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The Landmarks of Barb City - Part 18A

Gurler House in spring 1973.

The quintessential two-story white frame house with a one-story wing and green shutters, at 205 Pine St., has a long and distinguished history, dating back to around 1857. I want to emphasize here, at the outset, however, that despite being commonly known as Gurler House, it was not actually built for or by the Gurler family. This misnomer stems from that fact that ever since 1892, the George Gurler family and name have been associated with the place. I originally met Beatrice Gurler, spinster daughter of George and Zilla (Newitt) Gurler, in early spring in 1973, and visited with her at intervals until fall in 1976, when she suffered the stroke responsible for her death in March 1977 at age 92. I recall it was during our initial conversation that I asked how her parents came to build the home, not realizing that they were teenagers at the time it was built. She remarked that they did nothing of the sort, but instead bought it when she was 8 years old. "We bought it from Mr. Wyman. He was from Sycamore. He built it," she said. Once again, it was a case of oral tradition that later proved incorrect. Of the many things Miss Gurler told me about life in DeKalb during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this was the only one about which I ever found her to be in error. Miss Gurler had either long since forgotten the truth - or possibly never took the time to read her property abstract to know any differently about the seller. Property abstract tells the story In fact, according to that document, the property, which became 205 Pine St., started out as part of an 80-acre tract that the U.S. government sold on April 13, 1844, to Steven S. Jones, who was a resident of Kane County. Every now and then, over the years, I have come across his name while doing local research, leading me to believe he acquired scattered parcels of land for speculative purposes more than anything else. The 1878 "Past and Present of Kane County, Illinois" says Mr. Jones had been a St. Charles attorney, born July 23, 1813, in Barry, Vermont. (He died Sept. 25, 1866.) He studied for the law in that community, being admitted to the bar at Montpelier. In June 1838, just weeks after marrying Lavinia Camp, he and Mrs. Jones came west to Illinois, settling in St. Charles, where he opened a law office. Steven S. Jones also is credited with having come up with the name St. Charles. A little more than two years later, on April 30, 1846, the Joneses sold their 80 acres in Huntley's Grove (DeKalb's original name) for $216 to Russell Huntley, our founding settler. Between 1849 and 1851, Lewis Huntley, Russell's brother, was said to have co-owned the property with him, although there is an entry indicating that John M. and Caroline F. Goodell - other early residents - acquired the land on Dec. 30, 1850, as a result of legal action against the Huntley brothers. The Goodells sold the parcel back to Lewis Huntley, though, on June 21, 1853, and finally in 1855, Lewis platted the area as an addition to the village. Encompassed in its boundaries were nine square blocks and an odd-shaped wedge. Ninety-three city lots were laid out, all totaled. Lots 2-5 in Block 5 - the property at 205 Pine Street - were sold on Feb. 24, 1857, to Ellzey P. Young and his wife, Alida. They paid Lewis and Diantha Huntley the sum of $320. This could then confirm the long-standing oral tradition that the house was erected in 1857. There is another possibility, however, which if true would then mean the venerable residence is one year younger than always believed. Ellzey Young took out a mortgage on the land in the amount of $537 on Feb. 8, 1858. This might have provided the Youngs with the funds necessary to replace a much simpler structure - a log cabin or shanty, for example - with the house. The mortgage was repaid in full on Sept. 25, 1868. The Youngs completed their ownership of the half-block on the east side of North Second Street between Pine and North streets - now Fisk Avenue - through the purchase of Lot 1 from the Lewis Huntleys on Aug. 21, 1861, for $50. An Ellwood connection Beatrice Gurler may never have been aware of the fact that 205 Pine St. was originally another Ellwood family home in this part of town. Alida Young, you see, was a younger sister of brothers Isaac and Hiram Ellwood. Alida also was her husband's second wife, his first having died in 1852 in Sycamore when she was only 26 or 27 years of age. Ellzey's biography appeared in 1885's "Portrait and Biographical Album of DeKalb County, Illinois." Born July 21, 1819, in Ohio, he came west to DeKalb County and Sycamore in 1839, entering the mercantile business with early capitalist James S. Waterman, whose sister - Caroline - married Ellzey in 1846. --- Steve Bigolin is an expert on local history.

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