Local History and Genealogy Blog

John Nathan Beers

Portrait of John Nathan Beers

The photograph of the gentleman in the snappy hat above is John Nathan Beers. Beers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 24, 1849. In 1876, he married Izora Nebaker from Mahomet and had two children, Susan and Harry. Beers and his family came to Champaign in 1889, where he opened Beers and Davidson Real Estate and Insurance with James Wilson Davidson. Read more about John Nathan Beers

Chanute Spotlight: The Braun Family

Bertha Willis Braun, 1920sJoseph F. Braun, 1920sJoseph F. Braun (1897-1962) and Bertha Hill (1901-????) moved to Rantoul, IL in the early 1920s. Joseph started his career in 1917 in the Eighth Balloon Company and was discharged in 1919. He re-enlisted two years later and moved to Chanute Field, where he remained stationed with Bertha until 1938. During their tenure at the base, Joseph and Bertha built an impressive family. From 1923 to 1940, they had seven boys, five of which were born at Chanute. Read more about Chanute Spotlight: The Braun Family

Professional Wrestling in Champaign-Urbana, Part 1

Voting Ballot to permit combat sports in Urbana, April 17, 1926On March 1, 1926, a proposal was put forth to the Urbana City Council and Mayor concerning boxing, sparring, and professional wrestling in the city. Major cities like New York already established licensing systems to regulate combat sports, but other parts of the country still deemed them dangerous and immoral, and they remained unregulated. The Urbana proposal was presented as a local petition signed by hundreds of Urbana citizens. The proposal aligned with similar proposals made in Normal, Rockford, and Chicago to permit combat sports. Local news outlets felt that if Chicago passed the proposal, Urbana would as well. On April 20th, the ballot measure was presented as a simple yes/no measure to the people and barely passed with 1,952 votes for and 1,864 against. Although boxing and wrestling were very popular in the area for some time, they were now regulated sports that provided tax money to support the state. With a slim 86 vote margin, regulated professional wrestling was born in Urbana. Read more about Professional Wrestling in Champaign-Urbana, Part 1

Fashion for Education: Champaign County Urban League Scholarship Fund

Front cover of Ebony Fashion Fair Magazine, 1989-1990The Urban League of Champaign County (1961-2008) worked to improve the quality of black life in Champaign County for 47 years. Placing an emphasis on education, scholarship assistance was an ongoing activity of the organization since its earliest days. One way the Urban League raised funds was through the annual Ebony Fashion Fair. Read more about Fashion for Education: Champaign County Urban League Scholarship Fund

Illinois Central Railroad Employment Cards

Illinois Central Railroad depot, Champaign, 1904

Illinois Central Railroad’s (ICR) history began in the 1830s with a series of federal land grant programs for economic improvement across the state of Illinois. The programs were supposed to expand the market for Illinois agricultural produce, but in reality, the state was left nearly bankrupt. One of these programs, the Land Grant Act of 1850, led to Illinois Central Railroad’s charter in February 1851. The original goal for ICR was to build a north-south rail line from Chicago to Cairo, Illinois with a total of 704 miles of track. After the initial railway was completed in 1856, the railroad’s expansion continued through 1882, at which time ICR provided a direct route from Chicago to New Orleans and was dubbed the “Main Line of Mid-America.” Read more about Illinois Central Railroad Employment Cards

Interesting Ordinances from Champaign, 1975

Door with doorbell

In previous blog posts Interesting Ordinances from Urbana, 1916 and Interesting Ordinances from Urbana, 1954 Urbana's city codes have been in the spotlight. Now, it is time for Champaign to have its share of the limelight. Please enjoy a selection of city codes that may be worded strangely, are oddly specific, or just seem like plain common sense. Any codes that still exist will have their current equivalent listed from Municode. Read more about Interesting Ordinances from Champaign, 1975

Finding Photographs

Main Street, Champaign, looking east, undated

Our Photographs Collection contains over one million photographs of local people and locations, dating from the mid-19th century to the present. So, how does one go about finding a specific photograph in a collection so vast? Here are some tips.

Read more about Finding Photographs

Recently Processed Women's Groups (Part 3)

Seven collections of women’s groups have recently been processed by Archives staff and are now available for researchers.

Part 3 highlights Fortnightly Club Records and Carley Friendship Club Records.

Part 1 introduced W.I.R.E. Records, Daughters of Union Veterans Records, and the Near O’Kin Bridge Group. Part 2 featured the National Council of Negro Women and the Medra Club.

Fortnightly Friendship Club, "An Original Acrostic" by Fortnightly Club "An Original Acrostic" by Constance L. Broderick, 1960-1961 Read more about Recently Processed Women's Groups (Part 3)

Greetings from Chanute!: Unidentified Flying Objects and Chanute Air Force Base

On May 9th, 1971, an Indiana man visited the Vermillion River Observatory operated by the University of Illinois in Danville to view the dish antenna. He arrived a little before 10pm and brought a set of binoculars with him to see a detailed view of the structure. As he investigated the antenna, he noticed an object in the sky that quickly approached from the southwest. He immediately set down the binoculars and grabbed his Polaroid camera, hoping to get a photograph of the approaching object. As he snapped a photo, the object silently moved nearer to the observatory in the quiet night. The craft moved overhead and the quiet eerily transformed into a loud humming noise. The man looked into the sky and saw an object “as black as the Ace of Spades – like burned metal,” with no lights emanating from its surface. The object was larger than the antenna and spun like a top.  The man fumbled his camera in an attempt to take another photograph and the object quickly disappeared into the night, leaving him in shock and disbelief. Read more about Greetings from Chanute!: Unidentified Flying Objects and Chanute Air Force Base