Archive for June, 2010

Johnson Sauk Trail State Park Rally – July 22 -25th – Kewanee, IL

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Round barn

      A weekend of contrasts with interesting things to do and view, would describe this rally. We had wind and rain Thursday night followed by hot and humid conditions on Friday, but we timed our events to match the weather, rather than have it interfere with our planned activities. The DeHahn’s, Dixon’s, Dutton’s. Jamison’s, Kortum’s, Matkovich’s, and Morrison’s toured: Ryan’s round barn, Bishop Hill, Kewanee, Francis Woodland Palace, Good’s Furniture Mart, and the Bishop Hill Auto show.

Bishop Hill Swedish religious Utopian Prairie Colony

      It lasted 20 years, from 1846 till about 1866. It was lead by charismatic religious rebel, Erik Jansson, who had fled Sweden with 1,200 of his followers after being jailed seven times. He professed to be the second savior, but the commune failed to cope with his failure to rise from the dead after his murder. In 1861, many of the young men volunteered to participate in the Union Armies, leaving the women and children to run 12,000 acres of farms and their many businesses by themselves. Disease and a nation-wide depression dealt the community the final blow. It took 12 years to redistribute the common property. We toured the museum, historic buildings and had lunch in the historic restaurants.  After 150 years, many buildings and stories remain.
      A return trip to Bishop Hill on Sunday revealed a second side with a very large diverse car show in and around the village park in the middle of town. They had everything from antique cars to muscle cars out of the 60’s, to modern high performance cars, as well as many custom and street rod cars.


      A visit to

Francis Woodland Palace Park

    This visit provided an interesting look into the life of a vegan, naturalist, mathematician, engineer, nudist, reincarnationist and inventor who did his own thing, creating a hand built home/environment without the use of electricity. It was the first house in Illinois to be air-cooled using a windmill, the sole source of power for the house. Fred Francis incorporated many novel ideas into his 1889-1926 design. Fred’s patent of a high reliability watch main spring, used by the Elgin Watch Co. allowed him to retire at age 32. The stories about Fred and his life could fill a book. In 1874, he became the first student from Kewanee to attend the Illinois Industrial University (which later became the University of Illinois). Fred designed and helped build and install the “Class of ’78” clock, now in the North Tower of the Illini Union. He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and took a job with the Elgin Watch Company in Elgin, IL, where he designed and built tools to manufacture and assemble watches. While working there he obtained several patents. Fred received royalties for this and other inventions.  The payments continued after he left the company in 1889. Eventually, he received so much money from the Elgin company that he wrote them a letter and told them they had already paid him enough to live the rest of his life comfortably. He asked that they discontinue the payments, and the company reluctantly agreed.

In Elgin, he met Jeanette Crowfoot, a widow with four grown children. They married in 1890 and never had any children of their own.

Fred was atheist, but he believed in reincarnation (and would eat no meat, fearing that if he did, he might be eating one of his ancestors) and in Physical Culture, a philosophy developed in the latter part of the 1800s by Bernarr MacFadden. The main tenet of the belief was that a person should always be actively doing something, whether for the sake of work or just for exercise. The culture advocated daily exercise and long walks. Preferably, these walks would occur in a place where people could remove their shoes and socks, thus allowing minerals to be absorbed into their bare feet. Physical Culture also promoted nudism, which was referred to as taking an “air bath”.

Kewanee area residents frequently saw Fred riding his bicycle into town. Normally, he wore no shirt, hat or shoes, just light-colored pants, no matter what the weather was outside. He never shaved his beard and was said to look like a wild man.

Many wondered what attracted a delicate woman like Jeanie to an unusual character like Fred. Perhaps it was just his good nature and warm heart, but everyone agreed that she adored him.

The pair often traveled about on their bicycle, which was their only means of transportation. He put a platform over the front wheel to carry supplies and provide a place for his wife to ride. He wore a rear view mirror on a wire loop that was placed on top of his head so that he could keep an eye on traffic approaching him from behind. He was remembered for biking the nearly 5 miles to Neponset to take Jeanie to church.

Tragically, Jeanie contracted tuberculosis around 1910. She spent the last years of her life in a solarium that Fred added onto the house for her. He hung a bell outside the house and attached a string to Jeanie’s chair so that she could summon him if he was outside in the yard. The love of Fred’s life died in October 1921, leaving him utterly alone in his magnificent house.

Fred had begun to build Woodland Palace in the autumn of 1889 on 60 acres of timberland. Using brick, stone, and wood that he cut from the land, he did all the labor himself. He followed no particular form of architecture; consequently, the home possesses no real architectural style. Its bricks were purchased from a local brickyard, but Fred chipped each one of them by hand, removing the soft spots and giving them a striking appearance. He added stained glass windows to the building just because he liked the look and installed a dome that was made by a tinsmith in Sheffield. He placed it on a white limestone tower that made the house look like the palace.

On the south side of the structure were two screened porches that could be entered only from inside the house. The one on the west side was Jeanie’s; the one on the east was Fred’s. Among the many oddities of the house were the “missing bricks” openings, which could be found on all four sides of the home. They were part of a system that Fred devised to provide heat to the floors and walls of the basement. He had a heat exchanger installed on the vent pipe for the furnace that heated the house. Heat from the furnace’s exhaust warmed exterior air that was drawn into the structure by a windmill-driven fan a the base of an adjacent pipe. The warmed air was then directed under the floorboards in the basement via ducts in the walls and out through the “missing brick” ventilator openings. In this way, Fred was able to capture some of the wasted heat from the furnace and return it to the home to heat the floors and walls and to keep the basement dry.

Fred also had an air-cooling system that was run by the windmill. He achieved this by running a clay pipe underground from the lower level of the house and into the nearby woods. Air from the forest, cooled to about fifty-five degrees under the ground, was drawn into the pipe by a fan powered by the windmill.

The hot water heater was another invention ahead of its time. Under the stairs was a force pump that provided pressure to run water to the kitchen. The exhaust from the kitchen stove was routed into a pipe that surrounded the pressure pump and warmed the water in the pipe. There was a spigot to draw hot water from the pump, giving the house hot running water.

The fireplace room was north of the coach room. The artwork on the copperplate of the fireplace was done by Fred, but the marble plaques under the mantel were made in Italy. He sent a picture of himself, draped only in a towel, bare-chested, right arm upraised and bicep flexed to a marble cutter to have the statues made. Today, it looks as though the marble version of Fred is supporting the mantel on his upraised arm.

Just west of the fireplace room is the solarium addition that Fred built for Jeanie after she contracted tuberculosis. He designed it so that the air changed every 60 seconds to provide her with a constant supply of fresh air.

After Jeanie’s death, Fred continued working on his Woodland Palace, declaring the he would put the finishing touches on the house on his 100th birthday. To alleviate his sorrow, he began inviting people to his home, where he gave lectures on his ideas, opinions, and philosophies. Sometimes he talked about plants, food, or wildlife; other he read poetry and sang.

He especially liked to entertain school children and built a merry-go-round for their enjoyment. He allowed people to visit the grounds of his home and use the woods for picnics and nature walks. He placed a sign at the entrance to the land that stated. “Stop, read this – grounds are free for all who do right, and all such are welcome. Those who throw paper and rubbish on the ground , or lets kids do so are cordially invited to stay away.”.

As he aged, Fred arranged a signal with the mailman. If the flag on the mailbox was not up, he should check to see if Fred needed help or might be injured. On December 26, 1926, the flag was not raised. Worried, the mailman went to the house and peered into the back door, where he saw Fred lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Fred had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, leaving a note behind that said that the pain from a hernia could no longer be tolerated.

In his will, Fred wrote that he wanted to be cremated on his own land. He included instructions on how to build a funeral pyre and said that he wanted to be left burning until all the mourners had left. Unfortunately for Fred, state law prohibited bodies to burned in the open, and so he was taken to a crematory in Iowa, and then returned to Kewanee, where he was buried in Pleasant View Cemetery. Much to the dismay of his relatives, Fred left his entire estate to the city of Kewanee, and it has maintained Woodland Palace ever since. It remains today as a tribute to a remarkable and eccentric man. Here is a another link to his life click here
Dr. Ryan, Physician and Brain Surgeon, weekend and summer retreat farming experiments fostered the idea of the round barn concept of organized farming. He may not have had an engineering degree, but he did a great job designing and building this wooden wonder around 1910 to house 50 head of cattle.

We also had some great times talking around the campfire. Cooked some good meals outdoors and enjoyed eating under the EZ/UP canopy.

Johnson Sauk Trails SP website click here It is really a nice park and well worth camping there. The city of Kewanee also runs a nice smaller campground at Francis park.

Link to the Region 5 July 2010 Newsletter click here


Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

INTERNATIONAL RALLY @ GILLETTE, WY It was a good convention/rally and the CAM-PLEX facilities served us well, even if the attendance was a little low at 714 rigs. Northern Illinois members attending were:Cristy’s, Dixon’s, Koch’s, B. Nester, Stirneman’s, Stuart’s and Withey’s.
Gillette is on a high dry plain and the wind blows continuously. Afternoon temperatures were in the 80’s and 90’s but cooled down to as low as the 50’s at night. We did have one heavy rain and wind storm on June 22nd. Gillette is a surface mining coal town in the middle of a boom. If you do not work at the mines, you likely support those who do. Wyoming was smart in retaining all mineral rights and therefore, the companies have to pay the state for every pound they dig up. There is 150 feet of overburden to remove and that reveals a low sulfur coal 100 foot deep seam, which is under much of the state in this area. Because of all the money coming in from the mines, they do not have any state tax, except a five cent sales tax.
We arrived on June 22nd after touring the Badlands National Park, SD and Devils Tower National Monument, WY. We went to the Donkey Creek Jazz Festival in Gillette and swam in their new Campbell County Recreation Center, a 64 million dollar water park/pool/sports complex. Many members took the tours of the surrounding area.
President, Carol Dixon won a second place banner in the originality category for her Northern Illinois Unit bulletin board. She also portrayed an Indian in the skit promoting next year’s International Rally in Du Quoin, IL.
Bonnie Nester will serve as Parliamentarian for Region 5. Norma Stuart, Ken Stirneman and 13 year old grandson, David Krabbenhoft, played in the WBCCI Band. Linda Stirneman worked in the message center, while Roy Stuart did cargo. Anita Koch made five hats and Ruelene Aarup knitted 150 hats in the past two years, which were included in the 1,576 total count. Many members donated pull tabs, food and other donations for Community Service. Mary Lou Cristy was a second place winner in Pinochle.
At the two IBT meetings many proposals were discussed but they did not change the Bylaws significantly. Thor proposed they could rebadge a Thor motor home as a WBCCI or Airstream edition, if WBCCI would approve it for membership. It would not be made, sold or serviced by the Airstream Division. A committee was set up to study the proposal again. This could lead to the IBT, at their Jan. 2011 meeting, asking for a Constitutional change again to approve membership of motor homes not made by Airstream. At the Gillette rally, the Delegates’ meeting did not have any Constitutional changes before them. The delegates voted into office all candidates proposed by the nominating committee. There were 1,200 votes cast for an opposition candidate, Mike Garvey, for the nominating committee, but that was not enough to elect him. .