Residents helping Douglas tell Brownstown’s history

Brownstown Schools librarian Aubrey Douglas has had a goal since college to establish archives of history, genealogy facts and photographs for a community.

I am interested in genealogy myself, Douglas said. And before I retired, I wanted to set up a local history collection for Brownstown.

She is making progress with this goal in the Brownstown High School Library, with the assistance of Brownstown native Joann Strobel and other interested people in the Brownstown-Sefton area.

Douglas praises Strobels input to the joint effort. People know her and trust her with their items and pictures. They dont know me.

Strobel, downplaying her contribution, said, She does most of it, but I can provide information that she didnt know, because she isnt from here and Ive lived here most of my life.

Its good to save things from the past, Strobel said, because we can always learn from the past. Plus, there are so many people doing genealogy now and wanting to know about their families, and this will be a help, she said.

People who have items of local interest can contact Strobel at 427-3885. We can bring the items here and scan them, and then I would get those items back to them.

We would love to get old Bibles with the family history in them, she said.

With old photographs, if people want to keep them, we would scan them. If they dont want them back, we would love to keep them here, Strobel said.

Wed like to have any kind of books that tell the local history. We have a few written by Paul Strobel, she said.

Strobel has worked in the Brownstown High School library for 39 years. Several factors make her an ideal assistant in this effort. Her knowledge of Brownstown, her volunteer work in various areas and community projects, her work in her church and her friendly, next-door-neighbor personality are all great assets to obtaining information needed for the project.

How It Began

It was primarily started because the teachers wanted to do units on local history, and students were interested in finding out about their families, Douglas said.

I had several inquiries and a grant became available, so I thought we could work this into a curriculum and have the books here, so when the teachers needed to do something with the National Road or local history, wed have it right here at our fingertips, she said.

When we started this, it was the time of the big Lewis and Clark celebration. We had teachers doing lesson plans on Lewis and Clark expeditions, plus we were sitting here right on the National Road. We have a teacher doing a unit on that.

Douglas wrote the application for the $3,000 grant, and all of the funds were used for this purpose.

Currently, the collection is mainly a large number of National Road items, but efforts are being made to collect histories of local families and the community. Interested people are welcome to visit the library and look at the collection during school hours..

We also have books on how to research your family history, for the whole United States and some foreign countries, Douglas said. We are compiling different things. We have a lot of donated family histories already.

Included on the shelves are the families of Scott, Smail, Albright, Mahon and Schutt. Also of interest to some is a volume of Fayette County Cemeteries, a scrapbook of obituaries and one of miscellaneous news items. Included in the collection is a bulletin, Fayette Facts, a monthly publication of the Fayette County Genealogical Society.

We have all the records of marriages and deaths, including early marriages and some early births, of Fayette County, Douglas said. The material is to be used in the library, and may be checked out only in special circumstances. A copier is available for use.

Also on hand are old files and old maps of Illinois. The files contain newspaper clippings that people had saved over the years.

Brownstown High School yearbooks dating from 1942 provide an interesting and often humorous collection of history and photographs. It is interesting to note the difference in the thickness, type and quality of printing, contents and the changes over the years.

The 1942 volume includes teachers and school officers. T.W. Grotts was principal, and the teachers included Alex Reed, Christina Lambert (home economics) and Eleanor Lotz (commerce). The students included Helen Mayberry, Julia Scott, Corda Wilson and Orville Spurlin.

Douglas is present on school days, usually from 7:15 a.m. until 4 p.m. It isnt necessary to call ahead, but those wishing to look over the collection need to first check in at the school office.

Whether one is seriously pursuing their family history, collecting certain material for a project or just enjoys browsing in history and reminiscing in the past, it is fortunate for the Brownstown community that Aubrey Douglas is realizing her pre-retirement goal of setting up the history of the area.

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