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Duchnowski: Meeting Annie Glidden

Published: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

I think I would have liked Annie Glidden if she were alive today. I hope she would have liked me.

I learned a bit more about her this weekend touring the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center, which is tucked between Burger King and Copy Services on Lincoln Highway on DeKalb’s west side. The brick house, built in 1861, originally was a farmhouse outside of town, but the town eventually engulfed it.

The homestead is worth a quick tour if you haven’t visited before. Annie’s photo hangs on a wall in an upper room, next to one of her sister, Cora. Cora, in my humble opinion, was the prettier sister, but as I read over Annie’s biography posted in a room focusing on the Glidden women, I began to suspect Annie was the more interesting sister.

Annie’s uncle was Joe Glidden, inventor of the barbed wire we hear so much about here in DeKalb. Her father died in 1876, when she was 10 or 11, but Uncle Joe paid for her and her four siblings to go to college, so she went to Illinois State Normal School in Bloomington and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., according to the homestead website,

Annie wanted to help the newly formed library buy better books in 1898, and her solution was way more fun than a bake sale: She started the Library Whist Club. Its members played cards Monday afternoons and used the membership dues to buy good books for the library. The group still meets and provides books for the library, and new members must be invited to join.

She raised Cora’s son after Cora died in 1903, was the hostess of the Glidden House Hotel from 1895 to 1906 and bought a home with farmland from her brother, John, in 1910, according to the homestead website. She won a state award for the corn yields there, and also grew asparagus, corn, alfalfa and raspberries. The road in front of that house still bears her name.

I’d be extremely flattered if anyone ever summed up my life the way the homestead’s website sums up Annie’s.

“Her friends remembered her years of service to the community as the keynote of her life,” the website states. “She was devoted to family and friends, and showed them many kindnesses. She was a nonconformist with a fierce determination to complete any task once started.”

If you’d like to learn more about the Gliddens, the homestead is open to the public Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and from noon to 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of the month from June to October. Admission is $4; children ages 14 and younger get in free with their family.

There’s also a plethora of information online at

• Jillian Duchnowski is the Daily Chronicle’s news editor. Reach her at 815-756-4841, ext. 2221, or email

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