Isaac Hill map is discovered

-A A +A
By Linda Hanabarger

It was three weeks ago when my son brought the telephone to me. “Someone wants to know about the Isaac Hill map,” he said, as I reached for the phone.
The caller identified himself as Mike Deschais of Lansing, Calif., and he asked what I knew about the Isaac Hill map.  Well, as it happens, I know a lot. 
I began to tell him of the two maps and accompanying ledgers, and of Jack Cole, in whose custody they had been.
Following Jack’s death in the early 1970s, the maps disappeared. I first saw the maps in 1986.
Mike had a few questions, and as I answered them, he threw in a stunner – “What would  you say if I told you I had the maps?”
I was stunned.
Mike’s story began four years ago, when he attended a consignment auction near his home. Although his specialty was in coins and paper, this mom and pop auction is one he attended on a regular basis.
This particular day, he purchased the two maps, along with a framed northeastern railroad timetable.
A third map, which was a copy of the 1803 Barbeau map, was purchased by another bidder, a representative of the Boston Rare Map Co. 
Mr. Deschaies didn’t know what he had and began his search, much as I had in 1988, to determine who Isaac Hill was and to prove the authenticity of these historic documents.
Mike told me his search led him to an article I had written about the maps, and then to John Coleman of the Hill’s Fort Society of Bond County. 
As Mike and I continued our conversation, he told me that he had been talking to the folks from the Boston Rare Map Co. about purchasing the maps, but hearing the passion in my voice thought the maps should come to us in Illinois.
We ended our conversation with my promise to send him a packet of information on the Hill maps and to make contact with other historians.
That day, I made one telephone call, to local historian Dale Timmermann, and e-mailed Kevin Kaegy, president of the Bond County Historical Society. 
We agreed to let the Bond County folks make the first contact with Mr. Deschaies in the attempt to bring the maps back to Illinois.
The negotiations for the maps then fell to Dale Timmermann, whose appreciation of the history of the map led to a successful outcome.
Last Thursday, three weeks following the first telephone call, Kevin and I were asked by Dale to come to his office to see the maps. They had arrived by air.
This is truly an historic moment for Vandalia, and I am not the only one who thought we would never see these maps.    
Not only does the Isaac Hill map chart the rivers of a three-county area and plat the third principal meridian, the naming of the future town of Vandalia is recorded on these historic documents. 
Plans will be made to share the maps with the public, so the story that Jack Cole first shared with local historians can now be shared further.