Destination Illinois: Bishop Hill’s rich history continues to thrive
A small town just southeast of the Quad Cities has a lot to offer for historians visiting the area. Bishop Hill has a rich history dating back nearly two centuries.
You can find the people of Bishop Hill sticking to their historic Swedish roots through arts, entertainment and food.
There are brooms you buy in a store. And then there’s a broom built in a method that dates back far before any big box store existed.
The community dates back to 1846. It was originally founded by Swedish immigrants who set up a religious communal colony that lasted until 1861. It disbanded, and has since developed into a tourist town, welcoming people from all over the world.
“My first full-time job was here, and I have been here 10 year. I’ve been coming to Bishop Hill since I was 5 years old,” said Todd DeDecker, with the Bishop Hill Heritage Association. He knows all things Bishop Hill.
“I’ve always been a history nut,” he said. “For a small town, there’s a lot of things going on that I don’t think a lot of people realize.” For example, “We have seven museums in town,” he said.
That’s the most museums per capita in Illinois, with centuries of history on display.
“You have lot of history here, a lot of pre-Civil War history here. We have 18 buildings that are still in use that date back to the 1840s/1850s, and several buildings that were built during the Civil War area.”
“We have workshops and lectures and concerts and festivals. You’re able to do a lot of different things here in Bishop Hill. We have potters. We have broom makers. We have rag rug weavers. We have antique stores. Coming up in July, we have a big car show in town. We have a chautauqua. We have a hummingbird festival. We have Ag Days in the fall.”
Today, he said, Bishop Hill is a living village with something for everyone.
“People live here. People work here. People work at other places,” he said. “For a little town out in the middle of the prairie, with 130 people, it’s a lot of things going on.”
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