Saturday, May 26, 2018

Vestiges of the Interurban

After my lecture at the library a few weeks ago I was approached by Dave Husemann from the Chapel Hill golf course who invited me to come by and photograph the various ruins of the old Interurban railroad that still existed on his property.  So it was that myself, Lil Nick and Charles Moline got to explore the back woods behind the property along with Mr. Huseman who graciously took us around personally on a tour.

The Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria railway was formed in 1904 as a transportation system for the Illinois Valley. Ladd, Peru, LaSalle & Ottawa were first to be serviced with Marseilles added later that same year. In 1906 the line was extended to both Princeton in one direction and Seneca in the other. In 1923 the C O & P was folded into the Illinois Traction system. Unfortunately the Great Depression sounded the death knell for the railway and by 1934 the railway was abandoned.

There are still ruins of the railway available to see if you know where to look for them. At Chapel Hill there are several footbridges that used to carry passengers from the railway platform up to the country club. There's also the ruins of a couple trestles (Unfortunately covered by the foliage when we visited) as well as the old road bed.  I want to extend a big Thank You to Mr. Huseman for taking time out of his day to drive us around and show us the ruins.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bunker Hill country school

A few weeks ago I gave a lecture at Bunker Hill church in Buda. Afterwards I was told that the Bunker Hill school had been saved by a local family and turned into a small museum. So it was that a couple weeks ago we ventured back to Buda and visited the home of Sharon Wilson on whose property the school building now resides. The school was built in 1856 and like many schools of the period was also used as a place to meet for church services as well.

The building was originally located 2 miles South of Buda on route 40. After the school closed in 1952 the building and one acre of land was purchased by Macon township and used for meetings and a polling location during elections. This situation lasted until 1984 when the township vacated the building and it was left empty. Sharon purchased the building in 1990 and had it moved to her parents farm where it was refurbished and opened for visitors in 1991.

An information sheet provided by Sharon states in part.."In hearing my fathers stories of his days at Bunker Hill school the history of the school began for me. One such story involved the teacher having to come in an hour early to light the wood stove and then the students would bring a potato in and set it on the rim of the stove, ensuring that by noon it would be cooked and ready to eat. Another story involves her father and some other students setting the clock forward while the teacher, Muriel Peterson, was distracted. The next day the teacher announced that "Everyone" would stay after school because of the "Few" who changed the clock".

Country schools were once located every few miles to ensure that rural children had an opportunity to receive an education and prepare them for adulthood. Usually one teacher would instruct students in as many as eight separate grades. Now however the country school has all but disappeared, the once bustling buildings sitting empty, forlorn, and falling down. It's only a few choice ones, such as Bunker hill, that have been saved for future generations to enjoy.

I want to extend a huge Thank You to Sharon Wilson for inviting us  onto her property to photograph the school as well as proving the information sheet I drew most of my copy from. Also thanks to Lil Nick for taking the interior photo's.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Fifield cemetery

A few weeks ago I was approached after one of my lectures by Carole Novak and Larry Moore who offered to show me a couple out of the way spots over by Buda, IL.   That's how we found the Fifield cemetery. The majority of the graves are from the 19th century and show some hard use. The story i was told was that some cows got loose a few years ago and trampled thru the cemetery, smashing most of the markers.

The story might have ended there but a group from out of state showed up a couple years back and camped out there for two day, painstakingly putting the markers back together again. Today the Fifield cemetery is a quiet spot surrounded by a sturdy fence that is well worth a short drive to wander amongst the stones. My thanks to Tom Anderson and Lil Nick for shooting some of these photo's.