Kewanee is known to the wider world. It was officially dubbed the "Hog Capital of the World" in 1948, when government agriculture statistics showed that Henry County led the world in hog production. Kewanee is no longer the hog capital of the world, if it ever was. But the hog still figures prominently in the culture of such towns even if it no longer is vital to their economies. Every summer Pittsfield holds the Pike County Pig Days; in addition to the usual amusements offered by all summer festivals in Illinois, there is a kiss-a-pig contest, hog calling contests, contests for the longest pigtails, and a contest for the best culinary creations based on pork. The last would seem redundant in a country in which there we already know what is the best culinary creation based on pork, which is a bacon sandwich with bacon, served with French-fried bacon.
I have some hog-breeding ancestors who lived in Pike County, but. as I mentioned in my column of April 20, it was Beardstown where I learned about hogs. The west end of town was known as Hog Ward, because that’s where locals used to bring their fat hogs down there to be slaughtered, the river being convenient for washing up. The river used to be even handier to shipping hogs. One of my grandmother’s grandfather was an Irish merchant who settled in Beardstown. Because he had warehouse space and access to credit, in the winter he offered to buy, slaughter and pack hogs brought in from neighboring farms, after which he shipped them to St. Louis for sale. He made enough doing this to buy a big house on the square; later, when hog-packing moved to Chicago, he did too, although he came back to Beardstown when he retired.
Now they are packing hogs in Beardstown again, sort of, at the big JBD USA plant at the edge of town where they "process" -- ominous word -- pigs parts that are sold for the table under the Swift label.