February 27, 2009

Lee Center Baseball Team

Embrace the Past
March is Women's History Month: a time for sharing our heritage and sharing inspiring stories. Women have always played a role in keeping the history of their families and community alive, through story telling, handing down recipes , and keeping family treasures safe. This month I will look back at some timeless treasures with you...a family collection of Lippincott photo cards of the early 1900's of Lee Center, IL., my home town....a place where my parents and grandparents played a role in it's history.

I celebrate this month by embracing the past.

Lee Center Base Ball Team Around 1910

First row, second on left..Frank Berry 3rd Jim Taylor 5th chris UlrichSecond Row  3rd person is ?don wellman 4th boy at the right end is my dad, Howard Wellman   bottom row 3rd person Walter wellman?

My Home Town...Lee Center Illinois .

A history of a small Midwestern town and it's people....... Photos by Lippencott

Garrison Keillor, the great storyteller of the American Midwest, says small towns are a way “to celebrate what remains rather than mourn what is lost ... as a means of reclaiming direction for the future.”

I grew up in a very small town in the Midwest, one that was not incorporated. My father was Postmaster there for over 37 years and also had the jobs of school bus driver, cemetery caretaker, Helped a man named Bill Clink drive livestock to Chicago, did carpentry working for John Brasel, and once worked at the Green River Defense plant near Amboy . .He always had part time work ,which helped supplement the needs of a growing family and mom would watch the Post Office if he was away working elsewhere. Dad also grew asparagus in two smaller fields that belonged to the Wellman family. Every Spring was always a busy time for us, as our family would all help in the harvesting of asparagus for dad to deliver to Del Monte cannery in Rochelle.

Small town living is one of the best things life has to offer. It's town's people know each other by name, and always there to assist those in need. Many small towns across the nation have seen drastic changes over the previous century, including loss of businesses and changes in commercial demographics such as loss of the railroad or the town's grocery store. Yet, even with the changes seen, people have always known what it is,to live a peaceful existence in our little corner of the world. With the introduction of the Internet and cable, we find many ways of staying connected to the outside world, especially with the changes faced in the small town today. We also see these small communities still come together for celebrations and social gatherings.

I celebrate living in such a town. Lee Center Illinois has a history I want to share. Our County's Historical society has done some great research to infuse us all of our ancestral history and I have had the opportunity, along with my sister Helen , to collect some great photo post cards that depict life in our town's earlier years in the early 1900's. The village of Amboy, 3 miles from lee Center, was the birthplace of my sister and brothers. Helen was born at home,. We five kids had a good life in this small town. Be it playing yard games with neighboring children or fishing in the creek nearby, we were never bored.

Main Street , Lee Center Illinois 1913

The village of Lee Center was laid out in 1846 and is situated in the northwestern corner of the township. In the early days the first object liable to attract the attention of a visitor would have been the old seminary.
The building was erected in 1847, at a cost of $2,000. The school opened that year and remained for some time as the principal educational point in this part of the state and attracted to Lee Center, many students from adjoining counties who wished to avail themselves of the excellent educational advantages the school then afforded.

The first principal was Hiram Mc Chesney, a graduate of Rensselaer Institute, of Troy, New York. The average attendance at that time is estimated at 150 pupils, a large percentage of whom were from abroad. Mr. Mc Chesney served one year and was then succeeded by H. E. Leonard, of Naperville, Illinois.

Lower Room of the Old School House...notice the old desks and the Victorian Wallpaper!

Mr. Leonard after having taught two years was succeeded by the Rev. James Brewer, a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of the Jamestown college in that state. Mr. Brewer presided over the school for one year. Mr. Simeon Wright, formerly of Battle Creek, Michigan, comes next on the list of instructors. Mr. Wright took an active interest in the welfare of the school, and during the three years that he was principal the seminary passed through an era of prosperity never exceeded before or since. The attendance was very large and the school was in a flourishing condition. Mr. Wright was succeeded by Professor Nash, a native of Massachusetts, who conducted the school until 1859, in which year he died.

In the meantime other institutions of a similar character had sprung up in different points that were accessible by railroads. At Amboy, a high-school building was erected in 1857; academies had also been established in Dixon and Paw Paw; so that in 1859, the attendance being very small, an act was passed authorizing its incorporation as a graded district school.

There were three churches in the village by 1880. The Methodist Episcopal congregation was first organized in 1837, at the residence of Corrydon R. Dewey, at Inlet Grove. Their first church building was erected in 1842, in which services were held until 1858, when a larger and more commodious one was erected. The congregation by 1880 had thirty-four members. Trustees at that time were John Lane, B. F. Lane and S. Trowbridge. The stewards were S. Trowbridge, John Lane, J. H. B. Thornton, S. Thayer and Mrs. M. A. Fox. The pastor was J. G. B. Shadford.

EM Church

Congregational Church

The Congregational Church was organized in 1843 at the residence of Moses Crombie, near Binghamton, in Amboy township; the congregation then consisted of eleven members. First pastor was Rev. Joseph Gardner. The building occupied by them in 1880, was erected in 1856, at a cost of $1,500. The congregation numbered fifty members, and was in a flourishing condition. The pastor at the time was Rev. F. C. Cochran.

The Episcopal Church’s congregation was organized in 1855, and the church building erected in 1857, costing $2,500. The windows of the church were presented to the congregation by Bishop Whitehouse. The rector in 1880, was Rev. N. W. Herrmans, who had presided since 1879.

The only secret organization in existence in Lee Center during 1880 was the Masonic Lodge, No. 146. This lodge was organized on July 28, 1854; charter granted on October 2, of the same year. The first officers were A. P. Stinson, worshipful master; John Gilmore, senior warden; Daniel Frost, junior warden; Simeon Wright, secretary; Lot Chadwick, treasurer.

IOOF Building 1913

This was the second Masonic lodge organized in the county; and from the time of its organization to 1880, 142 members have reached the degree of master mason. James A. Hawley, who was for two years grand master of the Grand Lodge, was here initiated into the mysteries of Masonry. The 1880 membership roll of the organization was thirty-one members. The officers at that time were William S. Frost, worshipful master; Wallace Hicks, senior warden; W. W. Depew, junior warden; B. F. Lane, secretary; and Willard Salsbury, treasurer.(My father , Howard Wellman Sr. was a 50 year member of the Masonic Lodge in Lee Center.)
During the late 1970's, my mother opened a craft shop (called Grandma's House) which would later be moved to this building.

Among the many daring robberies perpetrated by the banditti in different parts of the country is the case of Mr. Haskell at Inlet Grove. On a stormy night in June, 1844, Mr. Haskell's residence was entered by masked men, one of whom afterward proved to have been the notorious Fox. Creeping silently into the bed-room occupied by Mr. Haskell and wife they succeeded in dragging a trunk containing money from under the bed. The noise caused by sliding of the trunk on the floor was drowned by the rumbling thunder, and so cunningly was the deed planned and executed that the sleepers were none the wiser until the next morning.

On the evening of June 3, 1860, a terrible tornado passed through the northern portion of the township, spreading death and desolation in its path. The loss of life and property was not so great in this as in other portions of the county, however, but persons who were in or near its path will remember it to their latest day.

In the spring of 1861, when the news came over the wires that Fort Sumter had fallen and the banner of the stars had been trampled under rebel feet, the citizens of Lee Center were among the first to send up the shout; "down with the rebellion." The hills and forests echoed to the stirring strains of the "red, white and blue" and "star spangled banner;" and when the long roll sounded, scores of her patriotic sons stepped to the front and helped to swell the vast throng of troops hurrying forward in response to their country's call.

Woodside Cemetary

Many of them took their places by the side of the flag-staff and followed it to the sea. In the great battles of Stone River, Pittsburg Landing, Lookout Mountain, and Chickamauga, her sons bore a noble part, and many of them fell, mangled and bleeding, under the shadow of the banner they had so bravely defended. Lee Center township furnished troops for the 13th, 75th and 34th Illinois Infantry, and for the 7th Illinois Cavalry.

The Northern Illinois Electric Railroad

School teacher at the Old School

Gerneral Store, Lee Center Il.

Digging a well for the IOOF Building

Home of the OS Baylor Family

Woodman Hall. My mother recollected many stories of dances and socials held here. This building was located across the street from where my parents lived. Mrs Lippencot ( whose husband photographed all these pictures)played piano for dances and gatherings at this hall. The towns people also held card parties for the community here.

A Homestead Picture from Lee Center

This picture was taken in the yard of my parents home. The young man is believed to be a friend of the family , perhaps with the last name Eisenberg. . Wouldn't we all love to have that rocker!

First Spiking of rails for the Electric Railroad. My grandmother participated in this event. 1913

Aunt Grace, Aunt Mary, Great Aunt Helen Wellman Webster, Aunt Helen.

Taken early 1900's

Bridge over nearby stream

The Stone Quarry. Kiln was made here and lime stone rock obtained, that helped to build my family's home in 1837 , which was home to Dr Adams.

Four Bottle Tavern, Old Dixon-Chicago Pike, Lee Center
The Wellman Homestead

The folks say the blueprints to this home are in the National Archives.

It was built in 1837 by Dr Adams, whom later became an Illinois stateman.

My father, Howard Wellman Sr.

Dad worked at the Green River Ordinance Plant near Amboy Illinois in the foundry . a good article about the ordanace plant ..  by Kari Politsch
Amboy High School, Amboy

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