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‘James Bus’ offers trip to earlier times in McHenry County

Local residents stopped by McHenry County Historical Society’s local mobile history museum 'James Bus' which held objects from Historical Society's

Local residents stopped by the McHenry County Historical Society’s local mobile history museum, the "James Bus," which held objects from the Historical Society's Union Museum. | Erin Sauder ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 15, 2012 6:31AM

ALGONQUIN — There was a school bus parked in front of the Algonquin Area Public Library Saturday, but it wasn’t full of giggling children.

Instead, the McHenry County Historical Society’s local mobile history museum — the “James Bus” — held objects from the historical society’s Union Museum. The items were chosen by 25 persons who make up the society’s members, volunteers and board of directors, as well as guest curators from the McHenry County Joint Council of Historic Groups.

Originally, the featured exhibit in the James Bus was going to take visitors back into the history of the 1960s. But because next year the McHenry County Historical Society will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, members decided to commemorate the event with a new exhibit titled “Community Curated Exhibition.”

Bill Stutz, a McHenry County Historical Society member and driver of the bus Saturday, enjoyed conversing with the visitors about the county’s history.

“I like talking to the people,” he said. “Everyone seems to come up with a story about McHenry County and their experiences. It puts a smile on their face when they remember.”

Some of the items on display in the James Bus included a top hat made out of sealskin circa 1850s, a Civil War drum, and a wedding gown worn by McHenry County resident Nettie Teckler Schroeder in 1922.

Stutz, of Wonder Lake, said the James Bus was originally a Marengo school bus until the McHenry County Historical Society bought it in 2001, converted it into the mobile history museum, and put it on the street in 2002. The transportation was named after McHenry businessman Jim Tonyan, who funded the bus’s purchase; historical society members also refer to it as The James.

Despite Saturday’s rain and dreary skies, quite a few people opted to check out the items on display.

Marcia Stein of Lake in the Hills enjoyed taking a step back in time.

“I think it’s very interesting,” she said. “I was coming to the library anyway and I thought, ‘I’ll stop in.’ ”

Ashley Butts, 10, of Algonquin also enjoyed the tour. “I liked the wedding dress and pocket watch. I’d never really seen a pocket watch before,” she said.

The 25 objects selected and displayed in The James include their significance and a personal statement from the curator. The items will remain on display in The James through September 2013.

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