If you visited the newly opened DeKalb County History Center
you may have overlooked a nondescript artifact in a display case
near the far wall from the entrance. It contains a metal seat
from a Marsh Harvester, and behind that, a red clay drainage
tile from Hinckley Concrete Products, which was first known as
the Hinckley Tile Factory when it was started in 1878.
Bob Pritchard wrote a lengthy essay on how the tile factory
shaped Hinckley and farming in general. It will appear in the
summer issue of Cornsilk, published quarterly by
the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society. He shared
his draft with me and this led to more research on my part into
With the help of Marcia Wilson and Rob Glover of the Glidden
Homestead, I was able to track down a story showing the importance
of tile to this area. John Glidden, nephew of Joseph Glidden
and brother to Annie Glidden, graduated from DeKalb High School,
then earned a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
in mechanical engineering.
When he returned home to help on the farm, he used his
education and skills to install drainage tiles on the Glidden
farm. They were placed so as to drain onto the property now occupied
by Northern Illinois University, creating a 40-acre lake which
is today the NIU lagoon. Most likely, that tile was purchased
from the Hinckley factory.
As an aside, John Glidden was awarded the franchise in
1891 to build a power plant and electrify the city of DeKalb.
He also built a steam-heating system to heat the downtown area
through a network of steam pipes and tunnels. Part of the deal
was to heat municipal buildings for free.
Getting back to field tile, the farmers in the area and
across the country soon realized the value of draining their
cropland and installed tiling to enable them to plant more acreage.
The subsurface water would seep into the loose-fitting tile and
run off into ditches or creeks. Later, plastic pipe with perforations
or slots replaced the old
Julie Morsch, curator of the Hinckley Historical Society
museum, holds an early version of field tile manufactured by
Hinckley Concrete Products. Inset photo below shows the red clay
tile like the one on display at the DeKalb County History Center.
(Schrader photo for ShawMedia)The technology in field tiling today uses these rolls
of plastic perforated tile in 170-foot rolls.