Who will tell your story after you've been dead for 161 years?
I’ve often pondered this question. I mention 161 years for a specific reason. On August 21, 1858 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held their Senetorial Debate in Ottawa, Illinois, 161 years ago. As a child this debate and the fact that we had a canal were the two peices of history that I was taught. I was a curious child. I know there had to be much more.
For decades I’ve been researching the PEOPLE of Starved Rock Country’s past. I started “close to home” with family and famous names I had heard. I quickly expanded as I fell into the “rabbit holes” of historical research. I soon found that a real sense of Ottawa in the 1800’s was developing in my mind. Through the natural course of research and it’s intertwining tentacles, Ottawa was coming back to life.
Of particular interest to me were the fogotten people of Ottawa. Among them, most of my family. I won’t bore you with that now but, I’ve had some impressive ancestors who lived and died in Starved Rock Country. Broader than my family, an entire community worked, loved, fought, married, divorced and died. The true scope of my research was becoming overwhelming. There are thousands of people who played a part in forming the city that would be handed down to you and me.
I’ve always believed in telling the good the bad and the ugly of our past. A glorified, purified, filtered story of the past is just as untrue as if pure fiction. I began documenting everything I found. Clarissa Fisher, Wesely Fisher, Jasper G. Taylor, Augusus Edwards, Martha Randall and Daniel Sheehan all heard of the coming debate of Lincoln & Douglas. They no doubt chatted with friends and family about the large crowd expected in Washington Square. Maybe they pined politically for one candidate over the other. Sadly, most of the names I mention met their demise before the famous debate.
Their voices are now heard again on our 2019 Haunted Ottawa History Tours. Their forgotten past has been added to the repairtoire of Awesome Ottawa Tours. They are no longer forgotten.