D. HUSAR: Quincy's Native American history spotlighted this month, but on display for decades

Posted: Sep. 30, 2011 8:52 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 2:17 pm


Quincy's Native American history took a turn in the spotlight this month with Indian Mounds Park featured on the poster for Illinois Archaeology Awareness Month and mound preservation efforts highlighted in Illinois Antiquity magazine.

But it's been on display all along in the Gem City -- at least since the early 1960s.

"While the park continues to flourish as an urban recreational center, the spectacular mounds and earthworks faded as a focal point for the property in the 20th century, although they witnessed a brief resurgence during the period when the Erroke Museum was open," co-authors Steve Tieken and Dave Nolan wrote in the magazine article.

The museum, near the park's Fifth Street entrance, opened in July 1962 with displays of artifacts from the Woodland and other prehistoric cultures and a burial mound excavation.

"It was a very popular destination for school groups, people coming from out of town," said Barbara Wilkinson, executive director of the Quincy Museum.

Members of Explorer Post 107 based in Quincy acted as tour guides and operated the museum, spearheaded in large part by Quincy dentist Jim Reed, an amateur archaeologist with a keen interest in Native American culture. Reed named the museum "for his children using the first letters of their names for Erin, Robin and Kevin," Wilkinson said. "Some folks in the area ask about the Erroke tribe. There was no Erroke tribe."

Growing sensitivity to displaying human remains prompted changes at the museum, which reburied the remains with help from Native Americans, Wilkinson said, and then relocated to Quinsippi Island where the city wanted to enhance tourism opportunities.

The renamed, expanded Quincy Museum of the American Indian offered displays of artifacts, minerals and natural history beginning in May 1971. The concrete block building was located just west of the Little Q Railroad roundtable and Sky Cruise island terminus on the southern tip of the island, according to a June 25, 1970, Herald-Whig story.

By 1980, the museum's board was looking to expand to a new more centrally located site. New marina development caused access problems to the island and restricted a large number of visitors from reaching the museum, according to the Quincy Museum's website. The board leased the historic Newcomb House at 1601 Maine for a year and bought the home in June 1981.

"One of our favorite stories is that we started the campaign to purchase this building with only a whopping $60 in our treasury," Wilkinson said.

Now known as the Quincy Museum, its displays include Native American items including some pieces from the Erroke Museum.

"There's a particular kind of pottery known as the Adams Tradition. It is distinctive to here in Adams County. We've got some pieces on display," Wilkinson said. "We do show quite a few of the things that were found here in Adams County."

Children visiting the museum can follow the Native American Trail. "They can follow clues throughout the museum and find different things. It's like a scavenger hunt," Wilkinson said.

"We're very fortunate to be here in Adams County where we have such a great heritage. It's a shame people don't come and see more of it," Wilkinson said. "We have a permanent Native American display where we do show quite a few of the things that were found here in Adams County. It's definitely worth a visit."




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