Celebrating History: Cumberland County

Celebrating History: Cumberland County

Posted on 08/17/2022 by Andy Waterman

There is no question that a countless number of communities throughout southern Illinois take tremendous pride in preserving and celebrating the past. You may not know it, but there is a niche of travelers who plan trips around historical sites and attractions – it is called Heritage Tourism. There are folks out there who want to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.

Not far east of Effingham and just west of Casey on Interstate 70 sits the little community of Greenup in Cumberland County. If history is your thing, then Greenup is most certainly a hidden gem that you will want to make the effort to visit. There are four, yes four, historical attractions here – and each of them offer something different than the next. The Historic Greenup Depot and the Cumberland County Historical & Genealogical Society sit right next to each other downtown, making for a convenient experience. The Cumberland County Historic and Genealogical Society maintains records and assists with the preservation of local history in Cumberland County. The historic society is housed in the Johnson Building, where there are wonderfully crafted exhibits of life in Cumberland County, including information on favorite sons, Dick and Jerry VanDyke, who lived in Cumberland County before moving to Danville, Illinois. Information related to Abraham Lincoln, Greenup’s historic architecture, and the National Road is tastefully displayed as well.

The Depot next door to the Historical and Genealogical Society is a fan favorite because, of course, it’s all about trains. This building has existed since 1870 and served four different railroad lines in its heyday. It currently features the original waiting room and ticket counter. There is also an amazing model railroad running throughout the building. This depot is also one of very few that were constructed with second story living quarters, which are on display as well. “This is a hidden gem if you are in the Greenup area,” admits traveler Robyn Ebert. “If you love trains, history covered bridges, Americana and really cool railroad memorabilia, stop in and support this gem,” Ebert adds.

Just across the street from the previous two museums, there sits a third. The Cumberland County Military Museum was established to honor veterans from Cumberland County who sacrificed their jobs, families, and lives in the defense of a way of life, in battles from the Mexican War through the present conflicts in the Middle East. The museum recording studio and viewing room were designed to record oral history about the lives and military service of local veterans and the stories of individuals, events, and places in the County. Moreover, the Cumberland County Military Museum displays military photos, clothing, documents, posters and other artifacts to give new appreciation and a gesture of gratitude to those who served, fought, and died for freedom and justice.  

The last historical attraction to hit is on the outskirts of town, and it is possibly the most popular of this group of four. The Cumberland County Covered Bridge is a true sight to behold at 200 feet long, making it the longest covered bridge in the state of Illinois! It sits along Old Highway 40, also known as the Historic National Road – and spans across the Embarras River. There have been several iterations of this bridge since it was originally built in 1832 by Abe and Thomas Lincoln and Dennis Hanks. All of the other versions of this bridge were washed out by flood waters, and the current version of the bridge now standing was built in 2000 to resemble the original structure built in 1832. There is a spot to pull off and park, read some information about the bridge, and take a stroll through it if you’d like. As you’d imagine, it’s EXTREMELY photographic. So the next time you’re in Casey checking out all the big things, or just zooming down I-70, make a detour through Greenup – it’s a historical hidden gem!


To check out more pieces of history to visit in our neck of the woods, visit our website at downstateil.org/Play/History-and-Culture.

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