William Jennings Bryan Museum
Shown by Special Appointment; Advance Notice is Appreciated
Appointments: (618) 548-2222
408 South Broadway
Salem, IL 62881
The William Jennings Bryan Birthplace Museum was built in 1852, when Bryan’s parents were married, his father having hewed some of the timbers that went into it. The family lived in this house until Bryan was six years old.
When Bryan was six years old, the family moved to the north edge of Salem where his father owned a 600 acre farm with a 13 room, two story brick house. This house burned in the early 1940’s. If you were to drive to the east end of Bryan Lane today, you would be in the approximate location of the Bryan home. In 1991, Rick Moore built a new home on the site, utilizing bricks from the original home to pave the circular drive. There was a large deer park in the area of the farm, which is where our present street, Deer Path Drive, is located.
We have a pretty accurate record of Salem in 1870, when Bryan was ten years of age. The town’s home sites were considerably larger than they are today. Each lot had a garden, a barn, fruit trees, etc. There were generally two horses, a cow, some chickens and a pig or two. People raised most of their own food, and the women sewed most of the clothing worn by the family.
The division of retail stores reflected this arrangement. In 1870, there were five grocers, five butchers, and fourteen dry goods merchants in Salem. The grocers furnished spices, sugar, coffee, etc.
On a visit to Bryan Birthplace Museum, you will see many pictures of Williams Jennings Bryan, newspaper clippings, as well as a variety of awards he received. You will enjoy seeing a flatiron and fire tongs from his boyhood home. There are “life masks” of Bryan and his wife, made about 10 years before his death. Furniture that belonged to his parents, including a bookcase, washstand, and a desk, are on display as well. Bryan’s Spanish American war uniform is on display, along with Bryan’s chair from his office in Washington, D.C.
Bryan died on July 26, 1925, just five days after the Scopes trial ended. He had just returned to Dayton, from Chattanooga. On Sunday morning, he went to church, had lunch with his wife, and retired upstairs for a nap. When he didn’t come back as soon as she expected, his wife (who was an invalid by this time) sent the chauffeur to wake him. Bryan was found dead, having died very peacefully in his sleep. William Jennings Bryan is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Both Bryan’s mother (Mariah Jennings Bryan) and father (Silas Lillard Bryan) are buried in Salem’s East Lawn Cemetery, Section D, Row B (near the Veteran’s Memorial).