Griggsville, Pike County Illinois
Contributed by Billie Browning
People across the country know about the Skinner House in Griggsville and its collections from a wealth of genealogical information to personal items owned by Nellie Grant, the daughter of President Ulysses S. Grant.
It's area residents who have little to no idea of what's available in the historic home turned museum and meeting place.
"People in Griggsville don't know what we have here," said Rosie Robinson, the Skinner House's caretaker for almost 20 years. "People are surprised when they come in."
Page Hatch, a well-known wildlife carver and painter, lived in Griggsville for over 100 years. The room named for him in the Skinner House displays several of his paintings and his duck carvings - and his family ties brought the Nellie Grant items to Griggsville.
"We have two cases of Nellie Grant's things," Robinson said. "When she died, there wasn't anybody left in her family to leave this collection to. Through marriage, Page Hatch and his wife in Griggsville were the closest relation to Nellie, and they received this collection."
The collection includes medals and gifts given to General, and later President, Grant along with photographs, compacts, "personal things that belonged to her mother," Robinson said. "It's just a lot of silver and ivory. You won't believe how beautiful these things are."
A variety of other items also are on display at the house which closed in January and February to curb heating costs but will reopen March 1. Hours will be 8 a.m.-noon Tuesday and Wednesday, 1-5 p.m. Thursday and 1-4 p.m. Friday, with special activities planned Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13, for the county's historic preservation weekend.
"We have really old things that people were going to discard and instead of throwing away, they put on display like an old theater movie projector," Robinson said. "The old grade school, now torn down, had a clock with a face on all four sides. Somebody was lucky enough to have gotten a face off the clock, and we have that on display."
A framed quilt, made by Griggsville women and displayed upstairs, features historic buildings that once stood, or still stand, in the community, Robinson said.
Equally important is the written history available at the house's library - the published histories, cemetery books and obituaries prized by genealogists - long overseen by the late June Johnson.
"There is a lot of information in there. You can find so much information in obits, especially the older ones," said Jackie Orr, president of the Griggsville Historical Society. "We have a lot of reference books, not only Pike County, but other reference books." ,
Johnson died after a car accident in October, and "we're struggling along without June," Robinson said. "You would mention a name, and she knew who they were before any-body else did any research. We're missing her."
The Skinner House, owned and maintained by the nonprofit Griggsville Preservation and Restoration Society, was established as a community center.
"We don't have as many parties as we did when it first opened, but it's a place people can come and enjoy a family get-together, club meetings. One family here in Griggsville has their Christmas dinner here every year," Robinson said. "It's a beautiful place to have a meeting, a party. We have a lot of showers."
The house, dating to 1858, was built by two doctors who came to Griggsville from England. Originally a two-family home, the north side later was used for apartments and then was torn down, leaving just the south side and what's known today as the Skinner House.
"It's one of the oldest homes still standing (in Griggsville). A brick house north of the Skinner House is a year older, built in 1857," Robinson said.
The home, which needed much work, was restored in 1982. "People in the community did lots of volunteer work and gave money for restoration. The people in the beginning put their heart and soul into it," said Linda Pat-ton, president of the preservation and restoration society. "It's tough to keep going. A lot of good things around here cost money to keep up and maintain."
A former board president, the late Norma Pool, got Robinson involved with the Skinner House after retiring from Tate Cheese.
"She came to me and said I have just the job for you. That was in May 1992. I've been there ever since. I've spent a lot of hours up there," Robinson said. "It's my baby."
Article by Deborah Gertz Husar - The Quincy Herald-Whig, Feb. 7, 2012