I Didn’t See Any Beards in Beardstown

How often have you heard people complain about an upcoming business trip and you think to yourself, “you know I’d gladly make a visit to Columbia or Springfield if it meant getting out of this cubicle for a while.” I’ve certainly heard my fair share and quite frankly I’m sick of it. Well this past weekend we set out to change that mentality by turning one of my business trips into a Sunday Drive. We went to Beardstown and sadly we didn’t see any beards, but we did dig up some awesome history and had an all around great weekend.P5090122

Chances are, you haven’t heard of Beardstown, and I wouldn’t blame you. It is a town of about 5,000 in the middle of Illinois but over the last year it has become a favorite place to visit thanks to this guy, meet Phillip. I met Phillip back in college at a retreat at the seminary in Ft. Wayne and ever since then we’ve enjoyed giving each other a hard time. One of the best times we had was at a Men’s retreat in Cedar Falls, IA in November in which we decided to save money by camping… It was in the single digits that night. Not one of our brightest ideas. Well Phillip spent the last year in Beardstown during his vicarage working with the Hispanic community in the area. Sadly this vicarage has just come to an end, but we were able to get in several fun weekends and a batch of home brewed beer while he was just a few hours away. Believe it or not there is more to Beardstown than just this eligible bachelor (if any of you ladies want to reach out to Bachelor #1, just let us know in the comments) and there is more to a business trip than just making it to the meeting on time.

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Our new interest…barn quilts!

One of the things that makes Beardstown an ideal candidate for Business Trip to Sunday Drive conversion is the fact that you can’t take the interstate to get there. The road there takes you rolling merrily along the river roads where you have the opportunity to stop at several historical markers, natural areas, and our favorite Casey’s general store so we can get a Taco Pizza. (We will talk about the wonder that is the Casey’s Taco Pizza in an upcoming post.) These are all factors that contribute to an all around good time. Even if you don’t get a freshly composed song by your 3 year old, a riveting conversation with your wife, or delicious food from America’s most ubiquitous gas station, the drive to Beardstown will have you looking out your window. And we weren’t the first to think so.

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Beardstown, IL

Thomas Beard (Hey, I found a beard) looked at Beardstown and declared, “I like this place I shall plant my beard here!” (*Not a real quote) He opened a ferry across the Illinois river and started trading with the Indians to create a nice life for himself and his family. His son Edward “Red” Beard (You think his beard was red?) decided to repay him by getting shot in a bar fight in Kansas. Well after a few years other people started to agree with him and eventually the government decided it would be a good place to store some military surplus so they could fight some Indians.  Who was among this band of soldiers tasked with warding off Chief Blackhawk? Oh you know, Abraham Lincoln, Zachery Taylor, and Jefferson Davis, just some future presidents. Well Lincoln liked the place so much he returned several times to argue cases in the Beardstown courthouse (which is still in use as one of the last remaining Lincoln courthouses.) His most famous Beardstown Trial was the Almanac trial in which William “Duff” Armstrong was accused of murdering James Preston Metzker. A man name Charles Allen claimed he saw ol’ Duff kill him with a slungshot by the light of a full moon. Lincoln slammed down a Farmer’s Almanac and said “Ha! There was no moon on August 29th, 1857. #lawyered.” (*Not a real quote) Thanks to Lincoln, Duff was able to walk away a free man which he remained until 1899.

Thankfully, the history of Beardstown didn’t end with Lincoln and the town continues to grow. Every day 20,000 hogs get slaughtered by a dedicated team of people from almost 35 different countries around the world. (Cue Vicar Phillip) St. John’s Lutheran church has decided that they need to share the gospel with all of these immigrants. So with the help of some very generous people, the LC-MS Office of National Mission, and the Central Illinois District of the LC-MS, they are getting ready to call their third vicar to care for these people through all sorts of programs such as worship services, bible studies, a library full or resources for leaning languages and preparing for tests such as the GED or citizenship, ESL classes, exercise classes and even help getting to the doctor. I’d like to think that this is just the beginning of a very beautiful story and one I get the privilege of hearing almost every day in my work.

*Update: After having a wonderful lunch with my Great Uncle, Rev. Clarence Pannier, I learned that my Great Great Uncle Rev. Carl Eberhardt once served a Lutheran Church in Beardstown! What a small world it is.

We’ll miss having Phillip so close, we made many a trip up to visit. And we broke the 9th commandment several times as we imagined living in that beautiful little house with the green shutters. Clarence spent nearly the entire weekend sitting at the organ bench singing Grandma’s Feather Bed by John Denver. (In case you were wondering, it didn’t sound anything like Grandma’s Feather Bed.) When I asked if he knew any other songs he said “I need a hymnal.” and began reading the notes very intently. I hear that St. John’s is looking for a new organist, maybe he can fill that role.P5080063

Have I convinced you to turn your business trips into a Sunday Drive? Well maybe this will convince you. On Sunday before we left, I went for a walk just after sunrise up into the bluffs. I saw one of the most spectacular views of the countryside, saw wild turkeys, and picked a bouquet of wildflowers for my wife (it was mother’s day afterall.) I’ve never been more relaxed in my entire life. And that all happened on a business trip.P5090119

So do me a favor, the next time you’re on a business trip, take some pictures and tag them with #drivingonsunday. Or just tell us about them with the form below.

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