Located in the Sycamore Public Library
103 E. State Street
Sycamore, IL 60178

Tuesday and Thursday

The Pest House

Wikipedia defines a pest house, pesthouse or fever shed as a type of building used for persons afflicted with communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera, smallpox or typhus.  Often used for forcible quarantine, many towns had one or more pesthouses accompanied by a cemetery or a waste pond nearby for disposal of the dead.

In DeKalb County we have records of five pesthouses.  DeKalb, Sycamore, Fielding, Sandwich and the County Farm all erected confinement dwellings.  Some of these were built for use only during the epidemic; but, others were more substantial and were remodeled for other uses.  Those who agreed to be confined at home, often displayed a sign or signal (such as a red flag) so others knew to stay away.

On June 5, 1869, the Sycamore City Council held a special meeting to vote on the building of a 16’X24’ dwelling to be used as a pesthouse.  Construction began immediately on the William Foster land in Section 33, just north of the city.  This structure burned down the next day.  The Council met a second time 2 days later and authorized construction on the land of C. O. Boynton in Norwegian Grove.  One must wonder if there was some opposition to the pesthouse being built on the Foster land.

In 1881, the City of DeKalb erected a pest house in the fairground area located near Altgeld Hall.  Pictured above, this house looks rather substantial and might have been moved and used as a home because an article in the Sycamore True Republican newspaper reported a new pest house being built in 1905.
By 1885, DeKalb had established a Board of Health.  Confinements were under the jurisdiction of the medical health officer and failure to cooperate resulted in a $200 fine.

The Fielding pesthouse was never used and later was sold.  It was reported in the June 27, 1914 Sycamore True Republican newspapers that the Sandwich pesthouse burned a few days after the last confined person was released.  The State Fire Marshall determined this was a case of arson and an investigation was started.  There is no record of the outcome.

Illinois Adoption Law Passed By Illinois Legislature

Under this law, original birth certificates cannot be issued in person by state or county vital statistics offices.    This law allows adult adopted persons born in Illinois to request non-certified copies of their original birth certificates through the Illinois Department of Public Health.  In most cases, the original birth certificate will list the first and last names of one or both birth parents.    Birth parents of adopted persons born after January 1, 1946, may request that their names be deleted from this non-certified copy. All birth parents may indicate their preferences regarding contact with their adult birth child. The options available under this new law are different for adopted persons, birth parents and their family members. The options available also change depending on the date of birth of the adult adopted person.  For more information see www.newillinoisadoptionlaw.com.

Birth, Marriage, Death and Naturalization Records

The DeKalb County Clerk's office has birth, marriage, death and naturalization indexes online.These records meet genealogical guidelines.  Their website is www.dekalbgenealogy.com.

New Malta Obituary Collection

“A Scrapbook of Obituary Collections, People with a Connection to the Community of Malta, IL”  Compiled by Dorothy W. Stoddard, December 2012.  3,274 obits.  These obits are not part of our online database.  If you are looking for an obit on someone from the Malta area contact the Joiner History Room. This collection is also for sale in printed ($80) and CD ($20) formats.  All proceeds go to the Malta Historical Society.


Can you help?

The Joiner History Room is seeking to add to its archives pre 1960 telephone books and city directories for the cities of Dekalb and Sycamore.  We are also interested in historical documents pertaining to DeKalb County.  You don't have to send the original historical document, copies will be just as good.  If you have such an item to donate, please email the Joiner History Room.  In the subject line enter "Item to Donate."  Thank you.

Copying/Scanning/Mailing Pricing

$ .25/page......Photocopy by patron at JHR
   .50/page......Photocopies by JHR staff
 2.00/scan......By JHR researcher
 2.00/each......Photo quality prints
Scans will be emailed. To keep your costs down, we will try to get as much on one scan as possible. Photocopies by JHR staff and photo quality prints are sent U.S. mail only. Postage is also charged.
Sycamore True Republican, 1893

DeKalb Newspapers Available Online

Newspapers.com has made available past issues of the DeKalb Chronicle (1879-1895) and the Daily Chronicle (1895-1963).  These issues are searchable. Newspapers.com requires a paid subscription.

Images of America - Sycamore



The Christmas murals with religious themes that decorated the courthouse from about 1937 to 1956 are fondly remembered by many.  The murals were installed above the front door at the second floor balcony level.  They were sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and designed by comercial graphic artist Arlie Pierce and high school art teacher Cora Miner.  High school students from manual arts and art classes helped with construction and painting.
(Photo and information used with permission.)  See More Like This In Images of America-Sycamore available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and at local stores.

Looking Back Index Available

The Midweek, a current DeKalb County area publication, has a column called "Looking Back" that has small snipits of local news dating back to the late 1800's.  Most items are one or two lines long, just enough to give you a flavor of what was happening at the time.  This index covers publication dates from the start of the column, mid-2010, through December 2012.  If you find an item of interest, e-mail the Joiner History Room with date of publication and page number.
Access Index

Burkhart Funeral Home Records

Funeral home records are often overlooked as a source of genealogical information.  Joiner History Room volunteer Fran Besserman diligently compared a hand-written list of Burkhart burials with obits available from other sources in our collection.  This may be the only record of a death.
View list here.

Our New Look

The Joiner History Room’s new website look was made possible by the Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Family Foundation.  We are deeply grateful for their support.  The website was designed by Trittenhaus Design of Sycamore.  Many pages had to be transferred to the new look and we think they did a spectacular job.  Thank you to both organizations.

Joiner Room Honored To Be Part Of The DeKalb County Community Foundation

The Joiner History Room Endowment Fund was established in 2008 to honor Ralph Joiner and the first appointed DeKalb County historian, Phyllis Kelley.  If you wish to donate to our Endowment Fund, click here or send a check directly to The Joiner Room at the address above.