In 1830, French statesman and author Alexis de Tocqueville toured America and remarked that the new nation seemed to be succeeding so well at democracy because Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition were forming associations.
Beginning in the 19th century, the first American settlers formed “guilds,” patterned after British traditions, to address common challenges and support each other’s work and lifestyle.
Soon, many community’s organized societies for the purpose of collecting personal recollections of those who had been residents of the county during the period of the first settlement and to preserve them in a form that might, in later years, become a part of the history of the country.
By the middle of the 19th century, pioneer settler associations formed to meet and exchange stories of a shared heritage in settling this country.
One commonality was to annually bring together people of the county and pass a day in recollection of past events in the lives of early settlers.
The Early Settlers Association of Bureau County, an example of an early pioneer society, was proposed as a permanent organization in 1867.
From the beginning, members were encouraged to save items for a future museum. A resolution was adopted at the 46th Annual Meeting in 1911, to organize a Bureau County Historical Society.
The Early Settlers Association disbanded in 1920 and united with the Bureau County Historical Society. Many communities abandoned their “old settlers” meetings and festivals years ago as historical societies and museums were formed in their place.
The photographs are courtesy of David Belden and the Local History Project’s digital collections. The photographs were digitized by Christine O’Brien.