In May of 1989 the DeKalb County Board of Supervisors and the DeKalb County Finance office established the Joiner History Room to safeguard the historical raw materials of DeKalb County. Today the Joiner History Room systematically collects, preserves, maintains, promotes, and makes available archived records of enduring historical value to the public.
The Half-Shire Bill
In 1867 Sandwich was the largest town in the southern part of the county, second only to Sycamore. As one of the largest towns in the county, Sandwich felt underserved by the county government. Sycamore, they argued, was not in a good geographic location to be a suitable point for the County Seat for people to transact their business. So, they sent Senator William Patten, a resident of Sandwich, to Springfield to introduce a bill in the legislature known as the Half-Shire bill. The bill, approved Feb. 12, 1867 was titled: “An Act to Relocate the County Seat of DeKalb Illinois.” This bill provided for dual county seats at Sycamore and Sandwich. Sandwich was to be the seat of justice for the six southern towns and Sycamore the twelve northern towns. An exciting election followed as the bill was put to a vote in DeKalb County.
What was not well publicized was a change in the bill three days before its passage. Section 14 was placed in the bill, taxing the township of Somonauk for the expense to build a courthouse.
Threats from promoters of the bill were intended to frighten people into voting for the Half Shire bill by telling them that if they didn’t vote for it, some day they will be taxed to build a courthouse at DeKalb. It was also pointed out that if they built a new courthouse at the expense of the County, they would lose the present one, which would revert back to the donors of the land, the County losing all interest therein.
Extra expenses to the county for two courthouses included the initial expense of buildings for the courthouse and jail, along with maintenance of the buildings; a double set of books to be kept, mileage for jurors, etc.
In an effort to settle things down, a group of businessmen and entrepreneurs from Sandwich, promised to come up with $20,000 to build the courthouse, without charge or any expense to the township of Somonauk or the county of DeKalb. With estimated costs of $80,000 to build the new courthouse and jail, people were reluctant to vote in favor of the bill.
The people voted on April 2, 1867, and the Half-Shire bill was defeated. The vote against the bill was 2,662 and the vote for the bill was 1,598.
Once again, Sycamore won the popular vote as the county seat. But is this the end of the story? Stay tuned.
Historical Photos Available on Flickr
Over 700 photos from the Floyd Ritzman Collection which are part of the Northern Illinois University Digital Library are now available on Flickr at https://flic.kr/s/aHskqwXroS. This collection of photos, taken in and around DeKalb County, was formerly part of the Taming the Wild Prairie website. Thanks to Matthew Short at NIU for making these historical photos available.
Under this law, original birth certificates cannot be issued in person by state or county vital statistics offices. This law allows adult adopted persons born in Illinois to request non-certified copies of their original birth certificates through the Illinois Department of Public Health. In most cases, the original birth certificate will list the first and last names of one or both birth parents. Birth parents of adopted persons born after January 1, 1946, may request that their names be deleted from this non-certified copy. All birth parents may indicate their preferences regarding contact with their adult birth child. The options available under this new law are different for adopted persons, birth parents and their family members. The options available also change depending on the date of birth of the adult adopted person. For more information see www.newillinoisadoptionlaw.com.
The DeKalb County Clerk's office has birth, marriage, death and naturalization indexes online.These records meet genealogical guidelines. Their website is www.dekalbgenealogy.com.
$ .25/page......Photocopy by patron at JHR
.50/page......Photocopies by JHR staff
2.00/scan......By JHR researcher
2.00/each......Photo quality prints
Scans will be emailed. To keep your costs down, we will try to get as much on one scan as possible. Photocopies by JHR staff and photo quality prints are sent U.S. mail only. Postage is also charged.
Sycamore True Republican, 1893
Joiner History Room Research Using Neat Stuff Collection and the Online Sycamore True Republican by Sheri Baker
A photo was donated to the Joiner History Room with no date on it. On the back was one word, “Sycamore”. Because it was a picture with a prominent smoke stack that she hadn’t seen before, Sue Breese, County Historian, passed it around so the volunteers could help her identify it further. None of us knew about the old smoke stack. We love a mystery at the Joiner Room and so we set to work trying to identify what we could and trying to date the photo before adding it to our archives. Sue looked for “smoke stack” and Sheri looked for “green houses” in our Neat Stuff index. (Green houses can be seen in the original picture between the two buildings along Elm St.)
The idea of Neat Stuff can be credited to past historian Phyllis Kelley. When the Joiner Room was in its infancy, Phyllis and other volunteers read 150 years of the Sycamore True Republican newspaper. There were articles of interest that were collected that couldn’t be categorized into a subject folder or binder. Phyllis decided to simply call it Neat Stuff and current volunteers continue to add to this collection.
Since the downtown area held all the tall buildings, we first identified three shown in the background as being on State Street. The green houses in the foreground were described in a newspaper article dated 30 Aug 1893 that reported Mrs. Partridge’s green houses on Elm street were very successful. That meant that the smoke stack was between these two streets.
Sue found an article dated 17 Aug 1889 describing the incorporation of the Sycamore Electric Light Company. Prior to this company, kerosene lamps provided illumination for stores, streets and homes. Capital stock of $10,000 was raised by nine stockholders. The article described updated methods of providing electricity at a most economical cost using steam. The plant was to be located “near the business portion of the city” and supply sixty arc lights and three hundred incandescent lights. Businessmen registered to receive one of the arc lights with a capacity of 2,000-candle power. The article ended predicting that the “electric light will in time supersede all others in the business houses as well as upon the streets.”
We now knew that the stack was probably part of the electric plant. Not satisfied to leave it there, we continued looking and found a short article describing a sixty-foot high, iron smoke stack being built for the company. Another article described a two-story brick coalhouse that can be seen to the right of the stack in the picture. Still another described the steam being generated as a source of heat in the downtown businesses and courthouse, which would be supplied by metal pipes encased in wood. In 2001, during street construction in front of the courthouse one of these pipes was dug up and is now in the archives of the Sycamore Historical Society.
By using the online, searchable Sycamore True Republican newspapers the history unfolded. The Sycamore Electric Light Company was sold several times to enterprising businessmen. In 1902, the owner, Elry Hall, sold the company to another venture that was about to build an interurban rail between the cities of Sycamore and DeKalb. The name became the DeKalb-Sycamore Electric Company with “its object to build and operate electric light; power and railways and to produce heat in the counties of DeKalb, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry and Kane.” It offered shares of stock to raise approximately $200,000 to expand services. The city of Sycamore passed an ordinance making the new company the official provider for the city. In 1922, the Illinois Power Company bought the private supplier and the Sycamore city council briefly considered establishing its own steam and power plant when a dispute over costs arose. In 1930, the Illinois Power Company became a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Power Corporation, which evolved into the present Commonwealth Edison.
By the time our research was complete, there was enough information on the Sycamore Electric Light Company to warrant its own subject folder. This is an example of what we do at the Joiner Room and we love doing it. Visit us at “Joiner History Room” on Facebook.
The SLR Museum recently announced the following newspapers from the southern part of DeKalb County and Lee County have been digitized and are available online through their website at http://slrhistoricalmuseum.advantage-preservation.com/.
The Paw Paw News, 1874-1876
The Lee County Times, 7 Apr 1882-6 Apr 1883 and 1 Jan 1886-13 Aug 1959
The Shabbona Express, 13 Dec 1917-26 Mar 1925
The DeKalb County Express, 31 Jan 1929-27 Oct 1960
There are a few issues of The Compton Record, scattered issues from 1887-1895 and the Evening Times, September 1887.
We now have over 38,800 obituaries in our online, searchable database. The link to the database is above. Joiner History Room volunteers have worked for five years inputing obituaries. Because this is an ongoing project, we have many more obituaries to input and you may not find what you are looking for. Please contact us via email if this is the case.
A Burial Permit was initiated by the funeral home to report to the Department of Public Health where a deceased person was buried. The information includes name, identifying information, date and place of death, cause of death and where buried. A Removal Permit had to be completed if a buried body was to be moved to a different cemetery. The Joiner History Room has a limited list of names, dates of death, and cemetery where buried. This is not a complete list. Access list here.
The Midweek, a current DeKalb County area publication, has a column called "Looking Back" that has small snipits of local news dating back to the late 1800's. Most items are one or two lines long, just enough to give you a flavor of what was happening at the time. This index covers publication dates from the start of the column, mid-2010, through December 2014. If you find an item of interest, e-mail the Joiner History Room with date of publication and page number.
Funeral home records are often overlooked as a source of genealogical information. Joiner History Room volunteer Fran Besserman diligently compared a hand-written list of Burkhart burials with obits available from other sources in our collection. This may be the only record of a death.
View list here.