I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
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Long ago therapy was to compile book
By Barry Schrader.................................April
that she also had terminal cancer at the time of my first
visit, and this book project was her therapy and kept her going.
Because of the MS, she could only type painfully on an old manual
typewriter, but a cousin, Donna Synnott Lazer, took her drafts
and composed the pages on an IBM Selectric. Thats why the
book looks like it was set on a typewriter.
A phone call to the Daily Chronicle office back in 1972 asking
to talk to the editor brought me into contact with a remarkable
She said her name was Helen Bingham, and
she wanted me to visit her on a farm on Old State Road between
Clare and Sycamore.
I would have normally requested
that a caller come to the office, but she explained she was in
a wheelchair, so I went out. I learned that she had multiple
sclerosis, was in her early 50s and was a writer. She was compiling
a book of tidbits of local history and wanted permission to include
some columns that had been published in the Daily Chronicle.
This winter I came across her book, My Scrapbook
of Collections and Recollections, and wondered what had
become of her since I had moved away to California in late 1972.
I located her obituary at the Joiner History Room and realized
she had passed away in May 1973 at age 52, not long after her
book was completed.
Checking the phone book I
found her son, Art, who still lives on the family farm. So I
made another trip to that farmhouse last month, the same one
where I met her nearly 40 years earlier. He explained
Helen Bingham, Author
said his mother began the book project a decade earlier when
a young boy brought her some old letters he had found in an empty
farmhouse near Electric Park. From that beginning, she collected
bits and pieces of history she found fascinating about life in
DeKalb County from the early times until the 1950s.
can find columns in it from Homer Hall, who wrote under the pen
name Uncle Silas for the Chronicle in the early 1960s; an interview
she had with C.R. Luke McLagan, who wrote for the
Sycamore Tribune and True Republican; and even the Civil War
diary of Dexter Wesson. She took excerpts from the History
of DeKalb County by Henry Boies printed in 1868. Then there
were selections from diaries and old letters written by young
people about their lives in this county a century or more ago.
She included accounts of the Great Depression,
the barbed wire barons, catching grave robbers, World War I and
the early days with Native Americans all fascinating,
But Helen reserved the
longest chapter 60 pages for her own memoirs that
she decided to include late in the project. Art, had been on
a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, and she got it done in time to surprise him when he returned
On my recent visit, Art also shared an unpublished
book of her poetry. She was clearly a talented woman in many
ways, and I hope someday the poems will be published as well.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
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PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115