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Prairie Bandits Lecture at Garfield Farm Museum

CAMPTON HILLS-    On Sunday, November 15th at 2 pm, museum volunteer Keith Ryder will give a talk on prairie bandits at Garfield Farm Museum. The lecture focuses on a loosely-organized gang of horse thieves and counterfeiters that operated across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio from 1835-1858.
    The outlaws were particularly active in De Kalb, Lee, and Ogle counties in northern Illinois from 1840-1845 and operated from cemeteries and inns along stagecoach roads.  Overseen by Robert Birch and William Fox, the gang stole horses, passed counterfeit money, and committed the occasional murder. In northern Illinois, outlaws operated from inns at Paw Paw, Inlet, and Genoa, and from groves near Sycamore, Oregon, and Dixon.  In response, citizens formed vigilante companies that banished one outlaw family at Henry and shot members of another near Oregon. The gang’s exploits culminated in the murder of Colonel George Davenport at Rock Island in July 1845. Later that year, detective Edward Bonney captured Davenport’s killers and exposed the interstate gang.
    Keith Ryder was an archaeologist and historian with the Army Corps of Engineers for 30 years. Since 1990, he’s been conducting nineteenth century living history presentations around Chicago.  Keith became interested in prairie bandits after reading Edward Bonney’s book, The Banditti of the Prairies. Over the past ten years, Keith has been researching the people and places associated with the Birch-Fox gang.  His sources have included General Land Office maps and sales records, county histories, early settlers‚ memoirs, court records, title abstracts, genealogy websites, the U.S. Census, newspapers, and minutes from vigilante meetings.  
    There is a $6 donation for the lecture and reservations are required. For additional information about the lecture or to R.S.V.P. please contact the museum at (630) 584-8485 or Garfield Farm Museum is located 5 miles west of Geneva, IL off ILL Rt. 38 on Garfield Road. The 370-acre site is a historically intact former 1840s prairie farm and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s working farm museum by volunteers and donors from around the country.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.