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Rutland Twp. Historical Society decides to disband

RutlTownship Historical Society President BarbarDamisch Marengo. | Denise Moran for Sun-Times Medi

Rutland Township Historical Society President Barbara Damisch of Marengo. | Denise Moran for Sun-Times Media

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Township history

According to the Rutland Township website, when a meeting was held to form the township in 1848, there was a debate about the name. The residents of Irish descent favored “Rose Green.” The Scots preferred “Caledonia.”

They compromised on the name of “Jackson.” Evelyn R. Starks, the township’s first village clerk, was asked to submit the name at the county seat in Geneva. Starks, who came to the area from Rutland, Vt., arbitrarily gave the name of “Rutland” to the township while declaring that there was already a Jackson Township. Some people suspected that since Starks was a Whig and President Andrew Jackson was a Democrat, Starks did not want the township to be named after Jackson.

According to the society, the first meeting of Rutland Township in 1850 included 105 men and no women. Three brothers — Israel Straw, William and Andrew Pingree Jr. — were among the attendees.

They had two other brothers, Francis and Daniel, and two sisters, Betsy and Sally. Their parents were Andrew Pingree Sr. and his wife, Abiea.

Andrew Jr. was a land surveyor. When he laid out the village of Gilberts, he suggested that the town should be named after Albro Gilberts, one of the village’s first settlers. When Gilberts died, Andrew Jr. and his wife, Hannah, adopted Albro’s daughter.

As the result of the adoption, Albro’s daughter became Emma Gilberts Pingree. She later married Leverette Mansfield Kelley and had three children.

Leverette once served as Kane County sheriff and manager for a mining company. He also was a Medal of Honor recipient for his service as a U.S. Army captain during the Civil War. Emma is buried in Udina Cemetery. Leverette is buried with his second wife, Frances, in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Updated: January 11, 2014 6:25AM

RUTLAND TWP. — The Rutland Township Historical Society, which has been keeping track of township records since 1993, will soon become a piece of history itself.

The historical society is disbanding because its members feel they can no longer keep up with all the work of running the organization. The group, which had been based in the historical Eakin School House, also will cease to keep township probate records and will disperse documents to local libraries.

“We have shed tears over this,” said Barbara Damisch of Marengo, the society’s president. “The fact is that villages today have their loyalties drawn in all directions. Too few roots of our history are left. We need a better appreciation of early history.”

Damisch and Mary Carol Peschke of Pingree Grove, the society’s vice president, have been with the society since its formation 20 years ago.

According to the Rutland Township Web page, Rutland Township — located in the northeastern quadrant of Kane County — occupies 36 square miles and maintains 27 miles of roads. It includes the communities of Huntley, Gilberts, Pingree Grove and parts of unincorporated Hampshire.

In a schoolhouse

The society was formed by 15 founding members of different backgrounds.

Damisch has served on the Kane County zoning board for three terms. Peschke once worked as the Pingree Grove village clerk. There have also been farm owners, a retired nurse, a retired teacher, and business owners who have served as society officers and board members.

“We once kept the probate records in our homes,” said Peschke. “We moved them to the township hall, but it was too crowded. We negotiated for the use of the one-room schoolhouse.”

The 1859 Eakin School House is a 666-square-foot Greek-revival building situated along Big Timber Road. It is the oldest one-room school house still standing in Kane County. According to Peschke, the building was originally located across the street from its current address.

“They moved it by rolling it over logs,” Peschke said. “They didn’t turn it around, so the original back of the building now faces Big Timber Road. This actually worked out well because the former cloak room, which was once at the front of the building, was now in the back. It became good office space.”

When the Eakin schoolhouse was no longer used for teaching students, it was replaced by a brick building. Standard School was built in 1931 near where the one-room schoolhouse once stood.

Rutland Township used the Eakin schoolhouse from 1931 to 1980 for its monthly meetings and as a polling place. Township offices moved to a bigger building in 1980 because there was a need for more room for storing road equipment.

The Eakin schoolhouse was sold to the Kane County Forest Preserve District for $1. When the society officially disbands, Eakin schoolhouse will still belong to the district.

The society was in charge of probate records dating back to 1848. The township board spent $300 every year on archival supplies for the society.

Splitting records

Once the society disbands, the Elgin Area Historical Society will get the probate records. The Huntley library and Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library District in Hampshire will each get historical reference township records. The oak display cabinets with glass doors will go to the village of Pingree Grove.

“The Rutland Township Historical Society has given the Ella Johnson Memorial Public Library District’s historical collection extraordinary items that detail a wide range of everyday life in Rutland and Plato townships,” said Kelly Sheahan, reference specialist at the library. “From a book that details the schoolwork level of every child in Rutland Township in 1887 to tax assessor’s books that stretch into the 20th century. The area is very fortunate that historical societies like this one in Rutland Township protected these wonderful items for so long.”

The rolling display cabinets were given to the Huntley Historical Society. The Huntley Park District sent a truck and crew to transport the rolling display cabinets to Sun Valley Farm in Huntley, where they will be stored there until they can be used.

At one time, the Rutland Township society had 35 members. Today, its members include Damisch, Mary Carol and Jon Peschke, Frances and Robert Stuehler, Alta Dittmann, Charlene Carlsen, Mary and Roscoe Stelford, Phillip and Mary Lou Manning, and Shirley McMillen.

Damisch said her late husband, Bill, was instrumental in getting her to join the society. In addition to remembering Bill, the society has fond memories of late member Mary Tyrrell.

“Mary was a founding member,” Damisch said. “She loved this place.”


The society first moved into the Eakin schoolhouse in 2003. Peschke said the old oak floor was in such poor shape that instead of lying flat, it resembled ocean waves.

“The squirrels had been in here,” Damisch said. “We took the building down to its two-by-fours. The insides were removed to the outer clapboard, and we put new clapboard on the east side. We put in a new sidewalk and toilet facility. We replaced the oak floor with a $5,000 maple floor. It’s a completely restored schoolhouse.”

A storage shed made in the shape of the schoolhouse was built in 2003.

The society held a grand opening on May 2, 2004. The program stated that the schoolhouse was “restored by the Rutland Township Historical Society in cooperation with the Kane County Board and the Kane County Forest Preserve District for use as a museum and research center.”

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