Sharing Family Treasures: Donations provide pieces of local history puzzle


By Karen Haave

A prominent Will County family has marked the 170th anniversary of its ancestors’ arrival in America with donations to two local historical societies.

Fourth and fifth generation descendants of the Seggebruch family gathered for presentation of personal artifacts to the Monee Historical Society and to the Crete Area Historical Society.
Among the items donated to the Monee Historical Society were a Saxony-style spinning wheel dating from the 1850s, and life/death portraits of Gottlieb (1815-1900) and Louisa (1818-1906) Seggebruch, which are handcrafted wood shadow box frames with floral wire sculptures decorated with colored threads and human hair of female family members.
Donated to the Crete Area Historical Society were an antique kitchen clock dating from the 1870s, purchased at the Wehrmann General Store in Goodenow, and wedding photographs and a German wedding certificate from the 1902 double wedding of brothers Johann and Frederich Seggebruch to sisters Wilhelmina and Sophia Nietert in Edwardsville, Illinois.
“Another item is a 1972 letter from the State of Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie which recognized the Seggebruch homestead farm as an Illinois Centennial Farm, being owned by the same family for over 100 years at that time,” said Dan Seggebruch, who also is president of the Will County Historic Preservation Commission.
The mortgage and deed documents for the original 80-acre Seggebruch property dated November 8, 1853, were shown at the presentation, as well.
“The Seggebruch farm served as the family homestead for five generations of the Seggebruch Family beginning in 1853,” he noted. “Friedrich Gottlieb Seggebruch, his wife Friederike Elisabeth Eleonore (Siegmann), and five children emigrated from the Port of Bremerhaven, Germany, in the fall of 1853.”
They traveled by steamship across the Atlantic Ocean to New York, then continued on the Hudson River to Albany and the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes to Detroit. The final leg of the six-week journey included a wagon trip to Chicago, where the family purchased their original homestead farm from attorney and land broker Francis Hoffmann, at his office at 55 Clark St. in Chicago. The land was purchased at the cost of $5 per acre, a sum of $400, which was secured with a $100 down payment and $300 mortgage.
“The family then traveled south to Crete Township and their new home, where they erected a settlement house before the winter of 1853-54 set in,” Dan said. “The one-room house measuring 14 feet by 22 feet housed the seven-member family, and a cow to provide milk. The oldest child, Henry, died that first winter, but four more children were born in America, and the farm eventually grew to 410 acres.
“The Friedrich Gottlieb Seggebruch Homestead is listed as a Will County Historic Landmark, as is the Monee Heritage Center at the historic Monee Creamery.
“The 1853 Crete Congregational Church will also soon be nominated and considered for listing as a historic landmark by the Will County Historic Preservation Commission, who held their annual traveling meeting at the Crete Library last month.”
Christi Holston, president of the Monee Historical Society, said her organization is thrilled to have the Seggebruch family donations.
“It is wonderful to receive these donations from the Seggebruch family,” she said.
“The Seggebruchs were some of the original settlers in Monee and Crete townships who have remained active and instrumental in the history of our area. Dan Seggebruch is President of the Will County Historic Preservation Commission and, as such, a leader in the preservation efforts in Will County.
“I have worked with Dan on the board for several years now and his knowledge of the history of eastern Will County is extensive.
“We are grateful for family donations like this that reflect our early history. The Seggebruch donation is one of the first of many we hope to receive from families in the area. Many folks have memorabilia and family heirlooms that they want to preserve, but no longer have room for.
“Some of these items may not seem relevant or important in themselves, but when added to the body of knowledge we are accumulating, might be highly significant.
“We hope the Seggebruch donation will encourage others to consider donating photos, records, and other historic items to the Heritage Center. This will enable us to continue and expand our mission of preserving, collating and analyzing these treasures in the larger context of our shared history and making them readily available to the public to appreciate, learn from, and enjoy.”
Tim Piepenbrink, vice president of the Crete Area Historical Society, said the CAHS was equally grateful.
“The Seggebruchs were early settlers in the Crete and Monee area,” he said. “Their Land Title was issued 170 years ago on November 8, 1853. Today’s presentation of their Family artifacts coincides with that date.
“We have to look back at what it was like for people to immigrate to a new land and set their roots in a new place to make their homes. The challenges were immense. Often times, these hardy and adventurous people didn’t know anyone, or had very few acquaintances in their new land.
“They had to rely on their own skills, and work very hard. Most built their own homes from the
local timber. Imagine that.
“After a short time, neighbors got to know each other, and were there to lend a hand. They shared the work with each other and built a well-connected community with reliable friendships.
“They also had their faith to help guide them through what were certainly difficult times, but also
the best of times.
“Land titles from the Government were only issued to the first buyers of the ground. For any of those documents to survive this long is remarkable. Anytime we can find, preserve and display these rare documents is fantastic. There aren’t many around. Other artifacts show what people used to survive.
“The Seggebruchs were prominent citizens in our area, in farming and providing other business services to our residents for many generations. They are certainly Cornerstones of Crete and Monee townships.
The preservation of this local history is obviously still an important part of who the Seggebruchs are. And we are delighted to receive their cherished artifacts that will be displayed in our Museum for generations to come.
“Many, many Thanks to the Seggebruch Family!”
Ryan Martin, president of the CAHS, said the donations “will be an asset to the future museum. My Grandpa once told me, ‘If you want your story told, you have to tell it yourself.’
“By donating local items to the museum, you are ensuring your family history in Crete Township will be passed on to future generations. Any paperwork donated by Dan will go into the ‘Seggebruch’ folder in our ‘Family History’ filing cabinets, so anyone doing research on the Seggebruch’s can easily find it.
“I’m looking forward to learning more about the Seggebruch family.”
Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

Fourth and fifth generation descendants of the Seggebruch family gathered for presentation of personal artifacts to the Monee Historical Society and to the Crete Area Historical Society.
(Photo by Karen Haave)


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