Celebrating the Illinois Bicentennial

Patty Eckert and Mike Dvorak brought "Songs of the Prairie State" to our farmhouse back porch for the July 6th performance.

Patti Ecker and Mike Dvorak brought “Songs of the Prairie” to our farmhouse back porch for the July 6th performance.

Illinois was first designated a state in 1818, and a wide variety of events have been planned to mark this special 200th anniversary year. Here in Long Grove, the Historical Society is hosting a series of “First Fridays at the Farmhouse” performances to honor our state bicentennial as well as celebrate our local history. In June we were treated to “Spoon River Anthology,” a classic portrait of life and death in a turn-of-the-century Illinois town. Last week, singer and multi-instrumentalist Patti Ecker was joined by Long Grove musicians Reed Olsen and Mike Dvorak to entertain us on the farmhouse back porch with folk songs, sing-a-longs, traditional and popular selections that reflected chapters in our Illinois history.

Did I mention that all this great, outdoor, family-friendly entertainment is free? Please plan to join in the fun at the remaining two performances on the First Fridays of August and September starting at 6:00 pm. Friday August 3rd will feature “Birth of a State.” Come and find out what was happening in culture, politics, music, theatre, and everyday life during Illinois’ first summer of statehood. On Friday, September 7th, we will hear the tales of local Civil War veteran Chris Sauer told through stories, music and song in a show entitled, “Company’s Comin’.” Mark your calendar now and enjoy an evening in our historic downtown among Long Grove neighbors and history enthusiasts. You might learn a thing or two, also!

Click on the video clip below for a sample of the July 6th show:

Gridley Pioneer Cemetery

Sharon Gridley paid a recent visit to see the spot where her pioneer ancestors are buried.

Sharon Gridley (left) paid an April 21st visit to see the spot where her pioneer ancestors are buried.

Long Grove has two cemeteries, one well-known and one a bit off the beaten path. The cemetery next to the Long Grove Community Church, with it’s distinctive iron work fence and gate, has graves dating back to the 1800’s. Many prominent early citizens of our Village are eternally resting in this historic spot. But perhaps Long Grove’s oldest pioneer settlers, the Gridley family, are buried amongst the oaks in a small, private cemetery on land that was part of their homestead back in the mid-1830’s. The Long Grove Historical Society maintains this cemetery, and we were recently paid a visit by Sharon Gridley of Atlanta, a direct descendant of original pioneers John and Nancy Gridley.

I had not been to the cemetery for a few years, and it was a pleasure to guide Sharon back to this hidden spot. While paying her respects and snapping photos of the weathered grave markers, I got the chance to think about how different it must have been when the Gridleys first arrived. No paved roads, no traffic, just woods and prairie as far as the eye could see. I am always struck by the young ages on many of the tombstones, children who only lived a few short years or months, and the mothers who died way too early. Pioneers enjoyed the peaceful untouched natural beauty and resources that we find scarce today, but it was sure a hard life. Several curious deer emerged from the woods as we concluded our visit, bridging the past and present with their quiet watchfulness.

Sharon and I spent some time that afternoon in our Historical Society archives, where we have many photos and documents relating to her family history. It was glad for the opportunity to meet her and help with researching her ancestors. Life in Long Grove today has much more meaning when we step back to appreciate what Life in Long Grove meant for those that came before us.

St. Paddy’s Day at the Brewery

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Buffalo Creek Brewing with owner Mike Marr (left) and local historian Aaron Underwood.

Long Grove is a great place to celebrate your Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. Whether it’s a trip to Paddy’s on the Square for beautiful Ireland-inspired gifts, green beer at the Village Tavern, Corned Beef at the Chatterbox, or a mint chocolate chip cone at the new Covered Bridge Creamery, our Village is a festive spot to gather for the holiday. This year features another new option as Buffalo Creek Brewing hosts a day-long St. Patrick’s Day Party, featuring free Green Eggs and Hash, a special price on their “Burning Red” craft beer, and evening entertainment.

My husband Aaron and I stopped by the party this afternoon to congratulate Mike Marr, owner of Buffalo Creek Brewing and the newly installed President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association. In appreciation of his commitment of time and leadership to the downtown, (and being that he is a next-door neighbor to the farmhouse museum) the Historical Society presented Mike with a gift of a framed historical print of his choice. His selection, shown in the photo above, is of the Long Grove Crackerjacks baseball team, circa 1908. This was one of several “town ball” baseball teams that existed a century ago, with games played against other local teams such as Palatine and Lake Zurich. Mike likes to distinguish his craft beers with clever names, often a play on words or with a local significance. His newest creation is called “Muttersholtz,” the name originally given to Long Grove in the 1840’s by the early settlers who came here from the Alsace-Lorraine region in Germany. Maybe the picture will inspire a future craft beer that pairs well with baseball games and caramel corn?

Mike also mentioned that he is starting his canning operation in the downstairs of the Brewery starting this coming Tuesday. Compared to bottles, cans have many advantages for beer, two of which are keeping out unnecessary light and oxygen. So not only will your favorite beers be crafted right here in downtown Long Grove, but they will soon be canned locally as well.

However you choose to treat yourself, have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Apple Fest 2017

Cast Members of the Long Grove Historical Society's "A Celebration of the Apple" show include (L to R): Zack Langhoff, Veronica Lada, Nikki Gayton, Karen and Katie Kroll, Mike Dvorak, and puppeteer Krist Neumann, portraying Ma and Pa Gridley.

Cast Members of the Long Grove Historical Society’s “A Celebration of the Apple” show include (L to R): Zack Langhoff, Veronica Lada, Nikki Gayton, Karen and Katie Kroll, Mike Dvorak, and puppets “Ma and Pa Gridley.”

Our Apple Fest weekend was kicked off in style with a first-ever performance of “A Celebration of the Apple,”at the Historical Society’s farmhouse back porch. Audience members relaxed on benches under the apple tree, and were entertained with songs, poems, jokes, history and lots of lore regarding apples. A highlight of the show was the debut of “Ma and Pa Gridley,” a couple of real Long Grove pioneers brought back to life through the farmhouse back porch window. Professional puppeteer Krist Neumann showcased his amazing talent to the delight of both kids and adults!

We are enjoying a bit of a heat wave this weekend in Long Grove, perfect for carnival rides, outdoor music, pie-eating contests, and festival treats such as apple cider donuts. The fun starts on Sunday at 10:00 am and continues till 6:00 pm in our historic downtown. The band American English is featured on the main stage at the covered bridge from 4-6 pm. Come enjoy the day in Long Grove!

Puppeteer Krist Neumann's family owns the Long Grove shop "Viking Treasures."

Puppeteer Krist Neumann’s family owns the Long Grove shop “Viking Treasures.”


Ruth Barn to House Historic Pigs

The Long Grove Historical Society's 1840 Ruth Barn will be the new home for the iconic signs from the Country Smokehouse.

The Long Grove Historical Society’s 1840 Ruth Barn will be the new home for the iconic signs from the Country Smokehouse.

Longtime residents in the area remember fondly the combination smokehouse-restaurant-general store that was located on Rt. 83 and Gilmer Road in Long Grove, called the Country Smokehouse. Closed since 1999, the popular spot featured old-fashioned meats smoked in the historic smokehouse on the property (which is still standing), a deli, and a seven table restaurant serving up country breakfasts and hearty lunches daily. Owner of the business, Bernice Ann Tiffany, has passed away, and her daughter Jane recently contacted me to see if the Historical Society would like some donations of pictures, documents, and other antique items from the Smokehouse and Ferry Farms, the dairy farm and creamery that originally stood on the property. We were very excited to receive these items and happily welcomed the “pigs” back home today to live in our 1840 Historic Ruth Barn! We will be able to incorporate the signs into our field trip program for the local 3rd Graders when they visit to spend the day in our one-room schoolhouse and learn about local history and life in the pioneer and early farming days.

Ferry Farms was the home of Ferryhill Dairy in the 1930’s, and the Country Smokehouse was part of the original estate. It featured an original tin ceiling and shelving that dated back more than 50 years, chock-full of grocery items much like an old-time general store. Many of Bernice Tiffany’s regular customers shared their pig-collecting mania with her, resulting in hundreds of cute pink porkers on display in the restaurant along with the old-time memorabilia. We are grateful to Jane and Ken for saving many of these ties to the past, and for sharing them now with the Long Grove community.

Jane Tiffany-Hansen and Ken Hansen of Grayslake, who graciously donated items from the Smokehouse and Ferry Farms to our Historical Society.

Jane Tiffany-Hansen and Ken Hansen of Grayslake, who graciously donated items from the Smokehouse and Ferry Farms to our Historical Society.

Of Mice and Men

Historical Society member Georgia Cawley teaches her grandson Miles how to work the antique mousetrap.

Historical Society member Georgia Cawley teaches her grandson Miles how to work the antique mousetrap.

Today I have invited a guest to write a post for my blog–none other than Aaron Underwood, President of the Long Grove Historical Society. Aaron writes a regular column on Long Grove history for our local lifestyle magazine, and this favorite artifact of mine was the subject of a recent article.  Wait, I mean the mousetrap pictured above is a favorite artifact–but I guess the author is a valuable treasure too! Anyway, enjoy the following story which recently appeared in Long Grove Living:

Of Mice and Men

One of the joys of living in Long Grove is being in such close proximity to a variety of living creatures. Unfortunately, all those majestic animals are far outnumbered by those little pesky ones, such as the humble field mouse. When seasons change, it seems our local mice prefer the sanctuary of our homes rather than the acres of open space where they belong. The earliest settlers of Long Grove fought the battle to rid their homes of mice just like we do. One of the favorite artifacts in our restored 1840’s farmhouse, is a wire mousetrap. We think it dates to the late 1800’s and likely was sold out of one of Long Grove’s general stores.

The trap is laid with bait in the center and lures mice through a levered flap that is angled such that the mouse can “nose through” to enter, but can’t raise the flap to exit. The trap works as good today as it ever did. If evolution ever decides to bless the mouse with opposable thumbs, the effectiveness of this trap will go astray. Come to think of it, mice with upgraded thumbs might doom all of us.

The classic wooden mouse “snap” trap that you find sold in Long Grove today was invented in 1898. Given the extremely fertile “mouse friendly” environment we live in, perhaps it’s not surprising that the classic “snap” trap was invented in Illinois, about 150 miles from Long Grove. It was noteworthy in that it didn’t rely on gravity, but rather was spring powered. Called the “Little Nipper”, the design remains virtually unchanged today.

Recently a brewery in Chicago received much publicity for the feral cats they use to patrol their grain stores. Our own Long Grove Village Hall occasionally does this as well. When I moved here almost twenty years ago, we employed a cat named Drexler, and he was succeeded by another feline affectionately known as Drexler II. Like many roles in our community, these stray cats are unpaid volunteers. The role of Village mouse catcher is currently unfilled and available for the stray looking for some community service. To apply, simply show up at Village Hall looking hungry, meow a lot, and get to work. Not to take issue with anyone who may have reserved the name Drexler III for any new recruit, but might we dub the new mouse antagonist “Little Nipper” instead?

— Aaron Underwood, President, Long Grove Historical Society

Shall We Dance?

Greeting one of our newest business owners in the historic downtown, Jesse DeSoto of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

Greeting one of our newest business owners in the historic downtown, Jesse DeSoto of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio.

In the year 1900, Long Grove’s first dance hall was built. Housed on a site next to what is now Kildeer Countryside School (and now serves as a parking lot for the old Zimmer Hotel building), this community building was erected at a cost of $2,500. Residents came together to help finance the construction of this social gathering spot, at a cost of $10 per share. According to local lore, dances were held upstairs on the weekends and refreshments were served downstairs, with a separate room to check coats and horse blankets in the winter. Known as Union Hall, dances continued to be held here into the 1940’s, after which it was sold to a turkey hatchery, then a manufacturing company that produced decorative wooden ducks. Years of accumulated sawdust and wood shavings helped fuel a spectacular fire in 1951 that burned the old Union Hall to the ground. Ironically, the fire department was located just down the street but the firefighters were away that evening attending a dance in a nearby town!

One century later, Long Grove’s popularity as a fun place to dance is about to come alive once again. I have recently had the opportunity to meet local resident Jesse DeSoto, a former “Pro” from Season 3 of the popular television show “Dancing With The Stars.” Jesse is in the process of purchasing the former Red Oaks property, and is currently working to relocate his Fred Astaire Dance Studio from Buffalo Grove to our historic downtown. In business for over the past 11 years, this franchise has been consistently ranked as one of the top Fred Astaire Dance Studios in the United States. The former big “barn” on the property is slated to be renovated and reconstructed into a Grand Ballroom, to be used for day to day lessons as well as accommodating social dance events. Future plans for the additional buildings on the site include possible retail and restaurant tenants. Jesse and some of his students recently appeared on ABC Channel 7 to help promote Chocolate Fest this past May. Click here to view a short clip of this.

I know that I speak for so many of the residents and merchants in Long Grove who are excited to welcome Jesse and his new business to our historic downtown. It is a great fit for our community, and truly a kick to see history repeating itself with a popular dance hall coming back to town. This time though, I say we skip the special cloak room for the horse blankets and opt for a disco ball instead!

Behind the Name

Braving weeds and hungry mosquitoes, Historical Society members made a trip to the hidden Gridley Pioneer Cemetary in July of 2010.

Braving weeds and hungry mosquitoes, Historical Society members made a trip to the hidden Gridley Pioneer Cemetery in July of 2010.

A school, a cemetery, a ball field, a restaurant…these are just a few of the things in Long Grove that have used the name Gridley. It all started back in 1835 when John and Nancy Gridley and their six children (Elisha, George, John T., Elizabeth, Mary Ann, and Louisa) boarded a steamer, then a canal boat, and finally a wagon to make their way to where Long Grove is today. Why move into the wilderness from their “civilized” home in New York? John had a leather tanning business out East, but due to the poor economy in the mid 1830’s thought he would try his hand at farming. So the Gridley family went to where good land was available–Illinois. John and his sons built a home from logs and began laying out roads. Hard to imagine Long Grove without any roads, let alone traffic, isn’t it? The Gridley School was built in 1838 and was the first in the area. Two of the school teachers eventually married into the family as brides to sons Elisha and George. Nancy and a few other women who had moved into the area started the first church (also a log structure) in Lake County, what is now known as Ivanhoe Church.

Sons George and John tried their luck in the Gold Rush of 1849 and relocated to California. When things didn’t “pan out” as they had hoped, the men returned to Long Grove. Son Elisha built a dramatic mansion near the intersection of Oakwood Road and Rt. 83 called Endwood. This was later turned into a resort called Oakwood at the turn of the century. The mansion no longer exists, as it was demolished in the 1940’s. Many of the pioneering family members are buried in the Gridley Cemetery, which is maintained by the Long Grove Historical Society.

Thanks to my friends in the Historical Society for helping me research and fact-check this. Our local group survives on donations and volunteers and is a great resource for those wanting to know more about our Long Grove history. Check them out at longgrovehistory.org.

Diary of a One-Room School Teacher

Getting ready to start the lesson by ringing the school bell.

Getting ready to start the lesson by ringing the school bell.

Ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right?  I recently had a day that started out bad and went to worse, and frankly I was in no mood to teach.  But two classes of eager third grade students from Country Meadows were counting on me to lead a field trip at Archer School that afternoon, so what could I do but don my 1860’s day-dress, and subject myself for questioning:

“Did you really teach here?”

Well, I realize that today I might look and feel like I am 165 years old, but no, I am not the actual original schoolteacher from 1849.

“Can I pretend to be naughty so you will use the switch on me?

You know, that’s not a bad idea, but unfortunately your parents could have me arrested if I actually employed old-school discipline.

“How come they did not fall in when using the outhouse?  And is that what I think it is?”

The children were careful and used the privy at home too.  And yes, the raccoons have broken in again and set up their latrine in our outhouse, but they are not smart enough to use the holes!

“Do we get to use the axe to chop wood for the pot-belly stove?”

No, but Mr. Lee Bassett has many pitchforks and other sharp objects to fascinate you in the barn.

“I already know the rules of the spelling bee because I saw a video of one on YouTube!”

Okay… if we are role-playing that it is 1876, and I am really your school teacher and you are really my student, what in the world is a “video” and mercy-sakes, a “YouTube?”

After two hours of relentless inquiry by some of our brightest little residents, I found my spirits had been lifted.  When surrounded by so much infectious enthusiasm and joy, how could they not be?  Thanks, kids!!!


At the crossroads in Mutterscholtz, France.

At the crossroads in Muttersholtz, France.

Since I happen to be traveling in Austria at the moment, I thought I should create a post with a little bit of European flair.  And some history thrown in for good measure, too!  I took this picture of a beautiful old-world building back in 2012, while traveling in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.  The original settlers of Long Grove emigrated from this small town of Muttersholtz (“Mother’s Wood” in English) in the mid 1800’s, and originally named our town after their ancestral home, which was part of Germany at the time.  Legend has it that they picked our area because the “Long Grove” of trees reminded them of the terrain back home.  The original postmaster in town, a man by the name of Sigwalt, is credited with first registering the name.  However, as time went on the residents desired an English name, so Long Grove was chosen.  Today, the European town of Muttersholtz is a quaint French village, surrounded by mountains.  Many of the restored homes appeared to have originally had attached barns, speaking to the farming ways of old.  It features a central crossroads just like our Village, and some sleepy picturesque buildings, mostly residential.  It did feel like a place that could be a sister city to Long Grove.  We stopped by the Mayor’s office (even though I was only a Trustee at the time) and though I speak no French and they spoke little English, we still managed to communicate.  They had no idea that there is a town in America that used to be known as Muttersholtz.