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Society activities

2005 Annual Meeting

Annual meeting

Paul Baumann, a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies, was guest speaker for the annual meeting of the Catlin Historical Society.

Baumann, who is education coordinator and collections manager for the Lincoln Log Cabin historic site in Lerna, Illinois, spoke on "Cemeteries and Monument Cutters of the 19th Century."

The meeting was held January 10, 2005, at the Catlin Municipal Building.

Baumann's particular interest is in "signed" headstones, those that carry the name of the cutter of the stone. He estimates about seven percent of headstone in east-central Illinois and west-central Indiana carry the identification. The practice began about 1830 and continued until about 1900.

The percentage varied from county to county, Baumann said, ranging to a high of 20 percent in Douglas County. He estimates three to four percent of stones in Vermilion County are signed.

Although some cutters may have signed their stones because they were proud of their artistic work, Baumann believes the signings were primarily intended to be advertising. In fact, Baumann has learned that some customers were given discounts if they allowed their stones to be signed.

Baumann has visited almost 800 cemeteries in 29 counties. Those visits have produced about 7,400 entries in his database of signed stones.

As artists have styles that help identify their work, so do the headstone cutters. Baumann says he can often identify the cutter just from the way the headstone is made.

The cutter, the company he worked for and the business location are are among items researched when a signed stone is found.

Baumann told how Sears & Roebuck began selling headstones through their catalogs in 1894. A separate catalog, including headstones and items such as fencing and fake flowers, was issued in 1896.

"You could buy a nice tombstone from Sears for $12," Baumann said. The most expensive was about $50. The headstone would be shipped to the purchaser and set in place by a local company.

In a brief business meeting prior to the talk, outgoing society president Sara Cast reported that membership was growing, standing at about 357 of which 171 were life members. In the past year some 560 items were donated to the Catlin Heritage Museum, Cast said.

Roofs goes on

Jim Jones, restoration chairman for the society, reported on the progress of the log cabin project. The 1830s "Sandusky" log cabin, which had been buried in the walls of a house in the south part of Catlin, has been moved to a concrete foundation on the grounds of the Catlin Heritage Museum.

A new 28- by 48-foot building is being constructed both to shelter the cabin and to give the society needed storage space.

Seven divided areas inside the building will be used for display space, Jones said, while another room will be used to store lawn mowers and yard tools.

Much of the lumber used in constructing the new building was salvaged from the log cabin house including beveled redwood siding which, Jones estimates, will cover the front and ends of the new building.

Brick was also salvaged from the log cabin house and some of it has already been cleaned by society volunteers. The Catlin Cub Scout pack has volunteered to work on cleaning the rest of the brick.

Five new members of the Catlin Historical Society board were elected.

Evelyn Darr read the nominations which included Jim Jones for an unexpired one-year term; Heidi Newlin for an unexpired two-year term, and Dan Rose, Steve Berry and Sue Colwell for three-year terms. The slate was elected unanimously.

Neal Brogan, Evelyn Darr, Kristi McGee and Terry Waltzer will continue as board members. Leaving the board are Linda Berry, Sara Cast and Jeff Monyok.

An election of officers will take place at the next board meeting on Monday, February 3. Board meetings are open to the public.

Cast said several committees are hard at work planning festivities for Catlin's sesquicentennial. Dates for the celebration are July 21-23, 2006.

Catlin Historical Society
210 North Paris
Catlin, Illinois 61817