Teresa Moretto Headstone

Looking at headstones recently I came across a headstone for Ethel Richter Dodge. I had assumed originally I was looking through my files for Ethel Richter (not my Aunt Ethel but another Ethel Richter), who had married into the Dodge family. We unfortunately lost my Aunt Ethel last year, so asking her wasn’t possible. I did find out she was named for a family friend and distant relative Ethel Oakwood as I was working on searching for the family link.

In the past as I’ve looked through the cemetery – and even looking through my own notes, I’m always surprised at the number of names that are reused. My grandmother Theresa Moretto was even named after her sister that passed away a few years before she was born. Her sister was said to have been named after an aunt that great grandmother didn’t want to forget. Reusing names was a way to honor the family member. My grandmother’s sister had come to the US with my great grandparents when they immigrated from Italy and passed away shortly after arriving in the US.

There is also a grave for a Janie Richter that was a sister to my grandfather. The story goes that she was kicked in the head by a horse and passed away very young. That name was also reused. An unusual name was Cleta. My aunt Cleta Fern Richter passed away at barely a year old from pneumonia, but also in the family as a Cleta Henning – My grandmother’s niece.

I had already thought about naming any daughter after one of my aunts. We ended up with all boys and I left it to my husband to choose the names. For each name we discussed the good and bad qualities for each friend, family, and sometimes others that we knew with the same name. None of the boys did end up named after anyone we knew, but we definitely discussed everyone we knew with each name before settling on a name. I always hope my kids are happy with the name they ended with.

Janie Richter HeadstoneI remember growing up trying to change my name a few times. I even successfully changed it once for a few weeks. I always liked my middle name more than my first name, and in kindergarten had come up with the idea to write a note saying my parents had changed my name to my middle name. – As an important note to remember it was in a kindergarteners handwriting, but I did get my mother to sign it. I should also mention a cousin’s husband was the principal, another cousin’s wife was the 1st grade teaching assistant and the janitor was a cousin too.

All that being said, they took my note and changed everything. My mother didn’t find out what happened until parent teacher conferences. – She did make them change everything back. Of course this was the same teacher that kept confusing my best friend and I (the fact that we randomly kept swapping name tags didn’t help), and had ended up accidently sending me for my friends kindergarten immunizations, while she got to skip ( I had already had mine, so I ended up with twice the dose and she got none)…. I often wondered if that was why that teacher quit the next year?

Names can be important, in researching your family, multiple family members with the same names makes following my family line takes some effort and knowing family stories as much as possible.

Playing in the Creek

Having friends over for a holiday, we went down and played in the creek – and wandered through the woods. It quickly brought back memories of all the times we would go into the woods and play in the creek near the house – and even better the times we would play in the river. Robby on a 3 Wheeler

The creek by our house isn’t a spot we went down to often, but across the road under my mother’s house is the deep spot that we would head to play when we got a chance. I remember seeing tadpoles and more in the spot there, and the day that we found someone’s textbooks from the high school that had been dumped in the woods by the stream. Walking across the logs and the rocks in the stream was a great way to stay cool and something to do.

Any more I hear a lot of complaints about nothing to do around here, but all the things we did as kids are still here. The streams to play in, the river to canoe and fish, 4 wheelers to ride, sleds to play on, river to splash in, biking, and so much more! The electronics the kids currently play with can be played with anywhere – so it’s hard to imagine that’s a drawback. There aren’t as many clubs and fancy restaurants to go out to, but as families with young kids (or even families in general) we are totally fine with what is available in the area.

In our area when we really want to visit a large museum or go out to an event, we have our choice of Chicago, Indianapolis or St. Louis within a few hours drive. Champaign Urbana also gets several big names at the assembly hall and the University of Illinois has everything from sports to academics that are available. It’s not the night life of New York City, but personally I don’t need that. I love the family get togethers where everyone sits and talks about the past, shares great food, and the kids run around throughout the group playing. Walking through the woods, playing in the rivers and streams, and watching the wildlife – though I can live without the snakes, spiders, and ticks.

As kids playing in the white water in the river, playing on a sand bank, canoeing down the river, even playing in the old ruins of Conkeytown foundations and treehouses were things that could keep us occupied all day. Other days were spent walking beans and working in the fields trying to help our parents, playing in grain bins, and even riding our bikes up and down the road. Our family had both ponds (great for skating and swimming) and a pool that we used to keep cool during the time we weren’t working. After harvest, my dad would convert the fields into tracks for us to race around as well as making a golf course out of our yard.

It seemed family was always dropping in! I remember playing crochet in the yard being one of my dad’s favorites. He would pull grass up in a line all the way to the wicket to make it easier to hit in. We also were taught how to play Euchre which was a popular evening card game. It seems New Year’s Eve was always Monopoly night though. – I also loved to read, and always had a book (Nancy Drew being my favorite!). It seems we never ran out of things to do. All the things that we did are still around, so it’s hard to imagine how there isn’t anything to do now? I’m starting to think it’s just something to say.

Recycling Bricks!

I still keep finding bricks as we walk around. They seem to be everywhere – with the latest showing up in the field where we have been riding 4 -wheelers around. Following the example of my parents, we have turned the field next to the house into a race track during the season that the field isn’t planted. While riding around the brick showed up! I’ve been digging up bricks all over our yard, reclaiming them from the previous house that was on the site. The brick out in the field is part of the house that was buried here. Really there were a few buildings buried as well as a few wells.

I’m not sure about these bricks but I remember the story that the house I grew up in was made from bricks and blocks that were created in the woods near the house. Bricks are made from something like clay that is molded and then dried – and finally fired (in a kiln). The bricks I’m finding were buried here as each building was torn down.

Currently, I’m reclaiming the bricks and using them for projects on our new home. My first project was a walkway from the driveway up to the side of the house. As I see bricks buried around the yard (and nearby), I dig down and pull them out, making them into a pile. I’m loving recycling and it ties us to the past!

First Generation


Mary Ford – my 2nd great grandmother was first generation in the US. Her father Frederick Ford (Voth) and possibly her mother Julia Smith immigrated from Germany – though some of the records list Julia Smith as coming from Iowa?

Mary was then married three times to William Calvin Eldridge, Sheldon Cannon and Samuel Reese. She had two children William Lincoln Eldridge and Sarah Reese.

Mary Ford was born on March 24, 1835, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Julia and Frederik. She was married three times and had one son and one daughter. She died on February 20, 1923, in Oakwood, Illinois, at the age of 87, and was buried in Catlin, Illinois. William Calvin Eldridge and William Lincoln Eldridge ended up living across from each other on the farm where we currently live. – According to my aunt with twin houses! Mary’s husband William was a Mormon from Nashville TN according to family stories.

Mary Ford’s daughter through her third husband Samuel Reese was Sarah Reese. Sarah married a Fithian and then a Kinsey. After marrying a Kinsey they relocated to California. My grandmother remembered her aunt Sarah and when Sarah passed away, my grandmother received a small inheritance.

The inheritance was used to replace my Aunt Linda’s bedroom with a bathroom – and add indoor plumbing to the house my grandmother and grandfather Richter had ended up in. Sarah Elizabeth Reese Kinsey passed away in 1948 (my aunt was 6) and is buried in Glen Abbey Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

Sarah Kinsey tombstone

Driving Fast… Zoom!


One of my ancestors, Abraham Lincoln Richter (1864-1944), had one of the first cars in the area.  Abraham Richter was on the school board for Lake Shore school and owned land on the west side of Oakwood near where we live now.  Houses at that time were few and far between, and trips in to town were fairly rare events that got documented in the paper in many cases.

My grandmother Mildred Eldridge, married to Abraham Richter’s son Wesley Richter had only just started to learn to drive when she passed away in her fifties.  While learning to drive, she was taking a trip to Champaign for shopping with my aunts and father and was involved in an accident.   That was really the last time she drove.  She was later diagnosed with cancer, but she hadn’t ventured out to drive again after the accident before her illness.  – The accident was along route 150 near the location that route 49 turns north.

My Dad

While a teenager my dad’s first accident was wrecking a motorcycle on our road.  It was pretty amazing he survived at the time.  Without my grandmother still living, my father had to go stay with my Aunt Dorothy after being released to have care.   Near the end when he would have brain scans, the doctors would mention the scar tissue from the accident.  The year I was born he flipped a corvette totaling it.  He loved to race and it had been modified for racing.  My mother was pregnant with me and my father was with two of my cousins at the time.  While at the hospital the nurses and doctor, came out assuming that my dad was running around with two young girls (not knowing they were nieces) and mentioned that they didn’t think they could keep the story from the paper.  He also lost the front end of his car just a few yards from where we are living now.

The Roads

The country roads tend to lend themselves to driving fast.  Speed limits of 55 mph, houses miles apart, and very little traffic. Though Vermilion county itself was actually the first county in the nation to pass a bond to build a set of roads for farm to market.  The movement began in 1913 to raise money for the roads – two million dollar bond issue.  The road near us was labeled route 10 but became the current route 150.  

The Now

Growing up my parents always made sure we had motor vehicles of all types.  We learned to drive really early, practiced often, and could drive just about anything and anywhere.  To start we had go-carts, including one my dad had modified for me that used a drill for a motor that ran with an extension cord. He would unplug it at any point if he felt that I was in danger – which on a farm took a lot.  My dad moved on to two seat dune buggy’s in fiberglass, our own race tracks each year, snow mobiles, old cars, trucks, and whatever else he could find to let us try.  By the time I was 16 I already was regularly driving a ram charger that  was for me to drive.  I remember the night of my 16th birthday right after going to get my license, I drove into town to babysit. 

4th of July and Building

We are still keeping costs as low as we can, but of course unexpected costs showed up.  Things that the builder didn’t mention – I wish I could say they were small – and a couple smaller things that we really wanted added.  The home arrived without wastewater plumbing, so we added that, we have an aeration tank for the septic, so that will have a yearly maintenance fee (but it’s a lot cleaner for the environment if maintained), we added lights under the house (a really nice extra), and are adding an outlet in the attic space (also a great addition)… Running the gas lines wasn’t included either, and that was more than we thought…  I think we are on track with the rest.

The house is behind schedule and seems to have received the wrong siding – I’m not sure how that happened, but looking through it seems fairly well built.  There are a few places cabinet trim pulled away, one cracked tile, and cracks in the drywall, besides some jammed doors and space open above doors – but none are major things.  I expect they will have everything fixed quickly now that they are working on site.  The house even has a floor already laid in the attic, so we can start storing things there without having to take time to lay a floor first.

Our new home was to be ready for the fourth of July, but plans went off somewhere and we ended up four to six weeks behind. After everyone was invited to our house, it was easier to move the party to the pond behind my mothers. To get ready, canopies, a grill, cooler, and some chairs were all set out. I can’t say it was quite the same as the parties we had as kids, but it definitely was a family gathering with lots of family and friends!

Dad always enjoyed fourth of July, so the canon was shot off in his memory as well as a cake decorated to look like a hamburger.  With the dementia and strokes that dad had faced at the end, he had reached the point by my parents 50th anniversary that dad couldn’t eat solid foods – even liquids had to be thickened to keep him from choking.  His favorite thing had been hamburgers and Pepsi.  We hadn’t yet been told his diet had been swapped at the time, so for his anniversary we brought in a hamburger and Pepsi for dad.  I think it was his last hamburger and Pepsi (that was thickened liquid).  It was also a day shared with a large gathering of family.

Rob and I are still learning how to load and light the canon, so it took three tries for it to go off.  (This time Rob did all the work with the help of friends!)  The canon has really been around, shot off everywhere from my cousin’s house, our house, and even The Little Nugget in Danville!  After the canon was stolen last year, at one point we thought it would never happen that we would get a chance to shoot it off again.