The next meeting of
Colchester Area Historical Society
Tues. March 17, 2015 at 7 P.M.
Colchester City Hall Community Room
located in Friendway Park.
The program will be “Show and Tell of Historical Items”.
We do not meet in Dec., Jan.
The first meeting of the Colchester Area
Historical Society for this year will be Tues. Sept. 16 at 7 P.M. at Colchester City Hall Community Room at Friendway Park. Members and guests can bring historical items for the "Show and
Tell" program. All interested individuals are invited to attend.
The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow pioneer restoration project sponsored by the McDonough County Historical Society moved a giant step forward on Friday, July 18, with the planting of over 450 one-gallon prairie plants. There were over 17 different varieties of grasses set in trenches. Earlier this spring an additional 300 forbs were planted along Wigwam Hollow.
Tim Howe, City Forester, jumped on an opportunity to get these plants donated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Each year, after the DOT landscapes the Illinois roads and highways with plants grown by the Department of Natural Resources, it distributes the excess to non-profit community organizations. Both the City of Macomb and the McDonough County Historical Society qualified for this donation.
Gloria Diggs, one of Howe’s assistants, supervised the project all spring. Diggs graduated from WIU in May with a degree in agriculture with emphases in horticulture and urban forestry. Demetrius Allen, a WIU student and Leatherneck football player, also working with Howe and Diggs, helped with the planting.
Gil Belles, on behalf of the historical society, oversees the development of the prairie restoration. He invited Bill Knox and Greg Van Vleet of the Centennial Rotary to help, in addition to Jeff Moore, soccer coach at Macomb High, with his own landscaping business.
In just under two hours, these seven volunteers set the 450 plants in five trough rows trenched by Jason Brendau. They were then watered with a wish for some rain over the weekend.
The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow has 14 new heritage trees, each donated for this tribute to Don and Gordana Rezab. As the restoration progresses, there will be benches for reflection and meditation in this gateway to the Old Macomb Cemetery just north on Wigwam Hollow Road.
from the McDonough County Voice
On June 28, at 2:00, as part of this year's Heritage Days event, focused on "Macomb's Military Heritage," there will be a re-enactment of a typical 19th-century Decoration Day ceremony in Oakwood Cemetery. Titled "The Memory Shall be Ours," the script was created by John Hallwas, based on 19th-century GAR manuals and local newspaper accounts of those Civil War remembrance ceremonies. The re-enactment will feature the Macomb Band, under the direction of Michael Fansler, which will play a variety of Civil War songs. Also, the 114th Regiment, reactivated, a noted Civil War soldier re-enactment group from Springfield, will be performing the roles once filled generations ago by local Civil War veterans: posting the flag, speaking about soldiers, and decorating selected soldier graves. In the 19th century, this was Macomb's largest participatory event, which often drew several thousand people to Oakwood Cemetery. The re-enactment will be filmed by WIU Television, with director Roger Kent in charge of the taping, editing, and creation of the film. It is planned to make this re-enactment available on local TV, especially during the Memorial Day holiday each spring. The re-enactment, which is largely a Civil War music concert, is free to the public on the Saturday of Heritage Days.
Cemetery Symbols and Tombstone History Discussion
University Libraries will be hosting Greg Phelps, "Dead Men's
Tales: Cemetery Symbols and Tombstone History Discussion" on
Wednesday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 180 of Leslie F. Malpass
Many Americans visit cemeteries to honor loved ones on Memorial
Day. Have you ever wondered what the symbols on the tombstones
really mean? What is the story behind the angel, acronym, or
symbol? Greg Phelps, a Library Specialist with University
Libraries and President of Scott's Cemetery Association, will
discuss many of the common symbols people see in cemeteries
plus a look at tombstone history. Attendees will also learn how
to make a tombstone rubbing! This lecture was presented in the
fall semester 2013 and due to patron interest will be presented
again with some new information added.
This event is free and open to the public. Any questions,
contact Tammy Sayles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oakwood Cemetery houses the graves of men that fought in many of the nation’s wars, including hundreds that served in the Civil War.
The Macomb’s Military Heritage Tour at Oakwood, sponsored by the Friends of Oakwood Cemetery, provided some insight by author and historian John Hallwas into the stories of the cemetery’s residents.
Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was known during the Civil War, has always been a large part of Macomb as the city celebrated its veterans heavily throughout its history, Hallwas said.
“It wasn’t just civil war guys,” he explained. “(It was) earlier wars too and, of course, later wars. That started after the Civil War with the whole sea change that came in about the way we should honor and remember our soldiers.”
Macomb has seen its share of servicemen, with many of the large movers and shakers throughout its history having been in the military in some form. This includes C.V. Chandler, the richest man in the county and the one who personally paid for the statue in Chandler park.
This also includes W.H. Hainline who ran the Macomb Journal and former president of Western Illinois University Alfred Bayliss.
Illinois University Alfred Bayliss.
These veterans made sure that the dead were celebrated in a proper way each Decoration Day, Hallwas said.
“You had 2,500 people in the town in 1870, 1880, 1890,” Hallwas said. “We had 5,000 on Decoration Day, double the population of the town was out here on Decoration Day and it was because these guys made it happen.”
People would come in from all over the county, and from other counties, to Macomb and would have a war hero give a speech. People would line up as far as the eye could see, Hallwas said.
The headstones of veterans, each adorned with a flag, included those who had served in many different wars. One stone, the stone of Francis D. Lipe, is adorned with the odd “Cherokee War.”
The Cherokee War was actually the removal of Cherokees by Andrew Jackson, known as the famous Trail of Tears, where the Cherokee Indians were removed from their lands and driven into “Indian Territory,” now known as Oklahoma.
Another interesting stone was the stone of Colonel Carter Van Vlec, whom had fought in the battle of Chickamauga and was wounded.
“He should have really went home and stayed there,” Hallwas said. “His arm was in a sling. But as soon as he possibly could get back in the service, after a period of a couple months he did so.”
By May 2015, Macomb's Chandler Park will be the home of something unique for many communities: A memorial honoring women social activists.
After more than two years of planning and fundraising, the GFWC Macomb Woman's Club has broken ground on the memorial, which will be placed in Chandler Park. On Friday afternoon, the Western Illinois University's Department of Women's Studies and Malpass Library's Archives and Special Collections, along with the Woman's Club Social Service Memorial Committee, hosted "Women Breaking Barriers: A Celebration of Local Female Social Activism" at the Multicultural Center to share information about the memorial.
Several speakers, including WIU President Jack Thomas, Department of Women's Studies Chairwoman Aimee Shouse, Macomb Mayor Mike Inman and WIU Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Hallwas spoke about the importance of having women's social service memorial placed in Chandler Park.
Hallwas noted other monuments, such as the Hull House historic home in Chicago that honors Jane Addams, but could not recall one that collectively honors women who committed their lives to social causes.
"No town or county has a monument such as we are erecting, to remember and celebrate a whole tradition of females with inspiring commitment to social causes," he said. "And I believe that it will both say something important about the culture here in Macomb and serve as a model for other communities, prompting them to look into their own tradition of often-overlooked female social activists."
The memorial will specifically honor Macomb's most well-known female activists, including Josie Westfall, who 1911 started an orphanage and cared for more than 500 children before her death in 1941.
Tina Belz, co-chairwoman of the Woman's Club social service memorial committee, said on Friday the newest name added to the list that will inscribed on the pedestal is Clara Bayliss, wife of Alfred Bayliss, WIU's second president.
"We added Clara Bayliss to our list of notable women and she was very active with the university," Belz said, "and she was very much an advocate for children. She started the local Daughter of the American Revolution and she was very active."
The memorial's patio construction has started — Jack Laveirdere Construction donated the work — and the memorial will be completed by May 2015. The memorial's statue, "Facing the Storm," which will feature a bronze sculpture of a woman and child, will be ordered soon by the Woman's Club from a Bradley University art professor.
For more information about the memorial and the women who will honored, or to donate by purchasing one of 100 available memorial bricks or a bench, visit http://womens-memorial-macomb.weebly.com.
Reach Lainie Steelman via email at lsteelman@McDonoughVoice.com, or follow her on Twitter@LainieSteelman.
Colchester library to get $35,000 grant for repairs
The historic Colchester District Library will soon see renovations thanks, in part, to a state construction grant.
A grant in the amount of $35,000 was officially awarded to the Colchester District Library by Secretary of State and State Jesse White. According to Debbie Sullivan, director for the library, the funds should arrive sometime this fall.
“Maybe around August we’ll have the money in hand,” Sullivan said. “The building is about 125 years old and nothing has been done to it in a very long time. It was a jail, it was a firehouse, and it deserves to be kept up.”
The project will come to fruiting in three phases, Sullivan explained, the first of which will be completing the restoration of the foundation and some brick work. Crumbling bricks and leaks are a chief concern for the library.
Second, the concrete in the front of the library will be leveled and a slope will be placed to make the building handicap accessible.
Finally, several carpentry concerns will be addressed such as the fixing of roof leaks, the repair of the guttering, and the repair of some rotting windowsills.
Sullivan said that the interior parts of the library will also ideally get some renovations through the library’s “bucket list” fundraising campaign. Patrons can donate at the library to help fulfill smaller items that the grant might not cover.
Depending on when the money is received, construction will start at the end of the year or possibly the beginning of next year, weather being a determining factor as most of the work is external.
The grant is part of $790,000 worth of construction projects awarded to 14 other cities that will renovate their respective libraries.
“I’m very glad that it’s going to work out because the work needs to be done,” Sullivan said.
March 1, 2014
On Saturday, March 1, Linda Rezab Gibson, on behalf of her brother Ray and sister Julie, accepted the sign officially designating the Rezab Family Prairie Meadow. Gibson was in Macomb to accept a posthumous “Writing Women Back into History” honor conferred on her mother Gordana by the Macomb Feminist Network.
The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow is located south of the Old Macomb Cemetery at the northwest corner of Wigwam Hollow Road and West Adams Street.
In 2012, the McDonough County Historical Society (MCHS), under the leadership of president Gordana Rezab, initiated a new phase of its Cemetery Project: the restoration, preservation, and beautification of the Old Macomb Cemetery. Rezab spearheaded the campaign to install a new fence around the cemetery.
The society then turned its attention to the empty lot directly south of the cemetery. The goal is to transform the adjacent two-acre field into a pioneer prairie meadow as a contemplative and educational entry to the cemetery.
This required obtaining control over the land. Rezab persuaded the Macomb City Council to accept the land with the provision that development be the responsibility of the MCHS.
Before her untimely death, 12 of 14 new trees had been planted as well as the sowing of heritage prairie meadow seeds.
The City Council named the area the “Rezab Family Prairie Meadow.”
Rezab’s contributions to Macomb’s history go beyond her leadership of the MCHS. On Saturday, the Macomb Feminist Network honored many of her legacies to our community.
As head archivist at WIU, Rezab was instrumental in developing the division of Archives and Special Collections. She was treasurer of Macomb Beautiful Association, McDonough County Choral Society, and League of Women Voters. She was a founder of the McDonough County Genealogical Society. Rezab was on the board of the Western Illinois Museum.
One culmination of her research interests was published as Place Names in McDonough County, an unusual and valuable reference tool.
Linda Rezab Gibson shared family memories with the crowd at the honor ceremony and expressed the pride of her siblings with the Prairie Meadow and the Writing Women Back into History Award.
For Immediate Release
February 11, 2014
The Western Illinois Museum is pleased to host author
Laurie Loewenstein, author of the new publication, Unmentionables
The Western Illinois Museum is pleased to host author, Laurie Loewenstein whose novel, Unmentionables is set in a community much like Macomb. Loewenstein’s childhood visits to Macomb to visit her grandparents instilled an interest in the region’s history, as well as, insights
she used to create the setting for the book. The author will speak about her personal connection with McDonough County and how it is intertwined with the novel’s topics such as the Suffragette Movement and woman’s involvement in WWI. She will also read from her publication during the program which will be Saturday, February 22, at 2:00 pm at the Western Illinois Museum. The event is free and open to the public.
Unmentionable is an extensively researched historic fiction published in 2014 by Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books. The novel begins by introducing Marian, an outspoken advocate for sensible women’s undergarments, who is part of 1917 Chautauqua lecture series. While speaking in the small Midwest town modeled after Macomb, she sustaining an injury and is sidelined from the lecture tour. While convalescing, she gets an opportunity to sees the community’s response to her call for reform. As the week passes, she throws into turmoil the town’s unspoken rules governing social order, women, and race relations. Marian is a powerful catalyst that propels a small, Midwest nineteenth-century community into the twentieth century; but while she agitates for enlightenment and justice, she has taken little time to consider her own motives and her extreme loneliness. Marian, in the end, must decide if she has the courage to face small-town life, and be known, or continue to be a stranger always passing through.
The publication will be available for purchase during the program courtesy of the publisher, Akashic Books. More information about the publisher or to purchase the book in advance, visit: http://www.akashicbooks.com/catalog/unmentionables/ Electronic versions are also available through Amazon.
The Western Illinois Museum is located at 201 South Lafayette Street, one block south of Macomb’s historic Courthouse Square. For more information, contact the museum at 309.837.2750 or email@example.com