Pieces of Our Past: A Settler, Socialite Helped Record McLean County History | Story

Over the past 27 years, the Evergreen Cemetery Walk has shared a host of unique stories, many of which have never been told or have long been forgotten. This annual event, a collaboration between the McLean County Museum of History, Evergreen Memorial Cemetery and Illinois Voices Theater-Echoes, has been held at the cemetery since 1995. In total, it has shared the stories of 196 people from all walks of life. that help illustrate the impact the people of McLean County have had locally, nationally and globally.

This undated photo shows Mary Ann Cheney Marmon. She enjoyed a comfortable and social lifestyle. The newspapers were filled with accounts of her social activities, including her trips, events she organized or attended, and several of her articles on local history.


One story to share this year is that of Mary Ann Cheney Marmon, who was a member of one of the first white families to settle in this region. She became very interested in documenting and preserving local history due to her deep roots in the county. Mary Ann has written about prairie fires, the native Delaware and Kickapoo settlements, needlework, and social life. Without his articles documenting the beginnings of life in the county, our understanding of the evolution of McLean County’s history would be much less.

The McLean County History Museum, 200 N. Main St. in Bloomington, is a treasure trove of local history, agriculture, and the civil rights to home and work life. Here are a few things that caught our attention at the museum.

Mary Ann Cheney was born July 29, 1837 in a four-room log cabin in Old Town Township (east of Bloomington) to Owen and Maria Dawson Cheney.

His paternal grandparents, Johnathan and Catharine Cheney, were Virginians by birth and moved from Ohio to McLean County around 1825. They settled near the eastern edge of the county, near where it is. today finds Saybrook.

Mary Ann’s maternal grandparents, John and Anna Cheney Dawson, were drawn to the area by the agricultural potential and the groves of precious woods. The family traveled with John Hendrix and his family, first to Sangamon County in 1821, and then to Blooming Grove (now Bloomington) the following spring.

After her father died of typhoid fever while driving cattle in Ohio in 1848, Mary Ann and her family moved to Bloomington in 1853, a year after her mother married pharmacist William Paist.

When Mary Ann was 16, she met her future husband, William Marmon, who worked in her stepfather’s pharmacy and boarded with his family. The couple married in 1857 and had a son, William, in 1868. The same year their son was born, the family moved into a new Italian-style home at 307 E. Washington St., where Mary Ann lived for the rest of his life. life.

William and Mary Ann Marmon's home

This undated photo shows the residence of William and Mary Ann Marmon. Built circa 1868, this Italian-style structure at 307 E. Washington St. served as his home until his death in 1908. The site housed an insurance agency until several years ago.


Her love of McLean County history led her to become a member and support historical societies in the state and county towards the end of her life. The Illinois State Historical Society was founded in 1899 and Mary Ann was an active member from 1903 to 1907.

She was also a founding member of the McLean County Historical Society, of which she was an active member until her death in 1908. It was founded in 1892 and is the second oldest historical society in Illinois County. .

Although many of the company’s earliest documents were lost in the great downtown Bloomington fire in June 1900 (because the group stored their archives and a small collection of Native American artifacts in the Third Courthouse of the McLean County, which was destroyed by that fire), Mary Ann is known to have served on the executive committee from 1892 to 1907, was a trustee in 1899, and was appointed to a committee for the publication of the second volume of history of the county for the company in 1900.

In addition to these duties, Mary Ann has written several articles on family and county history for the Historical Society. These articles have varied in subject, but only six survive today.

In her article titled “Social Life in McLean County Before 1860,” Mary Ann recounted popular pastimes and entertainment, the style of early house events, marriage practices and socialites that were important. in the early days of McLean County.

Additionally, she noted that the early settlers in this area enjoyed pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that “Sister Phoebe,” a kissing game, was popular at social events. The dancing was also popular, but due to the lack of dancing shoes in the community, dancing with her socks on was approved.

In “Prairie Fires,” Mary Ann wrote that when she was 11 or 12, she rode a horse through the prairie to collect strawberries. She remembered the great diversity of the prairie grasses and the fires that would occur there. In his own words, the fires were “terribly awe-inspiring and frightening to see” but had a unique beauty as “miles and miles of roaring, leaping flames could be seen sweeping the hills with tremendous speed and lighting up the entire sky. with a brilliant shine.

She further recalled the efforts of settlers to protect the precious wooden split-rail fences surrounding the fields from these fires.

His “Indian Cities” deal with the settlements and cultural practices of the indigenous peoples of McLean County, and the interactions of white settlers with them.

Mary Ann is also known for authoring two other articles, the full articles of which are lost: “Early Housekeeping in McLean County” and “Pioneer History of Old Town Twp. and Original Heads of Cheney Family, ”which was the last article she wrote before her death.

Mary Ann Marmon is one of eight characters featured in the 2021 Evergreen Cemetery Walk, which will take place on the weekends of September 25-26 and October 2-3 with tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at the museum or cemetery or at mchistory.org.

Tickets for in-person tours cost $ 20 for the general public, $ 18 for museum members, or $ 5 with a student card. Tickets can also be purchased for a virtual version available from November 1 to December 31 at a cost of $ 25 per general public household and $ 20 per museum member household. And new this year, hybrid tickets can be purchased for $ 30, valid for an in-person ticket and for domestic access to the virtual version.

Pieces From Our Past is a weekly column for the McLean County Museum of History. Anastasia Ervin is an intern and the museum, and Candace Summers, is its director of community education.

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