhas Craft Brewery.
Tours last 40 to 60 minutes and include samples of seven beers and Blumer’s Root Beer on tap, along with a visit to the Beer Memorabilia Museum, with a collection valued at more than $1 million. Visitors can also get a cold one at the onsite Lazy Mutt Tap.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 12-5 p.m. Tours: Mon. 11 a.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 1 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 1 & 3 p.m.
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