Local History and Genealogy Blog

Year of the Rooster

Bob Gilbert with a Rooster, printed in the News-Gazette April 10, 1985

January 28th is Chinese New Year, and it's the Year of the Rooster! 

Urbana Elementary Schools Desegregated in 1966

This weekend the cities of Urbana and Champaign along with Parkland College and the University of Illinois celebrated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Countywide Celebration. This year, the event honored six community members for their efforts to desegregate the Urbana elementary schools in 1966. The Champaign County Historical Archives has records pertinent to these events, available for use within the Archives Reading Room.

Headline from the Urbana Courier, 27 July 1966

Chanute Airmen Feed the Birds

Chanute Air Force Base (1917-1993) located in Rantoul, Illinois was nationally known for its training of pilots, mechanics, aerial photographers, firefighters, and missile technicians, but locally the personnel were active members of the Rantoul and wider Champaign County community. One incident I uncovered recently highlights this relationship beautifully.

Collection Highlight: Oral Histories

Transcripts of The Urbana Free Library Local History Roundtable discussions

While spending time with your family over the holidays, chances are you heard stories about the “good old days” from your grandparents, aunts or uncles, or parents. Perhaps you can’t get enough of these reminiscences. If that’s the case, check out the Champaign County Historical Archives collection of over 250 oral histories.

The Illustrious Sale Siblings

Champaign-Urbana is no stranger to the entertainment industry: it is the boyhood home of Roger Ebert; the birthplace of music group REO Speedwagon and super-villain computer HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey; and was recently the filming site of a Danny Glover movie. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, Champaign-Urbana’s biggest stars were Charles (known professionally as “Chic”) and Virginia Sale, who grew up on Main Street in Urbana.

Happy New Year and Happy Birthday, 66 Years Later

                                                                                                                                                           Photo of Timothy Gaile Mecum


A Merry Christmas!

W. Lewis & Co. advertisement, ca. 1925


Eisner Food Stores

In 1870, 18-year-old Albert Eisner immigrated to the United States from his home in Hungary. Upon his arrival in New York City, he was robbed of his last $20, and so he began work, first at a tailor’s shop and eventually at a dry goods store. During the next 45 years of his life, he would make his way west, settling finally in Champaign, Illinois, where he would launch the multi-generational business that would become one of the largest food sellers in central Illinois.

Ice Scraper Workout

Well folks, it is offically ice scraper weather. Stay warm and safe this weekend. Need some cold weather preparedness tips? Here is a great list of local resources put together by the librarians in Adult Services.

Two women clearing snow off a car's windshield, 1959

Photograph by Charles Webster of Rantoul, IL, 1959, Archives 

- Sherrie, Archives Librarian  

'Grandma' Jane Patton and her Legacy

sign for Patton WoodsIn the far northeast corner of Champaign County lies a 19 acre tract of preserved forest land that has remained largely unchanged since the county’s formation in 1833. Patton Woods, or as it is formally known Grandma Jane Patton’s Timber Nature Preserve, is named after ‘Grandma’ Jane Patton (1824-1921) an early settler to east central Illinois.