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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Historical controversy over Genoas founding
By Barry Schrader.................................February
To digress, I got in the middle of this controversy
when an old friend, Dolly Bruder, asked me to attend a committee
meeting at Genoa City Hall in January and bring any books or
documentation I could find about the towns founding. Dolly
was our advertising manager at the weekly Genoa Republican back
in the mid-1960s, when Kay and I owned it. She had replaced Sharon
Holmes (now DeKalb County Clerk), who had a baby and decided
to stay home for a while. Just for old times sake, I should mention
that Jackie Bennett and Jewel Latchford also worked part-time
in our newspaper office then, just after Gerry Hayward had left
to sell advertising for the Daily Chronicle. Also, Al Alsup should
be included here for running the commercial printing operation
at the time.
Records were spotty back in the 1830s and 1840s, when the
early pioneers settled in what is now DeKalb County, and the
lack of formal documents has caused a history mystery
surrounding the founding of Genoa.
The city already
has organized a committee to lead the celebration of its 175th
anniversary, and the entrance signs at the towns edge say
it was founded in 1835.
But if you look into other
history books published around DeKalb County over the years,
the founding date is listed as 1836. Historians at the Joiner
History Room in Sycamore confirmed that the date should be 1836.
But two books published in Genoa for its 150th observance
tell a different story. The writer, Sheila Larson, researched
and compiled two publications for the sesquicentennial, and Sandy
Lyons from the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society was good enough
to loan them to me while I was writing this weeks column.
Their titles are, Genoa, Illinois, A History of its Township,
and Biographical Sketches of Genoa Township Pioneer Families,
DeKalb County, Illinois.
James Moore shown in this photo claimed he was born in
December 1835 in the Madison family cabin where Genoa is located
Getting back to the controversy,
I took three books to the meeting, The Past and Present
of DeKalb County, Illinois published in 1907 by Professor
Lewis M. Gross; From Oxen to Jets a county history
edited by Harriet Wilson Davy and published by the county board
of supervisors in 1963; and The History of DeKalb County,
Illinois published in 1868 by Henry Boies. All three of
those books list Genoas founding as 1836, but with no explanation
Larson bases her facts on the testimony of
James Harrington Moore, who said he was born Dec. 29, 1835, in
Genoa Township. He claimed to be the first white child born in
the township and in DeKalb County. In the Genoa Republican-Journal
issue of Jan. 8, 1901, Moore was quoted as saying the county
historian, George Congdon, presented Moore with a medal for being
the first white baby in the county. Moore further stated that
he based his statements on a complete memorandum kept by
his mother, Sylvia Madison Moore, in the early days.
The first white settlers to arrive in the Genoa area
in May 1835 were the Thomas and Sarah Matteson (aka Madison)
family. Sylvia was one of the adult children of Thomas and Sarah
and was married to Voranus Moore in 1832 back in Ohio.
could go on quoting facts from the other books, but isnt
it time to call in the History Detectives from PBS? In case they
dont find this subject of interest to a nationwide TV audience,
the next person I thought of was Tom Oestreicher, noted author
and a history teacher at Genoa-Kingston High School. So I asked
him about assigning his history students an extra-credit project
of researching the towns history and seeing what they conclude.
He is taking it under advisement. So watch for more chapters
in the continuing saga of the contradictory history of Genoa
and its early inhabitants.
Now if the DeKalb County
Forest Preserve District can get the Miller cabin reassembled
at its future Genoa location this spring, wouldnt that
be a neat place to announce the students findings during
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DeKalb, Ill 60115