Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 30, 2012

Lecture to kick off opening of museum in old Effingham County courthouse

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — A series of lectures on Effingham County history kicks off on Nov. 8 in the soon to reopen Old County Courthouse.

    “We want people to appreciate the heritage of Effingham County,” said Delaine Donaldson, chairman of the Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum Association, who has helped put on the lectures since they started in 2006. “We originally thought we’d be running out of material but we’ve found plenty of material between us.”

    The first of this season’s lecture series is at 7 p.m. Nov. 8, where Tom McDevitt of Charleston will discuss his memories of growing up in Effingham County.

    “I’ve got a soft spot for the people of Effingham County,” McDevitt said. “They elected my dad as sheriff three times and that’s not an office where you make a lot of friends.”

    McDevitt’s father served as sheriff through most of the 1940s. In those years, McDevitt and his family lived on the first floor of the jail, with the cell block upstairs. He remembers growing up in the unique situation and the occasional brushes with responsibility that came with it.

    “My dad would usually write up the citations and things for the people who came in and sometimes I would do it,” he said. “We would get a lot of drunks and I remember bringing up to the cell block and almost always, right before we got into the cell, they’d toss their cookies. And you know who would have to clean that up.”

    McDevitt will present the lecture in the old courthouse in the court room. The ECCCMA is performing the finishing touches on the building in preparation for the event and for the museum’s opening on Nov. 11.

    “We’ll use it to show DVDs and for field trips for the schools,” Donaldson said about the court room, where old portraits of 19th century Effingham County officials will hang. “We want to open the whole first floor up.”

    Although McDevitt didn’t want to give away all of his stories about growing up in Effingham County, he said people can expect an interesting take on what the area was like not so long ago.

    “Before I was 24 years old, I spent half my life in jail,” he said with a laugh. “Not many people can say that.”

    Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com.