Behind the Project

Our project was recently featured on the Illinois Humanities program “Distributions People, Places, and Power – Fulton County Edition” (Our segment plays from 7 min – 16 min).

Welcome to The Forgottonia Project!  This project seeks to honor the rich history of rural, western Illinois, and examine the social, economic, and political problems we currently face.   We are produced by students and teachers at Cuba H.S. located in Fulton County; 1 of the 16 counties in the western part of the state.  Our title, Forgottonia, refers to a tongue-in-cheek movement during the 1970s that began largely because many rural Americans in Western Illinois felt policymakers were ignoring their region in favor of larger, metropolitan areas.

A foundation of our project is IL Social Science Inquiry Standard #9 which seeks to apply democratic strategies & procedures to address local, regional, or global concerns as well as take action in or out of school.

The Forgottonia Project takes an inquiry-based learning approach to local history, government, and current events. Students follow their own curiosities and are encouraged to ask tough questions about some of the problems they see in their own communities. To help better understand how to address these questions, our rural, high school students research and identify informed experts to record their own podcast conversations. Past participants have included:

  • Tim Kasser, Knox College psychologist, well-being researcher & author of “The High Price of Materialism”
  • James Loewen, sociologist & author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
  • Trenton Ellis, a rural sociologist at Black Hills St University & former Forgottonia resident
  • Chris Merrett, Director of the IL Institute for Rural Affairs
  • Chris Vallillo, well-known local musician, historian, and unofficial maestro of Forgottonia

Although many communities in rural America have endured an exodus of people and industries, they remain spectacular places to live (Check out our Forgottonia Profiles page to become more familiar with our 16 county region of Western Illinois; Also read this post about the importance of Notable Figures in Rural America).

Our hope is that by examining the history and issues our young people inherit, we will inspire citizens to be active participants in making our communities better places to live.  

It’s inspiring to see students tackle these issues head-on and engage with experts who don’t typically have an opportunity to communicate with a rural, high school audience. Put simply, if we are serious about addressing issues facing Forgottonia, then we must take seriously our efforts to invest in our youth who inherit these problems.


While several students, teachers, and community members collaborate to create content for our project, there are a few key contributors to know.

joseph-brewer*Joe Brewer – Mr. Brewer is the social science and history teacher at Cuba High School.  He received a degree in Social Science Education from Olivet Nazarene University and an M.A. in Sociology from WIU.  Mr. Brewer resides in Cuba, IL and enjoys reading, coaching, wrestling with his dogs, and spending time with his wife and stepsons.



Jessica Brewer – Mrs. Brewer is the art and technology teacher at Cuba High School who created our logo and website design. She works with students to design, edit, and share content.  She received a B.A. in art education from Monmouth College and an M.A. in instructional technology and design from WIU.  In her spare time, Mrs. Brewer enjoys what could be described as “expressing creative behavior.”


allyssaAlyssa (Hall) AndersonMs. Anderson is a Sociology instructor at Western Illinois University and contributes content to our blog and podcast.  She is also a graduate of Cuba High School and currently resides in Cuba with her two daughters, Jayna and Reese.   Alyssa received a B.A. in sociology from WIU and an M.A. in sociology from WIU in 2009. Being a resident of a small rural town, her Sociology classes helped her to understand the changes she had witnessed in her own hometown.    

In addition to the segment above, check out these links for more information about Forgottonia


Neil Gamm and the Forgottonia story was once featured on the History Channel show “How the States Got Their Shape.” Watch the segment from this episode on YouTube.


Detailed account of history and highways in Forgottonia on


PJ Star
Here is a link to an excellent article from the Peoria Journal Star on January 1, 2011 shortly after Neil Gamm passed away – “Gone but Not Forgotten.”


No way! In case you didn’t believe us, Forgottonia really does have its own Wikipedia page.

forgottonia project

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