John Cooper, Civil War Veteran

John Cooper would be the first to say that he had been blessed by life.  Born in Exeter, New York on May 6, 1844, John came of age just as the Civil War began and he proudly wore the colors of the Union Army during the conflict.  He felt very fortunate to survive the war when so many men had not.

After the war, John traveled west and settled in Rockford in 1869.  He decided to become a barber and opened his own shop.  Business was good and John was soon seen as a successful business man.

John’s personal life also flourished and he was married to a young lady who had the reputation of being one of the prettiest girls in town.  The couple’s happiness was complete when they welcomed a son they named Gale.

John’s father was elderly and when he became unable to care for himself, the couple opened their home to him and John’s wife cared for him while John was at work.  John became involved in many social groups of the day including the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), the Masons, and the Rockford Rifles.  The Rifles were a military group that traveled to different parts of the country to perform for parades and conventions.

In December of 1880, John was returning from a trip with the Rifles to attend a soldiers reunion convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  John had been away from his family for a while and he was quite anxious to get home and see them.

There was a terrible accident when the train John was traveling on collided with another train.  Several men were hurt including John.  He was injured when he struck his head on the side of the train car he was riding in.  John had to leave the train when he began to vomit uncontrollably.  His friends from the Rifles helped him secure lodging in Evansville, Illinois.

They were relieved when John felt better the next morning and they were able to continue the trip home. John’s wife and father were startled to hear of the train wreck but John brushed aside their concerns.  He explained he was just tired and would be fine after a nap.

No one could know that would be the last time they would see John alive.

John was only thirty six years old at the time of his death.  He was so respected that the different organizations he was involved in led a grand procession to Greenwood Cemetery where he was buried. Men representing the GAR, the Masons, and at least twenty barbers from all over the area attended the funeral and procession down East State Street to the cemetery.

The family struggled with the loss of this honorable man.  This tragedy was compounded when less than a week after she stood over the grave of her beloved husband, Mrs. Cooper was back at Greenwood for the burial of her eight-year-old son.  Gale Cooper died of diphtheria shortly after his father’s funeral.  He was buried next to his father close to the Chapel at Greenwood Cemetery.


Copyright © 2016 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Lorenzo Gillogly: The First Rockford Police Office Slain In The Line Of Duty

Originally published in The Rock River Times.


This is the story of the very first Rockford police officer slain in the line of duty. His name is listed as Lorenzo Gillogly in the modern papers, but people back in 1917 knew him as “Jack.”

Jack had been a very dedicated officer for four years. He was a patrolman for the South Main beat. He was described as “pleasant, courteous, and obliging at all times.” He always had a big smile on his face, and was very popular with the men and women who worked in the stores and shops on his “beat.” His superiors were so impressed with him that they offered him a promotion to the plain-clothes division.

Jack was divorced and had two daughters — Nelma, 16 years old, and Lucille, 12 years old. They lived with their mother, Edna, and their grandmother in Freeport, Ill.

Jack’s life was going very well in the fall of 1917. He had just celebrated his 39th birthday, and he had fallen in love again. He and his fiancée, the daughter of D.W. Rogers, the engineer of the steam boat Illinois, had set the date for their wedding; it was to be in the spring of 1918.

Saturday, Oct. 13, 1917, Gillogly had finished his shift and, still in uniform, was walking on South Main Street toward the cottage where he was staying. It was 6:15 p.m. Jack was completely oblivious to the scenario that was playing out just a few streets away.

Earlier on that Saturday, Charles E. Jackson had arrived in Beloit, Wis., on the train from Moline, Ill. He had high hopes that his wife, Florence, would be there to greet him at the train station. He had sent a telegram to her mother’s house in Beloit, telling her of his plans to arrive that afternoon. Jackson stepped down from the train and looked for his wife. As time passed, Jackson realized Florence was not coming and there would be no reconciliation. In that one terrible moment, Jackson made his fateful decision.

Having learned that his wife was working and staying with her sister, Marion, whom Jackson blamed for all of the problems between himself and Florence, he the made his way to Rockford.

He went to the Kraft five-and-dime store, where Florence was working about 3 p.m. Florence refused his pleas to reconcile. Jackson left, but returned around the time Florence left work. He watched as she and her sister left the back entrance of the five-and-dime and hurried up the street. Jackson caught up with them and told Marion to leave them alone. She left as they turned the corner onto South Main Street.

Florence must have been relieved to see South Main Street was so busy. She saw her chance to get away from Jackson when she noticed Patrolman Jack Gillogly coming toward her, and she stepped in front of the officer. She was just about to tell him that she was with her estranged husband and that he had just threatened to kill her.

Florence never had the chance to speak. As soon as she stepped toward the officer, her husband pulled a weapon from his overcoat and fired. The shot missed Florence, but was so close that it went through her hat. Jackson fired two more shots in quick succession, both of them striking Gillogly in the upper chest. He fell to the ground. Florence fell over him and cradled his head, turning her back toward her husband. Jackson must have thought he had struck both the officer and his wife. He raised the gun to his own temple, and pulled the trigger.

When Florence saw him fall, she got up and walked away. Gillogly was transported to Rockford Hospital, where he later died.

The police had no clue about what had happened on that busy street until around 10 p.m. that night when they finally found Florence in the rooming house where she lived.

Gillogly didn’t know the man who shot him, nor did he know the reason why. But those who knew him back in 1917 said it wouldn’t have mattered; Jack would have still tried to help Florence — he always did what needed to be done.


Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Dr. Josiah C. Goodhue And The Curse Of Big Thunder

Originally published in The Rock River Times.


Northern Illinois was once inhabited by the Native American tribe known as the Potawatomi. The major chief for this area was Chief Big Thunder, supposedly named this for the sound of his thundering voice. Before he passed away, he requested to be placed facing the West. Big Thunder foretold of a great battle between his tribe and another. He told his people that when the time came for this battle, he would come back and lead them to victory. Big Thunder died sometime around 1800, and his people placed him on a bench on the highest spot around and surrounded his body with a fence. Though the battle he foresaw never happened, and Big Thunder never rose from the dead, his people continued to honor him by placing tobacco in his lap as an offering.


During the early 1800s, Big Thunder’s burial place was on the main stagecoach trail between Chicago and Galena, and his grave and body soon fell victim to relic hunters. These white men took the chief’s bones and placed them on display in their homes or businesses. The people of the area considered Big Thunder a tourist attraction of sorts, and when actual relics became scarce, started using pig bones instead of Big Thunder’s bones in their displays. Big Thunder’s skull was supposedly taken by Dr. Josiah Goodhue, and is rumored to have ended up in the Rush Medical College and then lost during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Dr. Goodhue was well known in Rockford. Josiah was born in Putney, Vt., in 1803, and moved his family here from Chicago in 1838. He graduated from the Yale School of Medicine and then started a practice in St. Thomas in upper Canada. It was here that he met his wife Catherine Dunn. They had 13 children, five of whom died before reaching the age of 5 years old.

Dr. Josiah Goodhue had many achievements to his name by the time he reached Rockford; he was instrumental in organizing the Rush Medical College and served on the first board of trustees. He also designed the first city seal for Chicago.

The townspeople of Rockford claimed that Dr. Josiah Goodhue was “one of the most eccentric people that this town had ever known.” He is still remembered today for his work as a doctor and for changing the name of the city to “Rockford” from “Midway,” as it was previously known.

Unfortunately, Josiah is best known for his demise, which was said to be the result of a curse by Big Thunder’s tribe. The Potawatomis heard of the desecration of their beloved chief’s final resting place and swore revenge against anyone who had taken his bones, especially the man who had stolen his skull.

Dec. 31, 1847, Josiah, then just 44 years old, was attending to a patient at the house of Richard Styles about 4 miles west of the city on “State Road.” When he was finished treating his patient, he decided to walk a neighbor woman, Mrs. Stoughton, to her house. It was dark, and though he was warned by Mrs. Stoughton about the danger, Josiah fell head-first into a freshly dug well. He died shortly after his rescue.

The stories of the curse of Big Thunder escalated after Josiah’s death. Many insisted that Big Thunder had finally received his revenge. The City of Belvidere honored Chief Big Thunder by placing a rock with a plaque at his final resting place, in front of the courthouse.

One other thing that Josiah left the city of Rockford was the cemetery that he fondly named “Cedar Bend,” which later became “Cedar Bluff Cemetery.” He was buried there on the top of a small hill.


Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events


December 1965 Holiday Skydiving Promotion Ends In Tragedy

Originally published in The Rock River Times.


The holiday season is always filled with excitement and anticipation. Stores of all types feature sales and gimmicks, always competing for the most eye-catching, dramatic way to entice shoppers inside. But sometimes these promotions do not work out as planned.

In December 1965, North Towne Shopping Center was hosting what they hoped would be a memorable holiday program. As families gathered to await Santa’s arrival, Santa and his “helper” would parachute down into the parking lot to the delight of those waiting.

The parachutists for that day were Bill Fleming, 29, starring in the role of Santa, and his “helper,” 40-year-old Cornelius “Connie” O’Rourke. They would jump from the plane at about 3,000 feet. To help make it easier for the watchers to spot the pair as they descended, O’Rourke had been equipped with smoke bombs on his legs. The pilot was 23-year-old Rick Friend.

O’Rourke was an experienced parachutist with a history of almost 1,000 jumps. He also was a parachute instructor and an operator of a parachute loft licensed by the Milwaukee FAA District. “Connie,” as his friends called him, had met the federal qualifications to repair and pack parachutes.

The festivities were supposed to start with O’Rourke, dressed as an elf, jumping first with the bombs smoking, and then Fleming, dressed as Santa, to follow.

According to his statement later, Fleming said that Connie jumped and deployed his parachute. It became tangled in the apparatus for the smoke bombs attached to his leg. Connie struggled to free the cord as he fell about 1,000 feet.

After he couldn’t free the first parachute, Connie deployed his emergency chute. Unfortunately, the emergency parachute became entangled in the cord from the first chute, and both of the chutes streamed uselessly above Connie as he fell.

Most of the people in the crowd were not aware of what was actually taking place right before their eyes. The announcer that day told them the first parachutist was actually a dummy. But there were some who knew the truth. Bill Fleming knew that Connie was in trouble, and he bravely jumped from the plane. Both Bill and Connie’s wives were in the crowd, no doubt horrified by the events unfolding.

O’Rourke fell at the speed of 100 miles per hour. Though nothing good can be said about these events, at least O’Rourke did not come down where it was originally intended, the middle of the parking lot. He landed in the back yard of Dr. C.B. McIntosh. Thankfully, the McIntosh family was not home that day.

Connie’s body hit an oak tree first, but that did little to slow his descent. His body left a 1-foot crater in the yard. Witnesses saw O’Rourke hit the ground and knew there was no hope for survival. Police came and took Connie’s body to Rockford Memorial Hospital to await the arrival of his wife and friends.

Bill Fleming’s jump was completed without injury, and he was rushed to the hospital to be with Connie’s wife.

Federal inspectors went over the parachute in an attempt to find the cause of the horrible accident. It was likely that O’Rourke had packed his own chute, and the inspectors found nothing to indicate there was any malfunction — a fact that no doubt brought little comfort to his family and friends. Connie was survived by his wife and two little girls.

A fictional version of this story authored by local historian and teacher Ernie Fuhr is included in the bookSecret Rockford, released earlier this year. Secret Rockford contains stories about Rockford written by a variety of authors and edited by Michael Kleen.


Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events



Alexander Folz

Originally published in The Rock River Times.


Alexander Folz was not from Rockford. In fact, he was not even from the United States. He was born Nov. 10, 1886, in a very oppressed part of Russia. He arrived in Rockford in 1914, and found employment with the Rockford Tool Company. Alexander was well liked and made a large number of friends among his co-workers.

Alexander married his wife, Anna, Aug. 13, 1917, and the couple settled in a little house at 1019 Rural St., Rockford.

Folz enlisted in the Army Feb. 9, 1918, and was sent to Camp Funston in Kansas. He sailed to France on the U.S.S. Berima in June 1918 with the 354 Infantry — 89thDivision. His wife expected him home in time for Christmas. Instead, she received one of those dreaded telegrams that so many wives and mothers received during World War I and World War II.

The first telegram just contained the sad news that Alexander was dead. A month later, the full details were released, and Mrs. Folz realized exactly how her husband died. He received his fatal wounds in a “daring and courageous act that saved many lives.”

Alexander’s unit was ordered to attack a “machine gun nest” near Remonville, France. During the attempt, they were pinned down under the fire from the machine gun. When Corporal Alexander saw that the automatic rifleman had been wounded, he bravely grabbed the weapon and began firing as he moved toward the location of the machine gun. He single-handedly took out the machine gunner. This saved the men in his unit, and allowed them to advance. They took the German survivors prisoner and also confiscated the gun. Unfortunately, it was during the advance that Alexander was mortally wounded. He would die just a few minutes after his successful attack.

The United States Army cited Alexander for bravery. This made him the third man to be recognized for bravery from Winnebago County during World War I. The newspapers of the day told of Alexander’s heroic act. They said that “he may have been born in Russia but he was American in spirit.” The United States issued Alexander the Distinguished Service Cross. A lot of men died during the advance, and there are many stories of courageous acts by the men of the 89th. President Woodrow Wilson commended them after this battle, saying: “Everybody at home is proud of you. You knew what was expected and you did it.”

Alexander Folz , like many women and men, both native born and immigrant, fought for the freedom of this country. Even though he was not born here, he did not hesitate to pick up that gun and run toward the entrenched enemy line in what he must have known was a suicidal advance.


In a very tragic twist of fate, Alexander’s mother and four siblings, who remained in Volga, Russia, when he left, were supposed to get his back pay and war risk insurance. Gov. James B. Goodrich of Indiana was visiting the area in Russia on a famine relief mission. A woman clutching papers came up to his party. She explained through an interpreter that she had received the papers but could not read them. The interpreter read them to the lady, who turned out to be Alexander Folz’s mother, and Goodrich. The papers told the mother of Alexander’s death and his request that his family receive the $12,000 for the insurance and back pay. The governor promised to help the family get the money and worked on the arrangements when he got back to the United States. He feared that the Russian government would confiscate the money. So, Goodrich was arranging for the family to move to Nebraska to be with Mrs. Folz’s sister. Unfortunately, when he returned to Volga, he learned that the entire family had died of starvation. The last newspaper article mentioned that Goodrich was attempting to bring the remaining grandchildren to America. Goodrich succeeded in bringing corn to the starving area, and helped saved many lives. There is no further mention of Goodrich’s endeavor to bring the Folz family to America.


Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

A Haunted House In Rockford Center

Originally published in The Rock River Times.


In an article from the Morning Star of Oct. 30, 1898, the paper mentions that true ghost stories are a novelty, and most ghostly claims can be explained by “natural causes.”

The article then goes on to tell of two stories that cannot be so easily explained away. The first story describes a haunting in one of the first houses “to be erected in the city.” Unfortunately, the story does not give the address, stating only that it is located in a “lonely corner by the fairgrounds.” An 1880s map places the fairgrounds at the end of Peach Street (modern-day Jefferson Street), a block west of Horsman Street on Kilburn Avenue. The house was “remote from the street and is surrounded by trees.”

There are no indications that anyone in the 1890s knew of any stories from the history of that house that would suggest that it was haunted. No one knew of any violent deaths or other reasons that it would be “inhabited by ghostly beings.”

But then, a new family moved into the house, and the mother was a sensible woman who was practical and not given over to flights of fancy. But when she moved into this house, everything changed. The woman found herself constantly anxious and would often stand at the window or the door as if she were expecting someone, but she didn’t know who. She had trouble eating and sleeping, and eventually wasted away to a mere “shadow of her former self.”

One moonlit night, she was waiting for her husband to come home when she heard his footsteps on the walk outside of the house. The footsteps continued up to the door, which she heard open and close, and then more footsteps as her husband came up the hall. The woman rose to meet him in the hallway, but when she stepped through the doorway, no one was visible. The wife shared her story with her husband when he finally did return. Fearing for his wife’s sanity, he moved his family from the house.

Not long afterward, another family moved in, and shortly afterward, moved right back out. This continued to happen until the stories spread and no one dared move in to the house in the woods. It was abandoned and fell into ruin.

The Morning Star article then told of another house on “one of the principal roads leading from the city” that is visited by spirits. This house had a cellar, and the writer of the article suggests it was in the cellar that the troubles started. The cellar was small, with only one entrance and two small vents in the stonework. The people who lived in the house would tell stories of an alarming, loud pounding on the cellar side of the door. But when they opened the door, there would be no one on the other side.

The spirit was not limited to that cellar, however. The phantom knocker also appeared to them in their upstairs bedrooms. Sometimes he would be just a faint outline, other times his features would be clear, and they would find him grinning at them from the side of their beds when they awoke. He caused no harm beyond scaring the family, and they actually became quite fond of the “practical joker” who shared their home. In fact, they stated they would miss him if he were to leave.

The author put this down to the fact they were “hard headed tillers of the soil.”

He also declared that there was no doubt a natural reason for these experiences, though no one had yet “solved the question of what makes the ghost walk.”


Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events