All New Burgoo Review

When did Arenzville start making burgoo?

1953 News Article on Arenzville Burgoo

1965 News Article on Arenzville Burgoo

How is Arenzville burgoo made?

What do you eat with burgoo?

What is kettle service?

When is the next Arenzville Burgoo?

What happens at the Arenzville Burgoo?

How do I get to Arenzville?

Is there lodging in the area?

How can I learn more about burgoo?

Where can I find burgoo recipes?


Burgoos are as Common as Cockleburs - in this area only

Origins May Date Back to Indians

Beardstown Daily Illinoian-Star, September 5, 1965 (this article was also reproduced in A Local History Collection of Arenzville, Illinoisby Theodore and Hester Ham Lovekamp

By Charles Ater

The origin of Burgoo is controversial and perhaps will never be settled.

It may have descended from the Indians’ potlatch or feast. It was common for one successful in the hunt to add the fresh meat to the pot of left-overs from previous meals, add herbs and any other edibles. Then when this was cooked the whole village was invited to the feast.

Burgoo is as common as cockleburs here in central western Illinois in an area of less than 75 square miles, but beyond that it is a friendless alien.

It is found in every town and hamlet here and in the dictionary. There it is described as a soup or picnic or both. The origin of the word is uncertain.

In my search and research for details of the dawning in history of this gourmet elixir, I found many older citizens had remembered many interesting incidents but only one, Frank Dober, could give pertinent information of its near beginning.

Horace Virgin, a neighbor to the northeast, stated that his father attended a Burgoo in or near Virginia, Ill., soon after 1850. This was prepared by the Indians and little more is known concerning it.

Mr. Dober, with an occasional interpretation from me, said:

“I was born in Nov. 1874 right here and have spent my life here. When I was a kid maybe 10 years old, not over that, I went over to the Rexroat feedlots to a Burgoo held there – (about a half-mile west).

“I am not sure that it was the first one. It seems like they had a couple before that but not over there. The public wasn’t invited, but when I got over there, they put me to work in a stand dipping out soup. I worked all day and got nothing for my work except dinner which was Burgoo and I didn’t like the stuff. They never again got me in one of those stands.

(Today cooks and chefs add numerous aids to improve foods already good. One wonders which was the accent for the other – our Burgoo or the feedlot aroma.)

Mr. Dober states further:

“At the first ones there was a liberal supply of schnapps and usually some went home early escorted by their buddies who themselves were none too sober.

“For entertainment they had a shooting match. They used live farm pigeons under a small tin container, and when the container was tipped away from the bird by pulling a string attached to it, the bird darted away, this way and that. It took a better shot to hit them than it does for today’s clay pigeons because they were quicker. Our local champion was Fred Lippert but he didn’t last long against two experts from Browing, Frank Drawve and Wilbur Dunham. They were duck hunters, and that was the time when there was no limit, and lots of men shot over a hundred ducks a day. Some just shot them and let them lay.

When asked if he remembered the contents of the soup Dober stated:

“Yes, pretty well. They used lots of squirrels. In those days there were lots of squirrels. You could shoot 30 or 40 in one morning. They used other wild game and some beef. I don’t think they ever used than deer though.” (This is contrary to ‘vague’ reports I have heard). “They used lots of vegetables and some corn.”

Jesse Mannion owned the slaughter house near the feed lots. They well down the hill from the school farm entrance is the one dug and used for the slaughter house.

The Burgoo was held at the feed lots for several years and then moved north to Kolberer’s timber north of town.

Many of the oldsters remember it from here on.

It was a little close to town, and maybe they had improved the recipe after a couple of years. It was held just barely in the edge of the little village and became a public institution. This location was at the Wessler’s block house. The block house was a very active institution at that time turning out thousands of concrete blocks, well covers, and well rims. Five men were employed there.

A few years later it had worked its way into the heart of the town and the hearts of the people. (The way to a man’s heart is through the stomach). The recipe had greatly improved and was top secret as it is today. (A typewritten copy can be had for a quarter).

At this new location it has reigned supreme for many years, near the jail and in the shadows of two churches.

Entertainment through the years has varied. At the Kolberer location Henry Rainey spoke. Ed Dober (better known as Big Ed) remembers vividly going with his father at 12 years of age to the depot in a carriage to meet Mr. Henry T. Rainey, who was speaker.

Through the years its popularity has risen and fallen.

In 1909 the local A.T.A. (Anti-Thief Association) was granted a charter with 65 members. It adopted an almost orphan Burgoo and it became a well attended festive affair for many years. Then its popularity hit low tide in pre-depression days.

In 1928 Lester Smith, an itinerant grocerman (you can tell by the name he was a foreigner) revived it. This was probably the earliest restoration of life using mouth-by-mouth method.

Since then it has survived gracefully without other transfusions. It lives in actuality for two gala days preceded by several days of preparation and storage.

The rest of the year it lives in the minds of the people as a perfect product of alchemy, a gourmet’s delight.

This is attested by the bragging signs at the Village limits asserting that this is Arenzville, the home of the World’s Best Burgoo.

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This page last modified: 07/15/2020