People, Places, and Power: Fulton County Edition

Fulton County in western Illinois, population 35,000, is known as the home of Dickson Mounds, occupied by Native Americans in the Woodland and Mississippian periods; poet Edgar Lee Masters and the departed souls on whom he based his Spoon River Anthology characters; Camp Ellis, one of the largest military installations in the United States during World War II; and the annual Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive.

It was also home to Neal Gamm, the “governor” of Forgottonia. “Forgottonia” was the name given to a sixteen-county region in western Illinois in the early 1970s by local civic leaders who facetiously proposed secession from the state and perhaps even the nation. Like many satirical pursuits, the Forgottonia movement had a serious purpose behind it: to remedy what its proponents considered unfairness in the distribution of political power and public resources. In their opinion, the state and federal governments often ignored or shortchanged western Illinois, denying the predominantly rural region the public infrastructure necessary to remain economically competitive. The movement gradually dissipated, but not before garnering national publicity and contributing significantly to the region’s cultural identity. The extent to which it achieved its more tangible goals remains open to debate.

The Fulton County edition of “Distributions: People, Places, and Power” will be premiered on the Illinois Humanities YouTube channel on Thursday, October 15, at 7 PM. Viewers will be invited to offer comments and questions for discussion in the “chat” column. After its premiere, the video will be available for viewing at any time.

This program is part of the “Democracy and the Informed Citizen” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The initiative seeks to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections between democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry.

Illinois Humanities thanks The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of this initiative and the Pulitzer Prizes for their partnership.

Our “People, Places, and Power” programs anticipate our 2021-22 Illinois tour of “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America,” the newest Museum on Main Street exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. For information about that tour, please visit https://www.ilhumanities.org/program/museum-on-main-street/.


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