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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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DeKalb Ag memorabilia needs a home

By Barry Schrader.................................February 23, 2010

There are many stories to tell about the DeKalb Agricultural Association and its people.
Those who didn’t work there but know all about the “winged ear” will enjoy the historical exhibit now on display through April at the Nehring Gallery in downtown DeKalb. I sure learned a lot more talking with the alumni who were present when I visited.
My father was an Ag employee in the late 1940s and wired some of the new Ag plants in Iowa, Ontario, Canada, and Redwood Falls, Minn. My mother and I joined him for the summer in Redwood Falls, living in a cabin near the water where I fished every day and learned how to ride a bike. And I remember his boss, Charlie Blackman, and their lifelong friendship after my father left the Ag. Of course dad sold his stock

Two of the many versions of the famous winged ear are shown in this photo (Barry Schrader Photo)

when leaving so I am not one of the millionaires or lucky heirs who inherited money from the sale of stock when DeKalb (Ag) Genetics was bought by Monsanto around 1998.
Another sidebar story that ties into the current exhibit: The Burt Oderkirk family that bought the house at 217 Annie Glidden Road, where Annie Glidden had lived for many years, included three daughters. One of them, Ellen, married Dean Froelich, who spent most of his career working for the Ag in the poultry and seed divisions. The Froelichs are coming to DeKalb in April to see the exhibit and probably the old family home, as well as the playhouse now on the grounds of the Ellwood House and Museum. I am told that Dean proposed to Ellen on the front porch of that playhouse when it was owned by the Oderkirks and kept in their yard.
There is much discussion and concern over the future of the DeKalb Ag historical collection, now being managed by the members of the DEKALB Alumni Association, a group of former employees who are active in preserving the heritage of this agricultural icon. Only about 1 or 2 percent of the entire collection is on display at the gallery, so there needs to be a museum established to exhibit the artifacts on a permanent basis. There should be sufficient interest since it would attract more tourism to this area, just like the barbed wire barons’ homes do.
Maybe Northern Illinois University, which now owns the old Glidden/Oderkirk house, could offer it for a museum to the Ag alumni group. Or could space be found at the Engh farm outside Sycamore, or the Glidden Homestead after they have acquired the greenhouse building, which is a fundraising project currently under way.
I wish the Ag alums well in their efforts to find a museum or home for the artifacts and not just remain in a storage building where they can’t be enjoyed by the public.

Another topic: I got several e-mails from Genoa folks commenting on the history of the town’s founding column. Pat (Johnson) Smith from the Genoa-Kingston Class of 1960 recalls a history project in school when she and the late Lynn Pflaum collaborated on researching Genoa history and they interviewed the late Cassie Burrows who had lived there a long time. Mrs. Burrows told them how Genoa got its name when the first settler Thomas Madison (aka Matteson) chose the name from Genoa, New York. So it must be he was not an Italian, or it would have been pronounced “GEN-owa” after the historic city in Italy.
Another e-mailer, Dolores Gallagher, worked on the “Rural School Journeys” book and found some “family history” sources to be incorrect when matched with more official records. And another question arose: When is a town founded – when it is platted, a post office established or when a village is incorporated? I leave all these issues to Tom Oestreicher and his G-K history students, if they decide to take the challenge.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115