Monday, February 27, 2012

Stretching Our Mind Muscles

"Networking" is huge today in the business world and we're all hustling to keep our families fed.

But "talking shop" gets old quickly and we start to sound one-dimensional.

Knowing a few quirky facts about our state's history makes for a richer conversation. Will knowing history make us better business people? Perhaps not. But it will make us better people in general.

I am now using to curate and share some of the fascinating articles I've been reading. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. You can subscribe to my weekly "newspaper"
Brief History - Illinois at or check in from here.

This week are some interesting stories about Al Capone, Japanese internment camps, War of 1812 batttles in Illinois, an historic black orphanage in Elgin, and Naperville street names. "Extra! Extra! Read all about it" at Brief History - Illinois!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Naming Naperville Streets

Recently Roy Brossman, a lifelong resident of Naperville and Wheatland Township farmer, passed away. Knowing someone who lives in the Ashbury subdivision on Brossman Street sparked some speculation into other local street names.

Lyman Butterfield

Lyman Butterfield was one of the settlers who threw in his lot with Joseph Naper and came west on the schooner Telegraph in 1831.

He was known as a “fearless character” who was “brave to foolhardy” and “particularly skillful with a rifle.”

Lyman named one of his sons Andrew Jackson Butterfield after “Old Hickory,” the President very popular with Illinois settlers.

Butterfield didn’t stay in Naperville but moved early on to found Milton Township in the present-day Wheaton/Glen Ellyn area.

Bailey Hobson

Bailey Hobson has lent his name to more than one street. He arrived in the area with his wife and five children in the spring of 1831, a few months before the Naper group arrived.

Hobson settled along the DuPage River, but his homestead has always been just outside of the official city borders. Only recently has that bit of land been included in the town proper, making Hobson the actual “first settler of Naperville.”

Hobson built a grist mill for farmers in the area to use as the next closest mill was in Peoria county.

Mark Beaubien

Mark Beaubien reportedly was a man with a huge personality so it’s no surprise that his legacy is spread over a wide geographical range. Beaubien made his mark in Chicago, Lisle and Naperville, too. The Beaubien family was a big one — Mark himself had sixteen children — and older brother Jean Baptiste helped shape Chicago.

Mark kept an inn called the Eagle (later Sauganash) and may have hosted the Telegraph’s travelers.

A born entertainer, Mark “played the fiddle like ze dibble,” as he says in his own words. He performed a rousing last hornpipe at an Old Chicago Settlers Meeting at the age of eighty. His fiddle is on display at the Chicago History Museum.

Later, he moved out to DuPage County and was one of the investors of the Plank Road. His inn, from which he collected tolls , has been moved out to the Lisle Depot Museum. His family cemetery, can still be seen along Ogden Road near the subdivision that bears his name.

For more tidbits of history, see Kate's new weekly "newspaper" at K8's Brief History.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Embracing Today's Technology for Yesterday's Sake

You may have wondered where Brief History went to over the holidays. It certainly wouldn't be the first time an emailed newsletter or blog has suddenly close up shop. But Brief History intends to continue to bring little bits of history to people just as it has since the fall of 2009.

To do that, we're experimenting with some new technology; specifically,, an online "newspaper" generator. The "newspaper" is currently called Brief History - Illinois with the idea that folks searching for Illinois history will find it easily. advertises that it helps people curate "a personalized newspaper built from articles, blog posts, videos and photos." Most of the content is gathered automatically from Twitter or other online sources that the "publisher" follows. Brief History - Illinois derives it's content from Tweets posted by organizations or individuals that K8sBriefHistory follows. This is not a personal Twitter account, but strictly a way to follow organizations that are dedicated to preserving and sharing history. publishers can also manually edit the paper to weed out any unrelated content to keep the information offered to you as useful and interesting as possible.

The next step is to get more local historical societies to post their content online so it can be found and curated! It has been a big stumbling block since Brief History was started that it's so hard to get news about wonderful local events before they happen so we can tell people about them. But we'll continue to do our best to share that information with you.

So take a look at Brief History - Illinois at this link: Since this is a new format, we'd love to know whether it works for you or not. Please feel free to forward your comments to Thanks so much!

Chicago Maritime History

Last year Kate spoke at the Chicago Maritime Festival on how the first homesteaders of Naperville traveled from Ohio through the Great Lakes on the schooner Telegraph. An enthusiastic crowd attended the presentation and was slightly surprised to learn that about the journey. Certainly Chicagoans know that there is some serious maritime history involving Lake Michigan, but we often forget it wasn't all merchant ships and Christmas tree ships.

Many of the state's earliest settlers arrived on ships, particularly those from New England and especially after the Erie Canal was finished. Because of the mountain ranges, easterners migrated around the southern or northern range of the mountains rather than go straight west over the mountains. Illinois was settled then from the top down by New Englanders and from the bottom up by Southerners. Springfield was about the middle -- the farthest north that Southerners wished to go and the farthest south New Englanders were comfortable.

Those two cultures were very different in how they viewed education, industry and a host of other subjects and often did not see eye-to-eye. Looking at politics today, it often seems that not much has changed!

The homesteading part of Illinois' history didn't last long, but although it did correspond with the very beginning of the Golden Age of Great Lakes Maritime History. If you wish to learn more, the Chicago Maritme Festival is a wonderful event full of information, crafts and songs for adults and children alike. It will be held at the Chicago History Museum on Saturday, February 25. For ticket information and a schedule of events, see