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 groups abound in the county
By Barry Schrader.................................July
I counted no less than 15 museums and historical landmarks
that have societies or official boards attached to them, plus
organizations like the Joiner History Room at the Sycamore Library,
where much of the countys history is preserved, and the
Earl Hayter Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University,
where historical records and artifacts from 18 counties outside
Chicago are maintained.
A little-known group organized in 2001 meets in various communities
around DeKalb County on a quarterly basis and shares information
of historical significance. Hardly anyone can remember the formal
name so it is commonly referred to as the alphabet soup
Officially, it is the DeKalb County
Association of Historical Societies and Museums, which has no
bylaws, no treasury, no official power and only a president and
recording secretary. Its loose-knit membership is composed of
representatives of 21 local museums and historical societies,
and it just published its second edition of the Historical
Resources Guide for DeKalb County. One would be amazed
to find out how much history is being pursued in a county of
just over 100,000 people.
Sandy Lyon, at left, presides over the DCAHS&M with
past president Marcia Wilson also shown
Anyway, attending the
alphabet soup group meeting recently at the Malta Historical
& Genealogical Society museum was a feast for a history buff
like me (I am a member of the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical
Society). President Sandy Lyon asked for reports from around
the county, and we heard about the opening of a new blacksmith
shop at the Glidden Homestead, the planned publication of a new
county history book and the new DeKalb Ag Alumni groups
museum that will be housed in the Nehring Gallery in DeKalb.
Topics discussed included that the former Wagner
Memorial Museum near Sandwich will have another auction of its
collection after the outbuildings contents were sold off
last month; that the Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee
will be held Aug. 12-15; that the Miller log cabin will be rebuilt
at the Russell Woods Forest Preserve near Genoa; and how to involve
more schools in the Regional History Fair.
can be thankful that Ron Klein conceived the idea of this countywide
cooperative back in 2001, with the encouragement of Jerry Smith
who was then with the DeKalb County Community Foundation, so
historians and preservationists can collaborate on projects and
keep each other informed of activities.
the meeting I was sitting next to Ivan Prall from the Malta museum
and heard some weird and strange things about his town. It is
believed the old town hall is haunted. It seems that there was
a major train wreck with numerous injuries and even deaths near
Malta on New Years Eve 1901, and the survivors were brought
to that building. Doctors from miles around were summoned to
treat the victims. However, several died and their spirits are
said to inhabit the place.
I understand Debbie
Lange is responsible for saving the town hall for use as a museum,
and a great job of restoration and renovation has been done.
They rebuilt a kitchen where the original stage was located,
added a work room above it, have updated the heating and air
conditioning and repainted the interior yet the historical
integrity of the old hall has been maintained. More groups and
families are renting it for gatherings, so they have established
a fee schedule and rules for use.
reported on a meeting of the Alliance of Illinois Cemeterians.
There is some distress being expressed about the new state regulations
on cemetery operations that were enacted into law due to the
Burr Oak Cemetery scandal in Chicago. Parts of the new law will
create a hardship for rural cemeteries and a meeting has been
called with state Sen. Brad Burzynski, R-Rochelle, to discuss
these concerns. I can imagine Waterman cemeteries sexton Craig
Rice will be front and center at this meeting. He oversees both
the Johnson Grove and North Clinton burial grounds.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115