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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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Historical groups abound in the county

By Barry Schrader.................................July 27, 2010

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 group.”
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

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 county’s 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.
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 group’s 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.
We 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.
During 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 Year’s 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.
Steve Bigolin 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.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115