2014 News and Events

New Sign at Rezab Family Prairie Meadow
          A new sign has been installed at the Rezab Family Prairie Meadow on the northwest corner of West Adams and Wigwam Hollow Road.  A generous and anonymous donation to the McDonough County Historical Society fulfilled the instructions of the donor to honor the Rezab Family with a more appropriate and attractive sign.
         Don and Gordana Rezab wanted to protect the southern side of the Old Macomb Cemetery with an area for reflection and contemplation. Gordana wanted to establish a pioneer heritage meadow that reflected the prairie plants at the time the cemetery was established in 1830.
         Since 2012, the McDonough County Historical Society, in close cooperation with Tim Howe, City Forrester, and Gary Rhoads, City Sexton, has developed this two-acre site with weed removal, the planting of over 500 potted prairie plants and 12 memorial trees.
         This prairie restoration will evolve over several years as more species are planted, walking paths designated, and benches installed. The variety of plants and trees will be educational tools for curious visitors.
         The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow already serves as a dignified and appropriate entry into Macomb’s oldest historical cemetery.

Scouts clean up Cemetery

Simpson clean-up
       On a crisp, sunny fall afternoon, 15 members of Boy Scout troop #315 attacked the weeds, scrub, tree limbs, and branches that covered the floor of the Simpson Cemetery hidden in deep woods north of Macomb.
        In 2010, Tucker Hays reclaimed the Simpson cemetery from almost 100 years of neglect, a project that fulfilled his major requirement to reach Eagle Scout. But in four years, Mother Nature has been aggressively taking her toll again.
       The Simpson family cemetery has been inactive and abandoned since 1918. The earliest burial was an infant in 1842. The last was William M. Simpson, a veteran who died in World War I in 1918.  An older William T. Simpson was a veteran of the Civil War who died in 1878. Seven of the 16 headstones mark the graves of young children or infants. Ten members of the Simpson family rest in this deeply wooded and secluded plot.
       This fall the troop cleared a footpath from the edge of the woods to the entrance of the cemetery. Armed with a variety of tools, the Scouts restored the beautiful cemetery with its erect headstones and ancient wire fence supported by original concrete posts.
       Wesley United Methodist Church sponsors Scout troop #315. The McDonough County Historical Society directs the county cemetery project.

Prairie Planting

Tim Howe, City Forester, supervising trenching by Jason Brendau.
Tim Howe, City Forester, supervising trenching by Jason Brendau.
Demetrius Allen unloading some of the 450 plants.
Demetrius Allen unloading some of the 450 plants.
Demetrius Allen (from upper left), Greg Van Vleet, Jeff Moore, Gloria Diggs, Bill Knox, and Tim Howe fill in the soil around the plant roots.
Demetrius Allen (from upper left), Greg Van Vleet, Jeff Moore, Gloria Diggs, Bill Knox, and Tim Howe fill in the soil around the plant roots.
Gloria Diggs setting prairie plants in the trenches.
Gloria Diggs setting prairie plants in the trenches.
A completed 125 foot row, one of five rows planted.
A completed 125 foot row, one of five rows planted.

Prairie Planting

             The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow pioneer restoration project sponsored by the McDonough County Historical Society moved a giant step forward on Friday, July 18, with the planting of over 450 one-gallon prairie plants.  There were over 17 different varieties of grasses set in trenches. Earlier this spring an additional 300 forbs were planted along Wigwam Hollow.

            Tim Howe, City Forester, jumped on an opportunity to get these plants donated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Each year, after the DOT landscapes the Illinois roads and highways with plants grown by the Department of Natural Resources, it distributes the excess to non-profit community organizations. Both the City of Macomb and the McDonough County Historical Society qualified for this donation.

            Gloria Diggs, one of Howe’s assistants, supervised the project all spring. Diggs graduated from WIU in May with a degree in agriculture with emphases in horticulture and urban forestry. Demetrius Allen, a WIU student and Leatherneck football player, also working with Howe and Diggs, helped with the planting.

            Gil Belles, on behalf of the historical society, oversees the development of the prairie restoration. He invited Bill Knox and Greg Van Vleet of the Centennial Rotary to help, in addition to Jeff Moore, soccer coach at Macomb High, with his own landscaping business.

            In just under two hours, these seven volunteers set the 450 plants in five trough rows trenched by Jason Brendau. They were then watered with a wish for some rain over the weekend.


            The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow has 14 new heritage trees, each donated for this tribute to Don and Gordana Rezab. As the restoration progresses, there will be benches for reflection and meditation in this gateway to the Old Macomb Cemetery just north on Wigwam Hollow Road. 


On June 28, at 2:00, as part of this year's Heritage Days event, focused on "Macomb's Military Heritage," there will be a re-enactment of a typical 19th-century Decoration Day ceremony in Oakwood Cemetery. Titled "The Memory Shall be Ours," the script was created by John Hallwas, based on 19th-century GAR manuals and local newspaper accounts of those Civil War remembrance ceremonies. The re-enactment will feature the Macomb Band, under the direction of Michael Fansler, which will play a variety of Civil War songs. Also, the 114th Regiment, reactivated, a noted Civil War soldier re-enactment group from Springfield, will be performing the roles once filled generations ago by local Civil War veterans: posting the flag, speaking about soldiers, and decorating selected soldier graves. In the 19th century, this was Macomb's largest participatory event, which often drew several thousand people to Oakwood Cemetery. The re-enactment will be filmed by WIU Television, with director Roger Kent in charge of the taping, editing, and creation of the film. It is planned to make this re-enactment available on local TV, especially during the Memorial Day holiday each spring. The re-enactment, which is largely a Civil War music concert, is free to the public on the Saturday of Heritage Days.

Dr. Barbuto to speak on the War of 1812

Dr. Barbuto is a recognized scholar and speaker on the War of 1812.  The talk will explore two of the war’s heroes, General Alexander Macomb and Commodore Thomas McDonough. Both generals left a legacy of clever military strategy that fostered pride in our young country as they fought what was often called the second war of independence with Britain.  General Alexander Macomb and his men were recognized with a Congressional Gold Medal in 1814 for their “gallantry and good conduct, in defeating the enemy at Plattsburg.”  With the bicentennial of the Battle of Plattsburgh approaching, the program offers a rare opportunity to hear an accomplished historian speak about events that set in motion the development of West Central Illinois. 

Dr. Rich Barbuto is professor of history and deputy director of CGSC’s Department of Military History.  A 1971 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he served for twenty-three years as an armor officer with tours of duty in Germany, Korea, and Canada.  Barbuto received his Master of Arts degree in History from Eastern Kentucky University and his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas.  Barbuto specializes in the U.S. Army in the early republic and the War of 1812.  He authored Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada, and Long Range Guns, Close Quarter Combat.  He recently authored two commemorative pamphlets on the War of 1812 along the Canadian border for the U.S. Army Center of Military History.  He is currently researching a study of New York State in the War of 1812.

The program has been organized by the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Heritage Days Committee.  The Western Illinois Museum is located at 201 South Lafayette Street, one block south of Macomb’s historic Courthouse Square.  For more information, contact the museum at 309.837.2750 or info@westernillinoismuseum.org.

Cemetery Symbols and Tombstone History Discussion

University Libraries will be hosting Greg Phelps, "Dead Men's
Tales: Cemetery Symbols and Tombstone History Discussion" on
Wednesday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 180 of Leslie F. Malpass

Many Americans visit cemeteries to honor loved ones on Memorial
Day.  Have you ever wondered what the symbols on the tombstones
really mean?  What is the story behind the angel, acronym, or
symbol?  Greg Phelps, a Library Specialist with University
Libraries and President of Scott's Cemetery Association, will
discuss many of the common symbols people see in cemeteries
plus a look at tombstone history.  Attendees will also learn how
to make a tombstone rubbing!  This lecture was presented in the
fall semester 2013 and due to patron interest will be presented
again with some new information added.

This event is free and open to the public.  Any questions,
contact Tammy Sayles at tj-sayles@wiu.edu.


  • Macomb's military heritage focus of cemetery tour

By Nick Draper

Staff Reporter 
Posted May. 27, 2014 @ 10:18 am 
from the McDonough County Voice

 Oakwood Cemetery houses the graves of men that fought in many of the nation’s wars, including hundreds that served in the Civil War.
The Macomb’s Military Heritage Tour at Oakwood, sponsored by the Friends of Oakwood Cemetery, provided some insight by author and historian John Hallwas into the stories of the cemetery’s residents.
Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was known during the Civil War, has always been a large part of Macomb as the city celebrated its veterans heavily throughout its history, Hallwas said.
“It wasn’t just civil war guys,” he explained. “(It was) earlier wars too and, of course, later wars. That started after the Civil War with the whole sea change that came in about the way we should honor and remember our soldiers.”
Macomb has seen its share of servicemen, with many of the large movers and shakers throughout its history having been in the military in some form. This includes C.V. Chandler, the richest man in the county and the one who personally paid for the statue in Chandler park.
This also includes W.H. Hainline who ran the Macomb Journal and former president of Western Illinois University Alfred Bayliss.
Illinois University Alfred Bayliss.
These veterans made sure that the dead were celebrated in a proper way each Decoration Day, Hallwas said.
“You had 2,500 people in the town in 1870, 1880, 1890,” Hallwas said. “We had 5,000 on Decoration Day, double the population of the town was out here on Decoration Day and it was because these guys made it happen.”
People would come in from all over the county, and from other counties, to Macomb and would have a war hero give a speech. People would line up as far as the eye could see, Hallwas said.
The headstones of veterans, each adorned with a flag, included those who had served in many different wars. One stone, the stone of Francis D. Lipe, is adorned with the odd “Cherokee War.”
The Cherokee War was actually the removal of Cherokees by Andrew Jackson, known as the famous Trail of Tears, where the Cherokee Indians were removed from their lands and driven into “Indian Territory,” now known as Oklahoma.
Another interesting stone was the stone of Colonel Carter Van Vlec, whom had fought in the battle of Chickamauga and was wounded.
“He should have really went home and stayed there,” Hallwas said. “His arm was in a sling. But as soon as he possibly could get back in the service, after a period of a couple months he did so.”

Read more: http://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/article/20140527/News/140529407#ixzz33RMAT8CE


Weather permitting, next Friday, May 2,

the WIU Horticulture Club will place 300 prairie plants

in the Rezab Family Prairie Meadow.


Tim Howe, Macomb City Forrester, learned that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources together with the

Department of Transportation, offers excess prairie plants (one gallon pots) to not-for-profit community organizations. These are cultivated to beautify state highways. The extras go to projects like the prairie meadow being developed

by the McDonough County Historical Society.

If conditions permit, the meadow space will be trenched mid-morning Friday, May 2. The WIU students will place the

potted plants in the trenches. You are welcome to attend and either cheer on the students or volunteer to set the plants in the trenches.

Linda Rezab Gibson accepting sign
Linda Rezab Gibson accepting sign

Press Release

March 1, 2014


            On Saturday, March 1, Linda Rezab Gibson, on behalf of her brother Ray and sister Julie, accepted the sign officially designating the Rezab Family Prairie Meadow. Gibson was in Macomb to accept a posthumous “Writing Women Back into History” honor conferred on her mother Gordana by the Macomb Feminist Network.

            The Rezab Family Prairie Meadow is located south of the Old Macomb Cemetery at the northwest corner of Wigwam Hollow Road and West Adams Street.

             In 2012, the McDonough County Historical Society (MCHS), under the leadership of president Gordana Rezab, initiated a new phase of its Cemetery Project: the restoration, preservation, and beautification of the Old Macomb Cemetery.  Rezab spearheaded the campaign to install a new fence around the cemetery.

            The society then turned its attention to the empty lot directly south of the cemetery. The goal is to transform the adjacent two-acre field into a pioneer prairie meadow as a contemplative and educational entry to the cemetery.

            This required obtaining control over the land. Rezab persuaded the Macomb City Council to accept the land with the provision that development be the responsibility of the MCHS.

            Before her untimely death, 12 of 14 new trees had been planted as well as the sowing of heritage prairie meadow seeds.

            The City Council named the area the “Rezab Family Prairie Meadow.”

            Rezab’s contributions to Macomb’s history go beyond her leadership of the MCHS. On Saturday, the Macomb Feminist Network honored many of her legacies to our community. 

            As head archivist at WIU, Rezab was instrumental in developing the division of Archives and Special Collections. She was treasurer of Macomb Beautiful Association, McDonough County Choral Society, and League of Women Voters. She was a founder of the McDonough County Genealogical Society. Rezab was on the board of the Western Illinois Museum.

            One culmination of her research interests was published as Place Names in McDonough County, an unusual and valuable reference tool.


            Linda Rezab Gibson shared family memories with the crowd at the honor ceremony and expressed the pride of her siblings with the Prairie Meadow and the Writing Women Back into History Award. 

On Saturday, March 1, at 10:00 AM
at the Multicultural Center on the WIU campus, 
former President of the McDonough County Historical Society,
Gordana Rezab 
will be  honored as a posthumous recipient of the
Macomb Feminist Network’s
Writing Women into History” Award.
            You are cordially invited to attend.
Mary Warnock and the late Alice Swain are also recipients.
For more information: 

For Immediate Release

February 11, 2014    



The Western Illinois Museum is pleased to host author

Laurie Loewenstein, author of the new publication, Unmentionables



The Western Illinois Museum is pleased to host author, Laurie Loewenstein whose novel, Unmentionables is set in a community much like Macomb.  Loewenstein’s childhood visits to Macomb to visit her grandparents instilled an interest in the region’s history, as well as, insights

she used to create the setting for the book.  The author will speak about her personal connection with McDonough County and how it is intertwined with the novel’s topics such as the Suffragette Movement and woman’s involvement in WWI.  She will also read from her publication during the program which will be Saturday, February 22, at 2:00 pm at the Western Illinois Museum.  The event is free and open to the public. 


Unmentionable is an extensively researched historic fiction published in 2014 by Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books.  The novel begins by introducing Marian, an outspoken advocate for sensible women’s undergarments, who is part of 1917 Chautauqua lecture series.  While speaking in the small Midwest town modeled after Macomb, she sustaining an injury and is sidelined from the lecture tour.  While convalescing, she gets an opportunity to sees the community’s response to her call for reform. As the week passes, she throws into turmoil the town’s unspoken rules governing social order, women, and race relations.  Marian is a powerful catalyst that propels a small, Midwest nineteenth-century community into the twentieth century; but while she agitates for enlightenment and justice, she has taken little time to consider her own motives and her extreme loneliness. Marian, in the end, must decide if she has the courage to face small-town life, and be known, or continue to be a stranger always passing through.


The publication will be available for purchase during the program courtesy of the publisher, Akashic Books.  More information about the publisher or to purchase the book in advance, visit: http://www.akashicbooks.com/catalog/unmentionables/ Electronic versions are also available through Amazon.


The Western Illinois Museum is located at 201 South Lafayette Street, one block south of Macomb’s historic Courthouse Square.  For more information, contact the museum at 309.837.2750 or info@westernillinoismuseum.org