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

Tuesday and Thursday

The DeKalb Cereal Company

Prior to the invention of cold cereal, it was common in wealthy homes for a breakfast to be a large meal of ham, eggs, sausages, fried potatoes, hot biscuits, hotcakes and coffee.  People with limited means ate a hot meal of porridge.    Eating a healthy diet wasn’t important to most people.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg envisioned a  healthier, grain based product that would be economical for all.  In 1891, he acquired a patent for his new health food he named Cornflakes.  They were immediately successful.   His brother, William K. Kellogg, discarded the “health” aspect and opened his own company to produce a more commercial taste appeal cereal that included sugar and flavors.

DeKalb had its own Dr. Kellogg in the form of Dr. U. N. Thornton of Aurora (formerly of Leland).  Not much is known of Dr. Thornton, but that he invented Big Six Cereal.  According to the DeKalb Chronicle, he claimed Big Six Cereal was a “healthful combination of six grains, scientifically blended to contain a maximum amount of protein, carbohydrates, salts, etc.”

Dr. Thornton convinced wealthy investors to support the DeKalb Cereal Company.  The investors hired William E. Elmore to handle sale of stock in the company, and to manage the operation.  The new cereal plant was to be built at the corner of what is now known as Sycamore Road and Greenwood Acres Drive where the First National Bank stands today.  An article in the American Miller magazine described the three-story building and reported that at full operation, the production output would be 24,000 packages per day.  Several newspapers referred to the cereal as flour that could be used in baking.  Might this mean that it was similar to today’s oatmeal? 

All did not go well for the company.  Delays in building the plant and starting production took their toll.  The June 26, 1915, issue of the Sycamore True Republican reported that Elmore, the manager, had disappeared and left creditor bills unpaid.  The company was forced into bankruptcy. 

Another group of investors decided that with proper management, the company could be profitable.  The factory, after all, was complete and there appeared to be demand for the product.  However creditor lawsuits forced the sale of the plant in late 1916. 

An interesting note to this story:  in 1920, the Farmers Supply Co. of DeKalb advertised  their “Early Maturity Pig Meal” being made at the plant.  Ironically, the ad took on a health twist by listing the protein, fat, fiber and carbohydrates in the meal.

Historical Photos Available on Flickr

Over 700 photos from the Floyd Ritzman Collection which are part of the Northern Illinois University Digital Library are now available on Flickr at https://flic.kr/s/aHskqwXroS.  This collection of photos, taken in and around DeKalb County, was formerly part of the Taming the Wild Prairie website. Thanks to Matthew Short at NIU for making these historical photos available.

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.

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 Malta Historical Society. This collection is also for sale in printed ($80) and CD ($20) formats.  All proceeds go to the Malta Historical Society.


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

Shabbona-Lee-Rollo Historical Museum Digitizes Newspapers

The SLR Museum recently announced the following newspapers from the southern part of DeKalb County and Lee County have been digitized and are available online through their website at http://slrhistoricalmuseum.advantage-preservation.com/
The Paw Paw News, 1874-1876
The Lee County Times, 7 Apr 1882-6 Apr 1883 and 1 Jan 1886-13 Aug 1959
The Shabbona Express, 13 Dec 1917-26 Mar 1925
The DeKalb County Express, 31 Jan 1929-27 Oct 1960
There are a few issues of The Compton Record, scattered issues from  1887-1895 and the Evening Times, September 1887. 

DeKalb Daily Chronicle Available Online

Due to the generosity of the Douglas C. and Lynn M. Roberts Foundation, a large selection of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle is available free online.  The issues are searchable.  Issues available cover the period January 2, 1918 through December 31, 1930.  Issues dated between June 1, 1930 and November 30, 1930 are missing. You can access this database at http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=q&l=en.

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.

Seeking Yearbook Donations

Are you downsizing or cleaning out closets and found old high school yearbooks you don't want.  WE DO!  Our collection is missing the following books:
Sycamore:  1905 and before; 1970; 1975-1989; 1998, 1999, 2001 and later.  DeKalb: Before 1906; 1909-1923; 1926; 1932-1933; 1942-1946; 1948-1967 and 1971 and later.  Please call us at 815-895-7271.


Obituary Database Reaches Milestone

We now have over 36,000 obituaries in our online, searchable database.  The link to the database is above.  Joiner History Room volunteers have worked for three years inputing obituaries. Because this is an ongoing project, we have many more obituaries to input and you may not find what you are looking for. Please contact us via email if this is the case.  

Burial Permit and Removal Permit List Available

A Burial Permit was initiated by the funeral home to report to the Department of Public Health where a deceased person was buried.  The information includes name, identifying information, date and place of death, cause of death and where buried.  A Removal Permit had to be completed if a buried body was to be moved to a different cemetery.  The Joiner History Room has a limited list of names, dates of death, and cemetery where buried.  This is not a complete listAccess list here.

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.