Lincoln – Douglas Debate Statue in Washington Square Park Ottawa, Illinois
1957 — 1965
Did you ever visit a place and feel that you belong there? I had that feeling when I was a young. We would visit a great-grandaunt who lived in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois with some friends. The friends had a daughter my age and we became friends. I would stay with them for a couple of weeks each summer from about the time I was 10 until I graduated high school. My friend and I would walk all over Ottawa, and I came to know Ottawa as well as my own town. We went to the parks, the movies, played on the school play-ground, etc. I loved Ottawa and I felt I belonged there. I wished my family could live in Ottawa. I had a vague knowledge that we had some ancestors or relatives that had lived in Ottawa at one time, and I knew my grandmother was born there. Beyond that I didn’t know who they were or even their names and I really didn’t care at that time.
Fast Forward to 1990 -2018
Now many years later, I am into genealogy and want to know all about my ancestors especially the ones that were from Ottawa. So my search began and I spent many years researching my two sets of 2nd great-grandparents that settled in Ottawa. My 2nd great grandfather, Charles Bowers, settled in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois in the 1850’s and stayed in Ottawa until his death in 1897. After his death, his wife and children stayed in Ottawa except for Robert who moved to Chicago. The other set of 2nd great-grandparents, Conrad and Anna Reinhardt, came to Ottawa in the early 1880’s. They lived there until their deaths. Anna died in 1910 and Conrad in 1920. All their children moved away from Ottawa. Today there is no family or friends living in Ottawa.
I still love visiting Ottawa and seeing all the places that I visited as a kid. In addition to researching in the courthouse, genealogical society, historical museum, and the cemetery, I visited all the places I went when I was there in the 50’s and 60’s. Some things have changed but there are still some things there that remain the same, and I enjoy reminiscing. I have seen the house where the Bower’s and the Reinhardt’s lived. One of the things that I learned is that one of great-grandaunt Elizabeth Bowers was a school teacher at Lincoln School. That is the school play-ground we played on as kids. One summer day a few years ago I parked my car in front of the school and walked around it. While walking, I thought about how I was walking on the same ground as my ancestor’s walk on. I still feel connected to that town. A town I never lived in. I think somehow I instinctively knew this is where I came from and I belonged here. Between visiting Ottawa and researching both families, I feel I have come to know both the town and the families close-up.
Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst