DeKalb County Life for March 21, 2016: Vigilante justice; Inside the Daily Chronicle; Election judging; columns by Craig Rice and Jessi Haish LaRue

Steve Bigolin writes…

Vigilante justice for body snatchers


Marilla’s grave marker in Ohio Grove Cemetery.

Marilla Churchill Kinyon gained fame in the annals of DeKalb County history shortly after her death at the age of 16 on March 26, 1849.  Her body was stolen from its grave, for use as a cadaver, by a group of medical students from St. Charles.
In November of 1848 she had married 21-year-old George Kinyon.  They lived in a simple two-story frame house on the east side of Somonauk Road, immediately south of Bethany Road in what then was extreme rural Cortland Township.  Marilee died during the Cholera Epidemic, which ravaged DeKalb County early in 1849.
The Franklin Institute at St. Charles was the first medical school in Illinois, having been established by Dr. George Washington Richards.  To help pay their way through school, the students made a habit of stealing newly-buried bodies from cemeteries in western Kane and eastern DeKalb counties.  Marilee was buried at the top of the hill in Ohio Grove Cemetery on Barber Green Road, between Somonauk and Airport roads.
The group of medical students in question stopped enroute to the cemetery for supper at the historic Lovell’s Tavern on Old State Road east of Sycamore, which was a popular stagecoach stop along the plank road to and from St. Charles.  A daughter of James Lovell waited on them, and overhearing their conversation, told her father about it.  He then left to alert local authorities of the likely crime they were planning.
The 1868 History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Henry L. Boies devoted 10 pages to the story, and how Marilla’s body was finally recovered.  In modern times, Dr. Rodney B. Nelson of Geneva, IL, in 1991, wrote a 94 page book – The Franklin Institute: Illinois’ First Medical School, with the subtitle being also, “A History of Resurrection and A Primer on the Art of  Grave Robbing.”  It was a limited edition of 100 copies, and I got one when a friend told me about it being available.  Dr. Nelson reprinted the Boies account in its entirety.
Dr. Nelson’s book was extensively researched, and deals not only with the theft of Marilla’s body, but with Dr. Richards and his students, the school’s staff, medical conditions of the time, and the subject of grave robbing in general.  Historic and modern photographs and illustrations important to the story behind the theft of Marilla’s body are included.  When a mob attacked Dr. Richards’ house on then quiet Illinois Street in St. Charles in search of the body, the incident was referred to as “The Richard Riot.”  The home still stands, as also does the building downtown which contained the Franklin Institute.  For many decades it was occupied by law offices oddly enough,
To make a very long story short, during the “riot” Dr. Richards was seriously wounded, the leader of the student robbers killed, and the house riddled with bullets.  Marilla’s body was not immediately recovered however, as it was nowhere on the premises.  When it finally was found, there was great care taken for its reburial. The Boies History says she was buried near the Kinyon house where she died.  But the 1880 biographical history refutes this claim, stating she was reburied in Ohio Grove Cemetery, in her original grave and coffin.
Widower George Kinyon remarried 7 month after Marilla’s death.  He and his new wife – widow Nancy Whitney-Atkinson – raised a family of their own in the venerable 1846 farmhouse.  George is also buried in Ohio Gove Cemetery, but not with Marilla.  She rests with her parents – David and Maria Churchill.  George and family are down the hill in a plot facing Barber Greene Road near the Lovells.
The historic Kinyon farm and house remained in the family until 1938, when it was sold to the Chambers family, who still own the land, while renting out the home.  When they bought it they were told the second floor had not been used since 1928, and it never has been again.  I have been in the house, and the upper floor is really quite vintage in its appearance.  Many years ago, an early 20th Century addition to the house had a bunkhouse-style arrangement upstairs where farmhands lived.
An interesting oddity about George Kinyon is that he died March 26, 1896 – 47 years to the day of Marilla’s death.  Historic Lovell’s Tavern still stands along Old State Road east of Sycamore, as does Dr. Richards’ house on the now busy Illinois Street in St. Charles.  To this day not all the records dealing with the Kinyon affair in Kane County repositories  are available for public inspection, almost 167 years later.


The Kinyon farm house on the east side of Somonauk Road, south of Bethany Road.


How the Daily Chronicle newsroom operates

(This is the second in a series looking at the mainstream media in DeKalb County.  We talked with Daily Chronicle news editor Brett Rowland, shown in photo above, receiving an award from Shelley Hendricks of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.)

By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life Online editor

Interviewing Brett Rowland, we learned that when the Chronicle went to a magazine format recently it was a major adjustment for the news staff. Traditionally the front page carried three local stories and a regional or national wire service story, but now they search for one top local story that lends itself to a full-page photo and feature that can run on an inside page.

Rowland runs the day-to-day news operation, working with the editor Eric Olson to assemble a daily news budget and overseeing the reporting staff. His day begins about 9 or 10 a.m. when when the dayside reporters are arriving, and lasts until 7 p.m. But he admits his wife Amie and son Wesley would like to see him sooner than that at their Sycamore residence. Those covering night meetings come to work about 2 p.m. and usually have a 10 p.m. deadline to submit their first stories. With a 24-hour news cycle now, they must produce an online website plus social media like Facebook or Twitter. Often reporters will update a story later in the night or the next day, before the next print edition.
The deadline to go to press is 11:45 p.m. when the pages, laid out in Crystal Lake, are sent electronically to the printing plant owned by Paddock Publications in the suburbs. It is remarkable that a paper printed many miles away can still be delivered by truck around the county and arrive at people’s homes by 4 or 5 a.m.
Faced with the new challenge of introducing digital media into the news  operation Rowland said reporters must also carry smartphones that record video so they can do a short interview lasting 30 seconds to a minute and send it in for use on their website. Only one full-time photographer remains on the staff, Danielle Guerra, and Rowland says she is an amazing talent. She often goes out on her own to find front page feature photos, does video as well, and can even write stories.
He said they don’t pay for photos submitted by readers but encourages people to take shots of breaking news and submit them via email. The address to use is Story ideas and news tips can also be called in to 815-756-4841.

People who sign up for text alerts on their smart phones will find at least one message per day, often about weather conditions, but sometimes breaking news that affects a wide audience.

Rowland and Olson stay on top of the news evenings and weekends by using their computers to monitor the incoming reports and also send out briefs via social media from home. Most of the time they determine the placement of stories before leaving work, but can adjust for late breaking events right up until 10 p.m.

Asked about the balance of local versus regional and national news Rowland said their priority is always to cover the local news first, and it dominates the paper.

Regarding the makeup of the editorial board, which determines what positions to take on the editorial page and what political cartoon to run, Rowland said it includes the publisher Karen Pletsch, along with him and editor Olson plus Inger Koch who is feature editor and MidWeek editor.

With the increasing use of online media they try to refresh the website twice a day and face a continuing challenge to attract the younger readers who don’t ever look at the print product, but rely on their smart phones and others portable devices for all their news.

Asked what advice he would give young people considering a career in journalism, he admitted they won’t get rich at it, but should find it more interesting and fun than something like selling insurance. He said in another job “I wouldn’t get to talk with and know the people I do now. You have some amazing experiences that other people my age have not had.” He has been working for newspapers since 2006 after graduating from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.

(Next time we will be featuring WLBK radio. In our first installment last time the date that Brian Adams joined B95 radio was incorrect. He began at the DeKalb station in 1996, not 2006.)


Serving as an election judge


Doug Oleson’s photo by Curtis Clegg.

By Doug Oleson  (

It’s arguably the most over-looked position on any election day; yet, at the same time, it is one of the most – if not the most – important positions.

I am referring, of course, to election judge.

In the primary election this past Tuesday, I served as an election judge in Flagg 9 of Ogle County, where I live. It’s the second time I’ve been a judge; the first time was last November in the general election, where I served in Flagg Center.

Although it can be a little stressful at times, being an election judge is not a difficult job, just a very l-o-n-g one, about 15 hours. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election judges are required to arrive an hour early to set up – and, yes, it does take that long to put everything out – and must stay as long as necessary after the polls close to count the ballots and perform other required tasks. Last November it was a half hour; the primary was a little over an hour.

For me, the whole thing actually began the night before. That’s when you make your lunch and get everything ready for the long day ahead. I wanted everything laid out and ready to go so I didn’t have to mess with it when I got up.

In order to be fully rested, I went to bed at 8 o’clock, which I figured should be enough time. What I didn’t figure on was it being one of those nights when I couldn’t get to sleep no matter what. Not only was I thinking about the next day, I was worried I would sleep through my alarm and not get up in time. I had  visions of being late and having armed sheriff’s deputies pounding on my door, demanding to know where I was. (Realistically, I don’t think they do that – or at least, I hope they don’t.)

Since it was a primary, there was much more to do than for a general election, mainly because you have to set up ballots for both parties rather than just have one general ballot for everyone.

The actual work isn’t that difficult. Working in three-person teams, the first judge checks to see if a voter is registered in that particular precinct. The next judge then verifies the information and asks if they want a Republican or Democratic ballot. It’s the responsibility of the third judge to hand out the right ballot, along with verbal instructions on how to mark the circles correctly and where to drop off the ballot when they are finished.

The county clerk’s office advises that judges alternate between the positions every couple of hours or so. In theory, this makes sense because it allows everyone a chance to perform all the duties without anyone getting burned out. (It can get a little numbing initialing over 200 ballots.) In practice, it doesn’t always work that way. In our case, for instance, the three of us were comfortable doing one task and that’s pretty much what we stuck to.

The clerk also advises that no one person leads the others. But, again, that only makes sense if they all have equal experience. You definitely need someone who has done it before and knows what they’re doing because some things can get a little tricky at times.

In between voters, judges are allowed to pretty much do whatever they want, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their official duties and they don’t wander off too far in case they’re needed. You can read, knit and gossip. Radio and TV are not allowed for obvious reasons.

Most judges choose to gossip. Depending on the voter turnout, you can really get to  know your co-judges in a 13-hour period when there’s not a whole lot else to do. When I left Flagg Center last November, I pretty much knew the  family and medical histories of my fellow judges, what sports teams they followed and their social and religious views. About the only thing you really aren’t allowed to talk about is politics.

The fact, is, being an election judge is almost perfect for anyone who likes to socialize. I saw some people I haven’t seen in some time, met a couple of new neighbors, talked to an old classmate I hadn’t seen in 40 years, found out my neighbor two doors down from me had just gotten married, caught up with a young man I used to coach years ago, and so on.

As a judge, you see all kinds of things, like who votes and who doesn’t, sometimes in the same family, which is kind of interesting. You see parents bringing their young children with them into the voting booths, as well as middle aged children pushing their aging parents in wheel chairs.

The funny thing about the whole day is you never know when you’ll have a break. Voters don’t come in when you think they will. The first hour we were open we almost had more inspectors from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office (two) than voters (three). Instead of a mass rush during the noon hour, like we expected, they started coming in at two o’clock. Second and third shift workers getting ready for work, we reasoned. Surprisingly, there were very few as the polls closed.

Probably the most challenging thing is when a voter has a registration card, but for some reason they aren’t listed in the clerk’s book of registered voters. Either they haven’t voted in some time or else the books were printed after the person was registered. In those cases, you have to call over to the clerk’s office and fill out certain forms. Not really difficult, just time consuming, especially if a line is forming behind them – which it often does.

The most tiresome work takes place after the polls are finally closed. That’s when you have to separate all the ballots that were cast in your polling place. Where I was, there were three precincts. Once you divide the ballots into each precinct, you to have to separate the Democratic ballots from the Republicans, then count them. The number of ballots cast have to match the number your records say there should be.

Once that is done, then everything has to be stored in specific bags and stored in the big “black box” and carted off.

The funniest thing about the whole process is you have absolutely no idea how the vote went. Our jobs are to count the ballots, not how people voted; there’s a tabulator who does that.

 “I’ll just have to read about it in the paper the next day,” someone joked.

As we were leaving, one of my co-workers compared being an election judge to child birth. While its’ going on, she said, it can be long and tedious. But once it’s over, you’re already thinking about doing it again.

All I know is, it’s a very long day that can drag on at times, yet it’s an important one. Without election judges, how can people vote, and who knows if the elections are conducted fairly?  Once it’s over, you feel like you’ve done your civic duty – plus, you get paid $125 for doing it.

But sometimes there’s something you aren’t expecting.

For me, that came with our very last voter, an Hispanic woman who couldn’t speak English very well. I was helping her go through the voting process, explaining it to her as best I could, when she suddenly gave me a smile – an unexpected one – that didn’t need translating.


Prairie Ponderings

By Craig Rice (

Bottles of vegetable oil made from soybeans line the shelves at my wife’s favorite grocery store. What if Illinois imposed a special fee, a tariff, on vegetable oil not manufactured and bottled in our state? Illinois soybean farmers would reap the benefit because their beans would be used first to make the oil. Our state could use this newly found income to offset its pension problem!

It will not happen. Our Constitution protects the free movement of domestic goods between the states. Our state cannot wall out Iowa soybeans by imposing a tariff to make them more expensive than soybeans grown in DeKalb County. Free trade works pretty darn well.

If our 50 states benefit from free movement of goods, then would it not also benefit trade among nations? The American Soybean Association says “yes!” to free trade. One of the organization’s top legislative priorities is approval of trade agreements that eliminate barriers to US soy and meat. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement among 12 nations, is a good thing in their way of thinking.

Grain producers know livestock eat much of the corn and soybeans grown in the US. Any agreement that puts US grown meat on the dinner table in Japan is a good thing not only for the livestock industry but also for grain farmers.

Pharmaceutical companies say yes if the trade agreement puts an end to cheap knock-off pills made in Malaysia. It would allow a faster recovery of research dollars used for bringing new products to market.

Hold on–let’s not get the cart before the horse. Unions say no. Low-wage workers in other countries would take jobs away from Americans. Progressives say no. They think the agreement gives protectionism for rich pharmaceutical companies and results in higher priced medications thus exacerbating the vast inequality between the rich and the poor.

Even if we get the horse and cart in line, there are a number of road apples to scoop up. The Land of Lincoln is quite good at providing reasons for businesses to locate out of state. Think uncapped litigation, think high cost of workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, think graft in Chicago government and unions, think jailed former governors and politicians, think a state legislature willing to spend more money than it receives year-after-year.
The Great Migration of citizens from Illinois to jobs elsewhere is more the result of climate than free trade. Nearly half a million Illinoisans in the last five years moved to other states including Texas, Florida, California–even North Dakota. A person migrates from Illinois every five minutes according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Why would a person want to stay in a state run by a bungling bunch of blue-footed boobies when the business climate is better elsewhere?

If Donald Trump were running for governor, I could imagine him exclaiming, “The migration out is killing us. We need to build a tall wall to keep people in. And we’ll make Indiana, Iowa and those other two states pay for it. Kentuckians get a pass since they are such nice people.”

My wife’s local grocery will probably remain in business here. For other businesses to thrive in Illinois and make jobs, it will take more than trade agreements.


Life lessons I’ve learned in 25 years


By Jessi Haish LaRue (

I’ve started to realize a few things during my 25 years. None of these lessons came easy. I can proudly say I’ve mastered some, yet some are still in the works. Either way, these 10 life lessons have changed my life for the better…

You don’t have to spend time with people you don’t like.
Once I cut off ties with toxic people, my stress went out the window and my happiness went through the roof. (Cheesy but accurate!) Life is too short to spend with people who make you feel like dirt. You deserve better.

You can pause or start over at any time. It’s your life!
I’ve had some stops and starts in my life. Blogging. College. My career. Don’t worry about what other people think; take your time and figure out what you want out of life. Then go for it. If it’s not what you thought it’d be, then stop, re-evaluate and try something else. No one gets everything right on the first try.

That being said…

It’s OK to have some failures.
Failures will happen. I’m still feeling burned by some of my “failures” in recent years. And although they may hurt and I may regret how some things turned out, I’m starting to realize that they all got me to the place I’m at right now. And I like that place. Instead of sulking in your failures, take away any lessons that you can, and then, when the time is right, move on.

Don’t ever compare your story to others.
This is one I’m just now learning. At 25, it’s pretty easy to compare your life to your peers. They just bought a house, AND a new car! They have kids! They’re doing so well! It’s easy to take things at face value and assume because you don’t have the same things, you’re not doing well. That’s not the case. You don’t know their full story, and you’re still working on yours. Let things happen as they’re meant to.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.
The world is going to be hard enough on you. Take care of yourself! If you can go to bed each night knowing that you did your best that day, you should be proud of yourself. Don’t beat yourself up; you have one life and you’ve still got time to figure things out.

It’s OK to ask for help.
And because no one gets everything right on the first try… Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. I used to feel too “proud” to admit I needed help, but it’s OK to do it when you need it. It’ll save you a lot of stress.

Dreams change. Goals change. It’s normal.
I need this tattooed on my hand so I can remind myself of it daily. If I compared my current self to 16-year-old Jessi’s dreams, I’d be a big failure today. But life changes, and your goals and dreams change with that. And it’s OK to change them as many times as you like! I think my life will be full of those changes. After all, if we always stayed the same person with the same goals…we’d run out of things to do and get pretty bored, wouldn’t we?

Make peace with the things you can’t change.
Do your best with what you can, and everything else? Just forget about it! Easier said than done, I know, but it’s worth a shot, right?

You’re the only one in control of your life.
I’ve learned that it’s important to realize you’re in control. You can’t blame a bad day or an unfulfilled life on a boss, friend, or husband. Why? Because you always have the power to make things better. Where there’s a will, there’s always a way. It may not be the way you originally imagined, but there will be a way, somehow.

Love is all you need.
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Sure, you have to have a job, and money to pay the bills, and a lot of other things, but at the end of the day, love is what you need. It feeds the soul, which is the most important thing of all. If you love, you will be loved in return, and there is no greater feeling than that. I hope I never stop chasing love.

What life lessons would you share?


Leich pic_edited-1

SHARING LEICH STORIES——These seven former Leich/GTE Automatic Electric Company employees shared reminiscences of their days at the Genoa factory with a full house at the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society recently. At one time the factory had 1,000 employees and was the largest industrial employer in DeKalb County. Their tenure ran from the 1940s all the way into the 1990s. From left are Ken Dander (standing), Irene Kuusisto, Frank Johnson, Curt Gustafson, Sue Peterson, Becky Euhus, and Tom Hoffman. (DeKalb County Life photo)

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