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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Somonauk museum holds treasures
By Barry Schrader.................................Feburary
letters from Union soldiers, the largest firearms collection
anywhere in the county, Colonial-era household items and clothing,
World War I and World War II mementos and many miscellaneous
collections that were donated over the years.
Now that the blizzard is behind us, its time to think
of outings the family can take until the snow melts (which could
take some time).
I discovered a real gem in Somonauk
while researching the authenticity of the 1858 Abraham Lincoln
photo from Ottawa that hangs in the Marie Louise Olmstead Memorial
Museum, which is on the second floor of a business building at
100 S. Depot St.
Three rooms comprising some 5,000
square feet are packed full of artifacts and antiques that could
be featured on Antiques Roadshow.
met two of the board members, Jim Gerlick and Jim Meyer, there
recently and got a taste of the breadth of its holdings. Hundreds
of Native American relics, cases of fossils, Civil War memorabilia
This stuffed two-headed calf is a favorite among youngsters
visiting the Marie Louise Olmstead Memorial Museum in Somonauk.
(Barry Schrader photo)
sort of reminds me of a miniature Smithsonian all in one building.
They even have animals and birds that have been stuffed. When
you first climb up those 21 steps to the second floor you will
see a large case with a family of wolves stuffed, of course.
One of the highlights I spotted was the 32-pound
flintlock (later converted to percussion-lock) rifle reportedly
presented to Chief Shabbona at the signing of the peace treaty
at Prairie du Chien in 1829. A large birchbark canoe is displayed
in another room, and hundreds of artifacts collected by local
residents from Native American tribes who lived in this area
over the centuries are in another area. In the Colonial Room
is a large loom used for weaving cloth and carpets, plus an 1825
piano, baby carriage, early day cord bedstead and numerous household
items from pioneer days.
On top of one display
case is a full-size, two-headed calf. This is something you would
expect to see only in a circus sideshow. The calf obviously died
in its first few months of life, and Meyer explained it came
from a farm south of town once owned by Edmund Rumney and farmed
by Jess and Clara Erickson. He added that it is the most popular
attraction in the museum when second-grade classes come to visit.
They even bring their parents back to see this freak of nature.
The founder of the Olmstead Museum is the late attorney
L. B. Olmstead (1857-1951), who named it in honor of his deceased
wife. He had been a collector of relics and antiques since his
youth and added a building to house the collection at his home
in Somonauk. But in the early 1940s the collection had outgrown
the space, so he decided to relocate it to the second floor of
the bank building. Upon his death, it was turned over to the
community and a board of directors now operates it.
is open once a week, from 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays, but groups can
request a special tour by calling 815-498-3537 during museum
hours. Or Meyer can be reached anytime at 815-498-2417.
is well worth the time to drive there, but you will likely need
several trips to cover the thousands of items spread throughout
the three rooms.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115