Lemont Reporter from Lemont, Illinois on June 17, 1998 · 2
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Lemont Reporter from Lemont, Illinois · 2

Lemont, Illinois
Issue Date:
Wednesday, June 17, 1998
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... ..r -l-'WfcirraM -.J -J ' '.-I -y ret by Jean Blum Correspondent r'''lathpr McGinty fiddled around with I the contraption (microphone). I grumbling, We didn't have many LJ of these fangled things in my day! Jack Roche of Burr Ridge, who portrays Father McGinty, is one of a number of area residents who have taken on the personas of people, real or composite, who lived and worked along the path of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in the mid-1800s. This group calls itself the Canallers & Co. The organization is made up of volunteers who work under the auspices of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources I & M Canal State Trail. The McGinty character is that of a Roman Catholic priest assigned to care for the spiritual and physical needs of workers building the 1 and M Canal. Canal workers were a pitiful bundle, McGinty told his audience at a recent Lemont Area Historical Society meeting, especially the Irish, whose body chemistry accepted alcohol given as part of their wages. Twas bad enough they came from a fighting country north against south but they were starving due to the potato famine in Ireland. They immigrated with the rags on their back and little if any education. McGinty said the Irish would fight anybody. He told how he held his own court, settling disputes. He told his audience that if a man stole a pig. hed try to get the thief to make restitution with two, not one pig. He told of the accidents and so much illness along the canal construction path. Surviving records tell of almost 500 men a year who died while building the canal, with many buried in unmarked graves. Please, pleaded McGinty, if you are walking along the canal and see a lonely flower, give a little prayer for the poor sold buried there." Timotljy James Carr, born in Lockport, N.Y., in 1832, told everyone how proud he was that he had learned to read, write and do numbers. Played in 1998 by Jim Carr of Clarendon Hills, Timothy Carr headed to the I and M Canal when he kissed his father goodbye at the age of 15 to seek his fortune. He said he never saw his father again. Today's Carr, a spokesman for the Canallers, said the volunteers perform first-person narratives wherever they are invited. We portray people who lived along the I and M Canal from Chicago to LaSallePeru, he said. We research their lifes history for understanding. It's a lot of studying and work, but a lot of fun." Timothy Carr first worked as a mule boy on the canal, guiding mules that pulled the flat boats. He met a tall man who advised him to improve himself." They became friends he and the man named Abe Lincoln. Within a year Carr was a tillerman on boat, then a captain and finally owned a boat of his own, with the help of his in-laws. Mrs. Christina Carr said her parents had moved to Lemont from Sweden. A successful furniture maker, her father sent her to finishing school. Her parents weren't happy when she married a boat captain. But he was so good-looking, .Christina Carr said. And he could read and knew numbers. W e lived on the boat in a 12-foot-by 12-foot room and had four children, sometimes tying them to the boat so they wouldnt drown. ,, When they (the children) were ready for, school, we sold the boat and became the . lock-keepers of Canal Lock No. 1 in Lock-port. My husband would maneuver the lock controls on one side, while someone from the boat would work the lock from The Canallers bring the history of the I and M Canal to life. Some of the cast members include (left to right) Jim Carr and Carol Donahue , who portray Mr. and Mrs. Timothy James Carr, lock tenders ; Carol Podd, who portrays Mrs. Witbread, a school teacher; Bill McCanD-less, who portrays William Good, the canal's chief engineer; and Com.. Biazza, who portrays Elizabeth Ogen. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CANALLERS ITlUffi the other side. It was a good life till steamboats started coming through in 1871," Timothy Carr said. They were so noisy and smelled. And had a tendency to blow up because the boilers didn't have safety valves. An exploding steamboat (fid Carr in. Fortunately, the canal commission let the widow take his place, as she had always helped him at his job, and gave her his Kill salary, $300 per year. Mrs. Mary Ann Hubbard, third wife of Gordon Hubbard, a fur trader who later worked with Lincoln in getting the legislation passed to fund the I and M Canal, is played by Christine Brook of Worth. Mary Ann Hubbard said her husband came to Chicago in 1818, at the age of 16. She said he was a quiet man, who also worked in freight, warehousing, docking, packing steamships, insurance and lumber. He was the first Illinois and Michigan Canal commissioner and first director of the Chicago Board of Trade. My husband is 18 years older than I, Mary Ann Hubbard said. Im a first cousin, and he complains I nag him because I fill his pipe with tea leaves. I just don't believe tobacco is good for him. I'm very involved in volunteer social work, as Chicago has so many poor, suffering immigrant women who can't feed their children. 1 .'7 - We live on LaSalle Street in Chicago. Our home is large; we have a gardener, a servant girl and coachman, nine horses and a cow. I helped raise four children of relatives, including a son of Mr. Hubbards. She said she encourages her husband to record his lifetime achievements, and he had 800 pages written before losing them all in the Great Chicago Fire. Now he has little incentive to write much again. Mrs. Juliette McGill Kinzie is a writer whose in-laws were the John Kinzies, the first settlers at Fort Dearborn before there was a Chicago, and is portrayed by Helen Milaim of Lockport. Mrs. Kinzie had often traveled bn the I and M Canal with Mrs. Hubbard. Weve traveled by coach and flatboat from Chicago to St. Louis." Mrs. Kinzie said. The coaches were extremely uncomfortable and slow, and once we even tipped over in the mud. The flatboats were wonderful smooth and comfortable. It took only two days to get to Chicago from St. Louis. Its rather expensive ($4), but I would never travel another way. The Canallers & Co. will journey to Lemont for Heritage Fest 98, which is scheduled this year on Saturday, July. 11, and Sunday, July 12. The Canallers & Co., with the folk music group Gallimaufry, will present The I & M Canal in Song and Story, chronicling the epic era of the I and M Canal, on Sunday, July 12, down along General Frys Landing, west of Stephen Street and north of the canal. For more information about Canallers & Co., call Char Giardina at the I & M Canal Visitors Center (815) 838-4830.

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