Local History and Genealogy Blog

Chanute Spotlight: Charles M. Leonard

Charles M. Leonard was born December 25, 1886 to a Mrs. J. H. Leonard at 630 East Avenue in Elyria, Ohio. Leonard attended three years of high school in Elyria before moving on to Oberlin College. During this time, he met his wife, Donna Russell, and they had three children together. Leonard became a civil engineer prior to enlisting in the military. On August 27, 1917, he became a candidate for the Second Officers’ Training School at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana and officially joined the armed services. Leonard was commissioned 1st Lieutenant Infantry on November 27th of the same year and joined the 165th Depot Brigade. On February 27, 1918, he transferred to the Aviation Section Signal Reserve Corps at Kelly field and remained on duty until April 6 when he entered the school of military aeronautics in Columbus, Ohio.

Group Photo

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Monument Company Records: Another Primary Source for Cemetery Research

One often overlooked resource in cemetery research are records of the various monument companies who made the gravestones. The information in these records varies but may include details about the deceased and the person ordering the gravestone. These records usually include the date the order was placed, size and type of stone used, cost, and where and when it was to be delivered. Some entries include drawings of how the stone would look, and other orders were cancelled or never made. Since some of the orders were placed months or years after a death occurred, the records may not always be accurate, or a correction may have been made in a later entry. These records can take the mystery out of unreadable gravestones and give the researcher a starting point for the death and burial location.

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Weather in Champaign County

The staff in the Archives have been working very hard on a new exhibit that we are sure will blow you away. This forthcoming exhibit, covering tornadoes, will be featured both digitally on our Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits page and in the display case outside of the Archives’ door. While the upcoming exhibit focuses on tornadoes, the Archives houses materials on a variety of storms that have hit Champaign County. This blog post features some of those materials.


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A Look Back at the New Chanute Youth Center

On Thursday, March 18, 1982, ground broke on construction for the new Youth Center at Chanute Air Force Base. The Youth Center was built to provide programming and activities for children ages 5-18 of active and retired base members.

Architects from Pace and Associates of Chicago, IL, designed the new building and it was erected by Marco Construction Company of Carlinville, IL.  The cost of the new building was approximately $866,000 and 10,356 sq. ft. The new building featured (among many other spaces) music rooms, a game room, an arts and crafts area, and the much anticipated multi-purpose room/gymnasium. The multipurpose room allowed the Youth Center to offer sports that took up more space, like soccer.

Take a look at the Youth Center’s calendar for their opening month! This calendar was printed in the April 1983 edition of Free Time, Chanute’s recreation magazine. View the entire digitized magazine here.

Youth Center Calendar

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Unexpected Books in the Archives

Illinois is an interesting state, to say the least. What exactly is it that makes the prairie state unique? What are the legends that Illinoisans pass on? What do we want to show off to visitors? While many people come to the Archives for their Champaign County history and genealogy needs, there are also materials on our shelves that focus on the offbeat byways, attractions, and, yes, even the supernatural side of Illinois. The first item is Weird Illinois by Troy Taylor.

Weird Illinois Read more about Unexpected Books in the Archives

The Man Himself: Octave Chanute

When we talk about the Chanute Air Force Base, we really should start with the man behind the name: Octave Chanute. Octave Chanute was an engineer, a pioneer of modern aviation, and the focus of the Subject Files: Octave Chanute collection. In the Subject Files: Octave Chanute collection, you can find information that celebrates one of the first men in the sky. Photographs and diagrams of his gliders accompany newspaper clippings, correspondence, and information about his life and work. There is even material about Chanute, Kansas, the town named for Octave, in the collection.

Octave Chanute Portrait

A high-flying historical figure you many not have heard of!

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Medicinal Advertisements

Ailments are a fact of life. They happen to all of us at some point. Whether it is a headache, a sore throat, or a stomach ache, a wide variety of products are available to treat what ails us. What better way to advertise to potential customers than to place an ad in the paper? Unfortunately, many past medicinal ads and the products they were designed to sell were often questionable. Despite that, they were featured in the newspapers of yesteryear. Here is an assortment of ads for medicinal products. Read more about Medicinal Advertisements

Where's Walter? Searching for Clues in Obituaries

A Dillman family researcher recently wrote to the Archives with a question about his ancestor, Walter Dillman. He wanted to know where and when Walter died. The researcher already had some family background information and a transcription he made of an obituary from the Find a Grave website. The transcription stated that Walter Dillman (1881-1946), was buried in Yearsley Cemetery in Champaign County, IL. He stated that the name and date of the newspaper were not given. *Some assumptions were made when he transcribed the article, one that was incorrect and the other that was at least partly correct.

Find a Grave Obituary

Walter Dillman's obituary from Find a Grave Read more about Where's Walter? Searching for Clues in Obituaries

A Winter Treat for the Summer Heat

We may be in the heat of the summer, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy some local history inspired by the winter holiday season. Over the last few months, I began to digitize the archives' Fred and Betty Turner Woodblock Print Christmas Card exhibit done by Erica Stark on our Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits website. To add a little more context to the former exhibit, I expanded upon the previous content by selecting a sample of six Turner prints and writing histories about the subject matter represented. My goal is to offer our readers a glimpse into why these parts of our history likely caught the eye of and inspired Fred and Betty Turner. Of the six prints I chose, three are of Champaign County structures, one is from Vermilion County, and the other two from Prairie du Rocher and Chicago. 

Fred Turner print

Fred Turner Etching Print

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