Welcome guest blogger, Barbara Hower, a fifth generation Napervillian and a volunteer in the Naper Settlement Research Library and Archives.
I’ve been a volunteer in the Naper Settlement Research Library and Archives for several years. It seems that whenever I’m assisting Curator of Research Bryan Ogg, I get to do a little time traveling. On these travels, I learn new things about Naperville and its residents. Quite often I find new information about my family because I’m a fifth generation Napervillian.
I started volunteering after I donated family memorabilia after my mother died in 2008. Our family kept everything, great and small, and the Settlement seemed like a great final destination for our family “treasures.” I also grew up hearing “true stories” about my mother’s family from my grandmother, Kathryn Shimp Wendling -- especially about my great-grandfather, Sam Shimp, who was a DuPage County sheriff, farmer and Naperville auctioneer.
Recently, I was cataloging three boxes filled with old postal account books, donated by the Naperville Post Office. We were hoping there’d be lists of names and addresses of old-time Napervillians. Not quite. Mostly it was just numbers — postage paid, bulk mailings, etc. There were some good historic finds, though.
These books noted postmasters such as Edward Dieter, Alvin Scott, Jr., Horace Peaslee, Sankey Good and Mary B. “Matie” Egermann. Listed under “Trust Fund Accounts” were North Central College, R.N. Givler (the “Naperville Clarion” publisher), Harold E. White (the “Naperville Sun” publisher) and the Evangelical Theological Seminary. In the “Unclaimed Matter” section, I found a Martin and Von Oven dead letter and one to an Edward Shimp (not someone I’ve found in the family before, so this will entail more searching).
Miss Matie Egermann, one of
The best find of the day was in the last book, the Record and Postal Account Book dated 1897 to 1902. In it were handwritten names of Naperville Township farmers (including Shimp, Crampton, Book, among others). I recognized a lot of these names from my grandmother’s true stories. The book also included an insert with heads of rural delivery families. On this sheet was my great uncle’s name: J.J. Shimp. Jesse Shimp was Sam Shimp's son, and he and his family lived on the Shimp tenant farm.
All in all it was a good time travel day — I found some relatives and the books are now catalogued and safely stored.
- Barbara Hower
Barbara Hower is a lifelong Napervillian with an abiding interest in history. She is a graduate of North Central College in Naperville with a double major in English and History, the same college where her parents attended and where her father was the college registrar and Classics professor. In addition to volunteering in the Naper Settlement Research Library and Archives, Barbara is also a communications consultant, specializing in researching, writing and editing for not-for-profit and for-profit companies, and is a published author in major newspapers and magazines. She has worked for several large professional services firms as a writer and researcher and also served as an editor/writer for numerous magazines and newsletters.
Barbara Hower is pictured here with the
Kroehler furniture that she donated to