The Rochester Historical Preservation Society was founded in 1988 when Mel Creviston, a local contractor was razing a house on the property of the Rochester Christian Church on south Walnut Street in Rochester, Illinois. Beneath this structure he discovered an intact log house. This log building served as the impetus for a group of people to form a historical society whose goals included: 1. researching the background of the newly found log house, 2. gathering and documenting the history Rochester, Illinois, 3. building an organization that would feature programs pertaining to an historical nature, 4. raising funds to restore historical structures, and 5. providing an avenue to preserve our history for future generations.
Through dedicated efforts of a multitude of people, funds have slowly accumulated and the society envisioned a recreated historic settlement on land adjacent to the Rochester Park. The emphasis shifted from restoring the log house to reconstructing a stone house which was donated by the Chester Mendenhall family in 1977. The stone house, dating from the 1830’s was originally located on the Buckhart road 3 miles east of Rochester. Due to some storm damage the house was falling down and becoming a safety hazard. A group of men disassembled the house and moved the stones to the site of the Rochester Historical Village on west Main Street also known as the Lincoln/Van Buren trail. This site is also less than a mile east of the location of the historic first sawmill and schooling facility in the Sangamo country; the Clark brothers mill on the South Fork River. A Springfield stone mason named Wymond Stubbs laboriously worked with a pile of stones scattered around the building site and began rebuilding the house. David Grubb served as construction superintendent and spent countless hours of personal labor, plus assisting in coordinating other workmen in making this reconstruction a reality.
Meanwhile, other members of the RHPS looked toward the goal of making it a home to reflect the life of the early settlers who lived there: Lucetta (Putnam) and Samuel Stevens, and later Lucetta with her second husband, Samuel West. Research has shown that a young lawyer in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln, helped Lucetta with her estate after Samuel Stevens died. An acquisitions committee was formed to search and locate appropriate furnishings for the period of early to mid 1830’s and to accept donations from people who had special pieces to share. A book is being kept of the various acquisitions and the names of the donors.
One of the strengths of a village like Rochester is the cooperation and support of the people and local organizations. One of these organizations is The Cooper Jets 4-H Club. The club has assisted in many ways, but most notably in the sponsoring of an annual Potato Festival in the fall of the year on our site. We share a large plot of our site with the club and they plant, tend, and harvest the potatoes using a horse drawn planter and digger. A portion of the crop is donated to a local food pantry and the rest is free to the public attending the festival. During this festival and at other times as appropriate the site unfurls a regulation United States of America 25 star flag.
The programs and projects of the RHPS would not be possible without financial support. In the fall of 2005 a tiered giving program was implemented. Contributions made to the organization through this program are tax deductible and are very much appreciated by our group. A copy of the program form is available for your convenience.
The efforts of the RHPS in reconstructing the stone house and developing the historical village have received recognition in local newspapers: “The Rochester Times” and “The State-Journal Register”. WSEC, Springfield’s PBS station (channels 8 & 14) filmed a documentary on The Old Stone House for a segment on the program, “Illinois Stories”. Mark McDonald interviewed local people who were involved with the project. A video or DVD of the program can be obtained by calling 1-800-232-3605.
The society also envisions initiating educational programs and projects for elementary through high school students. This will assist them in learning about the early history of their hometown. Both research and hands-on programs are being developed to be offered for students and adults to enhance their historical perspective.
You are invited to join the RHPS as they continue their work. The historical village is free to visit any time. Access to the inside of the house is by appointment. Please revisit this site periodically as we will be adding more information and pictures of the reconstruction of the log home during 2006 and further additions and development of the village.
As a tax exempt organization (number E 9941-5216-01) we are always very grateful for any donations and you may review our donation giving brochure for some ideas. In addition to monetary donations we are interested in furniture and smaller miscellaneous items that are of the 1800-1840 eras, and a windmill.
We can be contacted in several manners; by mail at Rochester Historical Preservation Society PO Box 13 Rochester, IL 62563-0013, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 217-4989497, by fax at 217-498-9497.