The Witch Of McGregor Road

Originally Published in The Rock River Times

Amberwood

This story has been around for years, some people say it started circulating in the 1980s while others put the origin even further back.  Over the years the story changed until there were several different versions.

One story claimed that there was an old witch named Beulah that lived in a house in some secluded woods on McGregor Road.  She was allegedly responsible for abducting children to use in her satanic practices.  Instead of deterring teenagers from going to the woman’s house, this story had the opposite effect.

Another version claimed that this woman had been a teacher in a one room schoolhouse located on McGregor Road.  While Beulah was teaching one day, the building caught fire and two of her students died.  Beulah was so devastated by the fire she purchased the school and turned it into her home.  The parents of the children she taught held her responsible for the deaths and ostracized Beulah.  The guilt she felt and the treatment by the locals pushed her over the edge into insanity.  She was seen wandering the woods around her house, calling to the children that were lost in the fire.  Beulah was sometimes accompanied by her two large German Shepherds, one white and one black.

No matter the version heard, the stories always caused the same reaction and gave locals a reason to drive by Beulah’s house at all hours of the night and day.  These visitors would throw items into her yard and beep their horns in an attempt to get a glimpse of the witch.

Researching stories like these for anything factual is always challenging and this story is no different.  There are no newspaper articles for the time period (Beulah was supposedly alive into the 1980s) claiming that anyone named Beulah was a witch.

There was an article, however, about two men who were arrested for harassing a retired school teacher who lived on McGregor and Weldon Roads.  The 1973 article listed the elderly woman’s name as Marie Buskie and further research confirmed this as the identity of the woman who lived on McGregor road.

Marie Buskie was born on May 7, 1907 to parents Richard and Augusta Buskie.  There would be two boys and three girls born into the family.  Marie was active in several clubs in high school and participated on the swim team.  She showed interest in working with children as a teacher very early.  The family was very involved in the Calvary Lutheran Church and Marie, like her sisters, would teach Sunday school there.

Marie and her sisters also appeared to be quite daring.  In a newspaper article dated 1925, Marie and her sister, Lulu were attending college courses in DeKalb when the girls and their roommates decided to walk home to Rockford.  The roommates gave up after only a few miles but the girls made it all the way to Rockford.  They accepted a few rides from “kind motorists” but the girls estimated they walked over 22 miles.  It took them five and a half hours to get home. The sisters decided to take the train back down to school, claiming that they had already obtained a good deal of their gym credits for the year.

Marie taught in several Rockford schools after obtaining her degree, including Highland and Kishwaukee schools.  She also continued her work with children through her church and during summers at supervised playgrounds.

Unlike her siblings, who all married, Marie lived with her parents on Prairie Road until their deaths.  Her mother died in 1949 and her father in 1958.  Sometime in the early 1960s, she moved into the house on McGregor Road.  Though Marie dedicated her life to children, she never had any of her own.

Marie was 78 years old when she died on March 31, 1986 in Amberwood Care Center on Rockton Avenue.

The legend of “Beulah the Witch” will, no doubt continue.  The real mystery might just be why this elderly woman, who spent her life caring for children, would become the target of such maliciousness in the first place and why this story would continue for decades.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

POW Camps Final Stop For Many

Originally published in The Rock River Times

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The Camp Sumter Military Prison at Andersonville, Georgia was of one of the biggest Confederate prisoners of war camps during the Civil War.  It operated for 14 months and 45,000 Union prisoners passed through the gates even though the camp was designed for 10,000 men.  Lack of food and clean water, no shelter from the elements and no medical care for the wounded left the men susceptible to disease.  13,000 of the men would die in the camp.  151 years have passed since the closing of the camp and today we know the horror stories of the survivors.

Horatio Foote’s family moved to Rockford the first time in 1838 and his father, Hiram, a Congregational Minister preached the first official sermon in town.  The family moved to Wisconsin and it was in Racine in 1843 that Horatio was born.  In 1862, Horatio enlisted in the 1st Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment Company B and went to Missouri for training.

The regiment would be involved in fierce fighting including the Battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863.  In May of 1864, the men of the 1st Wisconsin were involved with the Battle of Varnell’s Station in Georgia.  General Joseph Wheeler’s 900 Confederates fought against Brigadier General Edward McCook’s 5,000 Federals.  Only 10 Confederate men lost their lives while 150 Federals were killed.  Wheeler’s men also captured 100 Union soldiers that day and Horatio Foote was one of them.

Horatio and the other men were sent first to Andersonville and in September of 1864 they were moved to The Florence Stockade in Florence, South Carolina.  During 1864, General Sherman was leaving a trail of devastation during the Atlanta Campaign and Camp Sumter (Andersonville) was right in the path.  The decision was made to close the camp and scatter the prisoners to other existing camps.  The Confederates also decided to build a new camp and chose Florence, South Carolina for the location because of the three railroads that traveled through the city.

Men were being moved into the Florence Stockade before it was even completed.  The ones who were too ill to be moved from Andersonville were left behind.  The men who were transferred were kept under control by the Confederates telling them that they had been paroled and would be allowed to return to their homes.  One can only imagine the heartbreaking moment when these soldiers who had suffered so much at Andersonville discovered the truth about their destination.

The Florence Stockade was designed like Andersonville with a creek running through the middle and a trench all around the outside to prevent the men captured from digging escape tunnels. Confederate Major Frederick Warley supervised the 1,000 prisoners of war were used to construct the camp.  The 1,400 foot long rectangle was enclosed with a timber fence.  There was a “deadline” 10 feet from the fence that the guards were told to shoot anyone who passed that line.

The prison opened in September of 1864 and within a month 12,000 men were imprisoned there.  Supplies were so scarce that even the Confederate guards didn’t have enough to eat.  Disease was widespread.  The death rate was 20-30 men per day.  One Union soldier who survived both, John McElroy, wrote, “I think also that all who experienced confinement in the two places are united in pronouncing Florence to be, on the whole, much the worse place and more fatal to life.”  Part of the reason that Florence proved so deadly was the weakened state that the prisoners arrived in from their time in Andersonville.

The camp closed in February of 1865.  Horatio did not survive the camp and his body, like many others, was buried in a mass grave with no real identification possible.  The area is now a national cemetery.  Horatio’s family wanted him to be remembered and listed his information on a memorial marker with his other family members at Cedar Bluff Cemetery.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Cedar Bluff Cemetery Holds Much Rockford history

Originally published in The Rock River Times

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Cedar Bluff Cemetery is located on the city’s east side at the intersection of Longwood and Rural Streets. It is one of Rockford’s oldest cemeteries, established in February of 1847.

Formerly known as the East Side Cemetery, it was renamed Cedar Bluff at the suggestion of Dr. Josiah Goodhue. This is the same Dr. Goodhue plays a part in the story of Big Thunder’s curse.

Cedar Bluff is tree lined and while the tombstones are not as ornate as those found in Greenwood Cemetery, the people here have just as rich histories.  Some of Rockford’s founding families were laid to rest here.  Isaac Wilson, one of Rockford’s first African-American businessmen, is buried there.  The Spafford family is interred there, including Carrie Spafford Brett who was engaged to Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union Officer killed in the Civil War.  Some claim that she can still be seen here, dressed in her black mourning clothing, sobbing over the graves of her family.

Emma Jones and her husband Frank have their graves here.  Frank owned a transportation company and Emma kept house in their very unique home on First Street.  The story of Emma and her sad decline is one of Rockford’s most enduring ghost stories.

There are soldiers here including George Whitmore, a veteran from the Spanish-American War and Azor Goodwin who lived through the Civil War and returned to Rockford to serve the community as a doctor.  Grant Damon and Alexander Folz, two young soldiers killed in World War I are also here along with countless others.

There are also more infamous people buried in Cedar Bluff.  For instance, Jacob Maher, who lured his estranged girlfriend, 16 year old Mary, out in the middle of a snowstorm, only to shoot her before turning the gun on himself.  Leon Carlson, who also killed the woman he loved as she fixed her hair, was buried here in an unmarked grave.

Others less well known people but still important part of Rockford’s history also were laid to rest here.  14 year old Barbara Hamilton lies in a tomb built by her grieving father, H.H. Hamilton.  There is a legend surrounding this little girl.  It seems she loved horses and when her beloved horse passed away, rumor has it that the family buried it here in this hillside so that it could be close to Barbara.  Psychics visiting the area in Cedar Bluff have been confused and startled to see a horse running through the cemetery.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Samuel Rotolo: Killed In The Line Of duty

Originally published in The Rock River Times

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Sam Rotolo probably never knew what hit him.  Sam was standing on the road with a flash light to warn people about an accident just as he had countless times before.  Sam worked as a Deputy Sheriff for two years and was assigned to the traffic division.  The newspapers are filled with the cases he investigated from 1935 and 1936.

Sam was a busy guy.  He had been married for five years and had a small daughter.  Sam also served as the Democratic Senatorial Committeeman for the tenth senatorial district.  He was popular with the people of Rockford.  Many remembered him from when he played football for the E-Rabs in 1926 and 1927.  He earned respect from people from all different walks of life and was known for treating people fairly and courteously.

September 27, 1936 was a special day for Sam and his family.  He and his wife celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary.  Sam was only 26 years old and must have felt that the future looked pretty good.  He couldn’t know as he headed into work that evening that he only had a few hours to live.

Sam and his fellow Deputy Lee Conley were called to the scene of an accident at North Second Street and Highway 173.  They were working to direct traffic around the wreck and assisting the wrecker driver to remove the car.  Owen Bassett was the tow truck driver and had just hooked the damaged car to the wrecker while Lee and Sam were waving large red flashlights to warn oncoming drivers.  They were assisted by Elmer Wilkins who also held a large warning lantern and was waving it back and forth about 200 feet from the crash.  Later, Bassett would testify that they were trying to hurry because it was close to midnight and the roads were slick from the rain.  The rain had stopped but there was a fine mist falling as they worked.

Bassett was standing next to Sam at the back of the car when he heard Wilkins shout.  Bassett would state that he was lifted up in air and thrown into the nearby ditch.  He got up quickly and looked for Sam.  Bassett found him fifty feet away  from where he last saw him.  Sam was lying on his back, bleeding from his mouth, eyes open and staring.  He still grasped the flashlight in his hand.

Bassett and Wilkins gently lifted Sam into the back of the Sheriff’s car and Conley rushed Sam to the nearest hospital.  The autopsy would show that Sam died of a skull fracture.

Sam’s service was held at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Rotolo on Loomis Street.  Another service was held at St. Anthony’s Church where several thousand people showed to pay their respects to this young man.  There were so many floral tributes sent that only half could be displayed.

The man who drove the car that hit Sam would later be tried for manslaughter.  Kenneth Turrell was traveling from Rockford toward his home in Beloit with his wife and daughter.  Turrell stated that he was only going forty five miles per hour and when he saw the warning light he slowed his speed to twenty five miles per hour.  As Turrell approached the accident, he saw that the car being removed was still in the road and he slammed on his brakes, but the car swerved due to the wet pavement and he couldn’t stop in time.  Wilkins testified that he thought that Turrell’s car was traveling at over fifty miles per hour and he didn’t slow down until the last moment.  Turrell was acquitted of all charges.

The admiration for Sam didn’t stop after his death.  On the first anniversary of his death, Sheriff Paul Johnson, Chief Deputy Carl Palmgren and State Representative Edward Hunter placed a wreath on his grave in recognition of the dedication Sam showed to his department and to this community.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Mrs. Goodliff’s Limb

 

An article written in the Daily Gazette in March of 1886 told the strange story of Goodliff family.  Mrs Goodliff had suffered for some time with pain in her leg.  The pain eventually grew so bad that couple had to make the difficult decision to have Mrs. Goodliff’s leg amputated.  

The operation went well and Mrs. Goodliff was hopeful as she began the long journey to recovery.  It was not very long before she began to suffer from pain all over again.  This pain seemed to be centered in the leg that now was buried in the cemetery.   She endured the pain as her doctors and her family watched helplessly.

Doctor Townsend, the physician who had performed the amputation of Mrs. Goodliff’s leg, consulted with other doctors about the “phantom pain”.  But they had no idea what could alleviate the poor woman’s suffering.  There were times that the pains were so bad that she would scream in pain. She stated that it felt that her leg was still attached and that something was wrapped too tightly causing the leg to throb with pain.

Finally, William’s mother could not stand her daughter-in-laws cries any longer. She convinced Mr. Goodliff that something must be done. They decided that Mr. Goodliff needed to dig up the leg and bring it home to show his wife that the leg had been amputated.

So William, accompanied by a friend, went to the cemetery and unearthed his wife’s leg.  When he found the leg, he unwrapped it and found that the leg actually did contain tight bindings. One wrapping was at the toe area which is exactly where his wife complained of feeling the worst pain.  The other was wrapped tightly just below where the leg had been separated.   WIlliam carefully unwrapped the bindings and removed the stockings to free the leg from anything that might cause any discomfort. He packed up the leg carefully and carried it back to show his wife.  

William was pleased when he returned home to find his wife’s pains were relieved.  The article went on to say that many of the family and friends of the couple were with Mrs. Goodliff at the home while Mr. Goodliff was at the cemetery.  Later, everyone was shocked when they realized that Mrs.Goodliff’s pain receded at exactly the same time as William loosened the bindings on the amputated leg though these incidents occurred many miles apart.

Even the doctors that were attending Mrs. Goodliff stated that they had never seen a case similar to the  young woman’s.  She recovered quickly after this incident and Mr. Goodliff eventually returned the amputated limb to the cemetery where it remained until her death.

Tripp Pioneer Cemetery – Family Histories

Driving the narrow back roads of Winnebago County in search of small cemeteries is like taking a trip back through time.  It doesn’t take much to imagine the way the area appeared one hundred years ago.  

Though some of these cemeteries have been lost to time, Winnebago County has a dedicated group of people who have searched out these obscure graveyards.  They have found the locations, cleaned them up, and rescued the few remaining tombstones.  

The Tripp Pioneer Cemetery is one of these fortunate locations. It lies along Paulson Road (part of which is now known as Paladin Highway) in Harlem township between Harlem Road and Orth Road. Though twenty six to twenty nine names are listed in the records for this cemetery only a few headstones remain.  These have been gathered and placed inside a fence to help protect them.

The land for the cemetery was given by a man named Jonas Tofflemire.  Jonas donated an acre of his farm for the cemetery in 1842 when David Anderson died.  David was an uncle to Jonas’s wife, Sally Sessions.

Jonas and his brother John had a very interesting history even before arriving in Winnebago County in 1839.  Their parents were Henry and Judith Fox (Fuchs) Tofflemire.  Henry fought during the Revolution. He was captured by Native Americans in Kentucky at Ruddle’s Fort and forced to march to Detroit. In 1790, he was given a land grant at Grosse Isle, Canada by King George III for his service to the crown. Henry died prematurely at age of thirty four years old, leaving his wife to raise their two young sons.  

Jonas and John were both born in Canada and came together to Winnebago County.  Jonas purchased 160 acres of farmland in Harlem Township.  John’s history was a little harder to trace.  He was born in 1794 (or 1796 by some records).  He married Mary Stewart and had five children.  John died in 1851 and was buried in the Tripp Cemetery.

Jonas was better known in the township and his records were easier to obtain.  Jonas was born on September 14, 1796.  He was trained as a blacksmith but also worked in carpentry.  In fact, he would build the caskets of some of his neighbors interred at the cemetery.

Jonas was fascinated by astronomy and spent many hours stargazing in his backyard.  He used his artistic skills to construct a model of planets and their orbits. Jonas became so well known for this hobby that several professors visited him on the farm.

Jonas married Sally Sessions, the daughter of Samuel and Sarah Anderson who also moved to Winnebago County.  Jonas and Sally would raise eleven children.  Their house and farm still sit on Paulson Road.

Jonas lost Sally when she died in 1854 but hopefully it brought him comfort to have her laid to rest on the corner of their property next to her parents and their children who had died so young.  Jonas passed away on March 24, 1879.

Sally’s father Samuel came to Winnebago County around the same time as the Tofflemire brothers.  He bought the property next to theirs and began to farm.  Sally’s mother, Jane was blind and when Samuel died in 1872, Sally and Jonas’ son Samuel Findley moved to the Sessions land to farm the land and care for his grandmother.  Samuel married Salome Celia Tripp on March 4, 1850.  Samuel was considered a very progressive farmer who experimented to improve his crops.  Both Salome and Samuel are buried in the small cemetery next to their families.

The tallest head stone in Tripp Cemetery bears the name of Horace Dyer.  Horace was born in 1817 in New York and traveled to Winnebago County in 1836 with his parents James and Susan.  Horace was married to Clarissa Tripp on December 14, 1845.  In 1847, he bought land in Harlem township but felt the tug of adventure in 1848 when the news of the California gold rush spread throughout the land.  He stayed in California for three years before returning to the farm.  Horace and Clarissa had five children.  

Though I’m not sure why the cemetery was eventually named the Tripp Cemetery instead of the Tofflemire Cemetery there are family members of both families buried there.

Noah Tripp came to the area with his wife Sarah (Allen or Allis) in 1846 – at least by some accounts.  One of their daughters Salome would marry Samuel Findley Tofflemire and their son, John C. Tripp married Mary E. Tofflemire, daughter to Jonas and Sally.  Mary died in 1882 and was buried next to her parents. John married a second wife, Clara and they had five children.  They are both buried in Belvidere.arah Tripp passed away and Noah married Mary Herrin on August 14, 1854.  Though there are no records stating where Sarah was buried, both Noah and Mary are interred at Tripp.

There are several children who are buried at Tripp Cemetery that show no other relatives listed. Whether their families moved from the area or were just buried in another location is not known. These are Mary Dailey, daughter of J. and J. Dailey who died in 1861 at the age of one year old. Angus Turner son of C.W. and A.J. Turner  born in 1862 died September 1, 1863; and Florence Turner daughter of C.W. and A.J. Tuner born in 1865 and died September 15, 1868.

These little cemeteries that dot Winnebago county roads are an important link to our county’s beginnings.  Their stories are filled with interesting tidbits of history.  It is an honor to walk in the footsteps of not only the people who have rescued these very important landmarks but also the pioneers who are buried in them.

 

Resources:
The Pioneers of Winnebago and Boone Counties, Illinois who came before 1840. Katherine E. Rowland.  Gateway Press, Inc. 1990.

Tripp Family Cemetery Records at the Rockford Public Library in Local History Room
Online Resources:
Ancestry.com, see Noah Tripp, Jonas Tofflemire, Horace Dyer.

Find a Grave:https://www.findagrave.com, see Tripp Cemetery.

Genealogybank.com.

Winnebago County IL Archives Cemeteries, Tripp Pioneer Cemetery.

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Hononegah Mack: “The Best Woman In The County”

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

“The best woman in Winnebago County died last night.”  These words were spoken after the death of Hononegah Mack in 1847.  She was only 33 years old when she passed from what her husband Stephen told his sisters was “lung fever.”

Hononegah’s early life seems to be a mystery.  According to some sources, she was born in 1808.  Some claim she was a daughter to the chief, making her a Native American princess while others say that she was an orphan being raised by her three uncles.

Whether princess or orphan, Hononegah’s story is filled with adventure and heart break.

15 year old Hononegah, according to one newspaper account from 1929, met Stephen Mack while she accompanied her father (or uncle) to search for a higher hunting ground for her village.  While on this scouting trip they stumbled onto Stephen Mack who was suffering from a high fever and near death.  Hononegah was very skilled in the medicinal plants and was able to nurse the young man back to health before continuing on her journey.  Mack was so touched by her beauty and gentleness that as soon as he was able to travel, he began to search for Hononegah.

Mack found Hononegah living in the area of Grand Detour.  Mack decided to stay and trade with the Potawatomi Tribe that called that area home.  Mack would trade their furs for supplies.  He made frequent trips all the way to Chicago on his pony to sell the furs and replenish the supplies he sold.

The arrangement worked to everyone’s benefit for awhile but the Native Americans wanted Mack to supply them with liquor and firearms.   Mack refused and some of the men decided to kill Mack when he returned from his trip to Chicago.  Hononegah overheard the men’s plans so she bravely sneaked from the camp and met Mack before he could be attacked.  Mack and Hononegah left the area for safer lodging.

One thing that remains clear in all the murky tales of Hononegah’s past is the courage that Hononegah always displayed.  Whether it was protecting Mack from certain death or treating neighbors through their illnesses, she never hesitated to help.

Stephen Mack would eventually become the first white settler in Winnebago County when he opened a trading post and started his own village where the Pecatonica and Rock Rivers converge.  Hononegah continued to utilize her knowledge of medicinal plants and nursed her neighbors.  Everyone who knew her spoke of her gentleness and willingness to help.

Mack eventually built a beautiful home for her and their eleven children (two died when still infants).  Hononegah seemed to enjoy her new home but still held on to her heritage.  She continued to dress in the traditional Native American clothing.

Disaster struck when Hononegah became sick and passed away in 1847.  Mack was completely heartbroken and seemed lost without Hononegah.  He was left with nine children aged from four months to 15 years old.  It might have been desperation that caused him to marry a widow, Mrs. Isabella Daniels.

Though they did not share details, Mack’s friends claimed this marriage was a mistake right from the very beginning.  The tragedy of Honoengah’s death was compounded when one of Stephen’s beloved children, nine year old Henry Clay, died in 1849.  Then the unthinkable happened and Mack died, or as some hinted, was helped on to his death in 1850.  Now orphans, the Mack children were split up and sent to live with different relatives.

Hononegah and Mack’s story is kept alive at the Macktown Living History Education Center at the Macktown Forest Preserve.  Their home still stands as well as the Trading Post that Mack built.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Rathskeller’s Storied Past

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

The Der Rathskeller Restaurant on Auburn Street has been known for its tasty food and unique atmosphere since the 1930’s.  Many people have visited the beautiful Bier Garten since its addition in 2009.  This place is a wonderful combination of Rockford’s German history and the present day quest for good food and drinks at reasonable prices.  What may surprise some people is that it also houses a few “spirits” of the paranormal kind.

The history of Der Rathskeller goes back to the early 1930’s.  Fred Goetz, a Merrill Wisconsin native, came to Rockford when he was drafted in World War I.

Fred was German himself and didn’t want to fight in the European Campaign against his fellow countrymen so he was listed as a conscientious objector and served his time at Camp Grant as a Quartermaster Corps sergeant.  He fell in love here, first with his soon to be wife Irma and then with the city itself.

Fred decided to settle here after the war and worked for a time as a Burroughs Adding Machine Company salesman.  Fred loved the Rockford area but there is one thing he missed about Wisconsin- good sausage.  He searched in vain for the kind of sausage that he had enjoyed as a child but that did not stop the industrious Fred.

Fred decided that if Rockford didn’t have it then he would bring it here.  He ordered the sausage from Milwaukee, first for himself and then, as word spread, for his friends.  The idea took off in a big way and by 1931, Fred was ordering sausage for 800 households!  Fred was a smart man and decided that he would open his own shop.

Fred gave up his job selling adding machines and began to sell meats at his own Sausage Shop on Auburn Street.  He sold other things besides sausage including breads, caviar, and cheeses.  Fred noticed that many people would buy his sandwiches and stand outside to eat them so he decided to expand.  He set up a couple of tables with some chairs for his patrons to enjoy their food. Before long, he had to expand into the basement and with a nod to his German heritage, Der Rathskeller was opened.

Rockford’s population swelled during the World War II years and Fred and Irma’s little place grew with it.  They introduced other foods, including the lyonnaise potatoes that would become one of the signature dishes.  Fred also added imported beers to complete the German experience.

Der Rathskeller passed into other family members’ hands until it was finally sold in 1976 to Betty Giesen, her husband Dick, and her son, Michael DuPre.  They have continued with Fred’s vision, selling their own homemade sausages as well as Usinger brand meats.

Fred loved owning his restaurant and from staff accounts, he is still there making sure that Der Rathskeller continues in good hands.  Staff members have experienced enough odd incidents that make them very aware that Fred is still around.  The wait staff has experienced the sound of foot steps, shadows and many little pranks played by an unseen jokester.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

 

Paranormal Past Pervades Ethnic Heritage Museum

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

Sue Lewandowski is the Board President for the Ethnic Heritage Museum and she has a real passion for Rockford History.   The Ethnic Heritage Museum is filled with “treasures” that represent six different ethnic groups that have called Southwest Rockford home.  It is another gem for people who are interested in Rockford’s history with an added benefit.  The 162 year old building that contains the museum happens to be haunted.

Haunted Rockford hosted its first event at the museum in 2012 and I interviewed Sue about the history of the building and ghostly experiences encountered there.  Sue mentioned the feeling of someone else in the room, shadows that move, and hearing voices.

Haunted Rockford was joined by renowned Paranormal Investigator and Author Dale Kaczmarek from Chicago for the event and he brought ghost hunting equipment along.  Psychics, Sara Bowker and Paul Smith, part of the Haunted Rockford Team, had never been in the building prior to that evening.

Almost immediately, Paul and Sara sensed that the building had been changed. They insisted that there was a flight of stairs to the basement that had been altered.  Sue was astonished when we entered the basement and shined a light through a hole in the cement wall.  The light illuminated a set of stairs that had been covered up.  “I was not aware those were even there,” Sue stated.

Sara and Paul felt drawn into the room where the stairs were.  They started to sense the presence of a small boy.  Kaczmarek brought his digital recorder and a piece of equipment called an Ovilus to the basement.  He and Sara Bowker conducted an EVP Session.  Electronic Voice Phenomena, known as EVP’s, are the recordings of a voice or noise that cannot be heard because of their higher frequencies.    Several of us were present in the basement watching Sara and Dale work.  Sara was talking to the little boy that she and Paul had sensed while Dale was observing the equipment.  The temperature in the basement actually dropped and then a voice came from the Ovilus that said “Mark”.  Dale backed up the digital recorder and played it for all of us to hear.  Right before we heard the electronic voice from the Ovilus saying “Mark” there was a little child’s voice that said, “Come out, Come out”.  Everyone was shocked because we had not heard any voice except Sara asking questions and the Ovilus.  The child’s voice was very clear and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up.  We also realized that the name Mark came through as a response to Sara’s question “What is your name?”

Haunted Rockford has been back to the museum a few times since that night and Paul and Sara have been able to communicate with “Mark” a little more each time.   “It’s like he’s playing Hide and Seek with us,” explains Sara.  At first, the team was afraid “Mark” was trapped in the building after death but after getting more information from him, Paul and Sara are certain that “Mark” lived in the house but did not die there.

There are plenty of other spirits that are still in the house, however.   The staff is still experiencing the noises, voices, and shadows.   I continue to research the many families that have lived in the house over the 162 year history, searching for any child that might have lived in the house named “Mark”.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Donald Brown — Serving His Nation With Honor

Originally published in The Rock River Times.

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” — G.K. Chesterton

Donald Hamilton Brown, an African-American, was born in Jackson, Tennessee, on June 22, 1925, to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Brown. His family moved to Rockford a year later.

Donald was raised in Rockford and seemed to excel at all he attempted. He attended Blake Elementary School and West High School, and was on the track team. Donald was a talented athlete, and is featured in the West High yearbooks for 1940 and 1941 and mentioned in the Rockford paper. He set a record for the high jump and built a reputation for his skills for the hurdles. He graduated in May 1942, and then headed to Wilberforce University in Ohio. He attended college there until he joined the United States Navy in 1944.

Donald served in the Pacific campaign and reached the rank of Yeoman 2nd class. His duties included clerical work. He dealt with mail and telephone calls, handled visitors, organized files, and ordered and distributed supplies. From all accounts, Donald was very efficient at handling his many duties.

In 1945, Donald was in the Marshall Islands in support of the invasions there. The Marshall Islands were ruled by the Japanese during the 1930s and 1940s. It was an important geographical position, and the Japanese built military bases there in the 1930s to fortify their Eastern defenses. The United States invaded the islands in 1944, causing major damage to the bases and the islands themselves. Many Japanese people died because of lack of food and injuries during the time of 1943 to 1945.

While he was stationed on the Marshall Islands, Donald would lose his life. The newspaper articles only said that Donald died by drowning, serving his country on Sept. 23, 1945, when he was 20 years old. Though he died in 1945, Donald’s body was not returned to Rockford until November 1947.

Ten different military organizations met at the Memorial Hall in Rockford to discuss and organize the handling of the returning war dead to ensure they all received full military honors and burials. Harry P. Dannenberg was chosen to represent the organizations as the Winnebago County service officer. Donald was one of the first of the 462 dead war heroes to return home.

Donald Brown’s funeral service was at Allen Chapel, and the Rev. G.I. Holt officiated the services. Military rites were conducted by the members of the Jefferson Horton Post, American Legion Brown Webster Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Navy Club of Rockford. Donald was buried at Greenwood Cemetery.

Donald had two brothers, Richard and Robert, who also served in the war. Robert served in the Pacific, and Richard served in the European campaign. Both of these men returned home after the war and lived their lives here, raising families and making major contributions to the Rockford community.

Donald Brown took pride in representing his school in track meets and serving his country by wearing the uniform of the United States Navy.

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events