Bishop Hill – IL

Bishop Hill, IL – A Lutheran Community

Bishop Hill, which is located in central Illinois between Peoria IL and Davenport IA. It is a small community of about 200 people but has well preserved history as a once thriving Lutheran community. Its early citizens were almost entirely Lutherans who were escaping persecution in Sweden because they dared to believe differently than the norms of the day.  In my travels across this country I have found that escaping religious persecution is very much at the heart of America history. We don’t, except for a few incidents, persecute someone for their religious beliefs.

The community was formed in 1846 by a group of 400 religious dissenters led by Eric Janson who were escaping persecution from the State Religion of Sweden which was Lutheranism. They arrived in the winter of 1846 at Chicago and then walked the 160 miles to Bishop Hill! About 100 of them died from that trip and the winter weather. The community would expand to 1,000 over the next 15 years.

The primary reason for the sect’s persecution was that Eric Janson claimed to have direct inspiration of God to form his teachings and many were contrary to the State’s version. Among other things he demanded education and self-expression and that opinions should be formed by reason rather than revelation or authority.

Janson led the community for the first ten years before was killed by a dissident in 1855, it was then lead by a committee of trustees for another six years until it eventually dissolved and all the assets were distributed to its current inhabitants. During that fifteen years of shared community existence, they built a dozen very impressive structures. In 1962 restoration began on many of those structures. Most are displayed in the gallery below.

There are a lot of interesting places to see in central Illinois. While Bishop Hill is not a worthy day-long trip, when you add it to Springfield and Peoria it makes a nice stop over that will take a couple of hours to see.


On a personal note, I have developed a fascination with utopian communities and continue to study them. One of the most famous communities, New Harmony, is less than 100 miles from my homestead. Sometime in the not too distant future I will be writing a collection of posts about that topic. It’s amazing how people are willing to give up everything to obtain the “perfect” utopian life. Many are based on religious things, but many are also base of general philosophical matters. As I repopulate the “new” RJsTravels Travelogue, special emphasis to be placed on helping those who are also interested in this topic.


Take a look at the gallery below for some pictures of the restored buildings:

Rendezvous – Fort Bridger Wyoming


Even as a young kid I imagined that I once lived as a mountain man in the Rocky Mountains. No, I’m not a Shirley MacLaine type who remembers all my previous lives, it was more about the fascination of living a solitary life in the Rockies. I’m sure my Aspie traits had something to do with it, but it was also brought on by my overactive imagination. 😉 I don’t really remember the books I read as a youth to spur the dream of being a mountain man, but I’m sure they existed. For that reason Ft. Bridger has been on my bucket list before I even knew there was such a thing.


A Little Background

Fort Bridger was the biggest rendezvous in the mountain man days. As shown here it took place between 1825 and 1840. There is an annual reenactment in the first weekend of September and is the largest such gathering in the nation.

The town of Ft. Bridger itself has a population of about 300 people and I think has one gas station/general store. There is also a some small mom-and-pop rental cabins and a campground that I expect is reserved years ahead for this particular weekend. From a cursory view, it looks like a fifty-mile trek to a city of any size. So, needless to say the first weekend in September is THE event of the year.


I knew before my visit that this rendezvous was one of the biggest in the US. I got there early so managed to get a parking spot near the entrance. If it had been a couple of hours later I would have had a mile long trek to get to the gate. As soon as I got through the gate it struck me that this rendezvous was quite different from any I had been to before. Almost everyone dresses for the event. I think they drew about 10,000 the day I visited and most had on 1840’s garb.

To keep from looking out of place, I quickly found a booth to buy things that were period appropriate and then rushed back to my µRV to change. Upon entering the gate properly attired I discovered just how big it this rendezvous was. I had visited a couple of dozen others and this one was likely bigger than all of those combined. But since it was spread out a couple hundred acres or more it did not feel crowded to this city guy.

I spent about 10 hours there and walked over 10 miles and I still don’t think I saw everything. But what I remember most was the frying pan throw and the Native American dances and rituals and the recreated fort with all the surrounding activity. Booths, demonstrations and storytelling were everywhere. There was also a women’s shooting range and of course, the compensatory tomahawk throwing contests lined the venue throughout the day.

This was the longest trip I have taken to a rendezvous but well worth the time. I am putting together a more thorough on-the-road storytelling report about this trip that will soon be available over at one of my other blogs that is dedicated to storytelling. I will give you the address here when it is completed.

Enough for now I will let these pictures tell you the rest of the story. If you have any questions just drop a comment or note and I will try to answer them.

Click on any picture to see a larger version slideshow:

Mississinewa 1812

I spent much of 2019 traveling around the country to reenactments. It was surprising to see the best one of that year within 200 miles of my home. The Battle of Mississinewa took place in 1812. This was a time before the forming of the State of Indiana. It was a time when all the Native Americans were being driven out of their homelands of the “State of the Indians”. The battle took place in December 1812. It was between 600 federal troops and a few hundred Native Americans who aligned with the British to try to desperately hold on to their native lands. Of course the federal troops ruled the day and therefore wrote the history of the event. This reenactment is supposed to be the biggest one of the War of 1812.

I was amazed at the diversity of the encampment and the attendance. There were lots of people there but it was well worth it. There were many musicians around the event that I dreamed of hearing. One of the things about my deafness of thirty years is that I no longer can remember what musical instruments sound like and that is a very frustrating thing when I saw the fellow below playing.