Plans for the proposed Effingham County and National Road Museum Association museum are continuing to take shape.

At an association meeting Monday, museum organizers determined themes for each of the four major exhibit areas, as well as minor exhibit areas.

Organizers hope to convert the present Effingham County Courthouse into a museum upon completion of the Effingham County Government Center courts building in the summer of 2007.

Association President Phil Lewis said the group has made significant progress in the last two meetings.

“We’ve done fantastic things in the last two months,” Lewis said. “Last month, we developed a collection policy based on a similar policy in Aurora.

“This month, we came up with four major exhibit areas and several minor exhibit areas. Now, we have to decide what we are going to focus on.

“We are going to build a virtual museum before we move into a museum.”

Lewis added that discussion at the October meeting will be a continuation of the discussion at Monday’s meeting.

Here is a summary of what is planned for each major exhibit area:

Area One would house items dealing with the early settlement of Effingham County, including the Kickapoo, Winnebago and Delaware Indian tribes that inhabited the area when Griffin Tipsword — the area’s first white settler — arrived around 1815.

This area would also include information on other early settlers such as Moses Doty, Isaac Fancher, Ben Campbell and W.L.D. Ewing. A display of items relating to the creation of Effingham County on Feb. 15, 1831, also is planned, as well as information on the development of communities, churches, schools, businesses and ethnic settlements within the county.

Area Two would be devoted to the history of transportation within the county from early trails and roads all the way to interstates 57 and 70. Other items in this area would relate to railroad, air and bus travel, as well as stagecoach stops, and the emergence of the trucking industry, service stations and truck stops.

Area Three would center upon the National Road as it developed from 1806 to 1844, when it stopped at Funkhouser due to lack of funding. Specific topics in this area would include Conestoga wagon travel, business that developed along the road, the influence of religion in pioneer life, prominent and notorious individuals alike, and the histories of communities along the road, particularly Ewington, the first Effingham County seat.

Area Four would focus on agriculture, a mainstay of the county’s economy, past and present. Exhibits would focus on the history of land purchases and subsequent dispersal of land to new immigrants, influential people in county agriculture, agribusiness and the influence of the railroads on local agriculture.

Lewis said minor exhibit areas would tell the stories of historical figures like Ada Kepley and Mary Newcomb; the medical history of the county, including the St. Anthony Hospital fire of 1949; military, arts and labor history.

The association meets on the fourth Monday of each month at the Effingham County Building in Effingham. Those with questions about the proposed museum, exhibit suggestions, artifacts donation or membership in the association are encouraged to call Lewis at 217-342-6280. He can also be e-mailed at wooton@mchsi.com.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or bgrimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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