An eclectic museum collection in Carthage

The Kibbe Hancock Museum, “Where local history comes alive”

click to enlarge The Kibbe Museum - PHOTOS BY KEITH LADAGE
The Kibbe Museum
The Kibbe Museum

Head west, young man or woman! About 100 miles northwest of Springfield there is an interesting museum, the Kibbe Hancock Museum, with the motto, “Where Local History Comes Alive.”

The Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum is located in Carthage, across the street from the historic jail where Joseph Smith, the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered. Include a stop and tour of the museum when you are in the area (

The Kibbe Museum was started in the mid-1960s by Dr. Alice Kibbe, a biology professor for Carthage College. “When they moved Carthage College to Kenosha, Wis., Dr. Kibbe stayed behind,” Perry said.

Besides being a professor, Dr. Alice Kibbe was curator for the Carthage College museum. She felt the museum should stay local, so she bought the collection and put the museum in her house. After she died in 1969, she deeded both her home and collection to the city of Carthage.

Lincoln connections are strong at the Kibbe museum, with several items connecting Lincoln and Hancock County. One is a fireplace mantle from a home in Carthage where Lincoln was known to have stayed with friends. Another is an 18-star hand-sewn flag that was especially sewn for Lincoln’s Oct. 22, 1858, speech in Carthage. “The flag represented the 18 slave-free states,” Perry said.

click to enlarge Indian artifacts are also part of the Kibbe Museum.
Indian artifacts are also part of the Kibbe Museum.
Indian artifacts are also part of the Kibbe Museum.

The museum saved the doorway of the home belonging to Maj. Alexander Sympson where Lincoln made his speech. The home, built in 1844, was razed in 1914. There are also model replicas of the Lincolns’ tomb in Springfield, his funeral train and his Memorial arch.

Another unusual item is a cape used by the Wide Awakes, a young men’s marching club supporting Lincoln’s political campaign. The cape was part of the Wide Awake uniform consisting of a full robe or cape, a black glazed hat, and a torch six feet long which the museum also has on display. “The cape was used to protect the clothes from the kerosene torches,” Perry said.

The Kibbe museum has a prairie breaking plow and several agricultural items including an oxen yoke, ox shoes and a grain cradle.

The Kibbe Museum acquired the items from the Museum of Funeral Customs in Springfield which closed in 2009. The replica of Lincoln’s casket is on permanent display at a new exhibit entitled “Lincoln: The Making of a Man.” 

click to enlarge A desk that belonged to John Hay, who served as Lincoln’s secretary.
A desk that belonged to John Hay, who served as Lincoln’s secretary.
A desk that belonged to John Hay, who served as Lincoln’s secretary.

The museum also includes carpenter tools, pioneer tools, a doctor’s area, old toys and an amazing John Deere open buggy built in 1900 in St. Louis. There are photos from a barn tour as well as a geological and natural history section (much from the original Carthage College collection). There is also the recent addition of a two-headed calf.

There is a military section that includes a Pirate Flintlock pistol from 1590 that belonged to a pirate. Perry said some distant relatives of his rescued the pirate. The relative ran a trading vessel line from Baltimore to New Orleans. They found the pirate on a wooden raft, nursed him back to health and released him in the East Indies. The pirate gave them a brace of pistols as thanks for not turning him in to the authorities. One of these pistols is on display today.

Cindy Ladage is a frequent contributor to Illinois Times special issues. A freelance writer, she specializes in stories about people and places. Cindy writes for antique tractor and toy magazines along with other publications like Senior News & Times.

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