The distinctive limestone house that sits on the west bank of the Rock River is best known today for being a part of the Burpee Museum of Natural History.  The museum is a gem itself and is a must see for visitors and locals alike.

Sometimes while digging through old newspapers stories I come across strange little tidbits of history that surprise even me.  This is one such story.

It takes place in the small village of Cherry Valley.  Cherry Valley was first settled in 1835 and named Grigg’s Mill after settler Joseph Grigg built a mill on the Kishwaukee River.

The third ward of Rockford was a bustling place in 1885.  People came and went at all hours of the night and day.  Things changed for the folks of the ward during the fall of 1885.  Incidents began to occur which had people so frightened they were reluctant to leave their homes after dark.

There is a saying that life can change in an instant.  This story is definite proof of that.  In 1972, Charles J. Williams must have felt that he was a lucky man.  Just 28-years-old, he was married to a lovely woman named Mary and had two children; Suzanne Marie, who was 2-and-a-half years old, and Jeffrey Allen, who was just 6 months old.

At first no one paid much attention to the loud voices coming from the apartment on the southwest side of Rockford on February 3, 1929.  The young couple who lived in the upstairs of the house on Wall Street fought quite frequently.

It seems that many people in Rockford knew of Elisha Dunn.  But they differed in their opinions about him.  Some saw him as a healer, a medical doctor who saved lives.  Others labeled him an eccentric man who once thought himself a psychic.  Many others, less kind, called him a fraud, swindler, and a liar.

George Laurs was a 24-year-old immigrant who like many men in 1913, came to Rockford to look for employment.  He considered himself very lucky when he was hired by the Cyclone Blow Company from Chicago to assist in the installation of a giant blow pipe on the third floor of a furniture factory.

The sounds of long-forgotten music are heard in the halls of a home on Rockford’s west side.  The house was built on the Rock River in 1893 by W.F. Barnes for his family.

The music has been heard by several employees of the Burpee Natural History Museum who now owns the building

This tragic story played out right on the streets of Rockford.  It was March 24, 1922 and spring was just beginning to take hold.

Mrs. May Sorter and her son, Theodore, were being escorted by Amos Estes.  They were making their way home from the Colonial Theater.

Jack Magee was born in Rockford on August 6, 1916.  He was one of six children born to Harry and Ethel Magee.  They lived on Chicago Avenue before relocating to Belvidere around 1929.

Jack married Lucia Burton in 1937.  They had a son that they named Charles after her father.  Jack got a job driving a truck for the Harry Perkins Transfer Company.

Everyone who knew Randall Blank described him in the same way; happy, caring and completely dedicated to becoming a Rockford police officer.  Randall worked hard to make his dream come true.   He graduated from Jefferson High School and went to Rock Valley College.

There are no records left to tell how the young couple met.  But one thing was abundantly clear, Leo Carlson loved Celia.  They were young when they married in 1908.  Later, Leo’s friends would say that he would speak often of his young wife’s beauty.



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