An interview with the DeKalb Police Chief
(Editor’s Note: In a wide-ranging interview last week with DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery he discussed issues affecting the community and its citizens. He has not completed his annual report for the DeKalb City Council, which he will deliver February 27, so would not release some stats until that date. His career in law enforcement has spanned 38 years. He took over the DeKalb chief’s position in 2012, starting with 58 officers plus support staff and telecommunications personnel. He now has 65 officers.)
By Barry Schrader, DeKalb County Life Online editor
What are your biggest concerns chief?
A dramatic increase in crime in DeKalb this past year. He said they are seeing the increase in many Illinois communities where there is a state university and the trend is very disturbing. Areas of alarm include increases in violent acts and behavioral (mental health) disorders. There is also an increase in domestic disturbance calls as well as calls involving juvenile offenders. When he arrived in 2012 he reorganized the department, implementing community policing procedures and proactive policing strategies. DeKalb saw an almost four year decline in crime, but then 2016 “threw us all off course.” But he has communicated with other state college cities and found they had the same experience.
So what is changing?
He said “Chicago crime is off the charts and there is a huge connection between Chicago and our community.” Looking at the dramatic decline in Northern’s enrollment, he cited the 2009 student numbers which was 24,400 enrolled and this past fall it fell to just over 19,000. At that rate of decline he sees enrollment as low as 13,000 by 2020. This results in a dramatic increase in rental vacancies. With some 9,000 rental units (in addition to the dorms) a greater percentage of which are now vacant, landlords and property managers are looking for others from outside to fill those units. This has resulted in an influx of people from outside the county. Landlords are asked to fill out a form on prospective renters, doing background checks, but this is not happening in all cases. DeKalb County now has one of the lowest rents per square foot of anywhere outside the Chicago area, so this is attracting people needing cheaper housing. The problems arise from the culture and conduct that people bring with them, so if you lived in a culture of crime and violence this tends to come along with you.
What area of the community sees the most crime?
Areas out around the college campus is where they get the most calls. Throughout the town the most prevalent calls involve violent crimes, commercial and residential burglaries, car breakins and thefts.
How is this dealt with?
I have found over my nearly four decades as a police officer it seems every time we want to address the issue…it is one of two ways—we try to legislate our way into better public safety…we try to create a law or ordinance in an attempt to enhance enforcement, therefor reducing crime. Or we add more police officers.
What is your take on this?
I have told you about my concerns about the rental properties (vacancies) and other things because I think the problem with crime is bigger than the police. We are certainly responsible for how we respond to crime and how we address the concerns of our community…. But we as a society, we as a culture have seen some dramatic changes that are alarming…and manifest themselves on the streets. Take for example in Chicago the level of gun violence. In 2016 alone they had more homicides than LA and New York City combined. And in 2016 the City of Chicago recovered more handguns off the street than the other two cities combined as well.
So I look at things like weapons offenses; we experienced rises in both weapons seized and weapons offenses in 2016. We are seeing a greater increase in violence.
What happens when there is no state budget?
Resources for people who need it the most are not there. Social Service agencies are choked out. What happens to universities when there is no state budget? No funding for education, no MAP grants. Traditional funding for state universities has tanked. We may see mass layoffs at the universities after this semester if attendance continues to decline.
Then what is the answer?
We have to implement more proactive policing strategies, more community-based policing programs by comparison to other communities.
Here’s how I look at crime—If we don’t as a community look at what we can do to make our community safer, improve our quality of life, reduce crime across the board, then we are in trouble…. If we as a city, if we as a society believe the police can reduce crime alone, we are sadly mistaken.
When asked, he said the interest in “Neighborhood Watch” programs is very low.
They do have school resource officers in the middle and high schools that accomplishes a variety of things. Crime there is reflective of crime in the community, he said. Poverty is a huge factor too. District 428 has about 60 per cent of its students on some form of aid, whether it be its free lunch program, subsidies for books, voucher-based housing, or some other form of state subsidy. It’s not just the child, but the parents, siblings, and guardians who are all in the same boat.
Are you working with other agencies on this?
We are working with the states attorney’s office and the judiciary to look for other ways to help address this dramatic increase in crime. We are seeing a significant increase in juvenile offenders…how we process them through the police and prosecution stages is the key. But we have to look at the lack of parental accountability. At times parents will wash their hands of their kids and say “we are done with them.” So that breakdown of the family unit from a cultural perspective is huge.
What about the use of cameras?
We have not done it the way Rockford and Chicago have, but may in our high crime areas. I proposed in our budget this year that we use some TIF funds to pilot a public safety camera program in the CBD (Central Business District) and that has been approved. But there are societal concerns about cameras at every street corner.
We have put body cameras in the budget for three years but I don’t anticipate getting them because of finances. We do have some dashboard cameras.
How about relations with NIU?
“One of the positives of the past year is that cooperation between NIU police and city police is at an all-time high,” the chief stated.
Where are the perpetrators mainly coming from?
He said he will address this in more detail when he reports to the city council, but was willing to say that more than half of the people logged into their data base last year came from outside the DeKalb-Sycamore area.
Now what about the problems that are mental health-related?
When pressed for specifics he would say that in 2016 they responded to over 200 calls regarding suicides, attempted suicides and other mental health related crises. He asked rhetorically: Should a city the size of DeKalb have that many mental health-related issues?
(Editor’s Note: I researched the statistics for the previous year which I found the total was 156 calls, so that is a dramatic increase of 25 percent over 2015.)
He did credit the 708 community mental health board with providing some grant funding to have a majority of officers better trained to deal with mental health crises. That included de-escalation training, conflict resolution, and procedural justice (treating the subjects with equity and fairness).
Asked to summarize he offered the following:
As a police chief I am concerned about public safety, the challenges we face with crime—especially acts of violence. The victimization of people within our community is what we strive to defeat. I would embrace the concept of looking into why we face these challenges now in a more comprehensive manner. It is in part, poverty, it is in part the decline in enrollment at NIU, it is in part the breakdown of the family, and it is in part the way we are raising our children…. Though I would like to see more resources, at the end of the day, other than resources, what’s maybe needed even more is addressing those things that are impacting our community, our culture, our way of life.In a way that is creating the environment that is conducive to crime.
The chief did add that the community is extremely supportive of the police and said he is grateful for that support.
So stay tuned for his more comprehensive and detailed report to the city council on February 27.
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Grin and bear it, friends
A personal column by Barry Schrader, editor
A good friend read my recent letter to the editor of the Daily Chronicle (see it reprinted far below*) and said wryly, “Schrader, why do you keep butting your head against the wall, when you know you can’t win…” I consider him a really good friend so I won’t name him here.
I didn’t have an answer at the time, but being in in my seventh decade of trying to “right wrongs” and speak up for the little guy, I am too old to change my ways, so just keep on plowing ahead.
So I have to stand up again and speak out about the latest Hospital move that will severely impact a non-profit institution in this county—the Kishwaukee Family YMCA. You won’t hear that there is any threat from the Y board or its director. He even issued a statement headlined: IT IS NOT A THREAT. He went on to say they have a long-standing partnership with the hospital, which has been a tremendous supporter….” So it sounds like everything is just peachy and the two entities are both on the same track, not on a collision course. For us “chumbalones” outside the inner circle of power, ignorance is desirable. (Outspoken Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass uses that term regularly to describe the naive and uninformed population of the State of Illinois under Speaker Madigan, so this is not original)
But looking into the building of this new palace to fitness-wellness and holistic health, some facts need to be digested. From what I have learned through contact with a former Y board member, they originally thought that Kish management (pre-Northwestern) wanted to partner with them in expanding their fitness facility and jointly work on a project that would complement what they already provide the community. But somewhere along the way the hospital oligarchs changed their mind and came up with a new plan that excludes the YMCA entirely. Reading over their stand-alone proposal, I quote from their architects letter: “The fitness center will include an indoor walk/jog track, a gymnasium, group cycling room, stretching and abdominal exercise spaces, free weights, circuit weights, mind/body exercise and a group exercise studio. There will also be a fully accessible exercise pool, warm water therapy pool and hydrotherapy pools. The site plan also includes walking paths and sensory gardens.”
I also understand that Kish-Northwestern Medicine, supposedly a not-for-profit, is planning to bring in a company called Power Wellness, LLC which has been connected to Delnor Hospital (another Northwestern acquisition) and built their fitness center. On its website it states: “Power Wellness pre-sold memberships and aggressively marketed the center to the surrounding community. Power Wellness also helped with all aspects of the center’s development, leadership, recruiting and staffing, training, furniture, fixture and equipment procurement, accounting, information technology and communication….”
That sort of covers everything the YMCA offers and more. It is no secret that the Y is overcrowded before and after work hours when the majority of its members want to exercise and use the limited amount of equipment, even though they expanded their facility not too long ago. So you can expect a sizable number of members will welcome the newer and bigger duplicate facility right next door. But this loss of members and revenue would not have been necessary if a partnership to build together had occurred.
But the YMCA board has been co-opted, coerced and backed into a corner. They want to preserve the financial aid currently dangled like a carrot by the hospital and its related enterprises, so doesn’t dare make a peep about this, even though it will deal a devastating blow to the Y, its membership rolls and its programs. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue just the first year the new adjoining health complex is open. This has been verified by an independent, outside professional consultant, not one hired by by the hospital.
Kish-Northwestern boasts it will spend $46 million on this 111,000 square foot complex, also including doctor’ offices and other therapy-related services. This will definitely be a country club-class facility, but at affordable prices for the upper-middle income residents, many who now pay dues to the Y. You can’t blame people for switching loyalties; it happens every time a big box store moves into an area and the existing family businesses fade away. This one will no doubt impact fitness clubs in the immediate area, as well as be a blow to Northern Rehab, MoI and other health and wellness providers in the county.
We all know this is a done deal and the Chambers of Commerce will welcome it with open arms, ground breaking and ribbon cuttings galore!
I am wondering if many people will stop and think about what this means to the Y and the rest of the community. Hundred of thousands of dollars in lost revenue means some things have to be eliminated. Look closely at their budget and you will see at the bottom charitable services. So summer camp for minorities like Camp Power, lunch programs, swimming pool activities for children whose families cannot afford memberships to anything, and other special programs for those less fortunate than we are—that’s what will be dropped.
Now if the Kish-Northwestern team would consider reimbursing the Y for its losses, sort of an “impact fee” to cover their downturn in membership, that would be very charitable of them.
In any event, just for entertainment if nothing else, come along for the ride to witness the two, almost-overlapping, public hearings the hospital is forced to attend and share their grandiose plans. The first public hearing is in the basement of the DeKalb Public Library from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.,Thursday, Feb. 9 before the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board. You must arrive by 11:15 a.m. if you want to speak so you can sign the register. You will be allowed one, maybe two minutes at the most to say something. No one has to answer any questions, so make them rhetorical.Then at 1 p.m. sharp, immediately on the heels of this hearing, the DeKalb County Planning/Zoning/Building Department has set its public hearing in Sycamore before its Hearing Officer who will have sole authority to approve the request for a variation. This will be held in the County Administration Building east conference room, south entrance, 110 E. Sycamore Street. No surprise, the county zoning and planning committee of the county board has no say in the matter, according to county policy.
*Here is my letter to the Daily Chronicle:
A public hearing on the Kish-Northwestern Health and Fitness complex plan is slated for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 in the DeKalb Library. People may wonder why bother to hold a hearing when it is already a done deal. Just a formality folks. It will add a 111,000 square foot edifice with all kinds of fancy fitness and workout equipment for anyone to join and use. The proposed $46 million project will be adjacent to the Kishwaukee Family YMCA and duplicate everything they offer and more.
Apparently the YMCA board has been co-opted into supporting the plans since they had their executive director come out publicly declaring it is “not a threat.” He knows better than that. If they would reread their own consultant’s report they would realize it will have a major financial impact on the Y, its membership, programs and services to the community.
So why didn’t the hospital owners partner with the Y to share facilities and add onto an already established fitness center? Because they saw an opportunity to increase revenues by hiring Power Wellness LLC and a for-profit company doesn’t want to share. I have a suggestion for them—just buy the YMCA and take over their facilities. They would probably sell it for the same bargain-basement price Kish Health paid for the Ben Gordon Mental Health Center. That has languished since the purchase last year and improvements in service are critically needed as mental health issues have escalated around the county since the hospital closed its inpatient unit. More on that later.
I should also mention the negative impact that this new health and fitness conglomeration (including two pools and physician offices) will have on area fitness clubs, plus health and wellness facilities like the new MoI center and Northern Rehab just across the street. But like the big box stores that move into many communities, forcing existing smaller businesses out, I am sure the Kishwaukee branch of Northwestern Medicine project will be welcomed with open arms by those who think bigger is always better. But they probably are unaware that Northwestern Medicine pays no property taxes on the hospital out here.
Hope to see everyone at the public hearing.
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A Tale of Two Days of Activism
By Kay Shelton, guest columnist
According to Waubonsee College student Jamie, Senator Bernie Sanders urged people to “take action when necessary.” Because she sees the United States as divided, especially with the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, she took action and participated in a series of politically related events organized by different groups on Friday, Jan. 20 in Chicago. Beginning at 3 p.m. in Daley Plaza,she attended two different rallies with speakers. Former Chicago Mayoral Candidate Chuy Garcia spoke to a crowd predominantly of Mexican and Latino descent. Additionally, the leader of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) spoke. Those speakers spoke out against many of President Trump’s ideas and plans, especially regarding immigration. Jamie attended because many of her family members encouraged her to represent them. The events were her first experience with political activism.
Another Waubonsee student, Alex, attended the afternoon speakers with a slightly different motivation. In his sociology class, he could write a six-page paper or attend the events as an assignment. Initially, during the election, he stayed away from politicians and he did not vote in the primary. By the November election, he wanted to become involved and he voted for Clinton against Trump. The events in Chicago were also his first experience with political involvement. He thought the events were a positive way for people to stand up for what they believe in and “got people out of their shells.” He said the events were part of a series called 100 Days of Resistance.
Following the speakers, both students participated in a march beginning at 5 p.m. around Trump Tower. The marchers circled Trump Tower twice and at one point, they blocked Lake Shore Drive. Jamie carried the first activist sign she even made with the phrase, “Stronger Than Fear.” She said those who attended wanted to unify for change, especially away from the negativity of the election and its aftermath. She believed the protest was “peaceful” and “positive.” Her favorite change was, “A people, united, will never be divided.” Alex had a handout of changes that organizers distributed.
Jamie found two Facebook pages that promoted the events, Socialist Alternatives and Resist. Alex learned about the events through his sociology class. I found out about the Friday night protest scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. following the afternoon speakers through another Facebook page organized by students who attend Robert Morris University. About 6 p.m., I caught up with a large group of approximately five thousand people near Wacker Drive. There was also a heavy police presence, with multiple phalanxes of at least a dozen officers standing in lines along the streets. Two to three officers stood at the entrances of the CTA stops, groups of officers on bikes with blue siren lights roved the area, swarms of police in cars, SUVs, and large vans patrolled, and a police unit dressed in riot gear on horses followed the crowd. People carried hundreds of different signs, mostly homemade, hand-written, and hand-drawn artwork. One person had a Nazi-style swastika in black with a red circle and line through it. Many people carried signs with the “Love Trumps Hate” slogan.
I followed along with the thousands of people as they meandered on the streets in and near the Loop. Often, the crowd chanted, “Whose streets, Our streets.” At one point, the police would not let the crowd or anyone else pass and they had the street lights turned off. The crowd became contained and crammed within two blocks. This stoppage of the crowd movement happened after a chant of “Black Lives Matter,” which may or may not be a coincidence. After twenty minutes or so, someone in the crowd shouted, “Let’s take Michigan,” and the group turned around and started walking in the opposite direction. As the group passed by several trendy restaurants, many bemused diners stared out the windows, often stopping their meals to snap some pictures on their smart phones. The crowd did take over one side of Michigan Avenue with some drivers looking surprised while many others honked in support when they read some of the signs people carried. Several passengers snapped pictures of the crowd as they became temporarily stuck in traffic. Signs people carried included, “No hate, No fear, Refugees are welcome here,” which was also a chant.
I do not believe the crowd had a permit to take over one side of Michigan Avenue or many of the other streets they covered. Except for the one street in which the police blocked, the crowd kept moving at a quick pace not blocking any one place for more than just a few minutes, although they did inconvenience motorists during those minutes.
The next day, Saturday, Jan. 21, organizers of the Women’s 1/21 March on Chicago expected over 60,000 people who signed up to attend. Organizers planned a series of speakers to begin at 10 a.m. followed by a march to Federal Plaza beginning at 11:30 a.m., and ending with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel speaking. Instead, a crowd of over 250,000 showed up, overwhelming the venue and the downtown area. The March was to be on Jackson but the crowd filled five parallel streets to capacity. While the Friday night march had mostly young people, it was also peppered with folks who appeared to be seasoned activists from an older generation, the Women’s March included families, babies in strollers, and many groups of women in three generations, grandmothers, daughters, and young granddaughters.
The news media promoted the Women’s March in Chicago for several days leading up to it and organizers worked heavily with the city for planning. Still, the crowds were larger than anyone expected. With three television news helicopters flying overhead the crowds on the periphery of the staging area could not hear the speakers and performers on the stage.
Participants carried signs with a variety of messages. A group of medical students from the University of Illinois at Chicago wore their white coats and carried signs in support of health care for women.
Despite the tremendous unexpected crowds in Chicago, the police presence seemed much smaller for the Women’s March. None of them blared sirens or turned on their blue and red emergency lights unlike the protests the night before. Worldwide, Chicago’s crowd was the third largest, with the largest crowds in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Smaller groups of people participated on a ship in Antarctica and over a dozen women in a small village in Nova Scotia held up signs in support.
Organizers planned those events as a beginning of activism. Over the weekend, thousands of people went to international airports around the country in support of refugees and Muslims trying to come to the United States. On Saturday, Feb. 4, from noon until 2 p.m., there will be an event outside the Janesville office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, protesting the plan to have U.S. taxpayers pay for a new wall along the Mexican border (there already is a substantial wall) and the ban on Muslims, in solidarity with hundreds of other events throughout the country appearing under the hashtag NoWallNoBan.
These photos were taken by Kay Shelton at the March on Chicago and the protest the night before.
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From the Doug-out . . .
By Doug Oleson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It was 50 years ago this fall I was in Mrs. Bain’s sixth grade class at Tilton School. Once a week, a select group of students gave the class a little report on what was going on in the world.
I remember our sports reporter, Scott Erwin, talking about the Chicago Bulls. Being a baseball man myself, I had never heard of the Bulls. As it turned out, neither had anyone else since it was their first year of existence. Like everything else to me at the time, they were new and exciting and – most of all – colorful.
To introduce the new team, Bulls owner Dick Klein – who paid $1.5 million for the franchise – held a parade down State Street. Besides the owner, there was the head coach, other team officials, cheerleaders dressed as matadors and a real life steer borrowed from the nearby stockyards, all piled on the back of a flatbed truck. (There were no players because they didn’t have any yet.) Most bystanders were reportedly more interested in seeing whether the steer would break loose and stampede through the crowd than they were in the team.
In another pre-season promotion, Klein decided to hold an open tryout for anyone who might be interested. In his autobiography, head coach Johnny “Red” Kerr told the assembled players to count off in twos. To show his disdain for the whole thing, Kerr then told the twos to go home. It only took one session for the ones to join them.
The antics didn’t end once the season began.
Apparently in an effort to give everyone a fair chance to play, Klein ordered Kerr to play one group of players for the first and third quarters, and another five for the second and fourth.
As you can probably well imagine, the platooning didn’t last long.
In an even more bizarre scheme, Klein hired a hypnotist to help out one of their players, reserve forward Barry Clemens, who had a terrible stutter. After a few sessions, the hypnotist proudly proclaimed he had gotten Clemens to say “Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
What the hypnotist didn’t know is that was the one phrase Clemens could already say without any problem.
With courtside seats going for $4 a ticket, the Bulls attracted 176 season ticket holders for their first season, which was played at the old International Amphitheater. Their lowest gate was on Jan. 25, 1967 when just 1,077 fans braved 26 inches of snow to watch the Bulls host the Los Angeles Lakers. In his book on the Bulls, Bob Logan – the only Tribune sports reporter to cover the team that first season – reported the figure had to be padded. It was so bad, in fact, Klein reportedly told the players before the game to go up in the stands and introduce themselves to the fans personally and thank them for coming out.
In retrospect, the game probably should have been postponed, but Klein, hoping the Lakers wouldn’t be in form after all the effort to get to the stadium, decided the game should go on.
It didn’t help as the Bulls lost 144-122.
To make matters worse, the Chicago players had to treat the Lakers to a steak dinner after the game.
Despite winning their first three games, reality soon set in for the ragtag team, not that they didn’t try everything they could think of.
In one game Kerr – who was paid $20,000, $5,000 more than Klein wanted – devised a play in which guard Jerry Sloan would leap in front of Philadelphia’s 7-foot-3, 275-pound center Wilt Chamberlain, enticing him to knock Sloan down for a foul.
“That’s great,” the 190-pound Sloan drawled. “But if he knocks me down, who’s going to shoot the free throws?”
Another time, trying to take advantage of Chamberlain’s notoriously poor free throw shooting, Kerr instructed his team to foul the big guy every time his team got the ball. Near the end of the game, Chamberlain was literally running away from the eager-to-please Bulls.
In my favorite story, Kerr once tried to inspire his rookie center, a 6-7 converted forward named Erwin “Wolfgang” Mueller. “Just pretend you’re the greatest player in the game,” Kerr told Mueller before one game. “Pretend no one can stop you and you can do whatever you want.”
Typical of the season, it didn’t work as the Bulls got blown out again.
After the game, Mueller came up to a discouraged Kerr. “Don’t feel bad, coach,” Mueller said. “Just pretend we won.”
Despite all these antics, or maybe because of them, the Bulls somehow managed to make the playoffs, the first NBA expansion team to ever do so.
It’s hard to believe but that was all 50 years ago. A lot of players have come and gone for the Bulls since, including a skinny shooting guard from North Carolina as well as many more most fans have never heard of or have forgotten. A lot has happened in the last half century, not only for the Bulls but for the rest of us as well.
For me, at least, the world is no longer that fresh and innocent place where everything is a new adventure.
It’s too bad it isn’t.
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Historical marker for Jacob Haish needs support
By Jessi Haish LaRue (JHaish09@gmail.com)
Growing up as a relative of Jacob Haish has always been bittersweet.
For many obvious reasons, I take pride in my maiden name; after all, Haish is responsible for so much progress and prosperity not only in DeKalb, but throughout the world. His inventions helped cultivate the Midwest and America during a time of innovation. His donations helped found DeKalb, from the hospital and the library, to Northern Illinois University.
That’s someone anyone would be proud to share a last name with.
However, today, it’s hard to find substantial, tangible proof that Haish had such an impact. And growing up, I shared a similar sadness with other members of my family because of it. It’s easy to visit the Ellwood House or Glidden Homestead and get your fill of their history and impact. But over the years, because of Haish’s limited “visibility” in the area, and lack of a real landmark, Haish has always felt like the forgotten hero of the barbed wire legacy.
Fortunately, a local group is working to change that.
DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, or DAAHA, is raising funds to place a historical marker outside of the DeKalb Public Library at 309 Oak Street. The marker will detail Haish’s life and honor his many contributions to DeKalb, and will look similar to many of the DAAHA markers that exist in DeKalb County now.
The DeKalb Public Library board recently approved the location of the marker, which will be placed just outside the original entrance to the library, or as some know it, the entrance to the Haish Memorial Library. Haish’s will left $150,000 to the city for the construction of the library, which was completed in 1930.
With library approval and a proposed text already written with help from Haish family descendant Jeff Marshall, just one more crucial element is needed: the funds to pay for the marker.
The total cost of the marker is estimated at $4,200, said Larry Mix, member of the DAAHA historical marker subcommittee. Just $500 has been raised as of January, and in order to install the marker by their goal of June of this year, the majority of funds will need to be raised by April, Mix said.
Mix hopes both relatives and fans of Haish’s story will donate and help preserve the history of a man who did so much for not only the city of DeKalb, but much of the world, because of his barbed wire and farming implement creations.
“Having this marker [outside of the library] is a great opportunity,” Mix said. “So many people walk in and out, and may not know who Jacob Haish was. I really think people would be interested to know why he was so important.”
Tax deductible donations may be made to DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association (DAAHA), and mailed to 111 South 2nd St., DeKalb IL 60115. Donations should be marked “Haish Marker.”
For more information on DAAHA, visit www.daaha.org. To learn more about Jacob Haish, visit www.twistinhistory.blogspot.com.
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By Craig Rice (email@example.com)
When Dad sold the cows, shipped the pigs and retired the horses, the barns on our farmstead became chicken houses. Dad and Mom housed about 600 hens at a time in four farm buildings. Feeding, watering and gathering were daily chores two or three times a day.
There was always water from a hydrant in the milk house. We filled five-gallon buckets, two at a time, and carried water to the waterers back in the cow barn, then repeated the process and carried water to the old pig barn. Sometimes in the winter, if the underground water lines froze, we carried water to the other buildings, too.
I really disliked gathering eggs. Dad could gently reach under a hen setting on eggs in the nesting box and retrieve several eggs. When I tried it, the hen would peck my hand and I would jump away. As I got older, I developed a technique that involved grabbing the hen’s head and neck by my left hand and retrieving the eggs with my other hand.
Part of gathering eggs was counting the number of eggs and marking it on the calendar, which Dad kept in the basement, where he “cased-up” eggs. We gathered between 400 and 600 eggs in wire pails that had to be emptied each night so they could be used again the next day.
Each evening after supper, Dad went down the cement steps to the basement, sat on a stool, and cleaned and sorted the eggs. Cleaning the eggs involved scratching off any droppings that had stuck to the eggs using steel wool. He weighed each egg on a scale that determined small, medium or large and then he placed the egg in the case that matched the size. Over the years, Dad delivered eggs to Linden’s Grocery, Colonial Restaurant and Waterman High School.
Dad kept cracked eggs separate. How could you tell whether an egg was cracked? By gently tapping the narrow ends of two eggs together, the cracked egg sounded different. It sounded, well, cracked. Neighborhood homemakers came to the house to buy eggs. Some of the home bakers liked to buy the cracked eggs because they were cheaper, but still just a fresh.
My brother recalls that when he was a teenager, a customer came to the house and asked for cracked eggs. He went to the basement but found all the cracks had been sold. “So, I cracked some eggs and sold them to her!”
While casing up eggs, Dad listened to the radio. You might have seen him listening to an episode of Gunsmoke or some other radio western or radio drama.
Hens don’t magically appear in the hen houses and they don’t lay forever. Each year Dad sold some of the older hens for meat processing.
He raised chicks to replace the old hens. He bought day-old chicks and placed them in a brooder house. A cardboard fence kept the chicks close to the brooder hood, a metal tent heated with LP gas. It kept the chicks nice and cozy.
When the chicks became too big for the brooder house, he let them forage the farmstead. When they started to lay eggs, the family would have an evening chicken hunt. We pulled them from their roosts in rafters, from the haymow and from low hanging branches. We carried them by the legs and tossed them into the hen houses.
The feed for the chickens was finely ground oats, corn and molasses. Dad drove a tractor and large box wagon filled with oats to Kauffman Feed Mill where the oats were processed into mash, a very finely ground feed.
At home again, he shoveled half the mash into the feed room in the old cow barn and the other half into the feed room in the old horse barn. We carried mash to the chickens in the pig barn and to the honest-to-goodness hen house.
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Steve Bigolin writes . . .
Lovell’s Crossing not really a town
These people from around Lovell’s Crossing gathered at the school in 1929 to celebrate it being named one of the state’s Superior Schools. (Photo from Rural Schools Journey book)
Lovell’s Crossing was not really a town, but rather a scattered farming community which extended for three miles along Old State Road east of Sycamore. Old State is immediately north of Route 64, which runs parallel to, from Airport to the DeKalb County-Kane County Line. The greater number of farms here are in in southeast Sycamore Township, with the remainder in northeast Cortland Township, their origins able to be traced back to the 1830’s and early 1840’s. A very select few of these remain in their original families even. Historically, Old State was the primary plank road connecting Sycamore and St. Charles.
A one-room school had existed in the Lovell’s Crossing area since 1847. The brick school building still standing meanwhile dates from 1922. In 1940, longtime teacher Grace Vincent led students on an historical project. They wrote a 33-page history of the area – Lovell Crossing: 1836 to 1940. Lovell Crossing was the name of the 1940 book. Seven boys and five girls were credited with being its authors.
Among the founding families of Lovell’s Crossing discussed in the book were the Wymans, Daytons, Sterns, Wests, Elliotts, Lovells and Campbells. Two pages were taken up with 19 pioneer stories of olden days. Another 18 items were included under the heading “Did You Know?” Four additional pages listed the County School Superintendents from 1838-1940; the various teachers in the different Lovell Schools – 1862-1938; and the names of 386 pupils of the schools 1847-1940. The pupil listings were based on what historic records there were that could be found. The student authors hoped that those at the school after them would continue after that left off, but this never happened.
Starting on the back cover and continuing across the front of the book was a hand-drawn map of old Lovell’s Crossing. It began on the west end with Deacon David West’s slave wagon, and ended near the Wyman Farm on the east and the Waterman-Well’s stage line, the original plank nature of the road itself, a saw mill and brick yard. The locations of the one-room schools and churches, and the whereabouts of a Native American encampment all appeared on the map. Within the book meanwhile was another map locating the farmsteads themselves – some 30 all together.
When I researched the Lovell Crossing area for Volume II of my book A Journey Through DeKalb County, I met at the Stearns Farm with Donald Stearns, then in his 70’s (now deceased), one of the student authors of Lovell Crossing, and a group of other longtime/former residents of the area. The men were full of stories and the days of their youth.
At the end of the book was a page thanking individuals and families who assisted the students with their research. In it was mentioned a museum of artifacts that had been assembled, the whereabouts of which are today unknown. The last page of A Journey through DeKalb County includes an extremely rare photograph of the historic pavement along Old State Road when it literally was just a plank road. This has been preserved by members of the Elliott family, residents of Lovell Crossing since 1830.
Another keepsake in the Elliott’s possession is the original publishers bill for the Lovell Crossing book—$103.75 for 200 copies. Of these, 135 were to be sold, and 65 given away. What they sold for originally would be interesting to know. They only cost about 52 cents each to print. I have never seen one sold at auction, or at an antique shop or used book store. Since only 200 were ever printed, they doubtless are to be considered RARE!