Treasure-Trove of Local History Gathers Dust

By Tatum, Christine | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), April 12, 1996 | Go to article overview

Treasure-Trove of Local History Gathers Dust


Tatum, Christine, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Christine Tatum Daily Herald Staff Writer

Ron and June Rood are eager to clear out all those photos of folks they don't know from under their bed.

They want the maps of trails blazed through Schaumburg Township in the 1840s out of their attic. And it would be nice, they say, to empty their garage of farming tools so odd no one's quite sure what they were used for.

But as long as the Schaumburg Township Historical Society has no place to display its collection, the Roods say their home must do. They lead the society and click their tongues with disapproval when it's mentioned that one of the Northwest suburbs' largest townships doesn't have its own museum.

"We have all these stories, all these histories and all these interesting things to look at and no one place where people can find out about all this for themselves," Ron Rood said. "It's a shame."

The 63-year-old carpenter has spent thousands of hours trying to piece together the lives of the township's early settlers. His tales of the pioneer days are a patchwork of names, occupations and colorful anecdotes stitched together by census records, maps, letters, ledgers and a little folklore.

"Men called land agents would meet people coming right off the boats in Chicago and tell them about land to the west," Ron Rood said, shaking his head. "Sometimes people would buy a parcel sight unseen. And a few times, more than one person bought the same piece of land on the same day.

"I don't know how they settled something like that. All I know is who wound up the winner."

By the end of the 1840s, nearly 120 settlers and their families, mostly from Germany, moved to the area, which is now considered Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates and parts of Elk Grove Village, Hanover Park, Streamwood, Roselle and Rolling Meadows.

Rood is awfully proud of the federal land sale records he found that show a man by the name of John Ottman bought the township's first parcel in 1842. He purchased 200 acres for $250.

His research also indicates that only three women owned property by the end of the decade. Among them was Emeline Johnson, who helped her husband run a tavern on the township's east side. It's thought to be among the region's first businesses.

"They knew to make room for the important stuff," Rood joked.

The trouble is that people nowadays have lost sight of what's important, he added. For some reason they don't see value in all those baby buggies, military uniforms, toys and tin lunch boxes once kept in rambling farmhouses along the rolling countryside.

Families such as the Springinsguths, Rohlwings, Slingerlands and Nerges left behind far more than road signs bearing their names, Rood said.

"People are just ignorant to how precious these things are," he said. "They don't understand that once we lose them, we can never get them back."

Among the society's treasure-trove are a wedding dress worn in the 1870s by the daughter of one of the township's leading families, and the Army uniform Walter Slingerland Sr. donned during World War I. He went on to become one of the village of Schaumburg's first trustees. …

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