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

Town Hall Goes Solar!

On May 4, 2023, the Town Hall at 116 South Benton Street, owned by WCHS, joined hundreds of Illinois residents and businesses by installing solar panels to supply our building with electrical power.

Working with Stateline Solar of Lena, Illinois, the process started in the fall of 2022 when a Stateline representative met with the WCHS Board to explain the solar benefits and the incentives being offered through the Illinois Shines program. WCHS took our proposal to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois (CFNIL)* in the form of a grant application for solar installation as well as the installation of LED lighting in the main auditorium. In December, we were informed that the grant was funded allowing the work to proceed.

Contracts were signed, installation proceeded on both the solar panels and the LED lighting. WCHS will be generating all our electric power needs for the next 25 years. We will be selling our State Renewal Energy Credits to ComEd for more than 50% of the cost of solar installation. This equity generated from the sale of credits along with the CFNIL grant support allows WCHS to have a system that is installed and functional without any WCHS cash outlay.

Due to the lag time between installation and receipt of the equity from the sale of solar credits (about 6 months), our partners at German American Bank have provided a bridge loan to pay our contractor. Best of all, WCHS will reduce our energy bill substantially. Stop by and see how we have been “Lighting Up Town Hall!”

*The mission of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois is to inspire endowment and promote philanthropy for the current and future needs of the people of Northern Illinois. Since its founding in 1953, CFNIL has granted more than $80 million for charitable purposes. 2023 is CFNIL’s 70th anniversary: learn more about CFNIL’s history, grantmaking, and commitment to endowment at

WCHS Presents at Northern Illinois Regional Conference

The Winnebago Community Historical Society has been invited to present at the Northern Illinois Regional History Conference to be held Saturday, April 22, 2023 at the NIU Holmes Student Center. This is the inaugural conference and will feature a variety of topics related to Northern Illinois’ changing communities, evolving land use and how history influences regional identity. WCHS will be represented by Board member Russell Kaney on a panel entitled “Views of Urban and Rural Life: Keeping a Village relevant in the 21st century”. The conference is free, but you are encouraged to RSVP. More information is available at:

Town Hall Update

The Winnebago Community Historical Society continues to work on improvements to our Town Hall facility throughout the year. As many have noticed, the paint removal and brick repair on the front of Town Hall started late summer of 2022 and gives a unique and different appearance to the building. Work will continue this spring to remove paint and dirt followed by brick repair on the east, south and north sides of the building. To improve the air quality inside the Town Hall, the existing duct system was cleaned and sanitized late last year. A commercial dehumidifier has been installed in the basement now that the water infiltration issues have been resolved. One goal remaining is to install the heating unit in the basement and remove the existing system from the ceiling of the auditorium.

Last fall, WCHS applied to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois for a grant to “Light Up Town Hall.” In December, we received word that a grant in the amount of $15,422.24 was approved by the Foundation. The funds will assist in converting the auditorium lights to energy saving LED’s and we look forward to installing solar panels on our roof this summer to significantly decrease our electric bill.

The mission of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois is to serve as a catalyst for giving in order to attract, preserve, and grow an endowment for the current and future needs of the people of Northern Illinois. Since its founding in 1953 CFNIL has granted more than $75 million for charitable purposes. Learn more about CFNIL’s grantmaking and commitment to endowment at Now in their 70th year, the Foundation has been a generous supporter of WCHS.

2023 Board of Directors

Irv Koning, President
Rob Bucey, Vice President
Denise Speracino, Treasurer
Russ Kaney, Secretary
Mary Gross
Norma Kloster
Tom Van Sickle


2022 Highlights

The front façade of the Town Hall was stripped of its many layers of paint and brickwork repair began.

The WCHS Local History Reading and Display area opened at the Winnebago Public Library.

Rev. Dr. Gary Brown was honored as Volunteer of  the Year at the WCHS annual meeting in November. Gary is a member of the Local History Team. He helps staff the John D. Rowley Local History Room every week, works on inventory projects, is a program presenter, and especially likes to assist with genealogy inquiries.

The Local History Team prepared Winnebago: A Township & Village History Timeline 1835-2022 as part of a grant awarded to WCHS in the Activate History category from Illinois Humanities. The timeline accompanied a presentation, Local History at Your Doorstep, on Township and Village history. Visit the Local History Reading & Display area at WPL for your free copy.

For more information, read the WCHS 2022 Annual Report.

Arvid C. Meline Collection Donated

The family of Lonnie Webb has generously gifted the Winnebago Community Historical Society with a collection of wooden wagons handmade by Arvid Meline after his retirement, and with his diaries, which he kept faithfully from 1923 until three days before his death in 1974. Both collections have become part of the WCHS Local Area History Collection. We are grateful for the opportunity to conserve these historical items and make them available today and in the future.

Arvid C. Meline was born August 20, 1897 in Kearney, Nebraska, the son of Gustaf and Anna Meline. He married Ruby M. Webb in Kearney on April 2, 1931. They farmed in the Kearney area for several years. Arvid and Ruby moved to Rockford in 1936 and in 1941 to a home on south Seward Street in Winnebago. Arvid was employed in the machine tool division of Sundstrand Corporation (now Collins Aerospace) in Rockford. He retired in 1962. He was an active member of Winnebago United Methodist Church, where he directed the choir for many years. He died September 24, 1974 in Rockford Memorial hospital and is buried in Kearney Cemetery in Nebraska.

Arvid’s wife Ruby died January 18, 2003 in New Prague, MN and is also buried in Kearney Cemetery. A memorial bench in her honor sits outside the entrance to Winnebago Public Library.

Arvid and Ruby raised from infancy their nephew Lonnie Webb. He graduated from Winnebago High School in 1948 and from the University of Illinois in 1952. He married Lois Lenox and the couple lived in Winnebago. Lonnie was a CPA employed in Rockford and served as Winnebago Village Clerk 1956-1966. The Webbs and their six children moved to Minnesota. Lonnie died May 6, 2017 in New Prague, MN.  

See the wagon collection in the new WCHS Reading & Display Area on the lower level of the Winnebago Public Library.

WCHS Reading & Display Area Dedicated

A new WCHS Reading & Display Area at Winnebago Public Library was opened on September 26, 2022. The area, on the lower level of the library, has a basic local history reference collection, displays of WCHS Local History Collection artifacts and memorabilia, research aides, and information about WCHS and its projects, activities, and programs. The public is welcome to visit the space during normal library open hours.

The WCHS Board is grateful to Winnebago Public Library for providing this public space, which makes the extensive resources of the Local History Collection much more visible and accessible.

Join Us to Learn More About Village & Township History!

Thanks to a grant from Illinois Humanities, WCHS presents an "activating history" program to help interested residents and researchers learn more about Winnebago Village & Township history. Participants will also learn about the Local History Collection and take away a history timeline and list of Local History Collection resources. The program will be followed by an open house featuring scrapbooks and albums from the collection and a ribbon-cutting for the new WCHS Local History Reading & Display Area at the library. The program is Sunday,  September 25, 2022 at 2 pm at the Winnebago Public Library, 210 N. Elida Street in Winnebago. Doors open at 1:30 pm. Admission is free. Donations are welcome.

2022 Board of Directors & Board Officers

At the 2021 Annual Member Meeting, departing Board Members Don Crawford and Pat Wakeley were presented with plaques recognizing their service. Mary Gross was elected to fill the slot vacated by Pat. Norma Kloster, Irv Koning, and Denise Speracino were re-elected to the Board. The Board appointed Tom Van Sickle to a one-year term to fill Don's unexpired vacant term.

At its January meeting, the Board elected officers for 2022:
     President                 Irv Koning
     Vice-President       Rob Bucey
     Secretary                 Russ Kaney
     Treasurer                Denise Speracino


2021 Annual Member Meeting

The annual meeting of the membership of WCHS was held November 3, 2021. Board officers reported on 2021 accomplishments, 2022 goals, and WCHS financial and membership status.
Departing Board members Don Crawford and Pat Wakeley were recognized for their service.
Mary Gross received a new Volunteer of the Year award. Mary Gross, Irv Koning, Norma Kloster, and Denise Speracino were elected to two-year terms on the Board of Directors. See the 2021 Annual Report here.


Volunteer of the Year

The WCHS Board established an annual Volunteer of the Year award to recognize the value of volunteers to the work of WCHS. At the 2021 Annual Member Meeting, Mary Gross was presented with the first award. We thank Mary for all she has done and continues to do for WCHS and the community.


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 available for purchase here.

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.