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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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Family history found at flea market

By Barry Schrader.................................August 24, 2010

Sometimes you just get lucky.
I sure did on the last day of the Sycamore Steam Power Show & Threshing Bee earlier this month. I passed by the Peterson family flour concession several times and then noticed Maynard Peterson’s daughter, Melanie, was selling some loose leafs from an old atlas. There were several flea market tables in the area I had checked out earlier, but not hers.
Looking closer, I realized they were an assortment of pages from an 1871 atlas of DeKalb County townships. She had decided to part with the atlas after it fell apart and some pages had been torn, lost or damaged over the years.
Quickly thumbing through them, I found Victor Township, which is south of Waterman, where my great-great-grandfather Johann Schroeder (aka John Schroder or Schrader) had taken up farming just a few years after getting off the boat from Germany in 1856. My heart raced as I discovered his 160-acre farmstead, then was surprised to see a second 110-acre farm with his name on it. I couldn’t wait to fork over the $10 and take my newfound treasure home with me.
Once I got home I realized there were more surprises in store on that plat map. I already knew that his son, Ferdinand, had married Caroline Kutzner, and there was proof on that page that she had come on the boat with her family from the old country as well. I found an 80-acre parcel owned by her father, Frederick Kutzner, near the Schrader farm. Counting six country schoolhouses on the map, I remembered that the Greentown School in the northwest corner of the township was where my mother taught for two years before marrying my father in July 1928. This I found out from the book “Rural School Journeys” which details the history of some 160 country schools scattered among the 19 townships in DeKalb County.
During the 1870s and later, there were six schoolhouses in that one rural township, quite an accomplishment for the residents who had to build and support them. According to the “Journeys” book, only three remain today, converted into houses; two others were torn down, and one burned down.
More interesting history I found on that map: The father of Civil War veteran Deck Wesson owned a 160-acre farm whose corner touched my family’s farm.

The Greentown School where my mother, Margaret Stryker (Schrader), taught from 1926-28. This is the second school built at the site, in 1902, located at the corner of Chicago and Leland Roads, converted into a home sometime after it closed in 1950. The original structure has the peaked roof.

Just this one corner of the 1871 Victor Township map shows the location of the Greentown School (labelled 1) and the farms owned by John Schroder and the Wessons. Another Schroder farm is southeast of this.

So after writing all that history about the Wessons earlier this year, I found that my family and theirs were neighbors some 140 years or so ago. Also of interest was the fact that Deck’s wife, Maggie Suydam, came from the farmstead where the Suydam Church stands today – the same church where my ancestors, including my grandmother, Ethel, and father, Vernon, were members. In fact, my father was christened and confirmed there, and my grandmother taught Sunday school, so probably my family knew the Suydams at one time way back then.
Since my curiosity had been piqued, I went to the DeKalb Public Library and perused the atlases and plat books from 1892 and 1905. They reveal that later generations of our family and the Wessons had inherited or purchased the farms. My great-grandfather Ferdinand became owner of the 160-acre farm, while the smaller parcel had been sold after 1871 to a Buckhart and then later before 1905 to a Johnson. Meanwhile, the Wesson land holdings had doubled in size, and the farm was assumed by Deck after his father passed.
It was also exciting to find out that north and east of our old family farm were three Beveridge family parcels. John Beveridge became governor of Illinois in 1873 and another Beveridge, James, was named state treasurer in 1865. I also found out that an ancestor – Augustus Breese – of my friend, Sue Breese, farmed right next door to the Schrader place.
Quite an impressive group of pioneers had gathered in that one township.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115