A Publication of WTVP

The Peoria Historical Society’s Pettengill-Morron House Museum and the Flanagan House Museum will glow again this holiday season. During the first two weekends in December, both locations will welcome visitors with the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas.

The Pettengill-Morron House at 1212 West Moss is the setting for a Victorian tribute to the late Ellen "Ellie" Foster, who directed the first candlelight there in 1973. One of the first docents at the house-and later a PHS board member-she created a legacy of generous leadership. Her delight in the holidays inspired candlelight as a family celebration as well as an educational experience. The Morron family’s finest china, silver, heirloom furnishings, and historic artifacts provide the backdrop for classic decorations. Luminarias lining the drive will light the way to the house. Carolers on the porch and musicians in the drawing room add to the festivities, and docents will guide the guests. Young visitors will receive a Christmas cookie.

The year is 1865 at the Flanagan House, at 942 NE Glen Oak Avenue, where Civil War veterans have returned to celebrate. The guns of war are finally silent, but visitors need to unravel a holiday mystery.

Local history author Monica Vest Wheeler has scripted a tale involving such legendary Peoria veterans as Col. John Warner, Col. Robert Ingersoll, Col. Charles Deane, and Maj. Belle Reynolds. "We want to bring these people to life for new generations," she said.

The second floor exhibit room at Flanagan House will feature local members of the Col. John Bryner Camp 67-Illinois Chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War-with stories and artifacts of their Civil War ancestors, as well as those of other leading Peoria Civil War veterans.

The exhibit, entitled "Remembering Our Boys in Blue and Ladies Too," features a number of Peoria leaders, particularly those of the 47th Illinois Infantry. Among them is Robert Burdette, whose 1914 memoir, The Drums of the 47th (reissued in 2000), provides insights into his Peoria regiment. Having graduated from Peoria High School in December 1861, Burdette enlisted the following August, just five days after his 18th birthday. After the war, Pvt. Burdette returned to Peoria for several years and came to be known as a writer and humorist. His memoir recalls
the 47th’s first colonel, John Bryner, who died in the service and whose young son, B.C. Bryner, later joined the 47th.

Burdette also chronicles Col. William A. Thrush, who was killed at the head of his regiment, shot through the heart at the battle of Corinth in 1862, and Col. John Dickson McClure "wounded nigh to death in the siege of Vicksburg, June 20, 1863."

John Dickson Blossom, president and CEO of Alliance Benefit Group in Peoria and great-grandson of Col. McClure, is sharing some of McClure’s memorabilia. Burdette wrote, "Of all the colonels under whom I served, Colonel John D. McClure was my ideal." In nearly three pages, Burdette extols Col. McClure, even mentioning his young wife, "as sweet and beautiful as her husband was noble."

Others spotlighted in the exhibit include Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, who raised the 11th Illinois Cavalry, was captured at Lexington, Tenn., and paroled the next day by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. His portrait hangs at Flanagan House, as does that of Col. Charles Deane of the 86th Illinois Infantry, an ancestor of Peorian Vilma Kinney.

Col. David D. Irons of the 86th Infantry, which trained at Peoria’s Camp Lyon, will also be featured, as will Maj. John Niglas, a surgeon with the 6th Illinois Cavalry. Peoria women who nursed the wounded at the front included Maj. Belle Reynolds, "Aunt Lizzie" Aiken, and Mary Ann Sturgis and her daughter, Mary.

On the home front, Antoinette Curtenius, a widow, served as first president of the Women’s National League of Peoria and later presided over efforts to erect the soldiers monument at Springdale Cemetery.

Dan Callahan of Gregg Florist is assisting with decorations, along with David Rogers and other volunteers; the Peoria Herb Guild; and members of the Peoria Garden Club, led by Genny Gibbs. 

The Pettengill-Morron House will be open from 6 to 8 p.m., December 3, 4, 10, and 11, and from 2 to 4 p.m., December 5 and 12. Flanagan House will be open from 6 to 8 p.m., December 4 and 11 and from 1 to 4 p.m., December 5 and 12. Cost for each house is $5 for adults and $2 for students under 17. AA!