Sunday, January 29, 2017

Along the Inlet road

Last week I blogged about the old Inlet country school outside of Lee Center.  But there wasn't just one old country school on that road, it turned out there were Three!  A few miles past the Inlet school we came to the tiny hamlet of Shaw's, IL. and there right next to the road was the old Shaw's country school.

 It was in sad shape, with debris inside, the windows missing and damage to the roof. But there was still a lot of character left to it, even in its dilapidated condition. There was a basement type structure off to one side which we assumed was a storm cellar in times of severe weather. And off to one side was a cupola standing by itself in the yard which from the looks of it might have graced the top of the school at one time with a bell ensconced inside.

Leaving there and continuing on the same road we came to the Wedlock country school. We confined ourselves to exterior photo's as it was behind a barbed wire fence and thus on private property.  If the Shaw's school was in sad shape then Wedlock was in Terrible shape. It's literally falling apart and I imagine it's only a matter of time before it collapses in on itself. All three schools were of the same basic shape and size and there must have been a uniform design to their construction.

There was one thing of interest to note and perhaps one of my followers knows the answer. Even though each school was a different name (Inlet, Shaw's, Wedlock) they all had a sign over the door stating it was a "Standard" school. Was this the name of the school district or did it refer to something else? None of my research was able to tell me.  All of these schools are easy to find and if you have a free afternoon and want to go Exploring it's well worth the drive!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Finding the old Inlet Country school

Recently a friend and fellow photographer, Bill Alber, clued me in to a series of abandoned country schools over in Lee county. So last week I took advantage of a break in the weather to grab Lil' Nick and Tom Anderson to go out in search of them. We got lost! Twice! but ended up not only finding the schools but discovering a few other things along  the way.

But in the end we got our bearings and discovered the long abandoned Inlet country school. It sits a few miles outside the village of Lee Center along a stretch of abandoned highway now used as a frontage road.  The story is that when the school closed a gentleman bought the property and used it as a house, adding out buildings to it over the years in a haphazard fashion right up until his death.

As we were photographing the property the man next door came out to talk to us and gave us some additional information. Mr. Gail Dallum had known the previous owner for many years, and when the man died he bought the property on either side of the school, eventually buying the school building itself when it came up for auction. He says that over the years people have stopped by to look at the old school, take photo's and reminisce about when they had attended.  I'd like to extend a big Thank You to Mr. Dallum for his information and also for kindly allowing us to photograph the original school bell that is now in a place of honor next to his house.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Not all Hero's are soldiers

Not all hero's are soldiers. some are police officers, some are firemen, some risk their lives to help others in need. And some are heroic by the simple act of giving someone a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

During world war two American servicemen by the thousands boarded buses and trains and made their way to various bases across the country to report for training, learning the art of War.  For many this was their first time away from home, away from friends and family and everything they knew and loved. And yet it was for the sake of those loved ones that they went.

It must have been both exciting and disorienting to be thrust into places and situations they had never thought about prior to leaving, along with the underlying concern that for some of them they would never be coming back.  But at various stops along the way they surely must have found a smile coming to their lips as they discovered hordes of ordinary citizens, housewives, mothers, daughter, sisters, all coming to together to bring just a small touch of Home to them as they sped on to an uncertain future.

On a recent outing Lil' Nick and I found a memorial to one such place in Streator, IL.  The Railroad Canteen was organized by the USO and distributed sandwiches, pies, cookies, and other treats to servicemen heading off to war, boosting their morale and reminding them that while They might fight ALL would serve. Standing behind them and giving them unwavering support for the struggle that lay ahead. It's a quiet spot on the line that pays homage to the women that wanted to bring a smile to a soldiers lips and remind them, just for a moment, of Home.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Walking in the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark

On a recent trip, I happened thru Metropolis and visited Fort Massac, the very first state park ever created. It sits right on the banks of the Ohio river with Illinois on one side and Kentucky on the other.  To document this site we need to go back to the year 1757. This part of the country belonged to France at the time and the fort was originally called Ft. De L'Ascension  during the French Indian wars. When the wars ended in 1763 the fort was abandoned and the neighboring Chickasaw burned it to the ground which is how the British found it when they took over the spot in the early 1770's.

The British never rebuilt the fort which came back to haunt them when during the Revolutionary war Col. George Clark was able to enter the territory and capture Kaskaskia 100 miles to the North all without firing a shot. This military victory gave the entire Illinois region to the fledgling United States. President George Washington ordered the fort rebuilt in 1794 and it protected the territory for an additional 20 years.

Fort Massac had many brushes with history two of which stand out the most. In 1803 Lewis and Clark stopped here on their great exploratory journey as they mapped out the continent recruiting a man named George Drouillard to accompany them. The creek that runs thru the property is named in his honor.  And in 1868 Edward Everett Hale published a novel "The Man Without a Country" which used Fort Massac as a basis for it's setting.

In 1903 the Daughter of the American Revolution purchased 24 acres of land which encompassed the site of the fort and in 1908 it became Illinois very first state park. Though the original fort had long fallen into ruin a reproduction was constructed in 2002 that was faithful to how it appeared prior to the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Every October the park hosts an Encampment that depicts how life would have been in the 1700's which draws upwards of 200,000 visitors a year. There's also an interactive museum on site that has artifacts collected during various archaeological digs done thru the years.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

You Can't Buy your way into Heaven

But you CAN buy a little piece of it in the form of the former St. Bernard's catholic church. St. Bernard's started holding services in 1880 in a wooden structure and the sturdy brick church building was built in 1895 for a cost of $7000.00 (Over 190,000.00 in today's money). The parsonage was added a few years later in 1902.

The church served its parishioners needs until November of 1991 when it closed it's doors. A few months later it was bought by a couple who held craft shows and fairs in the cavernous building.  The day that Lil' Nick and I stopped it was bright and sunny and the church and house were showing us their best sides. There's still stained glass in the windows and the bell is still in the tower!  If you're ever driving down around Streator I encourage you to stop and take a photo or two. Or if you're in the market for a truly one of a kind property this former church and parsonage are currently on the sellers block.

It's located on state route 17 between Streator and Dwight, IL. A big thank you to William Sole of Sancken Sole Realty for his kind permission in allowing me to use his interior photo's of the parsonage.