On this episode of the Forgottonia Project, we are pleased to share our conversation with Marion Cornelius about the incredible history of Camp Ellis; a massive WW2 Army camp located in rural Forgottonia.
Natives of Forgottonia have no doubt heard of Camp Ellis and have probably even spent some time driving by what remains of the Army camp today. You’ve likely seen the old smoke chimneys, walked along the graffiti-laced rifle ranges, or visited the annual Camp Ellis Days festival that occurs each year on Labor Day weekend. But according to Marion Cornelius, the director of the Easley Pioneer Museum in Ipava, IL which holds the largest collection of artifacts from Camp Ellis, there are quite a few misconceptions people have about Camp Ellis as well.
To say Camp Ellis is massive is an understatement. The camp was around 18,000 acres outside the small towns of Ipava, Table Grove & Bernadotte. But since our conversation about Camp Ellis is so massive, we split this into two parts. This episode will focus on the story of Camp Ellis, why it was built, and the misconceptions people often have about the Camp.
The major points from this episode include the following:
- Camp Ellis is about 18,000 total acres that were seized by the government in 3 major land grabs. The camp displaced about 150 families who were given 30 days to leave
- 2,200 buildings were put up in just 13 months, but little remains from these structures today
- The 2 biggest misconceptions are that the primary purpose of the Camp was to train soldiers to fight. However, the true purpose was to train supporting soldiers in 3 primary supporting roles – quartermasters, engineers, and hospital wards. The 2nd misconception was that the primary purpose of the camp was to house German POWs. But as Marion explains, housing German POWs was more of an afterthought.
- It was so rainy during the early days of Camp Ellis that many veterans referred to the Camp as Swamp Ellis. In fact, some of these veterans didn’t realize Swamp Ellis was actually Camp Ellis.
If you have any questions or comments for Marion about Camp Ellis, please don’t hesitate to comment on our webpage or social media. You can also email Marion at pmcorn@mtcnow and I’m sure he’d be happy to get back with you.
Helpful links mentioned in our interview:
- An overview of the history of Camp Ellis from the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Forgottonia.com is an outstanding webpage by the way!)
- The Illinois Story episode about Camp Ellis that features Marion Cornelius (We referenced this episode a few times during out conversation)
- Outstanding article from Illinois Country Living written by Colton Bradford called “The Lost City of Camp Ellis.” Marion is featured in this article as well.
- The Easley Pioneer Museum Facebook Page which features several informative videos of the camp
Audio clips included in this episode come from the following:
- The Featured Image from this episode comes from a 1943 postcard from the camp accessed on archive.org