SYCAMORE – Sue Breese was the first person to hold in her hands the culmination of a three-year effort to capture the past 50 years of DeKalb County history.
Standing next to a full pallet inside the cold warehouse of Blackhawk Moving and Storage in Sycamore, Breese opened one of the boxes stacked on top to see a hardbound copy of “Acres of Change.” Breese, a DeKalb County historian, is one of the book’s co-authors and she was soon joined by two more, Sherrie and Terry Martin.
Terry Martin flipped through the book and marveled at what he and more than 20 others had created.
“This is just terrific,” he said.
Three more co-authors – including Marcia Wilson – arrived to check out “Acres of Change,” a history of the county from 1963 to 2012. The 304-page book is the sequel to “From Oxen to Jets,” which covered the county’s history from 1853 to 1963. Inside, readers can learn how several aspects of the county have changed, such as agriculture, religion and education.
For many of the contributors, deciding what to include in the book was the hardest part.
“So much has happened in the last 50 years that we had to determine what to put in and what to leave out,” said Averil Schreiber, who co-wrote the chapter about townships and municipalities.
Clark Neher faced the same problem when writing the arts and entertainment chapter. He said there wasn’t a similar chapter in the previous book on the county’s history.
“I put a lot of emphasis on [Northern Illinois University] because it is kind of the heart where symphony orchestras, operas and stage productions came from,” he said.
In 2009, the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society formed a committee filled with community members and leaders who were experts in the topics the book covers. Terry Martin and the book’s editor, Kate Schott, former managing editor of the Daily Chronicle, led the committee.
“The magical thing, I think, is that we found our authors without much controversy,” Terry Martin said. “I don’t think there was any controversy. It was a lot easier to find authors that had expertise in the various areas and were willing from the very beginning to say yes.”
The project received financial contributions, grants and sponsorships from many organizations, businesses and community figures in the county.
Terry Martin said none of the authors were paid, but Schott received a stipend. He said she was chosen to edit the book when committee members realized they needed someone with the technical expertise to organize the book.
The history of the county isn’t told solely through words, but also in 350 images. The majority of them were gathered from Shaw Media newspapers in the county and the Joiner History Room, which Breese directs.
She co-wrote the chapter on agriculture with Al Golden, who died before the book was published. Breese said in her research she found several things people might not know happened in the county, such as the development of hybrid corn and the use of “gene guns” to modify corn genes in the early 1990s.
Sherrie Martin said creating the book had been a long process and everyone was excited to get their copies. A book signing has been planned for Saturday in the Little Theater at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center.
“To me as a co-author, it’s been such a delight to see the book,” she said. “This is our first chance and that is quite a thrill.”
If you go
What: “Acres of Change” book signing
When: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Little Theater at Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center, 2944 Greenwood Acres Drive, DeKalb
“Acres of Change” has a cover price of $39.95, and will be available for purchase at the following locations:
• Inboden’s Market, 1106 N. First St., DeKalb
• Joiner History Room, 103 E. State St., Sycamore
• Kirkland Heritage Society, 309 S. Fifth St., Kirkland
• Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Society Museum, 622 Park Ave., Genoa
• Klein, Stoddard, Buck, and Lewis, LLC, 2045 Aberdeen Court, Sycamore
• Lehan Drugs, 1407 S. Fourth St., DeKalb
• Leo’s Trophies, 16 E. Railroad St., Sandwich
• Sycamore History Museum, 1730 N. Main St., Sycamore
• Sycamore Antiques, 320 W. State St., Sycamore
• Victoria’s Crossing, 220 W. Main St., Genoa