Helping you stay up to date with WCHS . . . .

Diary of Mary Elizabeth Weldon Added to Local Area  History Collection

The Winnebago Community Historical Society is pleased to announce that it has acquired a diary kept by Mary Elizabeth Weldon (1820-1894), daughter of Jonathan Weldon (1795-1876) and Mary Davis Weldon (1786-1871), one of the earliest settlers in Winnebago Township. The diary covers the period October 1841 through the beginning of July 1842. It provides a detailed picture of pioneer life in the newly settled area. Mary’s entries record the weather, the family’s farm duties, her housework duties, interactions with neighbors, land disputes, and her religious concerns. Of particular interest are the land disputes that arose as settlers claimed land rights under the Federal Preemption Act of 1841. The diary records the tar and feathering of her father, Jonathan, in the course of one such dispute.

The diary is a small leather-bound booklet with 64 pages of tightly spaced writing in the cursive style of the late 1800s, using brown and blue ink. The diary has been transcribed verbatim so that its contents can be studied without damage to the original, which is preserved in the Local Area History Collection at the Winnebago Public Library. A transcript is being prepared and will be available for sale through WCHS.

The Winnebago Community Historical Society was able to purchase the diary through a generous donation from Robert Weldon, a descendant of Jonathan and Mary Weldon. 7/31/21

2020 Annual Report & Board Election Results

Rob Bucey, Don Crawford, and Russ Kaney have been elected to two year terms on the Winnebago Community Historical Society. Their terms begin January 1, 2021. Board members Irv Koning, Norma Kloster, Denise Speracino, and Pat Wakeley continue to serve through 2021. New officers will be elected at the January 2021 board meeting. The 2020 Annual Report is available here.  11/5/20

New Merchandise Order Form Available

Show your support for WCHS with a T-shirt sweatshirt, hoodie or mug! Download an order form here.  10/21/20

Local History Collection Receives Collection from Bolthouse Family
by John D. Rowley

The Winnebago Area Local History Collection has received a generous donation of books, genealogy references, and newspaper clippings from the estate of Joyce Bolthouse. Joyce Palmer Bolthouse was born April 22, 1927, the daughter of Charles and Gladys (McCartin) Palmer. Her father Charles was a partner in the Moth & Palmer gas stations located in Pecatonica and Seward. The Palmer family moved to Roswell, New Mexico because of Charles’ tuberculosis. After his death in 1933, the family returned to the home of Joyce’s grandmother, Clara Grady McCartin, who had a farm near Hoisington school. Later the family moved to the Egan area in Ogle County and Joyce graduated from Byon High School. Joyce married Arend W. Bolthouse on August 15, 1949. His family roots were in the Stillman Valley area, and his parents, John and Mamie (Black) Bolthouse, lived in Byron. Arend and Joyce had three children, Karlton, Susan, and Grady. Karlton and his family live in Virginia. Susan and Grady and their families are in the Winnebago area. In April 1967, Joyce’s aunt, Bessie McCartin Martin, widow of Frank Martin, died, leaving the 20-acre farm on south Hoisington Road to Joyce. The family improved the farm and Joyce lived there until her death on March 14, 2020, at the age of 92. The family had been loyal members of the Seward Methodist Church, originally located at the corner of Hoisington Road and Edwardsville Road. That church was moved into the Seward community in the 1920s and was closed by the denomination in 1964. From then on, Joyce and Arend were involved in the Winnebago Methodist congregation. Joyce was a long-time member of the Seward Historical Society, with special responsibility for the Doctor’s House Museum. She also belonged the genealogical societies in Boone, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties. Joyce was active with the Winnebago History Writers group from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s. She helped to produce all 15 volumes of the We Remember series chronicling local area families from early settlement days to the early 2000s. We were honored that Joyce was able to be present for the rededication of the local history room at the Winnebago Public Library as the John D. Rowley Local History Room in November 2019. Thanks to Joyce’s family her wonderful collection, reflecting her interest in genealogy and local area history, is currently being inventoried and added to the Winnebago Area Local History Collection.  7/25/20

Town Hall Balcony Storage Area Complete

Thanks to our great volunteer help for completing the set up of a new storage area for WCHS equipment, supplies, and merchandise in the balcony area of the Town Hall. We moved everything from the stage area to the balcony on two workdays, all while masked and maintaining our distance! We appreciate the help of Gary Brown, Angela Bucey, Barb Falk, Mary Gross, Norma & Roy Kloster, Irv Koning, Denise Speracino, Karl Trank, and Pat Wakeley who literally did the heavy lifting!  7/19/20

Check Out Our 4th of July Exhibit at Kennedys

We have partnered with Kennedy’s on Benton Street to create an exhibit celebrating Winnebago’s 4th of July tradition. Stop by and see some great photos of Winnebago’s Centennial Celebration Parade, July 4, 1954. The photos are from the Winnebago Area Local History Collection. The exhibit’s home is the entry area next to the bar entrance to Kennedy’s. You can only view it from outside—it’s lighted in the evening. Thanks to the folks at Kennedy’s for their support. Best wishes to Kennedy’s and all the Benton Street businesses that are re-opening one step at a time! ​​​​​​​ Thanks to Norma Kloster for setting up the exhibit! 6/29/20

WCHS Awarded HomeStart Grant

We are pleased to report that WCHS has received a Neighborhood Grant of $1,200 from HomeStart and the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois (CNFIL) for continued improvements to our Winnebago Commons garden area. We will be improving drainage to the garden area and connecting to Winnebago’s storm sewer system as well as installing additional plantings to enhance the site. This is the second Neighborhood Grant we have received from HomeStart and CFNIL and we are grateful for the continued support. CFNIL has operated a neighborhood grants program since 1995, distributing more than $725,000 to build better neighborhoods in Rockford & beyond. This is the fifth year that CFNIL and HomeStart are collaborating to expand the opportunity to the four-county region. The Neighborhood Grants Program funds neighborhood projects, including but not limited to beautification, crime prevention, surveys, clean ups, newsletters, organizing, reforestation, and resident-focused education. HomeStart has helped to administer the funds since 2016 and will continue to support all groups in their projects moving forward.  6/16/20

Flags Over 'Bago 

Flag Day is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; on August 3, 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

Charter Member Mary Gross shared the story of Flags Over ‘Bago. On Flag Day 2009 my husband and I were riding our Harley through small towns that displayed flags along both sides of the street. We thought, “we could do that in Winnebago!” It took the help of many ideas and people to com up with Flags Over Bago. Thanks to Irv Koning and Ace Hardware, we got supplies, drilled 168 holes along Elida Street and buried PVC pipe every 50 feet. Warren Cunningham fitted all the flagpoles together and friends attached flags.

There are 168 US flags, five flags of the military branches and a POW flag. Each flag was sold for $25 and the owner received a numbered certificate that matches a number on a flagpole. Copies of the certificates are kept at the Village Hall. The flags were first put up for Armed Forces Day in 2010. We fly the flags every year for Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Patriot Day, and Veterans Day.

Volunteers put up and take down the flags; it takes 4 trucks and drivers and 3 people to handle the flags, We owe those volunteers a big thank you! Ever faithful Jim Calvert drives Elida Street twice a day when the flags are out and replaces them as needed. Donations to replace tattered flags are very welcome. They can be made a First National Bank in Winnebago through the Flags Over ‘Bago account. Volunteers are needed to help with putting up and taking down. Anyone interested can get in touch with Mary and she will  add them to the contact list.  6/13/20