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Historical Society walk takes residents back in time to Civil War

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 6:00 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:57 p.m. CDT

GLEN ELLYN – From the women who sent food and supplies to soldiers to the men who fought in the war, the residents who lived in the small community of Glen Ellyn, then called “Danby,” were greatly affected by the Civil War.

The stories of some of those whose lives were changed will be shared in the Glen Ellyn Historical Society’s cemetery walk, “Spirits of the Past: Danby Goes to War,”on Sunday.

The walk will be at the Forest Hill Cemetery, where 62 Civil War soldiers are buried.

“The whole area of Danby sent in so many men,” said Jan Shupert-Arick, the society’s executive director.

The historical characters who will be included in the cemetery walk include a grave digger, Cornelia Brooks, Dr. Horace Potter, Wealthy Churchill, William Churchill, Jacob Lair and Mary Beaner. They will provide different perspectives on the war, from a widow to a former slave to those who were injured or lost their lives on the battlefield.

Former Village President Mark Pfefferman will play the role of Jacob Lair, a German immigrant who fought in the war and lost his right hand in the Battle of Antietam, which was the bloodiest single day in American military history.

Participating in this cemetery walk is new territory for Pfefferman, who was approached by the society to play one of the characters but never has acted in the past.

“This is really a first for me,” Pfefferman said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

After being injured in battle, Lair served in the Civil War’s “Invalid Corps,” which later changed to the “Veteran Reserve Corps,” after members expressed discontent with the previous title.

He later moved to Wisconsin and then the Glen Ellyn area, where he served in many capacities at First Congregational Church and worked as a janitor at Duane Street School. Lair raised five children, many of whom worked in the village, as well.

These facts and others featured in the walk are based on hundreds of hours of research by the event’s subcommittee, Shupert-Arick said.

Since 2011, the Historical Society’s Sesquicentennial Committee has planned programs to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. One of its subcommittees was charged specifically with researching and planning the cemetery walk, which is the first walk held by the society to focus on the local impact of the Civil War.

The cemetery walk will be from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Forest Hill Cemetery at St. Charles and Riford roads. During that time, tours will be led every 10 minutes from a tent at the cemetery to the graves of those featured in the walk.

The Historical Society hopes to compile and publish its local Civil War research, although Shupert-Arick said the publication details haven’t been decided.

“What we have decided is that what we’ve done for this project is a really important thing,” she said. “Our community’s contribution to the Civil War was pretty remarkable.”

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