Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Museum of Funeral Customs to Live Again!

Actually, just the artifacts will live again, but even that's pretty exciting!

You may remember the Brief History story from last year about the Museum of Funeral Customs being forced to close due to the economy, lowered tourism and greater expenses. The Museum used to be right outside the gates of Oakwood Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln is buried with his family in Springfield. It was a fitting location, not only because of its proximity to a cemetery, but also because the museum held many Lincoln exhibits.

Just this month, the Hancock County Journal-Pilot reported that the entire contents of the Funeral Customs museum has been transferred into the care of the Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum. Kibbe received tables, chairs and display cases in addition to a computer record system, but most importantly, the museum is now the keeper of hundreds of artifacts and research items.

The Museum of Funeral Customs closed their doors in the spring of 2009 and hoped to be able to move all of their collection to one owner rather than see it broken up and scattered. There was no cost to the Kibbe museum, and they are already planning how to best display this wealth of material.

They hope to have the Lincoln exhibits ready by March of 2012 which will include a miniature of Lincoln's funeral train and a replica of his coffin. This spring already the museum will put on view a Victorian embalming room and a selection of unusual caskets.

The Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum is in Carthage, Illinois, not too far from Macomb. The Funeral Museum artifacts will be a great addition to their current collection and it's wonderful to know that someone has taken responsibility to bring those macabre items back to life.

A Not-So-Distant Presidential History

Yesterday was Presidents' day and Caroline Kennedy used the holiday to unveil an interactive online exhibit at the Kennedy Library website. If you missed the news announcement, here's your chance to try it out.

On the website is a wealth of information about John F. Kennedy, including details about his desk in the Oval Office. The new online desk exhibit lets you "sit" at his desk and see all of his personal items displayed there. Some of the items are highlighted when you roll your mouse over them and if you click on those highlighted articles, you will be taken to a new screen with related photos, recordings and film clips

It's a nifty presentation, not necessarily for children, but certainly more accessible than reams of closely-printed text. Believe it or not, many of today's grandparents were too young to remember where they were when JFK was shot, so this website might be a nice shared experience for a grandparent and a grandchild.

Where History Is Happening

Chicago Maritime Festival
February 26
10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Kate will present "13 Families West Across the Lakes" at 2 pm, one of many seminars demonstrations, and lectures offered. See also displays of maritime art, knots, ships and lighthouses. In the evening, enjoy a concert featuring many celebrated maritime music professionals from all over the world singing new and traditional sea shanties.

Maple Sugaring Days at Naper Settlement
Saturday, March 12
10 am -4 pm
Sunday, March 13
1:00- 4:00 pm
See the time-honored method of collecting sap the old-fashioned way and visit historic building activity stations. Sample the pleasing taste of maple syrup and take home tasty recipes to make and enjoy. This is a memorable event that the whole family will savor. $9 adults, $8 seniors (62+), $6.50 youth (4-17)
Naperville Heritage Society members and Season Pass Holders receive free admission.

A Soldier's Friend : Civil War Nurse Cornelia Hancock
Thursday, March 17
7 - 9 pm
The captivating tale of Civil War Nurse, Cornelia Hancock, will be presented by Naperville historian Georgiann Baldino in commemoration of the launch of the nation's Civil War Sesquicentennial. Letters Hancock wrote during her Civil War nursing career provide the basis around which Baldino has crafted this unforgettable program. The program is presented in conjunction with the Oswego Public Library. Pre-registration through the Oswegoland Park District at 630-554-1010 online is encouraged but walk-ins are always welcome. Admission is FREE.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Winter of the Deep Snow

While we are bemoaning how long it takes to plow the cul de sacs this winter, it might make our dispositions sunnier when we remember how good we have it now in 2011 compared to the early settlers of Illinois.

The winter of 1830-1831 was particularly nasty throughout the state, even in the southern areas. Joseph Naper was planning to bring his friends and family out to the DuPage River during the coming summer, but until then, settlements were few and far between. Fewer than 200 people gathered in the village around Fort Dearborn, a veritable metropolis on the frontier, but the rest of the prairie had only scattered homesteads.

Baily Hobson brought his young family from Indiana to Kendall County during the fall of 1830. Little did they know how long the winter would be! Snow started falling a few days before Christmas, followed by powerful winds and bitter cold that lasted until March. Snow lay three feet deep with drifts up to six feet in places.

Snowbound and running out of provisions, Baily and his brother-in-law fought their way to the nearest settlement to find food, leaving Mrs. Hobson and her three small children in the primitive cabin. The Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois picks up the story:

"The night of the terrible blizzard, she heard a footstep at her door, and thinking her loved ones had returned, she opened the door, and their best cow fell dead at her feet, frozen, and she could not close the door, nor could she move the animal. The wind blew and the cold was so intense that they nearly froze before she and her children could push the cow over far enough to enable them to close the door."

Mrs. Hobson thought her husband was frozen as well, but he did return with food after a couple weeks. For decades afterwards settlers would date events by their relation to the Winter of the Deep Snow, including Abraham Lincoln who was also a newcomer to Illinois in the fall of 1830.

By spring the Hobson family moved to DuPage County and their name is still found throughout Naperville. So when you're cursing the snow this winter, remember poor Mrs. Hobson and be grateful for modern conveniences!

Sharing History in the Chicago Area

Kate has several events coming up where she will be sharing her love for local history. On Saturday February 19 she will be attending the 9th Annual Children's Literature Breakfast hosted by Anderson's Bookshops as a guest Illinois author.

Held at the Abbington in Glen Ellyn, this event features a full breakfast, Illinois authors and illustrators, new award-winning and notable books, a book talk by Kathleen March and Jan Dundon, CPDU credits, raffles, door prizes, giveaways, book sales and guest authors. Featured authors include Al Yankovic, best known to millions as "Weird Al" (When I Grow Up), Tim Green (The Big Time: A Football Genius Novel), Kathryn Lasky (Shadow Wolf, Guardians of Ga'Hoole series), Mark Teague (Firehouse!, LaRue Across America) and Trent Reedy (Words in the Dust) .

On the following Saturday, February 26, Kate will be speaking at the Chicago Maritime Festival at the Chicago History Museum. When you think of pioneers, the picture that most of us conjure in our mind is a family in a covered wagon, but some of our earliest settlers arrived in Chicago via schooner across the Great Lakes. One famous settler, Joseph Naper, founder of Naperville, brought thirteen families aboard the Telegraph on his voyage to Fort Dearborn in 1831. Kate tells his story through the eyes of his niece in her book Ruth By Lake and Prairie and will share her research techniques and fascinating findings about some of our earliest settlers in this presentation.

Both of these events are open to the public. Please see their websites for ticket information, locations and times. Hope to see you at one or both!

Where History Is Happening

How Did my Street Get that Name?
Sundays in February
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
P. Seth Magosky Museum Of Victorian Life: How did my street get that name? 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays through February. $10. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. Tours are $15. The museum is opened other times by appointment and available for private parties and events, groups and clubs, and school groups. Tours are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors. At 206 N. Broadway, Joliet. Call 815-723-3052.

Anne Frank: A History for Today

Tuesday - Sunday
February 1 - March 27
1:00- 5:00 pm
Using historical photos and artifacts, "Anne Frank: A History for Today" at the Elmhurst Historical Museum demonstrates why the Jewish teen's account of Nazi oppression during World War II still resonates with those who read it. Admission is free. Elmhurst Historical Museum, 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst,
(630) 833-1457.

Taffy Pulling Party
Saturday, February 19
9:30 am - 3:45 pm
Come on out to Klein Creek Farm.
Tour an 1890s farmhouse, and learn how kids lived more than a century ago. Then, make taffy from molasses to take home during this one-hour program. Also, February is Lambing Time! Come meet the new baby lambs! Ages 6 - 12. $6 per person. Tours start at 9:30am, 10:45am, 1:15pm, 2:30pm and 3:45pm. To register, call (630) 876-5900.