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Barry Schrader


I wrote a column for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for 8 years starting in December 2007 and running until November 2015. Then I returned to column writing in August 2016, all of them archived here.


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Cemetery walk offered local life stories

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Oct 7, 2016

The Sycamore History Museum held its 23rd annual Elmwood Cemetery Walk last Sunday and presenters highlighted the life stories of several residents buried there. Six of the talks were about people and the other two covered the Veterans Memorial with bricks listing 210 military personnel, living and dead, who resided in Sycamore, then the Garden of the Good Shepherd constructed in 1965, one of six around the cemetery grounds.

For me, the most fascinating was the story told by Nathan Thomas about the founder of the Israel of God Church, Apostle George Flowers. Born into slavery, he was free after the Civil War and went to Africa. He returned to the U.S. and came to Chicago in 1887 where he had a vision. He then traveled the world for 10 years preaching.

He came to Sycamore in 1907 where there was only a small number of African Americans. They asked him to stay and build a church here. He bought three lots on North Avenue, plus a house across the

Representing the Israel of God Church, Nathan Thomas stood at the grave site of Apostle George Flowers, sharing his life story with those attending the Elmwood Cemetery walk Oct. 3. (Barry Schrader photo for Shaw Media)

street to house the elderly. He obtained the wood to build the church from a farmer east of town and completed it in 1909. It stood until 1952, when it was torn down and replaced by the present church.

Apostle Flowers spread the gospel into several states and founded Israel of God congregations in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and California, in addition to five cities in Illinois. Sycamore remains the headquarters of the Church.

Talking with Thomas after the walk, I learned that his own father entered the ministry and heard about his life as well. He has so much history to share he should write a book. I also suggested he speak at a DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society meeting about the founding of this local church. Thomas is retired from teaching, having taught history at Sycamore High School and in Detroit.

I should mention the other speakers last Sunday as they also shared interesting biographies of residents buried at Elmwood. Joe McCormick talked about Leonard Linden (1912-1992), a World War II Army veteran who worked as a carpenter and painter.

JoAnn Minter told the story of Martha Millett Wygant Walker who lived from 1867 to 1936. She has a unique hand-crafted headstone and is the only one of her family buried in that plot.

Dick Stipher talked about Oscar Westergren (1856-1933) who was the cemetery's assistant sexton for years and dug the graves by hand.

Next was Sidney Johnson, a World War II veteran who owned Johnson's Sheet Metal in town. His story was told by Kevin Sargent. The last grave visited was that of Rev. Paul Daughtery Emenheiser (1911-1969), longtime pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church. That presenter was Karen Paulson.

For anyone who finds local history fascinating this tour should go on your calendar for October 2017.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115