Where on Earth in Champaign County: Township Numbers, Ranges, and Directions

When looking at a Title Abstract or the Grantor/Grantee index, one can find the legal description of a piece of land along with its location. For example, The Urbana Free Library is located in Section 17 of Township 19 north, Range 9 east. This refers to the Library’s location on a plat map.

Huey's Store: What's Not on the Shelves...Is on the Floor

When Huey Rasner opened his new variety store in Urbana in October 1957, he modeled it after the “general store” concept where everything was available at a discount price. He called his new concept “Huey’s Store” and it was located at 105 ½ E. University Avenue in Urbana. Huey laid claim to having the first discount store in Champaign-Urbana.

Documenting the Chanute Experience: The Collection of Leo W. Streff

Before the Champaign County Historical Archives became the home of the Chanute Collection, the records lived at the Chanute Aerospace Museum. The Chanute Aerospace Museum benefitted from the donations of many Chanute alumni. These donations often show a different side of life on the base. One of these donations, from the family of LT. Col. Leo W. Streff, consists of photographs, scrapbook pages, letters, and event pamphlets, just to name a few items.

News-Gazette Collection Update

On June 15, 2020, the Champaign County Historical Archives of The Urbana Free Library became the new home for the News-Gazette’s archival holdings. Over 1,000 square feet of materials were transferred to the Library in a semi-truck packed to capacity. The collection is currently housed on the lower level of the Lincoln Square Mall, across the street from the Library.

Holiday Gift Guide

The gift-giving season is upon us! However, it is often hard to come up with ideas of what to give your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Worry not. This handy gift guide comes packed with ideas. Gathered from advertisements found in old newspapers, this guide is sure to help you find gifts for everyone on your list.

This idea from a Sholem Shoe Store ad in the August 5, 1920, Courier is for the shoe lovers in your life.

Exploring Title Abstracts

Title abstracts can be great sources of information for people looking for the history of a property or subdivision. Title abstracts follow the chain of ownership, usually from the original sale by the government or other agency, through to the date of the most recent abstract. The abstract is a packet that includes legal documents pertaining to the property, notably the deed records and mortgages, and list where those documents are recorded. Each abstract is different but may include documents such as mortgage releases, tax sales, easements, surveys, land plats, annexations, and subdivision plats. They can also contain restrictions, lawsuits, liens, wills, special taxes, or utility assessments. If your property is located where coal, oil, natural gas, or another mineral deposit has been found, the abstract may also contain information about mineral rights.

How to “Fun” Your Way Around Chanute: Chanute’s Free Time Recreation Magazine

The open houses hosted by the Chanute Air Force Base were a way to involve the community, opening their doors to civilian and military personnel, as well as the neighboring community. In the Open House Files collection, there are papers, correspondence, itineraries, and pamphlets surrounding the running of the Chanute Air Force Base open house events. Another document found in this collection, in box 2, folder 1, is the June 1982 copy of Free Time, Chanute’s recreation magazine. In this magazine, there are calendars of food and fun as part of National Recreation Month!

Happy National Recreation Month!

Photographs on View at the Tolono Public Library

As leaves turn red and temperatures drop each autumn, we know that winter is slowly creeping up on us in Illinois. Have you ever wondered how the winters of the 21st century compare to those of the 20th? Prepare for the coming cold weather by joining the Tolono Public Library District and the Champaign County Historical Archives for a peek into Illinois’ wintery past.

PACA Digitization Project

One of the most common questions we get here in the Archives is regarding the history of a patron’s home. When was it built? Who was the architect? Do we have any archival photographs?

My name is Savannah Adams, and I am the Archives Apprentice for the Champaign County Historical Archives of The Urbana Free Library. I am a first-year graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, working towards a MS in Library Science and Information. My focus is on archival materials, special collections, and library preservation. I’m digitizing and cataloging recently acquired building and home surveys conducted by the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) in Champaign County for my first semester project.

New Flickr Album: Champaign County Fires

Here in the Archives, we have recently received several questions about the Urbana fire of 1871. While searching for information, I came across several photograph envelopes that relate to fires throughout Champaign County. I learned that the area is no stranger to fires. The 1970s and 80s were particularly eventful for fire departments. Despite the tragedy and loss that fires can cause, several area businesses (including the library) survived through them and are still with us today.

Beyond Flight: Chanute Air Force Base Hospital 1931-1933

While we know about the role of Chanute as an Air Force Base and Technical Training Center, there were also a wide variety of non-military or training-related departments on the base. One such department was the Chanute Air Force Base Hospital, which saw births, deaths, and injuries through its 76-year history.

The Life of a Rural Midwestern Woman

In honor of International Day of Rural Women on October 15th, let’s take a look at an item from the Chanute Subject Files Collection that celebrates rural women’s historic contributions. Don Weckhorst, base historian at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum at the Chanute Air Force Base, visited many museums around the United States to get ideas, network, and bring back materials for his own research. One visit in particular caught my attention, to the Richard E. Oetken Heritage Museum in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

Finding the Right Home for a Recent Donation

All archives have unique focuses and collecting areas. Once in a while we receive a donation that doesn’t quite fit within our collecting scope. Archives Librarian Sherrie recently made an interesting discovery about one of these misfit donations.

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.

Leonard is in the first row, left of center

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.

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.