Local History and Genealogy Blog

Lincoln's "Mad" Couch

"Lincoln's 'Mad' Couch," Urbana Daily Courier, August 6, 1934 While researching early newspaper articles about the Urbana Lincoln Hotel, I stumbled upon a small piece in the Urbana Daily Courier from August 6, 1934, regarding Abraham Lincoln's "mad" couch. The author discussed how travelers regularly used this "mad" couch in the Maplewood Hotel's lobby in Berlin, Wisconsin. Made specifically for Lincoln, as it is six feet, six inches long, the couch was reportedly from his office in Springfield. The provenance of the couch is recounted in the article. It was first left with General Brayman, "a close friend" of Lincoln's who acquired it presumably when Lincoln died. Though the article says when [he] did not return to Springfield," a much more polite way to say they took a dead president's furniture. After coming to Wisconsin, the couch was given to Dr. Victor Kutchin, who owned it at the time of the article's writing. The ownership story ends there at the end of a tiny, two-paragraph article placed among the "Evening Courier's Page of Interpretation and Opinion." [1] Read more about Lincoln's "Mad" Couch

New Exhibit: “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: 20th Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County”

The Champaign County Historical Archives invites you to explore our new online exhibit, “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: 20th Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County,” now online on Local History & Genealogy Digital Exhibits.

A picture of the women of the Fortnightly Club, one of a number of clubs for women in 20th century Champaign County

Read more about New Exhibit: “From Homemaking to Municipal Housekeeping: 20th Century Women’s Clubs in Champaign County”

Uncovered Gravestones in Leal Park

Leal Park, 303 W University Ave, Urbana, IL

During recent park improvements, undertaken in 2020, portions of ten gravestones from the Old Urbana Burying Ground were unearthed in Leal Park. Work ceased on the project to add additional parking spaces and an accessible path to the administration building, while the Public Service Archaeology & Architecture Program from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign assisted the Urbana Park District in complying with the State of Illinois laws regarding the protection of cemeteries. Work on the park improvements resumed, and the Public Service Archaeology & Architecture Program provided the Archives with information and digitally enhanced photographs from the project. Read more about Uncovered Gravestones in Leal Park

Recently Processed: Orphan Train Collection

Ilinois Central Train, 1856In the second half of the 19th century, welfare organizations on the East Coast were looking for ways to find homes for orphaned and homeless children. Their solution, beginning in 1854, was to send children to rural areas across the country, primarily the Midwest. Organizations such as the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Juvenile Asylum sent children by train to these areas, where they were placed in homes to work, often on farms, and to receive an education. These trains have since been labeled “Orphan Trains,” and many traveled to Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities. Read more about Recently Processed: Orphan Train Collection

Chanute Spotlight: Commanding Officer Fay R. Upthegrove

Portrait of Colonel Fay Roscoe Upthegrove (1905-1992) On July 5, 1943, Colonel Fay Roscoe Upthegrove (1905-1992) led an Allied air bombardment group in an attack on an enemy Airdrome in Northern Africa. As Upthegrove and his men approached the field, 12 enemy fighters attacked. Colonel Upthegrove evaded enemy attack and pushed his bombardment group to wreak havoc upon enemy installations. In their escape, Upthegrove and his men faced over 100 enemy fighters in a fierce 20-minute air skirmish. Upthegrove skillfully maneuvered his aircraft and unified his bombardment group into a tight defensive formation. With this effort, Upthegrove’s force destroyed 35 enemy aircraft and he escaped alive. Read more about Chanute Spotlight: Commanding Officer Fay R. Upthegrove

Ride Down Memory Lane with C-U MTD

As the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District gears up to celebrate its 50th year of service, riders will notice some changes, including but not limited to: a new logo and slogan (a switch from “Gotta Get There” to “Thrive”), slight changes to routes, and re-designed bus stop signs.  Even the buses themselves are sporting a spiffy makeover! As a daily MTD rider, I enjoyed exploring the history of the transportation system I utilize daily.

1970 Courier headline on referendum to establish a mass transit district. Read more about Ride Down Memory Lane with C-U MTD

Pride Fest 2020: The Archives Looks Back at the LGBTQIA+ community in C-U

The Gay/Lesbian Prairie Press Letterhead, vol. 1 no. 2, pg. 1, Nov. 1990

The LGBTQIA+ community in Champaign-Urbana has a long and vibrant history. In honor of Pride Fest 2020, the Champaign County Historical Archives takes a look at a few of the many newsletters published by queer groups in C-U. These newsletters, many of which are from the 1980s and 1990s, show the strength of a community that has never been afraid to wear its pride and activism on its sleeve. Read more about Pride Fest 2020: The Archives Looks Back at the LGBTQIA+ community in C-U

Rantoul's Minuteman Missile Saved at the Last Minute

3345 Technical School Class PhotographIn the summer of 1776, the Second Continental Congress of the thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia and drafted a document that declared independence from British rule to the world. Following this Declaration of Independence, the new nation quickly prepared for war and named George Washington as commander of the continental army. Still, even before Washington's appointment, local militias formed to protect their communities from British attacks. Within these local militias, small groups were developed to answer the call to arms in emergencies. These minutemen, who were named as such because they were ready in a minute's notice, were a protective force that eased the concerns of continental towns and cities and became symbolic of American protection from aggressive forces. Read more about Rantoul's Minuteman Missile Saved at the Last Minute

Superstitions of Early Illinois Settlers

Zodiac graphic linking the zodiac symbols to different body partsThe early settlers in Illinois had many superstitions and home remedies that seem odd today, including several superstitions based on the zodiac signs. While most people are familiar with the zodiac, we use today, what sets the settlers’ use of it apart is their application of it to the body. It was common for early settlers to assign zodiac signs to different parts of the body. Read more about Superstitions of Early Illinois Settlers