Hanover, the Mallard Capital of the World, is in a picturesque location along the Apple River. The town has a couple of sights worth a stop.
In 1827, George Charles Eams and Daniel Fowler moseyed down from Galena, found an Indian village along the Apple River led by Chief Wapello, and immediately made a land claim. They came back in the spring of 1828 to farm and were soon joined by James Craig who built a sawmill, grist mill, and the first of many dams on the Apple River. The nascent town, known as Craigsville, lost one of its founders, Charles Eams, during the Black Hawk War. Following the end of hostilities, the town, like many in the region, welcomed an influx of new settlers. In 1836, the village was platted under the name Wapello, in honor of the Indian chief the early settlers encountered. In 1849, the resident postmaster, James White, suggested that the town’s name should be changed because they were getting confused with Wapello, Iowa. Perhaps feeling a little sentimental, he recommended the name of his hometown: Hanover, New Hampshire. Hanover held its first Fourth of July celebration in 1852; the man in charge of firing the cannon, Jesse Conant, shot it off prematurely and blew off his hand. Four years later, 60 local women followed Delinda Craig, Daniel Boone’s granddaughter, and took the fight for temperance literally by attacking the town’s saloon and gambling hall, using ropes and crowbars to reduce the building to rubble, presumably while it was unoccupied.
One of the town’s leading businesses, the Hanover Woolen Mill, began operation in 1864. At its peak, the company processed 2,500,000 pounds of wool each year. Raw wool came directly to the plant, where it was washed, carded, spun, woven, and finished. The finished cloth was shipped to manufacturers around the Midwest. Although the company weathered the early years of the Depression, it went out of business in 1931. The building now houses Invensys, which manufactures automotive thermostats, thermal elements, and similar heating control parts.
In 1935, Hanover, Illinois was visited by a representative from the Research Institute of Civic Development based in Hanover, Germany. The institute was shooting a film called Hanover, A City Wanders Over the Face of the Earth about towns named Hanover around the world—all 77 of them. It didn’t win an Oscar. (If you’ve seen this movie, let me know if Hanover, IL got any screen time.)
The Hanover Historical Museum (500 Fillmore; 815.591.3623) is a little tricky to find but worth a short diversion with several fun old photos and displays on the woolen mill. The museum is located at the back of the Hanover Township Park District building (the old elementary school). From Highway 84 turn south on Garfield, then left on Fremont to the parking lot at the end of the road.
Ducks made Hanover famous, such as it is, specifically ducks from Whistling Wings, a mallard hatchery. The visitors center (113 N. Washington; 815.591.3512) has a store where you can buy trinkets, T-shirts, and frozen fowl. Unfortunately, they no longer offer public tours of the hatchery itself.
Rocky Waters Vineyard (2003 W. Hanover Rd.; 815.591.9706) is two short miles east of Hanover atop a ridge with great views. At the tasting room, $3 will get you 5 one-ounce samples of their wine. Try to stop by on a Saturday evening between Memorial Day and Labor Day when they have live music.
Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve (Whitton Rd. at W. Depot Rd.; 815.745.3302) has good views from several bluff-top perches but the hike to the top is not easy and often goes through thick brush. You should be in good shape for this hike. I hiked up the hillside under the power lines, then up the backside of the bluff. After you get to the top, the best views are back down toward the edge, but the carpet of pine needles and brush makes for precarious footing, so be very careful, or you’ll end up finding the quick way down. (Don’t confuse this place with Hanover Bluff State Natural Area, which is located nearby on Hanover Hill Rd.; the preserve is the one with the bluff-top views.)
Just down the road is Hanley Savanna (9417 S. Whitton Rd.; 815.947.2695), a section of (restored) native prairie with a flat, groomed hiking trail.
Just south of town, the 79 acres of the Wapello Land and Water Reserve (8642 Illinois Highway 84; 815.858.9100) mark the site of a former Mesquakwi Indian village; it is now a nationally-recognized prairie restoration area.
Continuing further south of town, a quick, moderately steep hike at Rall Woods State Natural Area (11811 Airhart Rd.; 815.745.3302) leads to a nice view of the Mississippi Valley. The easiest hike is via a partially groomed trail that begins on the right-hand side of the parking lot. Some of the terrain is rocky, so wear good hiking shoes and don’t forget the bug spray. Hiking is not recommended during hunting season, which is usually in April or May and again in late October and late November.
Mallard Fest (815.591.3512; 3rd Saturday in September) is host to a variety of challenging activities such as a duck calling contest and hitting golf balls across the Apple River into a duck painted in the grass.
Charlie’s Place (213 S. Jefferson; 815.591.3501) is a friendly local restaurant with better-than-your-standard diner food, breakfast served any time, and homemade pie.
If you just need a bed for a night, Rick’s Bait and Tackle (100 Jefferson St.; 815.591.2128) offers inexpensive no-frills rooms.
The View Motel (US Highway 20 & State Highway 84; 815.858.2005; WiFi) is a few miles north of Hanover and about 15 minutes east of Galena. It is a great bargain. Its 11 rooms are immaculate and all have a 25″ flat screen TV, which may be why most summer weekends fill up well in advance.
Post Office: 220 Jefferson St.; 815.591.2219.
Hanover Township Library: 204 Jefferson St.; 815.591.3517.
Heading upriver? Check out Galena.
Heading downriver? Check out Savanna.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009
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