Breaking the Prairie Museum

Ribbon Cutting at the Breaking the Prairie Museum held on Tuesday, October 8, 2013 to mark the completion of the addition to the Mathesius Brothers Barn.

On display at the Mathesius Brother's Barn

60% model built by James Mahoney


684 8th Street, P.O. Box 433, Mendota, IL 61342-0433

Special tours of the the Country Chapel and Mathesius Barn can be arranged by calling

Mendota Museum & Historical Society Office at (815) 539-3373  E-mail:


This agricultural museum honors farm families, their machinery, and their livestock.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Breaking the Prairie Museum is to preserve, restore, and interpret Mendota area agricultural history.

The museum shall provide an environment for learning and reflecting on the past, specifically the cultural, economic and social history.


The Breaking the Prairie Museum presently consists of two buildings. The Mathesius Brothers' Barn was completed in 2002. In 2004, the Country Chapel was completed and both buildings were dedicated.

 The Mathesius Brothers' Barn can now be viewed at any time. Large windows on three sides allow viewing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Farm tools and machinery are exhibited inside and outside this building. An exhibit of Allis Chalmers tractors will be in the barn until after the Tri-country fair in early September. A Scheidenhelm & Schaller buggy is also housed at this museum. At the north end of the Mathesius building a mid 1800s Elgin Hummer windmill has been erected.

The Country Chapel was the dream of a long-time friend and volunteer, Dean Otterbach. After his death in 2002 memorials and one fund raiser enabled the completion of the Chapel. It represents a place of worship and family social life at the time the prairie was broken in the late 19th and early 20th Century. A pump organ, manufactured in Mendota in the 1880's and restored by Roland Zimmerman, produces wonderful music in the Country Chapel for special occasions. The organ sits to the west of the beautiful stained glass window and a pulpit donated by Immanuel Lutheran Church in Compton. An altar, pews and registration table complete the interior of the chapel. The Country Chapel is available for small weddings, renewal of wedding vows, anniversaries, meetings, or other small gatherings.

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 Expansion of the Mathesius Brothers' Barn






















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