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  The Cobden Museum
Phone: 618-893-2865
Location:  Cobden, Illinois 


The Union County Historical and Genealogy Society opened the doors to its new Union County Museum June 3, 2006. The museum is located in the recently restored H.A. Dubois Building next to the post office in downtown Cobden. The two-story, brick building was completed in 1892 and its cast iron and metal front was made by the Mesker Brothers of St. Louis. The building housed a general store and box and basket factory.

Outstanding collections of Anna Pottery is a chimney pot that once graced Riverlore Mansion in Cairo, cemetery markers, two fair jugs and an umbrella stand from a fair, an owl whistle, a Stanhope and an 1877 piece are the forty individual tiles that were used in a fireplace hearth in a local house. Made in the 1880s of gray stoneware with cobalt blue highlights, the tiles are incised with drawings of their homes and potteries in Ohio, Kentucky and Anna as well as names of friends, family and business associates.

Some of the Native American artifacts date back more than 12,000 years. There are about 2000 items in the collection according to Bart Smith, a retired field excavator, who is serving as the curator of the Native American exhibit. One of the strengths of the exhibit is the abundance of local flint including Cobden, Kaolin and Mill Creek chert. These were extremely important in the manufacturing of prehistoric tools. This natural wealth of chert attracted prehistoric man to the Union County area. Eighty per cent of the collection is made from these three major chert sources.

Among the other exhibits that highlight the history of the county are items form the fruit and vegetable industry and the companion box. barrel and basket factories. Stapling machines that revolutionized basket making were invented in Cobden by George Ede. Parker Earle of Cobden in 1866 built an ice chest to shop strawberries to the Chicago market on the Illinois Central Railroad so his berries would arrive in pristine condition. And so the idea for the refrigerated railroad car was conceived.

Artifacts previously house in the now closed Cobden Museum were donated to the historical society by the heirs of the Joe and Charles Thomas family, founders of the Cobden Museum. Many of those items, along with newly acquired artifacts, are on display in redesigned exhibit areas in the new museum.

The Union County Museum is open from 1 pm to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday or by appointment. For additional information call (618) 893-2865, 833-8352, or 893-2567. Admission is free. The Historical Society is an all volunteer organization.