The Michael Hillegas Chapter was organized March 25, 1927, with 12 members. The name was chosen in honor of the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States who was an ancestor of the organizing regent. In 2007 Michael Hillegas Chapter celebrated its 80th anniversary.
Among early members were a real granddaughter of a Revolutionary soldier and a descendant of a signer of the Constitution. The chapter has been honored to have its members serve as district directors, state committee chairmen, state registrar and state vice regent. Pages from Michael Hillegas have served at state conferences and Continental Congresses.
Early meetings included as part of the ritual singing "America" but changed to "The Star Spangled Banner" in 1937 after it was adopted by the United States Congress as our National Anthem. The American's Creed was added in 1949. Today each meeting consists of the opening ritual, prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, American's Creed, President General's message, national defense report, American Indian minute, treasurer's report, secretary's minutes, registrar report, committee reports, business meeting, and a program followed by refreshments.
Initially, card parties were good money raising projects. One project of interest was the first refrigerator in Harrisburg. It was set up for display by Central Illinois Public Service so the public could see how it made ice. For this privilege, a charge of 25 cents per person was levied. The chapter cleared over $200. Another early money raiser was a specially guarded antique show which used as a drawing card a flag brought to Shawneetown by General Posey that was carried during the Revolutionary War. To view, the public was charged 25 cents and school children were charged 10 cents. A concert by the famous violinist Rubincoff grossed over $2,000 in 1946. In recent years calendars with pictures of local historic homes and sites were sold.
The monies raised did not sit idle. The chapter donated generously to National Society programs and also locally to the Girl Scouts, the Salvation Army, Real Daughters, Blood Plasma Project, Illinois Bell Fund, Under-nourished Children, the Red Cross, Seeing Eye Dog Fund, Cancer Drive, the local Teen Town, Veterans and Veterans hospitals. Currently the chapter donates books to the local literacy program and collects food for the local food pantry.
The chapter has sponsored many projects. One of major significance was the participation in the Golden Jubilee Reforestation Project in 1940 and rededication in 1981 at Pounds Hollow in conjunction with marking Lafayette's landing in Shawneetown. Wood from the first state bank, also located in Shawneetown, was acquired to become part of the State Regent's Gavel in 1938. A marker was placed at this historic site in 1941. In 1931 a marker was placed on Harrisburg's court house lawn listing Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Saline County. In 1967 when the old court house was being demolished, it was rescued and moved to Sunset Lawn Cemetery where it is decorated each Memorial Day. Another cemetery in Cottage Grove has a marker for the Revolutionary soldier Captain William Roard. Deceased members also have marked graves. Chapters in Carbondale and Eldorado were organized with the help of members from Michael Hillegas Chapter.
Bricks honoring the chapter and an honorary regent have been placed at the Harrisburg District Library. A Victorian Room at the local Saline County Living Pioneer Village Museum was decorated and is maintained. Each year the chapter sponsors a history essay contest and good citizenship award in the local schools as well as a scholarship at Southeastern Illinois College. Also, each year on Flag Day, the chapter recognizes a local citizen in the community that displays the flag year round in a patriotic manner.
Members are active in many community organizations that preserve our heritage such as the Saline County Living Pioneer Village, Heritage Festival, Past to Present Festival, and Genealogy Society. One member volunteers the heritage skill of spinning each month at the Fort Massac Visitors Center and each year at the Heritage Festival. The chapter also supports other groups by making donations and including programs at meetings, Crisis Pregnancy Center, local food pantries, American Cancer Society, Literacy program, American Heart Association, Displaced Homemakers, and the VA Hospital.
The chapter has cooperated with Southeastern Illinois College in signing proclamations, supporting the literacy program by donating books and magazines annually for both the adult and family programs, cooperating with displays for Constitution Week, and providing gifts for families of displaced homemakers. The chapter has attended the regional nationalization ceremony. One year one of the local literacy program students became a citizen. :)
The chapter merged with Samuel Elder in April, 2013. A new beginning to Michael Hillegas.
Many things have changed throughout the years, but one thing has not........the patriotic spirit of the Michael Hillegas Chapter.
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