William Lyman

Dr. William Lyman had a medical practice on the West Side of Rockford since 1852 and had treated all the “old timers.”  He was into local and state politics and was always asked to give speeches for any of the celebrations in town. William Senior also represented Winnebago County in 1854-5 in the legislature of Illinois.

William married his wife Julia back in Massachusetts. They had a rather large family, even for the 1850’s. The family consisted of five boys and a girl spanning the ages of eighteen to three years old by 1860.  One son, William, or Willie, as the family called him, was the second child born to William and Julia Lyman.

William and Julia brought the four boys born in Massachusetts to Rockford around 1850 and then little Harry and Lois were born after they arrived here. William was named after his father and seemed to be the kind of son that would have made any father proud. When the country went to war in 1861, William Senior and his oldest son, Daniel joined the Army. William Senior was chosen as an Army Surgeon and served in General Grant’s division.

Willie joined the service in 1862. He was only seventeen years old at the time of his enlistment into Company G 45th Illinois Infantry. On January 5, 1864, he was promoted to Hospital Steward. According to the Hospital Steward’s Manual (1862), “The steward was chosen from the ranks or from outside the unit in civilian life. He had to be age 18 to 35 and was appointed that title by the Secretary of War. He had to be either an enlisted soldier or a noncommissioned officer, and was promoted to a rank just above first sergeant.” They also dispensed medicines, applied bandages and dressings, and could apply “cups and leeches.” As a Hospital Steward, William was the general supervisor of the hospital. This included supervising the heating and ventilation for the building and ensuring the food was properly handled and cooked. This was quite an honor for one so young.

After his Army service, Willie’s family breathed a sigh of relief when he returned home safe and sound. He rejoined his volunteer duties by continuing his involvement with the International Order of the Guards Templar. This was a fraternal organization structured much like the Freemasons that promoted temperance, peace, and brotherhood. Willie, though only twenty-three, was highly respected in the community.

The family was shocked when Dr. William passed away unexpectedly on December 23, 1865. He had devoted his life to helping the Rockford community and his funeral procession reflected his popularity. After William’s death, the family struggled on and Julia did her best to hold the family together.

On August 22, 1867, Willie was at the family home, far away from the dangers he had faced on the battlefields of the Civil War. That day, he and two of his brothers were preparing for a hunting trip. One of the young men was in the doorway of the office, about fifteen feet from Willie. He was working on a gun and had the muzzle of the gun pointed back into the room. Somehow, the gun accidently discharged twice, hitting Willie in the chin and throat.

Some of the best medical doctors in Rockford, many of them friends of Willie’s father, rushed to the Lyman home. Despite their best attempts, there was nothing to be done. The autopsy would show that the two shots had ripped into the back of his throat then headed in opposite directions, one heading into the voice box and the other damaging the back of the throat. Willie did not die quickly. The wounds swelled, causing his airway to close. Willie struggled to breathe for two agonizing hours before he succumbed to the injuries and died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie’s funeral was conducted under Post 124 Grand Army of the Republic.  His funeral was attended by many people both at the home and at Greenwood Cemetery. The newspapers used the story of Willie’s death to stress gun safety, especially to the young men of the town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Hegeler Carus Mansion

I am always on the lookout for interesting places to visit.  Sometimes, I hear about places and other times, it is quite a mystery how I stumble upon the most amazing places.  That is exactly what happened to me a couple of springs ago when I was lucky enough to stumble onto the Hegeler – Carus Mansion in LaSalle, Illinois.

Many of you know that I work at the library as my day job and sometimes I’m lucky enough to travel to distant places and confer with great library minds.  It was on one of these excursions that I came across this mansion.  I was leaving the library in LaSalle, (another great place to visit by the way) when I spied a blue roof with an interesting window over the tops of the trees and the roofs of the other buildings.  Well, of course I had to find out what it was, so I drove around until I finally came upon this glorious location!

Construction on this magnificent building was started in 1874 by the Hegeler family.  They commissioned W.W. Boyington to design it.  Boyington was an acclaimed architect from Chicago who had also designed Chicago’s famous Water Tower.  The mansion contains seven levels, with 57 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, and 10 fireplaces.  It even includes an indoor gymnasium!

Edward Hegeler and Camilla Weisbach Hegeler met when Edward was a student of Camilla’s father, Julius Wesibach. Edward was enrolled at the Bergakademie (School of Mines) in Freiberg, Germany where he took mining engineering and surveying classes.  Edward and Camilla fell in love, but Edward was soon to leave for America.  Edward promised Camilla that he would come back for her when he had made a start on a good life for them and their future. He left for America in 1856.

Edward was 21 years old when he left Germany.  He traveled with a classmate of his, F. W. Mathiessen.  They decided to head west toward Illinois because of the coal and zinc ore mines, which would be perfect for their zinc smelting business.  Their company, Mathiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company would eventually become a major provider of zinc.  Zinc was in heavy demand at this time because it was used in the production of armaments during the Civil War.

Edward followed through with his promise and returned to marry Camilla in 1860.  He wrote to her in January 1860 to announce his return and wrote his famous quote, “One is on the earth to enjoy life, which matter should not be put off too long – it might get too late.”

The couple were married in April of 1860 and returned to LaSalle, Illinois in July of 1860.     Their marriage was by all accounts a happy one and produced 10 children, eight of them being raised in the mansion.  All of the Hegeler offspring were successful but their oldest child, Mary would be the one to follow in her father’s footsteps. She was a remarkable, bright inquisitive child who assisted her father at the smelting plant. Mary would be the first woman to graduate in engineering from the University of Michigan.  This was, of course, very unusual for the time period.  She was also the first woman to study at her father’s alma mater, the School of Mines in Freiberg, Germany.

Mary would eventually inherit the mansion, and with her husband, Paul Carus, would raise her own 6 children in the home in LaSalle. Their youngest child Alwin, (born in 1901) would live in the home until he died in 2004.

 

 

 

Besides Zinc smelting, Edward Hegeler was also interested in publishing and started his own publishing company, Open Court in 1887. Its mission was to provide a place for the discussion of philosophy with an emphasis on the relationship between science and religion.  Edward hired Paul Carus to work for him and then Carus fell in love with Mary.

Paul Carus would go on to write many books and articles, including “The Gospel of Buddha According to Old Records.”  One of the interesting items in the mansion is a very beautiful Buddhist altar. The publishing company would be known for the children’s magazines “Cricket” and “Spider”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mansion is a wonderful place that stands as a testimony to this family who came searching for their American Dream. The mansion is being renovated and they offer tours on Sunday afternoons. The address 1307 Seventh Street, LaSalle, Illinois and the phone number is 815-224-6543.

The staff is very knowledgeable about the family but even though they won’t discuss the subject of ghosts at all… there is definitely a feeling you get when you step through the doors into some of the rooms.  There is a very cute little gift shop in the basement.

For more information visit their website at :  http://hegelercarusmansion.blogspot.com/

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

The Wood River Massacre

History fascinates me and I try to visit historical places wherever I go.  I was recently asked to speak at Troy Taylor’s Dead Of Winter Festival in Decatur, Illinois and used the opportunity to travel to the Mississippi River town of Alton, Illinois.  Troy Taylor has written a book about this historic (and haunted) little town and I was interested in visiting there.

I heard the story of the Wood River Massacre at the restaurant we chose for dinner, Castelli’s.  The article I read on the history of the restaurant said that it was near the location of the Wood River Massacre Monument.  I found the monument on the way back to the hotel and did some internet research that evening to find out more about the story.

The Wood River Massacre took place in 1814 when the area around Alton was being settled by pioneers and still inhabited by Native Americans.  There were about eight families that settled the area in sites nears the forks of Wood River.  The area had seen a lot of fighting between the settlers and the Native Americans during the years of 1812 and 1813 but nothing recent had taken place.  There were local forts and block houses that were used as protection for the families but most had returned to their farms by the summer of 1814.

The men in these Alton families were Rangers that worked for the local forts.  These men patrolled the areas surrounding Wood River and other small villages to ensure the safety of the families.  Three brothers and their families lived in the area.  George, William, and Abel Moore had all moved to the Wood River and all three served as Rangers.  George Moore had a block house on his property that the women and children would flee to if the need arose.

July 10, 1814 was a Sunday and Reason Reagan,  who lived near the Moore’s farm, left his wife Rachel and their two children at Abel’s house to visit while he rode the three miles to attend church.  At around 4:00 in the afternoon Rachel decided to return to her home and started to walk the one mile distance.  She was accompanied by her two children, Elizabeth, 7 years old, and Timothy, 3 years old, and by two of Abel’s children, William, 10 years old and Joel, 8 years old.  Two of William Moore’s children also went with her, John, 10 years old and George who was only three.  Mrs. Abel Moore’s sister, Hannah Bates started to walk with them, but a short way down the road, she decided to turn back though Rachel pleaded with her to walk the rest of the way.

William Moore returned later that day from his Ranger duties at Fort Butler to keep the woman and children protected while the other men from the area finished their patrols.  Both William and his wife became concerned when Rachel and the children had not returned by the time night fell.  They decided to look for the children and took different paths so they did not miss them.  Mrs. Moore rode her horse on the road and William walked the path through the woods.

They both stumbled on the bodies of Rachel and the children and rushed home to get assistance and to spread the word of the attack.  Some of the local boys were sent to tell Abel Moore, who was the Captain of Fort Russell, and others were sent to Fort Butler to bring more men while the rest of the families huddled together for safety.  They must have been terrified as they moved their families through the woods to the place of shelter.  It was morning before the bodies of the dead could be recovered.

The sight of Rachel and the six children lying by the road side, all stripped of clothing, must have been horrifying.  The bodies all showed signs of being bludgeoned by tomahawk and all seven were scalped.  They were gathered up in a wagon and taken to a nearby churchyard where they were buried in three graves.  There were no men to make the coffins so the families lined the bottom of the holes with sticks and branches and then placed the little bodies gently in the graves before covering them with more wood.

General Whiteside from Fort Butler and a group of nine men pursued the Native American men that killed Rachel and the children.  It was a very hot couple of days during the pursuit and the men and horses suffered from the heat.  They caught up with the warriors near the Sangamon River.  Only one Native American escaped the Rangers.  The Rangers found Rachel’s scalp in a pouch carried by one of the men.

wood river 2 wood river 1

There is a monument to the victims not far from where the massacre took place on Fosterburg Road.  There is another in the Gordon Moore Park on the north side of Highway 140.  Within the park, inside a little metal fence are the graves of Captain Abel Moore and his wife.  Both of the monuments were placed by the Moore Family to honor their lost loved ones.

wood river 3

The victim’s graves can be found inside the peaceful Vaughn Hill Cemetery off Highway 111.  The Cemetery is in the parking lot of the Vaughn’s Hill Church toward the back and cannot be seen from the road.

wood river 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

The Hope And Anchor Pub

The Hope and Anchor English Pub can boast the title of one of “Rockford’s Oldest Restaurants”, especially now that Maria’s is closed.   It is also one of the most haunted, at least according to owner Kreena Robbins.  Kreena and her husband, Ian have been the owners for almost 6 years now and they really embrace the fact that their place is haunted.

The Robbins’ purchased the old “Mayflower Restaurant” that had claims to fame for fine dining since the 1930’s.   Eddie Armstrong owned the restaurant back in the spring of 1936, coming here from Beloit where he ran the clubs “613” and “The Butterfly”.  During Eddie’s time the restaurant was known for the steaks served there, and for its orchestra and dance floor.  Delbert White ran it in the 1940’s and it became very popular with social organizations as a location to host their meetings and business luncheons.

Officially, Anthony Salamone bought the Mayflower from Ted Roell and Bud Flodin in 1968, though according to Kreena, that may not be what really happened.  Flodin and Roell purchased the restaurant in June 1968, and less than six months later, turned it over to Salamone.  Kreena suspects that Tony actually won the restaurant in a card game.

The old Mayflower Restaurant

Food must have been in the Salamone blood.  Tony’s family came from a small village on the outskirts of Venice, Italy.  They moved to Rockford in 1911 and Carl, the father, decided to open up a delicatessen shop in the front of his home on Kent Street.  He sold spaghetti, fresh and dried fruits, and dried meats.  Carl soon wanted to expand and started to sell fresh meat for much cheaper than the other markets in Rockford.  The shop was very popular, and in 1914 the family was able to purchase a store at 1210 South Main Street.  By 1922, they had 5 different markets throughout the city.

The whole family was prosperous and however Tony actually acquired the restaurant, he continued the successful tradition of his family.  But the success of the restaurant itself seemed to end with Tony’s ownership.  In fact, the Mayflower went through so many financial problems people started to say that it might be cursed!  Between the years of 2004 and 2009, the restaurant had seven different owners and a few different names.

Kreena and Ian knew there was something unique about their location almost from the very start.  Almost from the beginning, they heard footsteps going up and down the stairs and then the sound of someone pacing in the office area above the bar.  They stored extra glassware in a basement room, and every day they would find glasses broken on the floor.  Kreena explains, “We don’t keep them down there anymore.”

There are also tales of someone playing tricks on people in the bathrooms.  Sometimes when staff is in the building when no guests are present, they will hear the sound of the faucets turning on.  People who knew Tony Salamone always mention that he loved to play tricks on people.  He also liked women, especially attractive blondes.   According to Haunted Rockford psychics, Paul Smith and Sara Bowker, he still does.

Sometimes, if there is a blonde in the woman’s room, Tony might pull her hair or if she is really lucky, according to Kreena, he might swat her behind.

One thing is sure, whether you come for the unique menu, the great music, or, (if you are really bold), for the ghosts, you are always certain to get more than you expect at the Hope and Anchor English Pub.

Haunted Rockford will be hosting a unique event at the Hope and Anchor on Friday, February 13 at 7:00 p.m..  Kathi Kresol will entertain guests with Twisted Love Stories of Doomed Romance and Kreena will join in with tales of her first hand experiences with the spirits (yes, there are more than one!) that linger at the pub.  The price for this event is $20.00 in advance.   For more information, please visit https://www.hauntedrockford.com/event/twisted-love-at-the-hope-and-anchor-pub/

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Joseph Bush

Joseph Bush was killed in what the May 14, 1926 edition of the Daily Register Gazette newspaper called the “strangest accident” in the annals of the police.   Prohibition was the law of the land from 1920 until 1933 but it was a tough law to enforce.  Bootlegging was a very lucrative business in the big cities and even the small towns. Rockford was no exception.

The area on the West side of the river including South Main Street, Rock Street, and Montague Street seemed to be the center of the illegal activity, but many speakeasies, as the illegal taverns were called, were located throughout the city.

In 1926, the police raided a house at 1418 Rock Street and found a large stockpile of illegal “moonshine”.  The business Joseph worked for, the Floyd E. Pence Transfer Company, was called in to remove the illegal material and equipment.  The truck was called after Deputy Sheriff Paul Johnson and motorcycle Officer Omar Showalter raided the house.

The raid yielded two of the largest stills ever confiscated in Rockford, plus 47 barrels of mash, 35 gallons of moonshine, and 13 sacks of sugar.

The owner of the house was not arrested at the time. He apparently escaped by jumping onto the kitchen counter and climbing out of the window then jumping twelve feet to the ground below.

The officers entered the house and found one still that was steaming with a stream of moonshine slowly running into a ten gallon crock. They noticed a door that had been blocked with bags of mash. Moving these aside, they found another still and about twenty more gallons of moonshine on the second floor of the house.

Joseph arrived with Claude MacKinney who was driving the truck from the Pence Transfer Company.  Bush jumped out of the truck to help direct Claude up the driveway.  Claude backed up and Bush didn’t get out of the way quickly enough and was caught between the truck and the house.  Mackinney quickly pulled forward but Joseph had been severely injured.

Joseph stood up right away and stated he was fine, but within a few minutes he collapsed and the police officers loaded him into the squad car and rushed toward the hospital.  Within ten minutes, Joe was dead.  Dr. Charles H. Boswell conducted the autopsy and he reported a broken back, ruptured blood vessels, and a gallon of blood in his lungs. His heart had been crushed.

Fred C. Olson, the coroner at the time, conducted an inquest and declared this tragic event as an accident.  His main concern was to find a relative to claim the young man’s body.

Interviews revealed that Joe, only twenty five at the time of his death, had been born in Milwaukee.  When he was four years old, disaster struck when his parents were both killed. Joseph was raised in an orphanage until his release at the tender age of 12.  He was told then that he had four brothers and three sisters and even though he attempted to find them, he was unsuccessful.

At the time of his accident, Joe had only lived in Rockford for a year but he had made many friends here. He roomed at the house of the owner of the transfer company at 722 North Church Street. Claude Mackinney, the driver of the truck was a close friend of Joe’s and was devastated by the accident. Claude spoke highly of Joe and told the doctor that Joe hadn’t been feeling well lately but never complained and always reported for work.

Joe’s boss, Mr. Pence called Joe one of his best workers. Mr. Pence could not offer any clue to Coroner Olsen about the identity or location of any of Joe’s family members.

The coroner held the body for a few days but no one ever came forward and Joe was buried at Cedar Bluff Cemetery using his life insurance money. His estate was left with over $1,700.00 but no family came forward to claim it.

Sources

“Victim’s Back broken by heavy machine”, Friday, May 14, 1926: Daily Register Gazette (Rockford, IL)

“$1,700 Estate not claimed”, Friday, May 21, 1926: Daily Register Gazette (Rockford, IL)

“Trucker Crushed by Auto”, Friday, May 14, 1926: Rockford Republic (Rockford, IL)

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Two Rockford WWII Heroes

 

Jacob Bruzos was born in Rockford on May 19, 1918. He was the only son of Jacob and Mary Bruzos, who both immigrated from Lithuania. Jacob Bruzos Senior was born about 1893. He and Mary were married in Winnebago County in June of 1917. They would eventually open their own dry cleaning stores.

Jacob Junior grew up here in Rockford, graduating from Rockford High School. It was while in high school that Jacob found his love for photography. He was hired by Burchett Studio on East State Street and also worked at Camp Grant as a photographer. He was inducted there in June of 1942 and completed his Basic Training at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri.

Jacob was sent to Guatemala and then to India. He was hand-picked to become an aerial photographer. This was a vital component of the war and the B-29’s would use photographers like Jacob to help determine bomb targets.

The Bruzos heard from their son in September of 1944. Jacob wrote that he enjoyed China much more than some of the other countries he had seen. He had achieved the rank of Corporal by this time and he was very proud of his contribution to the war effort.

The next information Jacob and Mary received was by the dreaded telegram telling them that Jacob had been killed in action in China. Jacob had been flying a mission on a B-29 Superfortress when the plane crashed. His body was buried there in a small cemetery.

In 1948, a U.S. Army Transport the Cardinal O’Connell arrived in San Francisco. It carried the bodies of 2785 men and 8 women who had been recovered from the small cemeteries where they had been laid to rest. They included the bodies of 11 men from the Rockford area.

Jacob was one of these men. Jacob’s mother was a member of the Mothers of World War II and the group was there to meet the bodies and help the families through the process.

 

Leonard Victor Anderson

Staff Sergeant Leonard Victor Anderson was another of the men returned home on the transport in 1948. He was born in Sweden and came to America with his parents when he was six years old. Leonard finished high school and was employed by National Lock until he enlisted in the coast artillery unit in February of 1941.

His father, Victor D. Anderson received a letter from Leonard on November 21, 1941. In the letter, Leonard talked about his days in the Pacific Islands and his promotion to staff sergeant. The father stated that he heard from the Red Cross that Leonard was missing after the Japanese invaded the Philippines.

Then he heard nothing more. Victor did not even know his son was in a prisoner of war camp until January of 1943. Victor told everyone who asked that he had faith that his boy was coming home soon. When he was notified of Leonard’s death, the Army could not even tell him for sure when his son had died. It would be another five long years before they could bring Leonard home to be buried.

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Little Girl Lost

There is a warehouse on the Southeast side of Rockford that has an unusual problem. The problem isn’t with wiring or plumbing; this warehouse has a ghost. Actually, it has a couple of them. But the most disturbing one is the ghost of a little girl. No one can remember when they started hearing stories about this little girl, but all agree it has been years.

The little girl is seen all over the area but mainly near the intersection of Samuelson and 6th Streets. Yolanda Weisensel, owner of Command Post Restaurant and Camp Grant Museum states that she has heard quite a bit about the child. She is 5-8 years old, has long light brown hair, and wears a dress with stockings and boots. “She seems to be from the 1910-1920’s era. I have heard several stories. Someone told me they can remember a little girl that got hit by a train back when the train tracks ran down 6th Street,” Weisensel states.

There is one person who is reluctant to talk about the little girl, however. He works in the previously mentioned warehouse and we will call him “Sam.” “I was moving some pipes in the warehouse. I would bend over and pick up a pipe and move it to its new location,” explained Sam. There is a door that has a window set the top half, right across from where Sam was working and what he saw in the reflection of the window startled him so much that he no longer likes to be in the warehouse at night by himself.

When Sam stood up with a pipe, he caught his reflection in the glass of the door. He had seen that same window at least a dozen times, but this time something was different. When Sam looked into the glass, he saw more than his own reflection. Standing next to him was the reflection of a little girl. She was about 6-7 years old, had light brown hair and was wearing a dress. Even more alarming to Sam, the girl reached out for his hand and just as he saw the little girl’s hand touch his, his whole right arm went cold. Sam quickly looked next to him. There was no one there.

Sam turned to look back into the window and the little girl was still there.

Sam is not a man to frighten easily. He’s a large man, 6 foot 3inches or so, and probably 230 pounds. But he shared with me that he was Samoan and his Pacific Island people were very superstitious about the dead. The Pacific people believe that objects that reflect one’s image are a portal to the Spirit realm. To steal the souls of the living, evil spirits sometimes take on the appearance of loved ones that have passed away.

While others might have been curious and even possibly thrilled that the little girl had contacted them, Sam was not. He does not want to be disrespectful toward the little girl, but he really doesn’t ever want to see her again.

Other people have seen this same little girl outside of the building, skipping along both 6th Street and Samuelson Roads and picking the wildflowers that grow up along the roadside. They claim that she is just as solid as any other living little girl. The only thing odd about her is she is dressed in clothes from another time.

Despite our research into the train accidents in that particular area, and reviewing news reports on a child that died at that intersection, the little girl’s identity remains as elusive as her reason for lingering here.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Bachelors Grove Cemetery

Bachelors Grove Cemetery is an abandoned graveyard in the Chicago area. It is well known as a location for paranormal experiences.

The area was settled in the early 1800’s. People who first settled in this area were of English, Irish and Scottish descent and came from the Eastern United States, primarily New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

The cemetery is shrouded in mystery, and even the origin of the name of the cemetery is uncertain. It either came from the fact that several bachelors were part of the group that first settled this area or from the fact that wooded areas were often named for the families that settled certain areas. Research shows that there was actually a family with the name Batchelder that settled near this area around 1845.

The cemetery is one of the oldest in Cook County. There is an abandoned road that lines the cemetery and crosses a creek bed back in the woods. This road has been closed to traffic since the 1960’s.

Details of the first burial in Bachelors Grove Cemetery are in question with some records stating that Eliza Scott was buried in 1844 and others mentioning William Nobles who died in 1838. Some of the last burials include Laura McGhee in 1965 and Robert Shields in 1989.

Unfortunately, the cemetery has been vandalized for many years. There are not many headstones left and those remaining have been spray painted, turned over, and even stolen.   Many families have removed their family members from Bachelor’s Grove. They have been moved for various reasons, some because families wanted their loved ones closer to where the family now lived, others wanted the deceased located in cemeteries with more space for future family members. And some of the dead were relocated because families had concerns about the vandalism.

There have been many paranormal claims for Bachelors Grove Cemetery and the area near to it and it is probably one of best documented haunted places in Illinois. Many of the big-name in the paranormal field have written about it, including Ursula Bielski, Troy Taylor, Dale Kaczmarek, and Michael Kleen. Television shows have visited the cemetery as well.

Richard Crowe was really one of the first in Illinois to start visiting this area. He stated that the famous “hook” story actually happened on the road that runs alongside the cemetery.

There are many claims of paranormal experiences in the whole area. One of the most common is the vanishing house. Many people have claimed to see a two-story farm house with a porch swing and a small lamp in the window that gave off a welcoming glow. The house supposedly seems to shimmer and floats if one approaches it. Many have combed records searching for the house. While there were houses in the area, no one has ever figured out if there was an actual house in the exact location this particular house is seen.

There are also reports of different colored lights in the woods surrounding the cemetery. Most of the reports state red or blue lights. They come at all times of day and night and seem to blink, glow brightly, and weave around the tombstones. One couple even claimed they were pushed over by the light when it rushed at them.

A small pond is located on the back side of the cemetery. It is a stagnant, murky, green-colored body of water. It is said that in the early days of the cemetery, people came to picnic among the tombstones and they would fish and swim in this pond. In the prohibition years, stories began to circulate that the mob was using this same pond as a dumping place for the bodies of the men they killed. Some people theorize that the mysterious colored lights are the souls of the murdered men.

The same pond also plays a pivotal role in another story. Two Cook County Forest Patrol officers were riding on Midlothian Road in the 1970’s when they were astonished to see a horse climbing out of the pond. The horse was not the only thing that emerged from the murky depths. There was a plow attached to the horse and an old farmer driving the plow. They saw such detail that they could see that the man was old and had a ghastly look on his face. The horse and plow passed right in front of them and disappeared in the woods on the opposite side of the road.

The origins of this story claim that there was an old farmer who owned the land and while out plowing one day, his horse became startled and bolted. While trying to control the horse, the old man became tangled in the reins and was helpless when the horse plunged into the pond. The horse and the man both struggled to escape but were unsuccessful. Apparently, they are still trying to free themselves of the dark and murky water.

Other visitors to the cemetery have reported seeing a woman dressed in a full length gown wandering through the cemetery as though searching for something or someone. Some people claim she is looking for a lost child.

There has been a lot of research done on Bachelors Grove Cemetery by groups in the area, including a high school class that researched the burials records. One website, “Bachelors Grove Cemetery and Research Center” has done an excellent job of gathering the research and making it available in one place. The site has names, dates, and even pictures of the some people who were buried in the cemetery. Trail maps are also available.

For more information, visit the website at www.bachelorsgrove.com

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

Samuel Seymour

Samuel Seymour wasn’t born in Rockford. Like many of the families living in Illinois in the mid 1800’s, Samuel came from the East coast. He was born in Litchfield, Connecticut on December 14, 1829. He attended school in Massachusetts and became a teacher for a while.

In 1849, Samuel got struck with “gold fever” and he became one of the many men who left their homes in an attempt to strike it rich in California.   He worked on the ship to help pay his fee for the passage. He was 20 years old and the trip around Cape Horn must have been quite an adventure. Later in life he would entertain his friends and family with tales of the journey.

Unlike most of the men who headed west for the gold, Samuel actually was successful. He would use this money to build a very lucrative financial foundation for himself.

Samuel returned to the east and that was where he met his lovely wife, Laura Lewis. They were married in New York in 1855. Samuel and Laura moved to Rockford in 1857 and Samuel started to sell insurance. He used some of the money he had made in California to invest in real estate.

Samuel and Laura did very well here in Rockford. They built several houses and seemed very happy. Samuel finally retired in 1896 and was able to live off the proceeds of his wise investing.

Laura became ill and eventually died in 1898. Samuel surprised his friends when he quickly became enamored with a Mrs. Carrier who worked for him as a housekeeper after the death of his wife. Mrs. Carrier at first rejected his marriage proposal but when Samuel had a nuptial agreement written up that gave her one of his properties, she suddenly realized how attractive Samuel was.

Today’s newspapers are filled with couples who air their “dirty laundry” for the public to see. It was really not much different at the turn of the century, here in Rockford. And so it soon was with the recently married Mr. and Mrs. Seymour. She accused him of not supporting her financially and he accused her of trying to take all his money. Samuel filed papers stating that he would not be responsible for any of her debts and he changed his will to leave everything to his nephew. Samuel called his “buxom wife a tarter” (which back then meant someone who was sharp and sarcastic in character).

Samuel actually hired a wagon to come pack up all of his belongings. It seems things got very heated when the driver tried to load some of Mrs. Seymour’s furnishings. The papers said she had to defend her home with weapons!

Mrs. Seymour stated in court when she filed for divorce that Samuel would lock her into the attic at night. He also supposedly abused her mentally and physically.

Samuel tried to settle out of court but the $2,500.00 he offered was not enough for the former house keeper.

The marriage really lasted only a couple of months but the divorce proceedings drug on for years. Finally in 1902, the divorce was granted to Mrs. Seymour. She received the houses and the property that Samuel promised in the pre-nuptial agreement. They were valued at over $7,500.00

This might have taken the wind of out some men’s sails but Samuel was nothing if not a romantic and he married a third time in 1902. On September 20, 1902, the paper announced the wedding of Samuel to Florence E. Kennish from Davis Junction. They built a new house on State Street and seemed very happy. Their relationship must have been considerably better than Samuel’s second marriage. They welcomed a baby boy in June of 1903. They named him Porter Kennish Seymour. Samuel was 74 years old when his son was born!

Samuel must have held onto some of his distrust of woman though. He passed away in March of 1906, and in his will, Samuel left no provisions for his wife Florence. He left his entire estate, worth $16,000 at the time to his infant son, Porter. Florence decided to contest the will and later was given half of the estate.

Besides leaving this colorful tale for his legacy, Samuel ‘s family has also left some ghost stories behind. His wife Laura supposedly loved her house so much she is still there. The house was built in 1882 and they lived in it until Laura’s death in 1898. They also had another house just around the corner that Samuel had built earlier. Samuel himself supposedly haunts both houses. Samuel worked hard for the money to purchase those properties and maybe he is just staying around to make sure that they are properly taken care of.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events

The House Of Emma Jones

Emma Jones and her husband Frank were married in Rockford in 1898. Emma was born in Orfordsville, Wisconsin in 1879. The newlywed couple moved around a little, but eventually they settled in a lovely home not far from the Rock River on the city’s east side.   Legend has it that Frank owned a transportation company and traveled quite a bit for his work. Emma would sit in the attic window of her home and watch for his boat to come up the river.

Emma had her dogs to keep her company while Frank was away. The dogs were devoted to her and would follow her everywhere. She spent many hours caring for their large home and neighbors would often give compliments about the beautiful home. It was easy to tell that Emma truly loved her house.

 

Time passed and Frank died, leaving Emma all alone in the big house. She still had her beloved dogs by her side and still liked to sit in the attic window though the view was blocked with other buildings that had sprung up over the years.

Emma couldn’t care for the house as well in her advanced years and it fell into a state of disrepair. Her precious dogs passed away and her grasp on reality started to slip. Family members became concerned and Emma was put in a nursing home. Her confusion worsened and she did not understand why she was not in her lovely home anymore. Sometimes, Emma would wander away from the nursing home and make it back to her home. She couldn’t go in, of course and her concerned neighbors would see her wandering the grounds and call the nursing home to come collect Emma.

The family finally had to admit that Emma would not be returning to the house that she and Frank had shared and they made the painful decision to sell the home. One of the first realtors to show the place brought a young couple to the home. He realized that the electricity wasn’t working so he made his way into the basement to check the fuse box. He didn’t have a flashlight with him so he lit a match. In the flickering light of the match he was startled to see an elderly woman standing next to him! The match went out and when he finally got another one lit, the woman was gone. The realtor hurriedly checked the fuses and got the lights to come on. Of course, he never mentioned the woman in the basement to the couple waiting upstairs.

The couple purchased the home and worked very hard to restore it to its former glory. They were slightly concerned with some of the strange things that happened around the house. They often heard the sound of dog’s claws on the hard wood floors and the sound of pieces of metal rattling. They also heard strange knocking sounds all through the house. The couple had exterminators come check for mice but no reason for the knockings could be found.

One day, they walked into the front parlor and found a little old lady standing there. She looked at them quite cross and demanded to know why they were in her house. They stood there in shock as she walked past them and went out the front door.

They mentioned the visit to the neighbors who told them it was probably Emma. They explained that Emma was confused and didn’t understand that the house was no longer hers. They told the couple to phone the nursing home to let them know that Emma had wandered away again. When the couple called, they were stunned when the receptionist replied that it could not have been Emma that visited them. Emma had died weeks before!

The couple moved out shortly after that.

The next man to own the house didn’t stay long either. He would receive phone calls in the middle of the night. At first, no one responded to his greetings. But finally, one night when he answered the phone, a voice asked him, “Am I dead?” The voice, he claimed belonged to an old lady.

After that, the house stayed empty for a while and the neighbors would speak of seeing someone sitting up in the attic window, the same windows where Emma often sat to waiting for Frank.

Emma’s house was eventually bought by Meld, a non-for profit organization that assists teen mothers. Remodeling was done to create office spaces. During the construction, workers had quite a few incidents with the house. When they stepped outside to take a break, the door would lock by itself behind them. They would turn off all the lights when they left for the evening and walk out to the back where there was a parking area. When they glanced back up at the house, the lights would all be lit again.

The reports of strange incidents didn’t stop when the remodeling was finished, however. The ladies in the offices would complain about items turning up missing only to be found in some remote place. They had a little tradition of baking cakes to celebrate the birthdays of the women who worked in the building. The women would leave the cake in the kitchen area on the counter, and several times they later found that a hunk had been removed from the center. After discussing it, they decided that if Emma were truly still there with them, they should be more accommodating. So they started to cut a piece of cake and leave it there for Emma. And after that they never had trouble with baked goods again.

Women working in the building also told of strange noises and decided that it was Emma’s dogs. They supposed that it was the dog’s claws and the medals on their collars that were making the noises.

They never felt “frightened” but they were startled at times. One young lady who was often the last to leave in the evenings tells of the night she left very late. She turned out the lights, locked the doors and set the alarm. She got into her car and was driving past the front of the house when for some reason she turned to look at the front. There is a large window in the front door and through that window, she saw a little old lady standing on the staircase. She didn’t stop and go back inside. She said she knew exactly who it was.

Later, the house was remodeled and turned back into a home. It is now owned by a nice family who have really made it into a beautiful home once again. They say that they have never experienced any strange incidents since they have moved in. Maybe Emma approves of the house she loved belonging to a family once again.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 Kathi Kresol, Haunted Rockford Events