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Lincoln's Stomping Grounds - Broadwell,

Elkhart, & Williamsville

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Broadwell, Illinois - 66 Farm Town

When traveling Route 66, some eight miles south of Lincoln, Illinois, you will come to the small town of Broadwell. Established in 1869, the community now supports only about 150 souls. Here in this small farming town sat one of the Mother Road's more famous icons – the old Pig Hip Restaurant.

Ernie Edwards and his wife served thousands of barbeque sandwiches and fries at the Pig-Hip to travelers of the road from 1937 until 1991 when the couple retired. Ernie and Frances first opened a small, three-table cafe they called the Harbor Inn. The next year when a hungry farmer pointed to a steaming pork roast and blurted out that he wanted a sandwich "off that pig hip," Ernie liked the sound of it and soon changed the name of the cafe to "The Pig-Hip."


The Pig-Hip Museum in Broadwell, Illinois

The Pig-Hip Restaurant was a popular stop for Route 66'ers during the road's heydays. Unfortunately it burned to the ground

 in March, 2007. All that's left today is a stone marker.

This image available for photographic prints HERE!




Memorial to the Pig Hip in Broadwell, IllinoisOver the years, the restaurant expanded, Ernie's brother, Joe, built a filling station next door, and sister, Bonnie Welch and her husband, added a motel. Suddenly, Broadwell was a full-service stop and business was booming on the Mother Road.


In the 1960’s, when Broadwell was bypassed by the interstate, Route 66 fell into disuse and disrepair. Eventually, the filling station and motel were sold, then closed. By the early 1980’s, the handful of other businesses in Broadwell also shut down, leaving The Pig-Hip as the sole commercial business. In 1990, the Edwards’ retired and, unable to find a buyer for the restaurant, they closed the business. The next year, they turned it into a museum, which served travelers until the building was destroyed by fire on March 5, 2007. Today, the site is simply identified with a stone marker. Ernie Edwards died in 2012.


Elkhart, Illinois - Steeped in History


As you travel onward look for an old two lane section of the Mother Road on your left about three miles south of Broadwell. Another mile will bring you to Elkhart Hill, a glacial ridge rising above the prairie, and the historic village of Elkhart, Illinois. Though just a small village of about 450 people today, this settlement is rich in history and provides a number of places to visit.


Long before a settlement of Elkhart was established, the area was called home to the Kickapoo Indians, where Elkhart Hill provided an excellent viewpoint for the natives, and as landmark for westward bound pioneers.


According to legend, the hill got its name from the Kickapoo Chief’s daughter, White Blossom. As the tale goes, the princess was wooed by two warriors, one from her own tribe and another from the Shawnee tribe. On one of their annual hunting trips, the two warriors insisted that White Blossom declare which one would become her husband.


When an elk passed by, White Blossom said she would choose the one who could pierce the heart of the large animal. The warrior from the Kickapoo tribe hit the heart of the elk and won the hand of the princess. When they married, the elk heart became their family badge. Since that time the hill and later settlement retained the name Elkhart.


In 1819, James Latham, his son Richard, and a friend named Ebenezer Briggs, arrived in the area and built a cabin on the northwest slope of Elkhart Hill. Other settlers soon followed, clearing forested land for farms. These pioneers, from Kentucky and Tennessee, avoided the prairie land, believing it was not fertile enough for farming and their plows were unable to cut through the tough prairie sod.


In 1824, James Lathem was appointed to the position of Indian Agent at Fort Clark. Just two years later, Latham died and was buried on the hill at what is now known as Latham-Thompson or Elkhart Cemetery, not far from where his cabin once stood.


Later, somewhere between the years of 1835 and 1840, the the Latham family converted their log home into the Kentucky House Tavern. Today, while the building has long since disappeared, the location has become the site of several archaeological digs which have produced significant samples of domestic artifacts of the area.


James Latham Home became the Kentucky Tavern House

The James Latham home was later turned into the Kentucky Tavern

 House. Though the building is gone today, the location has since

 become the site of an archeological dig.


In 1838, a man named John Dean Gillette moved into the area, amassing large amounts of land and raising livestock. Gillette was noted for importing Durham cattle from Scotland and developing the Shorthorn cattle breed, soon shipping over 2,000 head of cattle and 1,000 head of hogs to Europe annually. The London Gazette dubbed him "The Cattle King of the World”. Together with his friend, Abraham Lincoln, Gillett laid out the town of Lincoln, Illinois in 1853. Both men courted Lemira Parke who later became Gillett's wife.



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The old Gillette Farm in Elkhart, Illinois

The old Gillette Farm.


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