www.FranzosenbuschHeritageProject.org                     Home

The Franzosenbusch Prairie House

House Artifacts and Furnishings


In our last episode the reader will remember that we gave a full description of the exciting process of uncovering the history behind the little, two- room Franzosenbusch schoolhouse. In this issue we have the honor of presenting to our members, several authentic artifacts and antiques which were obtained over the past year. These items were acquired for the purpose of recreating the most authentic restoration possible for the schoolhouse and teacher's quarters. Our goal is to allow the visitor - school children and adults of all ages - to experience that unique sense of being transported back in time. Ours is a period about 11 years prior to the Civil war when the culture of the United States still retained nonintegrated pockets of German Lutheran communities like the one at Franzosenbusch. Our knowledge about which items to acquire for this unique restoration was based upon many hours of research and consultations with professionals regarding the time period (1853-58), tracings or markings on the floor of the room itself, and original Immanuel Lutheran Church documents. None of the pieces would have been available to us without a special grant from Mr. and Mrs. Mark T. Meyer of West Virginia. In addition Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Weick of Westchester donated the rope bed (seen below) and others have also given items to the collection that were relevant to our "story". In a future article we will show the placement of these items in the schoolhouse.

In the Teachers Quarters:

Based upon his reputation as an excellent farmer, we can be fairly certain the second teacher, Mr. Kirchner, would have had a corn cob dryer (right). Suspended from the ceiling beam by a slender iron hook, (see above left), the cob dryers would have been found along side bundles of dried herbs or a side of ham. Cob dryers were used to affix ears of freshly picked corn to dry for later shelling or used to dry special seed corn to be used for the next year's planting. Both the turned hook and cob dryers, were fashioned from iron by the local blacksmith.

The wooden rope bed (left), may be as old as 1820. This type of construction could be disassembled and transported in a covered wagon with ease. Small knobs on either side of the bed rails act as cleats to string hemp rope which was tightened for extra support. A handmade mattress of ticking, filled with straw or buckwheat was placed on top of the ropes. A bed such as this would have been quite a luxury for our poor teacher, but it is quite possible that one of the parishioners might have donated it to his family after some of the lean years had passed.

Earthenware pottery made from local clay, earthenware was used to contain perishable foods. The two below, found in Kentucky, might have been used to preserve jams, pickles etc. The larger jar on the right, was presented to us as a kraut jar, for making sauerkraut. Pottery like this was then stored in a "root cellar" to keep the contents cool.


Old wooden spoons (found in Wisconsin), were easily crafted from wood with a variety of uses.

The sun bonnet, shown at left, formed an important part of a pioneer woman's outfit The long and wide flaps of the dark colored bonnet kept her face from the sun, while the dainty white cap was worn underneath.

The woven coverlet, shown at right, was also found in Kentucky. This multicolored design, woven on a loom, was known as an "overshot" pattern. It may have been one of the special items carried over from Germany in the family trunk.

In The Schoolroom:

In 1853, the east room of the structure served mainly as a schoolroom for 15 settler children but also, and very importantly, as a church on Sundays, a community meeting room and sometimes, even as a place to distribute the mail. Furnishings in this room were sparse, and simple. 
Although we have none of the actual furnishings from the 1853 schoolhouse we have been fortunate to identify and collect a few items of the type which could have been found in it. An unusual "brettstuhl" chair - a common folk piece, which may have come from Germany (above to the right) and the old Rush lamp (to the left).
Most of these items would have been made or obtained locally. One or two sturdy chairs, like the Windsor-style chair (right), ...
... or the slat-back chairs (left, donated by Drew and Patricia Reaves), were practically ubiquitous in the 1850's. On the other hand, printed books were extremely hard to come by.
This one (to the right) is a primer from 1857. However, Germans who lived in Franzosenbusch were taught almost exclusively in their own language until the 1900's.

The tiny milking stool, (left), donated by Larry Godson and purchased in Wisconsin, is one of the only replicas. (The milking stool was purchased at an antique store in the far western suburbs of Chicago and is not a reproduction.  It is a stool of the mid-1800s from eastern Europe which matches the style of our period.)  It demonstrates a simplicity of style, just as it would have been in 1850. Our little 1853 Box Stove (right) was purchased from Curtis Antiques in Hinsdale, Illinois. From tracings on the floor, we can tell that a stove of this size was situated against the wall in the center of the room and would probably have stood on an iron plate to protect the floor from coals. Once provided with coal or wood, this tiny apparatus could serve the needs of the entire building. The schoolmaster would rise early to fill the stove with kindling and prepare the classroom for the students. A stove pipe, rising from the back, entered the ceiling above, heating the sleeping loft and exited through a brick chimney.

The large wooden bench (left) was purchased in Kentucky at Barbara Wheeler's Antiques. The Shop owner's husband, Mr. Floyd Wheeler, explained to us that he purchased this bench 15 years ago in a town named Schellsburg, PA., - originally settled by Germans. In it were four old buildings -- all from the 1830's. Some of the buildings had stenciling inside. A man had just bought one of these buildings and was selling everything out of it. This bench was one of 13 that was originally hand-made by German immigrants for this particular community hall. Mr. Wheeler believes that it might be made of poplar and pine. In spite of the fact that it was made some 30 years prior to our settlement, this exact style of simple, wooden construction can be found throughout Europe and the early United States and would have been the most practical and least expensive style, preferred by the early German settlers for use in the schoolhouse. This one is almost 9 feet long, and is about 2 feet high. One or two benches like this were occupied year after year by squirming school children and devout parishioners alike. (Note the 2" thick plank, now sagging just a bit, in the middle). We look forward to completing the two-room schoolhouse restoration, located within the Prairie House, and to welcoming you to take part in it's fascinating history . - Lana Gits, Schoolhouse Research Committee.

Sundays at the Early Schoolhouse

"To the great joy of the people, the Reverend Brauer {from Addison}, began to deliver a sermon occasionally in the school on Sunday afternoons. Pastor Franke did so also and, in addition taught bible classes during the winters. That meant so much!"

- Pastor Heinrich Roehrs, Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hillside, Illinois. From the 50th Anniversary, "Golden Jubilee Booklet"

We welcome any comments, questions and corrections.  In accumulating this information we have found conflicting evidence.  We have endeavored to use the most reliable sources available BUT we can not be sure we have all of the facts completely accurate.  We need your help.  More information from the families of these nine "Founding Fathers" would be of great value to this ongoing project in order to maintain accuracy.  At this time, we are especially interested in photos, journals, letters, etc., which would describe the southeast corner of 22nd Street (Cermak) and Wolf Road in Hillside, prior to the 1860's. This will help us now, as we work on the restoration.

Please feel free to contact me at j.arbuthnot@sbcglobal.net.  I will route your email through our other researchers.

The primary compiler of this information was Lana Gits with:

Last Modified:  11/17/2003